Nature-Based Recreation: Understanding Campsite Reservations in National Parks

Nov 29, 2018 | Margaret A. Walls, Casey J. Wichman, Kevin Ankney


The government’s reservation system for activities on federal lands,, is a rich source of data that can help shed light on managing the growing number of visitors to national parks.

Key Findings

  • Campgrounds in many national parks are filled to capacity during the peak seasons but there is variability across the parks by season and day of week.
  • This variability suggests some room for improvements in fee structures and other ways of managing use.
  • Campsite reservations at most national parks are made far in advance, but many reservations are canceled at the last minute; increasing cancellation penalties may improve the efficiency of the reservation system.
  • Campers tend to visit national parks near their homes and stay only two nights; longer trips are rare.
  • The distribution of incomes of campers appears to be similar to the US population as a whole.