Campsite scalping


Well-known member
As currently implemented, the reservation system is flawed. It seems kinda silly to be charged a "reservation fee" when you have to pay the site fee up front,
I do some camping in Utah state parks, Bear Lake to visit my sailboat. I hate the reservation fee, when I can even get a spot. To add insult to injury, when a spot opens up just for the day... I also have to pay a reservation fee, cash in hand, day of the transaction, spot is open, I am not reserving it I am paying my money and taking the camping spot. It is no longer a reservation fee it is an upcharge or added profit to the true cost of a campsite.

I remember the day when camping spots were plentiful and I was outraged I was expected to pay $5 for a campsite in "my" national forest.


I've actually camped Bear Lake, many many years ago when you could get in without a reservation. I understand that there are people that for one reason or another want to have a guaranteed site when they go out, and when you have kids with you, it's important and can be good to go to a place where there are other kids. I appreciate people that populate these camps, because many of them apparently would be lost in the woods, so to speak. But for me, and I'm sure there are others like me, I put my research into the areas I'm going to visit. I look at Forest Roads and dispersed camping opportunities, sometimes 20 - 30 miles or more off my track - heck I might even adjust my route for a decent site opportunity.

FS campgrounds don't really offer much that I am interested in and here are a few reasons why...

1. Many years ago, road-tripping to visit my parents in Mission Viejo, we drove the Accord through the San Jacinto mountains. We arrived at a planned stop at a NF campground around Mountain Center around midnight. The place was packed, the gate was deserted. I drove in, found a corner to pop a tent and we settled in for the night - this was only for a quick nap before we hit the road again. Right about dawn I awoke to the sounds of chopping wood, and the sound of a child riding a big wheel down a short hill on the paved access road. Man, that sound just echoed around this little valley and sounded like it was right outside my tent. It really put me in a bad mood.

2. Again, many years ago, road-tripping with my kids, we decided to camp in a cg outside of Greer, AZ. This was so we could get a real shower after days of dispersed camping. We got a great spot right next to a guy with a 400 foot fifth-wheel and a 900 inch big-screen TV inside. There was no electric hookup, so to power that huge TV, he fired up his contractor generator, about 50' from me. This time, I was in a truck camper, and even with the doors and windows closed, our teeth rattled from the sound of that generator.

3. Camping in GCNP - again a road-trip with kids, around 9 pm someones dog started barking and would not stop. After about a half hour of constant loud barking, other campers started yelling and honking horns. Eventually the dog stopped.

4. - Bonus reason - cruising into YNP on a family road trip as we passed Jackson lake, apparently someone spotted a lone moose munching out in the lake. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere about 50 vehicles appear, stopping suddenly, making u-turns and trying to park on a two-track road with zero shoulder and I'm driving a big class-c rv. Thought I was in a demo derby for a few minutes there. All for a lone moose.

I could keep going with bad cg experiences but I'll stop now.

I'm not trying to dis people that camp campgrounds and I get that sometimes you have no choice, or this is the best choice. I've been there. I still say, however, that the reservation system is so cumbersome to use that it's hardly worth it. I have difficulty planning where I'm going to be when, especially when I am road-tripping, and for me to be able to say that I will be at this campsite on this day at this time is near impossible. I have looked for reservations and every time I do, openings are 3-6 months out and I am not about to sit in front of my computer battling to get a space 6 months from now where I have no clue where I might be, for a space that I really don't want to camp. I would be fine camping outside of a National park and driving in to see what I want but it appears that practically everyone else wants to do the same thing, while camping in the park.

I don't have any solutions, but I do like the 50-50 approach and I do like verifying a reservation with a license plate number. And if you are not in your spot by midnight of the first day, it opens up to FCFS, too bad, so sad. Having read through my post, I'm actually starting to feel sorry for families with kids that have to camp campgrounds.


Expedition Leader

The reason as a family that we camp campgrounds and typically avoid them between July 2nd - August 20th is due to the lack of flexibility in our schedule. The only way we can “go camping is having a reserved spot to land” Yellowstone trip before July 2nd / before covid was amazing. Not crowed, no idiot mid road traffic jambs, no shoving on board walks etc. July 2nd the super busses and the OMG I lost my mind theres an animal I’m stopping in the middle of the road and going to chase it types all come out of the woodwork.

As for the rude camper experiences they have always been at state campgrounds. Always!! So typically we stick to National campgrounds and Private campgrounds in most cases.

I grew up doing big back country stuff not really car camping. Even doing that today is challenging due to permitting process.

There are just way more people and we haven’t built more parks and trails. With more people we have more idiots too which is a bummer.