My First KOA Experience: Is this really camping?


Last month, we were invited on a camping trip to Gunnison where the plans consisted of boating on Blue Mesa Reservoir and a wildflower hike in Crested Butte. Without hesitation, we gladly accepted. We had been dying to see the wildflower bloom in Crested Butte plus Riley was super excited to camp with one of his friends from Cub Scouts.

We let Riley go ahead with his friend while Clayton and I stayed behind a day to take care of some obligations. When we called to check in, Riley couldn’t contain the excitement in his voice. Not only was he excited to stay in a giant fifth wheel but he was really impressed with the campground, a full-service KOA “kampground”.

To be honest, I was excited to see this campground for myself. We definitely prefer a rougher type of camping. We like primitive sites, a lack of electricity and neighbors, and views of bright stars from our 3-person tent. Leaving our luxuries behind and roughing it was always a beautiful part of our outdoor experience, so I was curious to see how I would feel about a KOA.

The Krowded KOA

We arrived late at night, around 11:30 PM when the entire campground was already sound asleep. Our friends gave us specific instructions on how to find their camper and campsite, and as we looped around, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of RVs that appeared stacked next to each other. Clay and I parked our car, unloaded our stuff and pitched our tiny tent between 2 campers. We looked tiny among the giants and I looked forward to what morning would bring.

When morning arrived, we woke up to the beaming sun infiltrating our tent. We stepped out, opened up our camp chairs and waited for Riley and our friends to wake up. Just then, the sound of airplane jets became overwhelmingly loud. We looked up and a United Airlines flight flew right over our heads. Clayton and I looked at each other and started to laugh. First of all, why are we right next to an airport? And second, I didn’t know United flew to Gunnison?!

Comfort and Farm Animals

As the rest of the campers began to wake up, it became apparent how incredibly crowded the place was. Every single site was taken with giant RVs, mostly class A’s. Campers were parked on the grass side by side, and I witnessed groups of people going in and out of bathrooms after their morning showers. Many gathered around picnic tables, sipping coffee while scrolling through their laptop. Nice bathrooms and strong wifi, this was the definition of glamping.

In addition to the clean bathrooms and hot showers, what made this specific KOA nice were the goats, a donkey, and a giant pig who roamed the campground. The kids were entertained by the animals, they enjoyed the small park located in the front of the campground and they were thrilled to catch fish at the small pond that was well stocked.

The entire place was well thought out and well cared for, but I still had some hesitance about the entire experience. How can we consider this camping? We had neighbors all around us, electricity to watch TV, cooking was easy, we had wifi, bathrooms and hot showers. We didn’t even have to secure our trash at night. This campground reminded me of life in the suburbs. My apartment in Vail was quieter than this!

I guess to each their own. But my question is, what exactly is the appeal of camping at a full-service campground like a KOA? I always assumed we all go camping to escape normal life and get out into nature, but bringing your rolling condo doesn’t seem so different from staying at home… right?

Let me know your thoughts. If this is your type of camping, let me know why!


3 comments on “My First KOA Experience: Is this really camping?”

  1. I read your blog with a smile! We are full time RVer’s now. We have stayed in KOA’ s but more for their location.
    We did stay in one in Washington DC and Las Vegas, NV when our family was young and on a cross country trip camping with a 10, 3, and 1 year old! Saved our bacon with our 10 year old!! Thanks for reminding me of that great trip when we didn’t know any better!!


    1. Thanks for your comment, Lorna! I can definitely see the perks to a KOA during big trips or while living on the road fulltime. I remember when we lived on the road for a year, a full service campground was amazing. The hot showers and clean restrooms were a blessing lol! This time around, I noticed many weekend warriors, lots of people from Denver/Colorado Springs making up most of the campground. I couldn’t help but wonder why they wouldn’t want something different from city life. I’m guessing either preference or accesibility? I’m just hoping more people get out there and realize how great it is to rough it every once in a while!


  2. I have stayed at many KOAs throughout the years. I prefer the friendly faces, the safety and the amenities. I believe it’s personality and preference and is still considered camping. I can see how many people wouldn’t consider is camping though.


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