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Our 12 Favorite Campgrounds of 2015

This year, we stayed in 59 different locations in our RV, and several more in our months of non-RV travel.

In this post, we’ll pick our 12 favorite RV camping locations from our past year’s travels.

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

To keep this post from just being a listing the spots we stayed at, we had to hold ourselves to some guidelines to earning a place on our list:

  • The spot couldn’t be a place that made a prior year’s list.  So some of our very favorite stays this year like McKinney Falls State Park in Austin and Sam’s Family Spa in Desert Hot Springs 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 an open invite to the public to stop in too.

On one of our hikes the other day, we talked about what spots hold the fondest memories for us from this past year.

Our 2015 Favorite Campgrounds

Our 2015 Favorite Campgrounds

 

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

A – Clark Dry Lake Bed – Borrego Springs, CA

Lovely mountain views at Borrego Springs.

Lovely mountain views at Borrego Springs.

We actually ended 2014 at this amazing boondocking location and kinda cheated on our 2014 Favorites list by deciding we’d make it a top pick for 2015.

Located just east of Borrego Springs, CA there are a couple of turn offs from S22 around the Rockhouse Trail area. The area is also known as Clark Dry Lake Bed, due to the dried lake bed at the bottom of the incline.

This area is huge and wide open with lots of options for boondocking. You can definitely get space to yourself here, while still being amongst a vibrant community if you choose to be. Lots of long time boondockers come where year after year, it’s just that sort of magical place. During our 23 day stay, we were part of at least 2 larger convergences.

Travelogue Posts: Back in Boonie Bliss | No Matter The Age.. No Matter the Rig.. We’re All Nomadic Peers | A Bright New Year Starts in Borrego Springs | Winter 2015 Boondocking Location Round-Up (contains logistical info)

Rates: Free!
(Note: Since our stay last year, the California State Park system has taken ownership of this piece of land and has limited the camping area, and it now has a 30-day stay limit.)

B. Plomosa Road BLM Area – Quartzite, Arizona

Our nice 'remote' area all to ourselves... for a couple nights anyway.

Our nice ‘remote’ area all to ourselves… for a couple nights anyway.

While wintering in the southwest, we needed to check out the time honored experience every RVer should have at least once: Quartzite.

We timed our visit to arrive a few days in advance of the tent opening and experienced a big ramp up of population around us. Due to friends already in the area, we joined them off Plomosa Road which is about 8 miles north of the city. Our location was one of the free 14-day Stay BLM areas.

There are lots of options however for boondocking in Quartzite, including other 14-day areas and LTVA (Long Term Visitor Areas) that offer amenities with a permit purchase.

We liked the Plomosa Road area as it was a bit out of town and away from the chaos, but yet had its own character and community. There are many opportunities to get space to yourself, but because so many come here – expect that you might have settlers nearby. You check in at the camp host to get your free 14-day permit, then Plomosa Road goes on for about 3 miles. Just turn off anywhere that calls you and find your ideal location.

Travelogue Posts: Desert Boondocking off Plomosa Road | Shopping at the Big Tent | The Social Side of Quartzite  | Winter 2015 Boondocking Location Round-Up (contains logistical info)

Rates: Free! 

C. Darby Well Road – Ajo, Arizona

Our spot off Darby Well Rd.

Our spot off Darby Well Rd.

The Ajo / Why area of Arizona was one of the spots we wanted to check out, and when we learned friends were there already – we headed that way without much further research. And wow. This one, won our hearts.

Darby Well Road is just a bit south of town of Ajo (which is south of Gila Bend), and is a well maintained dirt road with several boondocking locations around. There’s pull outs along the way, and a campground-like loop just before the ‘Y’.

We loved the town of Ajo too and visited the mine museum and did the scenic loop drive. It’s also about 40 minutes down to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – well worth visiting.

Travelogue Post: By the Wrath of Killer Bunnies – Ajo’s Name Shall Be Erased from Your Vocabulary | Winter 2015 Boondocking Location Round-Up (contains logistical info)

Rates: Free!

D. St. Clair Winery – Deming, NM

They had us at $2 wine re-fill!

They had us at $2 wine re-fill!

We’re members of Harvest Hosts, and love the opportunity to stay at some unusual spots as a result. They’ve reached out to wineries, farms and museums that have large parking lots who welcome their members to overnight.

Our favorite Harvest Hosts stay last year was at St. Clair Winery in Deming, NM. It wasn’t terribly scenic – but wine was great and the location convenient to the interstate and downtown Deming for access to dining. Our favorite feature was that they have wine on tap that you can refill their bottles with for just a couple bucks.

Thank goodness they allowed us to stay 2 nights to take advantage of that perk!

Travelogue Post: Leaving the Southwest

Rates:  “Free” (requires Harvest Host membership, plus wine of course)

E.  – Taylor Park, Taylor, Texas

Our lovely spot in Taylor, TX

Our lovely spot in Taylor, TX

After a pretty quick repositioning from our winter in the southwest, we landed in central Texas for time with family and lots of social activity.

Sometimes, we just need to be on our own to recharge from it. Finding Taylor Park, an Army Corp of Engineers park, just north of Austin was an absolute delight. The park was nearly empty, and we found a super sweet large site with lots of wild flowers. With onsite hiking and great connectivity, we got the recharging we needed.

Travelogue Post: Texas Is Big, Part 2 (Our Exit via East Texas)

Rates: $20/night

F. Oakville Elks Lodge, St. Louis, Missouri

The Elks Lodge can get busy on weekends & during events - but most the time it's empty.

The Elks Lodge can get busy on weekends & during events – but most the time it’s empty.

Chris’ parents new place in St. Louis doesn’t have bus parking anymore. There are lots of great camping options in St. Louis, but most of them are pretty far away from where his folks live south of town. The Oakville Elks Lodge however is pretty central, so Chris’ dad sponsored him to become a member.

The location was fantastic and super convenient to most of the things we do while in town (visit family). At only $15/night it is one of the cheapest options and gives us a pretty private space at night. We still need to complete our initiation to fully become members of the Elks Lodge, but we look forward to exploring more of these options around the country.

Travelogue Post: Missouri – Harvest Hosts, St. Louis, Friends and Family

Rates: $15/night (requires Elks Lodge membership)

G. Harry Swartz Campground – Penfield, Illinois

Spot 34 - Spacious & Private

Spot 34 – Spacious & Private

We’re always on the look out for new gems to add to our favorites – and this one, was a major score. Located in the Middle Fork Forest Preserve just north of Champaign, IL – this spot was an ideal stop over to & from Elkhart, IN. We stopped here both on the way up and back from having our bus renovated over the summer.

Huge private feeling sites, over 7 miles of hiking trails and great cellular service. On both our visits, the campground was nearly empty. A perfect place to rest, get caught up and get out in nature.

Travelogue Post: St. Louis to Elkhart – Getting Our Geese in a Row

Rates: $14/night (weekday) / $20/night (weekend)

H.  – Turnagain Arm Pull Out – Anchorage, Alaska

Free amazing parking in Alaska!

Free amazing parking in Alaska!

We left our bus to be repainted and renovated back in Elkhart, IN while we went off to Alaska by train and cruise ship. While exploring around the state, we rented an RV for a week. One of our favorite camping spots was actually a pull out on the side of the road.

Highway 1 between Anchorage and Portage has some AMAZING pull outs with kajillion dollar views. In Alaska, the general rule is that unless a pull-out is marked otherwise – overnighting is allowed. We liked camping along the Turnagain Arm so much, that we dedicated 2 of our 7 rental nights to it.

Travelogue Post: Phase 6 – Alaskan 2015 Adventure: Exploring the Kenai Peninsula in a RV Rental

Rates: Free!

I. Deep Creek Beach Campground – Ninilchik, Alaska

Our Deep Creek Spot

Our Deep Creek Spot

We spent most of our rental RVing time in Alaska exploring the Kenai Peninsula. With only a week to explore, we know we barely even dipped our toes in the icey waters of Alaska.

Of our stops along the Kenai, Chris picks our night along Cook Inlet in Ninlchik at the Deep Creek Beach State Park. It was dry camping and basically a parking lot along the water – but we fondly remember all of the bald eagles around us. And the views of course.

One of our favorite stops in Alaska however was Seward on the other side of the peninsula. We visited there after we turned the RV in, and look forward to a future visit.

Travelogue Post: Phase 6 – Alaskan 2015 Adventure: Exploring the Kenai Peninsula in a RV Rental

Rates: $15/night

J. Fritch Fortress – Lake Meredith Recreation Area – Fritch, Texas

Lake Meredith Sunsets

Lake Meredith Sunsets

Ok, we’re kinda breaking rule #1 here. We have stayed at this location multiple times in our years on the road – but we were’t doing favorite campground posts back then (whew, thank goodness for loopholes!).

We first discovered this amazing location on our first year on the road together, it was the very first free camping option I ever researched on my own.  It was the start of my love of the road, and of boondocking.

This site sits perched on a bluff over a lake, with amazing scenic overlooks right by Fritch, TX. The connectivity is rocking, with solid cellular signals on non-overloaded towers.  And Free! It’s the Technomad Trifecta.

It was absolutely lovely, enchanting and awesome. A perfect place to stop for a few days on our way into Albuquerque.

Travelogue Post: The Road to Albuquerque

Rates: Free!

K. Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Balloons! Balloons!

Balloons! Balloons!

Our big goal for the fall – to get to Albuquerque to help co-host the very first Xscapers Convergence at the Balloon Fiesta. It was the impetus to kick our RV renovations into gear so we would have plenty of time to safely make it there.

It was so worth it. The convergence was a success – such a wonderful gathering of like minded working aged RVers. And the back drop was so much fun! We loved waking up to hot air balloons flying over us, and even got involved with volunteer crewing.

Travelogue Posts: Launching a Dream into Reality – The Xscapers Convergence at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta | Guide to RVing at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Rates: $30/night (rates have gone up for 2016)

L. Cochiti Lake Recreation Area – Pena Blanca, New Mexico

Cochiti Lake - oh how we love you!

Cochiti Lake – oh how we love you!

It was an eventful year for us, and after getting to our finish line of Albuquerque – we were tuckered out and backlogged on projects. We didn’t realize just how exhausted we were until we pulled into a lovely campground and didn’t want to move.

Cochiti Lake was just what we needed. Waterfront spot, great connectivity and lots of space around us. We hiked, we explored and we started tackling projects. And we slept.

What started as intending a few nights, turned into a full 2 week stay. So recharging. And exactly what we needed to reset after months of really not being at home and in upheaval.

Travelogue Posts: Commencing Operation Decompression | Cochiti Lake, Tent Rocks & Taking Care of Ourselves

Rates: $12/night (dry camping)

 


 How’d Our RVing 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 $386/month
  • Fuel Average: $9/day or $271/month
  • Our monthly ‘rent’ for 2015– $657

Note, these figures do not include June, July or August – the months we left our RV in Elkhart to be painted and upgraded. While during this time we did travel to Alaska by other modalities and rented an RV, and we also stayed onsite at the shop for a month in borrowed RVs – we’re not factoring those months into our RVing cost averages.

Compared to last year, our nightly campground average stayed the same, but our fuel costs went down from $344/month. This is attributed to lower fuel prices, as our average monthly traveling distance actually went up from 566 to 611.  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 2015:

  • # of different campsites stayed: 59
  •  # of Private RV Parks: 8
  • # of Public Parks (state, federal, county, BLM): 28
  • # of Dry Camping Locations: 25
  • # of ‘Free’ camping at a host (driveway surfing, casinos, Harvest Hosts, etc.): 14
  • # of stays in RV-related shops: 2
  • # of RV Rallies: 2
  • # of locations returned to from previous years: 7

Later this week we’ll have our year in review out as well.. so stay tuned!

Some other posts related to this topic you might enjoy:

 

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28 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. Thank you for this information…I was born and raised in Ajo, Az…so I am very familiar with Darby Well Rd. We actually drove out there last winter and checked out the RVers…and how they were boon docking…pristine desert…plan on going there this winter and absorbing all the beauty,

  2. Hi! New to RV community. Love your blog. Any suggestions for great locations on the east coast? We’re from Pennsylvania and are looking for long weekend trips. Thanks! Let us know if you are ever thinking of Philadelphia as a destination. We live walking distance to the train into town.

    • Hi Dina – we are actually exploring New England for the first time in an RV this summer. So our 2016 wrap up guide will include our favorites. And, of course, we’ll be sharing our stops along the way on the blog.

  3. Hi Cherie & Chris,

    Like Brian we too are chronic lurkers. But every-so-often we want to let you know how much we appreciate your posts. So again, many thanks.

  4. Hi y’all. Found your blog doing a search on used Olivers. Appreciate the info on the campsites, we have somewhat of a similar lifestyle, in that we spend the winters on our sailing catamaran in the Turks and Caicos Islands, summers in our Airstream traveling back and forth from visiting family in Texas to family in northern Colorado. Wife develops medical software from the boat and from the airstream, so your comments on connectivity are very interesting. We love the vast differences between the Turks and Caicos and RVs in the USA. We’ve been doing a blog since ’07, but most of ours is tropical island stuff. Keep up the good work.

  5. Thanks for all of this great info! I appreciate all of the time it takes to keep track as the year progresses and then put together a fantastic year end post. Happy New Year!

  6. Glad to see you posting again.

    I’m a chronic lurker, but wanted to come out briefly to let you know that there are many of us reading who appreciate how you put yourself out there!

  7. Great list! I love the breakdown of “rent”, I could see that getting competitive in trying to get more free nights/more boondocking somewhere. lol Good to know about Borrego Springs though. Climbing in Joshua Tree NP is on my list for this spring and Borrego Springs is just right there really close. Thanks for the heads up!

  8. You guys definitely made some miles this year. What an amazing and varied list of campgrounds. I’m definitely saving this list.

    Nina

  9. Always a fun and informative read. And sharing the crunched numbers from your year is a sweet bonus that allows wannabees like me to have a context for planing. Thanks for all you do! Bestest of health and happiness for 2016.

  10. What a year! It is neat to recap the year…let’s you see how much has occurred. I am always amazed when I tally all that happens as time is such a funny thing and easy to lose track. Thanks so much for sharing your adventures…both the good and the challenging. Happy 2016!

  11. Great write up as ever. Sorry if this is a bit much but do you feel that 60ish different spots in a year was too many and lead to the incident earlier this year?

  12. Glad to see that Darby Well Road made your list! We just stayed there last month. It was our very first boondocking experience and we thoroughly enjoyed it and the area. We ended up spending way more time in that area than originally anticipated and glad we did!!

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