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.
This is one of our favorite places to go camping on a regular basis because of how close it is to Birmingham. The campsites are pretty spaced out and have a nice sized space for tent setup. The have a gravel area that makes it easy to keep everything level. This past trip we did something new and camped out in the backcountry. It was amazing since the views in the park are really amazing. When you visit the park make sure to hike up to the overlooks. And if you are willing to get up early you can get one of the most amazing sunrise views.
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.
If you are looking for a quiet lake in the trees with the option of a picturesque hike…this place is for you. We stayed on a warm Friday night in July and had the entire lake to ourselves! Bring bug spray because the established camp sites are in the shade with the the mosquitoes. There is also a primitive pit toilet which is slightly better than digging a hole. In the National Park so I would recommend consulting with the local Ranger about a camping permit (White River Ranger Station).