Camping in National Parks

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The downside to this method is that almost every non-reservation campgrounds also has no hook-ups.
And you won't get one if you arrive after about 10 am unless you are exceptionally lucky. It just depends on how you like to travel and spend your time and the size of your RV. Back when we were tenting I'd have agreed with this post. But if you have a very large RV, it doesn't sound like fun to me.
 
I have to say I agree with both SeilerBird and you Kirk. I don’t have near the experience that either one of you have, but I’m a patient guy and in most cases am willing to wait for an attractive spot that I would like. With that said, my wife and kids may not be as willing or as patient as I to wait for a spot to open. At least not always.
I do agree that it is unique to every family situation and circumstances.
Scott,Orlando
 
If I was still doing camping trips in my Jeep, I might give it a shot. And if I ended up without a site, I could easily pop back out to civilization and grab a hotel room and re-strategize for the following day.

With a large RV and toad, nope, it's not something you just drive around campgrounds hoping an adequately-sized spot will open up. Or chance, trying to drive around little towns trying to find an adequate place to stuff a huge rig for the night.

Size really matters for the type of adventures you wish to have.
 
You can't even drive into Yosemite now without a reservation to just even drive around the park.

We live nearby and used to go there to eat on our birthdays. Not any more.
 
@SeilerBird

Your information on the Yellowstone campgrounds is out of date Tom. From the NPS website-

Yellowstone National Park offers 12 campgrounds with over 2,000 established campsites. All campsites must be reserved in advance, with the exception of Mammoth Campground which offers first-come, first-served sites from October 15 - April 1. Most campsites are reserved far in advance, so it is recommended that you make reservations as early as you can. All dates are subject to change.

I have found it possible to get a site by calling a few days in advance.

The potential issues are size of rig and length of stay. You can often get longer stays but you might need to move site.

Even the forest campgrounds in the Tetons have a 5 day stay limit. Used to be 14.
 
with the exception of Mammoth Campground which offers first-come, first-served sites from October 15 - April 1.
I’m not absolutely sure,but aren’t all the campgrounds closed for the winter in those locations during these dates or very close to them?
Scott,Orlando
 
Tom, are you familiar with the fact that many state parks -- Rocky Mountain is one example -- now actually require reservations just to enter the park? I haven't explored how that affects campgrounds, but it's something to consider.
 
If the subject is Yellowstone campgrounds, only Mammoth is open all year. The rest shut down, some in September. And it should be noted that Tom S has been stationary for 10 years so his information is not current about camping and campgrounds.
 
UTTransplant...He edited it at 11:09am and removed all the dialogue. I don't know why.
Maybe because he realized how wrong he was?

Too bad nobody quoted the original post, which was quite long and detailed about how everybody's claims that things have changed dramatically in the last ten years and it's become impossible to get sites in national parks without reservations are "BS" (his word). He also used the word "chicken" to refer to the people who are too nervous about getting a spot to travel without reservations these days. (And as others alluded to, there was no mention of the extra difficulty experienced by people with large RVs, who can fit into only certain sites.)

I can't remember the entire post, but his advice was to get to a FCFS campground early and drive around looking at all the tags in order to find out which ones are vacating that day. But as noted, Yellowstone campgrounds (he used Yellowstone as one example) are all reservation only now. So that advice doesn't work, and even when it did, it was a bit of a PITA and still risky. Many many many campgrounds have gone to reservation only, not to mention site-specific reservation only, where it can be very difficult to string together consecutive days.

I miss the olden days when your reservation guaranteed you a site, but not a specific site, and office staff could move assigned sites around to accommodate reservations. I've encountered way too many targeted dates where the reservations are scattered all around, and I can't get four days without having to move at least once if not more, never mind trying that over a weekend. It was a lot easier when the office could move the people who were staying one night, for example, to open up a spot for someone wanting to stay four nights. Or, well, easier on US, not the staff, and it's apparently now the staff that matters.

But it's all done on computers anyway, right? They could program them to move site assignments around, just like the people in the office used to do. If somebody wants to guarantee a specific site, charge them extra, maybe a lot extra. Because these site-specific reservations are resulting in lost business from people who want to stay for several nights and don't want to have to move, and choose to stay somewhere else, when they might have been accommodated by changing the assigned site of someone who's staying just one night.

We've been fulltiming for 20 years now. Our previous m.o. was to arrive at a campground, find out what sites are available, and drive around looking at them to pick one out (size, level, trees in the way, current neighbors). We got to a COE park recently without making an online reservation because the reservation system showed lots of sites available. At the gate, the guy wouldn't let us drive around to look at them, and told us we had to make the reservation online ourselves. So we walked back to the RV and made the reservation for a random site, and then were allowed to enter.
 
We used to make reservations in one or two state parks that were not for a specific site but only for a site that you could choose once you arrived or was assigned then but I haven't run across that in quite some time. I don't remember which states were that way so in might be that some still are. Having been a campground volunteer host, I can see advantages to both reservation systems. When reservations are site specific, that means that a person who wants to stay a week might have to move 2 or 3 times in order to do that while non-specific would keep that from happening but the weekend users would be unhappy.
 
When reservations are site specific, that means that a person who wants to stay a week might have to move 2 or 3 times in order to do that while non-specific would keep that from happening but the weekend users would be unhappy.
Why would the weekend users be unhappy?
 
Why would the weekend users be unhappy?
Because they can't reserve their favorite sites and just get whatever is left when they arrive. Most parks that are near large cities will have all of the sites near the water or with a good view booked for pretty much all summer. The tourist will then have to take a less attractive site and then move when the weekend is over to be in one of those sites.
 
Because they can't reserve their favorite sites and just get whatever is left when they arrive.
But isn't this a relatively recent phenomenon? In my mind, site-specific reservations started with the advent of online reservations. But as I said, I almost never made reservations at all in the olden days, so maybe I'm wrong. But I don't remember being offered a specific site on the occasions I would call for a reservation.
 

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