California State Park Campground ReservationsWhile you may be able to find an open spot in a KOA on short notice or drive into a National Forest campground on Friday afternoon and find a place to put your tent, most campsites in California state parks must be reserved as much as 6 months in advance, especially during the busy summer camping season.
This is the tricky part. On the first day of each month at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time, the entire month six months later becomes available for you to reserve your spot. For example, on the first of January, the entire month of July can be reserved. This always happens on the first day of the month no matter what day of the week it is, except in January when it happens on the second.
To reserve a campsite at popular California State Park campgrounds, be at your computer or by your telephone a little before 8:00 a.m. on the first of the month. To reserve by telephone, call 800-444-7275 or 916-638-5883. You can also reserve online through ReserveAmerica 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also try for reservations by phone at other times, but telephone hours vary by season.
If you choose "reserve online" from any state parks web page, you'll go to the ReserveAmerica website, where you'll find an availability calendar and campsite maps. These are very helpful and you should check them out even if you're going to call for the reservation. It may be helpful to have alternate sites in your preferred campground in mind, along with one or two alternate campgrounds.
If you really want to go camping and are unsuccessful, try again several times before you plan to leave. Cancellations happen all the time. If you sign up for an account with ReserveAmerica, you can sign up for email alerts that notify you when there's a cancellation.
You can also head for one of the campgrounds that have a first-come, first-served policy. However, these are usually primitive campgrounds with pit toilets or hike-in spots.
Reservations for Other California State Park Activities
- Hearst Castle tour reservations are available 120 days in advance. Call 800-444-4445 or 916-414-8400 ext. 410. You can also reserve Hearst Castle Tours online.
- Elephant Seal Viewing at Ano Nuevo requires a guide during breeding season (December through March). Ticket sales usually start in October and you can reserve your tour by calling 800-444-4445 or 916-638-5883, or online.
- Crystal Cove Beach Cottages follow the same procedures described above for reserving a campsite.