The hardest part about group camping is remembering to book a campsite six month in advance!
The bulk (though not all) of the reservations I have made are through the California States Parks Department reservations system entitled ReserveAmerica.com. In order to make reservations you first have to create an account. You then log into your account before 8:00 am PST six months ahead of your targeted camping dates. In other words if you want to make a reservation for July 4th weekend, you have to log in to ReserveAmerica.com on January 1st at 8:00 am PST to book it. This alone is a daunting task. On top of remembering to book six months out you also have to be prepared for the gut wrenching, adrenaline rushing reality that you might get boxed out on your first choice. Very popular group sites get booked within a few minutes of the 8:00 am opening window. If you have ever tried to buy Bruce Springsteen tickets through Ticketmaster, it is a similar situation.
As I said, the bulk of the sites I have looked at are booked through ReserveAmerica, but there are other jurisdictions which maintain there own reservation systems such as Santa Barbara County Parks, US Forest Service and even campsites owned and operated by PG&E. They all seem to follow the six month guideline set down by the California State Parks system.
This assumes you have already picked your spot? I started this blog partially because of how difficult it is to find decent information on what a given group site is like, and I have had more than one surprise thus far.
Clearly the best way to gauge a campgrounds pleasantries is to look at it, drive through the loop, take a peek at the group site, etc. Of course this is not always possible. There is also a website called CampsitePhotos.com, but it is hard to tell from a photo and I have a difficult time finding photos of the group sites at that webstite.
The bulk of my research is done with a great book called:
here that has every group site in Southern California with a scenic rating 8 or above listed as a reference.
Once I have my first choice and my second choice I am ready to get a group site booking!