Key takeaways:

  • The mountain resorts of Branson, MO, Hot Springs, AR, and Pigeon Forge, TN, are the three best destinations overall for RVers
  • Rockport, Texas, and Gulf Shores, Alabama, beat out Floridian and Californian coastal resorts for RVing
  • Arizona resorts offer the most campsites, with Quartzsite, Yuma and Apache Junction, all packing more than 40 locations
  • Fifth-placed Grants Pass, Oregon, gets you access to forests and great air quality, while in nearby Redding, California, all the campsites offer swimming pools

RVing always appealed to free-spirited vacationers. But the lifestyle really took off in the last two years as many people reduced health concerns by vacationing with those they knew well and in less crowded locations. In addition, with working remotely now often a preferred option wherever there is good internet, getting paid while RVing is trending. This adds numbers and diversity to the RVing community, and the industry is responding. RV campsites at refreshing destinations satisfy health enthusiasts, families requiring entertainment and young professionals who need to get online.

The RV Industry Association confirms the buzz: 600,240 vehicles were shipped in 2021, a 39% increase in the number shipped in 2020 and 19% greater than the previous record in 2017. In addition, between 2001 and 2021 RV ownership increased by more than 62%, resulting in a record 11.2 million households with RVs. And while roughly equal numbers of owners are under and over the age of 55, 18-to-34-year-olds now make up a notably increased 22% of them.

While there are countless options around the country, with breathtaking mountain sceneries and picture-postcard beach locations, what are the best among them? What are the bucket list destinations for those who want the best mix of scenery and practical amenities? We’ve partnered with CampgroundViews to give RVers, both longtimers and newbies, a perfect start for some great experiences in 2022.

We analyzed CampgroundViews’ data about numbers of campsites, their costs, and key features such as water, sewer and electricity hookups, plus information about pools, WiFi, cable TV, ‘pull-thrus’ (for convenience when parking) and pet policies. To further evaluate RVing destinations, we considered local air quality, internet speeds (for those remote workers), grocery prices and the number of nearby retail outlets. As many RV owners use self storage to keep their vehicles protected when they are not on the road, we also looked at their growing storage options across the US.

The best RVing destinations in the US

Of the hundred or so top locations with a sizable number of campsites, the top 20 represent a wide range of RVing possibilities, from Florida’s year-round welcome to Arizona’s spectacular landscapes and Texas offers. But resorts in locations near mountains, in Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee, win the medals, with Gulf of Mexico beaches and Pacific Northwest forests also putting in a good showing. The top 10 locations have around 18 campsites each on average, all of which have water and electricity provision, while the vast majority also have sewerage hookups and allow pets.


Mountain resort Branson, MO, heads list of top getaways for RVers

The Ozark Mountains offer green rolling scenery with springs and caves that makes for a delightful holiday, and Branson, Missouri — catering to tourists for more than a century — scores the top spot in our ranking. To round out a perfect family vacation, it also has many theaters, concert venues and museums plus Dolly Parton's Stampede for the classic equestrian-themed dinner-and-show experience. It boasts no fewer than 25 campsites, with good prices and great shopping options nearby, and RV drivers will be happy that more than 80% of them feature pull-thru parking.

Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri
Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri

In second place, Hot Springs, Arkansas, nestling in the forested Ouachita Mountains, is just a short drive south of Branson. Some of the hot water springs from which the town gets its name are still used in modern spas here, and other attractions have been added to boost the city’s tourist status, including theme parks, film and music festivals and a zoo. Hot Springs offers the best value grocery shopping of all the destinations in the top 10, with an index figure of 95.7 compared to 100 nationwide, and good air quality for the visitors to its 16 campsites.

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, gets the third spot on our list, assisted by third places for both costs and retail options. RVers not only experience the beauty of the Smokie Mountains but also enjoy the nearby Dollywood theme park — Ms. Parton is becoming a theme here as well! — with its rides and musical attractions. In addition, there is a museum dedicated to the Titanic, something else it has in common with Branson. The place clearly knows how to look after its guests, getting gold for provision of both cable TV and WiFi, and more than 80% of its 16 campsites feature swimming pools.

No list of US mountain holiday destinations would be complete without Colorado, and the small town of South Fork gets eighth position in the ranking. At an elevation of more than a mile, it has the sort of air quality you would expect, the 5th best on the entire list. The retail options are good, and the 13 campsites have a higher-than-average availability of pull-thru parking — no pools, but then you will be spending all your time hiking rather than chilling!

Ouachita Mountains Arkansas
Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas

Florida's beaches attract RVers but Rockport, TX, and Gulf Shores, AL, also excel

Zephyrhills, a suburb of Tampa, wins fourth place, making it the highest-ranked Florida destination on the list. Beaches, for example Dunedin and Honeymoon Island, are just an hour’s drive away. The place is well-known for its pure mineral water and then there is the legendary year-round climate of the Sunshine State’s west coast. As might be expected, pools are widely available — in almost 80% of the 19 campsites, for example Happy Days RV Park — and costs are reasonable for this part of the country.

Further down Florida's Gulf Coast, Fort Myers, secures 10th place, offering all the amenities of a top tourist city. Known as the City of Palms, not only does it have beautiful natural scenery that includes shell-covered beaches, but also rich history and fine restaurants. Its 15 campsites score for having swimming pools and for high internet speeds, which are around 355 Mbps. RVers might also be interested to know that Naples, just a little further south and getting 18th place in the list, offers pools at more than 90% of its 21 campsites plus the fourth-best retail options — it also landed second spot in a recent list of ideal snowbird destinations.

Fort Myers Beach Florida
Fort Myers Beach, Florida

Never a place to be outdone, Texas secures seven positions in the top 20 RV destinations, the highest being Rockport in sixth place. This small city is called The Texas Riviera for a reason, with marinas serving boating and fishing enthusiasts, plus a pleasant ambiance that includes birdwatching opportunities and some very historic trees. There are 30 or more campsites here and almost three quarters of them offer pull-thru parking — to see some of them, check out this website. Houston, three hours’ drive away and in ninth spot, has 15 campsites providing great internet connectivity and good value deals.

Rockport Texas Gulf Coast
Rockport Texas Gulf Coast

Sweet home Alabama. The Heart of Dixie has beaches and activities aplenty, not least in the shape of Gulf Shores, which lands seventh place in the ranking and includes dolphin watching, ocean fishing and plenty of golf among the pursuits on offer. Of the 12 campsites here, a much higher than average number — more than 80% — provide WiFi and cable TV, and there are also good retail options. Just a few miles inland, Foley, in 15th place, also has a dozen campsites and provides much of the same good value.

Alabama Gulf Shores Beach
Gulf Shores Beach, Alabama

Forest and desert landscapes from Grants Pass, OR, to Yuma, AZ, help RVers relax

While mountains and beaches will entice, the US has a spectacular range of other landscapes that attract visitors. Grants Pass, Oregon, in fifth place in our ranking, is the main town from which the Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest can be explored. The city’s motto is "It's the climate!" and it does indeed have the second-best air quality among the top 20 RVing destinations. More than two thirds of its 13 campsites feature pull-thru parking.

Just south from Grants Pass, Redding is the only Californian destination to make the top 20 destinations for RVers, landing 17th spot. It is in the Shasta Cascade region, featuring forests, rivers, lakes and waterfalls. Three quarters of the dozen campsites here have cable TV and pull-thru parking, all have pools, and the prices are reasonable. For forests further south, Tyler, in eastern Texas and at 13th place in the ranking, is a jumping-off point for the beautiful Piney Woods region, plus, as the Rose Capital of America, it offers extra enjoyment for keen gardeners.

Sundial Bridge Redding California
Sundial Bridge Redding, California

Deserts can be stunning, and Arizona scores two positions on our list, with Tucson at 11th and Yuma in the far west at 12th. The latter offers amazing dunes nearby, which are often enjoyed by visitors on ATVs. There are no fewer than 48 campsites here, the second-highest number of all the destinations we surveyed, and more than two thirds have swimming pools. Tucson also sits in the Sonoran Desert, near the Saguaro National Park, and offers 30 campsites and an average internet speeds of 482 Mbps — the second highest among the top 20 destinations — plus the ambience of a larger city.

Motorhome in Saguaro Forest Arizona
Saguaro Forest, Arizona

Storing RVs: Owners from the southwest look most for storage options

Most RVers don’t drive their vehicle all year round, but they will have problems fitting it in their garage and the local homeowners’ association may ban parking it on driveways or streets. Self storage is often the answer, providing outdoor spaces for RVs, often with a roof, and also indoor units for utmost protection — there are even units with climate control to keep valuable vehicles in tip-top condition through any season.

To see where people are most interested in putting their RVs into storage as well as how much this service costs across the US, we’ve analyzed Google searches people make for RV storage units and extracted rates for 10'x30' units – suitable for many RVs – in  each city. As it turns out, Las Vegas comes first for interest manifested towards RV self storage, followed by large cities in Colorado, Arizona and Texas. Albuquerque and Reno residents are also in the mix, completing a sweep of interest from RVers in the southwest of the country. Their RVs will need, and will get, some vital protection from the more extreme aspects of their local climates. For 10'x30' units, Las Vegas and Phoenix have similar monthly average self storage rents of $297 and $303, respectively, while Colorado Springs and Tucson would charge you averages of $241 and $274.


Further down the list of RV storage searches by city, residents are looking for Seattle RV self storage, Los Angeles RV self storage, and rental spaces for their rigs in Boise, Orlando, Salt Lake City and Sacramento. This demonstrates that residents of states with more temperate climates also look for RV storage: A hailstorm in Idaho or prolonged snowfall in Utah can be as damaging as extreme temperatures, so putting a roof over an RV will be a priority. Owners should prep their rig before putting it into storage and visit it regularly to carry out routine maintenance so it is ready for action when they need it.

“The recent uptick in RV interest can be correlated with pent-up demand that is prompting travel recovery as COVID curbs ease. People want to see their families and travel again, and RVs emerge as a particularly interesting option, especially since air travel challenges – including rising airfares and staff shortages – continue,” explains Doug Ressler, Business Intelligence Manager at Yardi Matrix.

The growth in RV and boat sales is also driven by the improved household economies of people who had to forego vacations and other spending opportunities while sheltering in place. And with retirees and empty-nesters traditionally making up a large percentage of the RVing community, if they have downsized their home recently, the rising house prices widely seen could have provided them with a substantial lump sum to spend. Buying a motorhome, caravan or fifth-wheeler might have been realizing a lifetime’s dream. A Yardi Matrix report states that there was a record flow of capital in 2021 and a sales volume of exclusive RV/boat facilities that reached $157M, approaching three times the previous yearly high.

Isaac Hiatt, Product Specialist at Yardi Matrix, says about RV/boat storage that “right now there are 84 properties in a stage of development which make up about 9% of the existing stock.” Because of the current focus on this sector from both investors and developers, and despite land being needed to deal with housing shortages, he expects “steady growth in the total amount of properties for RV/boat storage.”

RVs at a Lakefront Campsite

Our study returns some favorite destinations. Good air quality helps rural and high-altitude resorts boost their scores, but large cities such as Houston and Tucson also rank because of the services they provide, and beach lovers need not feel left out. The expansion and changing demographics of the RV community are matched by the variety of campsites on offer, and the increasing options for storing vehicles make the lifestyle more worry-free than before. It is reckoned that 2022 will be a year when RVing will increase further in popularity and attract still more younger folk, and campsites across the country are ready to welcome them.

What the experts are saying

To gain more insight about the RVing industry right now, we asked experts who passed on their opinions to us.

Mark Koep, Founder and CEO at CampgroundViews

Mark Koep, Founder and CEO at CampgroundViews
Mark Koep, Founder and CEO at CampgroundViews

In your experience, has the pandemic changed RVing habits, and if so, in what ways?

Yes absolutely. RVing was already experiencing significant increases in participation pre-COVID. COVID accelerated the trend and also opened up the idea of RVing to an entirely new generation of travelers who discovered the freedom and fun of travelling in a home on wheels. This massive increase of new RV travelers did shift the industry significantly in a few important ways:

  1. A move towards better and easier online bookings and site selection. Our company, for example, launched the new Campground Virtual Tours that allow travelers to virtually drive through a campground, see the roads, see the sites and click a site to book it https://www.campgroundviews.com/best-camping-tool-ever/
  2. A need to "teach" new RVers about proper etiquette and behaviors. https://www.campgroundviews.com/camper-etiquette/
  3. Increased demand for more full service style RV resorts.
  4. A break in the perspective of price. New RVers do not have a baseline memory that at one point not too long ago $30/night was "fancy".

Have you seen any demographic shifts in the RVing community recently?

Nothing stands out. RVing has always appealed to certain groups. The biggest change has really centered around who is RVing, when they do it, and for how long. The shifting work from home and remote schooling attitudes. It is no longer "weird" to work from anywhere and this is allowing younger families to travel for longer period and outside the normal summer season.

What types of RVing destinations would you most recommend right now?

The trick to an RV destination is the fact that you have your home with you. So no matter where you go or where you are you are "home". With the massive increase in new RV travelers my advice is to go where others are not. Purposefully seek out the lesser known and the lesser travelled. For example instead of Yellowstone why not visit Lander, WY, or Ashton, ID, or Red Lodge, MT. Instead of Glacier why not travel Hwy 2 and discover Libby Mt or Cour De Lane, ID? On the East Coast instead of Florida in the winter look to Myrtle Beach or North Carolina.

Chris Emery is the editor of Ordealist.com, the guide to overlanding, van life and rugged RV travel.

Chris Emery, Editor of Ordealist.com
Chris Emery, Editor of Ordealist.com

In your experience, has the pandemic changed RVing habits, and if so, in what ways?

The biggest change with the pandemic is that more people still in the workforce are traveling in RVs. That's because the shift to remote work, which was hyper-accelerated by the pandemic, has created many opportunities for people to work from anywhere. For many people working in information jobs, all they need is a good WiFi connection and a laptop to do their jobs. So you're seeing many more people traveling in RVs as a lifestyle — something that used to be reserved for retirees only.

Have you seen any demographic shifts in the RVing community recently?

Many more people still in their working years are traveling in RVs. So the shift has been to a younger demographic and people who are in the workforce.

What types of RVing destinations would you most recommend right now?

Because a wider range of people are traveling and living in RVs, there is a lot more pressure on campgrounds that cater to RVs. That means that you need to make reservations a lot earlier in your planning stages or plan to get further off the beaten track. If you aren't tied to the coasts, I recommend people head to more remote areas, such as the interior Western states (Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, etc). Also, I'm a big proponent of boondocking, which allows you to get away from the hustle and bustle of campgrounds. There's far less competition for primitive and dispersed camping in lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management for instance.

David Basler, Vice President, Membership & Marketing, National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC)

David Basler, Vice President, Membership & Marketing, National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC)
David Basler of ARVC

In your experience, has the pandemic changed RVing habits, and if so, in what ways? 
Well, for starters, more people are camping. More than 57 million Americans say they will be camping in 2022, which is up 20 percent from the previous year and a whopping 80 percent since 2014, based on industry research. We’ve seen a steady increase in this number since 2014, but it really shot up during the pandemic and has continued on that steep trajectory. Americans are choosing camping more often because it is an affordable way to make family memories. Prior to the pandemic the average camper would venture out about 50 miles from home and that increased to 150 miles during the height of the pandemic, but we are starting to see that return to the pre-pandemic range. As work habits have changed across the country, campers are staying longer realizing they can now work and study from anywhere and enjoy the benefits of outdoor recreation at the same time.

Have you seen demographic shifts in the RVing community recently? 
We are seeing steady increases, and have been for the past few years, in more campers from non-white ethnicity and same-sex households, especially among campers who identify as “first time campers”. For example, according to the 2022 North American Camping Report, in 2021 non-white campers were 35 percent of the overall camping population, but when we look at just first-time campers, that number grows to 54 percent. These numbers are promising, but there is still a lot of work to do, and the outdoor hospitality industry is continuing to create a more welcoming environment for non-white and same-sex households to be able to experience camping, RVing and outdoor recreation and build amazing memories.

What types of RVing destinations would you most recommend right now?

I recommend that RVers check out GoCampingAmerica to find their ideal RVing destinations.

Dan Yates, founder and managing director of outdoor accommodation booking platform Pitchup.com

Dan Yates founder & managing director of Pitchup.com
Dan Yates, Founder & Managing Director of Pitchup.com

In your experience, has the pandemic changed RVing habits, and if so, in what ways?

Even pre-pandemic, RVs and RV sites were in high demand, but since the start of the pandemic, this demand has skyrocketed. Our survey of American campground owners confirmed this, with 79% receiving the most interest in RV plots out of all accommodation options. Companies like Winnebago also saw triple-digit growth, unprecedented in the past decade. And this appetite for RVing shows no signs of abating, with global bookings on Pitchup.com for RV sites so far this year up 41% compared to last year.

Have you seen any demographic shifts in the RVing community recently?

RVing is certainly not just for retirees anymore. With the #vanlife trend storming social media, there’s been a large uptick in Millennial and Gen Z RV bookings. According to the RV Industry Association, 18- to 34-year-olds now make up 22% of current RV owners. With VW set to launch an electric version of its classic campervan, interest in RVing is sure to grow among younger travelers.

What types of RVing destinations would you most recommend right now?

Fossil Valley RV Park is a quiet and spacious family-friendly park surrounded by dinosaur fossils in the spectacular Utah landscape. Campers also rave about the friendly staff and super clean facilities, making it a particularly popular destination.

Methodology

This analysis was done by StorageCafe, an online platform that provides storage unit listings across the nation.


Fair use and distribution

This study serves as a resource for the general public on issues of common interest and should not be regarded as investment advice. The data is true to the best of our knowledge but may change if amendments to it are made. We agree to the distribution of this content but we do require a mention in return for attribution purposes.

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Francis Chantree is a former programmer and researcher who has exchanged computer language for his greatest passion, human language! When not writing and proofreading text, he spends his time gardening, reading and singing.

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