Address: 8701 S Kolb Rd, Tucson, 85756, AZ
Phone: (800) 424-9191
# of sites: 331
Full hookup price: From $53/day
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Warnings: Very popular Encore property
Whether you are scooting across Arizona to visit Texas or California, needing to escape from winter in the colder northern states or you simply like Southern Arizona, you may find yourself looking at Tucson for a stay. Voyager RV Resort is arguably the best-rated RV park in the region. The property has several sections, including an upscale manufactured home neighborhood for full-time residents, seasonal residential areas for both RV's and park models and short-term RV sections.
When not experiencing a pandemic, Voyager RV Resort has probably the best set of amenities found anywhere in the state, even including a full-service restaurant and a golf course, and offers more activities than one can count. These amenities are numerous, including a swimming pool and spa, fitness center, game room with billiards, clubhouse, and a dog park, as well as courts for pickleball, bocce ball, volleyball and tennis.
It would take a couple of pages to list all of the activities normally offered, but suffice it to say that several kinds of dancing and dance classes are available, as are cards, bingo, live entertainment, crafts and ceramics, and a variety of potlucks.
Relatively in town, shopping and restaurants aren't very far away, and even the Phoenix metro area is less than a two-hour drive from Tucson. Scenery is also abundant, with two Saguaro National Park sections, Mount Lemmon and the Catalina Mountain Range all just a day trip from the park. If you drive a bit farther, you can access the Organ Pipe National Monument and Picacho Peak State Park, a unique peak (actually two peaks that make an optical illusion) that is also the site of second westernmost battle of the American Civil War.
The Voyager RV resort is itself clean and well-maintained and the staff is friendly and helpful. The sites are long, if not wide, and each one has a cement pad with a small picnic table. They also allowed us to have a dog fence, something many Encore parks restrict. An additional bonus is one of the special aspects of Arizona -- sometimes spectacular, but always beautiful, sunsets.
There are not a lot of downsides in a highly-regarded resort like Voyager. One would be the bleakness of the RV site loops, with few trees or other greenery and gravel is throughout the RV side of the park. If you have one or more dogs you'll need to make sure you are assigned to a "dog-friendly" loop, since you aren't allowed to even walk them in other loops.
All told, we prefer less of a neighborhood and more of a campground feel of an RV park, Like most of the Encore properties, its base business is the full-time residential park and receiving RV visitors may be treated as an afterthought. There is also a list of restrictions to be aware of, such as not hanging laundry on clotheslines, so check the rules carefully.
The long, narrow sites were odd, with RV front doors facing the tow vehicle or toad of the next-door neighbor, but we conferred with them and agreed to park our own vehicles next to our sites instead, which also helped to open up the outdoor space a bit.
With the size and quality of the park, as well as the most amenities and activities you can offer, I rated the Voyager RV Resort 4 out of 5 stars, the only downsides being the lack of greenspace and the slim width of the RV sites. We would highly recommend the resort under most circumstances.
Throughout the country, RV parks have been correctly labeled as essential businesses, allowing full-time RV'ers to continue their lifestyle. However, different from other essential businesses, such as fast food restaurants and laundromats, RV resorts have maintained their pricing while reducing access to and the cost of maintaining their amenities.
Premium amenities is one reason some parks justify their prices. There can be heated swimming pools and hot tubs, spacious recreation halls with cable TV, libraries, exercise machines, dance floors, billiard and card rooms, exercise classes and much more. It doesn't take an MBA to realize that by eliminating or reducing these amenities without changing the price structure that supports them is a windfall.
Many full-timers are simply happy to have campgrounds to stay in, but as Thousand Trails members, we sometimes pay additional premiums strictly based upon the popularity and amenities of a property. For example, we recently stayed in an Encore property in Tucson, a resort included in our Thousand Trails membership. This resort adds a $20/day premium predicated on its high volume of reservations and the quality amenities included. When we arrived, however, its RV sites were less than half used and the amenities were mostly closed.
We had a similar experience in a private park in Williams, Arizona, at the beginning of the pandemic's first lockdown. Again, the rate was high, typical for a tourist park just outside of the Grand Canyon, but all national parks were closed, as were all resort amenities. In fact, the road TO the Grand Canyon was blocked about 30 miles away from its entrance.
Probably the worst thing about it is the number of paid staff and volunteers who have been let go or furloughed in the reduction of services, providing more savings to park owners and corporations.
As full-time RV'ers with limited ability to make an income, which is why we purchased the Thousand Trails membership in the first place, charging us the full rate or premium without any of the benefits they should cover is unfair at best and price gouging at worst.
Address: 417 Thousand Trails Dr, Whitney, TX 76692
Phone: (254) 694-4269
# of sites: 268
Full hookup price: From $51/day
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Warnings: No access to lake
Lake Whitney RV Campground is an old-fashioned park with many sites in various loops. Whitney sits slightly closer to Waco than Fort Worth, but both towns are within easy driving distance.
It's not as bad as we had heard. If that sounds odd, we had several comments from people who just don't like this park. We approached it with open minds and found a park that was very similar to one of our favorite Texas campgrounds at Medina Lake. Like that park, it is full of mature juniper and cedar trees and has a great deal of space, greenery and privacy between sites.
When not in pandemic mode, there are a good number of amenities available, including clubhouse, shuffleboard, swimming pool, whirlpool/spa/hot, restaurant, store, hiking trails, mini-golf, restroom/shower and laundry facilities, game room/billiards and a library. Unfortunately, most of these were closed during our stay, so I have no opinion as to their quality.
The campground's location in Central Texas makes it a natural stop for visiting the area. We drove to Waco a few times, including a stop at the Silos and Magnolia Farms, and during our next stay we'll probably visit Fort Worth. Dallas is only about a 90-minute drive away and within two hours you can find a myriad of lakes, rivers and creeks on which to go boating or fishing.
One of the downsides we were warned about was true- there are several sites and partial loops that have been closed for maintenance for quite some time. The spot we ended up in was in such a loop. If we had driven any farther we would have had to back out of the loop with no hope of turning around. We were fortunate that the site opposite of us was empty so I could use the space to exit.
There are very few 50-amp sites and those are almost always taken by seasonal campers. If 30-amp won't due, then skip this park.
They listed a dog park on their website but I never saw one. Perhaps it was in a closed section or near the pool and clubhouse, which I never visited since everything is locked up. But, their campground map doesn't show one either.
Though Waco and Fort Worth are within an hour or so drive of Whitney, the surrounding rural highways and ranch towns are as depressed as many areas of the South we have driven through. Waco itself is not a booming metropolis, with many sections of town to be avoided. I could have spent dozens of hours taking photos of abandoned and dilapidated houses and businesses.
Probably my biggest complaint would be that access to the lake is cordoned off. There is a primitive, rutted parking area near the trails that lead down to the lake that might hold 5 or 6 cars, but those trails were blocked. I crossed the ropes and walked to the lake for some photos and it looked like there was plenty of space for an enhanced parking and viewing area but no plans or marking for such construction was apparent. There was a mile or so of bank that would make for easy fishing, if one were so inclined.
The bottom line is that Lake Whitney RV Campground is worth staying in, especially if you need a respite on your way through Texas. The campground feel of the RV sites is a great improvement over the neighborhood-style resorts that are so popular, and being surrounded by trees and nature is calming. There are many downsides here, as I have mentioned, but enough positives to rate it a 3 out of 5 stars and give a measured recommendation.
Jack Huber is a novelist with 7 mysteries published, along with several books of poetry and photography. Now retired, he and his wife, Nadyne, are free to travel the country in their 32' 5th wheel and 1-ton Ford pickup.