First Come First Served Camping Tips
Growing up as a child, my parents would plan our trips months in advance. It felt as every detail was thought out and we were prepared for anything that could occur. My husband, on the contrary, grew up having his dad come home from work and on a whim saying Kids lets get in the car! Were going on a road trip! As the two of us started camping together, wed compromise. Some of our itinerary was pre-determined, knowing when and where we were going, yet certain portions with in-betweens would be spontaneous excursions. Once we added kids into our equation and we had to coordinate our travels with their school and sport schedules, we never knew with certainty what dates would work for our trip. When wed search online for reservations, it was too late, nothing was available! Talk about DISAPPOINTING! Needless to say, we turned to first come first served camping and have been quite pleased!
Here is a list of 7 key tips for first come first served camping without reservations based on our experiences over the years.
1. Start with an online search
Search online for first come first served campground or camping with no reservations and add your target area to the search string. For example, search for first come first served campground Yosemite.
If your desired campground is within a National Park and you cant obtain a site there, there are often adjacent National Forest lands that have many FCFS campgrounds available just beyond the Park boundaries.
3. Be flexible
Pick A Less Popular Campgrounds
Some campgrounds are more desirable than others. The campground in the heart of the action and is conveniently located to many of the parks most popular features will be the most popular and completive campground in the park.
Back when Grand Teton had first come first serve camping, Jenny Lake campground was ALWAYS full and was super hard to get a spot in. Jenny Lake was centrally located and everyone wanted to stay there due to the view and access to some of the best hiking in the park. On the other hand, Lizard Creek Campground is in the north section of the park is way less popular due to being further away from the action.
When To Visit Pet Policies & Other Things To Know
- The high season for Capitol Reef is March through September, though the fall shoulder season can still be fairly busy.
- Many areas of Capitol Reef, including the primitive campgrounds, lack water sources. Bring plenty for all your needs and be sure to purify any water you use in the backcountry.
- Leashed pets are allowed on 6-foot leashes in developed areas of the park but not in the backcountry. For more detailed pet regulations, visit the National Park Service website.
- Utahs National Parks see millions of travelers each year. As you plan your next trip to Capitol Reef, consider ways to support its basecamp communities and keep the park Forever Mighty.
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If Possible Plan Your Visit During The Off
Just as we live for the weekends, we also live for the summertime and our holidays. If you love vying for limited spots with hundreds of others doing the same, go for it.
But if youd rather spend your precious time exploring the trails or boating or watching wildlife, then visit during the off-season. Youll have less competition, more quiet, and increased joy from the beauty of the fall colors and snow-capped mountains.
Tips For Getting A First
Hopefully, I havent scared you off first come first serve camping. It isnt something you should fear. I know it sounds very scary to arrive somewhere without a guaranteed place to stay and it is. First come first serve camping might sound like something you would wing but it isnt. You need a plan.
The planners of the world might consider your plan to be no plan but that isnt the case. Your plan will have a few ifs and a plan B. So you have a plan. In making your plan there are a few things you can do to increase your odds of snagging a first-come-first-serve campsite.
Remember to being a good attitude, a little flexibility, and cash and use the tips to help get your first come first serve campsite.
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Jordanelle Reservoir And State Park
The Rock Cliff campground at Jordanelle offers a wonderful variety of wildlife viewing and scenery for the visitor, along with a boardwalk trail system and plenty of fishing opportunities nearby. Located along the Provo River just before it enters Jordanelle Reservoir, this scenic camping area offers recreational opportunities to visitors year-round. Campsites are set back away from the parking areas. Carts are available to pack your camping gear to and from your vehicle. A gentle trail system was designed to help you reach your campsite with little effort. Ambitious beavers frequent the area, and considerable evidence of their handiwork abounds among the trees along the river. Be careful of high water in the Provo River during the spring as the snow melts in the upper drainage.
Hoh Campground Olympic National Park
Image from The Dyrt camper Kuo G.
Right in the heart of Olympic National Parks most magical environment, the Hoh Campground lies in one of the wettest places in America. The 12 feet of annual precipitation in the Hoh Rain Forest has resulted in an environment characterized by towering spruce, fir, and maple trees. Huge ferns blanket the forest floor while thick moss hangs from branches.
The Hoh Campground is a short walk from the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center and the popular Hall of Mosses Trail. There are 78 first-come, first-served camping spots, picnic tables, potable water, restrooms, and animal-proof food storage lockers. Bring a rain jacket.
Hoh Campground at Olympic National Park has 78 first-come-first-served campsites located deep within the rainforest on the western side of the park. There are more shades of green than there are names for, and the moss that grows everywhere makes you feel like you have entered a fairy tale forest. The Dyrt Camper Diane N.
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Rv Camping And Glamping
RVs are allowed at the Fruita Campground, and there are several RV parks located outside of the park perimeter as well.
If you prefer something more luxurious, Capitol Reef Resort in Torrey offers lush and unique glamping options just seven miles outside the park. Stay in a gorgeous cabin, cozy teepee or Conestoga wagon.
Currant Creek Reservoir And Recreation Area
Located 40 miles southeast of Heber City, Currant Creek offers a beautiful campground with 103 units. The campground is surrounded by pines and aspen. Facilities include culinary water and modern restrooms. Currant Creek Reservoir offers great fishing, and there are numerous hiking and horseback riding trails. The Forest Service has provided special campground facilities to keep riding stock.
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What Is First Come First Serve Camping
It is exactly what it sounds like. You get there first, you get the spot. While first come, first serve sounds similar to boondocking or free camping, this phrase is generally referring to campgrounds that book up quickly due to reservations. After those reserved sites are filled, a few more spots are available as first come, first serve camping.
Longs Peak Campground Rocky Mountain National Park
Image from The Dyrt camper Tessa M.
A small tent-only campground just south of Estes Park in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Longs Peak Campground is the ideal base for treks to the summit of Longs Peak. There are 26 tent sites, located at rather high elevation of 9,500 feet. This campground is only open in summer.
As a basic campground thats used mainly by hikers and backpackers, it is much less chaotic and crowded than other more family-friendly campgrounds in the park.
Longs Peak campground is a first-come, first-served campground, we didnt have any trouble finding a spot in the middle of the week in July when we stayed. We actually came back the next year and camped in the same spot because we loved it so much. Incredible views of Longs Peak right from our campsite. The Dyrt Camper Kelly Z.
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About National Park Obsessed
National Park Obsessed is your guide to the national parks. We work to create comprehensive guides to the national parks and lands. Our goal with this national park blog is to inspire your next national park visit. We hope you use our website to enhance your National Park adventures and provide a place to share your national park story through our website and social media accounts.
Learn more about National Park Obsessed.
Hidden Valley Campground Joshua Tree National Park
Image from The Dyrt camper Sara S.
First-come, first-served camping in Joshua Tree National Park is possible at the primitive Hidden Valley Campground. There are 44 campsites and pit toilets, but there is no water available. This is California desert, so make sure to bring plenty of water with youenough for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.
Set amid huge boulders and iconic Joshua trees, this is Joshua Tree National Park camping at its very best. Note that because of the constantly high fire danger, campfires must be contained within designated fire rings. Collecting wood in the park is not permitted, so make sure to buy firewood outside the park.
This campground is the perfect place to truly experience the magic that is Joshua Tree. From climbers coffee on the weekends hosted by the park rangers, to boulder problems right in your campsite, to world-class classic climbs feet from your car, the Hidden Valley Campground offers everything you could imagine for a Joshua Tree experience. If you are not a climber, dont worry! This site offers beautiful hikes, scrambles to explore, and hikes nearby. The Dyrt Camper Amina H.
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Backcountry And Other Camping
Backcountry camping is allowed in Capitol Reef. A free permit must be acquired at the visitor center for all overnight backcountry visitors. The National Park Service has several recommended backpacking routes that visit slot canyons, hidden creeks and high mesas.
There are also established campgrounds in nearby Dixie and Fishlake national forests and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. And dispersed camping is allowed on Bureau of Land Management land east of the park, contact Henry Mountains Field Station for more information.
Secure Your Campsite First
If you are doing first-come, first-serve camping, your FIRST stop upon arrival should be the campground. Skip the visitor center, skip the overlooks, skip all those fun things. Getting your campsite should be your first priority. The longer you put it off, the more likely someone will grab the last campsite and you will have to go to plan B.
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What About Other Campgrounds In Utah
St. George is in the southern part of Utah most of the camping is east and north. As you plan your route by the campfire, check out our guides to the Best Campgrounds near Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. Zion is much lower than Bryce and Capitol Reef, making it a better alternative when temperatures are cool.
Wolf Creek Group Campground
Wolf Creek Campground is located on the summit of scenic Wolf Creek Highway at an elevation of 9,400 feet. Visitors enjoy hiking Trail Hollow with its beautiful mountain views. This campground offers two group sites. Site 1 can accommodate up to 60 people Site 2 can accommodate up to 30 people and 12 individual sites. Vault restroom facilities are available at this site. An amphitheater sits above Site 1 has a cement stage, wood benches, and a campfire circle.
Status/Alerts: The campground is closed for the season. See you in 2022!
Elevation: 7,200 ft.Season: July 1st- September 6thFind Us: Wolf Creek Campground, FR127, Kamas, UT
Reservation dates: July 9th- September 6th
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Reservable Sites Vs Fcfs
The majority of our campgrounds on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest were 100% reservable for the 2020 season. This operational change was based on local health regulations and CDC recommendations. As conditions regarding COVID-19 evolve, the Forest Service and Utah Recreation Company will continue to identify best practices to provide for employee and visitor safety.
The decision to maintain a 100% reservation system will be evaluated at the end of the 2020 season.
This management approach was selected as it improved the safety of the public and URC staff by:
Eliminating/greatly reducing the need for onsite cash handling/exchange/money counting. Use of envelopes means a minimum of six people end up handling the envelope and the money, versus the reservation system where no exchange is necessary.
Reducing the amount of drive-through traffic of individuals looking for a campsite and reducing host in-person interactions.
Allowing the public to secure sites as they plan for their visit to the Forest. This year the UWC is seeing an incredible increase of use as more people stay close to home to recreate. By having more sites reservable it provides a guaranteed opportunity for individuals to have a site.
After evaluating the situation in the 2020 season following campgrounds were switched over to FCFS for the 2021 season
OGDEN DISTRICT: Middle Inlet Day Use, Cemetery Point Day Use
Be Flexible And Adapt
When you drive into a campground, take a look at it. Does it look like its super full? How many spaces are open at the entrance? Is there a line of cars in front of you? Does it feel like they are looking for a site or are they heading to their campsite?
If it feels like the campsite is full and there are lots of people looking for a campsite, this is not the moment to be picky about your site. TAKE the first site you can find. If its really awful and you are not solo, drop one person off to hold the site and then drive around to see if you can locate a better site.
If you are solo or no better site is available, pay for one night and the following more see if another site opens up that is better.
Remember any campsite is better than no campsite.
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What Are The Best Hiking Trails Around St George
If you are interested in hitting the trails while you are in St. George, check out Snow Canyon State Park. Trails here include the Petrified Dunes trail, the Lava Flow trail, or Johnson Canyon trail. For detailed information see our article: Top-Rated Hikes near St. George.
If you don’t mind driving a little farther, review our article on the top hikes in Zion National Park. This park offers some of the best hiking in America. If you’re heading in the direction of Las Vegas, see our guide to the top hikes in Valley of Fire State Park and the best hikes near Las Vegas.
How To Find Rv Campsites Without Reservations
Many campers welcome the end of first come, first served campsites at their favorite spots, while others deplore it. The upside is that new reservation systems at many parks give campers the assurance that their RV trip planning will pay off when they arrive and have a campsite.
The move can also eliminate disputes between campers competing for the same last spots. The downside of reservations-only camping is that many of the most popular campgrounds in America are now booked solid many months in advance.
Reservations are a must at Joshua Tree NP during the summer.
Camping and RVing is more popular than ever. Some would say that its a victim of its own success. The hard truth is that its impossible to get around the end of first come, first served campsites. Want to keep camping in North America? Then youve got to learn to deal with the change. Thankfully its not impossible to work your future spontaneous RV road trips into the new systems.
For instance, parks and recreation decision-makers across the country understand that not everyone wants to plan their camping trip a year in advance. The more free-spirited types can be accommodated. For example, online reservation systems usually enable prospective visitors to reserve on the same day of arrival. Most dont charge extra processing fees for last-minute bookings.
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Camping Tips For Moab Utah
September 29, 2016 by visitmoabutah
With the fabulous weather camping is predominantly sought in the desert around Moab Utah. The tricky bit is determining the location for the convenient access of specific adventures. Which adventures? Mountain biking, hiking, climbing, 4-wheeling and OHV trail riding are among those.
Which Campgrounds Have Access to Your Activity?
Sand Flats Recreation area is home to the Slickrock Bike Trail and contains the Porcupine Rim Trail. Camping is limited to 9 various locations amounting to 120 individual sites. Besides the mountain biking to be had, motorized use enjoys, Hells Revenge and the Fins and Things trails. Sand Flats is attractive for the owners of OHVs which are NOT street legal. These OHVs UTVs/ATVs/Motorcycle trail bikes can be ridden right out of camp to the trails in Sand Flats.
Similarly, Horsethief Campground off of Hwy 313 serves OHV users desiring to ride out of camp. There is a tremendous network of trails in the region north of Moab. It is best to have maps of the area to see how all the segments mesh. Nearby is Cowboy Camp, a little spot for tent camping no camp trailers allowed. From this Hwy 313 camp, mountain bikers can connect to the Navajo Rocks trail system, the Intrepid Trail system in Dead Horse Point State Park and/or the many routes in the Gemini Bridges area, like the Magnificent Seven and the newest Horsethief bike trail network.
Pipe Safe for BLM First Come, First Served Sites $15 a night