When to Book National Park Campsites in 2023
Close to 300 million people visited our national parks in the past year, which means you could be competing with millions of other people for a select few coveted campsites. The majority of these visits happen in the summer, and most campsites are available for booking 6 months in advance (if not longer!). That means that if you wait until after January, you might be too late! Here’s how and when to book national park campsites for the summer.
How far in advance should I make reservations?
Almost all facilities can be booked beginning 6 months in advance on Recreation.gov, and you might miss out if you don’t reserve your site within moments of when it becomes available. So, for example, if you want the best chance of booking a campsite for July 1, you need to get online on February 1 a few minutes before the bookings open.
Note that some national parks like Arches National Park only offer one campground so the chances for a spot increase dramatically. Another time of year campsites are scarce is around the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends and sometimes Memorial Day. If you have some flexibility with your trip, you’ll most likely have more success booking the more popular campsites on weekdays compared to weekends.
Of course, there are exceptions. Some group sites, activity permits, and lodging options are available 366 days in advance, so be sure to do your research. Yellowstone National Park, for example, must be booked through two different sites (depending on which campground you are interested in) and in some cases can be reserved up to 13 months in advance. Campsites in Yosemite National Park on the other hand are a whole other ball game. This California park has its own booking window schedule altogether (see below).
Yosemite National Park Camping
Due to extremely high demand, the booking timeline for Yosemite National Park is different than all of the others. Typically, all Yosemite campsites reservations are available in blocks of one month at a time, up to five months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7 am Pacific time. Be aware that nearly all reservations for the months of May through September and for some other weekends are filled the first day they become available, usually within seconds or minutes after 7 am! Reservations are essential for this magical California park and even the first-come, first-served campgrounds usually fill before noon, if not first thing in the morning.
For 2023 Camping:
If you are thinking of viewing the “Fire Falls” – Reservations will be required at Camp 4, Wawona, and Hodgdon Meadow Campgrounds from February 1 through February 28 (these campgrounds normally operate on a first-come, first-served basis in February). All February reservations for Wawona, Camp 4, and Hodgdon Meadow Campgrounds will be released on December 15 at 7 am on Recreation.gov.
Remember, reservations are required almost year-round in Yosemite so you must plan accordingly. Reservations are available in blocks of one month at a time, up to five months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7 am Pacific time. Be aware that nearly all reservations for the months of May through September and for some other weekends are filled the first day they become available, usually within seconds or minutes after 7 am!
Do not come to Yosemite before October 11 without an overnight reservation if you are intending to stay overnight.
Here’s how the blocking window schedule works for 2023/24 reservations:
|Arrival Date||First Day to make a reservation (7 am PT)|
|January 15 through February 14
February 15 through March 14
March 15 through April 14
April 15 through May 14
May 15 through June 14
June 15 through July 14
July 15 through August 14
August 15 through September 14
September 15 through October 14
October 15 through November 14
November 15 through December 14
December 15 through January 14
| September 15
Are Reservations Always Necessary?
While we recommend making your summer campsite reservations as soon as possible, we realize that not everyone can plan this far ahead of time. If the National Park you are visiting happens to be booked up or you’re looking to travel with more freedom, there are plenty of options available nearby. Dispersed camping is always an option, and resources like Hipcamp, The Dyrt, Campendium, and of course, Reserve America are great for finding last-minute camping options and reviews. Remember, cancellations happen, and it’s worth a shot to call into the parks every once in a while to check–you may get lucky! You can also read our blog on how to find camping in Yosemite without reservations.
And while you’re making your camping reservations, don’t forget to book your camper van in time for the busy season!