2015 Best Campgrounds Of The Year
In addition to my yearly travel wrap-up, the other annual post I do is a summary of our best camps. Every year my format is a little different, mostly depending on how we camped that year, but it’s always enjoyable to look back at some of the great places we’ve taken “the beast”.
We also have a definite camping bias. Those of you who’ve followed the blog for a while know that we always chose nature & scenery over RV site quality/hookups, and we have a huge preference for dog-friendly spots & public parks. All of these inclinations are reflected in where we stay and how I review the sites.
This past year was no exception.
In 2015 we made a total of 42 stops, 21 of which were either boondocking or primitive (no hookup) camps, while 11 were private parks (unusual for us to have this many) and, for the first time ever, we visited a few National Park campgrounds too. Several spots were were old-time favorites, but many were also brand new which gave us a nice mix and generated plenty of fresh campground reviews for the year. Of the total only 12 campgrounds rated 4.4 or better (out of a total rating of 5). These were the ones that made the “premium cut” and the ones we’ll focus on today:
Best Boondocking Sites
When I talk about boondocking sites on the blog, I always mean “pure” boondocks i.e. free sites that are out in the wilderness on public land, with no established campground and no established sites. We LOVE our boondocking, but we are somewhat limited in where we can go by the sheer size/weight of “the beast” and we also usually only do it in the winter/spring/fall (when weather is mild, for the sake of the pets). This means our sites are typically in the desert or along Hwy 395 in the Eastern Sierra Nevada’s, and it also means a lot of our sites are repeats = places we love to go over and over. This past year reflected that trend. Out “top” spots were 4 old-time favorites with only 1 new area (KOFA) making the cut.
KOFA National Wildlife Refuge, AZ -> This was a new spot for us in 2015. KOFA is a HUGE refuge along Hwy 95 between Quartzsite and Yuma in western AZ. It’s remote, it’s got dramatically sharp mountains and TONS of random dirt roads. We stayed here for Valentine’s Day and had a beautifully romantic and relaxed time. Rating = 4.5/5. Link to review HERE.
Alabama Hills BLM, Lone Pina, CA -> An old-time favorite we stop here almost every time we drive Hwy 395. Cool boulders, Mount Whitney and 360-degree views keep us coming back despite the iffy cellphone signal. Rating = 4.4/5. Link to review HERE.
Ogilby Road, Yuma, AZ -> Another old-time favorite. This is typically where we boondock every time we visit Yuma. It’s a rocky, crazy, barren landscape but for whatever reason we just love it. We come here to visit the dentist in Mexico, catch the always-dramatic sunsets and just chill out. Rating = 4.6/5. Link to review HERE.
Dome Rock, Quartzsite, AZ -> Yet another old-time favorite. This free 14-day area just outside of Q has beautiful views and lots of cool, dirt roads. There’s some road-noise from I-10, but other than that we’ve always felt relaxed here and stop by almost every year. Rating = 4.6/5. Link to review HERE.
Rockhouse Canyon Road, Borrego, CA -> One of our all-time favorite boondocking areas. It’s got gorgeous views, a super-cool nearby town and lots of things to do and see in the area. Sadly, this past year the State Park took over a large portion of the “old” boondocking area, and many of the spots we’ve used in the past are now completely off-limits. However there’s still a decent area open to camping (many of our RV buddies spent the most recent New Year here) and it’s such a cool place it’s still worth the mention. Rating = 4.75/5. Link to review HERE.
Best Public Parks
We LOVE our public parks (State Parks, National Forest, National Parks etc.) and will chose to stay in them almost everywhere we can. There’s always space for doggie (rarely any dog restrictions) and typically lots of green and hiking trails, all the things we treasure in life. This past year we camped in several National Forest sites, two National Parks, a National Monument and a bunch of new State Parks. As usual, several made the top list:
Wallowa Lake State Park, Joseph, OR -> A huge State Park by a gorgeous lake, next to a super cool town in the midst of the “little Switzerland” of the Pacific Northwest? Yup, that’s exactly what this is. It can get crazy busy at this park during the summer, but if you catch it slightly off-season it’s a gem of a place to stay. Rating = 4.6/5. Link to review HERE.
Bruneau Dunes State Park, Mountain Home, ID -> Who knew there were gorgeous sand dunes like this in Idaho? This remote State Park is worth the visit JUST to play in the dunes and watch the sunset over the sand. Rating = 4.4/5. Link to review HERE.
Buffalo Bill State Park, Cody, WY -> It can get windy here (that’s Cody), but those 360-degree views are just stunning!! A beautiful state park right outside the small town of Cody for a price that cannot be beat. We felt soooo relaxed here. Rating = 4.4/5. Link to review HERE.
Trinidad Lake State Park, Trinidad, CO -> Yet another scenic state park in a super peaceful area just outside the historic town of Trinidad, CO. We loved hiking the trails, going in the water with pooch and just relaxing at our site. Plus there’s a great brewery not far away. Rating = 4.4/5. Link to review HERE.
Washoe Lake State Park, Carson City, NV -> This is an old-time favorite, nestled right between Carson City and Reno. The sites are huge, the views are 360-degrees and everything comes with a relaxing scent of sage. We stay here every time we travel Hwy 395. Rating = 4.4/5. Link to review HERE.
Best Private RV Parks
We’re not big Private Park people, but every now and then we’ll stay at one for the location or because there’s something about the place that draws us in. Only ONE private park had a rating > 4.4 this year, so I’ll mention a few of the runner-ups just to flesh out the category:
Hart Ranch RV Park, Rapid City, SD -> This private members park has just about everything I could ever imagine and yet it feels both relaxed and peaceful. Plus it’s super dog-friendly and located just outside a great city. It ain’t cheap unless you come off-season or buy a membership, but I have to admit I was impressed. Rating = 4.8/5. Link to review HERE.
Likely Place Golf & RV, Likely, CA -> We first stayed here in 2014 and enjoyed it so much we came back again in 2015. It’s a remote and green park with a beautiful 100% dog-friendly golf-course. Paradise! For that alone, it deserves a special mention despite not quite making the top “ratings cut”. Rating = 4.1/5. Link to review HERE.
Sam’s Family Spa, Desert Hot Springs, CA -> It was one of the earliest RV parks we stayed at when we started on the road and this quirky place has made our top 5 year almost every year since. Sites are basic and decor is kinda gaudy so why do we come? The hot mineral pools!! It’s not much to look at from the outside, but once you slip into the pool area you’ll never want to leave. Monthly rates are the way to go here. Rating = 4.1/5. Link to review HERE.
That’s wraps it up for 2015. I better get my butt in gear and start thinking about 2016 now!SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Just in time, three of your fave SPs are on the states we still have to visit. We will check them out. We have stayed also at your two best boon docking sites, Alabama Hills and Dome Rock and we agree, they are great spots. And for sure Sams Family Spa will get our business too at then end of this year.
Excellent! Hope you enjoy all these spots as much as we have!
When we hit the road in March, we will utilize your helpful info. Thanks a bunch Nina! Stay dry in San Diego! It’s raining cats and dogs right now here in Northern San Diego County!
All the best,
Indeed we’re seeing SHEETS of rain down here at Mission Bay. Really, really hoping the campground doesn’t flood!
Great suggestions… criterion for pure boondocking removed one I thought would for sure be on your list, if not for so cold, so dark and so photogenic to get The Shot… Gros Ventre campground, WY. It’s all good!
We loved Gros Ventre, but it only rated 3.6 in the end mostly due to site quality (so much variation) and the very basic facilities. So unfortunately it didn’t make the “top campgrounds” list. It rated 5/5 on location and dog-friendliness though, and no doubt we’ll go back there when we visit the area again!
great report ron wonderful spots…..we have friends who are members at Hart…they love it there…I can’t wait to try your State Park recommendations….
Way cool wrap up… Wallowa Lake is one we’ve heard of, and now added to out ‘To Stay’ list. And yes to Borrego still has plenty to enjoy.
Keep an eye out for a Country Coach Allure floating by you on the bay, we’re getting hammered above you in Bay Park – suspect we’ll Slip & Slide (Not an Abba song. It’s a kids toy.) down the hill anytime now:)!
All our best,
Well hopefully you added the “float” option to that Allure when you bought it LOL. We’re seeing rivers of water down here by the Bay. So far we’re still dry, but if this keeps up we may not last. Can’t remember ever seeing rain like this in San Diego! Hope you stay dry and stay where you are, coach and all!
I thought of you and other RV bloggers in San Diego when watching the national news last night. Stay safe. Judy
Thankfully we’re on paved sites and in an area with good drainage. We had some heavy, heavy rainfall yesterday and several roads in the city flooded, but our campground has so far (touch wood) handled the water well. Much more coming over the next week or so. I think we can safely say El Niño has officially landed in San Diego!
Sue Malone says
Glad to see you put Wallowa SP on your list! And of course the Alabama Hills. Those are two of our favorites as well. I guess we might have to try out Ogilbie road sometime as well.
Ogilby Road is an interesting place. It’s a crazy barren landscape, but I just love how remote and relaxed it feels. Not everyone likes it there, but we’ve stayed at least 5 times.
Eva Towner says
Tak Nina for fine gode råd, billeder og beskrivelser af campsites.
We are now enjoying 3 days at OgilbyRoad (our first boondocking experience). Love it! Also came here to escape the rain on the coast. Drove through it from Santa Rosa to Desert Hotsprings on Jan. 5. Not fun
Next stop: Borrego Springs. Life is good.
Hvor dejligt!! Soooo happy you guys are enjoying some of our favorite spots. Hope you have a great 2016!
The link for Hart Ranch is missing. We will be heading west in Mar and tend to prefer state parks and national parks (being “old farts” we camp for 50% off which makes federal lands VERY attractive) but I am intrigued. I lived in San Francisco and we have tent camped in Co and WY but are very excited to be heading out to do that area of the country. You reviews are helping tremendously!
Ooops. I just saw that miss and added it back in. Thanks.
Thank you for another round of beautiful writing and photography of a lifestyle that I can only still dream of doing. Even though, I’m retired, I’m still bogged down with a house and an anchored life-style.
I am still working on my wife (and relatives) to convince her that this is a workable lifestyle for us. Every now and then I forward your blog to her. And one day, I will gather up enough courage and drive up to the house in an RV and say “its now or never — run away with me” !!! Ha-ha-ha!
Stay dry or more specifically stay out of the dry gullies!! My sister in LA tells me its raining cats and dogs in southern Calif. because of El Nino — your brother? 🙂
Pam Wright says
Thanks for so many great ideas for the future:) Your reviews are always so complete. We appreciate the time you put into completing the total review:)
Wonderful pic of man, dog, sunset! Beautiful!
Thanks so much for all the great info! My husband and I will be embarking on our RV adventure this year! So excited! We won’t be total full timers at first; need to test it out and make sure we love it, but I think I already know we will love it! Here’s to a fabulous 2016!
Mary Morse says
I’m a new follower and I couldn’t be MORE impressed by your thorough, attractive blog.
Great information presented in a beautiful, fun format!
thank you for all that you do.
Thanks. We’ll try some of these on our next trip!
Sharon Sams says
Thank you so much for taking the time to write these reviews. We appreciate it.
Rick Morgan says
As always great reviews. Thanks you you we have stayed at many of the the spots you mention. Thanks for sharing.
Definitely have to hit that Lively, CA golf course sometime.
Likely RV is a gem of a place in the middle of nowhere. So green and relaxed, and a really pretty golf course to boot. Hope you get there sometime.
David Ainley says
Great write up. Love the reviews and photos. Happy trails. OH! Just scrolled down and found the map. Thanks.