The Ultimate US Public Campground Project
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I use this site?
What is a POI list and how do I use it?
Why have you built this website?
What do users say about your list?
How did you find these campgrounds?
How have you verified the information included and how reliable is it?
How often is the data updated?
What cautions should I follow in using this information?
Why doesn’t it include private/commercial campgrounds?
You say it doesn’t include private CG’s yet there are a few - why?
I know of some local campgrounds - how do I submit them?
What are all the abbreviations used?
Can I drive my RV to all these locations?
Why have you included back-country hike-in and boat-in sites?
What is boondock camping? Dry camping?
What is the difference between designated camping sites and dispersed camping?
Are there any rules for camping?
Why do you charge for the POI list?
What is the “type” column for?
How do I load the list into my GPS?
How do I get the comments to show in the balloon?
Why are there multiple entries for one park?
I have two GPS systems - why do they provide different routes?
How many categories of campgrounds do you use?
What are the types of camping depicted?
What information is shown about campgrounds?
1. How do I use this site?
Anyone is welcome to peruse the data available on the web site. You can select a state either by clicking on a state on the US map or you can select from the list of states below the map. When a state map opens, you can zoom in and scroll about the map to see the locations. Click on an icon and a balloon will open containing information about that campground. To re-center the state map, click on the map's title at the upper left. To return to the US map, select the Home button in the menu above the map.
Also available for free use is the Search, Locate and Compare function, found by clicking on the Search Campgrounds button in the top menu.
If you are interested in the POI list that contains all the information shown on the web maps, you'll need to purchase a $6.95 annual subscription. That subscription then allows you to log in anytime for a year to download the latest monthly POI list. Your subscription will expire after 365 days, at which time you can re-subscribe.
2. What is a POI List and how do I use it?
POI stands for “Points of Interest”. A POI list is merely a list of locations of any particular type. For example, the POI list available on this site is a list of public campgrounds across the US. There are literally thousands of lists available on the internet, lists for Wal-Marts, museums, tourist railroads - you name it and there’s undoubtedly a list for it.
A POI list is NOT a computer program; it does not “open” or “run”. It is merely a file, like any electronic document.
The lists generally come formatted as .csv (comma separated values) files that contain as a minimum the latitude, longitude, name and state for each entry. Additionally the file can contain additional information of nearly any type. The US Public Campground POI list you find here contains additional fields with comments about each campground (things such as fees, amenities, season, etc.), the web site for that location and the “type” of campground, such as national park, state park, US Forest Service, etc.
The principal purpose of the POI list is to be imported into a GPS system that will give you driving directions to each location on the list. Each GPS system has a unique import function, most will accept the .csv format. If your particular GPS does not, there are converter utilities available that will properly format the list for your GPS.
If you want to view the contents of the file, or perhaps even modify it for your particular use, you can open it using Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice Calc.
To learn more please review our Tips on Using the POI List page.
3. Why have you built this website?
In 2008 we made an eight-month circuit of the United States in our RV, and became aware of the availability of campgrounds operated by public entities such as cities and counties. We were, of course, familiar with state and federal parks, although I had no idea, for example, that the US Forest Service has over 5000 campgrounds. When we got home, I decided I wanted to build a list of public campgrounds, not only for my own use, but also to share with others.
4. What do users say about your list?
See what some of our users have said: Testimonials
5. How did you find these campgrounds?
My initial approach was to find and merge a number of POI lists available on the internet. For example, one can find lists for Corps of Engineer campgrounds, Forest Service campgrounds, national park, state parks, etc. After a few months, I learned that in many cases the given coordinates were inaccurate, so I began to try to double-check them using Google Earth and two different GPS programs. I then went through several print-edition camping guides, picking out the public campgrounds and trying to locate them. Then it was on to the internet, going through thousands of sites. In all, it’s taken over five years to build the list to its current 18,200-plus entries. I still spend several hours most days working on the list to verify and add more information.
See our article How to Find Public Campgrounds
6. How have you verified the information included and how reliable is it?
Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the data. We use Google Earth extensively to verify locations. However, in a database of this size a certain number of errors are inevitable. It is our goal that the coordinates in the database take you close enough to the campground so that you can find signage, or other local information, directing you to the campground entry.
We do our best to verify all the information. If a field of data is unknown, we leave it blank. We try to find web sites for each entry and use the information provided. Some locations are verified in-person.
If you find an error regarding location and/or information about a campground, you can use the "Submit" menu option to send me the correct information. I appreciate your help in making this the most accurate list available.
7. How often is the data updated?
Updated lists and maps are provided monthly, usually on the first day of the month. We are always on the lookout for new locations, we’re constantly adding more information about campgrounds already in the list and most importantly we’re continually looking for errors and making corrections.
8. What cautions should I follow in using this information?
You are responsible for ensuring that the information provided meets your needs. At any time a particular campground may be temporarily closed for renovations or due to fires or storm damage. Roads to remote locations may be in very poor condition, unsuitable for RV’s. A dump station may be closed due to a problem. Wildlife Management Areas may be closed occasionally to protect the wildlife. Considering the financial problems many states are experiencing, you may find some state parks either closed entirely or with use limitations, such as open only on weekends. California is one such state in which you should check a park’s status before planning a visit.
Just as you should never blindly follow a route your GPS presents, you should not trust that every piece of information provided here is 100% correct, although we’re constantly trying to improve accuracy. Also, this project endeavors to pintpoint the actual location of each campground; your GPS map set may or may not show a road to that actual point. We recommend that you double-check your GPS's route to ensure that "you can get there from here", as Bert & I used to say.
9. Why doesn’t it include private/commercial campgrounds?
To be perfectly honest, I’m just not interested in them. We very rarely stay in a private campground, much preferring the greater privacy and quietness generally available at public campgrounds. Besides, there are just too blasted many of them to try to compile one master list. If someone is interested in private campgrounds, there are plenty of resources in print and on-line to help in locating them.
10. You say it doesn’t include private CG’s yet there are a few - why?
There are a handful, perhaps a dozen or so, that are private, but not commercial. They’re owned and operated by non-profit organizations such as a historical or conservation-minded group.
11. I know of some local campgrounds - how do I submit them?
Use the Submit CG Info menu option to send me as much information as possible about a campground. I’ll check it out and add it to the list.
12. What are all the abbreviations used?
See the list of abbreviations.
13. Can I drive my RV to all these locations?
No! No again! Although most parks are easily accessible for RV’s, there are a lot of locations, generally Bureau of Land Management or US Forest Service, to which you will not be able to drive your RV. Although we have tried to indicate such locations, you should NOT take our word for accessibility. There are also a number of back-country locations unreachable by any vehicle - you have to hike in.
14. Why have you included back-country hike-in and boat-in sites?
Originally the list was intended for use by people who drive to their campsite, either in an RV or their car. But while working on the list I also began compiling a list of "off-the-grid" locations that I recently added to the Project. A few months ago (early 2013) we began a partnership with Outdoor magazine, which features our campground data. Many Outdoor readers are interested in the more remote sites.
15. What is boondock camping? Dry Camping?
Dry-camping simply means camping without using any hookups, such as electric, water or sewer. It can take place in a campground that doesn't provide hookups, or in less-traditional places such as parking lots and dispersed locations such as BLM and USFS lands. In the dispersed locations, it is generally referred to as boondocking. Boondockers are generally totally self-sufficient with no amenities to fall back on. It might be said that boondocking is extreme dry-camping.
16. What is the difference between designated camping sites and dispersed camping?
Designated camping sites are found in most traditional campgrounds - they are usually numbered and may have a fire ring and a picnic table. Dispersed camping areas are generally not well-defined and lack amenities. See “boondock camping”.
17. Are there any rules for camping?
Most developed campgrounds will have some basic rules posted. If you follow the Golden Rule, you will be a good neighbor in the campground. Here’s an excellent article on Campground Courtesy.
18. Why do you charge for the POI list?
I have costs incurred in providing the Project - mainly for web hosting and domain registration. In addition, I have spent literally thousands of hours working on the list. You, too, can build a similar list, but it will take you several years to ferret out what you can get here for $6.95.
19. What is the “type” column for?
The “type” column provides a way to sort the data so it can be loaded into your GPS with unique icons for each type of campground, i.e., Forest Service, Corps of Engineers, municipal park, etc.
20. How do I load the list into my GPS?
The list is provided in a .csv file, the format used by many GPS systems. We have specific instructions for loading the list into MS Streets & Trips and Garmin. If yours is different, the file can be converted to the proper format. For more information on how to do this, see our article on POI Resources.
21. How do I get the comments to show in the balloon?
You have loaded a POI file into S&T and you have set the symbol you want to display for that POI set. And now you right click on the symbol on the map and select "Show Information". What the heck? The file you loaded had a lot more information than is showing, where did it go? Well, it's still there and here is how to find and display it. Go to the Pushpin list on the left side of the screen and right click on the POI set you are interested in. Scroll down and select 'Properties'. Now, in the Properties screen look toward the top. You will see headings that say 'General', 'Matching', 'Hyperlink', and 'Ballon'. Click on Ballon. And there you have it, each field that was loaded listed and a check box to select what fields you want displayed in the 'Infomation' ballon on the map. Select what you want to see and the click on 'OK' and you are done. Thanks to Loren Busch for this tip.
22. Why are there multiple entries for one park?
There are a number of parks, usually state or national, that contain more than one campground. Since the amenities and fees often differ from one campground to another within the same park, we provide the data for each of the campgrounds.
23. I have two GPS systems - why do they provide different routes?
That is a function of the algorithms used by various GPS system. We are providing only the information for the point to which you want to go. The primary goal of this Project is to provide you as accurately as possible the actual locations of campgrounds. We are not and cannot be responsible for routing issues presented by your GPS system.
24. How many categories of campgrounds do you use?
st = state
fs = US Forest Service
np = National Park
blm = Bureau of Land Management
cp = county/regional park
ind = Indian Reservation
coe = Corps of Engineers
ut = utility company
mu = municipal
fws = US Fish & Wildlife
br = US Bureau of Reclamation
pri = private
tva = Tennessee Valley Authority
mil = military
misc = miscellaneous
25. What are the types of camping depicted?
Both the POI List and our new Apple-device app include the following types of camping:
1 = Tent Camping
2 = RV Camping
3 = Rental Cabins
4 = Walk-in Sites (A short distance from the parking area)
5 = Hike-in Sites (Back-country locations requiring hikes of possibly many miles)
6 = Boat-in Sites (Accessible by boat only)
7 = Group (Campgrounds for larger groups of people
26. What information is shown for campgrounds?
We show all the information that we can find for each campground. If a particular item is not mentioned, that means it is unknown. For example, we state either "Showers" or "No showers"; no mention of showers means that we have not found that information anywhere.