When Does Camping Season Start? How To Avoid Crowds & More

by Julie | Last Updated:   October 8th, 2022
When Does Camping Season Start? How To Avoid Crowds & More

The question that may be plaguing many people’s minds right now as the snow begins to thaw, and the ice melt away, is when does camping season start? After being cooped up for the last couple of years with the pandemic, everyone is chomping at the bit to get out and travel and explore. Camping season is one that so many look forward to and especially in these times to obtain a bit of peace, fun, and stress-free relaxation.

The reality is that camping season starts whenever you want it to because you can go camping in any season. Though not many will opt for the bitter chill and often wonderous yet challenging experiences that winter camping offers. Therefore the most common time to go camping is during the warmer months of spring, summer, and fall.

We are fast approaching the warmth and blossoming buds of spring as March begins to melt into April. So, now is the time where you can start planning a camping trip that you’ve been waiting all winter for. As the cold weather loses its grip on the land and spring takes hold, when the temperatures stay above freezing, then yes it is time to take to the great outdoors and go camping.

We will discuss below the best time to go camping, and what each season may bring when planning a trip, and provide you with the information and appropriate access sites to further research your local or out of state, state parks, and national parks. Some campgrounds have an opening date and closing date for the start and end of the season, so it’s proper to check those before you set your trip.

With spring camping season right around the corner, let’s dive in so you can start packing and mapping out your adventures!

Try To Know When Camping Season Begins

As mentioned before, you can essentially go camping whenever you want, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t campgrounds that are closed for the season. Camping season starts usually around early spring or later. When the freezing temperatures relinquish their hold and the transitional season approaches with warmer weather and springtime buds in tow.

Spring camping season is an exceptional time to go camping. It may still be cooler weather but the daytime temperatures should be pleasant enough for you to enjoy. This time of year can be exquisitely beautiful as the trees and plants begin to bud and spring from the soil. When the color begins to paint the environment once again.

There will be campgrounds that will begin opening around this time usually taking place in April and May, depending on where you are. The best thing about camping in the spring is that none of those annoying summer bugs are out and about yet, and the peak season has yet to start. So, there will still be people out camping, but definitely, less than you would encounter in the summer months.

There are many that love the spring camping season over all others because of these reasons. The campgrounds won’t be overcrowded, the temperatures won’t be sweltering and unbearable, the pesky summer insects won’t be about yet, and the beauty of beginning new life and a new season will be evident all around.

It’s a great time for weekend camping trips, especially while the kids are still in school. As May approaches June on Memorial Day weekend, that’s when people will really start camping and you’ll begin seeing more and more people going out. This is when the peak season will really start.

So, for those who like to beat the crowd and don’t mind the cooler spring temperatures, then that is the best time to camp.

If you’re curious when you’re local campgrounds open then you can search online on a site for the department in your state that covers such things.

For example, in New York State the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has a website that details all outdoor activities, seasons, and need-to-know information. Here is a link to their website page that states the opening and closing dates of various campgrounds.

Choosing The Best Time To Go Camping

This is all about your personal preference and your own availability and time you can set aside for your camping trip. There are some people that love camping in early spring before the summer crowds flood the great outdoors in a mad flurry. There is solidarity, peace, and some chillier weather with it, but the spring season is beautiful nonetheless.

Though if you’re someone with children, then you’re likely eagerly awaiting summer vacation with them to go camping. Summer brings with it the warmest weather, a plethora of people, and is just a fantastic time to go camping in general. Early and late summer are good times to go because the temperatures should hopefully be a bit milder, unlike when summer is in full swing and you could be baking in the extreme heat.

Still, this is when school vacation happens and there will be plenty of people excitedly wanting to escape to the great outdoors. Summer camping is by far the most popular due to just the sheer amount of outdoor activities that are then available.

Don’t forget there is always fall camping too! Fall is my personal favorite, so maybe my opinion is biased here. However, you cannot deny the beauty of the autumn season. Early fall camping is a phenomenal time because it is once again at the time of transitional seasons where the heat of summer wanes. This provides mild temperatures that are more than comfortable.

Personally, I think fall is the best camping season, and like spring there are fewer crowds to compete with. After Labor Day weekend kids return to school and everything calms down so late September is another great time to go camping. Not to mention, once early October hits and late fall is when the leaves on the trees begin to change. Temperatures could still be relatively mild at this time or some chill, depending on where you are.

Yet, there is nothing like seeing the forests and mountains swathed in the fiery colors of red, gold, and orange with the shoots of green from coniferous stands. When the sun strikes them it is the most spectacular sight to behold. The mountains are cloaked in sunset hues like the most glorious fire you’ve ever seen rolling across the land. Mid-October is usually around the peak time to experience the full autumn colors.

Then, never forget for all the diehards out there, there is always winter camping season as well. This is the time for the few and the determined. Winter is beauty and harshness mingled together in dangerously tantalizing ways. Many campgrounds, in the northern states at least, where the weather becomes too harsh and cold will be closed by this time.

Yet you may behold a night sky in the winter months near as incredible as the summer months. The cold temperatures and winter elements can be unforgiving and rewarding for those who plow forth. If you love snowshoeing and skiing, then this is the time for you to shine and to mix a few of your well-loved hobbies together.

Winter camping is quiet and serene, and you’ll see extremely few people out there for any stretch of time. A weekend camping trip is well worth it in the snow and wonder. An experience unlike any you’ll likely have, but it requires a great deal of preparation and safety precautions!

There is truly no “best time to go camping” because that is left to your preference. For more information about when to go camping and the different seasons then check out what they say on the National Parks website.

Are National and State Parks Open Year Round?

Ah, the question that everyone must be the most curious about. The National Parks are highly sought-after trips and offer the most incredible glimpses into the greatness of the Earth and what it has to offer. Millions of people visit them every year, and thus here we find the answer.

Plain and simple, yes, the National Parks are open year-round, 365 days unless extreme weather conditions require them to close. This rarely happens and if it does it is due to freezing temperatures and vast amounts of snow accumulations.

Visiting a National Park is on most people’s bucket list as well it should be. If you want to beat the crowds once again for visiting and camping at a National Park, then the best season and time to go is likely in early spring like early March even, and late fall is pretty good too. Summer and from mid-June on it can be really busy there since that is when all the families can go.

Now, when it comes to a state park it’s a little different. In states and places where the weather stays mild then the campgrounds will likely remain open all year. However other places that experience cold winters are more likely to close most campgrounds to protect campers. This way only those who are more experienced and prepared are inclined to go.

In places like New York campgrounds begin closing between early September and early October. Each state is different in how they manage its state parks so it is important to check where you would like to go. You can check out the state park’s website to find the state parks around you and check their availability and whether they stay open or shut down towards the general camping season end.

When Is The End Of The Camping Season?

The ending of the camping season starts usually after Labor Day weekend. This is when most children go back to school and people go back to work. As such it is a sign that the summer camping season has come to an end, and many campgrounds close. This is usually around the September and October months.

This is when a lot of the fall camping season starts, though. This is a phenomenal season to go camping as there will be fewer people, the lives will start changing, and the cold weather hasn’t settled in just yet.

You can camp year-round so there isn’t a “true end” to the camping season and camping activities can still continue in the following months, but it is after the peak. Some campgrounds close in certain places, but there are some that will remain open in fairer climates.

Final Thoughts & Takeaways

Spring camping, summer camping, fall camping, and winter camping are all beloved hobbies and times to go. There are vague timelines of when the camping season starts and closes, but it is mostly left up to personal preference. And what kind of weather do you prefer as the perfect backdrop to your adventure.

Whether you’re pitching tents, car camping, RV camping, staying at campgrounds, or backpacking there is always a time to go. Do your research and plan and prepare because as much as it is about fun and relaxation, it is about safety as well!

Frequently Asked Questions

What season do most people camp?

The summer camping season is the most popular by far. This is when the kids are on break and families take the time to plan vacations and camping trips for them to enjoy. It is also the time of year when the weather is warmest and at its best. Everyone wants to enjoy the sunshine while it lasts and be able to do all the fun activities that come with it, which do usually involve water.

People have the tendency to take more time off work in the summer months just to enjoy the nice weather and make the most of it. We all do think quite alike when it comes to this!

How long can you camp at a state park?

This depends on the state park itself. By checking their website or calling the park ranger of that area, they will be able to tell you how long you can stay. Usually, you can camp for 3 days in a single site or throughout the park, but if you plan on staying longer then you’ll need to acquire the proper permits. This is an important thing to look into, so be certain to do your research and talk to the appropriate people.

When should you not go camping?

The times you don’t want to be camping often involve extremes in the weather. These can cause severe health hazards. Extreme heat increases the chances of sunburn, sun poisoning, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and dehydration. Extreme cold weather, snow, and rainstorms increase the chances of hypothermia, frostbite, disorientation, and the compromise of camping gear if you’re poorly equipped.

Avoid the extremes in weather, but if they are likely to occur just make sure you are prepared with the proper clothing, equipment, water supply, and a contingency plan in case you have to leave in an emergency.

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I was fishing before I could walk and it's been a family tradition for centuries. Fishing is my life, or at least as long as I can remember. In the Lake Champlain International Fathers Day Fishing Derby, not only have I won first place twice but also third place! Also, in addition to majoring in Wilderness Recreation Leadership, I also happen to be a licensed camping, hiking, and hunting guide for NY.