The Pacific Northwest is a popular destination for fulltime RVers; camping under the cool and stately Redwoods, or on the dramatic, coastline beaches of the Pacific ocean is a “bucket list” dream for many. Unfortunately, many others on the road share the same dream, and competition, and fighting for space, could turn your summertime RV dream into a nightmare.
Unlike the Desert Southwest in the winter, where there is an abundance of free and accessible camping, the Pacific Northwest does not have an equivalent amount of accessible public lands. And what public land there is, may not be suitable for boondocking; dense forests, while enchantingly beautiful, are often not accessible to a motorhome or full size trailer or 5th wheel. Narrow and rutted forest roads may be limiting, and parking your rig under, and in between, those beautiful trees can be a trick, not to mention the lack of sunshine for your solar panels. The West Coast is not only limited in terms of free boondocking, but private RV parks are also more expensive, and may be booked out months in advance.
You may not only compete for available camping space with other full time RVers, but also the summertime “weekend warriors”, and families with children out of school for the summer. Face it, everyone wants to go to the forest or the beach in the summer! If you are a “snowbird” boondocking for free during the winter in the desert Southwest, it would be wise to set aside some of the money you save for a more expensive summer, if the Pacific Northwest is your goal.
The solution many full time RVers find to the dilemma is to book ahead (way ahead) in national and state parks, as well as private RV parks. Booking 6 months ahead may take away from the “spontaneity” of the RV lifestyle, but it will also reduce the stress of having nowhere to park.
A popular option many fulltime RVers have discovered is a Thousand Trails Camping Pass. For less than $600, you can get a year’s worth of “free” camping, with restrictions; for example, if you stay at a Thousand Trails park for more than 4 days, you can not stay at any Thousand Trails park for a week. The maximum stay is 2 weeks. So even this option, while affordable, will take a lot of pre-planning, as well as constant movement.
National and state parks are also popular options, but may also require considerable pre-planning; the popular national and state parks can also get booked way in advance, and they are also popular with weekenders and summer vacationers. Booking stays at national and state park during the week, rather than the weekends, may reduce the competition and crowding, and balancing state and national parks, with a membership like Thousand Trails, may strike a good balance.
Be sure to research the routes you want to take, and map out all of the RV parks along the way; write down addresses and phone numbers, as well as GPS coordinates for state parks, and any potential boondocking locations you may come across in your research.
The Pacific Northwest in the summer can be a dream come true, but it will take a little more planning and preparation, as well as expense, than the Desert Southwest in the winter. Be prepared, and pre-planned, for a stress free summer in the PNW!