The mountains are still buried in snow and summer is three months away, yet it’s not too early to start planning a camping trip.
It may, in fact, be too late to reserve some of the more popular campsites the West has to offer.
“A camping spot at Redfish Lake is probably out of the question,” said Julie Thomas, a spokesperson for the Sawtooth National Forest.
Campers can reserve their favorite spots months in advance, and many savvy sojourners do just that.
The federal government starts taking online camping reservations Jan. 1, and by 2 p.m. that day many of the most popular sites have been snapped up, Thomas said.
“People come back to the same places every year,” she said. “They have gotten used to the way the system works and do their best to get them.”
Don’t despair. Plenty of campsites are still available, although you may have to settle for a more remote spot that lacks amenities like flush toilets, showers, or a nearby lodge.
Consider Alturus Lake Inlet campground, for example. It’s 17 miles south of Redfish in the Sawtooth range. Nearly half its campsites are designated as first-come, first served.