Halvor Tweto | 08.28.2015

Online reservation systems for campsites are a blessing and a curse. If you've successfully reserved your favorite site in your favorite campground using some free time you had on your calendar, you've known the upside. If, however, you've ever had a some free time that shows up unexpectedly, or you get the wild hair to camp only to find the reserved sites completely occupied, you've become acquainted with the downside reality of online camping reservations.

Online reservation sites are easy to use, and they can accommodate a large population of campers at once; also, the reality is that there are few if any penalties for making a reservation and not using it aside from the loss of a camping fee. All of this puts the onus on the individual for planning and execution.

You can absolutely be successful in reserving your favorite site, you just have to plan. Below we've listed a few tips and rules that can help you get the site you want, when you want it. And remember, while it may seem like a hassle up front, it will all be worthwhile once you get there.

  • California State Park campgrounds accept reservations up to seven months in advance.
  • On the first day of every month, an entire month becomes eligible for reservations seven months later. January's opening date is on the second because offices are closed for New Year's Day.
  • This means, for instance, that on Tuesday, September 1 at 8 a.m. PST, the entire month of March opens for California State Park campsite reservations. Popular sites will likely be booked within a few minutes. You should start thinking about Memorial Day, 2016, in November, 2015, etc.
  • If 8 a.m. PST is go-time, be sure you aren't shopping around and gathering information at 7:55! Have your first, second, third, and fourth choices ready to go.
  • You'll need a credit card for payment.
  • Reserve America handles online reservations for California State Park campsites, and it is worthwhile becoming familiar with their site and its operation. If you are more comfortable trying the telephone, call them at 1.800.444.7275. The same ground rules apply regarding dates. Be aware, however, that several sites may fill up via the online system by the time you enter all of the phone number's digits into your phone.
  • Of course, you don't have to join this rush. You can try to reserve later in the month or closer to your date, and you may find what you need. There may be first-come, first-served options in the campground or nearby. Also, if you start an account with Reserve America you can sign up for notifications when someone has the decency to cancel their reservations.
  • Good luck!


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