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4 Ways To Avoid The Crowds When Camping
At many state and private parks around the country, it seems like the only way to avoid overly crowded parks, lots of noise, and lines to use the showers is to camp in the off-season which is either not a lot of fun because the weather isn't warm and sunny anymore or your favorite campgrounds are closed (or even worse – open but without running water which isn’t much fun when you don’t have a camper or RV with a shower).
I love to camp and don't mind a lot of people around. My husband also loves to camp but hates crowds of people. We've found some ways to enjoy camping at our favorite campgrounds when the weather is nice while still avoiding the "packed in like sardines in a can" feeling that some campgrounds have during the summer months when they are booked solid.
Tip 1- Camp During the Week, Not on the Weekends
Many people are weekend campers. Not as many camp during the week. Although campgrounds will be busy in the peak summer months of July and August, it probably won't be filled to capacity during the week. But, even if it is filled to capacity during the week; the beaches, biking trails, hiking trails, etc. won't be as crowded because there won't be the influx of people who come for the day on the weekend to swim, hike, bike, etc.
Tip 2 – Camp When School is Still in Session
If you have kids in school, this tip may not be that helpful, but keep in mind that it's not necessarily the worst thing in the world to take your kids out of school to go on a camping trip especially if you enrich that trip with learning activities such as going to the nature centers near or in the park; have excursions on the trails; and pick up materials at the park office or nature center that are usually available for free with different learning activities to do while hiking such as identifying trees and plants.
If you home school your children or if they go to a year-round school or modified year round school, there is probably at least one time during the year where it's nice enough to take them camping when most other kids are in school, which will mean less crowded campgrounds.
Tip 3 – Instead of Joining Millions of other people for the tradition first big camping weekend of the year – Memorial Day Weekend – head for the campground the day after Memorial Day and stay until the weekend.
You'll still have three wonderful days of vacation but will have a lot less other campers around. My husband and I do all our vegetable and flower planting over Memorial Day weekend and then go camping the day after. If you don't want to use up vacation days but work somewhere that has shifts for you to work during the holiday weekend, offer to work the entire weekend and have off the Tuesday through Friday after the weekend instead.
Tip 4 – Camp During Slightly Off Peak Times
I love to camp in the Fall and in early spring. Yes, the weather can be a little cool, especially at night. But, often there are really nice days. The campgrounds are much less busy before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.
Just make sure you check to see when the park opens and closes for the year and when bathroom facilities are turned off for the season. For example, at my favorite state park, the bathroom facilities are shut down around the 15th of October every year and aren't turned back on until May 15, but part of the campground stays open year round. The pit toilets are open the entire year but anything with running water is turned off to avoid having pipes burst when the weather gets cold because the buildings aren't heated. This isn't a problem if you have a camper with bathroom facilities, but if you tent camp or have a popup camper without a bathroom it causes problems.
A few years ago, we took an early October camping trip and didn't realize that particular park shut down its shower buildings on October 1. Luckily we were only 20 miles from my daughter's college and were able to use the bathroom facilities in her dorm to shower. Otherwise, that 4 day trip would have not been much fun. Heating water up on the stove and taking a sponge bath was not very appealing to me.