8 Best Ways to Avoid the Memorial Day Crowds While Camping

Since the pandemic canceled many people’s Memorial Day travels last year, campers should expect this coming Memorial Day to be busier than ever.

As the United States begins to open back up and vaccines continue to become more accessible, people are just itching to celebrate Memorial Day and the start of summer. But this means more crowds too.

Luckily, the United States is home to thousands of tucked-away creeks, isolated winding trails, and campsites nestled under the stars, far from the hustle and bustle. Just don’t forget to leave these places as untouched as they were when you first got there.

Are you looking for a long weekend of peace and quiet in the outdoors? Here are some tips on how how to avoid the Memorial Day weekend crowds.

A van and a travel trailer camping at Bryce Canyon
Sunset Campground | Bryce Canyon National Park

Avoid State and National Parks

According to the National Park Service, the National Park Service welcomed 237 million guests in 2020, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and shutdown. While last year’s numbers were 90 million less than previous years, national parks and state parks are preparing for a busy summer.

If you’re determined to visit a park over Memorial Day, check out one of the less popular parks like Kings Canyon, Bryce, or Great Basin instead of Yosemite, Zion, or Grand Canyon. Another option is opting for a weekend of backpacking in these parks instead of day hiking busy trails.

While state and national parks are access points to some of the country’s most beautiful natural features, they’re not your only options for getting outdoors.

Boondock Off the Beaten Path

Why not try boondocking instead?

Boondocking is primitive camping where you park your RV, car, van, or tent in a campsite without any hookups of any kind. This is off-the-grid camping with few luxuries.

What you give up in luxuries and comfort, you gain in fewer crowds, no reservations required, and beautiful landscapes that, if you get far enough off the beaten path, you might have all to yourself. Boondocking does require a bit of flexibility, as your preferred camping destination may be taken, inaccessible, or otherwise unavailable. You’ll have the most luck snagging your perfect boondocking spot if you arrive before the Friday of Memorial Day, but always be sure to have a plan B in place, just in case.

Check out some of the best boondocking in the country with the 2020 Campers Choice winners in National Forest, BLM, and Free Camping.

RV parked in front of a blue lake with mountains in the background
Homecoming Beach Campground | Dillon, MTPhoto by: NomadicNeighbors

Avoid Campgrounds with 100+ Reviews on Campendium

Instead of picking out the most popular campgrounds on Campendium, take a chance and go to locations that don’t have any photos or reviews. Utilize the busier Memorial Day weekend to embrace a new adventure and take your chances on less frequented campgrounds. Be brave!

These spaces will likely be less crowded and probably just as or more pristine and accommodating as some of the more popular destinations. Especially after the economic burden of COVID-19, these campgrounds will welcome you with open arms.

Don’t forget to leave a review too!

Go Somewhere Without Cell Service

With so many people eager to stay connected 24/7, campsites and campgrounds that are far enough off the beaten path to lack cell service are often the quietest. Whether you trek out for a boondock on BLM or Forest Service lands or pick a campground that has amenities but lacks cell coverage, you’ll probably be leaving most of civilization behind.

Visting locations without cell service means being a bit more prepared. Especially if you’re boondocking far off the beaten path, be sure that your rig is capable of the trek, bring paper or downloaded maps, tell a trusted friend or family where you’re going and when you’ll be back, and don’t forget to pack it in and pack it out.

Head Somewhere Colder Than Where You Are

For most campers, Memorial Day weekend means the start of summer, camping, mountain biking, rafting, and other outdoor pursuits.

But why not use the long weekend for one last cold weather hoorah? Put your head in the clouds at a high elevation, or head north into a chillier climate. You will likely still have warm days but cooler nights. Nothing a lower-degree sleeping bag or extra quilt can’t fix!

Plus, some ski resorts, like Mt. Hood and Breckenridge, will still be open through the holiday. Why not mix your favorite summer and winter activities into one weekend?

Moochdock at a Friend’s House

What are friends for? Moochdocking!

Airstream parked in a driveway

Moochdocking, or driveway surfing, means camping in a friend or family member’s driveway or on their land. It’s like couch surfing, but the camping edition.

Moochdocking is a great way to camp regardless of the event because you not only have access to plug in your rig, but you can also use this as an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones. They can hopefully share a wealth of local tips and recommendations for the area, too.

Just be sure you were invited first!

Avoid Places near Major Airports

Since Memorial Day festivities only last for a long weekend rather than a week, avoiding places near major airports may not be logistically possible, but if you can, do it! Adding a few extra hours to your trip to avoid airport hubs means fewer crowds and expenses for your weekend getaway.

Isolated parks across the country, especially in the west, don’t get too busy over Memorial Day weekend because they’re too far from any major access points for people to get there for a three-day weekend. Most people aren’t willing to sacrifice that kind of travel time. If you have the flexibility, take an extra day off work and make a worthwhile journey towards a relaxing vacation.

Skip Memorial Day Weekend

If you can, skip Memorial Day weekend itself and instead travel the weekend after. You might enjoy warmer temperatures, and beyond that, campgrounds that opened for the holiday will have a week of working the kinks out before you arrive. Plus, there will be fewer crowds and more availability as most campers will head out the Monday of Memorial Day weekend.

Here are some more tips on how to avoid the Memorial Day weekend crowds:

  • Pack your own outdoor gear and avoid renting any equipment
  • Fill up on water and gas before you get to the park
  • Pre-pack food in coolers and storage

Regardless of whether you make an effort to avoid the Memorial Day weekend crowds, use the time and weather to embrace the outdoors. Head out from your camp and explore the surrounding nature and sights. Soak it all in! And here’s to a great summer ahead.