US campsites – instructions for use

National Parks USA and Campgrounds – Things practically inseparable from each other. If you want to look at the parks, it is unlikely to avoid at least a couple of overnight stays in camping.

Pleasure from the hike –
This is the triumph of imagination
Above intellect.

author unknown

Campings — These are specially reserved places where you can stay with your tent or RV (Wheel House). Yes, in the US, it is impossible to take it and put a tent in any faced place, you will have to look for camping for this (there are exceptions about them below). They are found almost everywhere throughout the states: both in the national parks themselves and outside them.

Camping are paid, free, with amenities or quite «wild». I’ll start with the easiest.

Free Campgrounds

Remember definition «National Forest». National Forest (National Forest) — This is the territory belonging to the state (not a state) and there are federative laws on it. Forests are clearly marked on all maps, plus a very noticeable sign will be installed on each entrance, saying that you drove into the forest. We must notice, «Forest» Here it may be the most natural desert with rare bushes, where the density of large trees – one square kilometer.

Theoretically, you can stay in any National Forest, in any place you like. In practice, in every forest there are some kind of nuances. For example, somewhere to spend the night may be prohibited due to the threat of fires, somewhere you can get up exclusively in specially designated places (Campsites or Campsight), somewhere just physically do not stop due to the lack of congresses and fence.

Almost always at the entrance to the National Forest, there are special information shields, in which all conditions are set out in detail. For example, if you can only stop in specially designated places, then the shield will be a map with marked places. If you can’t burn fires — This will be written too.

Find a place near the road is easy — Look for tracks of those who visited you here (traces of cars, wipetan sites). Often you can meet the fire, closed by stones. be careful — The presence of the fire still does not mean that you can burn a fire. Perhaps specifically at the moment it is prohibited due to the threat of fires (information will be at the entrance to the park), and penalties for violation can be very impressive.

Keep in mind that such places do not assume the availability of toilets and other amenities, including water sources.

However, free campsites are found and quite equipped, but they are in low-transmitted places or where they do not get to the car (only for hiking tourists).


Most campgrounds, of course, paid. They are completely different: both semi-shoes with minimal amenities and equipped with souls, laundry and even houses. You can find them in all national parks, parks of states and the same national forests. For convenience, I would share campgrounds to the following types:

  • only for tents (+ place for car), cost 10-30 $
  • for RV (at home on wheels), cost 10-80 $
  • Mixed (these most)

In all paid campsites that we visited, at least there was a table, a flat venue for a tent, equipped with a fire and toilet. Often water is at least technical, for washing hands and dishes. Sometimes there is also drinking.

In some campsites you can even take a shower. It is usually paid ($ 2-5 per person), but sometimes it is included in the cost of the campsite (there usually stands expensive outdoor). In general, if there is a desire to take a shower, and you do not plan to sit in the hotel, then you stand on the way to watch large campsites for RV, there for the same 2-8 $ you can safely put yourself in order.

Additional features are often provided for RV: connecting to electricity, water, the ability to drain all «Unclean». Often these services are paid separately, but somewhere can enter the cost of the night.

How to pay Camping

Some campgrounds can be booked in advance, and in some, you can only take place on arrival (system First-Come First-Served). The second option can be interpreted as «who first got up, that sneakers».

Mixed type campings are often found — Half places in them can be booked in advance, and the rest are intended for those who cannot plan a trip in advance.

Online payment

With the first option, everything is clear — We booked a place on the site, I immediately paid it (by a bank card, for example). We have never done so much, but I don’t think that some difficulties may arise.

However, if you make a booking by phone or email, do not forget to get a confirmation! Immediately find out all the necessary information: the rules for canceling the armor and the return of money, check about the early or later arrival, rules, etc.D. Consider money in most cases write off.

Payment by Ranger

If at the entrance there is a booth with a ranger, then everything is simple — I gave him the right amount and everything, went where to say (most likely, the ranger himself will tell you the place).

Independent payment (Iron Ranger)

Many campgrounds imply independent payment. They have a special iron box at the entrance (so this method is called «Iron Ranger», that is «Iron Ranger») designed just for payment. I tell how it happens in practice:

  • Come to the campsite, at the entrance will definitely stand shields with information. If the Ranger’s booths are not, then somewhere next to the shield will see a metal box with a slot and some inscription like «Pay here».
  • Next to the payment box will be different, with envelopes for money. You need to take an envelope and go choose a suitable place.
  • Each location will host a bar with a number. On the same column there will be a piece of paper on which the owner writes his data and stop dates (this piece of paper is broken from the envelope). If there is nothing on the clothesp — it means space free. Or, in not very popular places, an overdue paper can hang a few days in a row if they did not remove the Rangers, so check.
  • Chose the place, immediately filled the right fields on the envelope: the number of the car, its brand, its name, the number of the selected place, the date of payment and the number of days (how long). Filling will have twice — on the root and at the envelope itself. Then tear off the root and attach to the column.
  • In the envelope put the desired amount and refer to the entrance, throw in the drawer for receiving money. All your place.

I recommend always to have minor money, there may be problematic on the spot.

As a rule, Rangers come for paying very early in the morning (empty the boxes), but can also visit, check whether everything is fine in the campsite. As we noticed, in poor campsites, Rangers can not look at several days. Some use this and do not pay their place. However, I would not recommend — First, it is dishonest, secondly, the amounts are small and the savings of ten bucks do not need possible problems in case you are caught.

Where to look for campgrounds

List of campgrounds tools list:

US campsites - instructions for use
  • Booking Campgrounds Recreation.GOV
  • Official site parks National Park Service and not very official
  • Our cards and articles
    All places where we spent the night, plus a lot of other campgrounds – Everything is marked on maps posted in articles about parks and housing in them.
    Just enter «Camping» or «Campsite» + Name of the park of interest (places).
  • OSM cards
    Wonderful offline cards, which marked many different points (POI), including campgrounds. To work with these cards, you can, for example, install OSMAND program to your smartphone or even download the cards in your GPS.
  • Printed post cards
    They can be bought in place, at any refueling, or in advance to purchase, for example, on ozone. At refueling, such cards stand, if I’m not mistaken, about $ 5-10. You can buy yourself in memory.
  • Parks cards
    Issued at the entrance to any park.
  • Guidebooks
    For example, in Lonely Planet a lot of campsite information.

Our Methods of searching for campgrounds It was quite simple: if there is a paper card, smorize on it; Next, we draw with the data of OSM cards; If nothing really found (which happened extremely rarely), we are looking for the Internet and continue the searches already on other sites.

Often tourists scares that there are no places in campsites in some popular parks, so everything needs to be booked in advance. In fact, we did not meet this. If the place is popular, then there will be not one and not even two campsites, so there is a place for sure there is.

However, if you have absolutely no time to search for camping and do not need any surprises, it is better to book everything in advance. Considering that a number of parks are extremely popular among tourists, some campgrounds are fully booked for several months ahead. This must be taken into account — either boasting at all in advance or search already in place.

Going to the winter journey, keep in mind that for the winter season (November-March) many campsites are closed.

For two months of travel, we only encountered a lack of places once and was in the Zion Park (Zion), but it just had to rolled off the departure. As practice has shown, the people in the campsites actively arrives on Friday and many are leaving on Sunday.

If a miracle suddenly happened and you didn’t have enough space in that campsite, where they planned to stop, always nearby there is something else. Next to any Park somewhere at the entrance usually meet other campsites. We, for example, in Capitol Reef spent several days in one such such, and free. In addition, we were there at all the only guests.

Campfires in Camping

With the fires, everything is not like in Russia. First, you can burn them only in specially reserved places. Although, in campsites, almost always on every place is equipped with a special fireplace for this.

Secondly, you will have to buy firewood. Yes, yes, heaps of firewood can be lying around, but they cannot be assembled and burning, you can only buy. You can do it on most refills, in the stores of parks or somewhere else, the places are full. A small bunch of firewood will cost you at $ 3-6. I think it’s just enough to warm up and one for the evening.

You can often find notifications that it is undesirable to burn firewood, brought from other places, only those that grew here. Suddenly, the bug from Sequoia will move on peaches and decide to establish a colony there? Or a seed of some unwanted plant in this area will bring. As a rule, it is just a recommendation, and not a rigid requirement.

Here should notice that there are exceptions. In some free campsites, there were signs speaking that you can collect dry firewood and burn them, but without excessive enthusiasm. That is, be prudent, do not bite live trees and do not arrange fires.

I recommend in advance to please some sausages to fry them in the evening. Romance, however.

Let us remind once again — If you stopped not in the official camping, but, for example, found the place in the National Forest, at the entrance carefully examine all the leafies attached on information shields — Is there anything there that now it is impossible to breed fires?

Rules of behavior

In all campsites there is such a thing as «Quiet hour». It usually begins at 10 pm and ends at 5-6 am. At this time it is not accepted to make noise, otherwise the neighbors will call Ranger, and he will make you at.

No need to litter where you live. Do all the garbage, leave nothing. Nothing at all. After you leave, the place should look like there is no one there for a long time. If you suddenly see the garbage, which left before you, do not be lazy, remove. Maybe someone just did not notice.

In some camping, food will have to be removed into special iron boxes to protect it from theoretically possible excuses of bears. More about relationships with clips here.

If the campsite has a toilet, do not pour dirty water next to your place (for example, after washing dishes), do it in the toilet. Especially if there is water there, it will probably be a special place for washing dishes and dirty water drain — This is usually a big sink with an inscription «Grey Water».

The rest remains on your conscience. The main thing — being human.

List of campgrounds in which we spent the night

Why you need to stop in campsites, and not in hotels

First, so you will be closer to nature. The hotel will not come to visit the deer, and in the campsite it is easy.

Secondly, it is much cheaper hotels. Camping costs about $ 10-20, and hotels in parks and the nearest neighborhood is an order more expensive.

Thirdly, you sometimes just do not have the choice. In some places, the hotels can be either crowded, or terribly expensive, or may not be at all. That is, they will, but in dozens of kilometers from the place where you may want to meet the dawn.

What you need for camping

No equipment for renting equipment directly in Campsites did not see, so everything should be your own: tent, sleeping bags, rugs (under bedrooms), dishes and, preferably, burner for cooking. Everything you need for camping, Sheboldasik described in detail here.

Enjoy your holiday in nature, dear readers!

Sheboldasik and Andrews

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US campsites - instructions for use

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