SB's Guide to Getting Camping Permits

By Anthony Biolatto, Chief Technology Officer




Plan Ahead

Pick a few of your favorite parks (the hardest part for us), as well as your ideal timeframe and start getting a plan together. Think about the weather at certain times in the year, the environment you want to be in, the types of activities you want to do, and when reservations open up for that location. If this is your first time camping you’ll want to pay special attention to weather conditions since that’ll decide much of what you do and what you’ll need to bring along the way.

When it comes to picking a campsite it’s also good to take a look at the site map. Some campsites will be naturally isolated or packed within a few spots (handy for big groups), or positioned right next to a water source and the bathrooms and showers. Being close to these amenities can be great but keep in mind that can also mean more people will be in the area (if you’re looking for some quiet time).

Our favorite parks & what you need to know

Picking your ideal park is no easy feat, so we recommend narrowing your choices down to a few, at least in these early stages. That way, you're leaving yourself with backup plans if your top spot sells out faster than you can book it. At big National Parks like Yosemite, reservations open can anywhere from 1 to 5 months in advance. Some campsites only allow reservations one day in advance (though this is not as common). For national parks, you'll use For California State Parks, you'll use Here are the lead times for some of our favorite parks:


Wilderness Permit Reservations: 60% available 24 weeks in advance by lottery, 40% available 7 days in advance, first-come, first-served. $10 processing fee, plus $5/person after you get a permit. More information can be found here.

Campground Reservations: Available 5 months in advance on the 15th of each month at 7am PT. Note that from May through September, Camp 4 reservations are available only by daily lottery a day in advance.

Tuolumne Meadows, Crane Flat, Bridalveil Creek, and Porcupine Flat campgrounds will be closed in 2022.

If you wanna hike Half Dome, you'll need a separate permit. If you're planning on backpacking overnight, you can apply for your Half Dome permit during the same process you'd use to get your Wilderness Permit. Sound overwhelming? Keep scrolling: our SB Outdoors Yosemite trips take care of all the details so you don't have to.


Available on a 6 month rolling basis. Same-day reservations are sometimes available! Overnight fees range from $20 to over $100 depending on the campground and site type.

Entrance fees are separate: you can get an annual pass or 7-day vehicle pass in advance here.

Sequoia National Park

Wilderness Permit Reservations: Available on a 6 month rolling basis starting May 27, 2022. Before that, there are no daily limits or fees required.

Campground Reservations: Available on a one-month rolling basis. Fees vary; most are around $22/night. Entrance fees are separate: you can get an annual pass or 7-day vehicle pass in advance here.

Death Valley National Park

Only the Furnace Creek campsite is reservable - it's also the only one that's got water, bathrooms and all that good stuff. Overnight fees vary from $22/night to $60/night depending on site type during peak season (October to April).

Entrance fees are separate: you can get an annual pass or 7-day vehicle pass in advance here.

Redwood National & State Parks

Campgrounds are not available for reservation - they're available on a first come, first served basis, in person only.

Eldorado National Forest

Desolation Wilderness Permit Reservations: Reservations available up to 6 months in advance, though they're only needed between May 27 and Sept 30. Ralston, Pyramid Creek/Horsetail Falls, and Lyons trailheads are closed for 2022 due to damage from the Caldor Fire.

Campground Reservations: Available on a 6-month or 12-month rolling basis for most campsites (and there are a lot). Overnight fees vary from $28/night to $150+ for group sites.

Tahoe National Forest

Campgrounds are available on either a 6-month or 12-month rolling basis. This is a massive park, and lots of campsites are available, especially midweek. Overnight fees vary from $18/night to $99+.

California State Park Campgrounds

Available in 6 month rolling windows on The site shows availability for all campgrounds in a 70mi radius from where you search, so start with your chosen dates and a park near where you'd like to be, and search from there.

Crystal Cove State Park - Probably the most popular California state park. If you want to secure a spot, you'll need to get online right at 8am PT exactly 6 months out from your arrival date to book.

Big Sur - Also popular, but there are a lot more campsites available to choose from, and reservations are open. There's a handy "Notify Me" feature that will email you if your chosen dates open up.


Put it all in the books

Once you have your top picks, you’ll want to start getting those reservation windows in your calendar so once permits become available you can act fast - try to include all your links in those same reminders so you don’t have to click around or go digging for information when the time comes. Add your camping buddies to get help booking, especially if you’re looking at multiple campgrounds (you’ll want to have some back ups!).



You’ve got your spot and now it’s time to get geared up and ready for the trip. As always, we’re here to help! Stop by your local Sports Basement and we’ll walk you through everything you need or book a video appointment with our camping experts - we’ll get you ready to go whether you’re looking to rent or purchase!

Want even more tips on camping? Check out all of our Camp Field Guides written by our incredible staff!




Want to skip the hassle of getting permits for some of the most incredible campsites and hikes in California? Book a trip with Sports Basement Outdoors! Our expert guides will take care of the details so all you have to do is bring yourself and your gear for an amazing adventure in the outdoors. All skill levels are welcome! Sign up today to secure your spot or check out our full collection of Yosemite Backpacking, Pinnacles Climbing, or our Wilderness First Aid & CPR itineraries! 

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