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Our 12 Favorite Campsites of 2014

This year, we stayed in 70 different locations (yes, I counted.). And pretty much every single one of them had something special about them worth remarking on. When we sat down this year to pick our favorites, it was brutally difficult.

Each spot we stopped at brings back a special memory. People we were visiting or traveling with, projects we were working on, a fabulous view, great hiking or just being the perfect spot at the perfect time.

Which means we’re feeling pretty good that after 8 years of RVing, we’ve figured out how to find our ideal spots and have been so blessed with continual amazing experiences. It’s really not a bad problem to have.

To keep this post from being a listing of the 70 spots we stopped at this year, we had to hold ourselves to some guidelines to putting them on our list:

  • They couldn’t be a place we stayed at in the past – they had to be new discoveries for us. That immediately reduced our list by 12. So some of our very favorite stays this year like Sunset Isles in Cedar Key, Sam’s Family Spa in Desert Hot Springs and Cape Blanco State Park in Oregon – don’t qualify for this year.
  • They could not include any of our super awesome private hosts who so kindly invited us in to driveway surf with them. These are absolutely some of our fondest stays, but we can’t extend you an invite to stop in too. And that knocked another 6 off the list.

Whew.. that still leaves a lot! So we both went through our photo albums and marked locations that really spoke to us. We had about 20 on the list at this point, and then we selected the 12 sites that took us by surprise or really enchanted us.

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And.. here they are… listed in the order we stayed at them this year:

1 – F. D. Roosevelt State Park – Pine Mountain, Georgia

Great privacy and lots of trees!

Great privacy and lots of trees!

After attending a rally in Perry, GA the week prior, some friends were heading to this state park. It was on our way, and heck – we’re always up for state parks. We absolutely loved this place. Huge wooded sites, and choose your own upon arrival. We ended up extending for 10 days, and got a lot of work caught up on – as well as explored the many trails in the park. The park was just the peaceful solitude we needed to reground ourselves after a crazy busy start to the year.

Travelogue Post: A Spring Break

Rates: $28/night
(GA Parks Frequent Camper Program earns free nights.)

2. Tom Sawyer Mississippi River RV Park – Memphis, Tennessee

Riverfront site with barges pushing through.

Riverfront site with barges pushing through.

We headed to this park simply to rendezvous with some fellow RVing friends, and were completely taken by surprise by this park. We had a waterfront site right along the banks of the Mississippi River and watched barges all day and night long. The park is excellently maintained with great hiking trails, and a super impressive FREE laundry room. They also have super cute tree houses built throughout for great views, and even socializing with friends. We’d return here in a heartbeat.

Travelogue Post: Following the Mississippi River – Memphis & Columbus

Rates: $25-45/night, $162 – 270/week, $475-575/month

3. Alpena County Fairgrounds – Alpena, Michigan

Waterfront bliss over 4th of July weekend for $110/week?

Waterfront bliss over 4th of July weekend for $110/week?

One of our biggest pleasant surprises this year was our trip exploring the Sunrise Coast of Michigan, it was so peaceful and beautiful, and exactly the right pace for us while writing The Mobile Internet Handbook. It was hard to pick amongst all of the great state parks we stayed at.. so we’re going with our most unique stay at the Alpena County Fairgrounds. We selected this site for the 4th of July weekend, as most other places were booked up. The campground itself isn’t much to look at, fairly typical of fairgrounds. We snagged a waterfront site, which overlooks a wildlife sanctuary. We had great views, access to fantastic kayaking and the hike & bike trail, easy access to a cute little town and were entertained all day long with swans landing in front of us.

Travelogue Post: The Sunrise Coast: Alpena, Michigan

Rates: $20/night, $110/week, $400/month

4. Ojibwa Casino – Marquette, Michigan

IMG_3034While exploring the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we met up with some fellow RVing friends and we both decided to try out Casino camping. Our first was a tightly packed in parking lot, but hey – it had hook-ups and was free. For our second try, we stopped at Ojibwa Casino just east of Marquette. We pulled in and couldn’t believe the sites – huge, wooded and 50A electric. When we went to check in, not only did they not charge us – they handed us each $5 in cash and drink coupons. So we tried our hand at gambling, and we each walked out with about $50 in cash (we really did intend to each lose $20 or so to cover our site… we tried.. really!).

Travelogue Post: Cracking the Nut in the UP (Casino Camping!)

Rates:  -$10+/night (They pay YOU!)

5. Lake Sakakawea State Park – Pick City, North Dakota

What a great place to need to stop for a few days and re-charge!

What a great place to need to stop for a few days and re-charge!

After four long driving days in a row (note to self: never again!), we were exhausted on our cross country repositioning this summer. When we got to Lake Sakakawea, intending to stay just overnight, we just couldn’t move another mile. And what a great place to plop down and recharge. We stayed four nights here, and lucky us, we pulled into the very first spot we came upon and it happened to have a lovely panoramic water view – and be one of the first come first serve spots.  We renewed for a few days, and took some much needed down days. Lovely hiking, lovely views and great LTE signal. And did we mention, North Dakota?

Travelogue Post: Zoom Zoom…. Kerplop

Rates: $25/night

6. Cottonwood Campground, Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Medora, North Dakota

IMG_6741

Love nice big private yards!

We were super excited, now having some flexible solar panels on board to experiment with, to have our very first solar powered camping experience in the bus – and selected Theodore Roosevelt National Park. All sites are on a first come first serve basis, and we arrived early enough in the day to snag a very spacious pull through with lots of privacy. It was a delightful stay exploring North Dakota’s badlands, and we really enjoyed the campground quite a bit.

Travelogue Post: From Nature to Asphalt

Rates: $10/night

7. Magic Reservoir – Magic, Idaho

IMG_3541

Magical view…

Now being firmly out west, and caravanning with boondocking virgin friends – we thought it a mighty fine time to find us a magical boondocking location. We used the app we wrote earlier in the year (US Public Lands) to find Magic Reservoir, BLM land. A little internet sleuthing, and we had some leads to follow. We arrived and found wide open spaces along the reservoir, which made for a perfect spot to be for a few days. We just love big views, especially when they involve water.

Travelogue Post: Magical Experiences in Idaho

Rates: FREE

8. Crystal Crane Hot Springs – Burns, Oregon

It's all about the water.... it really is.

It’s all about the water…. it really is.

We love hot water, and it had been too long since we had a soak. We spotted this option up ahead on our route and decided to give it a try. The campground itself is kinda sparse and basic. But the hot springs are wonderful. A big gravel based pond with temperatures that vary throughout the day, there’s plenty of room for everyone. They even leave the pond open at night for their onsite guests. We only stayed here two nights, but they were magical nights spent soaking and gazing at the stars. This spot is on our must return list.

Travelogue Post: Oregon Adventures – Getting in Hot Water, Solar Geeking & Super Bend Host!

Rates: $23-25/night

9. Salmon Harbor Marina – Winchester Bay, Oregon

Beautiful views from our spot.

Beautiful views from our spot.

After our month of volunteer hosting at Cape Blanco Lighthouse, we decided to take a slow meander up the Oregon Coast to tour the rest of the lighthouses. We honestly had a really hard time picking just one spot to include as a favorite, and it came up as a toss up between this location and Tillicum Beach Campground with our oceanfront site near Yachats.  We ultimately choose Salmon Harbor because of the uniqueness of dry camping on a marina dock. The views were incredible, there was ample walking nearby and we had some breathtaking sunsets.. and of course, it’s walking distance to Umpqua River Lighthouse.

Travelogue Post: Next Up on the Oregon Coast – Umpqua River Lighthouse & Winchester Bay

Rates: $15-20/night, $90-120/week, $270-360/month

10. AM Solar – Springfield, Oregon

No big views here.. but preparing us for amazing boondocking ahead!

No big views here.. but preparing us for amazing boondocking ahead!

Ok, we’re kinda breaking rule #1 here. We have stayed at AM Solar in the past as their guest, but this time through – we were a customer. This year has been about deciding on Zephyr’s solar installation and we had been testing flexible panels. When we pulled in, we really were just coming to visit our friends Deb & Greg who own the place. After talking with them, we came up with an ideal plan for the installation and they happened to have a cancellation that would allow them to tackle the job the next day. So, we did it. We can’t recommend AM Solar enough, they’re highly professional, know their stuff, their shop is outstanding and their RV parking options are gorgeous at their location.

Travelogue Post: Zephyr is Solar Powered! –800 Watt RV Bus Roof Solar Install

Rates: $760/night (Buy 5 nights, get a 800w solar panel install free!)

11. Volcanic Tablelands – Bishop, California

Three boondocking friends enjoying the view.

Three boondocking friends enjoying the view.

In yet another caravan this year with RVing friends and now fully armed with ample solar, we explored Highway 395 coming down the Eastern Sierras this fall. There were so many amazing stays, but we both agreed – this one makes our favorites list for the year. It’s a few miles down a bumpy dirt road on this BLM managed land, but so worth it for a spectacular view over Bishop. We stayed here with two caravan buddies for several nights and just soaked it all in. Big wide expansive views will always win our hearts, and this is one we will yearn to return to.

Travelogue Post: Continuing Down Hwy 395 – Mammoth Lakes and Bishop

Rates: FREE

12. Trona Pinnacles – Trona, California

The pinnacles out there...

The pinnacles out there…

A place so otherworldly, it’s frequently the backdrop of sci-fi films – Trona Pinnacles is so worth the diversion to explore. Located on BLM land in southern California, it’s free to camp. We selected to camp on the burm coming into the area with a big wide expansive view (I’ve mentioned we like those, right?) and enjoyed hikes down in the formations. So beautiful with views that change throughout the day with different lighting. And excellent Verizon signal, we could have stayed here for many days just enjoying it.

Travelogue Post: Wrapping up Highway 395 – Lone Pine and Trona Pinnacles

Rates: FREE 

 


 How’d Our Numbers Stack Up This Year?

We consider our campground fees and fuel costs combined to represent our previous stationary rent/mortgage payments… so here’s the daily & monthly totals:

  • Campground Average: $13/day or $383/month
  • Fuel Average: $11/day or $344/month
  • Our monthly ‘rent’ for 2014– $749

Not bad at all for having constantly changing million dollar views all year long. Compared to last year, we’ve dropped our nightly campground average from $16/night – which we’re pretty darn pleased with. We’ve done this by mixing up the pace with a couple monthly stays, some volunteer work in exchange for a site and integrating in more boondocking now that we have solar.  You can view our monthly travel cost log anytime you like, we’ve kept it updated for years, and it includes lots more info on the costs of full time RVing.

Some other interesting numbers I put together in review of 2014:

  • # of different places stayed: 70
  •  # of Private RV Parks: 14
  • # of Public Parks (state, federal, county, BLM): 35
  • # of Dry Camping Locations: 10
  • # of ‘Free’ camping at a host (driveway surfing, Harvest Hosts, etc.): 14
  • # of stays in RV-related shops: 6
  • # of RV Rallies: 3
  • # of RV Parks Returned to from previous years: 12

We’re also put together our usual annual wrap-up post of our travels.

Some other posts related to this topic you might enjoy:

 

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23 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. Great article. We used to live about 20 minutes from F.D. Roosevelt State Park. It is a great place to camp. I hope to get to see some of the other places you mention in this article.

  2. Thank you for this great info. I’ve just purchased my RV and find this information so useful as I get prepped to hit the road a year from now. Taking notes over here!!

  3. Great info! It’s interesting though how much fellow campers, friends and experiences at a given campground can influence one’s opinion of it. I feel impelled to relate to you a not-so-funny experience we had at your number one pick, FD Roosevelt. Arriving mid afternoon on a moderately hot day late April this year we managed to snag a decent pull thru for our 42′ rig (same loop you were in I think). Upon plugging in to shore power, our AC units kicked in as the coach was hot inside from a day of driving. Within 2 minutes we were literally accosted by a neighboring camper (his site was at least 80-100 feet away no less) complaining that our AC units were too loud. I tried to explain that they would run an hour or two to cool things down and probably stop shortly (which they ultimately did) but he didn’t want to hear it and became increasingly agitated, vocally abusive and finally threatened physical harm. We ended up calling the park police and they were evicted. That wasn’t a great day. So OK this was just one wacko with an axe to grind and while FDR is a decent enough campground, that experience has left us jaded and we don’t ever plan on returning there because of it. Also to be noted, as with all Georgia State Parks that we have been to, only site “types” can be reserved, not specific sites. During busy times (like Friday afternoons) this has the potential to create a frenzied rush to snag the best sites. Furthermore, a situation can arise where small rigs or tents occupy big rig compatible sites potentially preventing a big rig from finding a suitable spot. At FDR we observed several big rig accessible sites occupied by tents. So the moral of the story in regard to Georgia State Parks is avoid arriving on a Friday or a weekend and make sure you get there as early in the day as possible if you want the best site selection.

    • Wow… what a whacko.. sorry you had that experience. One of the things we LOVE about the GA Park system is the choose your own site policy, as that’s strongly our preference. You just don’t know until you get there what will appeal most. For most public parks, arriving Sun-Thursday is always the most ideal – a long time strategy of many full timers navigating the park systems.

      (And by the way, FDR wasn’t our #1 pick for the year, just the first we stayed at this year that made the list. Oh gosh, I think we’d go bonkers trying to rank them.. was tough enough to choose them.)

  4. Cannot tell you enough how thrilled I am that you share so much valuable information! The new trailer will be initiated next spring and although not full-timing I will certainly refer back here many times as I get ready to take it on the road for vacations! Not only that but I’ve found many helpful hints for furnishing and upgrading things on the trailer as I go! THANK YOU THANK YOU!

  5. Hello Cris and Cherie, it was great running into the two of you in Alpena.We are currently in Quartzite Arizona. We love your blog and loved talking with you guys. Take care mark.

  6. Great list looks like we have lots of other places we need to try out.
    After last night I will have to add this dry lake as a top site for us!. Thanks for a fun evening it was great getting to chat with you. Wish we could stay longer but…….. maybe we will cross paths again at the big show.
    Happy Holidays
    Tim and Denise

    • Our current location is definitely worth of making the list… since we’ll be here ‘next year’ too, we’ll save it for 2015 🙂 Thanks for a wonderful night, so much fun!

  7. I have been following your adventures for about a year now. We bought a motorhome in September and plan to start traveling in the Spring. We were in Alaska in late summer on a land and cruise tour. We were very disappointed in the brevity of our stops and the weather wasn’t very nice, either. I was just wondering if you have ever traveled in your RV to Alaska and if you have any helpful tips. I really enjoy your articles. Thanks so much.

    • Alaska is on our ‘to do’ list for the future.. haven’t made it up there yet. We’re considering it for this summer, but not looking likely for us due to so many other options right here in the continental 48.

  8. We both follow your travel adventures, not like groupies, but similarly. Although we aren’t spring chickens any more, next year in May 2015, we’ll be hitting the road from our home in Sun City, Aryzona, and heading up the trail to our old haunts in the Northwest, for 5 or 6 months. You, as well as the other Wanderers, have provided so much great technical assistance, that is extremely valuable, timely, and usable, and we love your Wandering RV Adventures, out of which, part of our inventory is constantly being upgraded. Tis really nice to have “Point RVer’s” out there, exploring for yourselves – and us, too!

    Keep up your fun, and keep sharing your wonderful tech stuff – and your adventures! And Merry Christmas to you both!

    P.S. May see you down at Tucson for the Skapee’s Rally. Are you going to be at the Good Sam Rally here at PIR, near Buckeye, by any chance?

    • Awww… thanks so much guys. Love getting comments like these, makes it all worthwhile!

      At current time, the only rally we’re booked at is the Escapade. In general, we’re just not ‘rally people’ – but the SKPs are pretty awesome.

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