Finding Comfort While on the Road with KOA Kampgrounds
I have a confession: I like to be comfortable while traveling.
While on a big two week road trip through Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, I was able to have a few very comfortable nights (indoor plumbing! a mattress! HGTV!) thanks to Kampgrounds of America (yes, KOA!).
If you grew up with a road tripping family, you may remember seeing the big yellow KOA sign off the side of the highway letting you know that you’re about to escape the confines of your car to explore a family-friendly campground. I didn’t grow up going to KOA campgrounds, but my mother-in-law has fond memories of her family bringing their trailer to the campground, swimming in the pools, and playing in playgrounds. When I told her Alex and I would would be staying in a couple of KOAs on our trip, she started looking up KOAs with deluxe cabins for a family weekend trip.
I was contacted by KOA earlier in the year to see if I would be interested in planning some microadventures around KOA locations. I was unsure at first because I wasn’t familiar with any of the locations except one in Las Vegas…I had no idea that KOA has been around since 1962 and there are nearly 500 campgrounds across the United States and Canada. Each KOA has free wi-fi access, “Kamp K9” pet park, laundry facilities, playgrounds, and a convenience store. Some of the KOAs we visited had pools, ice cream parlors, fudge shoppes, and camper kitchen.
Did you know that there are three different types of KOAs?
When I was on the phone with KOA, they told me about the different types of campgrounds include: Journey, Holiday, and Resort. Journey campgrounds are the types that are close to a highway and ready for you after a long day on the road (like our first day of our trip!). Holiday campgrounds may be a little further from the highway and have more amenities available to campers. Resort campgrounds are destinations in themselves with more activities and overnight accommodation options.
For our trip, Alex and I planned on staying in two KOAs: Lava Hot Springs in Idaho and West Glacier in Montana.
The reservation process for setting up our trip was really easy. The website is easy to navigate and there are a ton of photos and videos available for the different locations. I was able to see the layout of each campground and what the facilities look like before booking, which gave me some peace of mind since I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into.
A few days before flying out to Salt Lake City to begin our trip, I emailed the hosts of the Lava Hot Springs KOA to let them know we may be arriving at camp close to (or after!) the office closed for the evening and wanted to see if there was a protocol for late check-ins. I set a reminder on my calendar to do a follow-up call with them if I didn’t hear from them before I headed to the airport but I didn’t need to make that call. My email was answered quickly and I was briefed on the late check-in process. Around 8:00 in the evening the day we were set to check-in, one of the KOA workers called me to see how I was doing, reviewed the process again, and to let me know she was going to leave the porch light on for me so I wouldn’t be stumbling around in the dark. So sweet!
We stayed in a 4-person cabin with bathroom but no linens, one of the cabin options available, since we would only be there for the night and we had sleeping bags and towels of our own. There was a large parking spot, propane barbecue, fire pit, and picnic table outside of the cabin. Inside the cabin, we found a full bed, one set of bunk beds in a separate room, full bathtub and shower, small dining table, microwave, mini-fridge, and coffee maker.
The campground is snuggled in with older trees and our few neighbors were very quiet. In the morning, we walked by the river that runs through the campground and found the trail that leads into town…right to the famous lava hot springs! Guests get a discount for tube rentals and the KOA staffers have a lot of recommendations for things to do while you’re in town, which is helpful for travelers like us who may not be familiar with the area.
I emailed the West Glacier KOA staff before arriving, just like I did for the Lava Hot Springs KOA, to ask about late check-in since Alex and I had a big driving day between Lava
The West Glacier KOA is considered a Holiday campground but if this isn’t a Resort I don’t know what to expect from a “fancier” KOA! As we pulled into the campground after our 550+ mile day of driving, Alex and I were instantly impressed by the size, variety, and accommodation offerings…I was ready to move in as soon as we opened the door to our cabin. The cabin was incredible and the entire facility was beautiful. The campground is adjacent to a bird sanctuary and is off of the main road enough that you don’t hear any traffic as you feel asleep. There are showers, a laundry facility, family pool, adults-only pool and hot tubs, an ice cream parlor and restaurant (both were closed for the season, we were a little too early), really nice playground, and walking paths.
Since we planned on staying in the Glacier National Park area for several days, we booked a Deluxe Cabin with bathroom and linens for part of our stay and a regular campsite for the remainder of our time there. Our cabin was a four person deluxe cabin “studio lodge” and it was probably the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Splurging for the cabin with linens was worth it! There were plenty of towels for our stay, and the beds were all nice and cozy with extra pillows. Even better…a television so we could watch one of the NBA playoff games! Alex was really happy with that. Like the Lava Hot Springs cabin, we had a coffee maker, mini-fridge, microwave, table, and a fully stocked kitchen so we could enjoy coffee in the morning and warm up leftovers in the evening.
Not only did our cabin include a full-sized propane barbecue grill, fire pit, and picnic table, it also included a cute set of chairs with a table on our porch. We woke up each morning and enjoyed coffee on the porch as we looked out on the great view of the trees and mountains surrounding the campground.
It was nice to have a little yard to ourselves and imagine it would be fantastic to have during an extended stay with a young family. The landscaping is beautiful and the staff keeps the area really clean. We don’t have a yard where we live currently, so it was nice to have a temporary one!
After a few nights in our cabin, Alex and I moved into one of the regular camping spots so we could enjoy a few nights in our van while checking out the other offerings of the campground. Our camping spot was along the perimeter of the campground, so we had a ton of trees surrounding us on one side and the shower and bathroom on the other side of a wide landscaped area (which was nice, I was a little worried that we’d have a high traffic camping spot, but it was very quiet!). Our campside had a nice tent pad – an area set aside in our campsite specifically for your tent. No pesky rocks! No having to worry about being too close to the fire pit! There was also a nice picnic bench and a wide fire pit with a single bench.
I’ve been camping for years and this bathroom and shower is hands-down the nicest ones I’ve ever seen! It was all fairly new and the tiling is very nice. Each shower is a private room with a small dressing area and a shower with a high shower head (good for tall campers like Alex!). I really appreciated the extra privacy these showers allowed.
We’ll be staying in this campground again if we visit Glacier National Park in the future. The staff was really nice and it was nice to not have to stress about being comfortable while on the road.
As we left the West Glacier KOA, my mom reminded me that the second week of June is probably a popular time for families to visit Yellowstone National Park, so I shouldn’t assume camping spots would be available in the park. Alex and I were monitoring the Yellowstone National Park website the week earlier to see when campgrounds would fill up and forgot to check the day before leaving…and the campgrounds were filling at 6:0o in the morning! Cue slight panic over not having a place to stay while we were visiting the park…and cue the a-ha! moment when realized we should look up KOA locations near the park and book a spot through the KOA app. We were saved! We reserved a camping spot in the Yellowstone Park/West Entrance KOA before leaving our camping spot at West Glacier…thanks, Internet!
I didn’t take any photos of the campground, but it is much cozier than the other KOAs we stayed in on our trip. It’s a popular campground and we can see what it’s popular. There was an indoor pool, large camp store, and even a fudge shoppe inside! We didn’t spend much time in the campground, we used it to park the van and headed out early each morning and came in late each night. We saw families spending time in the playground and mini golf area, teens gravitated toward the bike rentals, small arcade room, and coffee shack, and dog owners gathered in the K-9 park to let their dogs play off leash for a while.
There is a second KOA in the area, so make sure you know which campground you’re going to before pulling up to the office! I made the mistake of going to the wrong one first and the staff was so nice about my mix up. They gave me directions to the next one and it looked really nice, too. It even had a small pond for fishing!
We saw more and more big yellow KOA signs as we drove through Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, which was comforting to see on the long stretches of road. It’s nice to know that as we travel around the country, we can count on a KOA being nearby.
The next time you’re looking to book accommodations for a road trip, consider Kampgrounds of America as part of your adventure.
I worked with Kampgrounds of America (KOA) to experience two of their campgrounds to provide honest reviews. They provided a gift card to pay for the reservations at Lava Hot Springs KOA and the cabin at West Glacier KOA so I could see what the campgrounds had to offer. I chose to stay in the West Glacier KOA longer and booked the Yellowstone KOA on my own dime, and wished to include those experiences in the review, too. The opinions expressed in this review are my own and the only influence the review is that I may not have chosen to stay in cabins while on my trip because we had the van to sleep in. I want to thank KOA for allowing us to stay in those cabins and for introducing us to the variety of KOA brand offerings. I only work with brands I feel Campfire Chic readers will enjoy and share reviews that will benefit readers on their microadventures.