North Pines Campground Early Access Lottery

North Pines Campground reservations will be released by one-time early access lottery this season (April 17 through the night of October 29, 2023). Successful lottery applicants will have an opportunity to make a reservation for campsites in North Pines Campground during a less-competitive early access period. Any remaining availability will be released on the usual on-sale dates (five months in advance on the 15th of the month) beginning February 15. The goals of this lottery are to:

  • Create a better experience that reduces confusion and frustration for the highly competitive reservation process.
  • Offer a new method for reserving campsites at this high-demand location for a more equitable experience.
  • Address visitor complaints about the perception of an unfair reservation process.

Important Dates

  • Lottery application period: November 28 (7 am PST) through December 12, 2022 (9 pm PST).
  • Lottery application results notifications: December 22, 2022
  • Early access period for successful lottery applicants: January 2 through February 1, 2023
  • General on-sale dates for any remaining reservations:
    • February 15 (April 17 through July 14 arrivals)
    • March 15 (July 15 through August 14 arrivals)
    • April 15 (August 15 through September 14 arrivals)
    • May 15 (September 15 through October 14 arrivals)
    • June 15 (October 14 through October 29 arrivals)

How does the lottery work?

You can apply for the early access lottery any time between November 28 at 7 am PST through December 12 at 9 pm PST on Recreation.gov. (The lottery is available on the web, but not via the Recreation.gov app.) When you apply for the lottery during this period does not affect your chances of success. Recreation.gov will select 2,500 applicants using a computer-randomized process. If you are one of the successful lottery applicants, you will receive your early access date and time on December 22. The early access period is from January 2 through February 1.

Can I submit multiple lottery applications?

No. You can only apply to the lottery once.

How and when will I be notified if I was assigned an early access time slot to make a reservation?

You will receive an email notification with the results of the lottery on December 22. You can also log on to your Recreation.gov account to view lottery results.

How long are the reservation time slots? How many people will be assigned to each window?

If you are one of the approximately 2,500 people awarded a time slot in the early access period, you will receive a notification of when your time slot is. You can make, modify, or cancel a reservation when your time slot begins, and until the early access period ends (on February 1). Each day of the early access period will have six start times, at 7 am, 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm PST. Once your access period begins, it will remain open from that point until the end of the early access period. About 20 people will be assigned to each time slot. The later a time slot you have, the more people will have access to make reservations. For instance, on January 2, 20 people will have an opportunity to make a reservation from 7 am to 10 am PST. At 10 am, an additional 20 people will have access (for a total of 40 people), and so on, until all 2,500 awardees have an opportunity.

Why are there 2,500 time slots?

We arrived at 2,500 time slots based on the availability of 80 campsites over the 196 nights of the reservation period, along with an estimated average stay length of just under five nights. (During the 2022 lottery, the average stay length was 3.7 nights.)

What was the success rate during the 2022 lottery pilot?

During the 2022 lottery pilot, we received 22,033 applications for the 640 time slots, for a success rate of 2.9%. Of people awarded a time slot, 82.5% of them made a reservation, resulting in 48% of availability being booked. The average stay was 3.7 nights (median of 4, with about half making a reservation for three or four nights).

How can I increase my odds of success during the early access period?

You will be able to view availability starting January 2, but will not be able to make a reservation until your time slot begins. Be sure to check availability before your time slot begins so you can adjust your dates or sites accordingly. Being awarded an early access time slot does not guarantee you will get a reservation of your choice. Reservations will still be in high demand.

What if I’m not available to make a reservation during my time slot?

If you miss your time slot, you can make a reservation (if any are available) until the end of the early access period (February 2). Otherwise, you will have to wait until the next general on-sale date.

How many sites will be available through the lottery?

The normal inventory of campsites in North Pines (80) will be available to book through the early access period. However, 48 of these sites will be unavailable during the lottery from May 1 through June 30 due to flooding risk. These sites will be released at a later date, once we determine the risk of flooding is low.

Am I guaranteed a reservation if I am a successful lottery applicant?

The lottery grants you early access to a less-competitive reservation environment prior to the general on-sale; it does not guarantee that all the dates, nor all the sites, will be available to you since others may have been granted an earlier access period. Be sure to have multiple dates in mind and don’t restrict yourself to specific sites.

Can I or my group reserve multiple campsites?

If you are awarded a time slot, you can make one reservation (one continuous stay in a single campsite) during the early access lottery. You won’t be able to make multiple reservations, even if they are for fewer than seven nights. Each campsite in North Pines can accommodate up to six people.

The early access lottery may make it harder for groups of people to reserve campsites for the same dates. Instead, you might consider using the normal reservation process (five months in advance on the 15th of the month) or reserving a group campsite in another campground.

How many nights can I book each season?

The camping limit between May 1 and September 15 is seven nights for campgrounds in Yosemite Valley, including North Pines. You will only be able to reserve up to a total of seven nights during this period, whether you make the reservation during the early access period or general on-sale dates. Additionally, for reservations made using the early access lottery, the maximum stay length is seven nights, even if the stay is before May 1 or after September 15.

Will accessible campsites be available in the lottery?

Yes. If you need an accessible site, but are only able to reserve a non-accessible site, contact the Valley Campground office at 209/372-8502 for assistance.

Can I change my reservation?

If you make a reservation and want to change it during the early access period, you can modify your reservation if space is available. Once the early access period is over, you can’t modify or cancel your reservation until the appropriate on-sale date.

Will any reservations be available for North Pines Campground on traditional on-sale dates?

Any reservations not taken during the early access period will become available five months in advance on the 15th of the month starting on February 15.

How much does the lottery cost?

Applying for the early access lottery has a non-refundable $10 lottery fee. If you make a reservation, the cost is $36 per night.

Why is there a non-refundable lottery application fee?

The lottery application fee is non-refundable even if your lottery application is unsuccessful or if you are unable to get a reservation during the early access period. The lottery application fee pays for contracted services through the Recreation.gov platform for online and call-center applications. Online applications are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The call center is open for 14 hours per day (7 am to 9 pm Pacific time) all year (except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day). The lottery application fee reflects the cost of providing an online public reservation service, which includes recreation sites and activities for seven participating agencies for more than 4,200 locations and 113,000 individual sites across the country.

Why are you using an early access lottery system?

The demand for reservations in Yosemite campgrounds through Recreation.gov far exceeds availability, especially in Yosemite Valley during the busiest times of the year. This has been the case for decades and demand has only increased over time. More than ten thousand people visit Recreation.gov during Yosemite’s on-sale dates in hopes of getting a reservation. On the busiest on-sale dates, reservations sell out in minutes. Hopeful campers take days off work and recruit family and friends to simultaneously try to make any possible reservation. Still, many are unsuccessful year after year, causing frustration, disappointment, and feeling the system is flawed and unfair. We regularly receive complaints from users saying they were unsuccessful because they are not computer savvy, their computers or internet connection are not fast enough, or that bots (automated computer systems) got all the reservations, or that some users receive preferential treatment. The early access lottery is an attempt to address these concerns. Based on an equitable, randomized system, the lottery assigns a limited number of successful applicants a period before the general on-sale during which they can make a reservation. While the lottery does not guarantee your desired dates or campsite will be available, it limits the number of users competing simultaneously for campsites during peak-season dates. In summary, the lottery seeks to:

  • Create a better experience that reduces confusion and frustration for the highly competitive reservation process.

  • Offer a new method for reserving campsites at this high-demand location for a more equitable experience.

  • Address visitor complaints about the perception of an unfair reservation process.

Will this expand to other campgrounds?

We will use visitor comments and feedback to evaluate the early access lottery and may consider expanding it to other campgrounds.

What is Recreation.gov doing to deter bots?

Recreation.gov consistently monitors the system to detect bot activity or other cyber-attacks and diligently works to mitigate impacts to deliver a fair and transparent reservation system for equal access to customers, especially for high-demand locations and activities. The Recreation.gov engineering team protects the system from suspected bots that attempt to make reservations during high-demand sale periods.In February 2019, Recreation.gov implemented CAPTCHA for reservable camping locations. CAPTCHA stands for: “completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart.” Google’s CAPTCHA is widely adopted across the internet to reduce or eliminate bot fraud. Recreation.gov has implemented a multilayered approach to reducing bot traffic.

  • As a first step, the site uses Google’s latest version of CAPTCHA, Version 3.0, which is also known as silent CAPTCHA. In the background, site traffic is monitored by CAPTCHA for suspected bots. Site traffic behavior is scored by CAPTCHA from 0.00 to 1.0. The lower the score the more likely it’s a bot. A score of 0.0 is a bot and is blocked from making a reservation.

  • The next layer addresses approximately 2% of users with site traffic behavior that is considered suspicious. For these users, we can’t guarantee with 100% certainty it’s a bot or a human. This small group of users will be required to select a set of images such as store fronts or traffic signs (CAPTCHA 2.0) before they are able to proceed with making a reservation.

  • All other users will proceed with making a reservation uninterrupted. The Recreation.gov engineering and security team continuously monitors system performance and adjusts as needed to stop bot traffic.

What are the technical details on how the lottery sorts applications?

Each lottery is randomized by shuffling all the applications using the Fisher-Yates Shuffle, which produces an unbiased and random ordering of results. Recreation.gov also uses a Cryptographically Secure Pseudo Random Number Generator (CSPRNG) to prevent any inadvertent bias in the lottery process. These random number generators are vetted to produce random numbers that cannot be predicted based upon past outputs, and they don’t allow anyone to predict future or past numbers generated.

Last updated: November 17, 2022

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