As the winter weather sets in and snow begins to fall, summer camping is the last thing on most people's minds. But should it be? According to Recreation.gov summer camping reservations for National Parks and National Forests begin 6 months ahead of the season for family sites and 12 months ahead of the season for group sites. Locking in camping site reservations early is key, as top sites at the best campgrounds are taken quickly.
To ensure a spot at your favorite campground follow these simple tips:
- Make your summer camping reservations as far ahead of time as possible. Find out how far in advance you can book a camp site at your chosen destination and book it on the first day that you can or as soon as possible afterwards
- Arrive at sought-after campgrounds on weekdays. Many campgrounds allow visitors to pitch their tents for at least seven days. So if you arrive midweek you can stay throughout the weekend.
- Beware of holiday weekends. Summer's long weekends and holidays (Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day) are the season's most popular times for camping trips, making them the hardest times to get a camping site. If you have flexibility in your schedule plan to go another time. Your options will be greater and the crowds will be fewer. Double bonus!
- Play the lottery. Recreation.gov has created an online lottery system for campsites at the National Parks. If you're making reservations for any of the more popular National Parks campgrounds (such as Yosemite) on Recreation.gov, log into your account about 10 minutes before the lottery begins and check availability. Figure out your first, second, and third choice site ahead of time. When the lottery begins you will be ahead of everyone else.
- Check for openings daily. If your desired campsite or campground is booked then check back daily as cancellations are frequent
- Look for campgrounds that don't take reservations. If your preferred park is booked, look for first-come-first-served campgrounds nearby. Plan to arrive by the daily check out time. Early birds often snatch sites at popular first-come first-serve campgrounds - so don't snooze and lose! Check out our Best ways to get a campsite at the top ten national parks for a list of first come first served campgrounds at the most popular National Parks and specific tips for each park that'll help you get the site you want.
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