In our years and years of camping we’ve never once stayed at a KOA (Kampgrounds of America). For the longest time we were tent campers and a KOA didn’t seem to make sense. We often backpacked too, so we were used to “roughing” it and considered having an actual tent pad and a pit toilet luxuries! (And hey, when you’re tent camping or backpacking, those ARE luxuries.) Since purchasing our first RV several years ago, we’ve mostly stayed at Forest Service and BLM campgrounds with a few State Park campgrounds thrown in. On our most recent trip we experienced two very different types of campgrounds: National Forest Service Campgrounds and KOA Camping, for the first time.
For the first several days of our trip we stayed at O’Haver Lake Campground near Poncha Springs, Colorado. This is a Forest Service campground off the beaten path. In fact the road to get to it has several steep switchbacks and I was amazed at some of the rigs people got up there! It’s a gorgeous spot though, overlooking what I believe is Mount Ouray.
Some of the sites here are well spaced out. Others are pretty close together for a Forest Service campground. The map (part of it is shown below; there are actually 32 sites) does a good job of showing the spacing between sites. You can clearly see which sites are further from others. This way, if you’re traveling with friends, you can pick sites close together, and if you’re not, you might choose a site with a little more privacy.
The great thing about Forest Service campgrounds is that they tend to be in the wilderness. They’re not going to be right next to a highway and they’re often going to have recreational opportunities like fishing, hiking, or even biking nearby. However, because of their locations, amenities like cell phone service, hookups of any kind, and water access may be limited. It’s best to check a site like recreation.gov or the forest service website for these campgrounds when making reservations to see what types of amenities they have. This one has some cell service but no hookups and, when we were there, water wasn’t available either.
After a few days at this lovely spot, we headed back to Gunnison, Colorado to spend our first night ever at a KOA. The Gunnison KOA is a lovely KOA located about a mile off of Highway 50 just outside Gunnison. We made a reservation online and were able to choose our campsite. We chose a grassy back-in site on the outer loop. The benefit of this was that there wasn’t anyone behind us! We faced out towards the loop, so there was space there too between us and the inner circle of tents and RVs.
The view from behind our RV was of a paddle boat and trout fishing pond. The pictures below show the spacing between us and our neighbors and the general area around the KOA. Of course, KOA camping isn’t the same as Forest Service camping. It’s not as remote or scenic. However, you will have full hookups at your campsite (yay! No dump station stops necessary!) and you’ll have Wifi, which is great if you work remotely and need to answer some emails. KOAs are also great for kids as they usually have a playground and some even have a pool. There was no pool at the Gunnison KOA but there were farm animals, including Jenny, the resident donkey. She loves to be petted and kids LOVED being able to wander around petting and feeding the goats, sheep and donkey.
So, what a KOA lacks in scenery and remoteness it makes up for with great amenities (showers, game rooms, etc). The choice is yours! What are you looking for in an RV camping experience?