First come first serve
First, I have to say what an amazing site...so much great information!!! Just reading about everyones adventures is really starting to get me excited about my own.
I have been reading about how some of the National and State parks are on a first come first serve basis. Does anyone have any experience with how difficult it would be to get a space at one of the parks? We will be traveling in late August through early October. We are really looking forward to our trip around the country and we would appreciate any feedback at all.
I rarely have had trouble finding a camping site at a National Park, but it certainly depends upon the situation. Some of the more popular parks, like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon are likely to fill up, especially on weekend and during the August and early Sept. part of your trip.
Some places also reserve a few non-reservable sites for "walk-ups" but those can be taken pretty quickly in the day.
Ought to be better after Labor Day...
My experience with "first come first served" camping locations in the National Parks and Forests has been mixed. If its a weekend and good weather, they it'll probably fill up pretty quickly, if its near a popular site or major urban area. If you come late in the day, much higher odds of it being fill up. But during the week, usually not too bad.
If you're traveling from late August through October, I'll bet that you see a real drop off in the demand for these places after Labor Day, which is about when a lot of the schools start back up, and the families have to be home.
thank you ......This info will help me plan a little better
Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 03-01-2008 at 11:22 PM.
Maybe I'm just unlucky
Or maybe our camping season in the PNW is so short that it's different here? I just know that I have NEVER had good luck finding a first-come/first-serve campsite in the national parks in Washington and Oregon. I'm very leery of doing that. I've had too many times when I've tried it that I've driven around in circles for quite some time trying to find a site only to have to mosey down the road to a commercial campground because I can't find one. This has even happened to me on non-holiday, mid-week attempts.
And I hate making reservations and being tied into a schedule. But I'll do it when camping in places like this unless I'm familiar enough with the park to know that it often has lots of vacancies.
Last summer, we did a week through Eastern WA and NE Oregon. I made reservations for each night through ReserveAmerica which is great because it also gives you information on lesser-known campgrounds like those operated by the Army Corps of Engineers and most state campgrounds as well, all in one handy place. During that trip, I estimate that about half the places we stayed we could have found a campsite by just driving up. The other half were packed and I doubt we would have been so lucky.
Like I said, maybe different parts of the country are different so don't take my experience as the norm. Maybe it's a PNW phenomenon.
Judy, didn't you get that memo?
I've gone camping ample times up in the PNW. Always First-Come, First-Served Forest Service sites, only once or twice at a State Park (in Idaho).
The key to camping in the Pacific NorthWest is...
Or very early Friday morning. If you wait until afternoon on a Friday, yep, you are going to be one frustrated camper.
That, and never go the big holiday weekends. We'd always get to the campsite Thursday afternoon, and camp until Sunday morning, where we'd do our final hikes and then pack up. It makes for a longer trip, but, you get to enjoy some of the best camping in the US. Nothing like camping at the base of a 75 foot waterfall on the eastern flank of the Cascades. Although, I'd avoid the Mountain Loop Highway during the hot summer months, the deer flies and horse flies will eat you alive. At least they did us in 1994.
Yes, I did get that memo.
But it has rarely worked for me.
And I'm not talking Fridays or holidays, Brad.
I've pulled into national park, first-come/first-served campsites on a Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday during NON-holiday weeks and every site is full. We've even left home as early as 4am to get to a campground by 7-8am hoping to find campers loading up to head out and sneak into their spot with no luck.
Gosh, I don't want anyone here to think it can't be done. I just think I either have bad luck, bad timing, or that this is more particular to some parts of the country than others. So anyone reading this discussion might want to focus on the positive experiences of others rather than my bad experiences with this. I seem to be alone in this.
Last edited by PNW Judy; 03-02-2008 at 04:05 PM.
Reason: added a more positive comment!
Never tried the National Parks
National Parks are always harder to get into, usually they're the ones done up nice, with flush toilets and showers. That, and they're a destination in and of themselves.
My experience has been only with USFS campgrounds and Idaho's Farragut State Park, never with a national park. Although I've never camped in one, the first-come/first-served thing is an immediate red-flag for me at a national park (that's why I was glad we could stay away from those for our upcoming event).
I wasn't clear that you were referring to National Parks in your post, so I agree with you 100% on those prospects. USFS campgrounds are much easier to get into (people are turned off by the vault toilets I think).
I think it's a location thing
And while I've had more than my share of this problem with national parks, I didn't mean to indicate it's only at national parks. But if you do a search of WA state, there are probably 3-4x as many campground east of the mountains than over here on the coast. And, in my experience, the campgrounds in Eastern WA tend to be bigger with more sites. I think it's because there's more flat land to spread out in.
Anyway, not a real big deal. I'm just leery of depending on pulling up and finding a spot because my experience with this has resulted in too many times where we spend too much time driving around trying to find a place. It's a waste of time, imho.
(BTW, this former hiker/backpacker who has mastered the art of bio-breaks in the woods, without a trace, no less....well, vault toilets aren't an issue for me at all. Although I do get the heebie-jeebies from them. I start imagining Lord of the Ring-type creatures who might live in the depths of the vault just waiting for my buns to hit the seat. I spook myself a lot with that. So I'd rather go in the woods. LOL)
Never thought of it like that
Thanks for that mental visual Judy, I just imagined walking by a vault toilet and hearing Gollum saying "My Precious!" from the depths. Ha ha!
Originally Posted by Judy