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.
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.
I thought that slavery in the South was outlawed by Abraham Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation.
Mike the mailman says
Your not to bright the compensation for time spent as a camp host when you figure Rv space,water,electricity and possibly propane for months at a time it is a lone way from slavery. You should just keep paying for camping and leave working for the better of our National and State parks for people who care and understand.
These are volunteer positions for a non-profit organization, the National Park Service. You are donating your labor. The benefits received are not meant to fully compensate you as you would expect from a “real” job.
Love to camp says
You are obviously one of the many who walk around with your hand out expecting something for nothing. Do the world a favor and jump off a bridge and please pick a bridge where you won’t survive the jump. The world is full of enough of your useless kind we could stand for you all to self exterminate.
Hersh, or is it Harsh says
Great info…. thanks for sharing this as I had wondered about this for a few years. It gives me enough info to get started!!!
Marc Chaton says
How great to see your name on this article, Rene. Hope you and Jim are well. Just retired from IT in Humboldt County and we have a TT and want to travel as much as possible, but for this damn pandemic. Maybe see you on the road.
Good article! I’m not yet retired, but had heard about the Camp Host program and wondered about it. Thanks for the info!
Codie Rae says
I wonder if they allow you to have dogs.
Gary Nichols says
I have hosted in several state parks and just recently began my first national park hosting job. This article gives a very good overview. As for the job itself, it is extremely rewarding. I love doing this.
Really? Camp hosts volunteer to perform the duties.
Violet Szenas says
Great article! There is enough information to pursue being a Camp Host. Thanks!!
Slavery? Me thinks that comment is out of line. If you do not want to be camp host – do not apply; if you do want to be one, have fun – you sure ain’t doing it for the bucks! Can’t beat a free campsite ( and they are better than normal sites) offered – and you might make some beer money! Free site, maybe free power, potable water and your own pot potty! What a deal!
Friz Freleng says
You thought wrong. Slaves were emancipated in states in rebellion against the federal gov’t – Delaware, Maryland , Kentucky retained their slaves. . But being historically accurate was not really your point. Rather you were making what you believed a witty comment. Well it was not. Instead I read a somewhat stupid comment equating National Park volunteers with illiterate African slaves. I am sure that was not your intention. None the less, your snobbery was an affront.
Roanna Dunn says
I think this is a great idea! Just retired and currently deciding which type of RV I want to buy. Hope to be rolling down the road by early spring 2020. I will definitely look into volunteering my time in National Parks. Great way to meet park guest, stay physically active and save some money at the same time.
Win, Win all around!
I am seeing some pay. Not much. I am also checking out workamping jobs. As for the TT? I have a 21 foot and its like a small apt. I know after 3 weeks living out of it I know I can do this. Good luck. I retire in 5 years. Just make sure the tow vehicle is able to tow the TT.
Jini Bitzer says
Thank you Rene. Great and informative article. I’m sharing with all my rubber wheeled friends.
“How to Get a National Park Camp Host Job” was helpful, concise, full of examples and a link to find more information. The emphasis on USA National Parks in contrast to private for profit parks was smart. USA National Parks are a great resource to take pride in as an American and to volunteer for, which private RV properties are definitely not. Possibly Kim was befuddled by the distinction of volunteering for the benefit of our National Parks as opposed to “volunteering” at private RV enterprises which would just cut labor costs for those owners of such schemes. Our National Parks exist for our benefit and recreation; private RV parks exist for their owners to squeeze money out of you while your RV occupies a cramped space there. The choice of using “host” for volunteering at one of our National Parks says it all.
Gary Nichols says
They say you will be compensated. I wonder how much. I know service is limited but the cell phone service I have no problems. I am considering this area very seriously. Just wonder if they have bears. I am not sure about bears. But this is like Workamping. I retire in 5 and am seriously considering this. Thanks for the info.
Bumpy C. says
Considering what has happened to the NPS over the last couple of years this kind of help might be critical in it “staying alive”.
We started our Workcamping adventure hosting for the Corp of Engineering. WONDERFUL experience just outside of Sequoia National Park. We got to meet people literally from around the world.
TY, Now i know to start the process early. so when my time comes to start i will be ready.
Nathaniel Dominguez says
Me and my girlfriend are hosting in California right now, we read your article after getting released from work in March after the pandemic effected the cruise ship industry… buying an RV and getting out into the wild was one of the best things we ever did! We started our own blog after being inspired by yours and even have a few tips and stories ourselves! Check them out!
Mike Armatta says
My sister in law and her husband have been park hosts at Texas parks for a couple of years and love it. We are considering it on a part time basis.
Richard Vickery says
Is there a way to fill out an application for camp host not for a specific Campground? I am 59 years old retired owned a welding company. Was wondering if any of my skills could apply to a camp host