New camping options for last minute planners

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Tent camping at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Photo by © Thomas Kimmel/CPW.

The ability to make last-minute camping reservations is coming to some of Colorado’s state park campgrounds.

My dad sends me a text on Friday: Hey, let’s go camping this weekend! Want to head up to Eleven Mile State Park, go fishing, and camp on Saturday?

Yes, yes, I do. I’ll see if I can book us a campsite.
I head over to CPW’s website to book my camping spot and discover I need at least a three-day notice to make a reservation at state park campsites. It’s first-come, first-served, so I call the park to see what the weekend situation usually looks like.

“We’ve got three sites available,” the park manager tells me, “but they fill up pretty quickly and we can’t guarantee they’ll be available when you get here.”

So what should I do? Maybe I could make a reservation for a future weekend, but I probably don’t want to risk driving all the way up to Eleven Mile State Park with my camping and fishing gear only to discover there’s no room for me this Saturday. Maybe I’ll look at private campgrounds or a trip closer to home.

It’s situations like these that are behind CPW launching a “reservation-only camping” pilot program at six state parks this summer. At first glance, the name might sound more restrictive, but actually, “reservation-only” frees up campers to plan more easily by being able to book and pay for a campsite up to the last minute, whether you’re coming in from out of state in an RV or you’re a local trying to plan a weekend camping trip on a Friday. It’s also exactly how you’d book your stay at a hotel or many private industry campgrounds.

And even if you enjoy the thrill of wondering whether you’ll have a spot when you arrive tonight, you could still drive to the park and see if anything is available before you pay for your campsite, as long as no one called in and booked it before you got there. But for the rest of us, a little security about where you’ll be pitching your tent this weekend is just a phone call away.

Check for “reservation-only” sites at the following state parks:

The new “reservation-only” program launched at five state parks on July 1, 2018. Ridgway State Park will join the pilot program on September 15, 2018. For more information about the reservation-only camping program, please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

One comment

  • Every campground should have “overflow” areas. Not premier spots with pick nick tables and fire pits but a place to put a tent or park the camper, maybe no shade and right next to the road but a place to sleep none the less. . . Further we should never have to pay to camp on land that belongs to us in the first place. It’s ours.

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