Winter Wonderland: Wondering About Summer Camping Reservations

It’s not a secret. Winter is ski season in Colorado. While thousands (millions?) of people somehow descend on the ski slopes of Colorado in the winter (including my family), I am not-so-secretly thinking about camping in six months. In all the places now covered in snow and ice. You may already be aware that the number of people camping has increased dramatically nationwide in the past decade. It started with the 2008 recession and has captured the imagination (and vacation time) of Americans who once saw themselves as only hotel travelers.

As a non-camper convert, I seek peace, privacy, and picturesque views. You may think there is plenty of time to reserve the best spots at all your new camping locals, but that is a distorted view. Many state parks open 6 months in advance (in Colorado this is the case- other states have varying windows) and sites fill fast for the weekends. Federal parks are becoming more difficult. This year, we decided early that we would make a week-long event of traveling to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. All of that sounds well, but when I began to research, both were already accepting reservations in early October for June! I was behind on my reservations and, as a result, missed out on some of my coveted spots at these parks (though I think it turned out ok- we will know in June!). Of course there are walk-up sites and amazing last-minute boon-docking spots. Sites and apps are dedicated to them! But for the planners among us, the uncertainty brings too much stress.

This post is dedicated to all of the planners who are seeking the best spots, waking up early and making fast clicks online to book those spots six (or more) months in advance, and hoping it all creates a perfect weekend. It is true that I have spent hours researching camping spots. It’s a real hobby and I keep a list of those I want to try and those I have enjoyed most. While we are only weekend campers, we camped 28 nights in the summer of 2018 and they were relaxing. What made it so relaxing? Knowing that I had a spot. Knowing the schedule in advance. And knowing the cancellation policies of all the locations I love the most.

This year my vacation plans are a little different. We plan to try Harvest Host for the first time. They just added a combined golf membership option which increases the number of possible stay locations. Harvest Host allows members to stay at farms, wineries and museums across the country for FREE with their annual membership cost. The added golf membership also allows you to stay FREE at golf courses across the country. Both are available for self-contained campers only, but what an amazing deal! Tour a winery or a dairy farm. Pick berries and learn from the locals about their alpacas. It’s agritourism and camping combined. Adding golf courses to the mix means looking at manicured lawns and beauty of a different sort while camping. Golf courses are perfect for the non-camper camper.

I’m always after the view. When I arrive at a spot, my favorite thing is to look out the camper window. What can I see from here? A breathtaking sunset? An amazing lake? Quaking aspen? I want something interesting, peaceful, and fitting with the location. I don’t want parking lots, other campers, or noise. This is probably why I usually don’t stay at RV parks. I am sure people are friendly and it feels like a community, but I am only gone for the weekend. I want landscapes, trees, and trails. In the midst of winter cold, I almost forget the warmth of these things exist. And yet, I find myself searching for the best campgrounds and sites for our summer weekend getaways. The biggest problem for me is that I want to re-visit my favorites while taking time to stay at new locations (and possibly new favorites). This is the quest I will be on for the next several months- at least until April- when all the reservations for camping season are complete. I love the snow, but my heart is warmed by the thought of summer camping.