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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Book now for high-demand campsites in California this winter

Are you enjoying the summer RV season? Let’s hope you’re chilling out at your favorite lakes, mountains or beaches, soaking in everything that makes the PNW such a wonderful place this time of year. Congrats and well done! While you’re enjoying the sunshine, we hope you’re also keeping an eye on the calendar for winter. Why? Because if you’re planning to go to California in the winter months, you need to be booking those reservations right now. The most popular state parks in California are competitive, to say the least. And the highest-demand national parks and national forest campgrounds are difficult to book too. All of these sites have a six-month booking window, meaning that if you’re trying to book a campsite at say, Death Valley National Park during the month of February, you’ll need to be prepared to book your site right now. We know the dance quite well. We’re planning a busy month of December in California, which meant booking our sites back in June. One of our favorite campgrounds is Half Moon Bay State Beach near San Francisco. We’ve stayed there several times, but the powered sites are nearly impossible to get. Our plan is to stay at Half Moon Bay in early December, so back in early June, we booked the site we wanted on reservecalifornia.gov. Later on that same trip, we’re booked on the Big Sur coast in the high-demand Kirk Creek Campground, a rustic spot with incredible views. Getting that reservation involved being ready to commit at 7 a.m. in mid-June at recreation.gov for a mid-December spot. If the thought of hanging out in the winter sunshine in California sounds good to you, start planning now. Powered sites are most in demand, so do a little research and book as soon as they become available. What about other state parks for winter visits? In Washington, Oregon and Arizona, the booking windows are all over the map, so to speak. ● Washington’s state parks book up to nine months in advance. Go to washington.goingtocamp.com. ● Oregon’s state parks book up to six months in advance. Go to oregonstateparks.reserveamerica.com. ● Arizona now books up to one year in advance. The state has a new reservation system, and for some of the most popular parks you need to be looking ahead -- way ahead. For example, the super-popular Catalina State Park near Tucson is mostly booked in January and February. Go to azstateparks.com. If you’re shut out, you have a couple of options. Most popular locations along the coast or in the desert have commercial campgrounds. For instance, we’re planning to stay in November at Pomo RV Park and Campground in Fort Bragg, Calif., a beautiful commercial campground that we’ve enjoyed before. And if you’re flexible, you might be able to pick up a cancellation at a state park. Most state parks have a “Notify Me” option if another camper cancels a reservation. We used this feature last year at Half Moon Bay and were able to pick up a site for two nights on the fly. Score! We’ve also had luck getting cancellations just by showing up. Last February, we drove to the fully booked Furnace Creek Campground in Death Valley without a reservation. Another camper rolled out early, leaving a site available for two days. Another score! Here’s one last bit of advice as you book your next big winter RV trip. Check out campsitephotos.com for detailed views of most campsites at state and national parks, where you can get a better idea of what you’re booking.

Leslie Kelly
Leslie Kelly is a freelance writer.