In recent years we have seen a huge surge in the popularity of Vanlife. Mostly empowered by new remote work arrangements and a desire to see the country, the Vanlife movement has never been more popular and has amassed millions of followers on social media. The phenomenon has manifested physically, too with small van sales reaching new heights. Van life or Vanlife has been around for years, but the pandemic has definitely supercharged it.
If you're just starting out on becoming a full-time van lifer or maybe just in it for a vacation, we’ll surely point you in the right direction and give you one hell of a trip to remember. From the Pacific West Coast to The Atlantic East, we've gathered some of the best places to go and explore with your van. Read on and start creating the best Vanlife itinerary. Don't just take our word for it. Go out there and explore.
Along this path across the west coast, from California into Oregon and Washington, are the alluring highways 1 and 101. Discover beaches, seafood stands, and piers for watching sunsets over endless ocean horizons. Even better, the chances of finding an overnight location along this route with an ocean view are very good.
Additionally, there are an absurd number of hiking trails and camps close to the west coast. While you might do your best to order them by priority in your wish list, you really can't go wrong with any of them. Go after the trails that interest you the most right away and save the others for later.
Along the route, Big Sur has a ton of interesting locations to see, from dense redwood woods and towering ocean cliffs to desolate beaches and opulent coastal cities. A stay at one of the Big Sur campgrounds along Highway 1 is one of the best opportunities to appreciate the spectacular natural splendor of the California coast.
One of the coolest vanlife experiences you'll have is in San Diego. You'll fall in love with the city, and it might make you decide to stay for weeks. There are numerous locations to park overnight, and an abundance of dining options. Plus, this place's van community is friendly and accepting.
The lowest point in the contiguous United States is located in Death Valley National Park, which is also the world's hottest spot according to records. It’s also the largest park in the lower 48 states and a must-visit destination for road trippers and van campers. But traveling in the park during the summer months may be quite hard for campervans. And only a small number of rental companies will provide roadside assistance during this period.
Having said that, Death Valley is a fantastic location that is still absolutely worth visiting. The campgrounds are also rarely crowded outside of holiday weekends in the spring and fall due to the number of available campsites. Anyone with an RV or trailer will find this to be a true paradise, as most campgrounds offer spacious, flat sites.
The California wine country is located in Northern California, nestled between the soaring peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Pacific Ocean's rugged shoreline. Here, the ideal environment for creating wine is created by the convergence of rich soils, an exceptional climate, and diverse topography. In fact, this rich region of California provides eighty-one percent of the wines consumed in the US.
And because California is a very popular region for RV travels and vacations, there are lots of spots to park your mobile home while you spend your days visiting wineries and trying different kinds of wine.
Sequoia National Park
The most amazing creations of nature can be seen in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, where time seems to have stopped. These forests are filled with giants, some of which are over 2,000 years old. The majestic Sequoias here are among the oldest and largest living things in the natural world. There are seven campgrounds located inside Sequoia National Park and an additional seven located inside Kings Canyon. And while most of these parks allow RV and van camping, a lot of them do not provide electrical hookups.
Lake Tahoe lies on the boundary of California and Nevada. It is a world of its own, surrounded by wilderness and national forest service territory. You'll have more alternatives than you know what to do with, whether you want to hike the Desolation Wilderness, paddleboard and kayak across the lake, or simply enjoy the metropolis of South Lake Tahoe.
There are numerous places to select from for camping in Lake Tahoe. To make sure the campground you choose is close to the area of the lake you want to visit, whether on the California or Nevada sides, you should consult a Lake Tahoe map before embarking on an excursion to this vast outdoor paradise.
Yosemite National Park
One of the most stunning sites on earth is Yosemite National Park, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Yosemite is one of the must-see places in America because of its breathtaking scenery, enormous granite towers, and amazing waterfalls.
13 campgrounds may be found in Yosemite National Park. Four of them are situated in Yosemite Valley, unquestionably the most picturesque region of the park. Seven of Yosemite's campgrounds, including all of the valley's van-accessible campgrounds, require reservations.
Redwood National Park
This amazing stretch of the Northern California Coast is home to the tallest trees in the world and is a fantastic location for camping. Campers can pitch their tents or park their RVs amid pristine redwood woods at the base of centuries-old trees at the parks' strategically located campgrounds. For most visitors who come to Humboldt County, spending a night under the towering redwoods, descendants of the same type of trees that lived during the reign of the dinosaurs, can give an amazing and very primeval feeling.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation is in charge of the park's four constructed campgrounds. Reservations for campgrounds are required during the summer and can be arranged through the California State Parks. These parks are well-established, accessible, and offer the essentials for RV and tent campers.
The Grand Circle
The trip is predominantly in the state of Utah but crosses into Arizona as well. features some of the most spectacular national parks in the American West: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Black Canyon, Mesa Verde, Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon and Great Basin National Park.
The trip is around a 1,000-mile journey with hundreds of miles worth of awesome detours. Even if the simplest Grand Circle can be completed in 12 days, splitting it into two trips will be considerably more rewarding. There is too much beauty to speed past, and seeing these gorgeous parks during various seasons has its merits. While winter has the fewest visitors and a sprinkling of snow on the red rocks is sheer magic, spring delivers the most foliage and pleasant hiking conditions. If summer is the only time you can visit, consider saving the second part for a different season because it is by far the warmest and busiest.
Black Canyon National Park
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, which the Gunnison River carved over millions of years as it wound its way through metamorphic rock, is so narrow in some places that the sun seldom touches it, giving it a nighttime appearance. Expert kayakers will encounter technical whitewater down below, while rock climbers will find the canyon's steep vertical cliffs to be a difficult playground. Hiking routes meander along the lip of the canyon, which is spectacularly viewed from scenic drives. Campers can choose from sites perched on the canyon's south and north rims as well as at its base.
RV camping at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison offers a comfortable experience no matter the season, with RV-friendly campgrounds on both the North and South Rims. But summer is the best and most well-liked season to explore the Black Canyon. Here, summer temperatures often range from 55 to 90 degrees, dropping to 45 to 60 degrees at night. Although heat exhaustion won't be a major concern, you should probably be ready for the frequent evening thunderstorms.
Mesa Verde National Park
The biggest archaeological preserve in the country is Mesa Verde National Park, which is located in southwest Colorado close to the New Mexico border. The Ancestral Puebloans inhabited complex cliff houses tucked away beneath mesa walls for almost 700 years. This once flourishing community was deserted in the late 1200s and no one is exactly sure why. Today, visitors can take ranger-led tours of the region, hike to see petroglyph panels, and visit the park museum to see artifacts left behind by the Ancestral Puebloans. Morefield Campground is the park’s only campground and features both tent and RV sites.
Morefield campground offers full hookups at an affordable price and has a laundromat and fuel station. But it isn’t very big-rig friendly and has virtually no cell service. There's also a gas station, RV dumping station, coin-operated laundry, complimentary showers, a gift shop, and grocery store.
Petrified Forest State Park
Painted Desert. The park’s name comes from the petrified wood deposits that date back to as far as 225 million years. e. Amazingly colored rocks are also present as a result of the Chinle Formation. Explore this distinctive region with magnificent geology by hiking, sightseeing, and taking pictures.
Although there are no campgrounds inside the park, there are many private campgrounds for RV campers in the neighboring communities of Joseph City and Holbrook. Additionally, every one of these campgrounds has something special to offer.
One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is home to stunning rock formations, hiking routes, and breathtaking views. You may peek into the rich geological history of the area through the bands of rocks that show it.
Like any major National Park, the Grand Canyon has designated lodging of several kinds, from basic tent camping sites to interior lodging like lodges. You'll be looking for dispersed camping or outdoor campsites in a campground with facilities if you're a van camper. However, the majority of these locations—especially those with additional amenities—require early reservations, often by several months, due to the Grand Canyon's popularity.
Zion National Park
The massive red cliffs of Zion National Park, which is arguably the most breathtaking National Park in existence, offer unparalleled beauty and exploration opportunities. Camper vans can stay parked in this location thanks to the special transit system, which provides shuttle services to almost all locations. It's the ideal setting for carefree exploration.
Zion National Park has three campgrounds. Watchman Campground is located in Zion Canyon and is open all year round, South Campground is closed in the winter, and The Lava Point Campground (which is about a 1-hour drive from Zion Canyon) is typically open from May through September.
All campsites are drive-up and allow a maximum of two vehicles. Only one RV or trailer is allowed. Any RV including motorhomes, cabover campers, and camper vans, or any trailer including 5th wheels, pop-up campers, and cargo or boat trailers are vehicles and count toward the limit.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park, located in the southwest corner of Utah, is renowned for the shale and sandstone rock formations known as hoodoos or fairy chimneys that covers the landscape. Unsurprisingly, hiking and photography are two of the most well-liked pastimes, and the park offers a choice of paths that vary from straightforward walks around the rim to the more difficult backcountry hikes.
There are two campgrounds in Bryce Canyon National Park: Sunset and North. Both are nearby the visitor center and have RV parking available. The popularity of camping in the park increases over the summer and advance reservations is advised.
Capitol Reef National Park
This national park isn’t visited as frequently as Utah’s more popular parks like Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, which is wonderful news. A remarkable scenery and history are preserved by Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah. The Waterpocket Fold and Cathedral Valley, as well as spectacular canyons and red granite cliffs, are among the geological treasures found in this lovely and distinctive national park. The huge sandstone formations that resemble the capital domes found in statehouses all around the country gave rise to the moniker Capitol Reef.
There are camping choices in and around Capitol Reef National Park for every taste. You're guaranteed to discover the ideal campsite that meets your needs, from the only constructed campground in the national park to free primitive campgrounds for those with an adventurous spirit and unlimited chances for backcountry camping. Along with the campgrounds located inside the national park, there are excellent alternatives for RV and van camping as well as a ton of unrestricted free dispersed camping just beyond the park's boundaries.
Arches National Park
Over 2,000 naturally occurring sandstone arches with light holes taller than three feet can be seen in Arches National Park. The national park actually boasts the highest number of naturally occurring stone arches on earth. Along with the arches, the parched desert terrain is also dotted with symmetrical rocks, sandstone fins and towers, stone spires, and obelisks.
Arches National Park has gained a great deal of popularity due to its breathtaking beauty. With more than 1.5 million visitors per year in recent years, Arches National Park's visitation has climbed by more than 50%. The majority of visitors arrive between March and October, and on a summer day, this relatively tiny national park frequently has 4,000 visitors.
Devils Garden Campground is the only campground at Arches National Park. Campsites can be reserved for any night between March 1 and October 31. Every night the campground is typically full during this busy time. If you're arriving at Arches without a reservation, you'll more than likely end up looking for a campsite outside the park.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is a breathtaking network of canyons, rock formations, and rivers. It was carved by the powerful Colorado River in eastern Utah and is the ideal destination for an RV road trip due to its close proximity to other national parks, state parks, and public lands.
Canyonlands National Park has two major campgrounds: Island in the Sky (Willow Flat) and The Needles. With 29 sites and three group sites, The Needles is the larger of the two, while Island in the Sky only has 12 single sites. Although the parks can accommodate RVs up to 28 feet long, the spots are limited and difficult to secure. Don't expect any hookups, even though both of the National Park Service's campgrounds include facilities like recycling, garbage collection, and vault toilets.
Great Basin National Park
One of the most beautiful national parks in the United States is Great Basin National Park, which is situated in eastern Nevada. The park is home to the 13,167-foot Wheeler Peak, a massive mountain that commands the surrounding landscape. The Lehman Caves, the longest cave system in Nevada with a length of more than two miles, are located near the base of the summit and Bristlecone pines, which are among the world's oldest living things, can be found in various stands throughout the Great Basin.
Great Basin National Park is among the ten least visited national parks in the US, despite the fact that crowds are often associated with national parks. Only around 90,000 people visit this overlooked jewel of eastern Nevada each year, according to figures from the visitor center and NPS.
The five established campgrounds in Great Basin National Park are at Upper Lehman Creek, Lower Lehman Creek, Baker Creek, Grey Cliffs, and Wheeler Peak. Vault restrooms, picnic tables, tent pads, and campfire grills are available at every developed campground. There are no hookups and there can only be eight persons, three tents, and two vehicles per campsite. Three campgrounds offer accessible campsites while The Snake Creek road has some primitive campgrounds.
The East Coast
Perhaps more than any form of travel, the road trip is stamped in the American imagination. And when it comes to road trips between the Atlantic and Pacific, no region is as underrated as the East Coast.
The east coast borders the Atlantic Ocean for a distance of about 2,370 miles. Unlike the West Coast, where only three states border the Pacific, a total of 14 states lie along the Atlantic shores. And three other states — Pennsylvania, Vermont, and West Virginia — are considered "East Coast" states, even though they don't touch the Atlantic.
White Mountain National Forest
Over 750,000 acres make up the White Mountains National Forest in New Hampshire. With more than 6 million visits a year, it is the most visited national forest in the country. With such a major hub and considering the number of visitors, you’d think this forest would be packed. Yet six designated Wilderness Areas guarantee peace without motorized noise. Additionally, given its size, there is enough space to take you far away from your RV.
This mountainous region is dotted with more than 1,000 miles of multipurpose pathways, including stretches of the Appalachian Trail. The amazing scenery, mountain vistas, and rivers will entice you to stop at one of the 23 campgrounds scattered throughout the National Forest.
Green Mountain National Forest
The tranquil Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont provides deep lakes and flowing streams dispersed across its calm woodlands. With eight wilderness areas that have received federal protection and a size of approximately 400,000 acres, you can get close to nature while still being only about 50 miles east of Albany, New York.
If you have an RV, there are two campgrounds that are ideal, but if you are on foot or on a horse, there are many other dispersed sites that are strewn throughout the forest. Nearly 900 miles of multi-use trails are available for horseback riding, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. Therefore, no matter the season, this park will offer a ton of exquisite recreation choices if you wish to leave your camper behind.
Acadia National Park
With over two million visitors annually, Acadia National Park in coastal Maine is one of the most visited parks in the country. It is located southwest of Bar Harbor, Maine, and covers about half of Mount Desert Island, part of the Schoodic Penninsula, and a few smaller islands in-between. Acadia is different because it’s where the mountains meet the ocean and you can find a variety of landscapes within the park including woodlands, lakes, ponds, and wetlands.
Acadia National Park has four campgrounds with roughly 600 tent and RV spaces available. There are flush toilets, dump stations, fire rings, picnic tables, and garbage pickup at three of the campsites. Additionally, there are cheap rustic camping and overflow campgrounds nearby.
It is not surprising that Myrtle Beach attracts millions of visitors each year. With its 60 miles of white sand beaches, various entertainment options, top-notch eating, and countless shops, it has a lot to offer. Due in part to the stunning scenery and in part to the fact that there is something for everyone to enjoy, Myrtle Beach is extremely popular in the RV community. More than 7,000 camping spots, two state parks, and almost a dozen campsites are available to campers in the Myrtle Beach region.
There are several different types of campgrounds in Myrtle Beach, from luxurious RV resorts with tons of amenities to rustic tent camping for the more daring. And although the area is busiest in the summer, there are exciting days to be had here all year long.
Shenandoah National Park
The East Coast is home to a variety of stunning, vibrant mountains. One of the most recognizable national parks in America is Shenandoah National Park, which is situated in western Virginia. The park which is just 75 miles away from Washington, D.C., is known for its gorgeous scenery across 200,000 acres of protected parkland.
There are many options for camping in and around Shenandoah National Park, including the five campgrounds that are actually part of the park, a ton of backcountry camping possibilities, and a ton of campgrounds that are only a short drive away. On weekends and during major holidays, reservations are highly advised. Many locations allow reservations up to six months in advance.
Anastasia State Park
Anastasia State Park is a popular Florida coastal park with four miles of white sand beach, nature paths that wrap around historic sand dunes, and a tidal marsh teeming with dolphins, turtles, and birds. It is only a few minutes from historic St. Augustine. Visitors often come for watersports, birding, biking, and hiking.
There are 139 campsites at the Anastasia Campground. Each campsite may accommodate tents or 44-foot RV rentals. All of the campsites feature partial hookups, a picnic table, an in-ground grill, and a fire ring, while some are paved and have accessible grills and picnic tables.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located on Tennessee's and North Carolina's shared border. Some of the tallest mountain peaks in the US can be found in this park. The landscape is traversed by rivers, waterfalls, and lush forests.
Its close proximity to town makes the Great Smoky Mountains the most visited National Park in America. Camping in one of the park's lovely campgrounds allows you to find your own small slice of peace despite the crowds.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has ten campgrounds with more than 800 sites for tent and RV campers. For a more comfortable stay, all of the campsites provide flush toilets, potable water, fire grates, and picnic tables. There is also primitive camping available and discounted private campgrounds in the surrounding area.
The largest protected area in the contiguous United States is the Adirondack mountain range. It has more than 100 thriving towns on more than 6 million acres. With woods, lakes, gorges, mountains, beaches, rivers, marshes, old-growth forests, and valleys, the area has a diversified landscape. For those who enjoy the outdoors, it is a year-round attraction due to its diversity.
The idea of a camping trip is often redefined in Adirondack campgrounds. Visitors can stay on the water without sacrificing comfort or amenities because many campgrounds in the Adirondacks are conveniently accessible by car. The sensation of waking up to the soothing sound of waves lapping against the shore, spending days discovering the Adirondack region's unique attractions, and unwinding in the evening as the stillness of a magnificent sunset sets in are all very memorable.
New Hampshire Lakes
Lake Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam Lake, Squam Lake, and Newfound Lake are all situated in the mid-state region of New Hampshire, and together they make up the region known as the Lakes Region. Despite the fierce competition in the area, the region, which is west of the seacoast and south of the White Mountains, has established itself as a top camping site.
The campgrounds beside the lakes are perfect for families and a wonderful setting for teaching the kids deep respect for nature. Nothing beats unwinding in front of a fire, roasting marshmallows, and taking in the most breathtaking views of New England to cap off a long day of outdoor fun.
Fort de Soto
With 1,136 acres made up of five connected islands, Fort De Soto Park is the largest park in the Pinellas County Park System. Numerous native flora, including beach plants, mangroves, wetlands, palm hammocks, and hardwoods, can be found on these keys. Each of these species is essential to maintaining and safeguarding the natural world.
You must experience RV camping at Fort de Soto if you enjoy the outdoors and camping. There are 238 campsites in the large campground at this state park. This region contains sites that are ideal for all campers because it was designed to house both families and youth camps. The location is stunning and sits on a stunning beach. For those who adore rustic camping, they even permit you to camp inside the Shell Kelly Preserve.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is part of the National Park Service and is known as America's Favorite Scenic Drive. And a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway is unlike any other. The Appalachian Highlands' untamed mountains and pastoral landscapes can be seen up close and in beautiful detail on this leisurely, slow-moving trip. The 469-mile Parkway meanders while preserving a variety of plants and animals and offering opportunities to explore all that makes this part of the country so unique.
The eight National Park Service campgrounds along the Parkway are open from May through late October, but sadly do not have hookups. Every campground has access to potable water, restrooms with flushing toilets and basins, and a dump station for RVs. And both Julian Price and Mount Pisgah campgrounds provide showers. Each of these campgrounds has first come, first served sites, so reservations are not necessary. However, weekdays typically have more availability than weekends, and the longer your vehicle, the fewer campsites in the campground will be able to accommodate it.
Traveling the historic route between Chicago and Los Angeles is the quintessential American road trip and a great cross-country trip to do in an RV or van. And it has featured prominently on many peoples’ Bucket List. Historic Route 66 spans over 2,400 miles and crosses 8 states, starting in Chicago, Illinois, and terminating at the Pacific Coast in Santa Monica, California.
Today, much of the original Route 66 is still navigable, with hundreds of historic landmarks, tourist attractions, old-time diners, natural wonders, and campgrounds lining the route. Route 66 has inspired songs, films, TV shows, books, and even a clothing brand. And even though Route 66 was officially decommissioned in 1985, people from around the world come to drive this mythic highway, stay in vintage motels, gawk at odd roadside attractions, and eat American road food. For some travelers, it is a trip back in time to revisit a road they once traveled on a family holiday, whereas for others a Route 66 road trip is the ultimate symbol of Americana.