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By Carly Eisley

Off-season camping can be a joy, if done correctly. The crowds have thinned and access to many campgrounds, trails, and parks is much easier. We have been the only campers in a National Park campground on a weeknight in December!

The downside to the decreased volume of visitors in many areas is a decrease in demand for sites. This leads to many camping areas closing completely, or partial closures of camping areas to save funds during the quieter times of the year. The snow and ice of winter lead to road closures that make some facilities shut down simply because they are inaccessible.

How to Find East Coast Campgrounds in the Off Season

Camping on the East Coast can be particularly challenging – there aren’t very many areas of land available for free dispersed camping, so established campgrounds are often the only option. Here are a few resources to help get you on the road … and then back off again sleeping in a nice, legal campsite.

Fort Mountain State Park Georgia empty campground with campervan

1. Allstays

Allstays is probably the most helpful website/app I have come across so far for road trip and camping planning, particularly when looking for year-round campsites. They have some free guides on their website and a “pro” subscription for a fee – which I feel it is well worth it. They have several different apps which will cost you a little cash but will save you a whole lot of time. Their Camp & RV app is free to download for Apple but upgrades to Pro for $35. It allows you to search around your location for a variety of different camping options, from campgrounds, BLM land, to truck stops and parking lots allowing overnight parking in a pinch. Each type of facility has a different icon on the map.

The best feature for off-season searching? Their robust filters, which allow you to narrow your search by facility type, amenities, AND a filter for “open all year.” Their website takes things one step further and allows for all of the searching and filter functionality, PLUS an option to add map layers that will show you the trails around your camping area. The website is available for varying prices (depending on the length of subscription, but around $30 for a year) and can be used on the mobile device as well. If you spend a lot of time hitting the road, this app/website subscription is well worth it.

2. 4-Season Campgrounds and RV Parks in the Northeast

Snowbird RV Trails maintains a pretty good listing of year-round campgrounds in the Northeast (it includes New England and New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania). The information isn’t guaranteed to be up to date, but it’s a great start. If you’re looking to hit some Northeast destinations check out this site, — and then call the campground to be sure the information is accurate before you get left out in the cold.

Camping on the East Coast during off season

3. KOA Campgrounds

They may not be remote, not always scenic, and sometimes a little crowded, — but there are a lot of KOA Campgrounds everywhere and there will likely be one fairly close to major parks and attractions.  They have a list of all of their year-round campgrounds for easy planning.

4. Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts

Cabins, tent sites, and RV sites in a larger RV-park like atmosphere are available at Jellystone Park sites. Again, probably not secluded and remote, but it’s a place to stay that will be open and have bathrooms and showers.

Smokemont campground December campervan

5. Eastern US National Parks

  • Great Smoky Mountains National ParkThis park that spans North Carolina and Tennessee offers two year-round campgrounds at each end of the park, Cades Cove and Smokemont.
  • Everglades National Park – Two campgrounds, Long Pine Key and Flamingo, are open year-round in this Florida park.
  • Congaree National Park – This park in South Carolina offers two sites, Bluff and Longleaf, year-round. You’ll have to park and hike into the campgrounds.

Visit this website to find more information on National Parks that offer camping. There is a handy map with links to click directing you to each individual park’s page.

6. Hipcamp & The Dyrt

Hipcamp and The Dyrt are two of our favorite online resources for finding camping on the East Coast. Like Airbnb, Hipcamp allows you to message your campsite host before you arrive so that you can get the most up-to-date information on current conditions (great for questions like “Is it really muddy after the latest storm cycle?” and “Where is the best place for us to park our camper van on the property?”). The Dyrt features reviews of campsites all over the country and reading through some of the more recent reviews can be helpful.

7. Phone a Ranger

Perhaps the best resource for finding camping on the East Coast any time of year – and especially in the off-season – is the local park staff. Not sure where to go? Call the local state park division, forest service ranger, etc. Better yet, stop into an office or visitor center if possible. They’ll tell you what’s open, what’s accessible, which roads might close based on weather (I’m lookin’ at you Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive), etc. TALK to people. It’s invaluable.

Book an Escape Campervan for Your East Coast Adventure

Camping in the off-season, especially in a camper van, means cold weather and other challenges. But with some advance planning and a hefty dose of flexibility, an off-season camping trip just might be your best ever. So go ahead and book your camper van, get out there, and enjoy the solitude. Happy camping!

3 thoughts on “7 Planning Tips for Off-Season Camping on the East Coast”

  1. What a great itinerary! There is just so much to do in USA and so little time.You are able to find incredible places you’ve never seen before! Those who have already been there can confirm my words!

  2. Thank you! Such great tips. There are so many apps/ sites out there, thanks for fielding them for moms like me that just don’t have the headspace – I really didn’t know where to begin.

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