Camping at Austin Creek State Recreation Area in Guerneville just got a lot more hip.
For the first time, fans of the 5,700-acre reserve can secure camping spots through Hipcamp.com, rather than taking their chances on a first-come, first-served basis.
Hipcamp is a Bay Area start-up founded by software engineer Alyssa Ravasio, a 25-year-old Marin County native who said she started the company out of the frustration of finding open campsites.
The San Francisco resident also expressed concerns about the future of state parks, saying they could benefit from additional camping revenue.
"If it was easier to find a campsite, more people would do it," she said.
Ravasio said Hipcamp does not compete directly with booking behemoth ReserveAmerica, which handles reservations for 11,000 campsites in 100 state parks.
Many visitors to Hipcamp.com ultimately are referred to ReserveAmerica to complete the booking transaction. "Our goal is to get more people outside and help the parks stay open," Ravasio said.
Hipcamp's staff of five includes Li Xia, an Australian product and design manager who founded a similar system for finding campsites online. He's now in charge of product development at Hipcamp.
Austin Creek is the company's first attempt at handling the reservation process from start to finish.
Michele Luna, executive director of Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, said her hope is that the new reservation system "will create a more personal experience between us, as the campground operator, and our campers."
Stewards of the Coast has an agreement with California State Parks to operate Austin Creek, which is adjacent to Armstrong Redwoods State Park and is reached through the same entrance.
Past Armstrong's redwood groves is a single-lane road that enters Austin Creek and winds up the mountain to elevations of 1,500 feet. The Bullfrog Pond Campground is near the top, tucked in a forest of tall trees.
The campground has 23 sites, 15 of which can now be reserved through Hipcamp.com. An additional eight sites are set aside for walk-ups.
Luna said the old system of getting a camping spot at Austin Creek caused frustration among those who journeyed all that way only to discover spots already taken. She said some potential visitors stayed away as a result.
Hipcamp encourages people to share their experiences on Facebook and other social media sites. Ravasio said the site was designed in consultation with park managers.
Reserved campsites at Austin Creek cost $35 per night. Walk-ups are $25. Luna said no booking fees are added to the transaction. She said Hipcamp keeps 5 percent of every transaction.
Sites can be reserved at www.hipcamp.com/ca/north-coast/austin-creek/bullfrog-pond-campground.