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Helpful camping tips for year-round camping enjoyment

No matter what your destination is or whether you have a reserved or a first-come, first-served site, it is always a good idea to call ahead and check on park conditions.

For Reservation Sites - Plan ahead

Many people love California’s state parks. Due to demand, reservations for popular locations such as coastal beaches and campgrounds or cabins in the redwoods can be booked months in advance. Plan, do your research, and have alternate parks in mind in case your first choice is booked.

Reservations can be made either online or by phone:

  • Online: Reservations are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on www.ReserveCalifornia.com.
  • Phone: Customer Call Center. The center is available 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST (except New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day). The best times to call are midday and midweek, when the phone lines are less busy.

Important: With the transition to ReserveCalifornia™, the department moved from a first-of-the-month on-sale days to a new rolling window reservation service. It is similar to the booking window for facilities in the National Park Service.

Visitors will be able to reserve highly sought-after campsites and lodging six months in advance from the current date. Camping and lodging inventory will become available each day for a period of six months in advance. Bookings may extend from the arrival date to the desired departure date – based on availability and the park’s maximum stay rules. Click here for more information on the new rolling window service.

Determine where you want to camp and be flexible

Have alternate parks in mind in case your first choice is booked.

You can consult our “Visit a Park” online tool to review web pages for individual parks and search for features and locations in which you are interested.

Consider non-reservation sites

If the reservation sites are full, look for first-come, first-served campgrounds, and try to arrive on a Wednesday or Thursday to maximize your chance to get a campsite. Please call the specific park for details. 

Consider less busy days

Sometimes reservations are easier to make if you can camp mid-week.

Consider less popular camps

Southern coastal campgrounds can be full year-round. You could have better luck getting reservations at State Parks north of Santa Cruz or inland. Look for sites which are more remote and away from major metropolitan areas.

Remember the holiday crush

The closer you try to make reservations to a holiday (Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July, or Labor Day weekend), the further north and inland you may need to go.

Consider cancellations

Check periodically online for cancellations or contact our Customer Call Center at (800) 444-PARK (7275). While cancellations are rare and no waiting lists are maintained, cancellations can occur.

Consider visiting the park for a day

If the campgrounds you want to visit are booked, consider a day visit to the park for a picnic, hike or other outdoor recreation.

Consider April, May, September, and October

The "shoulder season" (April, May, September, and October) is a good time to enjoy California’s state parks. The weather during these months is usually good.