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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In your experience, do we need to make reservations in advance (and therefore, stick to a more rigid travel schedule)? Or, is there usually availability at nat'l park campgrounds in mid- to late-September/early October?

While we've been to many US Nat'l Parks, this trip we're going to include Jasper and Banff. Wondering what kind of crowds to expect.

Thanks!
 

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2019 118" Silver
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Even with average $5 gas there has been little to no slowdown to folks buying RVs for travel and camping. I remember a time when campgrounds thinned out after school restarted in the fall but with all the boomers and full-timers there isn't much (if any) break until well into the fall or later in some areas now. Places like the Grand Canyon, Glacier, Yosemite are booked several years out and of course forget Yellowstone anytime soon, especially after the flooding - you might have seen they reopened the gates for parts of the south park with lines extending beyond the horizon.

In the lower 48 I'd expect big crowds until it's too cold for many folks to camp comfortably. Speaking of pass requirements, Glacier now requires a permit for Going to the Sun Road, which is free and mainly just to limit overcrowding along the way. You can easily check availability online for national (recreation.gov) and state campgrounds (by state). All national parks now require online registration anyway.

There are often cancellations but some campgrounds I've been too have a long standby list, while overbooking at private campgrounds has become increasingly common for them to assure no site goes empty. You'll have your best luck during the week for your timeframe but depending on where you go weekends will remain a problem through most if not all of autumn. There's always the standby Cracker Barrel and such places on weekends, but you have to check everywhere now as the sheer volume and repeated problems caused by mostly new travelers has caused some places to pull back on the welcome mat. Plus those places that still allow overnight parking can get very crowded. Some here have had good experiences with Harvest Host too. As always, hope for the best but be prepared for not having anywhere (good) to go at times.

Also, as it cools off the crowds move south so you might have the best luck along the northern tier. I've been down to FL a couple times in recent winters and struggled to find anywhere at all to stay at times so won't do that again.
 

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2014, 138WB, High Roof, Gas, SW MT
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Hi,
We live in Montana and go to Banff and Jasper several times a year.

Its absolutely beautiful - especially the Icefields Parkway, Yoho, Lake Ohara, ... just lots of great places. in my opinion, its the best mountain scenery you can see from a road in the world.

But, the place is usually a zoo.
We would not go there in the summer.
October helps, but there can still be quite a few people.

We like October and we do go without reservations in October and later.
The Tunnel Mountain campgrounds outside of Banff are large and often have space, but no guarantees.
There are some overflow campgrounds that can be a place to go if most everything is filled up.
One is just South of the Lake Louise area. Pretty much a parking lot.
The Icefields Hotel which is at a beautiful spot on the Icefields Parkway has a huge parking lot and its open to camping on the North end. It is literally a parking lot with an outhouse, but we have never seen it fill up. It has a view to die for - I actually like staying there.

If you do Yellowstone this year, its going to be interesting with all the flood recovery. They just reopened the southern part of it today for even number lic plates - odd numbers tomorrow. Sounds like it worked well.
I would strongly recommend if you do Yellowstone that you camp along the Beartooth Highway to the NE of YS, but it might not open at all this year due to the floods. Best mountain scenery in MT.
Good campgrounds and some nice dispersed camping areas.

Not sure, but I'd guess that just showing up at YS in October is not going to work. You might find something outside the park.

A good option in MT when regular campgrounds are running full is the fishing access sites - many have camp spots and some are in great locations.

If you go up to Banff from YS along hwy 89 (better than I15) - there are some nice FS campgrounds on the east slope of the Rockies.


Gary
 

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2021, Promaster 159 HR 2500, Silver
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What part of Grand Canyon is booked years in advance? I don't know that they even book that far out except for possibly mule rides.

Lots of national forest adjacent to the park where you can boondock and not see a soul.

There are 100s of miles of canyon rim to enjoy and the tourists all got to the same spot. You can park near Grandview watchtower and hike a short distance to the rim and enjoy a secret aspen Grove all by yourself. This is on south rim.

I went on the Going to the Sun road last fall. There were no reservations needed on that particular day. It was last weekend it was open before snow. There were people but not an unbearable amount. Very enjoyable.
 

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What part of Grand Canyon is booked years in advance? I don't know that they even book that far out except for possibly mule rides.

Lots of national forest adjacent to the park where you can boondock and not see a soul.

There are 100s of miles of canyon rim to enjoy and the tourists all got to the same spot. You can park near Grandview watchtower and hike a short distance to the rim and enjoy a secret aspen Grove all by yourself. This is on south rim.

I went on the Going to the Sun road last fall. There were no reservations needed on that particular day. It was last weekend it was open before snow. There were people but not an unbearable amount. Very enjoyable.
A friend and I camped on the south rim years ago since we couldn't get a site at the Bright Angel campground at the bottom. So we ended up hiking down the Kaibab Trail to the river and back out in one day. We were told it was booked all through the next summer, which was the policy a number of years ago but I see up on the rim you can only book up to 6 months ahead now. Good to know, thanks for pointing that out.
 

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2021, Promaster 159 HR 2500, Silver
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I worked and lived there for 7 years. Backcountry campsites start booking 6 months in advance i believe.

Front country campgrounds can vary on bookings. They typically leave a few open for day of booking but they probably get filled first thing in the morning.

Down and back in a day is a hard hike! Good job!

I hiked it with my kids many times. We had the luxury of staying in trail crew bunkhouses which was awesome for young kids. Sweet times. 😄

I have never hiked rim to rim and am going to try to get a lottery spot for a cabin at Phantom for fall 2023. Have to sign up a year in advance.

National parks are great but they sometimes feel like they are loved to death. And the dog restrictions are nearly impossible for me. I have friends in nearly every park so I always visit parks 'through the back door'.
 

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I worked and lived there for 7 years. Backcountry campsites start booking 6 months in advance i believe.

Front country campgrounds can vary on bookings. They typically leave a few open for day of booking but they probably get filled first thing in the morning.

Down and back in a day is a hard hike! Good job!

I hiked it with my kids many times. We had the luxury of staying in trail crew bunkhouses which was awesome for young kids. Sweet times. 😄

I have never hiked rim to rim and am going to try to get a lottery spot for a cabin at Phantom for fall 2023. Have to sign up a year in advance.

National parks are great but they sometimes feel like they are loved to death. And the dog restrictions are nearly impossible for me. I have friends in nearly every park so I always visit parks 'through the back door'.
I won't pretend, that last mile out was rough! Am taking a break from having a dog right now but dog restrictions kept me out of national parks for many years since you can't take them on any trails and definitely can't leave them in a vehicle all day. Yes, we are using some parks too hard and they've been built up so much now that parts of them feel more like small cities.
 

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2016 136 HT Gasser
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FWIW, once schools are in session California State Parks are a pretty good bet Sunday through Thursday. They can be full on weekends late into October and anytime of the year schools are out of session. They are not in spectacular locals like the Nat'l Parks but they are usually quite acceptable. Good for a safe place to crash rather than destination parks though a couple of the coastal parks are pretty cool.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hi,
We live in Montana and go to Banff and Jasper several times a year.

Its absolutely beautiful - especially the Icefields Parkway, Yoho, Lake Ohara, ... just lots of great places. in my opinion, its the best mountain scenery you can see from a road in the world.

But, the place is usually a zoo.
We would not go there in the summer.
October helps, but there can still be quite a few people.

We like October and we do go without reservations in October and later.
The Tunnel Mountain campgrounds outside of Banff are large and often have space, but no guarantees.
There are some overflow campgrounds that can be a place to go if most everything is filled up.
One is just South of the Lake Louise area. Pretty much a parking lot.
The Icefields Hotel which is at a beautiful spot on the Icefields Parkway has a huge parking lot and its open to camping on the North end. It is literally a parking lot with an outhouse, but we have never seen it fill up. It has a view to die for - I actually like staying there.

If you do Yellowstone this year, its going to be interesting with all the flood recovery. They just reopened the southern part of it today for even number lic plates - odd numbers tomorrow. Sounds like it worked well.
I would strongly recommend if you do Yellowstone that you camp along the Beartooth Highway to the NE of YS, but it might not open at all this year due to the floods. Best mountain scenery in MT.
Good campgrounds and some nice dispersed camping areas.

Not sure, but I'd guess that just showing up at YS in October is not going to work. You might find something outside the park.

A good option in MT when regular campgrounds are running full is the fishing access sites - many have camp spots and some are in great locations.

If you go up to Banff from YS along hwy 89 (better than I15) - there are some nice FS campgrounds on the east slope of the Rockies.


Gary
Really helpful. Thanks, Gary! We also want to stop at Glacier. Have always loved driving through your beautiful state!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Even with average $5 gas there has been little to no slowdown to folks buying RVs for travel and camping. I remember a time when campgrounds thinned out after school restarted in the fall but with all the boomers and full-timers there isn't much (if any) break until well into the fall or later in some areas now. Places like the Grand Canyon, Glacier, Yosemite are booked several years out and of course forget Yellowstone anytime soon, especially after the flooding - you might have seen they reopened the gates for parts of the south park with lines extending beyond the horizon.

In the lower 48 I'd expect big crowds until it's too cold for many folks to camp comfortably. Speaking of pass requirements, Glacier now requires a permit for Going to the Sun Road, which is free and mainly just to limit overcrowding along the way. You can easily check availability online for national (recreation.gov) and state campgrounds (by state). All national parks now require online registration anyway.

There are often cancellations but some campgrounds I've been too have a long standby list, while overbooking at private campgrounds has become increasingly common for them to assure no site goes empty. You'll have your best luck during the week for your timeframe but depending on where you go weekends will remain a problem through most if not all of autumn. There's always the standby Cracker Barrel and such places on weekends, but you have to check everywhere now as the sheer volume and repeated problems caused by mostly new travelers has caused some places to pull back on the welcome mat. Plus those places that still allow overnight parking can get very crowded. Some here have had good experiences with Harvest Host too. As always, hope for the best but be prepared for not having anywhere (good) to go at times.

Also, as it cools off the crowds move south so you might have the best luck along the northern tier. I've been down to FL a couple times in recent winters and struggled to find anywhere at all to stay at times so won't do that again.
Thanks. Funny you mention FL. I've been looking at a winter trip there and already finding places in the Keys booked.
 

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We’ve hiked GC five times, including rim-to-rim-to-rim. Always around Thanksgiving. 50's-60's at the bottom, maybe some snow at the top—we carry YakTraks for that top mile or so. Shuttles still running, but back country restrictions lifted so 4 nights instead of 2. We go to the back country office the morning before and say, "What itinerary can you give us?” They usually say, "What would you like?”
 

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2021, Promaster 159 HR 2500, Silver
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We’ve hiked GC five times, including rim-to-rim-to-rim. Always around Thanksgiving. 50's-60's at the bottom, maybe some snow at the top—we carry YakTraks for that top mile or so. Shuttles still running, but back country restrictions lifted so 4 nights instead of 2. We go to the back country office the morning before and say, "What itinerary can you give us?” They usually say, "What would you like?”
Shuttles on South Rim will run year round. But your Rim TO rim TO Rim. Wow! I am probably not going to do that. You and your Mr. are animals!!! :LOL::ROFLMAO:(y)
 

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Thanks. Funny you mention FL. I've been looking at a winter trip there and already finding places in the Keys booked.
Due to a cancellation I was able to get one night on Key Largo and one night at Boyd's Key West Campground (which is technically on Stock Island leading to Key West) in Jan 2020. It was a nice campground although I was crowded onto a tiny, non-water tent site for about $70/night (now $80/night). Which was fine as I had a great day exploring Key West on foot and 'got it out of my system'.


Sky Bicycle Building Road surface Tree



It wasn't bad at this time on Duvall St but some areas were really packed. Have since read the best time to go is between peak and off seasons, where it will be pretty warm mid afternoon into early evening but cool enough nights and mornings - lower prices minus the big crowds too.
 
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