Roslyn Weiss, a transplant from Boulder who is building a farmstead in Las Trampas, created a Hipcamp profile at hipcamp.com the day her mother told her about the site in March.
"We are just getting settled here with the intention of doing sustainable food production on the land, and part of our financial model in kind of bootstrapping this operation is offering stays on the farm," she says. "It's just part of our dream of making this land happen."
So far, she's had just one "hipcamper," but sees lots of potential, and recently purchased a circus-esque canvas tent with plans to add "glamping."
It's an example of Hipcamp doing what it does best: connecting private landowners with would-be campers looking for somewhere unique to pitch a tent. Website founder and CEO Alyssa Ravasio has seen the endeavor support other sustainable farming operations, and even bridge the urban-rural divide. It's big growth from an idea that started around a failure to plan, after Ravasio once found herself short-changed out of a beach camping experience because she did not book a campsite far enough in advance.
The website began in California four years ago as a resource guide for campsite information so people could be smart about picking a site and as a way of searching for nearby available sites if a chosen campground was booked. The private landowners component came two years ago. They're targeting New Mexico for growth, identifying landowners who might be a good fit, reaching out, and walking them through a process that includes creating a listing, sending over a professional photographer and signing up for insurance. Already, local offerings include a cabin on the Pecos River and space for trailers or tents on 7.5 acres along the San Antonio River in the Jemez Mountains.
"The number one reason why people love going on Hipcamp isn't just because there's nowhere else to go," Ravasio says. "It's a really unique experience. It's a chance to go somewhere that is generally going to be really private. You're going to have a situation where you have 100 acres all to yourself." It's a chance to book a place with friends or family and not worry about keeping the neighbors up at night.
While the private land listings look promising, there are some, shall we say, gaps in the resource guide when it comes to camping on nearby public lands. The listing for the Big Tesuque Campground—the grassy hillside in the aspens along the road to Ski Santa Fe—appears with a photo of the pink sandstone of the Gilman Tunnels. Big T is in the eastern half of the Santa Fe National Forest, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains; Gilman Tunnels in the west, in the Jemez. The Aspen Basin Campground in the ski area parking lot gets treated to a scenic photo of an alpine lake that would be visible only after hiking miles up the ski hill.
"If the community hasn't uploaded a photo yet for the campground, we just default to a photo from the national forest, so it's definitely not ideal," Ravasio says. "In areas where we've been around for a bit longer, we've seen really great community involvement."
Written descriptions were intended to provide details to help fill in those gaps. But again, at Aspen Basin Campground, the area is described as "relatively undeveloped"—which is true, just as long as you're facing away from the ski lodge. The writer continues, "The entire area is ultra scenic, so it can get popular during the summer an fall aspen viewing seasons."
It is, and it does, but would the truly uninitiated show up for an "undeveloped" experience and be turned off by so much asphalt?
Activities should also be double-checked. The writer recommends the hiking, biking, and camping near the Panchuela Campground in the Pecos Wilderness, but biking on trails would violate federal law banning bikes there.
Hipcamp lists sites in the Santa Fe National Forest as walk-ups, but the federally run recreation.gov allows booking some of them in advance. That website is working on an overhaul now to add one of the components from Hipcamp: browsing by a real-time feed of available sites. In addition to aggregating campsites and cabins available through all federal land agencies, that data has been released to other websites developers for reuse.
"We just feel that being able to provide this data allows for creativity and innovation—like a Hipcamp—to just simply expand the ways in which people can access this information," Smith says. "We want to meet people where they are, if it's in a website or another social network, so that they can access this information from wherever they are."
Right now, for people in Santa Fe, Ravasio says, connecting with sites on private land is probably the more useful component of hipcamp.com. Or, if you're still searching out somewhere to catch the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, there's a one-click link for last-minute bookings in the path of the totality.