How to Go Camping at a National Park this Fall
Nothing beats camping under the stars in a National Park. But packing the car with camping gear, mask, and sanitizer, aren’t the only things to consider before staking your tent and unrolling your sleeping bag in a national park this year.
While hundreds of park campsites and backcountry areas have officially reopened following COVID-19 closures, staking your tent isn’t just a matter of showing up. As parks reopen to travelers, rangers are taking extra precautions to ensure campers can comfortably social distance while there. Most campgrounds are operating at lower capacity than usual this year to cap crowds. And if you were thinking of group camping, think again—most group camps remain closed.
To manage capacity, many campsites (and even some parks in general) now require advance reservations to guarantee your place. While some parks have their own booking sites, most campgrounds and park activities can be booked ahead via Recreation.gov. Be sure to bring both a paper and digital copy of your reservation with you this year—many parks aren’t accepting paper copies to reduce person-to-person contact. Some parks have also instituted new self-registration processes to further facilitate a contactless experience for everyone.
To help you plan your trip, we’ve summarized every park’s campground and backcountry country status, by state, including what’s open and how to book (or not). Wherever you go, be sure to check individual park websites for the most up-to-date park opening information, as park, trail, and campground access can change from day to day. Happy camping!
- Denali National Park: All campgrounds are open. Reserve ahead here.
- Gates of the Arctic National Park: There are no designated campsites in the park.
- Glacier Bay National Park: Backcountry and campground are open. No in-person registration is available and paper registration forms won’t be accepted. Pre-register, see what’s open, and submit applications, here.
- Katmai National Park: Camping will not reopen in 2020.
- Kenai Fjords National Park: Exit Glacier Campground remains closed.
- Kobuk Valley National Park: Backcountry camping, the only kind in the park, is closed for the season.
- Lake Clark National Park: The Hope Creek campsite at the Richard Proenneke cabin site is open. The cabin itself is closed all summer.
- Wrangell-St. Elias National Park: Kendesnii Campground is open. Camping is available within the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark. Caribou Creek, Viking Lodge and Nugget Creek cabins can be reserved by emailing email@example.com. The Esker Stream cabin can be reserved by calling 907-784-3295.
- Grand Canyon National Park: Mather Campground is open for existing reservations only. Group sites aren’t available. Trailer Village RV Park is open and accepting reservations. The North Rim Campground remains closed.
- Petrified Forest National Park: Camping and backcountry camping are still closed this season.
- Saguaro National Park: Wilderness camping is open, by permit.
- Hot Springs National Park: Gulpha Gorge Campground is open on a first-come, first-served basis. No cash payments are accepted.
- Channel Islands National Park: Most campsites are open. Beach camping on Santa Rosa Island is expected to resume August 15th.
- Death Valley National Park: Furnace Creek, Emigrant, Mesquite Spring, Saline, Eureka, Homestake, Wildrose, Thorndike, and Mahogany campgrounds are open. Dispersed camping is also available where permitted.
- Joshua Tree National Park: Individual, family campsites are open. Group campsites are closed. Jumbo Rocks Campground is closed due to aggressive bees in the area. All campsites will be first-come, first-served until September 4.
- Lassen Volcanic National Park: Most campsites can be reserved this summer, versus being first-come, first-served. Demand is above-normal due to site closures in the surrounding Lassen National Forest. Reserve ahead for Manzanita Lake Loop B and D (tents only); Summit Lake North Loop A; and Summit Lake South Loop E (tents only). First-come, first-served sites remain available at Southwest Walk-in (all sites); Butte Lake (Loop A); Warner Valley (all sites); and Juniper Lake Campgrounds (all sites except Group).
- Pinnacles National Park: Campground is open by reservation only. No walk-ups are accepted. You must have a copy of the reservation, either on paper or on a mobile device, to show the ranger on duty at the entrance. Park entrances are allowed only between 7:30am and 8pm.
- Redwood National and State Parks: All campgrounds are open, by reservation only, through ReserveCalifornia.com or by phone at 1/800-444-7275.
- Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks: Potwisha, Lodgepole, and Sunset campgrounds have reopened by reservation only.
- Yosemite National Park, CA: Upper Pines and Wawona Horse campgrounds are open for the 2020 summer season. Capacity is limited and reservations are required.
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: North Rim, East Portal, and South Rim campgrounds are all open. Reservations recommended for South Rim.
- Great Sand Dunes National Park: Pinon Flats Campground Loop 1 and Loop 2; established campsites on Medano Pass Primitive Road; and backcountry access to the dune field and sites along the Sand Ramp Trail are all open for use. Online reservations required, especially for Pinon Flats. You can make same-day reservations. Only online payments will be accepted.
- Mesa Verde National Park: Morefield Campground is open and masks are required in public areas. Reserve ahead, here.
- Rocky Mountain National Park: Anyone who intends to visit through August 31 must have a timed-entry ticket or campsite reservation as well as a park entrance pass. Glacier Basin and Moraine Park campgrounds are open, with advance reservations required. The reopening of Aspenglen, Longs Peak, and Timber Creek campgrounds remains on hold.
- Biscayne National Park: Elliott Key and Boca Chita Key campgrounds are closed, as both keys have restricted access to day-use only this summer.
- Dry Tortugas National Park: Garden Key Campground has reopened. Reservations aren’t required for 6-person sites. All campers, once they arrive, will be guaranteed a place to camp.
- Everglades National Park: Wilderness (backcountry) campsites are open. Self-registration permits are available outside the Flamingo and Gulf Coast visitor centers.
- Haleakalā National Park: Campgrounds are closed.
- Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii: Backcountry camping at ‘Āpua Point, Ka’aha, Keauhou, Halapē, Red Hill Cabin, and Mauna Loa Cabin is allowed, with permit. Kulanaokuaiki Campground has reopened for overnight camping; self-register at the campground self-registration station.
- Indiana Dunes National Park, ID: Dunewood Campground is open. Reserve here.
- Mammoth Cave National Park: Mammoth Cave, Maple Springs Group, and Houchin Campground are open. Camping requires a permit. Most sites are available by reservation.
- Acadia National Park: Campgrounds won’t reopen this season.
- Isle Royale National Park: Campgrounds are open, with exception of North Lake Desor Campground. Backpackers must obtain an overnight permit when they arrive on-island, at Rock Harbor or Windigo.
- Voyageurs National Park: All campsites are accessible by boat only. Camel Back Campsite, Happy Landing Campsite, and Marion Bay House Boat Site are all closed for the season. Canoe camping reservations must be made at least four days in advance.
- Glacier National Park: The Fish Creek Campground is open, by reservation. Other park campgrounds will remain closed this summer.
- Yellowstone National Park: Four campgrounds—Bridge Bay, Canyon, Madison, and Grant Village—have reopened this summer. They regularly fill up before 8am MT. Reserve ahead.
- Great Basin National Park: Most campgrounds are open, with the exception of Strawberry Creek and Wheeler Peak, which is closed for 2020 season. Most park camping is on a first-come, first-served basis. Advance reservations can be made for Grey Cliffs, with two-night minimum stay required.
- Carlsbad Cavern National Park: No camping or backcountry facilities on site.
- White Sands National Park: No camping or backcountry facilities on site.
North Carolina / Tennessee
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Cades Cove, Deep Creek, Elkmont, and Smokemont campgrounds are open. All other campgrounds remain closed, including horse camps. Reserve ahead, here.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park: Campgrounds are closed in response to federal and local orders.
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park: No longer offers camping within the park.
- Crater Lake National Park: This summer, all sites at Mazama Campground can be reserved in advance. (Normally, 25% are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but that’s not the case this year.) Call 866-292-6720 or book your spot online. Showers and laundry services won’t be available for public-health reasons. Lost Creek Campground will not reopen this summer.
- Badlands National Park: North Unit Campground is open, with reservations recommended.
- Wind Cave National Park: Loops A, Bm and D in the Elk Mountain Campground are open. Reservations recommended.
- Congaree National Park: Backcountry camping is available, with permit. To request a free permit, contact the park via this form at least 48 hours before intended arrival.
- Big Bend National Park: Closed, with no projected reopening date.
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park: Campsites are closed and not taking reservations.
- Arches National Park: Devils Garden Campground is open, with extremely limited availability. Book ahead.
- Bryce Canyon National Park: Sunset Campground open by reservation only. Book your spot here.
- Canyonlands National Park: Island in the Sky and The Needles campgrounds are open, with extremely limited availability. Book head.
- Capitol Reef National Park: Fruita Campground, including the Group Site, are open, with reservations.
- Zion National Park: The Watchman Campground is open by reservation only. South and Lava Point campgrounds remain closed.
- Shenandoah National Park: Campgrounds are open and operating at full capacity. The backcountry, including shelters and huts, is open for overnight camping. Additional sites have been made available for reservation. Lewis Mountain remains first-come, first-served only.
- North Cascades National Park: Gorge Lake and Hozomeen campgrounds are open for reservation. Backcountry is open to pre-existing reservations only. Group campsites in Goodell, Colonial, and Newhalem are closed for the season.
- Olympic National Park: Campgrounds and backcountry are open and can be reserved here. Coastal wilderness camping is allowed, with the exception of Second Beach and Shi Shi Beach, which remain closed.
- Mount Rainier National Park: Campgrounds are open to campers with pre-existing reservations; some remain closed for seasonal tree clearance.
- Grand Teton National Park: All campgrounds and some cabins are open. Most camps are first-come, first-served, and are regularly full by early morning.