Campgrounds and RV Parks: On-line Lesson

An important part of any outdoor recreation experience and the most popular family vacation in the U.S. is camping. As with other recreation facilities, the recreation experience will be determined in a large part by the design of the facility or area. Is it crowded and noisy or is it planned to provide for a variety of experiences?

A well designed campground, according to Hutsman, Cordell, & Hutlstman (1998), will include the following design considerations:


Have approximately 200, minimum of 125 to break even, camp spaces & RV sites,


Have a single entrance/exit with safe ingress and egress,


The entrance control station has enough distance from the highway to safely accommodate all traffic,


Entrance control station has at least tow entry lanes which extend at least 200 feet before the control station,


A double sewage dump station should be located near the entrance control station,


Have a minimum of four loops,


Have at least two bathroom/shower structures and two toilet structures,


Maintenance complex is located near the entrance control station and out of sight, and


Recreation amenities would be located outside of any camp loop and near the day use area.

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Information Kiosk

Campground Design Don'ts

  1. Don't use too much road. Many private and public campgrounds have far more roads than are needed.
  2. Don't mix day use and carping use. It's OK to design recreation areas with day- and overnight-use areas but don't mix them.
  3. Don't put amenities (such as beaches, shelters and tot lots) or toilets/showers inside of camp loops.
  4. Don't locate amenities in or on the edges of camp loops.
  5. Don't move traffic from one camp loop into another and another.
  6. Don't mix family campsites and seasonal campsites on the same camp loop.
  7. Don't call your loops A or B, or 1 or 2- name them.
  8. Don't assume engineers or landscape architects or planners or foresters or consulting firms or college professors or other rascals know how to design campgrounds. It is quite likely they don't!
  9. Don't locate your primary road between camp loops and the main attraction (lake or stream).
  10. Don't (if at all possible) utilize many existing roads and facilities in a major renovation of a campground.
  11. Don't make "third-class citizens" of campers by keeping them away from the lake or stream attraction, or by (unless shoreline acreage is quite limited) having them cross or move through day users to get to the attraction.
  12. Don't design "overuse" impact potential into your campground.
  13. Don't waste your land base by designing big fat loops.
  14. Don't (if you are a designer) ask others (managers, maintenance folks or programmers) how they want you to design something; ask them how they want the design to function for them and users.

Campground Design Dos

  1. Do seek input from managers, maintenance personnel, planners, engineers, users, persons with disabilities, and other available specialists.
  2. Do decide early on who you want to beckon to your family campground then design for those users.
  3. Do think big, plan big, and build big.
  4. Do consider (if this is a public area) the possibility of public-private cooperation.
  5. Do design your campground so construction can be phased logically.
  6. Do build the amenities with the first phase.
  7. Do spend considerable time on site before you draw two or three alternative designs. Then, when a master plan is acceptable, field design your camping units and roads.
  8. Do (in area rehabilitation) use sections of existing roads, toilet/shower structures (if they are in good condition) and other existing features if-and that's a big if-they enhance your design.

*reference: Hultsman, J., Cottrell, R. L., and Hultsman, W. Z. (1998).Planning Parks for People (2nd ed.) State College, PA: Venture Publishing

Basic Loop Design

The fundamental campground design is a loop. The number of camp units on each loop will be determined by the type of users. The size and length of the loop will be determined by the planner and available space. Some basic loop dimensions are:
bulletCamp loops should be between 100' and 120'wide, (unless it is a fat peanut which is 175' wide).
bulletLength of camp RV's a minimum of 55' to 60 ' (includes the RV and the tow vehicle)
bulletIntersite zones should be at least 20' between sites.
bulletLoops should be a minimum of 100' apart.
bulletTotal camp units per loop should be around 55.
bulletSingle lane roads should be 15' wide with a clearing limit of 22' (5' on each shoulder) and an overhead clearance of at least 16'.
bulletDouble roads would have a width of 20' with a clearing limit of 30' and a minimum of 16' height clearance.

Peanuts or Hot Dog Designs

Both the peanut and hot dog loop designs conserve space. They also move people down the roadways instead of through the camp areas. Loops can be varied in size depending on the space available and the mixture of camp unit types.

Spatial Dimensions
bullet10 to 12 sites per acre
bulletsingle site 30' by 75' - 80'
bulletone-way roads width 15' (minimum)
bullettwo-way road widths 20' (minimum)

Types of Sites
bulletBack-in      All sites be entered from a slant of 60 degrees (no 90 degree entry)
bulletPull-through (This is the preferred site type) All sites be entered from a slant of 60 degrees (no 90 degree entry)
bulletPull-in       (Not recommended for any site designs)

Site Orientation

bulletThe passenger side door should face an easterly direction when possible. So RV's will enter the site from the North or South.
bulletThe awning side of the RV should not be facing the prevailing winds.

Site Dimensions (suggested)

bullet25'(slickside) / 30' - 35' (RV /w slide-outs) wide by 70'-80' long
bullet3' minimum from adjacent lot line; 1-4' for slideout; 10' parking pad; plus 13' to next lot line = 30' wide site.

Hardening A Camp & RV Site

Hardening a camp site means to replace the existing soil with a surface that will withstand heavy use and erosion. Common materials used to harden a site are marble dust, small gravel, or concrete. Areas around picnic tables, grills, ramadas, amphitheaters, or tent sites should be hardened.

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accessible campsite

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accessible grill

RV Park Surfacing

bulletparking pad (concrete)
bulletroadways (gravel or asphalt)

RV Park Amenities

Most RV Parks now offer an amazing array of amenities for it's guests. On-site services include:
bulletconvenience store & laundry
bulletswimming pool
bulletrecreation programs for kids/adults
bulletgolf courses
bulletclubhouse/meeting rooms w/kitchen
bulletwater hook-up
bulletelectric (30; 50 or double 50 amp)
bulletcable television
bulletinternet connections (wi-fi)
bulletsewer (double sewer inlets using 3" pipe)
bulletdog park
bulletsport courts (volleyball, basketball, shuffleboard, horseshoe pits)


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