Military Lodging Near National Parks: 11 Parks You Can Visit and Stay on Base

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A large rock formation in a desert with joshua trees on either side
Joshua Tree National Park (photo: Julie Chickery)

Military lodging provides easy access to some of the country’s most spectacular national parks. In this guest contribution from Air Force retiree Julie Chickery, learn about 11 national parks you can visit and stay on a military installation.

Visiting one or all of the United States’ national parks is a bucket list item for many travelers. These incredible sites, some of the most iconic examples of our country’s natural beauty, draw millions of visitors annually to witness their splendor.

The parks’ popularity can make finding lodging a challenge for the general public, but as a member of the military community, you have a convenient, affordable option. When visiting some of the very parks on your bucket list, you can stay at a base or military recreation area.

Check out these 11 national parks and your military lodging options nearby!

In general, these military lodging facilities are open to active duty personnel, retirees, reservists, dependents, eligible veterans, and DoD civilians with valid ID and base access. Contact individual facilities directly for more details about eligibility, pricing, and reservation policies.

Badlands and Wind Cave National Parks

Ellsworth AFB, SD

A row of campervans parked next to a grassy area with trees
The Ellsworth AFB FamCamp (photo: Ellsworth AFB)

The National Parks

South Dakota is home to two national parks, and both are within an hour’s drive of Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Nestled in the rugged Black Hills of South Dakota, Badlands National Park is renowned for its sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires across the park’s 244,000 acres.

No visit is complete without a scenic drive along the 39-mile Badlands Loop Road. With frequent pull-offs for photo opportunities and trails that lead to amazing viewpoints, the Loop Road is more than just a way to get from point A to point B; it’s an experience in itself.

Wind Cave National Park is a lesser-known treasure that is home to one of the longest and most complex caves in the world. Ranger-led tours through the cool, whispering caverns provide a fabulous escape from the summer heat.

Above ground, there are plenty of opportunities to view the park’s inhabitants: bison, elk, pronghorn, and prairie dogs.

The Military Lodging

The FamCamp at Ellsworth AFB has 51 full hookup sites: 21 pull-thru and 30 back-in sites. If you can secure a spot in the newer loop, the sites are especially spacious. As an added bonus, laundry is free. The base shopette and gas station are only a block from the campground.

| Related Reading: How to Use Military Campgrounds

A short distance from the FamCamp is Cedar Lodge, a hotel-style recreational lodging facility. It has standard rooms with queen size beds, plus free kitchen and laundry facilities available for guest use.

Ellsworth AFB’s regular base lodging facility, the Pine Tree Inn, has Visiting Quarters (standard hotel rooms) as well as Temporary Lodging Facilities (“TLFs:” family-friendly suites with a living room and kitchen).

Channel Islands National Park

Naval Base Ventura Port Hueneme, CA

Picnic tables and a bbq grill with RVs parked nearby
Fairways RV Resort (photo: Department of Defense Lodging)

The National Park

Nestled off the coast of southern California lies a jewel of the National Park Service: the spectacular Channel Islands. Comprised of five islands – Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara – you’ll need to hop on a boat to explore this park.

Santa Cruz, the largest of the islands, is also the most popular. Boat tours are offered from the Visitor Center year round. A gem for hikers, Santa Cruz offers diverse trails that wind through pine forests, over rolling hills, and along the coast.

While you’re there don’t miss the historic Scorpion Ranch, a reminder of the island’s human history. It offers a chance to learn about the Chumash people and early European settlers.

The Military Lodging

Naval Base Ventura Port Hueneme is home to the Fairways RV Resort boasting 85 full hookup, pull thru RV sites that can accommodate rigs up to 40’. As with most Navy campgrounds, laundry is free and co-located with the two bathhouse facilities. The campground also has two fenced dog parks and a dog wash station.

Most importantly, the base has a very large Exchange and well stocked commissary to help save money in this pricey area.

If you don’t have an RV, stay at one of two base lodging facilities: Navy Lodge or Navy Gateway Inns & Suites.

| Related Reading: How to Book Military Lodging for Leisure Travel

Congaree National Park

Weston Lake Recreation Area, SC

Cars and recreational vehicles parked in large spaces in a wooded area
West Lake Recreation Area Travel Camp (photo: Weston Lake Recreation Area)

The National Park

Congaree National Park is a place where time seems to stand still. The park’s history dates back over 13,000 years, when indigenous peoples called these floodplains home.

Home to one of the oldest and most pristine hardwood forests in the world, it boasts cypress trees that have borne witness to centuries of change. Congaree is best explored on foot along its boardwalk trail system, but it also offers opportunities for kayaking and canoeing.

The Military Lodging

Operated by nearby Fort Jackson, just 25 minutes from Congaree, Weston Lake Recreation Area has 33 full-hookup back-in sites that can accommodate big rigs. It also has 11 cabins of varying size, making it a great place to meet your non-RVing family members.

As the name implies, this beautiful wooded area has a recreational lake that is great for swimming (within a designated area), boating (canoe, paddle boat, and kayak rentals available), and fishing.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Youngstown ARS, OH

water cascading down rocks surrounded by greenery
Cuyahoga Valley National Park (image:  rustyc, Pixabay)

The National Park

Nestled between the urban sprawls of Cleveland and Akron in Ohio, Cuyahoga Valley National Park beckons travelers with a serene retreat that weaves history, nature, and adventure into a stunning tapestry.

It’s only 33,000 acres and is known for its impressive views, deep canyons, and unique geological formations. To explore the park, hike one of the five major trails, bike along the historic Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, or hop aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. It’s not your typical national park, but that’s precisely why it’s a must-visit for any nature lover.

The Military Lodging

Just 45-minutes away, the quaint FamCamp at Youngstown Air Reserve Station has 5 full hookup pull-thru sites and 11 partial hookup (water and 30 amp electricity) back-in sites.

As of this writing, this FamCamp also has the distinction of being one of the least expensive military campgrounds at only $15 per night and offers free laundry at the Eagle’s Nest Lodge. The small base also has a shopette with essential items.

Eagle’s Nest Lodge is the base lodging facility and offers hotel style queen rooms with kitchenettes.

(You can find military lodging in some unexpected places! Here are 12 fun ideas!)

Joshua Tree National Park

29 Palms Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, CA

Recreational vehicles parked side by side on a sandy lot with sparse trees
Twilight Dunes RV Park (photo: MCCS 29 Palms)

The National Park

Joshua Tree National Park straddles the eastern region of California and includes parts of both the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. Just under three hours by car from Los Angeles or San Diego, the park covers over 1,200 square miles of extraordinary wilderness.

Due to the park’s expansive size and the variety of terrains, within one visit, you can experience the stark beauty of the desert floor and ascend to the cool pines of the Little San Bernardino Mountains, showcasing a diversity that’s as surprising as it is captivating.

The Military Lodging

The star of the base’s no-frills Twighlight Dunes RV park is its proximity to Joshua Tree–just 10 minutes drive to get to the main entrance. It has 83 full hookup sites with covered parking for your tow vehicle.

The campground doesn’t have any bathrooms or other amenities, but it is located on the largest USMC base with all the services you might expect, from fitness and recreation to shopping at the Exchange, one of three mini-marts, and a gas station.

Inns of the Corps Mountain View is the base lodging facility. It offers standard king and queen rooms as well as family suites.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Military Camp, HI

People gathered at a lookout point to watch Kilauea Volcano erupting at night
Spectators watching the eruption at Volcanoes National Park (photo: Poppin’ Smoke)

The National Park

Located on Hawaii Island (“The Big Island”), Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers the opportunity to walk along the floor of a crater that last erupted in 1959 and get front row seats to another crater that has been actively erupting in recent years.

You can also walk through a lava tube, hike or bike trails throughout the park, or catch epic views of the entire park from the comfort of your car.

The Military Lodging

Kilauea Military Camp (KMC) is located inside Volcanoes National Park. It offers 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom cottages as well as 1- and 3-bedroom apartments.

All of the cottages and apartments have a wood-burning fireplace plus refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker. Some of the larger cottages have full kitchens.

Other facilities at KMC include bike rentals, a fitness center, multiple eateries, and a General Store. You can also sign up for guided tours of the park and other attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Read a full review of Kilauea Military Camp here!

Kenai Fjords National Park

Seward Military Resort, AK

recreational vehicles parked in a row with a large mountain in the background
Photo: Seward Military Resort Facebook page

The National Park

If Alaska is on your bucket list, don’t miss this park! Carved by ice and water, Kenai Fjords National Park stands as a testament to the raw power of nature.

You can access the famous Exit Glacier by land, but you’ll also want to enjoy one of the cruises to the larger glaciers and explore coves and inlets along the way. From Seward Harbor, boats set sail into Resurrection Bay on a course that leads to the park’s vibrant fjords with a chance to experience an impressive menagerie of wildlife, including otters, sea lions, and whales.

The Military Lodging

Seward Military Resort is just minutes from Seward Harbor. Open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, their seasonal campground has 40 RV sites with water, electricity, cable, and TV hook-ups, a dump station, laundry and shower facilities.

Other accommodation options at this popular Army resort include motel rooms, spacious townhouses, and log cabins.

A unique feature of this resort is their fish house, where you can get your catch cleaned and packaged. It also offers a bar and grill, gift shop, and recreation equipment rental.

Olympic National Park

Pacific Beach Resort, WA

Sunset at Pacific Beach Resort (photo: Poppin’ Smoke)

The National Park

Spanning nearly a million acres, Olympic National Park is a jewel of the West Coast. It encompasses numerous ecosystems and terrains, from rugged coastlines to temperate rainforests.

Situated in the heart of the Pacific Northwest peninsula, the Olympic coastline is among the least developed in the contiguous United States, providing over 70 miles of wild, untamed beaches. Combine that with verdant rainforests and rugged glacier-capped mountains, and you have a nature-lover’s paradise.

The Military Lodging

The Navy’s Pacific Beach Resort has a 43 site campground perched on a well-fenced cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. All campsites have water and 30A electric service.

Each year people come from far and wide to visit the national park and partake in the clamming season. Amenities include clam sinks, a covered shelter with BBQ, a small laundromat, a bathhouse with showers, and a dump station.

Other accommodation options at Pacific Beach Resort include a lodge with standard hotel rooms and suites, plus 3-, 4-, and 5-bedroom cottages.

The lodge offers a restaurant and lounge, gift shop, and recreation equipment rentals to help you make the most of your vacation.

| Related Reading: 16 Navy MWR Destinations for Your Next Getaway

Saguaro National Park

Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ

Saguaro National Park (photo: Julie Chickery)

The National Park

For those who think of cacti as simply decorative plants adorning Southwestern landscapes, Saguaro National Park is a remarkable eye-opener. It’s a place that defies expectations — a sprawling desert sanctuary brimming with life.

Its namesake Saguaro cactus grows up to 60 feet tall, typically lives to be 150-175 years old, and is home to the Gila Woodpecker! The park offers over 165 miles of trails that cater to various fitness levels as well as two spectacular scenic drives.

The Military Lodging

Just 20-minutes away at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is the aptly named Boneyard RV Park, situated in sight of the large outdoor aircraft storage area that the base has become known for.

With 197 full hook-up sites and a 57-space dry camping overflow area, this is one of the largest military FamCamps you’ll come across in your travels. Amenities include a dog park, dog wash station, multiple bathhouses/laundry facilities, and a dump station (for those staying in the overflow area). The base even has a do-it-yourself RV wash at the Auto Hobby Center.

The Heritage Inn is Davis-Monthan’s newly-constructed base lodging facility. It offers visiting quarters and Temporary Lodging Facilities.

White Sands National Park

Holoman AFB, NM

White Sands National Park (photo: Allison Torres Burtka)

The National Park

White Sands National Park’s 275 square miles of wave-like gypsum dunes create a surreal environment. Here, geology creates an optical illusion of endless snowfields, providing one of the most unique national park experiences: sand sledding (bring your own sled or buy one at the gift shop).

Beyond its physical allure, White Sands holds a rich history. The park sits on the fringes of the Tularosa Basin, where the Mescalero Apache once roamed. Some of their imprints remain: stories etched in the sands and tales passed down through the ages.

The Military Lodging

Holloman Air Force Base’s FamCamp is no-frills but is located a mere 7 miles from the national park. Its 35 full hookup sites have concrete pads and many include a covered picnic table. It also has a bathroom/laundry facility.

This campground doesn’t take reservations, but it does offer an overflow dry camping area if you arrive and there and no sites available.

The base also has an Air Force Inn with visiting quarters and Temporary Lodging Facilities.

Holloman Air Force Base boasts a great view of the mountains and offers a well-stocked commissary and Exchange with a food court.

* * *

For travel enthusiasts looking to explore America’s national parks, the strategic use of military lodging could be the secret ingredient to your next unforgettable trip.

If you’re traveling in your RV, make sure you read these top tips for using military campgrounds. Planning to stay in regular base lodging? Learn a few hacks for making space-available reservations.

And don’t forget, that as a member of the military community, you have free access to US National Parks with an America the Beautiful pass!

The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Author Bio: Julie Chickery is a travel writer with a passion for exploration. She caught the travel bug while serving 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. After retirement, Julie and her husband, Sean, lived in their fifth-wheel RV for six years before settling down near their grandchildren. She shares travel tips and itineraries for epic road trips on her blog, Chickery’s Travels.

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2 thoughts on “Military Lodging Near National Parks: 11 Parks You Can Visit and Stay on Base”

  1. Thank you so much for this amazing article about each base and National Park! I have tried to do this myself, but never got this information!


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