Campers can now reserve sites up to five months in advance--compared to the previous limit of 56 days--at 12 of the country's most popular national parks, including five in California.
The participating parks in the state include Yosemite, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Sequoia-Kings Canyon and Whiskeytown. The others are Acadia National Park, Me.; Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia; Cape Hatteras National Seashore, N.C.; Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tenn.; Rocky Mountain National Park, Colo.; Shenandoah National Park, Va., and the Grand Canyon. Yellowstone chose not to participate in a national reservation system this year.
Reservations for all of the parks except Yosemite, which has its own number because of the volume of calls it receives, can be made by calling Destinet, the new reservation service for the National Park Service, at (800) 365-CAMP. For Yosemite, call (800) 436-7275.
Here's how it works: Every 15th of the month a new five-month reservations window opens. So in March, as of last Friday, travelers can reserve campsites for any time through Aug. 14. If the site or date requested is not available, callers can ask about other options during the same call. Under the old system, travelers had to call exactly 56 days before the day they wanted to start camping; if that date or site was not available, they had to call back.
Reservations must be prepaid. Destinet accepts credit cards. Travelers wishing to pay by check must call at least 10 days before their first day of camping. Camping fees start at about $10 a night.
For information on camping in other national parks, call the National Park Service, (202) 208-4747.