State parks, KOA's, private campgrounds, and national forests all have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to camping in an RV. Perhaps you're a proponent to one versus the other so which is really right for you, your trip and your family?
I know that it all comes down to perspectives, compromises and what you are really looking for. Some state parks are amazing while others leave much to be desired.
Here are some pros and cons to both state parks, national forests and private campgrounds or franchise campgrounds.
State parks and national forests
The state parks are typically cheaper than a private campground. They will usually have more spots with less amenities. Most state parks boast that there amenities is the location in which you are in. You have the great outdoors, the forests, trails, hiking and biking paths, maybe a lake or even a beach.State parks can be anywhere from $10 a night for pretty primitive accommodations up to $45 and I depending on where you go and the amenities they provide. Most state parks are well maintained to a certain degree. Some state parks or national forests are a lot better maintained than others and there usually will be a forest ranger on duty somewhere in the park at all times. They may even live in the state park so if there is an emergency, you have someone close by to call.
Public campgrounds or state parks may even have larger and more private sites. It seems that in the Pacific Northwest, most state parks are forested areas and the sites are quite a distance away from each other. This gives you a great sense of privacy and if you want to have a campfire or have your dinner outside on the picnic table, you're not within eavesdropping distance to your neighbor.
Some of the disadvantages to these public campgrounds is that they may attract larger groups which can be loud and stay up late, even though there are curfews and restrictions. Many public campgrounds and state parks will also lack full hookups such as water, electricity and sewer hookups. If your tanks fill up too quickly you will need to use the public restroom which may or may not be up to your standards. A lot of state park public restrooms have running water but usually don't have showers. The facilities may be primitive at best.
Public campgrounds and state parks also fill up very quickly and it might be difficult to make reservations at your favorite campground. You'll need either book online or call the company that handles the reservations but these companies rarely have individual knowledge about the specifics of the campground.
Private campgrounds such as KOA's or personal, private campgrounds that are individually managed and run can be very beneficial and almost always offer full hookups at each site. They may also have sites available for tent camping, minimal hookups, and full hookups. Many of these private campgrounds offer extensive amenities such as swimming pools, playgrounds, game rooms, miniature golf, basketball and tennis courts. Some of these, including many KOA's also offer summer evening movies, social events, community parties, ice cream socials and more.
It may also be easier to book reservations at a private campground. There's usually always someone to talk to that is personally connected with the campground.
The disadvantage of private campgrounds is that because of all these extra amenities, the price will naturally be more expensive. Private campgrounds can be anywhere from $40-$100 a night depending on the time of year and the location.
Sites at a this type of campground are usually smaller and closer together. They might be less private or be in a campground that is completely exposed where the sites feel like a parking lot.
Private campgrounds also have some hidden fees that you may not be aware of when you first sign up. They may have a market or a general store that will sell things like ice cream, toys and soda. This commercialization could cost you a little bit extra.
Both private and public campgrounds have pros and cons. Which works for you depends on what you're looking for and how much you want to spend. Whichever you choose, rent one of our RVs today and get out there, especially during the fall and winter when prices are lower and there are more spots available at both public and private campgrounds.