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Facilities Comparison Between USFS, NPS, CPS, & RV Park Campsites

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Facilities Comparison Between USFS, NPS, CPS, & RV Park Campsites

Old 04-04-09, 07:22 AM
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Facilities Comparison Between USFS, NPS, CPS, & RV Park Campsites

I'm planning a trip through the Rockies in late Spring / early Summer and I was wondering what to expect from camping facilities. This knowledge will obviously dictate the choices I make.

In decending order I am concerned about:

1) Security
2) Potable water
3) Bear-proof food storage lockers
3) Toilets
4) Showers
5) Noise
6) Cost (within reason)

I know that everyone has their own preferences, but what's lacking in this database is an objective description and contrast of each campsite type. I think this would be useful to others as well as myself. Thank you!

Steve
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Old 04-04-09, 08:46 AM
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It's not the TYPE of campsite you need to contrast because they all vary wildly even among the same type.

1. Security
Not sure what you mean here, but depending on where you are, many campsites in summer will be crowded. National park sites, and RV campgrounds mostly. EDIT: The more I think about it, I think that many campsites will be crowded during the summer months along roads.

2. Water
Available at most/all campsites, and of course there are an unlimited number of streams and rivers.

3. bear proof lockers
Are not found at many campgrounds here in CO. Use a rope.

4. showers
hit or miss. mostly miss. Again, see rivers lakes and streams. Campground showers are... nasty.

5. noise
not an issue unless you're bothered by the wind and the coyotes. You can have loud neighbors anywhere, though.

6. cost
... not really an issue. Especially if you don't sleep in campgrounds. You can still use the facilities most of the time.

The larger parks and touristy mountain towns will have campgrounds will all the features you desire, (except maybe lockers) but noise and security issues might arise. Personally, I have not done any extended bike touring (overnighters only), but have done quite a bit of other mountain travel. (packing, climbing, xc whatever) Nine nights out of ten I'm at a FS campsite, but that's more a function of where I go than preference.

Last edited by jorbenweb; 04-04-09 at 08:56 AM.
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Old 04-04-09, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Cyclesafe
I'm planning a trip through the Rockies in late Spring / early Summer and I was wondering what to expect from camping facilities. This knowledge will obviously dictate the choices I make.

In decending order I am concerned about:

1) Security
2) Potable water
3) Bear-proof food storage lockers
3) Toilets
4) Showers
5) Noise
6) Cost (within reason)

I know that everyone has their own preferences, but what's lacking in this database is an objective description and contrast of each campsite type. I think this would be useful to others as well as myself. Thank you!

Steve
There is so much variation that you'd have to have information about specific campgrounds.

In general (from my perspective), the government campgrounds are cheaper, have fewer facilities (eg, entertainment, opportunities for food purchase), are better laid-out (fewer open fields with more space/privacy between sites), quieter, lower quality toilet facilities (but good enough, unless they are pit toilets), and sometimes no showers (though, this seems not very common). I've never had any problem with the lack of potable water at government sites.

I'd guess that bear boxes are a crap-shoot. Most people drive, which means they won't have a problem bringing everything they need.

I'd say security might generally be a bit less at the government campgrounds because they tend to be much more private. But I've never been concerned about security at these places.

I prefer the government campgrounds.

Last edited by njkayaker; 04-04-09 at 09:02 AM.
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Old 04-04-09, 09:19 AM
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BLM - you pick it, leave no trace.

Forest service campground - flat spot, picnic table, pit toilet, water pump, in forest often by stream, mostly quiet, but sometimes an RV running a generator or kids making noise.

NPS - varies, usually above plus running water bathroom (sometimes only cold water), sometimes showers, sometimes bear lockers, electricity, lots of RVs and tents

CPS - varies hugely

RV - usually in town or near town, gravel or cement pad for tent, no other tents, hot and cold running water bathrooms with showers, very crowded, very noisy, RV's may run generators at night, internet, electricity, store. no bear lockers

Ultimately, though, on a bike your choice of campsite is dictated by location not by the campground. DOn't worry about it, they are all fine, in their own way. And don't worry about security, just keep your wallet with you always.
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Old 04-04-09, 09:26 AM
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Most National Parks require you bring a bear bag. I prefer primitive camping in the National Forest, for the most part. They will have none of the things you listed, including cost.. Bring a trowel and your own tp.
The best place I have found for a shower in Colorado is the Hot Springs on Mount Princeton, just south of Bueno Vista.
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Old 04-04-09, 09:54 AM
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Our experiences have been that most national parks donīt have showers, but otherwise they are fine. State parks vary widely by state - some states have awesome facilities and others are terrible. Forest service doesnīt have many facilities at all, in general. The private RV parks are generally horrible places to stay, but they do have showers - and sometimes thatīs all it takes to tip the scale int heir favor.

That being said, you can find places to camp just about anywhere. Just be creative.
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Old 04-04-09, 10:07 AM
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In decending order I am concerned about:
1) Security
Not sure what you mean. Bike and gear theft maybe? We never had any security concerns anywhere other than more urban places (when in larger towns or cities).

2) Potable water
Generally available at all of the types of camping you mentioned other than BLM dispersed camping.

3) Bear-proof food storage lockers
Expect to have to hang food in some places. Lockers were hit or miss.

3) Toilets
Either outhouses or restrooms generally available at all of the types of camping you mentioned other than BLM dispersed camping.

4) Showers
Available at all but some FS or BLM

5) Noise
I can only remember one night on the whole TA where noise bothered me. That was a NP (Yellowstone)

6) Cost (within reason)
Variable, but we avoided KOA type places for the most part due to cost and other factors.
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Old 04-04-09, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by nancy sv
The private RV parks are generally horrible places to stay, but they do have showers - and sometimes thatīs all it takes to tip the scale int heir favor.
I generally agree, but that isn't always the case. We found a few that had a special area and price scheme for cyclists and were both quite nice and reasonably priced. Most were awful and to be avoided, but there are exceptions.
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Old 04-04-09, 10:17 AM
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Even if bear boxes aren't available, there are often locking garbage containers. I often threw my food and cook bag in there (next to the garbage bag, not in it). Just pick it up early in the morning before anyone starts emptying the bins.
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Old 04-04-09, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
I generally agree, but that isn't always the case. We found a few that had a special area and price scheme for cyclists and were both quite nice and reasonably priced. Most were awful and to be avoided, but there are exceptions.
You can also haggle the price at RV sites. Even in Big Sur, when everything around was booked solid, and the national forest campground closed, we managed a $15 discount on the last available site. It was a steep price to begin with though. For that matter, you can usually haggle prices at hotels too if you need to stay in them. Explaining the bicycle thing gives you a lot of sway. If the price won't budge, you can at least end up with a free upgrade most of the time.
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Old 04-05-09, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by CardiacKid
Most National Parks require you bring a bear bag. I prefer primitive camping in the National Forest, for the most part. They will have none of the things you listed, including cost.. Bring a trowel and your own tp.
The best place I have found for a shower in Colorado is the Hot Springs on Mount Princeton, just south of Bueno Vista.
What's a bear bag? I've camped all over the country and never heard of such a thing.


Re your criteria, you left out peace, quiet, and beauty! Basically opposite of the ordering for conveniences...
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Old 04-05-09, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by CardiacKid
Most National Parks require you bring a bear bag.
Really? Care to clarify? I never stopped at any campground National Park or otherwise that requires them for cyclists.

Dispersed camping in National Parks probably does requite them, but it probably isn't legal for cyclists to dispersed camp in most National Parks (someone correct me if I am wrong). The National Parks where I have read the rules specifically forbid cyclists to camp other than in regular campsites or hiker/biker sites and do not require bear bags or canisters in those sites.

Edit: I went to look at the NPS website and it doesn't look like they approve any bear bags, at least for Yosemite. It looks like all the approved devices are canisters.
https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisi...containers.htm

I still think it is probably moot for cyclists in most national parks though.

I think I read something somewhere about Ursack suing them over the lack of approval for their product.

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Old 04-05-09, 09:45 AM
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There's some partial info here.
I've lived in Wyoming nearly 20 years and toured throughout the West for 25.

A quick rundown -

There are four land ownership types:
1. Federal lands
2. State lands
3. City/County facilities
4. Private campgrounds

1. Federal Lands -
Include the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation (reservoirs), and the Army Corps of Engineers (reservoirs and waterways).

Dispersed camping - free/au naturel - is permitted on most federal lands that are managed by the USFS and the BLM. Dispersed camping is generally NOT permitted on other federal lands - esp. the NPS - and on state lands.

National Forest campgrounds - most national forests have pleasant, but basic facilities along routes though the high country in the West. Water used to be generally available, but as water standards have been raised, the USFS has responded by simply capping their wells rather than making costly improvements. Check on each forest's website of ask in town at the ranger station. Most USFS campgrounds have a picnic table, fire grate, and outhouses. A few larger, more expensive ones have flush toilets. Almost none have showers. In most (not all) bear areas, USFS campgrounds have bear boxes.

BLM campgrounds are fewer and are less likely to have water since they are in the lower drylands. They are similar to USFS campgrounds - except with less shade.

NPS - campgrounds are more carefully managed since higher park visitation has a greater impact on the resource. The national parks are inconsistent about hiker/biker campsites. Glacier. Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Grand Canyon have them. Bryce, Zion, North Cascades - to name a few off the top of my head - do not. Usually they are just a single car site that has a hiker/biker sign. Sometimes they get taken by car campers or the campground host "releases" them to overflow car campers. If that happens, it is best to start with the campground host - but they have little authority to do anything if the campground is full. It usually requires a call to the ranger on duty. If such happens and you have arrived before the time cutoff - usually 8:00p - then you should politely but firmly request to be accommodated in a nearby picnic area. As for facilities - national park campgrounds tend to have flush toilets but running cold water only. A few or the huge campgrounds will have shower facilities.

National park campgrounds will have bear boxes in bear areas. It is only if you plan to hike into the backcountry that you need a bear canister. (Bear bags generally have not NPS protection standards and are not sufficient in parks like Yosemite.) If you plan to hike into the backcountry, you can usually rent a canister at the backcountry office in most western parks - otherwise there is little reason to carry the extra bulk and weight. You should carry sufficient cord to hand your food items at any time even though this is not the best system in areas with acculturated bears. Limit your food storage to two panniers - I use only my two smaller front ones - and NEVER, EVER eat in your tent.

Other federal agencies - the FWS, BuRec, and COE manage other federal lands and waters. Camping is usually not permitted in National Wildlife Refuges, but larger ones in the West do have some camping facilities. These tend to be extremely basic, but the quality of experience more than makes up for it. BuRec and COE campsites are the opposite. I have never encountered hiker/biker campsites in their areas. They usually have flush toilets and often showers - however, they are quite expensive and geared to the auto camper - make that auto/motorboat camper. The campgrounds tend to be loud, party areas.

2. State Lands - State facilities vary considerably from state to state in the West. Oregon has, by far, the best facilities for cyclists. Many (not all) of the state parks on major cycling routes have hiker/biker campsites which are cheap and set off from the crowds. What's more, the parks almost always have showers. In fact, throughout the West, you are most likely to have shower facilities at state parks rather than on federal lands. California and Washington also have some parks with hiker/biker campsites - just not as nice as Oregon's. Other states generally do not. You will have to pay a pretty hefty camping fee - plus, usually, and out-of-state surcharge. State parks tend to be in between national parks and BuRec reservoirs on the noise level - they are more often visited by people living nearby who are out for a weekend. State public lands - usually light blue on colored topo maps - usually do NOT permit dispersed camping like federal lands. They are leased out and you will be trespassing.

3. City/County facilities -

These should not be overlooked. Although nearly every county in the Midwest has a county park - often with camping - since there is so much public land in the West they are less common. Still, state like Oregon have quite a few - along rivers and on the beach. These are comparable to state parks in terms of facilities and use level - showers, local visitors, kinda noisy. But there are other hole-in-the-wall parks where you might be the only overnight visitor. Most of these parks are fairly close to population - so bears are not an issue.

4. Private campgrounds -
I use these only as a last resort. Why? Because they are in town, they cater to RVs, they are close-packed, and they don't have much nature. In addition to showers, they often have laundry facilities - which is really convenient if you want to get a quick load washed rather than having to find a laundrymat in town. They are a lot a lot more expensive - unless they have a separate rate for cyclists. Along the TransAm - quite a few private campgrounds do accommodate cyclists - but elsewhere it is rare. It depends on whether the owner/operator is willing to give you a break or not. Otherwise it can be in the $30+ range. Yikes!

Canada - -
I'm out of time, but Waterton NP does have a hiker/biker area.
BC has great provincial parks and BC Forests has many basic campsites.
The BC Parks are on paved routes. BC forests are mostly on dirt roads.
Definitely check out BC Parks website.
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Old 04-05-09, 11:05 PM
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Thank you very much for your responses. Very helpful.
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