Fred and Suzi Dow are part-time RVers who run the U.S. National Forest Campground Guide. The couple have been visiting and researching these campgrounds since 1994. While the couple is not employed by the U.S. Forest Service and they are not hosts themselves, they do provide RVers, travelers and others interested in our national forests with books, photos and information on all developed campgrounds available throughout the U.S.
Fred and Suzi Dow have visited over 2,400 U.S. National Forest campgrounds.
Not only do the Dows list each campground by state, forest, and grassland name, but they also have a page dedicated to campgrounds that need volunteer host positions. Most of these positions require a commitment of several months and some require that duties be shared with additional hosts.
Their list includes developed campgrounds that have 10 or more campsites.
“If an RVer wants to volunteer for a host position in a national forest or grassland campground, they are best served by going first to our Volunteer Host Position web page. There they will see what is available and where, as well as who to contact to learn more about the specifics of a possible position. The Forest Service contact will tell the candidate what is required and how to apply.”
“We do not vet or screen volunteer campground host candidates. We only provide the Forest Service with a means to get the word out about available volunteer campground host positions.”
Most forest service campground host positions are unpaid, but some hosts might receive a stipend—depending on the organization’s budget. Most hosts will also get two to three days off a week.
U.S. Forest Service campground hosts interact with campers, answer questions and even administer first aid.
In addition to doing campground research, Fred and Suzi have a fair amount of fun stories—including the campground host who studied her campground chipmunks and kept track of them by painting their toenails.
“She was the chipmunk whisperer,” Suzi says.
Besides pedicure skills, the couple agree that it takes an admirable person to be a campground host. To be a successful host, it takes people skills, patience and a real love of the outdoors. There is no need for any specialty skills, but having knowledge of first aid is very helpful.
A host’s typical day includes campsite and bathroom maintenance.
A typical day for a volunteer campground host will consist of a sunrise check to make sure all campers have paid for their campsites and that the vault toilets or bathrooms are stocked with toilet paper. The rest of the day consists of cleaning or raking up campsites, cleaning bathrooms and other maintenance duties. Hosts may also take reservations and mark reserved campsites.
“It seems to us, a typical day can vary depending on the day, forest, and other variables. Interacting with campers is a biggie. An introvert has no place as a campground host.”
The Dows’ favorite areas include Teton-Bridger National Forest in Wyoming and Talladega National Forest in Alabama.
In addition, campground hosts don’t always have to own an RV. The Dows once met a campground host who lived out of her van.
“Not all campgrounds have facilities for an RV. There might be a water hookup and perhaps a black water holding tank and occasionally even electricity but chances are not great for such in every campground. Therefore, the more “popular” volunteer campground host positions with such amenities go fast and early in the selection process.”
The U.S. National Forest manages and protects 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 43 states and Puerto Rico.
Most noteworthy, the Dows agree that the job can be beneficial to anyone who loves to camp.
“The benefits of being a volunteer campground host are as varied as the people that volunteer. For some it is the time spent outdoors in a national forest. For others it’s giving back and for some it’s knowing they are needed and still of use. Still others find the benefit in watching the next generation discover the wonders of camping and national forests.”