An RV Tour of America’s Northern National Parks

One of the best ways to spend a family vacation is to visit one of America’s national parks. In fact, the great American road trip is one of the most iconic vacations, and it is even more iconic in an RV. However, because of deep winter conditions, many of the country’s national parks are only open in the warm summer months. For this reason, there can often be a short window from which people can visit the majority of these beautiful parks, making them very popular tourist attractions. In fact, parks such as Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park collectively receive nearly 10 million visitors per year. 

Because of the current coronavirus pandemic, it may be best to stay away from the most crowded parks and visit some of the lesser-known ones. Below, we have compiled a list of five beautiful, summer-only national parks and some things you can enjoy there, as well as some RV camping options. Continue along to read about each park and decide which you would like to visit.

1. Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park is located on an island in the middle of the northern section of Lake Superior. Because it is only accessible via boat, ferry, or seaplane, it is significantly less trafficked than many other parks. However, what it lacks in visitors, it surely makes up for in beauty and solitude. Here, guests can enjoy a variety of excellent activities, most of which are centered around the great lake. These include boating, canoeing and kayaking, hiking, fishing, and even scuba diving. This year, because of the pandemic, ferries to the island have been closed. However, you can still reach it by seaplane or private boat. 

Because the park is located on a remote island, there is no RV camping within park boundaries. However, the island is commonly accessed via three towns bordering Lake Superior, and these towns have plenty of campground and RV parks available to RVers. Whether you plan to stay in Duluth, Grand Marais, Thunder Bay, Houghton, or any other nearby town, you can easily find excellent camping to return to after a beautiful day in the park.

2. Voyageurs National Park

Located in the North Woods of Minnesota, Voyageurs is an intricate maze of waterways that borders Canada. This water-based park is best in the summer months, as the weather sits at below zero degrees for the majority of the rest of the year. Popular summer activities include canoeing and kayaking, hiking, and scuba diving. Many of the hiking trails are only accessible via boat, so you may want to bring your own canoe or kayak along. In the summer months, the Aurora Borealis is often visible. There are also lots of unique plants and animals to observe.

For RV camping purposes, there are no campsites located directly within the national park. However, there are various campsites in the areas outside the park. Campsites can be found in Kabetogama, Ash River, and the Superior National Forest.

3. Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is found in the southwestern corner of North Dakota and is made up of a fascinating series of rugged terrain, hills, rivers, lakes, and wildlife. This fascinating park is broken up into two main areas: a north unit and a south unit. Popular activities here include biking, paddling, fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing. The northern unit of the park is more remote and features scenic driving, hiking, and a beautiful river. The southern park unit is more popular and features a scenic loop drive, plenty of hiking, and wildlife viewing. Common creatures spotted include bison, mule deer, prairie dogs, and pronghorns. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars!

For camping, there are two lovely campgrounds, with one located in each of the park’s respective units. Juniper Campground is located in the North Unit of the park and works on a first-come, first-served basis. Cottonwood Campground is located in the more-popular South Unit of the park and allows reservations for half of the campground’s sites, with the other half being granted on a first-come, first-served basis.

4. Badlands National Park

Just a few hours south of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, you can find the beautiful Badlands National Park. Although it is located in South Dakota, most of the park is a desert environment, full of beautiful painted hills and gorgeous rock structures. Popular park activities include two gorgeous scenic drives, plenty of hiking, and night sky viewing. It can get quite hot here in the summer, so be sure to plan accordingly.

There are two campgrounds in the park: Cedar Pass Campground and Sage Creek Campground. Cedar Pass is the most RV-friendly, with some of the sites being reservable and others available on a first-come, first-served basis. Sage Creek Campground is first-come, first-served only, with only vehicles up to eighteen feet in length permitted.

5. Wind Cave National Park

Just southwest of Badlands National Park, you can find Wind Cave National Park. This diverse park centers around its enormous underground cave system, but there is so much going on above ground as well. Named for its famous winds found at the cave entrance, Wind Cave is one of the longest and most intricate cave systems in the world. It is well-known for its boxwork, a unique cave wall structure that is only found in Wind Cave. Above ground, visitors can enjoy plenty of hiking trails and wildlife viewing. This includes opportunities to see bison, pronghorn, prairie dogs, elk, and many species of birds.

There is one campsite in the park, and most of the sites there are RV-friendly. Elk Mountain Campground is open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to arrive early in the summer to secure a spot.

Of all the gorgeous national parks in the United States, the less-popular parks may be best to visit during these current times. Even after the pandemic has passed, visiting slower and quieter parks can make for a much more relaxing trip. Likewise, you can try to visit the more popular parks in their off-season for a quieter experience, as well. Consider these parks and activities for an epic summer RV road trip that you are sure to never forget. 

Have you visited any of these national parks? How was your overall experience? Feel free to tell us all about it in the comments below!

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