As with any large, integrated, system there are challenges with keeping a consistent language that is meaningful to its customers. Whether you are using www.recreation.gov or www.reserveamerica.com, you are accessing the same data when you get to the campground page.
The terms "Walk-in" and "Walk-up" becomes especially confusing in the fall and spring when many campgrounds are operating outside of their reservation season. When a campground is open past the reservation season, campsites will become first-come-first-served or "Walk-up". You will see this reflected on the "Date Range Availability" tab as shown below:
You may have noticed Walk-up sites throughout the reservation season if you've tried to get a reservation for a date within the next few days as shown below. This is because a reservation must be made at least 4 days in advance to allow time for it to be communicated to the campground management. If a reservable campsite is not reserved, it becomes first-come-first-served between reservations. "Walk-up" means first-come-first-served.
So far it's pretty straight forward! Here's where it starts to get confusing.
Some campgrounds have sites where you have to walk a short distance between the parking spot and the table, fire ring and tent area. Also, some campgrounds have an area with tent-only campsites that share a common parking area and a path leads to each site. These are called "Walk-in" sites. An example of this is Grove Campground on Laurel River Lake, KY. The example below shows campsites 1 and 2 are "Walk-in" by their designation in the "Facility Area" column of the "Date Range Availability" tab. First-come-first-served or "Walk-up" indicators are circled in Red.
Hang on, there's one more thing and this is what confuses a lot of people; and understandably so!
You may look at the Season Dates because you are wondering if the campground is open before or after the reservation season. "Peak" indicates that campsites are reservable during the time span indicated. That's the straight-forward part.
The example below shows the term "Walk-in" to describe the first-come-first-served season which is inconsistent with definitions on the "Date Range Availability" page; which uses "Walk-up" to describe first-come-first-served sites.
We are currently working to correct this error throughout the reservation sites. We apologize for the inconsistency and thank you for your patience.