Sunny states like Arizona, California and New Mexico are loaded with more monuments than any other U.S. region. Ironically you’ll find most are free from crowds, since greater numbers of people are drawn to their better-known cousins, the National Parks.

Western National Monuments with RV Camping

The first U.S. monuments were created shortly after the 1906 Antiquities Act was enacted. This act enables U.S. Presidents to quickly preserve and protect unique U.S. locations with cultural, geological, scientific and historical features. Today, you’ll find more than 120 national monuments to explore, with many western monuments featuring on-site campgrounds that are as nice as those in the National Parks System. As a bonus, many national monument campgrounds have low – or even free – camping fees.

Take a spontaneous detour to any of these western national monuments with RV camping and you’ll be in for an equally fun and fascinating time. These are my personal favorites:

Arizona: Navajo National Monument

If you’re on your way to Canyon de Chelly or Monument Valley in Utah, stop at this beautiful, isolated and freecampground. You’ll find it perched at 7,200 feet in the northeastern part of Arizona, where there’s little in the way of services but endless amounts of beautiful pinion pine desert scenery. Navajo National Monument’s free campground is within walking distance of interesting hikes and the visitor center, but its small RV sites can only accommodate the smallest rigs under 30 feet long. You won’t find hook ups and the only water source is awkward and difficult to access; arrive with full tanks.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Don’t plan to arrive in summer, but time your visit for fall or winter and you’ll be glad you waited.

This large, spacious campground doesn’t have hookups but it has plenty of room for big and small RVs alike. Whether you choose the generator-free camping zone or camp with the convenience of your generator, every spot is comfortable, well-developed and easily accessible for most RVs. Hiking and driving tours in the monument are especially spectacular in springtime when flowers are blooming.

California: Devil’s Postpile National Monument

Skip the crowds at June Lake and stay at Devil’s Postpile National Monument instead. You’ll have an ideal base camp to explore one of California’s most unusual rock piles and hike to gorgeous Rainbow Falls. The best part? It’s one of the few national monuments that’s exceptionally dog-friendly. Leashed pets are welcome anywhere within the monument and can even ride on shuttle buses (as long as they’re sporting a muzzle).

New Mexico: El Morro National Monument

It’s the kind of place you have to want to get to, but if you love ancient history you’ll be glad you did.

El Morro National Monument is located near Ramah, a short detour off Interstate 40 East while headed to Albuquerque. Quiet and remote, the small and fee-free campground is perfect for RVs under 25 feet.

It’s an easy walk from your campsite to the main attraction: a watering hole where Ancestral Puebloans, Spanish and American travelers left their mark with more than 2,000 signatures on the sandstone cliffs.

To learn about all U.S. national monuments and discover more with RV camping, visit the National Parks Service “Find a Park” directory.

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