It’s usually difficult to snag a reservation at popular lakeside, state and national parks at this point in the year. Many can take repeated attempts to score. This year, however, even that strategy might not work. Why? Because technology has entered the picture.
Do a Google search for “bots stealing campsites” and you’ll come across dozens of articles decrying how techno-geeks are using ingenious bits of computer code to automatically log in, reserve and complete a campsite purchase before a normal person can even get a page up on the screen.
While big reservation platforms like recreation.gov, reserveamerica.com and reservecalifornia.com are working on the problem, they haven’t had much luck. So what’s a DogTrekking camper to do? You could always find a techie to play the game for you, get your own bot, enlist one from a source such as campnab.com or keep trying to reserve through conventional channels. Better yet, stay away from the most popular campgrounds and make some dog-friendly discoveries of your own.
There are loads of dog-friendly campgrounds on California public and private lands where you can soak up some mountain majesty or lounge by a lake without competition from those irritating bots. You’ll have to be flexible and on your toes if you want to camp on short notice during the peak summer season, but persistence is sure to pay off (note that most campgrounds at altitude close in mid-October). To up your chances, plan on going midweek, checking for cancellations and/or waiting until after Labor Day.
Here are some resources that can help you find a place in the fun.
Moon California Camping: “The Complete Guide to More Than 1,400 Tent and RV Campgrounds” by Tom Stienstra. Rather than spend hours flipping around on the computer to locate off-the-beaten-path campgrounds, narrow your search with this hefty volume that has long been revered as the “bible” of California camping.
Easy-to-use maps on a grid system pinpoint campgrounds in dozens of regions, while descriptions of each are accompanied by scenic ratings, lists of amenities, directions and dog-friendly status. Pair it with Stienstra’s “California Hiking” for an even bigger picture of your destination.
Recreation.gov: Facilitates reservations for thousands of sites overseen by 12 agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Forest Service.
Didn’t know the Bureau of Reclamation or Army Corps operate campgrounds? They do. And so do Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD), the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) and Marin County Parks & Open Space, among other agencies you might not think to think of.
Reservecalifornia.com: This umbrella campground reservation service (the California portion of ReserveAmerica.com) handles reservations at 280 units, including California State Parks. Its spruced-up website breaks out popular campsites, “hidden gems” and other “best-of” type lists, as well as many useful articles about camping in general.