When to book national park campsites for the summer
More than 300 million people visited our national parks in 2019, which means you’re competing with more than 300 million 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. 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.
Interested in booking popular hiking permits? Visit our guide to booking the most popular permits for summer 2020.
How far in advance should I make reservations?
Almost all facilities can be booked beginning 6 months in advance, and you might miss out if you don’t reserve your site within minutes 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. Note that Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends are especially busy. 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 up to 12 months in advance, so be sure to do your research. Campsites in Yosemite National Park have their own booking window schedule (see below).
Reserving online is typically faster than by phone. When you’re ready to book a campsite, visit https://www.recreation.gov/.
Yosemite National Park Camping
Due to extremely high demand, the booking timeline for Yosemite National Park is different than the others. Typically, all Yosemite campsites will be reserved within 20 minutes after they go on sale. From April through September, reservations are essential and even the first-come, first-served campgrounds usually fill before noon. Here’s how the blocking window schedule works:
|If you call on:||You can make Yosemite reservations for arrival dates between:|
|January 16th and June 14th|
February 16th and July 14th
March 16th and August 14th
April 16th and September 14th
May 16th and October 14th
June 16th and November 14th
July 16th and December 14th
August 16th and January 14th
September 16th and February 14th
October 16th and March 14th
November 16th and April 14th
December 16th and May 14th
Tips from the Recreation.gov website: “At Yosemite, thousands of would-be campers compete for about 500 campsites, and 93 percent of the successful reservations are booked on-line. Lucky campers book 75 percent of the campsites within the first half hour after they go on sale (or less)! Would-be climbers of the Cables on Half Dome might compete with as many as 500 applicants for just 50 permits on a given day. So…if you don’t have a computer and a high-speed internet connection, make friends with someone who does!” (For more specifics, read this.)
Other Helpful Tips
While we recommend making your summer campsite reservations as soon as possible, we realize that not everyone can plan this far ahead of time. 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 campervan in time for the busy season!