If early reservations are any indication, the grill won’t be the only thing sizzling at Colorado’s recreational vehicle campgrounds this summer.

Strong bookings suggest business will be hot this tourist season, say owners of private parks that rent RV hookup sites, tent spaces and cabins, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Fueling the optimism are gas prices, which remain more than $1 a gallon lower than they were last year, and the fact that many Coloradans like to hang out around the campfire and want to stay close to home to save money, park owners say.

This year is shaping up to top Garden of the Gods Campground’s “banner year” of 2007, which saw its highest occupancy rate, said general manager Scott Foos. Reservations are up 30% from 2007 and 20 percent from last year, he said.

The campground offers a variety of accommodations, including tent sites for $36 a day, popup-camper sites for $40 a day and a cabin with a bedroom, kitchen, living room and bathroom for $125 per day.

Because of demand, the 250-site park has a waiting list for vehicles that park on a monthly basis.

Anchie Fisco, whose family owns Fountain Creek RV Park, also predicts an ample summer turnout, based on increased interest in the campground’s 90 sites for RV parking, tent camping and cabin rentals.

“Many people don’t want to go too far from home, so we get guests from northern Colorado and the southern states, like Texas,” she said.

Even Colorado Springs residents frequent nearby parks, said Joyce Mehlhaff, co-owner of Bristlecone Lodge, formerly Town and Country Resort, in Woodland Park.

“We’re an easy getaway,” she said, “and right now, this summer doesn’t look too bad.”

Nationwide, RV campgrounds are predicting a flat year, according to Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

The organization moved its headquarters to Larkspur, Colo., last year.

“Considering the economy and the way hotels and motels are doing, we think maintaining last year’s level is good,” she said.

With 8,000 commercially owned parks in the nation, an estimated 8 million RVs on the road and about 30 million people who camp annually, the competition means owners are willing to reinvest in their facilities, Profaizer said.

On average, park owners spent $140,000 upgrading last year to draw guests, she said.

Garden of the Gods just completed about $50,000 worth of improvements, including enhancing three lodging units, Foos said.

With the shaky economy, Foos said, travelers like that RV campgrounds are generally less expensive than hotels and have such amenities as free Internet connections, game rooms, swimming pools and meals.

Fountain Creek RV Park recently added cabins, patios and free Wi-Fi and cable television services.

“Even though the economy is tight we still have to show our customers we’re doing our part to earn their business,” Fisco said. “Cleanliness, friendliness and safety also are key.”