Unicoi State Park’s squirrel’s nest. HANDOUT

Camping out for Solar Eclipse 2017? Better hurry, spots are going fast

Ask about finding a camping spot in Georgia ahead of the Great American Eclipse and you’ll hear “sold out” or laughter.

Many campsites and cabins have been booked a year out either by individuals or groups.

The likelihood of finding a camping site diminishes greatly the closer you get to the so-called “path of totality,” meaning the area where the moon can be seen completely covering the sun.

So you might want to send up a few prayers to the camping gods if you haven’t booked a spot yet.

The odds aren’t even that good for finding campsites and cabins away from the path of totality.

Don Carter State Park on Lake Lanier, Victoria Bryant State Park near Royston and Watson Mill Bridge State Park near Athens are some of the parks with available accommodations that are within a short drive of the eclipse path, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Staffers at Black Rock Mountain State Park in Mountain City started getting calls before the park could accept reservations. The system only allows them to book 13 months in advance.

Campers at Elijah Clark State Park in Lincolnton. HANDOUT
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“People were calling Black Rock two years in advance,” said Kim Hatcher, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “Parks that are near the path of totality have been sold out for quite a while.”

She advises people to check the state park system’s website, which is updated regularly, or call the park directly because there may be cancellations. She also said some cabins may still be available, even if actual campsites aren’t.

And once parking spaces are full, that’s it, she warned. In state parks you won’t be able to sleep in your cars or pitch a tent on the side of the road.

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A spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service said campsites in North Georgia are also sold out, and she advised people to check with individual parks for cancellation.

National and state parks, though, may not be your only camping options.

Yurts at Tugaloo State Park in Hartwell, Ga. HANDOUT
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Consider private land.

Hipcamp is a San Francisco-based startup that helps people find campsites on private land, previously not open to campers, such as farms, ranches and nature preserves.

So far, the site has more than 1,000 new campsites in the path of totality, including nearly a dozen in Georgia. The cost is usually under $100 and includes options that range from cabins to cottages to improvised campsites.

The list includes places such as Spotted Fawn Farm, a 60-acre privately owned spread and rescue animal refuge in Hartwell.

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The farm is owned by Elexis and Buddy Hays, who have fielded calls and emails nonstop for weeks. So far about 30 people have booked spots, including a three-bedroom cottage, a one-bedroom cabin and camping spots.

“We are in the zone of totality,” Elexis Hays said. “Apparently, this eclipse is a bigger deal than I ever thought. It’s insane.” Hays said her husband plans to concoct a new drink called the “blackout,” but “we don’t know what’s in it yet.”

If you decide to venture farther, there’s Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina and North Carolina. You may encounter similiar issues with availability.

Campsites in state parks in the path of totality are sold out, said Eric Ward, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, but spots are available at parks outside of that path of complete coverage.

Here are some places to check on camp options:

Georgia Department of Natural Resources State Parks and Historic Sites at www.gastateparks.org. Also check out the special eclipse information page.

Reservations 1-800-864-7275 or call the park directly.

(Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

Hipcamp at https://www.hipcamp.com or, for Georgia options, go to www.hipcamp.com/discover/georgia.

Spotted Fawn Farm at www.spottedfawnfarm.com.

Vogel State Park

405 Vogel State Park Road

Blairsville, Ga.

Park: 706-745-2628

Reservations: 800-864-7275

Black Rock Mountain State Park

3085 Black Rock Mountain Parkway, Mountain City, Ga.

706-746-2141

Unicoi State Park at www.unicoistatepark.org

Unicoi State Park & Lodge

1788 Ga. 356

Helen, Ga.

Lodge reservations: 800-573-9659

Park: 706-878-2201

U.S. Forest Serviceor www.recreation.gov.

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