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Old 05-02-2016, 01:53 PM   #1
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Making Reservations Way In Advance

We're planning a year long trip but don't plan to start until next year about this time. We want to circumnavigate the U.S. and stop at most of the major National Parks. But not knowing at this point exactly when we will be leaving to start, and when we will arrive in the areas for the major parks, should we NOW be making reservations? If not now, how far in advance and what are the odds of getting a spot in the large National Parks if we make the reservations just a few months in advance. Appreciate any input from those with experience. Chuck
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Old 05-02-2016, 03:17 PM   #2
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For Yellowstone NP, Fishing Bridge is the only full hook up campground. You can reserve well in advance of a visit, full refund if you cancel +30 days ahead of reservation date. Most of the other campgrounds in YNP are first come, first camp. I've had luck in the busiest summer months by arriving at the campground early (9:00 am or earlier) and picking a site when it vacates.

Private campgrounds have different restrictions, just check policy before giving a deposit. State, County, and other National Parks may also have different policies, check online or by phone. You've got lots of time to plan your trip.

I'm one that doesn't like vacationing on a tight schedule, I prefer to take my chances. We often don't pick a place to stay for the night until on the road from the last campsite. Never failed to find a spot for the night, but we're pretty flexible and enjoy different experiences.
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Old 05-02-2016, 03:26 PM   #3
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If not now, how far in advance and what are the odds of getting a spot in the large National Parks if we make the reservations just a few months in advance. Appreciate any input from those with experience. Chuck
Poor

You should consider traveling off the high season.
It has a lot of benefits:
you are less stressed
parks less crowed
restaurants are less crowded
roads less crowded
save a little money
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Old 05-02-2016, 04:07 PM   #4
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Reservations are not necessary, especially far in advance. With our 40' motorhome we've stayed in many national parks without reservations including Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier and many others. There are campsites that don't even accept reservations. Sometimes we'd even pull up to a reservation campground early in the morning and secure a spot because of cancellations.

Also, if you're not particular about staying in a 'resort-type' place and a forest service campground would do, you have options. There are plenty of campgrounds outside the big parks.

I understand some folks can't travel like this but we could never travel with a bunch of reservations looming ahead of us. If you have the time for a big trip like you have planned you'll want to explore rather than being in a rush to beat your next reservation.

We would have never traveled constantly in our 16 years of full-timing if we had to make reservations.

We even traveled to Alaska winging it.

I will say that our method is a lot easier in the western states rather than the eastern.
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Old 05-04-2016, 05:25 PM   #5
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I am like you, I like having nearly everything set up with reservations as far in advance as possible. I will tell you, most places are 6 months in advance, few are 8 and I have seen some with a 4 month in advance wait. I personally haven't seen any place go farther than that. For short trips or if I were retired and didn't need to worry about time, you could try and show up places. Not all, myself included, can chance going out of state to try and get a spot. While I travel, I setup specific places that I want to stay and make reservations, but I will stay at casinos/walmart if needed along the way to save money.
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Old 05-04-2016, 09:52 PM   #6
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If you can be flexible with dates, you should be OK on short notice. We got in to Madison CG in Yellowstone with about 4 days lead time. Acadia in Maine is tougher, but a month or less can get you a spot, albeit not on a weekend... Denali NP at Riley Creek with about a week's notice. I'd NEVER try to schedule a year out - just too many variables as you travel - who wants to be locked in???!!! ST
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Old 05-04-2016, 10:01 PM   #7
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Denali NP at Riley Creek with about a week's notice.
LOL We reserved 5 nights in Denali's Teklanika campground (there you have to because there's no driving in and out the same day) for our 40' motorhome and only did that a few weeks prior. However, we got into the area earlier so on a whim we boondocked near Denali the previous night and drove in first thing in the morning. We easily secured an additional 5 nights in Riley Creek campground!

We spent 10 very full days in Denali and saw every big animal living there more than once. We saw the mountain in full glory 7 of 10 days.

Thanks for bringing back good memories.
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Old 05-05-2016, 06:57 AM   #8
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The only problem finding a place on short notice would probably be holiday weekends. We usually just hunker down til it's over. The northeast can be a problem in summer just because of the population. We always had good luck staying a little further out ,and day tripping in the towed no matter where we were, east or west.
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Old 05-05-2016, 07:05 AM   #9
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Another problem with walk-in reservations is, you may get a site for 1 night, but the site is reserved for the next night. I agree with the previous poster, if you are on a limited schedule, reservations are king. If you are flexible, maybe not.
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Old 05-05-2016, 07:18 AM   #10
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If you have your heart set on Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone, then yes you should make reservations as far in advance as you can. Sometimes you can get in because of cancellations, but you can't rely on that. Then before or after YNP, be flexible and take whatever CGs you can get. It always helps to go early( we went in mid to late May) or later in the summer.
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Old 05-05-2016, 11:48 AM   #11
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I work in Custer State Park, So Dakota, near Mt. Rushmore. Our campgrounds are open from mid May to end of Oct. We allow a reservation up to 1 yr in advance. May, June, Sept and Oct you should be able to get in anytime with a reservation only a few weeks to a month in advance. July and Aug are usually full and I suggest an advance reservation at least 4/6 months in advance or you will have to rely on a cancelation to get a space. Be aware that the first week in Aug is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the last weekend in Sept is the Buffalo Roundup and most campsites in the park are full in well in advance.
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