Pretend it’s a Monday in midsummer. You live in or near a big city, a few hours from mountains or forests, and you want to go camping this coming weekend — a few days away. Before the pandemic, that may have been possible. But these days the outdoors and camping are having their biggest boom since humans lived in caves, and finding a last-minute campsite is about as hard as spotting wild glowing mushrooms, writes Megan Michelson for a report published by The New York Times.
“With the onset of Covid, it seems as though everyone went out and bought an R.V.,” said Greg Query, owner of a Kampgrounds of America (KOA) campground in Estes Park, Colo., on the outskirts of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Public and private campgrounds were already seeing nationwide campsite shortages before Covid-19 because of a growing interest in outdoor activities. A 2019 North American Camping Report, from KOA, found that 7.2 million households in the United States started camping in the previous five years, bringing the total number to 78.8 million, a new high.
Many of those campers headed straight to national parks: A study from the research organization Resources for the Future in 2018 found that national park campsite reservations routinely are snatched up six months in advance, and places like Zion and Yosemite National Parks are frequently at 100% capacity.
The pandemic brought an influx of people looking to get away from it all. A May 2020 study from KOA reported that one-third of recreational travelers who had never camped before were interested in camping, many of whom are expected to return this summer.
“Campgrounds across the country near popular spots are going to be heavily booked this summer,” Mr. Query said. “Luck is going to play a big factor in whether or not you get a campsite for the weekend.”
So, what to do if you get a last-minute urge to camp near, say, San Francisco? Sure, popular campgrounds at Yosemite National Park or Big Sur are entirely booked (and have been for months). But all is not lost — the outdoors is not closed.
Hipcamp — which works with mostly private landowners to rent campsites on everything from ranches to vineyards — added 6,500 campsites across the United States to its booking site this March alone, and it recently partnered with California State Parks to show real-time availability data at state-run campgrounds.
“I’m not the kind of person who books campsites six months in advance. That’s why I started Hipcamp,” said Alyssa Ravasio, founder and the chief executive of Hipcamp. “Often, we’ll have a campsite for you that just got created in the last few months. We have these incredible properties just opening up.”
Click here to read the full report by The New York Times (subscription required).