Pacific Northwest? Plan Ahead for a Stress Free Summer of RVing!

boondocking in the PNW

The Pacific Northwest is a popular destination for fulltime RVers. Camping under the cool, stately Redwoods, or on the dramatic beaches of the Pacific ocean is a “bucket list” dream for many. Unfortunately, many others on the road share the same dream. Competition for space, could turn your summertime RV dream into a nightmare.

Dry Camping Dillema

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. Furthermore, 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. Likewise, parking your rig under, and in between, those beautiful trees can be a trick. Similarly, the lack of sunshine for your solar panels can drain your batteries. The West Coast is not only limited in terms of free boondocking, but private RV parks are also more expensive. Campgrounds are often booked out months in advance.

Competition for Space

You may not only compete for available camping space with other full-time RVers, but also the summertime “weekend warriors”. Face it, everyone wants to go to the forest or the beach in the summer! If you boondocking during the winter in the desert, it’s wise to save money 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 way ahead. That’s for national and state parks, as well as private RV parks. Booking 6 months ahead may take away 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 around $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 get booked as much as a year in advance. Also, 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. Likewise, 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 the RV parks along the way. Write down addresses and phone numbers. Also, record GPS coordinates for state parks, and any potential boondocking locations you come across in your research.

In the summer, the Pacific Northwest can be a dream come true. But it will take more planning, as well as expense, than the Desert Southwest in the winter. Be prepared, and pre-planned, for a stress-free summer in the Pacific Northwest!

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