2013 Best Campgrounds Of The Year

Every year I not only look back at where we’ve been, but also the places we’ve stayed. I choose our campgrounds pretty carefully so we rarely end up somewhere we don’t like, but it’s always fun to tally-up our stops and share the best-of-the-best with my blog readers. This year we completed 38 total stops of which only 7 were private parks. The rest were either free boondocking sites (11 total this past year -> a new record for us) or state/county/BLM parks. This very much reflects the type of camping we like to do….relaxed, green & spacious and the benefits show in price too. It’s sometimes a challenge to fit “the beast” into the types of spots we like to go and it takes alot of research to find the best gems, but the results are always worth it. Here’s our top of the year:

Our 5 Top-Rated Campgrounds

ALL our top-rated campgrounds were State Parks this year and every one of them had the perfect combo of spacious sites, beautiful surroundings & pet-friendly trails.

Lovely Nehalem Bay!
Lovely Nehalem Bay!
Blooms at Lost Dutchman State Park
Blooms at Lost Dutchman State Park

1/ Nehalem Bay State Park, Manzanita, OR
A new find for us and a new favorite on the northern Oregon coast. Want a gorgeous beach, lovely sites, hiking trails and a cool little town all within walking distance of your site? This is your spot! Link to Review. Rating = 4.75/5

2/ Cape Disappointment State Park, Cape Disappointment, WA
Nothing can quite describe the beauty of the “foulest place in the west”. In this crazy spot on the southernmost tip of the WA coast you can get a site 10 feet from the beach and see TWO lighthouses. Link to Review. Rating  = 4.6/5

3/ Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, OR
Right on the southernmost tip of the OR coast it’s a park that has it all…lovely beach (some sites even have direct views), nice sites & great amenities. Link to Review. Rating = 4.6/5

4/ Cape Blanco State Park, Cape Blanco, OR
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you know that Cape Blanco inspires pure poetry from me. This park on the southern OR coast is remote, rugged, gorgeous, with a fabulous beach and a stunning lighthouse. We volunteer at this place we love it so much. Link to Review. Rating = 4.5/5

5/ Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, AZ
This State Park just east of Phoenix sits in the shadow of the awesome Superstition Mountains. A lovely spot! Link to Review. Rating = 4.5/5

Our 5 Most Scenic Campgrounds

The most scenic campgrounds are not always the top-rated ones, especially if you include boondocking sites with no amenities. That was certainly the case for us this past year. All but one of our most scenic sites was free and the most scenic was the hardest to get to.

A lone bison on the beach at Antelope Island
A lone bison on the beach at Antelope Island
Biking with Polly at Las Cienegas
Biking with Polly at Las Cienegas

1/ Goosenecks State Park, UT (Free)
In this amazing spot in SE Utah you can park on the edge of a 1000-foot rim with sweeping views of the valley and the curves in the San Juan River. Link to Review. Rating = 4.4/5

2/ Antelope Island State Park, UT ($10/night)
This island in the middle of Salt Lake feels like a totally different & isolated world, yet it’s only a few miles from the big city. 360-degree views from all sites here. Link to Review. Rating = 4.25/5

3/ Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA (Free)
We can never seem to get enough of this boondocking site on the Eastern Side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It combines wacky rocks against the backdrop site of majestic Mount Whitney. Simply stunning! Link to Review. Rating = 4.4/5

4/ Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, AZ (Free)
This isolated spot in SE AZ is not easy to get to, but it…is…stunning!!! Probably the most remote and beautiful spot we visited last year. We ended up staying here twice. Link to Review. Rating = 4.4/5

5/ Rockhouse Canyon Road, Borrego Springs, CA (Free)
We get drawn to this spot every single year. A lovely boondocking area with gorgeous desert and mountain views in SW CA. It’s actually in our very top ratings too. Link to Review. Rating = 4.75/5

Special Mentions

Right ON the water at Winchester Bay
Right ON the water at Winchester Bay

There’s a few sites that deserve special mention, not necessarily for their ratings, but because they have some kind of special attraction. These are all very memorable locations  for us.

1/ Winchester Bay Harbor, OR
Located on the central OR coast this is nothing but a parking lot really, but it is literally right ON the water and in the harbor. We found this spot incredibly relaxing & it became our #1 secret find of the year. Link to Review. Rating = 3.9/5

2/ Whitewater Draw Wilderness Area, McNeal, AZ
Located in SE AZ this has only a small spot to camp, but it is a birders paradise. We fell asleep to the sound of hundreds of Sandhill Cranes coming to roost…what an amazing experience! Link to Review. Rating = 4.4/5

3/ Sam’s Family Spa, Desert Hot Springs, CA
This is the ONLY private park in our top campgrounds and it’s all because of the hot pools. Located in SW CA, we come here to spa in mineral waters under palm trees and each year the place draws us back. Soooo relaxing! Link to Review. Rating = 4.1/5

P.S. If you want to see my 2010, 2011 and 2012 round-ups of where we went and best places we stayed I keep all the info on my “Journey” page. Enjoy!

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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. Georgia says

    Hi, I just wanted to let you know that i have been following your blog for several months. My husband and I are moving towards being full time by September and we too have a 40ft beast so your experiences are a tremendous help to us. Love reading your blog and want to say thank you for sharing. Hope to see you out on the road some day soon. Happy New Year and safe travels!

    • libertatemamo says

      Well cheers for following along and good luck with you’re upcoming fulltime adventures! It’s an exciting change.

  2. Dave'n'Kim says

    Fascinating as always Nina! We enjoyed some great campsites down Oregon coast earlier this year [eg Tillamook Airport!; Salmon Harbor Marina (Winchester Bay)] thanks to your recommendations.
    I wanted to ask – would you consider adding more information helping to pinpoint the locations of the campgrounds you review? Like a (Google) map screen shot, and perhaps GPS co-ordinates? (Or would this make your fave sites TOO accessible and spoil them?!)

    • libertatemamo says

      I have a map link on every campground review that I do (just click the “Link to map location here” on any review and it will take you right there), plus I add GPS coordinates on all my boondocking sites. Not sure how much more I can do? I’ve thought about trying to get ALL my campground reviews on one map, but it’s alot of work. If I can ever figure out how to do it without the massive work of adding each one individually I might consider it.

      • Dave'n'Kim says

        Ooops Egg on Face! (Forgive me, Old Age setting in fast…) I hadn’t noticed the map links! Duhh. I guess it’s because for non-boondock sites it’s up by any campground website link and I’ve got in the habit of ‘ignoring those’ in the first instance – preferring to read your better descriptions first – because they sometimes have wrong info (memories of wasting an hour of fading light trying to ‘get into’ Comanche Park Campground in South Dakota, which turned out to be a mile away on the opposite side of the road! Their GPS co-ordinates were wrong – and yes, I had Google-Mapped it and thought I found it). I guess this is why I ‘missed’ the GPS co-ordinates for your other campgrounds also, didn’t realise you do have them (only) for boondock sites. Sorry!
        And yes I was also discussing with web-savvy Kim about making our own interactive map (working like rvparkreviews or gasbuddy) for our own use showing sites we know about. As you say, it’s unfortunately a lot of work!

  3. Bianca says

    Hi Nina and Paul!

    The best wishes for 2014! I love your blog. We are planning an rv trip starting Januari 2015 and when I found your blog I was in roadtrip heaven :-) I told my husband we don’t need any travel guides, just this blog full of great information. We’ll be traveling with our dog, so also info on the dog friendly campingsites and parks are very useful to us. We’re both from The Netherlands and currently live on Curacao in the Carribean. We are planning to hit the road for a year starting January 2015. First we need to get our visa in order and look into buying and insuring a rig.

    If you have time, I have 2 questions:

    – Do you know other ‘fulltimers’ who are not from the States that might have useful info for us?

    – Boondocking really appeals to us, we are thinking about either buying a travel trailer or a fith wheel, do you think one or the other is better suited for boondocking ?

    Many thanks for maintaining such a great blog!

    Best wishes,

    • ronspradley says

      Bianca, you asked about other full timers from out of the USofA. I know of one, on IRV2.com forum the Danes-on-tour. Search function on forum will get you to them. Happy trails.


    • libertatemamo says

      I know a couple of non-Americans who RV part-time:

      “Danes-On-Tour” that ronspradley mentioned are one couple. They’re a Danish couple and post regularly on the RV forum iRV2 (just do a search for them on there).

      Another couple I know are from Israel. Danny & Shula. They run a blog here: http://danyshula.blogspot.com/

      There are also ALOT of Canadian bloggers who RV for ~6 months each year in the US. For example Bayfield Bunch (http://thebayfieldbunch.com/), Skip & Jean (http://travelwithjeanskip.blogspot.com/), Love Your RV (http://www.loveyourrv.com/blog/), Ivan & His Cat (http://roadtrip-06.blogspot.com/)

      As for the best rig for boondocking I think it really depends how REMOTE you want to get. If you want to get really remote & plan to do some bumpy roads then a small travel trailer or truck camper is best. If you plan on boondocking in more accessible spots then a 5th wheel will be better. Of course the 5th wheel will have bigger tanks too so that’s another advantage to that side. Definitely pay attention to tank size & clearance (from the ground) when you buy. Hope that helps!


  4. says

    I have been following your blog for two weeks, and enjoy it. Currently I am an “extended RVer,” traveling in my travel trailer a few months per year. But I’m thinking of selling my house and going full time. What is an ideal size range for a single traveling going full time?

    • libertatemamo says

      The ideal size is a very personal thing. If you LOVE remote camping, boondocking, getting out in the wilds then a smaller size is better. If you’re staying in more developed areas then a larger size will be more comfortable. I tend to think 35-feet is a good compromise (just my personal opinion). Once you get larger than 40 you start to get limited in where you can go (in public places like national forest, BLM etc.). Once you get smaller than 35 you start to get more limited in space. Then again I’ve seen people fulltime in just about anything. We have friends parked right next to us (right now) who fulltime in a 20-foot Airstream and are perfectly comfortable that way…they sure have more access than we do in “the beast”. So, just depends on your personal balance of space/comfort versus where you want to go.


  5. says

    Your blog just has SO much helpful information. I don’t know how you do it. It would take me forever to figure out everywhere we stayed during the past year. My NYR is to move less and stay longer. Although I won’t get very far doing that will I?

  6. says

    Will definitely keep an eye on these west coast campgrounds when Betsy decided to head that way. We too liked Alabama Hills and one heck of a scenic hideaway.
    That must have been quite an experience boon docking at Whitewater draw, too bad we were too timid to drive Betsy there.

    • libertatemamo says

      Given your goal of seeing all the states I think it may be a while before you get back here. Then again, given how fast you travel it may be no time at all :) You guys managed an amazing amount this past year!

    • libertatemamo says

      Glad to hear you agree :) Alot of these campgrounds reflect our personal preferences (green, space, dog-friendly) so I know not everyone agrees with my reviews. Those who favor hookups (for example) over hiking trails might not like some of the spots we stay. It’s always somewhat personal.

  7. says


    The picture problem I was experiencing seems to have resolved. They’re coming in perfectly now, so happy!

    Glad you had a wonderful holiday and that you’re “back home” with Paul and the furry crew. Will we ever see pictures of Paul’s time in the desert without you?


    • libertatemamo says

      Well I think it’s because I haven’t used the “gallery” function for a few posts. It’s a dilemma…I really like the gallery, but it seems it produces problems for some folks.

  8. Mary Ann says

    Thanks for the great info. Yours is the only blog I always read start to finish. Your photos are beautiful. We have one of our grandchildren living with us for a few more years and then we are off to full time. We lived in a 21′ class C for 13 months back in 1999 and 2000, with a homeschooled 13 yr. old and all my hubby’s work gear. Circumstances made it necessary for us to come back to NM, but we have been planning our escape ever since. You two seem to have the same preferences as us when it comes to what makes a great camping experience, so maybe we’ll run into each other in a few years!

    • libertatemamo says

      Well thanks so much for the follow! Sure hope you manage to get back on the road and see the sights you’re longing for.

  9. says

    I hope one day I can do what you are doing right now. I envy you in many ways! This is a fabulous list and I will keep it for that one day I am out in the open just taking it all in!

  10. says

    Hi Nina, we are out near Rockhouse Canyon, in Anza Borrego desert. Friends Kathie and Bob are coming over Wednesday afternoon and you are welcome to join us if you’re in the area. Coordinates: N116.16.833, W33.18.008! We would love to meet you. Lynda

    • libertatemamo says

      Ah shucks…we’ll probably miss you. Planning on heading out of here either tomorrow or Wed AM.

  11. Oakman says

    We are currently enjoying Lost Dutchman for a second time and couldn’t agree more with your appraisal of this park and also SE Arizona in general. We have been “stuck” in and around Tonto National Forest for a while and don’t know if we can break away for the Quartzsite shindig or not. State parks and boondocking in these parts are our cup of tea. The only problem is our lab/hound walks with his nose instead of his eyes – I spent this morning pulling cactus thorns from his snout… again.

    We too enjoy the NW coast, but this year will be the first time to explore it in a motorhome. Your blog will be an asset.

    • libertatemamo says

      So happy you enjoy Lost Dutchman as much as we did! It’s a fine park. We also LOVE McDowell Mountain…that’s another gem of a place near Phoenix.

  12. says

    Hi Paul and Nina, I love you blog and am getting ready for some full timing beginning next year. I so appreciate your recent best of campground list. I struggled with where to stay in the eastern sierras on a recent trip to Yosemite and want to spend time in so AZ as well as the glorious Oregon coast so your blog hit the mark with me. Thanks. I am solo and it often takes me a few nights of boon docking to feel safe so i’ve been front country camping instead. But I sure love the access to the quiet, the solitude and the early and late light of off the beaten path sites. I wonder if you have any blogs or advice for women traveling alone. I’m an experienced backpacker and the “rig” sticking out like a sore thumb in the boonies is new to me.

    • libertatemamo says

      Hi Kit,

      Lovely to “meet” you on the blog! I know of several single gals who are on the road..and they boondock too! I’d recommend having a look at RV Sue And Her Canine Crew (http://rvsueandcrew.net/), Me And My Dog (http://dewelldesigns.blogspot.com/), The Good Luck Duck (http://www.thegoodluckduck.com/), Life On The Open Road (http://lifeontheopenroad.blogspot.com/), Sassy’s On Da Road (http://sassysondaroad.blogspot.com/). There are also a bunch of clubs for solo RVers if you prefer to go that direction (Loners on Wheels comes to mind http://lonersonwheels.com/), as well as clubs for boondockers (for example the Escapees boondocking club meets quite regularly in the desert). I think boondocking in a rig just takes some time to get used to. If you want to ease into it you can always start at “easy” spots (e.g. Quartzsite) where you’ll have plenty of company and then move on from there.

      Hope that gives you a few options and good luck with all your travel plans!


      • says

        thanks Nina, I have poured over lots of the blogs you’ve listed. Some friends of mine, when traveling alone, carry a weapon. I’m not that type. so sometimes I experience a bit of fear on arrival. Only to laugh at it a day later. I’m a loner, but chatty when I meet people so I should do just fine. Keep on truckin

        • libertatemamo says

          Very few of the solo female travelers I’ve meet carry weapons, although some do carry bear spray (or equivalent) which I think is a great idea. Mostly they just pay attention to where they park, who is around and how they feel about the area (I never dismiss a “bad vibe”). I travelled solo a lot when I was younger and those are pretty much the rules I followed.

          I have great respect for solo ladies getting on the road. Love to see it! If we’re ever in the same area let us know. We’re happy to show you some ropes.


  13. says

    Happy 2014, Nina, Paul, and the Paws!

    This is really so very helpful. I spent last year on my “eastern seaboard tour” because it was my first year of full-timing, and the East is most familiar to me. However, I am now ready to start the western loop. I have been looking over the maps trying to plot my course, but nothing is really calling me. So I this will be so helpful! Thanks for always being so willing to share your findings.


  14. Caryl~Marie says

    Happy New Year, my dear ‘wheelin’ friends. We use to live in Brookings, OR and I might suggest a spot just north of Harris Beach. It is on 101 and can only be accessed easily from the south bound lane unless they have finally put in a left turn lane. You can miss it if you blink…but Cape Ferrelo has awesome hiking, beautiful views, interesting flora and great whale watching.

    • libertatemamo says

      Just checked it out. Looks lovely! We hiked along Boardman State Park just north of there, but didn’t manage to check out all the stops.

  15. Dianne says

    Thanks so much for this wonderful blog. We have just discovered it via your excellent 4 part solar article on IRV green forum. We’ve been rving for over 30 years (10 years full timing in the 80’s and full timing again these last 5 years). There is always something new to learn and sharing info is part of what makes this life special! We are now in a 40′ Vectra and your campground reviews are giving us lots of new ideas of where we can get it into. See you down the road!

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