I still remember taking our second camping trip with our new RV. The out-of-state journey to the campground had taken longer than planned, thanks to a flat tire. We arrived after dark to find that our campsite was just a patch of grass. After managing to back our trailer into the site — following a couple of tries — we soon realized our spot lay on a hillside, putting our parked camper at a steep angle.
We geared up with flashlights and got busy with the camper. After some trial and error, we leveled our vehicle and settled down for the night. That’s when we remembered that our campsite didn’t have water hookups, and due to our late arrival, we’d forgotten to fill our freshwater tank.
After that trip, we soon realized that some parks are better for novices than others. We also learned that Good Sam’s Top-Rated-Campground Finder helps newbies find great parks. So if you’re new to RVing, here are some tips for finding the best campgrounds for beginners:
Look up the Hookups!
Having access to hookups means you won’t have to worry about running out of water or overflowing grey tanks. Once you get more experienced, you’ll have a better feel for your limits and how long you can go without connections, making it easier to camp without water or sewer hookups.
While some public campgrounds are nice, private parks generally are a better choice for beginners. Aside from offering more hookup options, private RV parks usually have other helpful amenities, like a well-stocked camp store. If you find that your sewer hose is too short, you just might be able to buy one onsite at a private park.
Many parks may offer great customer service, with a large staff dedicated to helping campers. As a novice RVer, it’s nice to have backup support if something goes wrong. Can’t get your trailer to unhitch? Discovered a flat tire? See if the friendly faces at the front desk can help. Plus, private parks may have a staff member who can help you navigate into your campsite, something you’ll appreciate if you’re backing in for the first time.
Proximity to Necessities
Until you get your routine down, you’re likely to get out on a trip and find yourself missing some important items. Make sure your RV park has a camp store to help you stock up on essentials.
Some modern parks are built for RVers with 40-foot trailers in tow, while others are difficult to navigate even with the smallest pop-up. Read online park reviews to get a sense of the maneuverability, as prior campers will tell you if they encountered skinny roads, potholes and low-hanging foliage. Check out the park’s Good Sam listing to get a feel of roadways and campsites ahead of booking.
New RVers will also want to consider what kinds of campsites are available, specifically looking at pull-thru versus back-in sites. Pull-thrus are much easier to navigate when you are a novice. Back-ins aren’t impossible, but you’ll want to make sure you have room to maneuver. When in doubt, call the office to see which sites they recommend for someone with your experience and setup.
Also, be sure to read online reviews on the Find RV Parks & Campgrounds section of the Good Sam website to see what people say about how level the sites are. Some campgrounds are full of nice level campsites, while others have sites with steep inclines. The less you have to worry about leveling the camper, the easier your setup will be.
Finding the Best Campgrounds for Beginners
Good Sam is a great resource for novices on the hunt for the best places to stay. Good Sam parks are inspected and rated annually in three categories: completeness of facilities, bathrooms, and visual appeal and environmental qualities.
Top-rated parks earning 10-out-of-10 points in each of these three categories can be found Top-Rated-Campground Finder, sorted by state. The list also includes parks that fall short of perfect ratings but still score a cumulative rating of at least 28. These lists are a great starting point for finding the best campgrounds for beginners since these parks have a reputation for quality.
Some Recommended Parks
Our family has stayed at many Good Sam parks in our five years of RVing, using the reviews to find the best spots at our destinations and along our path. Here are a few of our favorites:
Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort: Located just southwest of Boston, this park offers huge campsites set amid a meticulously maintained landscape. The list of amenities and activities is endless, offering entertainment for the whole family. It is no surprise that Normandy Farms makes the list of top RV resorts in the nation again and again. Beware, however, that beginner RVers who camp here may be forever ruined since few campgrounds can ever top it.
Rancho Sedona RV Park: Sedona, Arizona, is known for the spellbinding beauty of its towering red rock formations, and Rancho Sedona puts you at the heart of it all. Despite being located right in town, the park feels like an oasis getaway thanks to the lush foliage and the rippling sounds of Oak Creek, which runs through the park. Most of the roomy spaces are shaded by trees, giving guests a sense of peace.
Rafter J Bar Ranch: If you are a new RVer heading to the Black Hills of South Dakota, there is no better place to stay than Rafter J. This huge park is like five campgrounds in one, with a variety of campsites and amenities. The campground is truly beautiful, with rolling hills covered in pine trees. You might want to avoid one of the longer back-in sites until you get more confident in your ability to back in. Those seeking a pull-thru will find options in the Base Camp area.
Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park & Cabins: Heading to Yellowstone? Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park is a perfect choice for novices. This campground is just minutes from the park gates, and the town of West Yellowstone has everything you need for a relaxing stay. Newbies will especially appreciate the fact that most campsites are pull-thru, and the wide, linear roadways make for easy navigation for even the largest rigs.
River Plantation RV Resort: This park puts you close to Smoky Mountains National Park while still giving you easy access to the popular nearby town of Pigeon Forge. River Plantation RV Resort is packed with amenities, such as a splash pad, lazy river, zip swing and more, ensuring that kids will love it. New RVers will appreciate the wide, level campsites, many of which are pull-thrus. The friendly staff makes first-timers feel comfortable.