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National Park Camping

How to Reserve Campsites at US National Parks and Canadian National Parks

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National Park Camping

copyright Darren Smith and his licensors. All rights reserved.

National Park Camping

There are lots of opportunities for camping at national parks throughout the United States and Canada and several different types of camping to choose from, depending on your interests and level of experience. This ranges from camping at full-facility campgrounds, to backcountry camping with limited facilities, to wilderness camping where you might find no facilities at all. From a planning standpoint, campgrounds can generally be divided into two categories: 1) those that accept reservations; and 2) those that operate on a first-come, first-served basis.

Most of the US national parks with campgrounds that accept reservation can be booked through the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS), which is part of the Recreation.gov interagency recreation portal. NRRS provides campground/tour reservation services for all federal recreation sites; this includes not only national parks, but also properties that are part of the Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other agencies.

Making a Reservation

You can reserve the following types of facilities through the NRRS:
  • Individual Campsites
    • Up to 240 Days in Advance for USDA Forest Service and US Army Corps of Engineers.
    • Up to 6 Months (rolling window) in Advance for National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Land Management
    • 5 Months (block window) for Yosemite National Park - Inventory goes on-sale on the 15th of each Month
  • Cabins & Lookouts (booking window varies) - Reserve at 180, 240 and 360 days in advance; Alaska Cabins can be reserved up to 180 days in advance
  • Group Facilities - Up to 360 Days in advance for the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation.

Reservations can be made online or by calling:
Reservations: 1-877-444-6777
TDD: 1-877-833-6777
Customer Service: 1-888-448-1474

Call Center Hours of Operation include:
March 1 - October 31 - 10:00am to 12:00am
November 1 – February 28 – 10:00am to 10:00pm

Users wishing to book a reservation online must first register with Recreation.gov. Camping and lodging information is searchable by specific criteria, including state, type of campground (e.g. group site, horse site, etc), proximity to a specific city, etc.

Some Tips on Booking Campground Reservation

Be aware that at many of the popular parks nearly all reservations for the months of May through September and for some other weekends may be filled the first day they become available (often within a few hours)!

If you are unable to get a reservation, here are some other options you might want to consider:

  • Try checking back at a later date for cancellations.

  • Plan to stay at a first-come, first-served campground

  • Look for campgrounds located outside the park. (An excellent source of information on campgrounds is About's Guide to Camping.)

Questions to ask about Campgrounds

If you are planning to make campground reservations, here are some issues to consider:
  • What facilities are available, such as water and power hookups, restrooms, showers, picnic tables, grills, laundry facilities, etc?

  • What is the maximum number of people and vehicles permitted per campsite?

  • Is there a limit on the number of days or consecutive days you can camp at a park or are there other restrictions on length of stay?

  • Is there a maximum allowable length or any other restrictions for RVs or trailers?

  • What are the restrictions regarding pets in the campground? Are there any discounts available for holders of Golden Age and Golden Access permits?

Camping at Canadian National Parks

There are lots of opportunities for camping at national parks throughout Canada, ranging from full-service campgrounds to wilderness areas with no facilities. Parks such as Sirmilik and Auyuittuq offer a true wilderness experience in which campers must be able to withstand harsh conditions such as cold weather and strong winds with no visitor facilities. For those parks that accept reservation, the [link ulr=http://www.pccamping.ca/parkscanada/]Parks Canada Campground Reservation Service[/link] is the official site for campground reservation service. Visitors can make reservations online or by phone at 877-737-3783.You can find out specific information on the campground facilities available at Canada's national parks by looking at my list of Canadian national park campgrounds. You can also see a list of campground directories for Canada.
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