Wednesday, March 22, 2023


Do “Campground Full” signs really mean it?

Here’s a question from a reader of about boondocking. 

Hi Bob,
Are there any alternatives when road-tripping without reservations if boondocking spots are either not available or not permitted? —Alex

Hi Alex,
Boondockers don’t make reservations – because they can’t – so most of the time they do not know exactly where they will plop their heads on the pillow for the night. But for the rest of you, as you already know, traveling in summer without campground reservations is an iffy proposition. So if you are traveling without reservations and are searching for a boondocking spot and have been unsuccessful, and the campgrounds are full, there are a few other options you can learn before throwing in the towel and taking an otherwise unacceptable overnight spot you wouldn’t normally want.

When visiting national, state, forest service or other public parks that only have “first-come, first-served” campsites, don’t drive on by just because you see a “Full” sign at the park or campground entrance. Often, busy campground hosts are not particularly expeditious in updating their campground status (they are up to their ears with registering campers, answering questions, etc.) and may actually have a vacancy but they haven’t had the time to remove the “Campground Full” sign at the entrance.

Overflow overnight parking with ocean view at Salt Point State Park, CA

Also, many campgrounds have overflow parking (photo right) good for one night – which also puts you at the top of the list for the next day if you planned on staying more than one night – but they don’t usually post this information or mention it on their website or at the campground entrance.

It’s always a good move to ask the campground host (not a ranger, they often don’t know the status of the campground) before moving on. They just might have a perfectly fine parking lot to stay in (often the day use area), and even though you won’t find hookups, if you have learned boondocking skills, you have a place to stay.

Read more about boondocking at my BoondockBob’s Blog.
Check out my Kindle e-books about boondocking at Amazon.

Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) .





0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 years ago

Regarding the handicapped site at developed public campgrounds, I’ve been told by several state and national park managers that their sites can be reserved on the same day as I’ll be arriving. I did that once at a Corps of Engineers campground, then stayed for 2 weeks. Call the park manager or camp host directly–you can’t reserve it online or by phoning the reservation service.

Al & Sharon
4 years ago

We have also found that campgounds w/non-reservable campsites which fill up early in the day, they just don’t bother to take the “full” signs down in the morning, only to have to go put them back up at 11am or noon. Sometimes even earlier.

4 years ago

Also, after a certain time of day if the handicapped site has not been reserved or taken, many camp hosts can offer that site, usually for only one day at a time.

Bill T.
4 years ago

Good to know. Thanks Bob.

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.