Generally speaking, there are 3 types of campgrounds. Below are my observations about the campgrounds I’ve researched online and the types I’ve personally stayed at.
1. Private Campgrounds
Private campgrounds are privately owned by an individual or a company (not owned by a government entity) and can be more expensive than government owned campgrounds. Private campgrounds can be separated into two sub-categories: membership and non-membership campgrounds.
Membership campgrounds have a membership fee that you pay on a periodic basis (monthly, quarterly, or annually), where as non-membership campgrounds have no membership fees, they only charge the overnight rental rate. Non-members can reserve campsites at membership campgrounds, but I believe members have priority for reservations and non-members have to pay a higher rental rate.
KOA is an example of a membership campground. KOA (Kampgrounds of America), it is the world’s largest system of privately held campgrounds with almost 500 locations across the United States and Canada. From what I’ve seen online and heard from others that have been to membership campgrounds, they typically include a certain number of overnight stays with your membership at one or more of their campgrounds. If you want to stay more than your allotted nights allowed by your membership plan, then I believe you can stay additional nights at a discounted rate. Note, I’ve perused membership campground websites, but I’ve actually never stayed at one yet. So, if you plan on visiting a membership campground, you should verify with the campground how things work before making a reservation.
No membership campgrounds can be separated into two categories: businesses and private lands. Business campgrounds are set up as a business, they have a website, a lot of amenities, staff, etc. Owners of private lands usually don’t have their own dedicated website, have one or more makeshift campsites, typically don’t have staff, and may or may not have typical campground amenities, etc. Basically, it is someone that owns land allowing one or more campers to set up campsites on their land.
I’ve seen this trend of camping on private lands become more popular through websites like HipCamp.com. You can book reservations with private owners and read reviews from other campers at the website. I’ve perused the website, but I’ve never booked a reservation for a campsite on private lands. What I noticed at the website is that rental rates vary significantly, as well as what amenities are offered. Some land owners don’t provide potable water or garbage receptacles. So, be sure to verify everything that is important to you with the land owners.
Typically it is easier to make a campsite reservation at a private campground as compared to government campgrounds. Campgrounds run as businesses typically have some or all full hookup campsites (water, electricity, and sewer connections), but their nightly rates are usually more expensive than government campgrounds. I’ve seen rates range from $60 per a night (no hookups = dry camping) up to $200 per a night at private campgrounds. Land owner private campgrounds rental rates are all over the board.
Private campgrounds run as businesses typically have multiple options for lodging, such as tent campsites, RV campsites, and cabins. These campgrounds typically have a general store and activities for the kids. Some have clubhouses, boat launch, equipment rental, and lake/river/ocean access. Also, private campgrounds will usually allow day visitors for a small fee per a car, usually around $10 per day.
2. Regional Campgrounds
Regional campgrounds are typically located in regional recreation areas and are run by local city/county governments or similar government like entities. The recreation areas typically feature campgrounds, lakes, and parks for visitors to use. Most offer activities/amenities like fishing, picnic areas, hiking, nature walks, water recreation, boat launch, etc. and some offer equipment rentals.
Regional campgrounds typically have tent and RV camping with full or partial hookups and are typically cheaper than private campgrounds with nightly rates usually less than $50, similar to state and national park campgrounds. And, usually regional recreation areas allow visitors during the day, but they charge a small fee per a car, typically around $10. I have and continue to enjoy camping at regional campgrounds.
3. State & National Parks
State and national parks are usually large and have breathtaking scenery/views. They offer activities like hiking trails, kids activities, guided walks, fishing, educational exhibits, water activities, and access to lakes/rivers/oceans. Some parks offer campgrounds with tent camping and some have RV camping too, but usually the campsites don’t have water, electricity, and sewer connections (dry camping). But, usually there are water spigots and a dump station at the campgrounds. Also, the parks allow visitors during the day and there is a day fee per a car, usually under $10 per a car.
State and national park campgrounds rates are typically less than $50 per night and reservations are notoriously difficult to book. Usually you have to wait online at 12 midnight or 8 am for the next release of available dates for campsites and usually you are booking 6 to 12 months in advance. But, if you can book a campsite, the parks and campgrounds are beautiful. I’ve visited state parks by purchasing day passes, but I haven’t been able to stay in the campgrounds yet. I’ve typically stayed at privately owned campgrounds near state parks, then paid the day pass fee to take advantage of walking trails, exhibits, and free kids activities for my family.
Here is the link to the United States National Park Service website: https://www.nps.gov/.
I hope you learned something new from my article about 3 types of campgrounds. Happy camping!