Nature-Based Recreation: Understanding Campsite Reservations in National Parks

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.



Nov. 29, 2018


Margaret A. Walls, Casey Wichman, and Kevin Ankney



Reading time

1 minute

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.


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