Camping before the parks open
March 20, 2013 5:49 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to take a couple of days in late April/early May to bike from Boston to Provincetown. None of the state parks along that route are open until Memorial Day. Is there any way I can still camp overnight along the route, or am I going to need to find other accommodations?

I was hoping that this trip could be sort of shakedown ride for future, longer trips so camping would be preferred if possible. Will there even be people at the parks that would notice me if I snuck in for an overnight? Or am I better off just finding a hostel?

Relatedly, after Memorial Day the parks only accept reservations with a minimum 2-night stay. I've noticed the bookings get pretty full on weekends throughout the whole summer, and I'm wondering what my options are if I do this trip again later in the year. Are there campsites set aside for walk-ins? How else can I arrive somewhere by bike and ensure I have somewhere to pitch a tent for one night?
posted by backseatpilot to Travel & Transportation around Wellfleet, MA (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You might try calling the state park's and speaking to one of the rangers. A lot of the state parks in MN have off-season camping for pretty cheap, but the websites don't always mention it.
posted by Think_Long at 6:09 AM on March 20, 2013

You might have better luck with private campgrounds, though I don't know how many of them exist on the Cape. The State Parks tend to be somewhat rigid with their rules where the private places are more flexible. That's my experience in New Hampshire, anyway.

As for the two-night thing, I often just book two nights when I only need one since the cost is usually low enough. If you're not sure which weekend you're going though, that's obviously not going to help.

If you're alone or with a small group you might just want to call a private place last minute; even if they're booked they might find a corner for you somewhere if you tell them you'll be arriving late and leaving early. You could also try that at a State Park.

If you have no other alternatives and you have a small footprint you could find a wooded area and try to hide. Set up your tent after dark (better yet, sleep on a tarp) and take it down as early as possible. Being woken up at 4:00 AM by a cop shining his flashlight in your face is a real possibility but usually they're cool once they realize you're not causing any trouble. Worst case is they kick you out and you get an early start or go crash somewhere else for a while.

Oh, and Nickerson SP in Brewster is pretty huge and right on the bike path. I bet if someone were to sneak in and set up quietly they'd get away with camping. If a ranger came by in the morning you could just play dumb and offer to pay for the night. Rangers spend a lot of time dealing with drunk assholes who make a mess of the place and they're usually very cool with quiet, respectful people who just need a place to sleep.
posted by bondcliff at 6:12 AM on March 20, 2013

Nickerson SP in Brewster only opens a small part of the campground early in the season. This may be an un-advertised thing, so I would definitely call the ranger station. 508 896-3491
posted by Gungho at 7:18 AM on March 20, 2013

Yeah, I'm here to second "just find a small place, keep your footprint small, and get out early." Stay away from large, identified campgrounds with 100-150 places - look for areas that can accomodate 1-4 campers or places not identified at all.

Mostly they keep these things closed to avoid people freezing to death or killing themselves in stupid ways.
posted by corb at 7:33 AM on March 20, 2013

Closed as in the gates are actually closed? I've never experienced that in Kansas State Parks, but most of ours are around fishing areas so that might having something to do with it. If by bike you mean bicycle you might find churches/people to let you camp out along the way, but I think you'll be fine in the parks. I've been left alone everytime I've camped "off-season." If you can find a camp host, tell them you're there and pay the fee, if not don't worry about it.
posted by thylacine at 7:38 AM on March 20, 2013

Are they completely closed, or closed for bookings? I would call them and ask if they have dispersed camping as well (where you just show up, pitch camp, and clean up after yourself when you leave, no amenities). Also, here is a mention of off season camping, so I think you might have some options.
posted by Vaike at 11:20 AM on March 20, 2013

Shawme-Crowell State Forest in Sandwich is open year-round.

They even have yurts if you're looking for more upscale accommodations. It might be worth the extra $$ if you're biking that distance. The other bonus is Sandwich is just past the halfway mark of your journey if you plan on spreading it out over two days. Happy riding!
posted by Babushka at 4:56 PM on March 20, 2013

Response by poster: Are they completely closed, or closed for bookings?

Unclear, but probably something a phone call could sort out. The off-season camping page on the DCR website lists some specific weekends and weekdays that they're open, but it seems to be sporadic (unless I'm reading the info wrong).

Stealth camping sounds stressful, but I guess I'll give it a shot if there are no other options.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:04 AM on March 21, 2013

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