The National Park camp host is a welcome sight after a long journey. That friendly nod and recognizable ranger-esque uniform instantly brings a sense of comfort and familiarity in unfamiliar, wild places. As a full-time RVer, I’ve often wondered how to get a national park camp host job. While visiting Nevada’s Great Basin National Park, a friendly park ranger explained how.
What Do Workampers Do?
Workamping is one way of lowing your travel costs when RVing across the country. A typical workamping position consists of an arrangement between an employer (or organization like the National Park Service) and an RVer with a self-contained rig.
The workamper will put in a pre-determined number of hours each week at the employer’s establishment. In return, he or she receives free or discounted RV parking. Sometimes an hourly wage is paid for every hour worked, but not always. The workamper may also receive non-monetary compensation, like free propane and use of guest facilities. The workamping risks and rewards are many, and vary from job to job.
Call me biased, but I believe that life as a camp host is a far more rewarding experience than working in a private RV park. Each day these volunteer heroes take some of the pressure off park rangers. From their temporary home in a beautiful national park campground, camp hosts tackle daily duties such as:
- Directing road-weary guests to open campsites
- Educating visitors about their environment
- Sharing tips for local attractions
- Tidying up campsites
- Cleaning facilities
Here’s a more detailed camp host job description from Volunteer.gov, the clearinghouse for public lands volunteer opportunities:
A National Park camp host job isn’t always perfect, however. While private RV parks will almost always provide full-hookups for the workamper, a national park camp host campsite might not have any hookups. But if water, sewer and electric are not available, the National Park Service will take care of those needs through contracting vendors.
Even without full-hookups, the rewards of National Park Service camp host jobs are exceptional. Imagine getting to stay free in America’s undiscovered national parks for an entire summer season. In most cases you will pay nothing for the privilege.
The Best Way to Get a National Park Camp Host Job
It’s easy to assume that all national park camp host jobs openings are quickly filled. But the ranger I recently met taught me this isn’t always the case.
The more famous National Park Service units like Yellowstone, Yosemite and Olympic National Parks typically have workampers clamoring to get in. But at lesser known, remote park units like Great Basin National Park, camp host positions sit vacant for long periods of time, sometimes years.
“They think it’s too remote,” the park ranger told me when I asked about all of the empty camp host campsites at Great Basin. “And they don’t want to drive their RV on a dirt road.”
That second explanation was shocking to me. The graded road to get to the campground was not half-bad and easily accessed with even a large RV.
But the park’s remoteness is an indisputable fact. Cellular and data service is spotty. The park is also about 70 miles from services in Ely, the nearest small town with a grocery and service stations. Great Basin National Park is so desperate for seasonal camp hosts they are doing everything possible to make the camp host jobs more attractive. For example:
- Staff just finished building a robust solar electric power system at the Baker Creek Campground.
- Level, concrete parking aprons at the campsites have been set in concrete.
- Each camp host site has a vault for waste water collection.
- And all hosts receive a small daily per diem for reimbursable expenses.
As a bonus, once a host (or any National Park Service volunteer) works 250 volunteer hours, they are eligible for an annual Volunteer Pass that offers free admission into fee-based federal recreation areas that participate in the Interagency Pass Program.
The Great Basin crowds are minimal compared to more popular parks. The campsite is dreamy and the work commitment seems reasonable to me. For a retired RVer or someone just looking to save on rent, who also loves wild, remote places, the gig seems perfect.
What to Expect When Applying for a National Park Camp Host Job
The park ranger could see my enthusiasm for the job, but did his best to give me a reality check. Applying for a camp host job at any national park is not a quick process. Many national park camp host positions remain vacant for long periods of time because of the long lag time between applying and getting a “Yes!”
The lag time is because all candidates must submit to the same comprehensive background checks as other federal employees. Your volunteer application will go into the same huge pile as thousands of other federal job applicants.
“People don’t like to wait,” the ranger told me. “They think they can just call up and say ‘We want to be a camp host. We can be there next week.’ But it doesn’t work like that.” Approval can take several weeks, which winnows out the serious applicants from those just looking for their next workamping job to save or earn money.
Best Tips for Securing a National Park Camp Host Job
If camp hosting sounds appealing, your first stop is Volunteer.gov. Do a search for “Camp Host,” like this:
The National Park Service has volunteer camp host jobs all over the country. All types of work is available, from easy to strenuous. There’s certain to be a temporary job that’s right up your alley. If you get hired, working in the parks can greatly enhance your enjoyment of the full-time RVing nomad lifestyle.Research Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
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Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.