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Idaho parks and recreation just opened up its reservations for state park campgrounds. By the time you read this, Ponderosa Park up at McCall will most likely be filled up.

Some of our nearby national parks are also taking reservations for next summer. You can reserve a camp spot at Yellowstone now and in January you can reserve one in Teton National Park. Both of these parks have busy tourist seasons and spots will fill fast.

It used to be that if you waited until after Labor Day you could expect to see fewer people. That is not really the case anymore. Yellowstone takes camping reservations for up to a year in advance. So, if you get on the stick, you may be able to snag a reservation for this coming summer. Yellowstone reservations can be made at: yellowstonenationalparklodges.com.

Yellowstone is celebrating its 150-year birthday this coming summer. It’ll be busy, but it is always busy. There is no better place to see large animals like buffalo, elk, wolves and grizzlies. Early mornings at sunrise and late afternoon at sunset are the best times to see animals and the best times to see fewer people. The thermal features are some of the best around.

There are around 300 miles of roads in Yellowstone so people can spread out a little. Be warned though that you can’t just show up and expect to find a camp spot. Get your reservations now.

Grand Teton National Park starts taking campground reservations on Jan. 26, 2022 at: rec.gov. This is the second season that Teton park has gone to all reservation campgrounds. It used to be that all campsites were first-come, first-serve. That led to some early morning lines at the campground in hopes of snagging a spot.

If modern campgrounds don’t interest you then try to snag a backcountry permit for backpacking. You cannot just grab your backpack and head up a trail. You’ll need a backcountry permit in both Yellowstone and Teton National Park.

Teton backcountry permits are also available in advance on the website starting the second Wednesday in January, 2022, or you can take your chances and try to get a first-come first-serve backcountry permit at the park up to two days in advance. Again, be warned that the line for these permits forms very early in the morning.

Backpacking opens up a whole new world. Once you get a few miles from the trailhead you have the park to yourself. Sure, there are some day hikers that you’ll encounter, but they arrive in the late morning and head back late afternoon. The rest of the time you are by yourself.

My favorite backpacking spot in the Tetons is Leigh Lake. There are several backcountry camping spots around Leigh Lake. Some are accessible by a short 2-to-4-mile flat hike and some you can only get to by canoe. All have bear boxes to store your food.

Much longer and harder backpacking spots can be found at Cascade Canyon, Paintbrush Canyon and, of course, the Teton Crest Trial.

It is hard to start thinking about next summer camping trips when ski season hasn’t even arrived. But this is the time to start planning now — or you’ll miss out.

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