Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and for many RVers it’s also the start of camping season. But this means more crowds too.
Luckily, there are still plenty of tucked-away places, located far from the hustle and bustle. Are you looking for a long weekend of peace and quiet outdoors? Here are some tips for how to avoid the Memorial Day weekend crowds when camping.
Avoid State and National Parks
It’s no secret that many of the popular parks in the U.S. are overcrowded. Many have instituted advanced reservation systems to combat these issues.
If you’re determined to visit a park over Memorial Day, check out less visited national parks like Congaree, Great Basin, or North Cascades instead of Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or Zion. Another option is to backpack in these parks instead of day hiking busy trails.
Many state park systems are also seeing record visitation numbers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. State parks are especially popular on long weekends for those who don’t want to travel too far from home but still enjoy nature.
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
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.
But what you give up in luxuries and comfort, you gain in solitude. When boondocking, you can expect fewer crowds, no required reservations, 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 backup plan, just in case.
Avoid Campgrounds With a High Volume of Reviews
Instead of picking out the most popular campgrounds on Campendium, take a chance and go to locations that don’t have as many photos or reviews. Utilize the busier Memorial Day weekend to embrace a new adventure and take your chances on less frequented campgrounds.
These spaces will likely be less crowded and probably just as—or more—pristine and accommodating as some of the more popular destinations. And don’t forget to leave a review.
Go Somewhere Without Cell Phone 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 phone 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.
Visiting locations without cell phone service requires you to be a bit more prepared. 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 Cool
For most campers, Memorial Day weekend means the start of 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—but that’s nothing a lower-degree sleeping bag or extra quilt can’t fix.
Plus, some ski resorts, like Breckenridge in Colorado, may still be open through the holiday for spring skiing. Why not mix your favorite summer and winter activities into one weekend?
Moochdock at a Friend’s House
What are friends for? Moochdocking. 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 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.
Avoid Places Near Major Airports
Since Memorial Day festivities only last for a long weekend, avoiding places near major airports and large cities may be logistically difficult—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 as busy over Memorial Day weekend with out-of-state visitors because they’re too far from major access points to make long travel worth it for a 3-day weekend. If you have the flexibility, consider taking an extra day off work too.
Beat Traffic With Research
Check AAA’s holiday weekend travel forecast and plan your travel around peak travel days. The motor club typically releases estimated peak travel days, times, and popular destinations in mid-May through its newsroom. Last year, Atlanta, Georgia; New York, New York; and Houston, Texas, were expected to have the most delays in traffic around the holiday. The top five road trip destinations included Las Vegas, Nevada; Orlando, Florida; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Denver, Colorado; and Nashville, Tennessee.
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 out the kinks before you arrive. Plus, there will be fewer crowds and more availability as most campers leave on Memorial Day.
Here are some more tips on how to make the most of your Memorial Day camping trip:
- Pack your own outdoor gear and avoid renting any equipment
- Fill up on water and gas before you get to a busy destination
- Pre-pack food in coolers and store for meals
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 learn about the surrounding nature and sights. Here’s to a great summer ahead.