How to Score a National Park Campsite—Even if It’s Sold Out

This handy new tool helps campers find places to pitch their tents and park their RVs in the country’s most popular national parks.

Aerial view above Zion National Park with green valley  flanked by red and orange cliffs

Staying in popular parks like Zion could be easier for last-minute travelers.

Photo by Shutterstock

Travelers looking to book campsites in sought-after U.S. national parks like Yellowstone, Zion, Glacier, and Yosemite may be in for a challenge—many dates throughout the summer, especially around holidays and weekends, are already sold out.

However, Harvest Hosts, a private RV camping network in North America, might have the solution.

The company recently debuted a new CampScanner feature, a database of more than 200,000 campsites (both for tent camping and RVs) at more than 12,500 campgrounds in over 4,900 parks. With it, campers can search for vacant spots and set up alerts for sold-out campgrounds at national and state parks. When a site becomes available, users will receive a text. If they’re quick, they’ll be able to nab a booking before anyone else.

“Campsites at national and state parks can be difficult to find, especially in the summer,” says Carrie Price, director of brand marketing at Harvest Hosts. “We wanted to provide a service that helped make booking sites at popular campgrounds easier and less stressful for campers. Spontaneity is at the heart of road travel, and we wanted to help bring back the joy of last-minute travel by giving campers a platform to easily book campsites on the go.”

CampScanner works by pulling information from (the government’s centralized national parkland reservation system), (California’s reservation system), and Reserve America (a private online campground reservation company) and “scanning” for cancellations. It alerts campers when something new becomes available to book at the parks they want to visit during the dates they’re looking to travel. Right now, that includes national parks, state parks, regional parks, and national forests in the United States. (Price said CampScanner plans to add Canadian parks in the future, though no timeline has yet been given.) Previously, travelers would need to check each campsite individually until they found a spot.

CampScanner is a subscription-based service with three pricing tiers: Basecamp ($39/year), Trailhead ($49/year), and Summit ($79/year). The price increases based on the frequency of scans (as often as every five minutes) and the number of scans that can be set up under one account (as many as five campgrounds).

Bailey Berg is the associate travel news editor at AFAR, where she covers breaking news, trends, tips, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. When not interviewing sources or writing articles, she can be found exploring art galleries, visiting craft breweries, hiking with her dogs, and planning her next adventure (at present, she’s been to 75+ countries and hopes to spend time in every one someday).

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