But when you arrive you find the place is more like a Target parking lot, with few trees and lots of RVs and tents crammed like sardines.
If only you could have seen a photo of the site before making your reservation.
Well now you can.
It’s called CampingPhotos.com and the website already contains photographs of almost every site in more than 2,200 campgrounds nationwide. Information on hundreds of other campsites is listed although there are no photos yet.
The website is the brainchild of Eric Edwards, a Californian who would visit regional campsites and rate the best campsites for his personal use in the future.
“I was wondering why doesn’t someone have this information online? I checked, but no one did. … So in 2000 we put it online, ”Edwards said.
The site accepts some verified submitted photos, but most photos on the site are from independent photographers that Edwards hires to ensure the photo is numbered from the campsite.
A photo of Temperance River State Park Site # 45 on the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, as it appears on the CampsitePhotos.com website. The website offers campers a chance to see what specific campsites look like before booking one. (Photo courtesy of CampsitePhotos.com)
“We started out in the West, and that’s probably where 60% of our sites are listed. … But we are all over the country now. We now have most of the state parks in Minnesota, Florida, the Northeast. I have a photographer who will only be doing private campgrounds this summer.
Edwards hopes to start adding Canadian campsites in 2022.
CampingPhotos.com Consistently adding more photos for more campgrounds and now includes many national parks, state parks, US Forest Service, cities and private campgrounds nationwide.
You can search by name if you know it or click on the map to see private or public campgrounds in the state of your choice. (The search by map option is great if you know a general area you want to visit but don’t know which campsite you want to try.)
Search for a campsite and come up with a full page with photos of the sites, listings of amenities, fees, directions, and a link to make a reservation. There are also comments and reviews from real people who have actually camped there and a lot of great advice on the reality of the place.
There’s even a new feature to click on if all of your camping choices are complete – called Campsite Assist – that will use a computer program to constantly check for cancellations for the campsite you want. The site will automatically notify you when it opens so you can hurry up and reserve the open site.
There is a fee for the Campsite Assist text alert system, but all other CampsitePhotos.com services and information are free. They’ll even accept private campground ads for free. (The website makes money selling ads.)
We have checked out several Northland State Park campgrounds like Gooseberry Falls, Tettegouche, and Jay Cooke State Park on the website and the pages seem to reflect the real flavor of the sites. Minnesota’s most popular state parks have already been photographed and listed. But the site has few options for private campgrounds or forestry services in Northland.
Like anyone involved in the outdoor recreation business at this time, Edwards reminds campers to book as long as possible in advance of their trip. For many federal sites available on Recreation.gov, that means six months. But even then, you may need to choose alternate dates or a less popular campground.
Edwards said visits to CampingPhotos.com are up 40% this year from the long-term average.
“It’s just crazy right across the country right now. It’s a supply and demand issue and demand is on the rise, ” said Edwards, noting that reservations have become more difficult to obtain because both real people and bots – computer programs aimed at securing campsites as soon as their number of campsites is limited, especially during the peak summer months. “You must be online and ready by 8:00 am on the day your (camping dates) can be booked.”