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Want to Beat the Crowds? A New California Camping Law Should Make It Easier to Find a Campsite

Finding a campsite has become more difficult as outdoor activities like camping have seemingly become more popular than ever. While there are a lot of benefits to getting more people outside, navigating reservation websites and having to book campsites months in advance is not one of them. However, a new California camping law should make it easier to find a campsite in the state.

Multiple media outlets say the law passed with unanimous support, and the state’s governor signed the bill Sunday night. 

So what’s new?

The law is aiming to remove booked campsites that no one shows up to use. This issue is reportedly a nationwide problem, as low-cost campgrounds are easy to book and campers don’t always show up. 

Here’s what the new California camping law does for state parks:

  • You can cancel a reservation up to seven days beforehand and receive a credit for another reservation within five years.
  • Campers who don’t show up for the first day of their reservation will forfeit the remainder of their booking. Meaning if you miss day one, someone else can camp there.
  • You’ll receive multiple email reminders about your reservation and cancellation policy when you book a campsite.
  • Campers can only book 30 nights a year at the same campground. Also, you can only reserve seven consecutive nights during peak season.
california camping law
A camper at California’s Anza-Borrego State Park. (Source: Getty Images)

Lawmakers hope this will clear up any confusion and make more campsites available through California state parks.

“California’s public parks and beaches are treasures that should be enjoyed by all Californians and demand for them has increased greatly,” said Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan in a statement. She also created the original bill that is now law. “Unfortunately, our current outdated reservation system has led to a situation where many campsites are left empty. By promoting responsible reservation practices, we can increase access to these vital resources.”

The California Department of Parks and Recreation oversees 280 park units. Within those units are over 1.4 million acres, including 280 miles of coastline. The state park system is the largest in the nation and contains 15,000 campsites and 3,000 miles of hiking trails.

Check out some of the state’s parks on this ultimate California road trip

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  1. Humbly, Legislature please fund State Parks properly. Rumor is that it has 1/10th of 1% of CalTrans’s budget. We spend more on fixing potholes every year than they get in their annual budget. Maybe we could just give enough general fund so they don’t collapse entirely trying to perform these commands with a skeleton crew and no serious funding to make it happen.

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