Finding camping spots in your local campground typically is easy to find. You can arrive at the parking lot and ask where are the open sites. You may need to walk a few hundred feet, yet this is nothing when you get to experience the great outdoors.
If you are dealing with your local parks, you can find this straightforward, yet the National Park Reservation System can be a tougher nut to crack.
Much of this is because there has to be a consistent language across all the National Parks, and while extensive, National parks all use the same scheduling language. For campers, it may not make things easier to find walk-up spots when they want one.
A site is not guaranteed without a reservation. AKA no-reservation camping at some state parks.
Here, a walk-up campground may be best. But what is a walk-up campsite?
There aren’t many walk-up campsites available during the summer reservation season. However, reservations are not required in the fall or spring.
First come, first serve for walk-up camping, arrive early to secure your campsite. On busy weekends, walk-up camping will sell out before lunch. (Read Best Camping In West Virginia)
In our guide, you can learn more about what does walk-up mean in camping and what does it include? By the end, you’ll be armed with information about how to make sure you get your spots on popular campgrounds, especially if you don’t have a backup plan of where to camp.
What Does Drive-Up Campsite Mean?
If there are no advance reservations, the spot will be on a first-come-first-served basis
between reservations. When you ask what does walk-up mean for camping, you’ll find first-come, first-served is what “walk-up” means.
In addition, on your camping trip, you can find some campgrounds that have tent-only areas and a shared parking space. All the sites may have a pa and a path leading to each site.
Larger trailers and RVs are welcome at this park. The motorist can arrive from one end and pull through to exit from the other in this camping style.
You’ll find similar things if you have walk-up campsites. You must arrive early to your campground early to be sure of a spot.
Here are a few more things about what is walk-up camping and how walk-up campsites work.
How Walk-Up Campsites Work
First come, first serve basis for walk-up camping. Arrive early to secure your campsite. On busy weekends, walk-up camping will sell out before lunch.
Arrive 1-2 hours before daily checkout time. Since most campgrounds check out at 11 am, arrive by 9 am to grab a spot before everyone else. (Read Best Tent Camping In Arizona)
Remember that popular weekends sell out months in advance. On busy weekends, grab the first available position because chances are limited.
Walk-Up vs. Walk-In Sites
The terms here are not just a first-come, first-serve basis; there are differences with the sites themselves. Walk-in sites are not the same as Walk-Up sites.
Some campgrounds include sites where a short walk is required from the parking lot, and the site is tent only with no vehicle access.
As the name implies, walk-in campgrounds require you to walk in, and reservations could be or not be required.
Book Reservations for Popular Parks
Most of the popular national parks have reserved sites and need booking through the National Reservation System. Most of these parks are booked months in advance during peak camping seasons. What if you can’t book a campsite?
There will always be those who do not comprehend they must make reservations. So some major parks feature a walk-up area with no reservations. Arrive early to grab a walk-up spot.
Most popular national parks offer reserved sites that must be reserved through the National Reservation System. During peak camping seasons, most of these parks are fully booked months in advance. So, what if you can’t get a campground reservation?
There will always be campers that are not aware they need to make bookings. Some popular parks include a walk-up area where visitors are not required to make reservations. However, you need to arrive early, as you should with most parks, to ensure you are first in line for a walk-up position.
Walk-Up In The Peak Season
For National Park Campgrounds, if you are lucky in peak reservation season, you could see walk-up sites available. The campground needs a couple of days to set up reservations, and as a result, they still act as a walk-up campsite until such time a booking arrives.
As a result, all unreserved spaces are converted to walk-up campsites, and sites that have no camping reservations need you to get to your chosen campground early as these walk-up sites fall under the first-come, first-served basis. (Read Fun Things To Do While Camping)
What Is It Called When You Camp In Your Car?
Car camping means you drive up to your campsite, park, and put up your tent on a specified tent pad. This is sometimes known as “base camping” beside your automobile.
You can still use a walk-up campsite with your car, yet it won’t be located near your tent. To get a site like this, you’ll have a walk-up campsite where you need to carry your gear from the car park to the campground.
Is It Rude To Walk Through Someone’s Campsite?
It can be rude for somebody to walk through your spot, and a good reason it is best to get to state parks early as most campgrounds get filled before you know it.
Here are a few tips for getting your spot in a popular park.
Keep in mind that not all campgrounds or national parks offer walk-up camping. But first, here you can learn how to go about “reserving” a walk-up campsite.
How to Reserve Walk-Up Camping Sites
As mentioned earlier, you don’t reserve a walk-up campsite in advance. It’s more of a grab what’s available on-the-spot kind of thing.
You arrive at the campground ready to camp. You’ll drive up to the kiosk and ask the park rangers if there are any walk-up camping sites available.
If there are, you need to take what’s on offer, or you wait and try a different campground. You could wait a few hours to find no spots available, so walk-ups are best to take the first spot they can.
Some campgrounds offer some sites, which are only available by walk-up reservation; you can’t book them in advance. These are called walk-up-only campsites.
And some camping areas only offer walk-up camping at certain times or in the off-season when it isn’t busy.
Meaning of Walk-Up Availability?
- Whether or not a campground or national park allows walk-up camping is referred to as walk-up availability.
- If there is no walk-up availability, it means they either don’t offer it or don’t have any at that time.
- If there is walk-up availability, it means that if you arrive early enough, you may succeed in getting a walk-up site if one is unoccupied or available.
Tips For Walk-Up Camping
While you can get a walk-up or last-minute site at any time of the week or season, there are a few factors that can improve your chances.
Here are some tips that could help:
Camp in Tents:
Because tenters demand a smaller site, they are more likely to get a walk-in site. Larger locations are in higher demand and are frequently fully booked. So go out and buy a good tent to improve your chances of landing a campsite.
Because many people reserve for the weekends, you may have a better chance of getting a site during the week. Arriving in the middle of the week is also helpful because you’ll be able to stay through the weekend after you’ve secured a walk-up site.
When you go walk up camping, you’ll probably have to accept a less-than-ideal location. Besides this, camping off-season rather than during peak season can mean getting a walk-up camping site or not.
- Camp in Spring. Sometimes walk-up sites are accessible in early spring but not in Summer.
- Camp in Fall. Sites may be available past the peak season.
Make A List:
Make a list of first-come, first-serve campsites if your desired campsite can’t offer any walk-up camping availability. (Read Tips For Camping In The Rain)
Show up Early:
Show up before the kiosk even opens so you can get a site before the rush arrives.
Although local campgrounds can offer you convenience, travel a short distance from built-up areas. When you are a few miles from a city or large center, the more likely you’ll get a walk-up site. The closer to popular camping destinations or a city, the quicker the camp site takes bookings.
Check online with the campground host to see if a campsite offers walk-up camping. Send them an email or call them if you can’t tell from their website. While you’re there, see if they have any suggestions about how to get a site on a walk-up basis with picnic tables.
Travel in Groups:
When single sites are unavailable, some group sites may be available. This could be problematic with more people involved. However, if you’ve been on camping trips, you’ve certainly observed a group site or two in National Forests that are unoccupied when the rest of the campground is crowded.
Walk-in sites may be available when all the drive-up sites are taken. So, for walk-up camping, be willing to physically walk in. Just remember you’ll need to carry your gear, so pack light camping gear.
One thing you may find you don’t get with your walk-up campsite is the same amenities. If you show up early, you may get picnic tables and get the best location if your walk-up sites offer them.
However, you may not be so lucky and get running water or flush toilets. You could find the only option you have for a walk-up campsite is dispersed camping, and a camping walk to and from the site is often the only access you will have.