How to reserve a campsite at California State Parks

California State Parks campsites can be booked 6-months in advance. Use these tips to help secure your campsite at a popular campground.

On August 1st 2017 the California State Parks launched a new booking system, replacing the old ReserveAmerica system.  It is available at

When you can book

The new system is a rolling six-month window.  That is, on any given day you can book a campsite with the first night beginning on any day up to 6-months in advance.  This is important to understand for popular campgrounds.

Lets use an example:

On Friday November 3rd 2017 I can book a campsite where my first day is any day up-to and including Thursday May 3rd 2018 (6 months ahead).  So, if you want to book a 3 night stay you can do so, starting on that day, Thursday May 3rd 2018.

If you want to book a stay starting on Friday May 4th 2018, you will have to wait until Saturday November 4th 2017.  Note that the day does NOT roll-over at midnight instead it happens at exactly 8am.

You may want to consider booking an extra night, the day before you wish to stay, in order to secure your preferred site at popular campgrounds.  Again, with the above example, if you wish to stay for 2 nights starting Friday May 4th 2018, you might book the Thursday night too, which allows you to secure the weekend a day earlier.  Of course, it’ll cost you extra and if you cannot stay Thursday night you will need to call ahead to indicate you are arriving late.

So in summary Yiu can book your campsite with the first night stay starting on a day up to 6 months in advance, with each new day becoming available after 8am Pacific Time.

Preparation Strategies

The campground maps on ReserveCalifornia are pretty poor so are not a good way to choose a campsite.  However, there are much better campground maps on the California State Parks website.

For example, to find a better map for South Carlsbad State Beach campground:

  1. Visit
  2. Search “South Carlsbad State Beach”
  3. Click on the appropriate search result
  4. Click Brochures
  5. Click Campground Map

You can also review photos of campsites, useful to see what kind of trees, shade, structures or views a site might have:

  1. Visit
  2. Search “South Carlsbad State Beach”
  3. Click on the appropriate search result
  4. Hover your mouse over each picture to see which campsite number it is for
  5. Click to see an enlarged view and navigate between

Note down the numbers of some campgrounds you are interested in booking.

You should also create an account and sign-in on in advance of booking.

Booking the Campground

  1. Visit
  2. Search for the state park or campground you wish to book, specifying the start date and number of nights – you can change these later
  3. Select the appropriate campground
  4. If required, select the sub-section of the campground based on the site numbers you are interested in
  5. Find the site number, assuming it is “green” (not booked), click on the first night you wish to stay
  6. Click Reserve.  You will be prompted to log in.

Note that you cannot book multiple sites at once, you will have to book them one-by-one.  If you are trying to book more than one adjacent site, I suggest you pick a site with space on either side so you have two choices when booking the second.

Tips on how to get a site

Because you can book up to 14 nights starting on the date 6-months from “now” I strongly believe people book “phantom” nights ahead of the dates they want.  Here’s an example:

Say you want to stay on July 1st for 3 nights.  The ability to book an arrival night of July 1st starts 6-months in advance.  For sake of argument say that is January 1st.  On January 1st you can book an arrival of July 1st for 3 nights.

However, when you search, you find there are no campsites available arriving July 1st.  What happened?

People have booked for longer stretches, arriving before July 1st and staying through July 1st.

So here’s a strategy:

  • Decide how many “phantom” nights you’re willing to pay for.  These are nights that you will not arrive on or stay, so it is simply wasted money.  In this example, lets say the answer is 3.
  • So rather than waiting for 6-months before your July 1st arrival date, starting book _3 days_ earlier than that.
  • In this example, December 29th for booking say June 28th.
  • On December 29th you can book an arrival of June 28th and up to 14 more days, so at least through July 3rd.

It sucks – you’re booking nights you have no plan to stay at.  You’re paying for 6 when you only want to stay for 3.  And you will have to call the State Park every day that you don’t show up to avoid them cancelling.

But this is how people do it.