Looking to strike gold and reserve a campsite at a popular area this peak season? Demand for popular campsites remains high, but with an alternate plan in mind, you may strike it rich with an unexpected off-the-beaten-path gem. Keep in mind, many locations that were first-come, first-served may now require advanced reservations. This may include high-demand recreation sites at forests, parks, and refuges, and for activities when smaller groups are desired.
Here are some tips that may be applied to any high-demand location that tends to book up quickly.
Planning ahead and understanding what you need as you plan your trip is more important than ever
Joshua Tree National Park (Sarthak Mishra, Share the Experience)
Plan accordingly – most campsites can be booked six months prior to your arrival date, and some popular campgrounds can book up in minutes, so it’s never too early to start dreaming and planning.
Pro Tip: Some locations offer shorter booking windows along with the standard six-month booking window. Check the “Seasons and Fees” tab on the campground facility page to view the available booking windows and season dates.
Yosemite National Park (Michelle Hopkins, Share the Experience)
If you already have an account, we encourage you to log in and update your password. If you are new to Recreation.gov, this is a good time to create an account.
Once you login to your account, try these tips prior to campsites becoming available for reservations:
Be ready to book different campsites for your stay. You may have to string together multiple campsites if the site you want is not available for your entire stay. Yes, you’ll have to break camp and move your gear, but you’ll be there!
Grand Teton National Park (Andrea Fuhrman, Share the Experience)
Synchronize your clocks to the Recreation.gov clock (Coordinated Universal Time) to be sure you are poised to refresh at the exact time sites become available. Most campgrounds go on-sale at 7 am PT/8 am MT/10 am ET, but not always! Check the campground’s “Seasons and Fees” tab for the specific time and date. On the day of the sale, log in well before the sale begins. Bring up the campground page, add your dates, be ready to select an available campsite and “Add to Cart” the moment they are released for sale. Have your credit card ready and your alternate campsites in mind.
Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests (Hayley Johnson, Share the Experience)
Seconds make the difference between getting your reservation or not. Refresh your page at exactly the time sites are released for sale. To refresh the page, select the Refresh button in the tool bar of your browser. Once you click “Add to Cart,” the site is locked in your cart for 15 minutes to give you time to complete your reservation. If you do not complete the transaction after 15 minutes, the campsite is released for others to reserve.
Pro Tip: Do NOT log in to multiple browsers, multiple tabs, or multiple windows using the same account on the day reservations become available. You may be prompted to complete the reCAPTCHA challenge, adding extra time to the reservation process. Keep your eyes on the prize in one reservation window.
Shenandoah National Park (Tuhin Das, Share the Experience)
Maybe you didn’t strike gold this time around. The beautiful thing about your public lands is there are endless opportunities, destinations, and experiences waiting for you just around the corner.
Here are a few more tips to stick in your backpack as you consider planning alternate trips:
Locations often have peak seasons, and weekends tend to book up quickly as well. If you have flexibility in your schedule, you may find that shoulder seasons or weekday trips are ideal for avoiding the crowds.