Travel News

The RV Chronicles: How Campgrounds and Oversized RVs Come Together

Locations in this article:  San Francisco, CA

Open Road RV TravelAs our first day drew to a close we were heading west in the motor home, but our early morning departure had turned to mid-afternoon.

As the day wore on, our original plan for making the drive straight through to Sonoma had long since been tossed aside.

No problem, we thought! We’re in a motor home.

We’ve got a bathroom, a shower, a refrigerator, and beds. We can stay wherever we want!

Technically not true, but in theory, it sounds great.

This is the second in a series of articles by first-time RVer Loretta Copeland. You can read the first one, RV Chronicles: First-Time RVers Hit the Road, here. The third episode, San Francisco Meets An Oversized Vehicle, is here.

Fortunately though, there are many public campgrounds along the California coast (and nationwide for that matter) that can accommodate recreational vehicles. San Simeon State Park was a good stopping point, and as they had availability for $25 per night, we stayed.

All the RV spots are primitive here, which means it has no hook-ups: power, water or sewer, but the park does provide a dump station and water refilling.

San Simeon is one of the oldest of the California parks, providing scenic hiking trails with picnic tables, as well as some wheelchair-accessible paths, a site to launch boats, and exhibits and programs for visitors.

Half Moon RV TravelThough we didn’t get to do any daytime exploring, I can tell you that the scenery at night was spectacular. There was a crystal-clear view of the Milky Way that a city girl like me appreciates; though we couldn’t see the ocean, the sounds of the waves in the distance lulled us to sleep.

Fees start at $25 for primitive campsites in the national and state parks and go up to about $35 for full hook-ups. The average size for an RV in a campground is 31 feet. Note I said the average.

Some parks can accommodate A Class bus-style motor homes, but you should always check first. Keep that in mind when eying one of those really cool 41-foot bus RVs to rent. No one wants to get to their destination and find out the RV is too big to be allowed entrance. When making reservations, find out if the campground has any size restrictions. Also, the A Class motor homes are always easier to pull up into a spot rather than backing in.

Some parks provide “pull-through” spots. This simply means you can pull in and pull out in the same direction. If you’re a first time renter like we were, a pull-through might be ideal to save time and your marriage.

Say, for example, if you’re trying to help your spouse back in a vehicle and you have to jog around several times just to make sure they’re not going to hit the picnic table on the left or the trees on the right, you’re out of breath and have dodged a very big fender smacking your behind even before they’ve backed up 10 feet, a pull-up spot might be just the ticket.

Another question you need to ask is if a campsite takes pets. I found most national and state parks we called allowed pets as long as they were on leashes. Some private campgrounds charged a nominal fee, the public parks didn’t charge extra, but keep in mind that some places don’t allow pets at all.

These are two important questions to be sure and ask, especially if you’re making an unexpected change in your travel plans. Most parks have same-day reservations via phone, and if you’re close enough to drive to the camp and see if they have any openings, you’ll be welcome.

If you’ve had to suddenly change plans while on the road, there are several Web sites that you can reference:,,,, and are just a few.

Next time: Why you should NOT take a city-streets driving tour of San Francisco in a motor home.

By Loretta Copeland for

Read the other entries from the RV Chronicles Series:

Previously By Loretta Copeland on