Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
Why do I see empty campsites in busy parks?

We often get this question: “Why do I see empty campsites but so few available when I make a reservation?”

In recent years, our parks have seen a large increase in bookings. We’re so happy that so many people want to spend time in our wonderful parks, but growing interest can also make it more competitive to book a campsite, especially in busy parks and on popular dates.

When you book right at 7:00 am, there could also be many, many other visitors trying to book for the same arrival date, at the same park, or even at the same campground.

So we completely understand why it would be confusing and frustrating to arrive only to see empty campsites all over the campground.

We want to share some of the reasons you may see empty campsites, even in a busy park:

Empty sites may not meet your search criteria.

When creating your reservation, only campsites that match your search criteria will appear available (green).

Search criteria include dates, number of nights, group size and equipment type.

filters screenshot

Additional filters may be applied, such as restrictions (no radio, no generator, etc.), type of service (electric or non-electric), dual site, direct access, shaded site, or barrier-free.

Site Map

Campsites that may be empty when you are in the park may not have met your search criteria and therefore did not appear available for you to reserve.

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These sites may also have other reservations for just one night or part of your stay.

Learn more about using filters when searching for a campsite.

Your campmates haven’t arrived yet.

At some of our most popular parks, there may be hundreds of reservations still to come.

family setting up camping

Campmates may not be able to set up camp immediately due to delays, traveling from afar, or other reasons.

Additionally, their arrival date may not coincide with yours, so the campsite will not appear available if there is a bit of an overlap in your travel dates.

Last minute cancellations

Life happens. Maybe a flat tire, an illness or a family emergency.

Although we recommend canceling in advance, emergencies happen. We’ve all planned an amazing camping trip and then something comes up and you have to cancel it at the last minute.

group on the dock

It’s always disappointing when a camping plan doesn’t come to fruition. When cancellations occur at the last minute, campsites are often left empty.

Closed due to wildlife, site rehabilitation or hazards

Campsites cannot be empty; They could be occupied by park residents, such as nesting birds or turtles.

Parks are home to many species, and sometimes protecting their homes and habitat means campgrounds may have to close.


Campsites may also be closed for rehabilitation purposes. Environmental impacts such as flooding, storms, and damage from invasive species may have affected the camps.

These sites may require restoration work so that future campers can enjoy the site again.

camping with cut logsAsh tree removal in Port Burwell due to emerald ash borer

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Hazards, such as a rotting tree, in or near a campground can also cause a park to close campsites. We want to prioritize camper safety at all times!

Having trouble finding a campsite?

We understand that it can be difficult to reserve a campsite in some of our busiest parks.

Here are some of our top tips for reserving a spot:

  • Sign up to receive availability notifications and keep an eye on the reservation system for last-minute cancellations.
  • book a midweek trip
  • Share a campsite with friends! (Note: the maximum number of occupants in a single campsite is six)
  • adjust your filters when searching for a campsite
  • Try a new park and use the search feature for similar experiences.
  • head north! Our northern parks tend to have more availability.

For more information, read our tips for booking a campground at Ontario Parks.