How to Plan Your First Camping Trip

“My advice for a first-time camper is take small steps,” said Alyssa Ravasio, the founder and chief executive of Hipcamp, which lists campsites on private land such as farms and ranches. “Try a night or two. Go somewhere closer to home. And make sure the amenities that are important to you, such as a bathroom or shower, are there.”

Like hotels, many campsites can be booked online. Reserve your spot in advance, especially in peak seasons. At New Hampshire State Parks, for example, reservations open 30 days in advance with just a few campsites held back for day-of arrivals.

The federal website Recreation.gov offers campsite reservations across many government agencies, including the National Park Service.

If you aim to camp at a popular national park, plan well in advance and get familiar with its booking rules, which are not standardized, by searching park websites or Recreation.gov. Campsites at Upper Pines Campground in Yosemite National Park in California, for example, are available five months in advance. In contrast, sites at South Campground in Zion National Park in Utah are bookable up to 14 days before arrival.

If national park sites are booked, look for nearby state parks or alternative campgrounds. Hipcamp offers maps showing public lands, including national parks, and many places to camp around them.

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