As the summer of 2023 unfolds, RV enthusiasts and nature lovers across America are flocking to campgrounds, particularly in Mineral County (Montana), leading to a remarkable surge in demand for campsites.
Private campground owners are relishing this unprecedented boom, having adapted their facilities to cater to a broader spectrum of recreational preferences and raised the bar for the outdoor hospitality industry.
At the heart of this camping renaissance is Nugget Campground, a campground just east of St. Regis, presently managed by Matt Leenhouts.
The campground has a rich history dating back to 2015, when Leenhouts’ parents purchased it, sparking a transformative wave of changes. It subsequently changed hands to an investment group in 2021, under whose stewardship, Nugget Campground has emerged as a go-to place for summer camping.
When asked about the sudden spike in demand, Leenhouts confirmed, “Before and after Covid, we’re doing a lot better.”
Once known for its rustic appeal, Nugget Campground now offers a park-like setting featuring paved roads, mature trees, and various traveler-friendly amenities.
The campground boasts around 90 RV sites, five cabins, and 3 miles of non-developed forest trails on private property.
A testament to the allure of these improvements is the diversity of its guests, ranging from Eastern Washington to nearby locales such as Missoula, Hamilton, and Kalispell.
Further west of St. Regis, Campground St. Regis, owned by Dave and Loni Starman, shares a similar narrative of rising demand and limited availability. It offers 65 sites and a select number of overflow sites with electricity for those willing to compromise.
The campground also provides a pool, laundry, and other essential amenities to guests, operating from May 1 through September 30 each year.
Interestingly, both Nugget and Campground St. Regis have their gift shops, stocked predominantly with Montana goodies, though they are not open to the public.
Comparing the costs of campground accommodation with local motel prices offers another perspective on the popularity surge.
A quick price check reveals that the least expensive motel rate in western Montana stands at $129 per night for two people, making the $45 per night tariff at Campground St. Regis (inclusive of water and electricity) an economical alternative.
Factor in the nearly $3.75 per gallon price tag for 87 octane fuel, and the cost-effectiveness of camping becomes even more apparent.
This dramatic surge in bookings comes as a boon to private campground owners and RV park operators, who have weathered the uncertainties of the past years.
It underscores the ongoing transformation of the outdoor hospitality industry, marked by strategic investments in guest amenities and experiences that align with changing traveler preferences.
As summer continues, campground owners and operators are optimistic about leveraging this boom. Their stories of resilience and adaptation could serve as models for others in the industry and beyond, signaling the dawn of a new era in private campground operation.