How to Make Reservations at California State Parks

California boasts some of the most gorgeous campgrounds in the United States, and it's no surprise that they are highly popular among campers. However, making campground reservations in the state can be a daunting task, akin to standing in line for a roulette wheel. To increase your chances of securing a spot, it's crucial to plan ahead and know the tips and tricks for success in California state parks camping.

The first step in planning ahead is to know when you can make a camping reservation for your desired campground. For state and national park campgrounds in California, you can typically reserve a campsite six months in advance. To book a site in a popular campground, you need to be logged into one of the online booking systems six months from the day you want to camp.

For those looking for a quick link to the California state parks reservation system, the address is:

For the most sought-after sites, it's essential to have your ideal site chosen and ready at the precise hour the sites become available for booking. You can also call to make a booking, but the best sites may have already been booked online by the time your call gets answered. For example, if you want to book a site in April at San Elijo State Beach Campground in Cardiff, California, you need to find the campground map on Reserve California, which handles California state park bookings, on October 1, six months before you want to camp. After identifying a beachfront site, you must wait until exactly 8 a.m. PST on the booking day and click on the site to reserve it before someone else does.

If you want to book a site in May, you need to follow the same process in November of the previous year. Not all campgrounds fill up this quickly, but many do, especially if you're looking for a premium spot.

If you missed the opening to book a great campsite, another option is to use Reserve America's email alerts system to inform you when a site opens up. This system lets you select a campground and a date and sends an email if someone cancels their reservation. However, you must act fast because the site will likely book up again quickly.

National park campsites in California can be booked through Similar to California's state parks, national park sites are released for booking six months in advance. For instance, the first day you could book a site for July 1 is on January 1 of the same year. Some parks require reservations only during peak season, such as Joshua Tree, which requires reservations from September through May, the cooler months when the temperatures in this desert park are comfortable.

Some parks have first-come-first-serve campgrounds that don't require reservations. However, during peak season, especially on holidays and weekends, relying on finding a space in these campgrounds is a gamble. Therefore, it's crucial to have a contingency plan, such as dispersed camping, in case you can't secure a spot.

In conclusion, securing a campsite in California can be challenging, but with the right planning and strategy, you can increase your chances of success. By planning ahead, using email vacancy alerts, and being aware of the booking requirements and policies of each park, you can experience the beauty and wonder of California's campgrounds.