So you want to go camping this summer but it’s May already, and California’s coastal campgrounds, as well as those at Lake Tahoe, have been fully booked months in advance. Time for some strategy. Here are our tips:
• Inquire about the cancellation window at your chosen location (30 days at Yosemite, for example). Ask to be put on a waiting list if there is one, or see if you can program a text or email alert through the reservation service. Otherwise, call that many days in advance of your preferred dates to see if a spot has opened up. If your first call doesn’t work, call again. And again, as cancellations will flow in throughout the day.
• 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 gate about an hour before official checkout time, which at most campgrounds is noon. Many campers leave early, and sites are sometimes released early, as well.
• Some popular coastal campgrounds use a lottery system to distribute sites made available through cancellations. If you’re flexible, this can work.
• Check alternative campgrounds in the area you want to visit, including those operated by utility companies and other non-traditional agencies.
• Choose a campground that operates purely on a first-come basis and arrive on a Wednesday or Thursday if you want to stay over the weekend.
• Go midweek, or wait until after Labor Day.
Photo Credit: @moji_thesamoyed