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  1. Default Free camping and a route from SF to Grand canyon and back


    Iím currently planning our trip to the states for summer 2012. There are four of us, my wife, myself and our two boys (3 and 6). We fly in and out of San Francisco and plan to drive to the grand canyon and back via Yosemite, zion, monument valley, the grand canyon, san diego (legoland) and LA (Disneyland).

    At the moment weíre trying to choose between an RV or a car/motel option and Iíve been reading all the various posts on this topic Ė ( It appears to come down to a personal choice). One (of many) question that I have is coming from New Zealand there is the option to free camp, where (providing itís not prohibited) you can pull over at a rest area and sleep for the night. Thereís nothing better than waking up miles from anywhere or anyone. (BTW this is getting harder to do here as people have been abusing it leaving their waste and so councils are restricting it through bylaws). Is this possible in the States or can you only overnight in a campground?

    Also we plan to go through death valley at the end of June. I read somewhere that some rental companies donít allow this as its too hot. Is this true and if so what route would you recommend to go from Yosemite to Zion.

    One final question is how do RVs cope with the mountain passes (summer of course) Iíve not driven an RV before (I have driven medium sized vans) and Iím assuming that the roads would be no worse than the ones we have here in NZ (single carriageway and winding up and down).



  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    Yes, RV vs. car/motel is a matter of personal choice, and it's not necessarily cheaper to go by RV.

    You can park an RV in many places where larger vehicles can be parked, but overnight depends on the area. It is NOT safe to pull into a rest area and sleep any more, whether in a car or in an RV, except in the few where they are heavily patrolled. (Unfortunately, with the economy the way it is, those are few and far between.) The only "free" place that's safe to pull an RV into and sleep is a truck stop. Even there, you'll have to be in a designated RV area or find out where it's permissible. Flying J, Pilot and Love's are some RV-friendly truck stop chains. Some large department stores like Wal-Mart allow overnights in their parking lot, but under specific guidelines: don't put out your slide, don't get the BBQ grill or your camp chairs out, it's overnight only.

    We have the same issue with dumping tanks -- people don't use dump stations properly, or at all. Some states have removed dump stations from their rest areas. Now you either get a campsite with a sewer hookup or free dump, or use Flying J's that are set up for that.

    Different rental companies have different policies regarding Death Valley in the summer. Read the fine print of the contract carefully, or if it's important to you, ask before you even get as far as a contract!

    As far as RV's on mountain passes: many will go slow. Some will be kind and pull over into a wide spot if it's available and safe to do so, others have a give-a-care attitude and will not. On the interstates there are often passing lanes just for trucks, RV's and other slow vehicles. When we towed our 5W, we were often in the right lane bouncing along with the trucks at 25 mph.


  3. Default RV and Camping iphone or android apps

    I'm starting to plan for a road trip in Western US and I've seen a lot of apps on iphones or android that detail campsites etc. Some are free some you pay for.

    I'm interested to know what your favorite ones are and what ones to avoid


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Coming soon -- user reviews of the iPad apps

    You did the right thing by posting the query about iPhone apps under the Gear-up section, but since you are referring to the same road trip -- We generally prefer to keep all posts about one trip in one forum.

    There are quite literally thousands of campgrounds in the west and so it can be hard to name favorites, but we do have some... (which we'll share) but I don't have any experience using one of the iPhone apps for this searching process.


  5. Default

    We'll we've booked our RV and now are looking at campsites. Our first major stop is yosemite and looking on the national parks web site it looks like we've missed the boat and all the campsites are booked for the end of June.

    So does anyone have any recommendations of a campsite in or around yosemite; we'll be travelling from San Francisco.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Yeah, They Do That

    I think that you're going to find as a general rule that all the campsites in the most popular National Parks get booked very early on - several months in advance. Your best fallback is the fact that many of these same highly popular parks are surrounded by less well known National Forests that often provide quieter and cheaper campsites. In the case of Yosemite, you should be looking at Stanislaus, and Sierra National Forests on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, and Inyo and Toiybe National Forests on the eastern slopes.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Others.

    You have a couple of choices between Groveland and the park entrance on CA120, one is called Yosemite Pines, which I have stayed in and found to be OK to sleep in without being particularly memorable. The other is Yosemite Lakes which I have no experience of. In Oakhurst there is the 'High Sierra RV park', which again is OK but it looks as though they 'pack them in' when needed. We visited out of season and again, it was fine for an overnight stop. I think there is a KOA in Wawona but I don't find them appealing.

    If you exit the park over Tioga Pass [CA120] there are a couple of options around Lee Vining. If you are not permitted across Death Valley you can head towards Tonopah and perhaps drive down the ET Highway. Just before Tonopah you could take advantage of free camping at Millers rest, a little known rest area unless you are a bird watcher.

    You can get an idea of the route in this thread. You may get a couple more ideas for campgrounds as well. Unfortunately, you may find that it becomes a common theme of finding the NP RV sites booked up, they are limited in number and very popular.

  8. Default

    Thanks for those comments.

    Another option for us is to visit Yosemite at the end of our trip when there are campsites available in the park. Do you think this is worth the change and if so which campsite would you recommend in the park.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Yes, yes and YES!!

    Darren, if it's not going to upset any other bookings you have already made, I would definitely say, Go for it! You will not regret the experience of staying in the park... one of the most magnificent on this planet.


  10. Default

    Thanks, If you were to choose one campsite to stay in for one night, which one would it be?
    Last edited by darrenp; 03-09-2012 at 10:55 PM.

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