Tips for Last-Minute Camping for the 4th of July

The great outdoors can get jam packed, especially on holiday weekends. But even if you haven’t planned a darn thing, you can still spend the night under the stars this 4th of July!

It’s no secret that tons of Americans love heading outside for some good, old-fashioned camping fun, especially when things heat up during the summer. Just look at the numbers— 40.1 million Americans (14 percent of the U.S. population over age six) camped out in 2013.

That’s helpful info to have, because campgrounds and campsites can get packed during holiday weekends, like the 4th of July. That doesn’t mean you have to plan your holiday fun months in advance, but you’ll want to keep reading for Hipcamp’s tips and tricks on how to snag that last-minute camping spot. After all, there’s no better way to celebrate the ‘ol red, white, and blue! Even if you bought the metaphorical celebration card a bit late.

Last-Minute Camping Woes

I know first-hand how busy nature can get. On one fateful Thursday, I drove up to Lake Granby in Colorado with a car full of friends, food and excitement. We didn’t have a campground reserved and planned to drive down forest service roads until we could find a place to pitch our tents. After all, we were getting a head start!

After hours of driving around, as the sun set, we realized that there wasn’t anything available. Nada. Zilch. We turned around and drove several hours back home, completely bummed. Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be you. From strategically choosing less popular regions to camp at, to planning ahead with the absolute least amount of effort necessary, you can make sure you’ll be roasting those marshmallows in the wilderness and not in your back yard.

Ditch the Popular Spots

Some RV parks can book up over a year in advance, and many campers make their holiday weekend campground reservations beginning in March, right when reservations open. That doesn’t leave you with many options? While everyone else is cruising to your area’s most popular state and national parks, you can locate some hidden gems of your own.

How do you find these places? The good ‘ol U.S. of A’s National Forests are full of fantastic established and dispersed campsites, so don’t forget those. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. After all, we wandered around Forest Service roads that one fateful July 4th weekend and couldn’t find a thing, thanks to Lake Granby’s superstar status. (You’ve gotta admit, its scenery is off the charts.)

Lake Granby

Lake Granby Sunset

Reserving a Last-Minute Campsite

You may be planning at the eleventh hour, but you can still plan. Reserving a campsite isn’t out of the question, even if you’re only a few days away from the big holiday weekend. You might not get that coveted spot with sweeping views of the lake, but you’ll still get the opportunity to smell like a bonfire each and every night. Even popular sites often have a few spots available mere days out from major holidays, so it doesn’t hurt to check.

Have 4×4, Will Drive

Do you have a buddy with a 4×4 vehicle, or do you have one yourself? Perfect! Some campsites can only be reached with a high-clearance vehicle, so you’re limiting your competition. Bonus points if the campsite is super remote.

Throw on Your Backpack

Car camping is popular in part thanks to its accessibility—it’s a breeze. But, if you’re willing to hike in and are craving a more isolated experience, you’ll be able to beat some of the crowds by backpacking. You could use the long weekend to set off on an epic multi-day trip, or you could mosey down the trails a mile or two to find some more dispersed camping options.

So, how about you? Do you have any last-minute camping tips and tricks for the 4th of July? Don’t be shy—share them with other campers in the comments below! Together, we can make sure all of the procrastinators of the country are happy campers throughout this patriotic weekend.

Featured photo via Hipcamp Staff, Julian Bialowas.

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