Bots Are Stealing Your Campsites And Permits

Curry Village

While all you Yosemite camping hopefuls furiously refresh the Recreation.gov website this morning to reserve your campsite, it’s more than likely the good ones were all instantly snapped up by bots. Time to make some new plans for summer.

The folks at KQED (San Francisco’s local PBS station) uncovered the prevalent use of bots to book campsites throughout California’s park system. If you needed yet another reason to hate the tech-elite of Silicon Valley, now you have it. To save time and effort and ensure success, many coding-savvy Californians are creating bots to win those all coveted campsites or even trail permits through sites such as Recreation.gov. You and I don’t stand a chance.

If you are not familiar, a bot is a software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive (like refreshing a website for availability) at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone.

For now, it seems that most of these bots are created for personal use only, not to reserve all the campsites in Yosemite for the whole summer and then sell them on for a profit, for example. However, according to KQED, California State Parks has already shut down a vendor called “Adventure Man” who did just that.

A legal gray area in terms of personal use, there is technically nothing stopping the rest of us from using bots ourselves to do the same thing — the code for the Yosemite bot is posted on GitHub. The problem is, you need to understand how to use it and I wager that the majority of people looking to camp in Yosemite don’t.

When KQED spoke to representatives from both Yosemite and the California State Parks system about the bot issue, they both see the real problem as lack of inventory. For example, there are 459 campsites in Yosemite to be spread between 4 million visitors each year. As the number of campsites is pretty much finite and the number of visitors continues to grow year on year, the problem will only get worse — bots or no bots.

For me, this is the impetus to head into the backcountry and skip the campsites or cabins all together. Now, about that permit bot…

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