California State Parks Is Overhauling Its Camping Reservation System

    The changes will eliminate a frustrating loophole

Anyone who’s tried to book a campsite online or, bless their hearts, arrive optimistically sans-reservation with hopes to snatch a first-come, first-served spot, knows how difficult it can be to spend the night in America’s outdoors. Now, California State Parks is out to make booking campsites easier, following major complaints about their previous system.

CA State Parks had previously been using reserveamerica.com, which manages campgrounds in many other states as well. Reserve America releases campsites for booking six months in advance, at 8 a.m. on the first day of each month. Then, last August, the State Parks Department created its own new campsite booking system, under the name reservecalifornia.com, seemingly an upgrade from the former system.

The new site uses a rolling window reservation service, allowing people to book six months in advance, to the current day. Unlike the former system, which opened reservations on May 1 for the whole month of November, for instance, reservecalifornia.com allows users to make a reservation on May 1 for November 1, on May 2 for November 2, and so on. The problem, the state found, was that once customers reserved, they were able to extend and modify their existing reservations multiple times, monopolizing campsites and altogether taking advantage of the system.

Following many user complaints about this loophole, the State Parks Department took action. Under their new online reservation system, which will go into effect this winter, campers are permitted only two modifications to existing reservations, which will free up booking opportunities for other customers. CA State Parks will also eventually ban third-party booking services, like First Choice Reservations, which charge a fee to book your campsite for you.

As always, mark your calendar for six months prior to your desired camping date and get ready to book your outdoor adventure!