5 lesser-known places to look for last-minute campsites this summer

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  • According to recent reports, 48.2 million US households camped in 2020, many for the first time.
  • Camping is set to be a continuing popular trend as we head into summer 2021.
  • Campsites on Recreation.gov book fast, so try these alternatives for last-minute camping reservations.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Last year, after hitting another dead end on Recreation.gov, I was just about to give up on my dream of a last-minute, weekend camping trip to Washington’s Central Cascades. Every campsite was either already booked up for every summer weekend, was located too far, or didn’t provide enough amenities to satisfy my camping troupe.

As my desired weekend inched closer, I dug around to find alternative booking sites for camping and my search paid off. Not only did I discover several new places to look for campsites beyond the usual state and federal campgrounds, but I was also able to snag an incredible campsite for my trip via Airbnb. 

Popular Reviews

Though my campsite was more expensive than many of the best campsites found on federal campgrounds, booking with an alternative site also came with some handy perks, including being able to see reviews and the ability to reschedule or cancel my trip, which isn’t usually possible at federal campgrounds.

If you’re eyeing a weekend camping trip this summer it’s important to know that there are many options to consider besides federal sites, including completely private campsites. 

Here are the best places for finding a last-minute campsite

Airbnb

Book Airbnb campsites

Pros: It’s familiar and if you’ve built up a high rating as an Airbnb guest, you might be more inclined to stay on the platform.

Cons: It’s not commonly known as a place to list campsites, so it may not offer a good representation of all the private campgrounds in the area. Additionally, service, cleaning, and occupancy taxes may be applied to the total bill.

The world’s largest vacation rental site is filled with people who are more than happy to let you pitch a tent in their backyard, as well as small independent campgrounds that promote listings on the site, too.

All you have to do is plug in your desired location and filter for campsites specifically. You can still find plenty of the unique experiences that Airbnb is famous for, like camping on a farm in Maine or in a riverside meadow in California.

Although you won’t be able to find a private campsite inside a national or state park, you can still find campsites close to the entrance like this well-stocked campground just 7 miles from Utah’s Zion National Park or this beautiful forest-adjacent field just 10 minutes Washington’s Olympia National Park.

Hipcamp

Book Hipcamp campsites

Pros: Campsite listings are incredibly thorough and they don’t stop at just listing amenities. You can also filter by available activities like swimming and climbing or terrain features like hot springs, waterfalls, and caves. Unlike Airbnb, reviewers are able to upload photographs with their reviews which helps create a realistic picture of what to expect.

Cons: You will have to pay a non-refundable 8% to 18% service fee with every listing.

A site that is touted as the “Airbnb of Camping,” Hipcamp lists hundreds of campsites, RV sites, and glamping tents on its streamlined platform. Built with campers in mind, you can filter specifically for your camping needs from running water to ADA accessibility to equestrian access.

You’ll also be able to find many listings near popular national parks like this plateau plot near the Grand Canyon, or this site at the largest campground overlooking the sweeping views of Shenandoah National Park. Hipcamp is also a great resource for less traditional camping alternatives and you can rent everything from open-air treehouses to shipping containers.

The Dyrt

Book The Dyrt campsites

Pros: Along with campsites, you can also find information about nearby hikes and other things to do, which can help you thoroughly plan your whole trip.

Cons: You can’t book directly on this website, but you will be able to check availability for state and national parks.

Like Trip Advisor, but specifically for the outdoors, The Dyrt is an incredible resource for planning a camping or hiking trip. It’s full of detailed information, reviews, and user-uploaded photographs that can help provide a realistic expectation of what you find before you head out into the great outdoors.

Although you can’t book campsites directly on the website, you can still use the website to find thoroughly-reviewed cabins and campsites in state and national parks, as well as private campsites. Every campsite listing includes a link where you can book directly, whether it be on recreation.gov, KOA, or an independent campground. 

Glamping Hub

Book Glamping Hub campsites

Pros: Glamping Hub’s specialty is in unique accommodations, so if your travel tastes align with the eccentric, this is a great place to find hidden gems.

Cons: Prices for some of the most upscale and decked-out glamping sites will be much more similar to a hotel stay than a traditional campsite.

If you’re not quite ready to rough it at a traditional campsite, there’s always glamping. Glamping Hub has listings all over the world with over 15,000 glamorous camping sites in the US alone.

This booking site is chock-full of unique accommodations from cabins and tiny houses to train cabooses and geodesic domes and there’s no need to pack a sleeping bag. Granted, you’re not going to convince everyone that a weekend in a cabin with running water and Wi-Fi is still camping, but with a little digging, you can still find off-the-grid locations, like this romantic tent on Washington’s Whidbey Island, and hosts that offer traditional camping with a twist like this hanging tent playground in California.

Tentrr

Book Tentrr campsites

Pros: Booking a campsite on private property offers seclusion and the opportunity to enjoy landscapes not accessible at any other time. Tentrr also sells its own glamping tents, so many listings will have both a backcountry and signature option.

Cons: At the time of writing, the majority of listings are concentrated on the east coast, particularly in New York. Also, the platform does not allow you to click through to a user profile to see other posts by reviewers.

A site that is exclusive to listings from private landowners, and even includes property in state parks, Tentrr features listings in 41 states and Puerto Rico. You can filter by the website’s “signature” or “backcountry” campsites depending on whether or not you want to bring your own camping equipment or shack up in a glamping tent.

The model of this site offers unique camping opportunities like this abandoned zoo in the Catskills or this quiet forest just five miles away from the Oregon Coast.

Tentrr also lets you purchase extras for your trip right when you book your reservation. These extras are offered by the hosts and vary based on the site. They could be anything from a prepaid firewood bundle and a cooking set to a tour of the on-site apiary or a needle felting workshop.

Read our full Tentrr review here

Additional campground resources

KOA and ReserveAmerica are two good resources to keep in mind where you can easily search a large number of campgrounds quickly for availability. However, many of the campsites listed are the same as those you’ll find on Recreation.gov and other popular aggregator sites — which means they may not help you out when it comes to finding under-the-radar spots to book in a pinch.

Experienced campers can also look to pitch a tent on public lands away from developed recreation facilities on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas.

More outdoors vacation ideas

  • Best glamping destinations in the US
  • Best campsites in the US
  • The best hotels near US national parks
  • The best vacation rentals near national parks
  • Best RV rentals
  • Best camper van rentals

Axel Springer, Insider Inc.’s parent company, is an investor in Airbnb.

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