Trail Mavens Guide | Scoring NorCal's Most Coveted Campsites
Booking campsites in Northern California is a little like finding a brand-new pair of hiking boots in your size at REI's monthly garage sale: three parts timing, one part luck. We can't help with the luck part, other than encouraging you to send lots of good karma out into the world and follow Leave No Trace principles, but we can help with the timing. Here's how to land campsites at some of Northern California's most sought-after campsites: Angel Island, Steep Ravine, Julia Pfeiffer Burns, Yosemite, Kirby Cove, and Wildcat Camp in Point Reyes.
angel island, steep ravine, and julia pfeiffer burns
Reservation Window: As with most - but not all - California State Parks, reservations for these campgrounds are released in one-month blocks at 8am on the first of each month seven months in advance. (Ex.: for arrival dates July 1-31, reservations open on January 1. For arrival dates August 1-31, reservations open on February 1.)
Pro Tips: Be logged in to your reserveamerica.com account at 7:55am, and have your campground, campsite, and desired dates already loaded. Ideally, you hit 'refresh' on your computer at 7:59:59am, and click to select your spot at exactly 8am. We usually have time.gov loaded in a separate window to keep us on track.
Have a backup campsite already selected. There's a good chance someone else is just as prepared as you, and may have clicked a millisecond before you did. If you get a message saying your campsite is already booked, try your backup site immediately.
Unless you're taking a few days off, it can be tough to book summer campsites on the first weekend of each month. Why? Let's say you wanted to book a campsite for one night, on Saturday, August 1. You'd be able to reserve your spot on February 1. However, campers staying for the whole weekend, arriving on Friday, July 31, would have been able to book their spots on January 1, because their 'arrival date' fell in July.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Reservation Window: Reservations are available in blocks of one month at a time, up to five months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7 am Pacific time. (Ex.: for arrival dates July 15 - August 14, reservations open on March 15. For arrival dates August 15 - September 15, reservations open on April 15.)
Pro Tips: See above. You need to be logged in and ready to click at exactly 7am, with a backup campsite already in mind in case yours doesn't work out.
WILDCAT CAMP | POINT REYES
Reservation Window: Reservations may be made up to six months in advance at 7am Pacific Time. (Ex.: for a July 1 arrival, reservations must be made on January 1. For a July 2 arrival, reservations must be made on January 2.)
Pro Tips: Nothin' special. Just make sure you're on time.
Alternatives: Join our Wildcat Camp adventure June 13-14, and prepare yourself to be blown away by Point Reyes' scenery.
Reservation Window: Reservations may be made up to three months in advance. (Ex.: for a July 1 arrival, reservations must be made on April 1. For a July 2 arrival, reservations must be made on April 2.) Campers may stay for up to three nights per season.
Pro Tip: Scoring a one-night campsite on a coveted Saturday is almost impossible, since other campers have likely booked Friday and Saturday nights three months in advance. We've even heard of some wily campers booking three nights, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday just to make sure they got that Saturday spot! Note that if you book for three nights, you will actually have to show up on Thursday, or your reservation will be canceled.
Didn't get any of these campsites? No worries. Head over to Hipcamp.com, an excellent resource for all campsites, particularly last-minute and first-come, first-served spots.