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Join the Camping Craze for a Fun Total Solar Eclipse Viewing Experience

The April 8 celestial phenomenon is almost here. Don’t wait to book your campsite

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Eclipse watchers wear special glasses to view the solar eclipse in Newport, Oregon, on Aug. 21, 2017. Many Americans are making travel plans for the total solar eclipse on April 8 by finding viewing locations in the path of totality.
Toni Greaves/The New York Times/Redux

Of those intending to witness the total solar eclipse on April 8, 71 percent are leaning toward camping, according to research by Kampgrounds of America (KOA).

“As the sun and moon align, you’re there, right in the middle of it all, perhaps enjoying a campfire and the company of friends or family,” says Erin Stender, chief marketing officer at Campspot, an online reservation platform for booking private campgrounds in North America.

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Travelers are craving that very experience, planning outdoor vacations around celestial events in a burgeoning trend known as astrotourism. That’s particularly true for the April 8 event, according to KOA, where 70 percent of campers are booking outdoor vacations specifically to see the eclipse.

There’s still time for you to reserve your site. But not for long.

A phenomenon that occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, causing the moon’s shadow to obscure the sun, a total solar eclipse generates temporary darkness along the path of totality. April’s event will span the U.S. from Texas to Maine and allow 99 percent of residents throughout all 50 states to see the partial or total eclipse from where they live, according to NASA.

Indeed, experts believe conditions for the coming eclipse are so favorable, it may outshine what was dubbed the Great American Eclipse of August 2017.

The path of totality is 72 percent wider than the one seven years ago, according to NASA figures, at most a width of 122 miles versus 71 miles. 

“There were approximately 11 million people who lived within the totality zone in 2017,” Joe Rao, associate and guest lecturer at New York’s American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center for Earth and Space, said in an email interview. “But this year, nearly three times as many people (32 million) will have an opportunity to witness the cosmic vision of a lifetime.”

The 2017 eclipse is especially fresh in our collective memories because it followed a 38-year gap, says Michael Zeiler, eclipse cartographer and cofounder of the Great American Eclipse, a leading online source of solar eclipse information and products. April’s eclipse will last longer: up to 4 minutes and 28 seconds, according to NASA, or about 77 percent longer than in 2017 (2 minutes and 42 seconds). 

The wider path, combined with a lengthy duration, may draw up to 4 million spectators, Zeiler says.

“There is a lot of hype around a total solar eclipse,” he says. “But it is the rare phenomenon that lives up to the hype.”

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A view of the total solar eclipse over Carbondale, Illinois, on Aug. 21, 2017. The April 8, 2024, eclipse will have a wider path and longer duration than the 2017 event, giving more people the opportunity to witness it.
Andrea Morales/The New York Times/Redux

Outdoor adventures

That anticipation is spurring a massive surge of reservations at campgrounds across the U.S.

Stender says prime camping spots offering the best views of the eclipse are in high demand, made all the more so by locations organizing special celestial events and celebrations.

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“This turns the eclipse from a mere few minutes of darkness into an opportunity for a unique mini-vacation,” she says.

Campspot’s user searches along the path of totality were up 97 percent in the last quarter of 2023 compared to the same time period in 2022. Reservations for campgrounds in states along the path are also skyrocketing: a 500 percent increase in Arkansas and Vermont; 300 percent in Oklahoma and Ohio; and more than 100 percent in Texas, New York and Missouri, Campspot notes.

Hipcamp, an online marketplace for reserving private campgrounds, shows a 4,000 percent increase in bookings around the April 8 time frame compared to last year. Reservations in states like Ohio and Missouri are approaching 80 percent occupancy.

The enthusiasm is evident in other travel sectors, too. Comparing the same time in 2024 versus 2023, Priceline searches for flights to Indianapolis have spiked more than 2,000 percent, while Buffalo, New York, has seen an 8,000 percent increase in queries on hotels.

Priceline found surges in airfares to destinations such as Austin, Texas, where flights cost more than double the average (and drop 30 percent immediately after the eclipse). Cleveland is seeing a 1,500 percent increase in car-rental demand as well, according to Priceline.

Now you may be asking: Am I too late join in the stellar-themed celebrations?

Not yet, says Kevin Long, CEO of The Dyrt, an online resource for researching, reviewing and booking campsites throughout the U.S. Although most popular national and state campsites were reserved more than a year ago, there’s still inventory for last-minute planners.

“All along the path of totality, sites are booking up fast,” he says.

“While many of the campgrounds on The Dyrt are fully booked April 7–9, 2024, it is still possible to find available campsites at private campgrounds for those dates,” Long says.

Where to find campsites

Long says travelers to Texas are likely to find open campgrounds because the path of totality covers such a large portion of the state. A few other options are camping near the path of totality or considering northern destinations that aren’t as coveted because of colder spring conditions.

Less-searched states at Campspot, for instance, include Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Maine, Stender says.

“It can be tricky to find campgrounds in these locations due to seasonal campground closure/opening times,” she says. “But there are still some spots remaining.”

Although Texas and other warmer-weather states along the path of totality are selling out, according to Hipcamp, Arkansas remains a “hidden gem” with plenty of inventory.

There are also opportunities to reserve KOA sites and cabins.

“We still have several campgrounds with availability along the path of totality, spanning locations like Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and New York,” says Diane Eichler, senior vice president of marketing. “But we strongly encourage travelers in pursuit of a unique viewing experience to secure their bookings now.”

And for those who aren’t planning a camping adventure for the eclipse?  

Take a day trip to the path of totality nearest your home, Zeiler says. Just be sure your location’s weather forecast for April 8 predicts clear skies or a low cloud probability. Your plan should also offer quick access to alternative routes in case clouds appear and you need to relocate.

If you miss this event, he says, the March 14, 2025, lunar eclipse is another good opportunity. But for a total solar eclipse, you’ll have to head to Greenland, Iceland or Spain in 2026. Or wait until 2044 for the next one to cross the U.S. 

“It’s like a scene from a science fiction movie,” Zeiler says about a total solar eclipse. “It’s unlike anything else you’ve ever seen before.”

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