How to start a campground, Glamping Park or RV Park in the US


Everyone has to start somewhere… and at we often have inquiries from people interested in the idea of finding out more about how to set up a campground.

Before we get into the details of planning laws and regulations, have a look at this video telling the story of how Pitchup helped to grow the business at Mains Farm in the UK.

I have some spare land and would like to welcome campers

If you would like to open your spare land to campers, it’s possible you might not even need a license or campground permit. 

To assess whether you need a permit, several factors will be taken into account, such as whether you intend to welcome tents or to cater to those traveling in motorhomes and trailers; the number of tents and campers that will be on your land; the location and current use of the land; the facilities you’ll be making available; and the length of time you intend to open for (ie whether you aim to be a seasonal park or a year-round campground). All of these factors will be considered in order to determine which license and permit you need. 

Much depends on how many people you intend to accommodate and what facilities you’ll be setting up. If your campground is simple and meets the planning ordinance for your zone, with limited or no facilities, it may not need to apply for special licenses. Examples of these would be primitive or backcountry campgrounds that offer no facilities, or those that host RV guests who bring their own self- sufficient accommodations with them (meaning that you don’t have to build any infrastructure such as toilets).

We cannot provide legal advice, so you must ask your local government and zoning office to make sure you are compliant and ensure you have the appropriate approvals in place before proceeding with your campground plans. 

I would like to build and operate a campground

Before starting a campground business you might need to choose your business structure, register your business with the Department of State, and apply for a Federal Tax ID Number.

In the US, regulations are different from one jurisdiction to another. States, counties, cities and towns regulate campgrounds to ensure they provide the necessary facilities, sites, and other requirements in the interest of public safety. Regulations for your local area can be found in zoning laws, municipal codes or state regulation.

Land use regulations and zoning

Zoning is the way that governments divide an area of land into different zones, in order to control and specify its uses (distinct zoning districts exist for agricultural, commercial, industrial and residential uses, for example). Building codes and zoning laws differ from town to town and zoning falls within the competence of each municipality or county. That means you’ll need to call your local city zoning office or board to find out about the specific rules that apply to your property.

A zoning change or exception may be required to change a land use within the zoning area.

A land without local zoning laws will still be subject to state and county regulations.  

Campground Construction Permit

If your land is able to be zoned for use as a campground, you might need to apply for a Campground Development and Construction Permit with the appropriate state, county or city department prior to any construction. This will most likely apply if you intend to build facilities such as gravel sites, roads, water connections, a wastewater collection system, wastewater pumping facilities, a wastewater treatment and disposal system or campground service buildings.

To apply for a permit, you will need to submit the application along with the plan of your proposed campground and any other information determined necessary by your zoning office – such as details of the water supply and the sewage disposal system, the area and dimensions of the parcel of land, the campground’s sites, any proposed structures, parking areas, recreation areas, signage etc.

It’s best to work with licensed professionals (such as a local licensed landscape architect or registered licensed land surveyor) to develop the plan and advise you on the design requirements (minimum campground space, minimum site space size etc.) and utility requirements (access to water, sewage and plumbing system, service buildings and garbage disposal).

If you don’t know where to start, contact your zoning office or local health department: you may be able to arrange for an evaluation that would identify any major limitations for the construction of your campground, get help with plan examinations, or review your building plans.

You can also search for local assistance on the Small Businesses Administration Website

Permit costs vary between municipalities, so make sure to check the rates for your local area. 

Other permits

You might also need to apply for various other permits or certificates, depending on what you intend to install or offer (e.g. Place of Assembly Permit if a large number of people will gather on your campground, Sign Permit, Sign Building Permit, Swimming Pool Permit to install, operate or construct a pool, Restaurant Equipment Authorization, Food Service Establishment Permit, Food Protection Certificate or Pool Operator Certificate etc.). Your local government will be able to advise you on all of these requirements.

Campground Operating License

Finally, following the completion of the construction and prior to occupancy of a campground, you will have to submit an application for a Campground License (for both seasonal and year-round campgrounds).

Check with your local office as you might not need one if the number of guests remains under a certain number.

Useful links

How much could I earn on Pitchup?

Calculate your potential revenue

An average tent campground might earn around $18,000 per year through However, this figure can rise as high as $700,000 for certain areas – and since lockdown restrictions to allow more domestic travel lifted new campgrounds have achieved significantly better results. For example, in the UK we saw:

·   $130,000 in its first month for an activity center in Hampshire

.   More than 100 campgrounds that joined since June 2020 earned over $13,000 in their first three months

.   75 bookings in the first 24 hours for a farm campground in Cornwall, UK

·   600 bookings and $65,000 in the first week for a pop-up campground in Cumbria, UK

In recent weeks Pitchup hit a new record of 6,500 bookings in a single day.

Where can I find out more about joining Pitchup?

Our join page is the best place to start, but feel free to drop us a line via the chat window below, or our contact form, and we'll give you a call.