Yosemite National Park Officials Instituting Reservation Program Changes To Stop Campsite Scalping

With hopes of bringing an end to the scalping of campsites, Yosemite National Park officials will require that visitors show some identification to claim their campsites, and won't allow reservations to be transferred to anyone else.

Campsite scalping has been a growing problem in Yosemite in recent years, with reserved sites being offered for sale on Craigslist. The other day park officials announced three changes to bring this practice to a halt:

* All visitors checking into a campsite will have to show identification upon arrival at the Campground Reservation Office. Currently, campers do not need to present any form of identification to secure their reserved campsite. However, this new identification policy is being implemented to ensure that the person who arrives at the campground office is the same person who made the campground reservation.

* Campground reservation holders will no longer be able to change the name of the person on the campground reservation. Previously, the original name on the reservation could be changed online on the reservation contractor's website. This would not change any components of the existing reservation. However, this change precludes the ability to change the name on a reservation once the reservation is made. There is a $10 cancellation fee for any reservation that is cancelled. Further, the same reservation under a different name is not guaranteed.

* The final change to the campground reservation system will be implemented later this summer. This alteration will change the way in which cancelled reservations are released back into the system. Currently, once a reservation is cancelled, the campsite is put back online to be purchased. However, under the newly implemented system, the campsites that become available can only be reserved by calling the campground reservation phone number. There is no date available for this change.

All campsites reserved in Yosemite National Park are reserved through a contractor, Active Works. The website is www.recreation.gov . They can also be reached at 1-877-444-6777. The park is implementing these changes to ensure equity and fairness for visitors wishing to make a campsite reservation within Yosemite National Park.

Comments

I had no idea this was going on, but it makes sense. Anything that is an in demand commodity can be and will be bartered whether legally or illegally. Glad to see the park service taking a pro-active approach.

I wonder how many other parks see this. We have noticed many sites can be hard to get particually on busy weekends like around holidays.

Is this policy being done at all parks or just Yosemite?

I was writing to the NPS and various groups about this three or four years ago when I found blocks of Yosemite campsites being sold on eBay. It was infuriating to me how impossible it was to fairly acquire reservations because of the level of scalping going on. I'm so glad they finally instituted these changes. I hope it helps.

I hope that they will be able to bring a program like this to the Half Dome reservations soon. It really hurts to see the reservations being sold on eBay and Craig's list for shamful amounts. The Mount Whitney lottery system still appears to be fair, but I understand that it may go to a Internet reservation system soon. I hope this doesn't become a Ticket Scalping event also.
Folks will always pay a fair amount to have the priveledge to use the parks popular venues. Lets try to make if fair to all and not a "Super Bowl" type of promotion that only the "Rich" has the priveledge to enjoy.

Stupid capitalism. It's so unfair that people can make money by selling NPS campsites that they've legally acquired. Only the NPS and its monopoly contractor are allowed to do that.

While I support the implementation of these new rules, this will also produce some inequitable results. For instance, say a group of people are going camping. The person whom made the reservation has to back out. The rest of the people cannot go because their name does not appear on the reservation. That's unfair. Also, say a group of people are going camping and the person whom made the reservation has to show up a day or two later, or they are just late. The rest of the people cannot go until the person whom made the reservation is there. That's unfair. Or how about your best friend gives you the reservation because they cannot go. I can't go because my name is not on the reservation. There are many circumstances where the transfer of the reservation are completely legitimate and warranted, but because of the new rules, an unfairness occurs.

I think it's well understood that there are legitimate reasons why someone might want to be able to transfer the name on a camping reservation that doesn't include reselling. However - the situation has been so out of hand that I'm guessing as many as half the reservation nights in Yosemite Valley during the peak season were initially reserved by those looking to resell. I believe the justification for this change was the hope that scalpers might consider it futile and simply cancel the reservations (minus the $10 cancellation fee), which would release it back into the available reservations.

I have heard of some suggestions that might be feasible to modify the reservation format. There could be additional names added to the reservation at the time it gets secured. These names would probably not be the same as a stranger contacted via Craigslist that a scalper might persuade to repurchase a reservation. That might allow a little bit of flexibility to allow people in the party to provide the ID if the primary on the reservation can't show up early (or at all).

Seriously though - if your best friend can't go, it's possible to cancel. That results in a full refund (minus the $10 cancellation fee) and someone interested in staying overnight can inquire at the campground office.

Anonymous:
Stupid capitalism. It's so unfair that people can make money by selling NPS campsites that they've legally acquired. Only the NPS and its monopoly contractor are allowed to do that.
I've heard of people attempting to resell or transfer entrance fee receipts. That's clearly a no-no even though the receipt was "legally acquired".

The resale of a federal campground reservation is a violation of NPS/FS/BLM/TVA/Bureau of Reclamation/Army Corp rules. Anyone who repurchases such a reservation runs a risk that the reservation will not be honored and always has. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the more brazen attempts to resell (including listing the dates and site numbers) have resulted in reservations not being honored. All the NPS would have to do is match such an advertisement with a reservation transfer. Have a ranger go to the suspect campsite and talk to the occupant, and it's easy enough for someone to simply admit (not knowing it's a violation) that it was repurchased. Subsequently, it's easy enough to boot a party from a site.

Get real, this has been going on as long as the park has had a presence
on the net. Has it ever struck you as simply egregious, that for so many
years you have needed to poke around to find a date that has
availability, when they could of simply told you what dates are
available.

No they want you to guess like playing Battleship.

Exchange on the telephone:

G3- miss!

H5- hit but only for two!

I need three-Sorry!

What other dates would have three?

When would you like to come?

How about when you have room for three!

I need a date!

Get real:
Get real, this has been going on as long as the park has had a presence
on the net. Has it ever struck you as simply egregious, that for so many
years you have needed to poke around to find a date that has
availability, when they could of simply told you what dates are
available.
What reservation system does that? I remember looking for sporting event tickets, and the ticket counter agent had to scroll through different dates for availability. Really - who is going to say they want three days, but not be specific about a time. Perhaps ask for weekends, weekdays, a specific date range, etc. The system is complex as it is. Do you want three nights in May or three nights in August?

Besides that, booking peak-season Yosemite campsites over the phone is likely a futile effort.

I guess they could go the old way, which was to sell campsite reservations on Ticketron, and where the ticket was a bearer instrument.

As of today, July 10, 2011, it still appears that cancelled reservations are made available again via the online reservation systems of both recreation.gov and yosemitepark.com. Can anyone update the information in this post regarding the timeline when cancelled reservations must be requested via telephone?
Out of all of the information in this post, I am skeptical of the one point that cancelled reservations are only made available again via telephone. The human resources required to implement such a change well would be quite a drag on any system. The switchboard would be filled all day everyday with inquiries.

zealousagenda:
As of today, July 10, 2011, it still appears that cancelled reservations are made available again via the online reservation systems of both recreation.gov and yosemitepark.com. Can anyone update the information in this post regarding the timeline when cancelled reservations must be requested via telephone?
Unknown. It still makes it a bit more difficult for the scalpers when many potential buyers understand the system is changing.

Also - Yosemitepark.com is the website of the concessionaire. Lodging reservations aren't subject to federal regulations regarding resale. A good deal of businesses legally resell for a small markup, although I can't figure out why anyone would deal with those businesses when it's easy enough to book on your own.

Scalping at Yosemite is alive and well. I just got back from there and did a little interviewing with a few groups. Families and freinds love to go together and have a big party, but that is about imposible to accomplish with the GOV reservation system. Although I called 5 months ahead of time, I could only get 3 nights.

2 large groups were near me and they both told me it cost about 2600.00 for the week!

One bought on Craigs list, and the other from an Iranian guy who has some sophisticated computer program that locks up lots of campsites.

The system is broken and the average voting American is getting the shaft.

I'll bet there isn't one member of congress that owns an RV or a nice tent-----they are out of touch, and I am writing mine in Nevada.

As far as people who can't go at the last minute--------the rangers told me that if they wrote a note about the problems about not going, and listing the relatives / freinds that will be going----they were good with that, and would not delay the check in to the campsite. Otherwise, they just cancel, and some lucky camper gets the space.

I support the park efforts to reduce the scalping of campsite reservations. One interesting aspect of the campground situation in Yosemite Valley has been the almost 40 year effort to reduce the actual number of sites in Yosemite Valley, and parkwide for that matter. For example, as late as the middle 1960's, there were up to 2500 campsites in the Valley. The campgrounds were not unitized, most of them being just hugh parking areas under pine trees. Out of bounds camping was permitted also. With the population growth in California, change was needed, and both upgrades of existing camping areas and elimination of out of bounds camping were started in the early seventies. Unfortunately, a continued policy of reducing sites was maintained until about 1997 when there were approximately 800 camping sits left in the valley. This as opposed to a approximately 1200'/1400 motel, hotel, cabin, tent type. accommodations. Afer the 1997 flood, another roughly 500 campsites were removed, even though 250 cabin units at Yosemite lodge were removed they are scheduled for replacement, leaving roughly 350 camping sites currently in the Valley. These all rough figures but the trend is hotel/motel units are 4 times the actual number of campsites. This raises interesting issues, but I think part of the problem is the removal of camping opportunities (20 bucks a night), verses the motel experience, which is very pricey. A tent right now rents for 100 plus and that is the low end. I for one would like to see many of the campsites removed, post 1997 flood, restored both in the Valley and parkwide. If reductions are needed on overnight use, we should hold the line on new hotel/motel units.

I support Ron Mackie's proposal to increase the ratio of tent camping to more expensive motel-type accomodations in Yosemite Valley. Tent camping in Yosemite Valley was a family tradition.

The best way to alleviate the issue would be to let would be campers bid on the camping sites and let the market work itself out. It'd work a lot better than setting prices lower than what the market would bear.

I'll second Ron Mackie's motion.

Zeb - I'm as big a "free market" guy as you can get but these are lands owned by the US public. The parks should be open to everyone on an equal basis. I like the idea of reserving in a specific name and if that person doesn't show with ID- your gone - kind of like voting should be. That is the way many rafting permits are issued. Though, I like Ron's idea of more supply as well.

Quote from above: "Although I called 5 months ahead of time, I could only get 3 nights. Two large groups were near me and they both told me it cost about 2600.00 for the week."

This is incredible, when one considers that there are fabulous, monumental, spectacular public lands all over the western U.S. that no one visits. In a visit to the Rio Grande National Forest north of Cumbres Pass, Colo., you'd be lucky to see three people in a week, and you'd have a view into the Chama River Valley that's like looking into Shangri-La.

On the other hand, maybe people like camaraderie and don't like solitude. Many of us on these pages, me included, have such a strong preference for solitude that we may overlook that.

Anonymous, clearly these campsites are a precious resource that many want access to. Best allocation of scarce resources is to let people bid on it. Selling them below their market value almost always leads to arbitraging. Personnally, I really don't care as I can't stand camping anyway, but it seems that the answer to the issue is pretty obvious: increase supply and let the market determine the price.

Recreation.gov works just fine. When I show up at a camp, I have to show my reservation confirmation. I'd have no problem showing photo ID. There have to be ways to stop this nonsense without tipping the earth off its axis.

Sorry Zeb - can't buy into that in this case. Have to agree with Lee. Now if that doesn't tip the earth off its axis, I don't know what will.