Get ready, the 2024 total solar eclipse is coming!
On August 21, 2017, campgrounds from the Oregon Coast to the shores of South Carolina were swamped by campers crowding to get under the shadow of the solar eclipse.
Many campground owners weren’t prepared for the crazy, carnival-like atmosphere the eclipse caused, and parks throughout North America took note to be better prepared the next time the sun disappeared at midday.
Well, it’s all going to happen again on Monday, April 8, 2024, and if you’re an RVer who doesn’t want to be left in the sunlight this time, it isn’t too early to start making your plans.
Where can I see the 2024 total solar eclipse?
The 2024 eclipse in North America will first touch the U.S. in South Texas before sweeping in an arc across 15 states and six Canadian provinces.
The “sweet spot” for eclipse watchers is the 70-mile-wide “Shadow of Totality,” where the sun will totally disappear behind the moon’s shadow. Only a glowing corona will appear around the eclipse margins.
While the eclipse effect will only last a few minutes in any one location along the path, the experience in 2017 showed owners the power of the natural phenomenon. After all, the total population in the states under the 100% eclipse totality equals 114 million folks. That’s a lot of people crowding under a 70-mile-wide swath of territory.
Get ahead of crowded campgrounds
“We knew it would be big, but not that big,” said Kathy Freeman, owner of the Benton, Illinois, KOA Journey, of the 2017 event. Freeman’s park has the distinction of being one of the very few campgrounds that experienced the eclipse in 2017 and will be under the Shadow of Totality again in 2024.
“The few weeks before the last eclipse happened, we were overwhelmed with phone calls,” Freeman said. Her park did raise rates to usual holiday levels, but many campgrounds along the 2017 route weren’t aware of the crushing demand they experienced, and some didn’t alter online booking rates for the August 2017 event in time to reap the benefit.
That isn’t likely to happen in 2024. Most campground owners we talked to are well aware of the high interest the eclipse generated in 2017 and are already making their plans for April 2024.
“We are definitely starting to think about our plans for 2024,” said Indianapolis KOA Holiday owner David Vaughan. His park, which lies squarely in the middle of the Shadow of Totality, is also the current KOA Campground of the Year.
“I think a lot of campground owners got caught a bit flat-footed last time it happened,” Vaughan said. “It is a wonderful opportunity, especially coming this time early in the camping season.”
In 2017, campers were begging park owners to let them park just about anywhere – and they were willing to pay premium prices to have a place to go.
It isn’t too early to pick your spot for the 2024 total solar eclipse
Pick your spot: There are already many maps available online (we’ve included a good one above) that show the path of the April 8, 2024, eclipse. You can also find the exact time of the total eclipse in a certain area, along with the duration. Again, the maximum totality of the eclipse only lasts a few minutes. The longest it will last in 2024 is four minutes and 28 seconds in Nazas, Durango, Mexico.
The closer you are to the center of the Path of Totality, the longer the totality will last.
The best cities with the longest durations are…
- Waco, Texas
- Dallas, Texas
- Poplar Bluff, Missouri
- Mount Vernon, Illinois
- Indianapolis, Indiana
- Bloomington, Indiana
- Kenton, Ohio
- Cleveland, Ohio
- Erie, Pennsylvania
- Buffalo, New York
- Rochester, New York
Wildlife can get a little weird during an eclipse, with confused birds, bats, and other animals as confused as we are by the effect. It’s interesting to witness the wildlife, so find a good spot with plenty of fauna.
Wherever you choose to camp to see the eclipse, get there early. During the 2017 event, roads and highways were jammed with folks trying to get under the shadow any way they could. Even remote areas had huge traffic jams.
Be ready to wait for a reservation for the 2024 total solar eclipse
While campgrounds are likely to be much better prepared for the 2024 eclipse, don’t expect to find any available spots just yet. Owners know the demand for campsites will be huge, and many will hold out for a while to see what rates are like at competing campgrounds before they open their systems for the dates around April 8, 2024.
Owners are also a bit fearful of campers making multiple reservations along the path of the eclipse and waiting until the last moment to select their true destination. This did happen in 2017, as campers booked several sites and waited for weather reports before making the trek to see the eclipse from the best possible vantage point. Weather is certainly a factor for eclipse chasers, as a cloudy or rainy day would ruin the experience.
Call the campground
Your best bet may be to pick your desired campground, then reach out with an email or call to see precisely when reservations will be made available for the April 8, 2024, date. See if the owner has a waiting list and will keep in touch. Regardless, the eclipse is likely to again cause a website and phone-feeding frenzy. Have a Plan B in place in case Plan A doesn’t work out.
But try to be respectful of your fellow RVers and don’t play the “weather game” by booking several campgrounds along the eclipse path, knowing you’ll only use one.
Some sites to watch to pick your campground
Here are some sites to watch when you’re ready to pick your eclipse campground. Likely, you won’t find many parks willing to make a reservation for April 8, 2024, just yet. But there could be some.
Recreation.gov: This is the behemoth of government booking sites for many federal parks.
Hipcamp: This site acts as a “dating service” for campers and landowner hosts who want to keep their land undeveloped.
2024 State Park Statistics: This is a great site that gives you information about state parks under the Shadow of Totality for the 2024 eclipse. Note that a few state parks in certain states, like Arkansas, will let you make reservations 12 months in advance. The shortest advanced windows for reservations are in Texas state parks (five months in advance) and Maine state parks (reservations open February 2024).
Free Campsites: This site includes a lot of camping information crowdsourced from users, mostly about public parks.
Harvest Hosts: A membership is required here, but the experience at a small winery or pretty golf course would be epic.
KOA: Kampgrounds of America will have at least 63 parks under the Shadow of Totality and many more close by with at least 80% darkness.
Jellystone Parks: Jellystone Parks (aka Yogi Bear campgrounds) are designed with younger families in mind. Since the 2024 eclipse passes right through mid-America, which has a lot of Yogi parks, this chain will likely be more than ready with special eclipse events too.
The above information should help you get started in your planning. Don’t forget about Canada! The eclipse will cut across Eastern Canada, all of the way to Prince Edward Island.
Get your glasses ASAP
Viewing a solar eclipse requires special darkened glasses. This is no time to go with the cheap knockoffs, and you’d also be wise not to wait and hope that your chosen campground supplies the right specs. The glasses were in short supply in 2017 and, if you didn’t have the foresight to hang onto your five-year-old pair, you might want to start searching now for the right pair.
You can get a rundown of the top eclipse glasses here. Prices are pretty reasonable now, but as the date approaches, you can expect prices to go, well, sky-high.
You can find just about every kind of glasses to use for the 2024 total solar eclipse on Amazon too.
Eventually, watch the weather
Trying to pick where it’s going to rain in two years will drive you crazy. And, as stated above, it isn’t nice to book multiple campgrounds to cover all your bad-weather bases. A better bet might be to book your best spot under the eclipse totality, then bring along a towed or second vehicle and use it as an “escape vehicle” if you need to drive out of the rain to see the eclipse. It’s not an ideal solution, but we’re dealing with a natural phenomenon with a lot of factors.
Planning, planning, planning
Like every camping trip these days, an eclipse outing is going to take a lot of forethought. Plan for shortages and long waits (food, fuel, traffic) and pack your patience. There will likely be more than a few folks who have never set foot in a campground before and are only there for the eclipse event.
Rental RVs will likely be there in large numbers and watching the rookies park and hook up is always an entertaining event. But it’s also an opportunity for you to pay it forward and help out.
Remember it’s all happening Monday, April 8, 2024. Be there, be kind, and look up!