You snooze, you lose when it comes to securing summertime campground reservations on the California coast or at popular vacation spots like Lake Tahoe. Veterans of the reservations game know to pounce the minute a reservation window opens, which is six months in advance for most public campgrounds. The farther off the beaten track you go, of course, the less competition you’ll encounter.
How to find that perfect place for toasting marshmallows and otherwise enjoying the great outdoors with your best friend? The following resources can help.
- Go to DogTrekker.com, enter your destination in the search field, then look under “Lodging” on the left-hand side of the page to find dog-friendly public campgrounds, private campgrounds and RV parks. Dog policies are spelled out for each listing, and a direct link to the property’s website or reservations page is provided.
- Reserve America handles reservations for 572 federal, state, private and regional park-district campgrounds in California (including those of the East Bay Regional Park District). Pet-friendly sites are identified with a dog icon.
- Recreation.gov is an umbrella site for reservable campgrounds and activities on federal lands including those administered by the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Land Management. Be sure to check the “pets allowed” box when filtering your search.
- The California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds website lets you search by region and amenity and uses dog icons to identify pet-friendly listings. An 80-page guide is available online or in print.
- Don’t think purely in terms of traditional state or national parks when it comes to camping. Many regional utility companies and water districts operate campgrounds in conjunction with their hydroelectric storage facilities. Among them: Sacramento Regional Utility District (SMUD), Pacific Gas & Electric Company and East Bay Municipal Utilities District.
- Many private campgrounds offer alternatives to sleeping on the ground. Some KOA Campgrounds, for example, have added dog-friendly cabins with and without private baths. Plus, all KOAs have flush toilets, hot showers, swimming pools, rec centers, playgrounds and scads of activities for kids. A few even sport their own dog parks.
- “Moon California Camping” by Tom Sientstra (Moon Outdoors Publishing) is a “must have” reference for finding descriptions and reservation information for more than 1,400 California campgrounds, most of them dog-friendly. Keep a copy of it and the companion “California Hiking” volume in your car, and you’ll never be at a loss for places to go with your four-legged friend.