Lake Santeelah is a really great camping spot on a lake that doesn't get the crowds that some of the other lakes in the area draw. There are a lot of primitive sites along the lake on Joyce Kilmer Rd. It's paved the whole way and easy to find. More sites on a gravel road on the east side of the lake, some are car camping others are hike in. None of these sites have hookups, water, NO RVs. Sites have a tent platform, fire pits and parking area off the road. Camping in February was a perfect. We saw a small handful of cars and one or two boats with fisherman. Otherwise it was extremely quiet and private, bears are in the area so make sure food and garbage are stored during the warmer months. Plenty of fishing for trout both in the lake and in Santeetlah Creek right up the road.
Visited in early September; temperature was great, but it rained quite a bit. The sun was plentiful on the second day so we were dry for at least some of the trip. We used Pocahontas State Park as a base camp for our planned activities in Richmond (Civil War sites/museum/breweries). The park has a lot of hiking trails and also offers a variety of talks and events. On our last night, we went to a blue grass performance off the back of one of the park cabin buildings and then the park rangers gave us stuff to make smores! The sites are well maintained and some are secluded enough to find solace. We will return.
This became a favorite car camping spot of mine while living in Vail, Colorado. The lake is situated in White River National Forest and is accessible only for a few months during the summer via Red Sandstone Road. I have seen 2wd sedans drive up this road, however I would definitely recommend something with high clearance and 4wd if possible as the roads up there are not well maintained. There are plenty of first come, first serve USFS campsites near the lake, additionally there are quite a few service roads off of Red Sandstone Road that provide access to miles of additional dispersed campsites. It is hard to find a spot to camp without a breathtaking view of the Gore Range from Piney. In addition to camping, there are hiking trails near the lake and the privately owned Piney River Ranch offers horseback riding, boat rentals, fishing, a restaurant, and other lodging options. This area is also known for the moose that frequent the area, be sure to keep your distance if you are lucky enough to spot one! If you are interested in camping at Piney in the early summer or fall, you may first want to call the Minturn Ranger’s Station at 970-827-5715 to check on the closure status of Red Sandstone Road.
Okay, I have been coming to Loon Lake since I was a kid, still love the area at 40. I have been to a lot of beautiful places but this is still my favorite. I love this lake… it's clean, clear and with not a ton of motor boats. It takes a little extra time to get there, most folks stop at Union Valley or Ice House, but the extra time is worth it! It's a great place to paddle and find a quiet place for a swim. Also, a great place to take hikes, you can head into Desolation Wilderness from a trail heads starting in this campground. The campground is rustic but well maintained (okay I'm biased… my dad has been the host for the past 7 years!), it is dry camping so be prepared. There is water faucets, pit toilets, camp fire rings, picnic tables, bear boxes and you can by wood from the hosts. The campground is typically open Late May/Early June (depending on snow melt - this year will be mid-June) through mid-October. I have stayed up there during the summer and fall. I have also snowshoed up in this area in the winter months.