Camping is a great pastime that conjures up images of rest and relaxation out in nature. Many people look forward to summer vacations or weekend trips when they can escape into the wilderness and unplug from all the cares of the world.
Although camping is an opportunity to recharge your batteries, the process of finding a campsite and making a reservation can be stressful at times. If you are new to camping, you may be feeling overwhelmed with all the terminology and trying to decipher it all.
One of the terms you may have come across is a walk-in campsite and be wondering what that means. In this article, we will go over this term and what it means when making a reservation to book a campsite.
What Does Walk-In Campsite Mean?
In its simplest terms, a walk-in campsite is one that is accessible by walking once you arrive and park your car at the campground. These sites often have a distance between the parking area and the site that you must walk to reach the site.
The distance between the site and the parking area is usually not too long and most are under a mile. Still, the path could be steep which would present a challenge when hauling gear to the site.
The structure of the campground can vary from location to location though. Some may have a small loop with several tent-only campsites that are accessible by foot.
There may be a common parking lot for cars that require you to carry your gear to the actual site to set up your tent and camp. When camping at a walk-in site it is often recommended to arrive early so you have adequate time to set up your tent.
Tents should be pitched before sunset when there is still enough light to safely see what you are doing. If you have a lot of gear, you may need to take several trips back and forth to the car which can add extra time to your setup process.
One tip is to bring a wagon along that has large enough wheels to navigate unpaved roads. You can load your camping gear in and pull it to the site if the path is not too steep, rocky, or muddy.
There are campgrounds that may provide wagons, carts, or wheelbarrows to help campers haul their gear to their site. However, it’s not guaranteed that you will get one if the campground is busy when you arrive.
Some campsites may use the term walk-in when referring to more remote sites for dispersed or backcountry camping. These sites do have the ability to walk directly into them, but the walk to the site may be several miles over difficult terrain.
In those cases, you would be required to carry all your supplies on your back. It is not possible to park nearby and then easily reach the campsite by walking a few yards.
Other Similar Terms
It is easy to confuse walk-in campsites with walk-up campsites. These two terms are similar but have completely different meanings. Many campground sites may have both terms on them so it is easy to mix the two up.
A walk-up campsite means that it cannot be reserved. Another term for these sites is first-come-first-serve or no-reservation camping depending on the location.
Very popular campgrounds may set aside some sites for people who were unable to get a reservation. You would need to wake up early to try to get one of these sites and there is no guarantee that you will be successful.
That is why it is always recommended to get a reservation so you know you’ll be able to spend the night and won’t be left looking for a place to sleep at the last minute. You can also try to arrive at the campground an hour or so before the checkout time to try to stake your claim on a site before the current occupants leave.
Not all walk-up campsites will be walk-in sites either. So don’t assume that just because you get a space that it will be easily reachable by foot or that you will be able to park nearby.
Some campgrounds may be walk-up only and not accept any reservations at all. In that case, you just have to show up and hope for the best. Try to come early or avoid peak seasons when these campgrounds fill up quickly.
You can often find information on when certain campgrounds tend to fill up so you can arrive prior to those times and increase your chances of getting a space.
Pros and Cons of Walk-In Campsites
Because you can’t drive your car right up to the campsite, you may be thinking that a walk-in site is a less than ideal option. Although there are drawbacks, these sites have plenty of appealing aspects too.
One of the best things about walk-in campsites is that they usually provide a lot of privacy and quiet. Because cars are not parked right near the sites, you won’t have to listen to your neighbors coming and going in their vehicles.
There is also less noise from vehicle doors slamming or car alarms accidentally going off in the middle of the night. Because you will have to think twice before making the trek to the car, chances are your neighbors will stay put once they arrive and won’t be constantly coming and going.
Often the road doesn’t run by the campsite either which means you won’t have cars driving by constantly. Whether this is other campers along the same loop or just nosy onlookers, you will have a much more private camping experience.
These sites are also usually more remote with additional space between sites which leads to more privacy. The views are often quite incredible because the site can be located in a place that is close to water, for example.
One of the biggest drawbacks to a walk-in campsite is the distance between the site and the parking lot. If you have a lot of gear, especially heavy things, it will be difficult to get it all to the site to set up camp.
Bringing a wagon may help but it can still be difficult if the path to the site is up a steep hill or is not maintained. Paths with a lot of rocks or potholes will present a lot of challenges and weather conditions such as rain and mud will also complicate matters.
If you need to leave the site quickly for any reason, it takes time to get to your vehicle. Should the weather become inclement, it will not be easy to pack things up in a hurry either.
Even if the walk is short, if you need to make many trips back and forth, you can get tired which leaves you with less energy for camping or other activities. If you have small children that cannot easily make the trek on their own, this can add another level of difficulty.
Campgrounds that require you to secure food from wildlife could be challenging if they do not provide bear lockers. This would mean you have to make additional trips to your vehicle to secure the food before and after each meal.
What Equipment is Needed?
When camping at a walk-in campsite, you will be required to have a tent. Sleeping in your car is often not an option at these sites and may be restricted in some areas.
The minimum equipment is a tent that can comfortably sleep everyone in your party. To keep your tent clean, a footprint for underneath should also be used, along with a rain flap if you are expecting rain.
A rain flap is also a good idea for camping during seasons when the temperatures get cool at night because it will keep heat inside the tent.
Along with a tent, you will need sleeping bags and sleeping pads that are rated for the season to make sure you don’t get too cold at night.
Those who would like to have a campfire will need to bring firewood that they purchase nearby or from the campground host. In addition, fire starter and matches or a lighter will be required.
On top of these essentials are food and personal items such as clothing and toiletries. If you plan to hike, fish, or boat, all this gear will also be necessary.
When there is a long distance between the site and the parking area, some kind of cart or wagon is also recommended to make carrying gear easier.
If you have booked a walk-in campsite, take inventory of all your things and only bring the essentials. Opt for lightweight items that can serve multiple purposes.
Leave the things you aren’t sure you will use in your car. Try to pack efficiently so you can make as few trips to the car as possible.
It’s also helpful to camp in a group so you will have many people to help carry everything. If each person carries their personal items and then pitches in with the communal gear, it will make it much easier to get to the site.