The Worst RV Destinations in 2021
Taking a trip in an RV can be a life-changing experience full of natural beauty, open roads, and quality time with your family and friends. But unfortunately, your vacation can turn into an expensive nightmare, complete with unpleasant traffic, crowded or sold-out sights, and other frustrating experiences.
And things are only getting more complicated as tourism spikes this year, following a pandemic-induced pause in 2020.
So, where should you avoid in 2021? We’ve ranked our worst RV destinations to help make sure your next RV trip doesn’t discourage you from future travels.
How We Chose the Worst RV Destinations for 2021
Don’t get us wrong — all of these spots are amazing vacation destinations worth visiting at least once in your lifetime. But when you’re traveling with an RV, you’ve got to consider some critical factors other travelers can ignore. These include the difficulty of getting RV-friendly accommodations and navigating crowded or narrow streets.
On top of that, some destinations are simply too crowded or have a better reputation than experience. This list can help you avoid some of these pitfalls.
1. Yellowstone National Park
Are you one of the many RVers with dreams of camping in certain national parks? If Yellowstone is among the top on your list, you’re not alone. Demand dramatically exceeds the park’s limited number of RV-friendly campsites. Folks had trouble snagging these even before the COVID-induced boom in RV camping. Many Yellowstone sites also have length limits which could further restrict your options if you have a larger rig.
Even if you’re able to secure a spot inside the park or at a nearby private campsite, you’ll find plenty of friends in the park. Yellowstone broke new visitor records in May and is on pace for as many as six million visitors this year. Famous sights like Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring compare to Disneyland in terms of crowds and lines. That’s thanks partly to the post-pandemic tourism surge. It may be best to wait a while to visit.
2. Chicago, Ill.
The Windy City is one of the most popular cities to visit in the country. But it’s also the second-largest in terms of population, and many of those folks hit the road every day. This can lead to some significant traffic, which is even more challenging to navigate in a 20-30+ foot vehicle.
That’s not to mention the trouble parking. Even if you can find a spot on Chicago’s crowded streets, it’s illegal to park an RV in most situations.
Like many major cities, the density makes it tough to find enough space for a typical RV park or campground. You’ll stay on the outskirts and will need to either drive a tow vehicle or arrange alternate transportation.
3. New York City
Everything we said about Chicago is true about New York, too. With more than eight million people, New York is infamously difficult to navigate by car. Now add the length and handling issues of a typical RV, and you’ve got some serious trouble on your hands.
New York also offers the unique challenge of numerous bridges and tunnels with varying heights. New York’s density forces RV parks farther out from the city’s center. You’ll likely need to stay in New Jersey, on Long Island, or north.
4. The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is one of the National Park System’s most incredible treasures. It consistently draws a ton of visitors. In 2019, nearly six million people traveled to the park to gaze into the canyon’s depths. This year’s numbers may exceed that.
Plus, the vast majority of those visitors stick to a relatively small stretch of the canyon’s south rim. This area is home to most of the park’s tourism infrastructure like hotels, restaurants, and campgrounds. That means hikers and sightseers choke the park’s popular Rim Trail and Bright Angel Trail on busy days. Officials close significant portions of South Rim road to private traffic during the busy season. That means you may need to fight for a spot on crowded park shuttles.
On top of all this, all of these visitors put a strain on the area’s limited lodging and campsite capacity. So even if you’re willing to brave the crowds, you may not have anywhere close to stay.
5. Big Sur, Calif.
Looking for the drive of a lifetime? Check out the Pacific Coast Highway through the Big Sur region. But don’t try it in your RV. This narrow, winding, two-lane road snakes along the cliffs and coastline, up and down hills and around hairpin turns.
Slower drivers (like RVs) often cause long backups, forcing them to pull over at turnouts repeatedly to let traffic pass. Aside from the frustration this could cause, it’ll also considerably lengthen your trip.
Leave the RV elsewhere and conquer Big Sur in a more modest vehicle for a better experience.
6. Alaska’s Dalton Highway
For more than 400 miles, the Dalton Highway cuts through the rugged Alaska wilderness. It stretches from the town of Livengood to the northern outpost of Deadhorse. For the entire length, the road consists of dirt and gravel. There are no services or towns whatsoever for more than half of the northern part of the route. It’s steep, slick, and muddy, and winter temperatures get as low as -82 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the road conditions aren’t enough to dissuade you, officials often ban rental vehicles from driving Dalton Highway. Unless you’re a resident or drive your RV to Alaska, you may not be permitted to drive the route.
7. San Francisco, Calif.
How would you navigating some of the steepest hills you’ll ever encounter in your RV while in traffic? This is essentially what you’re signing up for if you take your rig into San Francisco. The city has more than 40 hills, ranging from 200 to nearly a thousand feet!
Your RV or tow vehicle’s engine may balk at this, and turning around on the narrow streets isn’t easy either. Plus, even ordinary vehicles burn through their brakes much more quickly driving in San Francisco. Imagine what it’s doing to your RV’s brakes! Add city traffic and a lack of RV lodging, and you may want to see this city without your RV.
8. Sedona, Ariz.
The Red Rocks of the Sedona area are a breathtaking sight. So breathtaking, in fact, that they draw millions of visitors every year. Increasingly, those visitors are coming in their RVs. While the city of Sedona bans boondocking, the town sits within the Coconino National Forest, where boondocking is allowed.
Thanks to a surge of new RVers (plus some irresponsible RV veterans), the popular sites around Forest Road 525 are struggling to support the increased human habitation. If you’re lucky enough to snag a spot, you may encounter trash, improperly dumped waste, or other environmental degradation.
There’s an overcrowding issue here, as well. The small town of Sedona has somewhat limited infrastructure, and it’s more popular than ever. This means increased traffic, difficulty securing a spot on famous local attractions, and longer waits at local restaurants and nightlife.
9. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is a beautiful, iconic national park that everyone should see once in their lifetime. Unfortunately, it can also be a crowded, traffic-filled mess that leaves visitors frustrated. Traffic at Yosemite can get so bad the National Park Service even has a webpage about avoiding Yosemite traffic.
It makes sense. More than four million people visit each year, most in the prime visiting months from late spring through early fall. Combine that with a post-COVID tourism spike, and you’ve got a recipe for trouble.
Yosemite and other popular parks are seeing long lines and hours-long waits just to get in the door. RVers coming face additional issues, like getting into one of the park’s 10 campgrounds, which fill up in advance. Plus, park campgrounds don’t have any electrical, water, or sewer hookups and have tight restrictions on generator use. You may want to see Yosemite without the RV and once tourism has calmed down.
When you travel by RV, you have to consider things that other travelers don’t. And the past two years certainly haven’t made it any easier with both RVing and tourism exploding. So while all of these destinations may be on your travel bucket list, consider these reasons for why you should most likely wait for another year and leave the RV at home. Have you encountered crazily crowded and sold-out spots this year while traveling?
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