If you have your sights set on one of California’s uber-popular (and dog-friendly) coastal, national park or Lake Tahoe campgrounds, it’s probably too late to snag weekend dates for your summer getaway, as most are booked out six months in advance. Persistence and a flexible schedule sometimes win out, however. And there are tons of lovely—and less competitive—places to pitch your tent or park your rig. Here are our tips for finding the perfect spot to camp with Spot:
Familiarize yourself with these resources:
• Reserve America handles reservations for 572 federal, state, private and regional park district campgrounds in California (a dog icon designates those that are dog-friendly).
• Recreation.gov is an umbrella site for reservable activities on federal lands, including camping in national forests.
• “Foghorn Outdoors California Camping” by Tom Stienstra (Avalon Travel Publishing) is a useful guide for finding descriptions and reservation information for more than 1,500 campgrounds, most of them dog friendly.
Don’t take “no” for a final answer
To snag a weekend reservation at a coastal location or popular spots like Yosemite or Lake Tahoe, you’ll need time and flexibility on your side. Our tips:
• Inquire about the cancellation window at your chosen location (30 days at Yosemite, for example) and call that many days in advance of your preferred dates, hoping a spot has opened up.
• Find out if your preferred campsite has any “first-come” or “overflow” sites in its inventory (most do). Take a risk by showing up at the gates about a half-hour before checkout time.
• Some popular coastal campgrounds use a lottery system to distribute sites made available through cancellations. If you’re flexible, this can work.
• Choose a campground that operates purely on a first-come basis and arrive on a Thursday if you want to stay over the weekend.
• Go midweek, or wait until after Labor Day.
Photo Credit: Grace Halliday