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

    John Nelson

    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.

    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.

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    Billy Bob Thorton
    1 year 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
    1 year 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!!

    1 year 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
    1 year 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
    1 year 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
    1 year 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”.