How to snag a campsite in Arches NP even when “Campground Full”

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Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. (Julianne G. Crane)

No one needs to remind you that unless you have a reservation for some of the most popular National Parks you are unlikely to find a campsite. But Leslie and John don’t always follow the general consensus and sometimes the payoff works, reports The Spokesman-Review.

John says:

It didn’t look good.

The signs at Arches National Park said, “Campground Full” at the very popular Devils Garden Campground. After all, the campground is one of the most popular in the entire national park system. Many of the 51 sites are booked six months in advance.

We did what most people do when they come to Arches without a reservation. We camped for our first night along the Colorado River in one of the many BLM campgrounds on State Route 128, then traveled into this popular park near Moab, Utah, the next day.

We got to the Devils Garden the next morning bright and early to do a hike. As we passed the campground, I decided to walk in and see what it looked like. Sure enough, it was jaw-droppingly beautiful set amid gorgeous rock formations.

I was just about to turn around when I ran into two campground hosts doing their morning rounds. “Any chance people have dropped out or canceled?” I asked. The hosts smiled and said, “Yeah, we have a site for you.” It turns out someone had just pulled out, relinquishing their final night.

John Nelson

And that’s how you score a site in Arches without a reservation – you get there early and you ask nicely.

Our day and night at Arches were memorable. We did a hike at Devils Garden to Landscape Arch, then spent the day hanging out amid the beauty of Arches. At night, we had a big campfire and cooked dinner over the flames. It was everything you could possibly want in a national park experience.

We got lucky and learned a lesson in the process: Don’t give up, and don’t always believe “Campground Full” signs.

 

##RVDT1471

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Irv
2 months ago

Many government campgrounds are only half full although they say no vacancy. It’s due to stupid park policy. 

If you don’t show up or call before checkout time the day after your first reserved night, your reservation should be forfeited and the site given to someone else.

This doesn’t require any contact with the reservation site–just a policy change.

Judy S
2 months ago

We got a site in Yellowstone in late Sept by driving through a park marked as full. There was one open spot, too small for anything larger than our van.

Gene Bjerke
2 months ago

We have scored more than one campsite while sitting next to a “Campground Full” sign.

Donald N Wright
2 months ago

Camping at the Badlands National Park was interesting. The nearby group campground was empty as there were no groups. The campground overflow could not camp there either. Several sites in the campground were closed due to flooding. However, if you returned after the Ranger had clocked out for the night, you could quietly drive over to a closed site for the night.

Bill
2 months ago

I’ll never forget the last time I visited Arches. I had stayed there decades earlier and campground was mostly empty. This time, we were driving through and thought it would be a good place to spend the night. We pulled up to the front gate and a park service employee holding their clipboard and all the feigned politeness of a cop and asked “Do you have a reservation—Sir?”  I replied “No we are just hoping to spend the night with you.” “Sir—We are completely filled up every night for the rest of the year.”

Dan
2 months ago

The ad for PETA is tasteless. If I see it again, I’m done here. Films of animal abuse have no place anywhere. You should have some control over your ad content.

Glenn
2 months ago
Reply to  Dan

No PETA ad on my page view. They have no control on ad placement. Many times ads are based on your browsing history.

Sharon Boehmer
2 months ago
Reply to  Glenn

Agreed, all my ads are for personalized Christmas ornaments, last online purchase 3 days ago.

Jed Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Dan

I agree that site owners should have some control over their ads, other then there direct sponsor ads they post themselves though they don’t have that much control, that isn’t how it works. Though as others have said often ads are based on your viewing habits, it is called re-targeting, which is generally a nice feature as re-targeting means you see stuff you are interested in.

You may want to report the ads to PETA directly if they are the ones creating ads you find inappropriate as you may start finding those ads popping up on multiple sites.

Also some of the ads have a small blue triangle in the corner for AdChoices you can click and report the ad.

Billy Bob Thorton
2 years ago

Honestly, the title of this article is misleading. Good for the dude who scored a site, but again, it’s a useless title and misleading after you bother to read it.

Bill Lampkin
2 years ago

Same thing happened to us a couple of years ago at Banff NP in Canada. We had enjoyed our stay at ‘Trailer Village’ for which we had made prior reservations. We had reservations at Lake Louise, but there were a few days in between that, unless we could find a campsite, we would be ‘homeless’ until our reservation at Lake Louise kicked in. As we were leaving the park, we stopped at the gate and asked the attendant if there were any cancellations; initially he said ‘no, but then the other attendant said “233 just pulled out early, you can stay there’. We just made a U turn at the booth and headed to site ‘233’. By the way, did I mention that this was on Canada Day, 1st of August, and the busiest day of the whole camping season at Banff! We had a wonderful 3-day extension to our Banff trip. One thing that Canada’s NP’s have that our NP’s don’t have is an ‘overflow’ area that is available on busy holiday weekends. So at least you won’t be ‘homeless’ without a reservation!!

Moaboy
2 years ago

Good for u, u got lucky. Having served as a CG Host in a NP I can tell u this does happen, but hard to count on.
U were at the right place at the right time.
The CG may look like they have an available space, but it is a space that is most likely reserved, which means paid for, so even if they don’t show up the Host can’t give it away because the people who reserved it may show up later. Most Hosts really try to help campers and r not lazy. This approach is kinda like playing the lottery, but it doesn’t hurt to ask-nicely.

Bill Bateman
2 years ago

Not necessarily the host’s fault .
They get their info from Reserve America or the like. ..not usually on a timely basis. Most hosts are far from “lazy” and will do what they can for folks who take the initiative to ask.

Jeff Arthur
2 years ago

What puzzles us is when the campground Full sign is posted and there’s empty sites. Sometimes a lot of empty sites?

Tommy Molnar
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Arthur

That’s the laziness of the camp hosts, Jeff. Why pull the signs down when you KNOW you’re going to fill up? Plus, national parks may (not sure about this) have a “Last to fill” rule where you can take the handicapped site if, near the end of the day no one is in it. But, you have to leave the next day by “checkout time”.