What Size RV Can I Take to a State Park?
There is nothing like driving an RV across the nation to explore and enjoy, and with 2,474 state parks in the US, you can find your slice of paradise.
Before driving an RV and camping at a state park, there are numerous things you should know, such as the size limits for state parks, including weight and length.
Let’s discuss the size, weight, and height of RVs allowed in state parks so you can start planning your next trip.
RV Types & Sizes
Buying an RV for use in state and national parks requires a little bit of homework. However, this does not mean you cannot find the best RV for your personal scenario.
Each family has different needs, and RV companies have made a massive selection so everyone can find a recreational vehicle suited to their needs. Here are the different types of RVs.
Class A Motorhomes
These motorhomes are the biggest and most lavish available, with every amenity you can imagine as they focus on room and comfort.
Depending on the model range from 25 to 45 feet and provide sleeping space for 6 to 10 people. Class A RVs can range in height from about 11 to 13 feet with a width of 8 to 8.5 feet with slide-outs locked.
Class B Motorhomes
Smaller and more compact than Class A RVs, Class B motorhomes are perfect for people wanting something easier to drive and with a shorter length.
These recreational vehicles, which are generally less than 30 feet in length, are ideal for quick getaways and shorter journeys. The standard length for a Class B+ recreational vehicle is between 18 and 28 feet.
Class C Motorhome
Class C motorhomes range in length from 20 feet to 35 feet and include sleeping quarters for up to eight persons but with fewer amenities than a Class A. Class C motorhomes typically range in length from 30 to 33 feet in length.
Travel trailers do not have an attached vehicle like the options above; instead, you need to tow them on your truck or SUV.
They range in length from 10 feet to 30 feet and can accommodate 4-10 people. These range from 2,000 to 9,000 pounds.
Attach to your truck and go over the bed, which reduces the overall length.
A fifth-wheel trailer can range in length from 32 feet to 36 feet, although the most common sizes are 34 and 36 feet, with room for up to ten people. The weight ranges from 8,000 to 16,000 pounds.
Toy haulers attach to your truck like a 5th wheel, but they have room for a car as well as the house quarters. Think of it as a garage and house on wheels.
They range from 21 to 40 feet and can hold up to 11 people. These weigh from 9,000 to 21,000 pounds.
Truck campers drop onto the rear of a pickup truck’s bed—no towing needed. These range in length from 6 to 12 feet with a weight of only 1,000 to 3,000 pounds and room for 2 to 4 people.
If you want a lightweight flat camper that folds out into a tent, then you need a pop-up trailer. They measure between 10 to 15 feet and can weigh from 600 to 4,500 pounds, with options to hold up to 10 campers.
Teardrop trailers are a form of compact, towable recreational vehicle with an aerodynamic design. They weigh between 1,600 to 4,000 pounds, 10 to 21 feet, and have room for four people.
State Park Campsite Sizes
If your RV measures too long or tall, you may need to consider staying at an RV resort, campground, or other option. For this reason, it’s best to know the sizes usually allowed at state parks before purchasing.
However, on average, the smaller the option, the more likely it will fit in a campsite. Here are the standard sizes across the country’s state parks:
- Height – 13’4″ to 14′
- Width – 8″ to 8’6″
- Length – up to 45′ the average is 25 to 40 feet
- Combined Length – up to 85′
As no state park offers one size fits all, you will need to check each park to find their size limitations. However, if your combined length is 30 feet, you have a much higher chance of finding a space.
Larger options are often limited and first-come-first-serve. Plan ahead if you want to take a larger trailer or RV.
You should not purchase an RV on the assumption that you will be allowed to use it in every state park. Each park has its own webpage ready to help you investigate further and find specific weights and measurements for each park.
Though the quality of information provided varies widely between sites, the majority will provide you with a directory of parks, and a means to get in touch with the appropriate authorities.
While you will need to pick an RV based on the factors you need, such as how many people will be using it, here are a couple of options ready to help you get an idea of what to look for in a recreational vehicle:
The Gulfstream TrailMaster Ultra Light Series 199RK has everything you need, including a kitchen, bathroom, dinette, pantry, refrigerator, sofa, closet, and a queen-size bed.
It measures just 22 feet and 2 inches, with a width of 96 inches and a height of 10 feet 8 inches. The dry weight is 3,520 pounds making this a lightweight and compact option perfect for state parks.
If you want a Motorhome, the 2023 Redhawk SE 22C by Jayco offers tons of space and all the amenities you can imagine, with room for up to five people.
It measures 22 feet and 2 inches with a Gross Combined Weight of 14,200 pounds. As it includes the vehicle in the motorhome, the weights are dramatically higher than travel trailers as you are not towing.
Numbers You Need to Know
Before you can determine the actual weight, here are some numbers you should understand:
Total Size accounts for your tow vehicle and the RV size are measured together for total size. For example, if your RV is 30 feet in length and your tow vehicle is 20 feet in length, you will need a site that is at least 50 feet long.
Dry Weight is the RV or trailer’s weight without any additional items, such as gasoline, passengers, or cargo. For example, the dry weight of a camper trailer can range from around 1,000 to 9,000 pounds, although 5,200 pounds is roughly normal.
GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) is the combined weight of the vehicle and its payload when both are totally filled.
Maximum Trailer Load is the maximum amount of weight your vehicle and trailer can safely tow. To clarify, this is the empty weight without the driver or any cargo.
Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) represents the absolute maximum weight that may be carried by each trailer axle.
This grade is provided by the trailer manufacturer and is determined by the trailer’s axles, tires, and wheels, emphasizing the weakest component.
Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW) refers to how much your RV or trailer weighs when empty. Typically, the weight that is visible at the dealer before it is sold.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the total combined weight of the RV’s occupants, vehicle, supplies, and fluids are equal to or less than this rating with a number for the trailer and the towing vehicle.
Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) is the total weight capacity of the trailer plus the vehicle pulling it rather than just the trailer’s weight capacity. It specifies a maximum weight for both the towing vehicle and the trailer.
Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC) refers to the trailer’s mass without any of the trailer’s extra equipment or attachments.
Net Carrying Capacity (NCC) measures all of your belongings, whether they are in a trailer or an RV, and adds up to this total. Next, consider the whole mass of supplies like gasoline, water, food, gas, tools, etc.
Sleeping Capacity Weight Rating (SCWR) refers to the manufacturer-assigned number of sleeping positions multiplied by 154 pounds.
Tongue Weight is the amount of weight the tongue of your trailer measures. This is the part that connects your trailer to the towing vehicle. After loading, the tongue should support around 10 to 15 percent of the trailer’s total weight.
Truck for Towing
A rough calculation suggests that a half-ton pickup vehicle with the ability to tow 7,500 pounds can pull a camper that is 24 feet or less in length. You would likely need a three-quarters or one-ton truck to tow a camper longer than 24 feet.
However, these numbers are inaccurate until you figure out everything weighing down the RV. Fortunately, new recreational vehicles must disclose their maximum and lowest load capabilities.
If your vehicle and trailer are sinking at the hitch point, they are not level. This is because the tongue is carrying too much weight.
Either lighten the strain on the tongue by not loading as much or add a weight-distribution hitch. A big travel trailer may still benefit from a weight-distribution hitch or sway bars when properly loaded.
Locating a truck scale is the last step to safe hauling. Check your trailer’s weight restrictions by driving it to a truck scale.
Never exceed 85% of your trailer’s load capacity. For example, if your trailer can handle 1,500 pounds, do not load more than 1,275.
How to Measure the Length of Your RV
If your RV is on the compact side, you might want to add a few feet to the manufacturer’s stated length. However, for the precise length of your RV’s exterior, you should measure it yourself attached to the vehicle used for towing.
That also applies to your RV’s height. It is also important to account for the RV’s air conditioner and any roof vents when determining its overall height, as these features could be hidden from view from the driver’s seat.
You should always verify with the campground in question before making a reservation. Even if there is a restriction on the length of RVs, there may be sites that can fit and allow for even the longest of motorhomes.
You may ask the park ranger about things like whether or not the campground’s amenities will be closed during your stay for maintenance or renovations or whether or not any sites that formerly lacked hookups have now been upgraded to include them.
You can determine your trailer weight as roughly 230 pounds per foot of body length when it is empty of any gear and water. The numbers are based on the body length rather than the overall size.
Additionally, you may add around 25 pounds of supplies, such as food and water, to each foot of the camper’s body length. Furthermore, you can estimate cargo weight at roughly 200 pounds per passenger.
A travel trailer will weigh less when empty, but once you pack everything up and hit the road, it might easily surpass the legal limit.
Water and generators also add to the weight and can increase the weight, which you can reduce by using electricity and water at the campground. Also, consider larger items like bikes, ATVs, or anything else you add to the trailer.
What Does Length Actually Mean?
Ok, now things are becoming a bit murky. It is common practice for campgrounds to publish a maximum RV length that accounts for the towed vehicle and any additional equipment.
For instance, a 29-foot-long RV is considered the same as a 2.5-ton pickup truck pulling a trailer with a towed car attached. As such, it is crucial that you have an accurate idea of the total length of everything you will be bringing to the campsite.
What Should You Do If Your RV is Too Long?
Having to adjust your trip plans due to length restrictions is no joke. But that should not put a damper on your trip.
If the RV’s too long for a state park, consider staying at an RV campground or resort nearby. While these will cost more, you are usually given more space with higher limits.
First, if you are in the market for an RV or trailer and know you want to spend most of your time traveling to state parks, look for one that is 35 feet or less.
That will improve your odds of entering most of our state parks. Then, check the park’s website for maximum numbers before purchasing, especially for your favorite parks.
Can I rent an RV to try?
Absolutely! Before purchasing an RV, rent a few sizes to try out the shape, size, features, and how they all work with your towing vehicle. Find local rentals in your area, and make sure to plan ahead by making reservations at your local campground. Be sure to check out our article on RV rental costs.
Are travel trailers considered RVs or equipment?
Even though a trailer lacks its own power source, it is still considered a vehicle because it may be towed by another car, making it an RV.
A recreational vehicle is a motor vehicle or trailer with specialized living quarters, such as motorhomes, caravans, pop-up campers, truck campers, and fifth-wheel trailers; travel trailers belong to the larger category of recreational vehicles.
Final Thoughts on RV Sizes for State Parks
RV sizes depend on each state park; however, the smaller the RV, the more likely it will fit state parks requirements. Moreover, the smaller, the more available spaces for you to park and enjoy, as large vehicle campsites are sometimes in short supply.
Therefore, make sure you can comfortably fit into your campground before you reserve it by calling the park in advance. Finally, consider renting a travel trailer before buying it to help you figure out your needs.