Finding and booking a campsite can be a challenge if you are traveling to a new area. These are some of my favorite websites and resources to help you find campgrounds and book the best campsite.
Finding the perfect campground and booking a great campsite has become a precise art of planning, research, and a bit of luck. Gone are the days that you can roll into a campground on a Friday night with a plethora of sites available. Most of the time, the best campgrounds fill up six-months ahead of the season, which means there is a lot of planning that needs to happen in February and March if you want to camp over the summer.
There are a lot of online resources to help you find the perfect campsite though. Below are the sites that I use, and some tricks I have found helpful in order to find some great campsites, like the perfect one we camped at in Mill Creek Campground.
Tips for Finding a Campground and Booking a Campsite
The best tip I have for booking a campsite is to set a reminder on your calendar when the booking window opens. If you think you might want to camp the second weekend in June, put a reminder on your calendar for mid-December. You can always cancel the reservation if you change your mind, but at least you’ll have something booked.
I put events on my Google calendar from December until March to make sure I have sites booked for the summer.
For busy weekends like Memorial Day and Labor Day, make sure to do your research before the reservation window opens. Around March 1st is the 6-month mark for Labor Day. If you plan on camping for Labor Day, do some research a week before so you are ready the day campsites become available.
There are a lot of websites out there for booking and finding campsites. Below are the websites I use most often and what I like about each of them.
This is my go-to site for making camping reservations. The website was revamped two years ago, and now has easy-to-use tools and filters to help you find just the right site. You can specify if you need electric, water, sewage, a flush bathroom, or a site that can accommodate a 25-foot rig.
The map view feature is extremely helpful. You can search an entire area if you don’t have somewhere specific picked out for your trip. Sometimes I search for “Colorado,” put in my dates, and go to the map view to see what is available. Once you have a campground picked out, you can switch to satellite view to get a better idea of the surroundings, how far the site might be from a lake, creek, or other sites, and how much shade might be on a site.
Recreation.gov also is extremely mobile friendly. You can save your reservations on your phone and have them all in one place. National Park and National Forest campgrounds do their reservations through Recreation.gov. Most sites on recreation.gov open up for booking 6-months ahead of time.
ReserveAmerica is another big website where you can directly book a campsite. The site features state parks, RV parks, and KOAs across the United States. The site is similar to Recreation.gov, it just shows different campgrounds. ReserveAmerica is a good place to look if you want to look at a bunch of state park campgrounds at once. There is a map view, but the filter search is limited.
If you missed your 6-month booking window and need to book something last minute, Hipcamp is a good website to check out. The properties are privately owned and offer great sites for large groups. Most of the sites are primitive, but there are some with water and bathrooms, and even some off-grid huts and yurts if tenting is not your thing.
One of the best camping trips I ever took was to southern Colorado to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park over Memorial Day weekend. I made my reservation about a month out on Hipcamp for a group of 12.
There are definitely some duds on Hipcamp, so make sure to read the reviews for any properties you are looking at. Because all the properties are privately owned, the conditions at each location varies greatly.
There are some hidden gems and unique camping experiences on Hipcamp. They feature a list of tree houses, yurts, glamping sites, and places to stay with animals on site.
The Dyrt is a database of campgrounds. The site pulls campgrounds together that are available through Recreation.gov, ReserveAmerica, KOAs, and private campgrounds. You cannot book most campsites directly through The Dyrt, but it is a good starting place if you are looking for a campground in a specific area.
I have found that some of the information on The Dyrt is not always up-to-date, so make sure to check out the actual campground website if you find a campsite on The Dyrt.
State Park Websites
Most state parks have their own sites for reserving campsites, though many are listed on ReserveAmerica. If everything looks booked, make sure to check out the state’s website for state parks. Last year, when I went to Crater Lake National Park, I could not find a campsite within the park, but found a site at the state park that was not far from Crater Lake.
I’ll do a separate post on dispersed camping and free campsites, but I do want to mention the BLM here. If you are trying to make last-minute plans, BLM is a good place to look. BLM has campgrounds and dispersed camping. BLM campgrounds can be found on Recreation.gov, but the BLM site has a lot of good information on first-come first-serve campgrounds as well.
If everything else is booked, my last resort is to look up a KOA. KOA sites can be close together, but if you are in a pinch, you can often find something.
KOAs are independently run campgrounds that are known for the amenities they have on site: breakfast, a playground, swimming pool.
I’ve been to some really great KOAs. If the tent sites seem close together, I usually opt for a cabin. The cabins are cheaper than staying in a hotel, and offer the experience of having a campfire and cooking outside.
KOA is also a good place to stay if you are on a longer road trip and need access to showers or laundry.
The last resource I use when booking a campsite, is to check out CampsitePhotos. The website has photos of each individual campsite within a campground. They don’t have photos for every campground out there, but I have been impressed with the amount of campgrounds they do have. This is extremely helpful when looking to see how close sites are together, if your RV will fit on a site, or if there is any shade on a specific site.
There are a lot of resources and websites out there to help you find the right site for your trip. And some of the booking process comes down to luck. I tend to be big on the research part, but sometimes you just have to wing it and get out there to a campground that doesn’t have a lot of reviews. Some of the best places I’ve gone to camp have been at campgrounds that I knew almost nothing about it.
What are some things you research online when your are trying to find campgrounds? Any other tips or tricks you have for getting a good campsite?
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