the dyrt
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Bear Creek, ALABAMA
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Very nice large camipng areas.

This is a highly used camping area on Smith lake. In peck times can be hard to get a spot. The area is well maintained has all kinds of hookups. Swim are access to the lake and day use area also. Great place to go.

Ranger Review: Primus Primetech Stove Set at Sipsey Wilderness Backcountry

Campground Review: When we arrived at this site after carrying our gear down in backpacks from our car parked up at the trailhead I put down my pack and looked around. After a minute I realized this was the exact campsite I stayed at 15 years ago on the last night of backpacking with my family as a kid over spring break at the same time of year. It is a wonderful site and well worth claiming early since it is close to the parking area, has easy access to the river where you can pump water and swim, and best of all it has flat sandy tent spots up the hill and out of reach of flooding.

Sipsey Wilderness is a protected but unmaintained area in Northwest Alabama that is well known for its intersecting creeks, streams, and rivers that play together with the many waterfalls and magical rock faces. The wilderness area is contained within the larger Bankhead National Forest and is accessible from a variety of different trailheads many of which are only reachable on dirt roads. Hiking here you definitely get the feeling that you have left the rest of the world behind and are in the complete wilderness. Different times of year provide completely different experiences whether its the exciting and boundless blooms of spring, the overgrown wild of summer, the bold and expansive colors of fall, or the high river levels and easy boating access of winter. Just make sure to always do your research and plan ahead since it can change so drastically depending on when you go. My favorite is either fall or spring since the summer can be particularly hot and buggy.

This trip we had planned to kayak down the river from the Sipsey River Trailhead to the Highway 33 Bridge take out but were thwarted by a recent lack of heavy rain and unusually low river levels for the season. Several sites online suggested over 4 feet gauge height would be fine but after talking to the Rangers we were told the only time that it was really navigable was in the winter or fall for a couple of days after a major rainfall. With that plan out the window, we decided instead to throw some packs in the car and move our gear around to make it a semi backpacking/hiking trip. 

We started out Friday dropping one car off at the Sipsey River Trailhead and then drove another car to the Borden River Trailhead where we began hiking the 200 trail (All the Sipsey trails are numbered and there are multiple maps available online). We passed a bunch of awesome sites along the way (cataloged in other reviews) and picked out our favorites for the night along the way. When we reached back to the original car after about 3 miles we drove back to the same trailhead and packed our backpacks to get the gear down to the campsite we had chosen. 

This site has space for around 2 tents though you could possibly squeeze in a 3rd and it has a nice sized firepit with a large dead log that was perfect for sitting on. Most of the site is pretty sandy but level which was wonderful for sleeping on. We struggled a little with finding large pieces of dry wood for a fire since this is a pretty well-traveled site. A family did come by and use the river access near our site to swim while we were setting up camp but we had plenty of privacy by the time it got dark. If this site is taken there are a couple across the river (accessible via the bridge) or up the trail in either direction. 

Overall, if you want an easy access site to a parking area either because you are getting a late start to a backpacking trip or you want to camp near your exit point on your last night this is a wonderful spot that provides all the necessities and space for camping in Sipsey.

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Product Review:

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to try out new and interesting products at campgrounds I visit. On this trip, I cooked all my meals on the Primus Primetech backpacking stove to create a range of delicious dishes. My takeaways from using the all in one packable gas stove:

  1. Efficiency: The set comes with 2 pots and a burner with built-in windscreen and heat transfer systems. This meant that I was able to get a freshly pumped pot full of cold river water (roughly 1.3L) to a full boil in under 4 min. I was able to use less fuel to prepare my meals and bring less along while still having spare fuel as a backup. The included lid also helped to maintain heat retention in the pot which meant I didn’t have to reheat the water while prepping other parts of the dish in the other pot. Finally, we were dealing with a significant amount of wind at the site and it didn’t affect the burner or efficiency thanks to the well designed built-in windscreen. 
  2. Packability: The stove is designed so that all the components pack together into the larger pot and then fit into the carrying case which cinches closed. This design means that there is no mess that you get from liquid fuel stoves and no lost components at the bottom of your bag. It also ends up being a shape that is easy to cram into the little nooks and crevices left in your bag after packing the bigger heavier items. 
  3. Cooking Performance: I am incorporating a few things into this section since I just didn’t want to leave any of my favorite features out. First, DURABLE NONSTICK, seriously, they made a durable nonstick surface that is lightweight and provides even heat. I was skeptical but have now used it multiple times with both plastic and metal utensils and it doesn’t even show a scratch. I cooked vegetarian sausage, rehydrated rice and beans, fried eggs, and boiled water and every time the pot ended up completely clean with no work but a little rubbing with my hands under running water. The locking tong handle means less weight since it works for both pots but provides stability since it locks onto the pot being used. It also has a protective guard so it doesn’t damage the pot and helps to act as a heat guard so the handle doesn’t burn you. Finally, since the design is nesting during cooking and the gas attachment is a hose the full setup sits stably on the ground and has no chance of tipping during cooking, even if on uneven ground. This is a necessary feature for me since I have had multiple dirt eating situations where my pot tipped and I was forced to scoop my now dirty food back into the pot…

Overall, this is by far the best backpacking stove I have ever used giving even consistent heat, a stable cooking surface, and efficient fuel use. It is also very reasonably priced considering the number of components that are included and comes in at a weight that makes it perfect for most backpacking situations. If you haven’t checked out Primus’s line of stoves and cookware yet I would highly suggest seriously considering them when looking to upgrade your backpacking cook set.

Relaxing Waterfront

We had a 3 night stay on site 55 on the Hoot Owl loop at Clear Creek Recreational Area in the William B Bankhead National Forest. Campground has 4 loops. 2 loops are on the water and first come first serve (non-reservable), and 2 loops are off the water and can be reserved by calling or online. Lake front sites are $26 a night and non-lake sites are $24 a night. Please note, the non-reservable loops are cash or check only, so this caught us off guard, but the staff was nice enough to let us in and find an ATM in the morning to settle up. All sites have a paved vehicle and trailer area that is relatively level and a gravel area with a fire pit and table. Site numbers that end with a “D” on the map below are double sites, so double the parking area, double the hook ups, 2 picnic tables, and double the price. Those sites were large but not sure how two big rigs would fit on those site. In my opinion, they would work good for 2 teardrops or smaller trailers though. This campground is seasonal and closed from the end of October until the first week of March.

Cellphone coverage with Verizon was good throughout the park. No WiFi available.

Multiple bathhouse around the campground so you are never more than ~500 feet from one. Bathhouse’s are clean, but showers are push button style that only run about 10-15 seconds with each push. Plus, the water starts warm, but cools down with each push. Also, because this is a seasonal campground, there are no heaters, so be aware of some chilly showers in the early or late seasons when temps are low.

There is no camp store, but the park office has limited supplies (fire wood, ice, bug spray, batteries, and hand soap). Closest convenient store is about 15 minutes away and real grocery store is about 25-30 minutes from the park.

Lots of downed trees on this visit, so there is a lot of free wood for the taking if you want to put in a little work to cut it up.

Some hiking from the campground with a few amazing rock caves and small water falls. There is also a paved bike/walking trail.

Group camping, swimming beach, and boat ramp also available in the park. Water sites have easy access to put in kayaks or canoes right from your site.

2 nice breweries (one that also makes wine) not far away in Jasper, AL.

We highly recommend sites 5, 17, 47, 55, 79, 81, and 82. Sites that are also nice and would work are 8, 18, 38, 42, 45, 49, 57, 77, 87, 89, and 99.

First to Review
Secluded, shady camping

We tent camped at Piney Point several times last summer. Even in the summer heat, the shade is enough to keep you comfortable. The bathhouse is close to the campsites. The regulars are welcoming, the lake is close by for swimming. We stayed here while kayaking Bear Creek. It was a nice, quiet place to relax.

One of my favorite places to camp

Warning: this place has no cell service, that could be a good thing or a bad thing. We don't seem to mind it. I do recommend downloading an offline version the area in Google Maps, just in case.

This is a really good place for weekend camping! Me and my family love to go camping here. The lake is great for canoeing and fishing. There is a primitive restroom in the camping area and a restroom with a shower and running water in the day area. There is a nice paved trail that goes from the campgrounds halfway around the lake to the dam.

It only cost $5 a night to camp here and the park is on the honor system.

This is a video I made on my last camping trip: https://youtu.be/MK391ssfNe8

Terrible

Stayed overnight in July and there was just 1 toilet working! When it rains just a bit, the campground is a mess. I expect mud but this was awful. Way too much water lying around to be able to setup a tent. Fortunately, they had a couple spots that were a bit higher up so not as wet and muddy. Too expensive for what you get. Staff was ok, not overly friendly or helpful but certainly not rude.

Mixed Feelings

Camped & Hiked Tishomingo State Park last weekend. Beautiful fall colors and the hike was gorgeous! This place seems so out of place for Mississippi! With that being said…The campground was a disappointment. There was a handful of decent sites, but overall, it is in disrepair. The bathroom towards the back of the loop was already closed for the season. The middle bathroom only had one toilet working in the women’s and men’s restroom (we don’t have a bathroom in our Aliner popup and there were also lots of tent campers). I literally had to wait in line a couple of times to use the bathroom. Many sites were washing out under the pads and had steep drop offs on the sides (especially the single digit site #’s). The tables and fire pits (some sites didn’t even have a real pit, just a spot on the ground where there was signs of a fire) were really far away and some sites appeared to be in a soggy bottom area. We got semi lucky and had a decent spot. (Site 33). The sites that back up to the woods instead of the pond are flatter for those who find that more important. Maybe we are just spoiled to nicer state parks where they take more pride in the upkeep? Just the little details that don’t cost extra money, but instead just needs someone to do it (blowing leaves off the major roads and parking areas - we couldn't see the road to turn into the campground!!!, cleaning graffiti, clearing massive mounds of debris, etc…) I don’t know if they are suffering from budget cuts, if someone is robbing the place blind or if the staff just works there because it’s a job but doesn’t really care about the park itself. It’s sad because this should be a premier destination spot in Mississippi! I don’t want to deter anyone from going here because the landscape is really nice. I just got worked up because I don’t understand how other parks are able to maintain, but this one seems to really be struggling with how to keep this place nice.

Pleasant and affordable place to camp

We arrived just before 5pm on a Sunday at the end of October and had no problem securing a site. If you are over 65, you pay the same for a site with water and electric as you would for a primitive site ($16). Compared to other states, this was a pleasant surprise. Many sites back up to the lake and have generous sized concrete pads. Most we saw appeared level. Our picnic table was down a hill by the water so it was a hike to it but very pleasant for eating. I would imagine that at other times of the year staying here might not be so pleasant (heat and humidity plus we saw the remains of some HUGE ant hills). No fire rings but it looks like previous visitors may have built fires in the sandy area near the beach. Bathrooms were reasonably clean but they don’t have soap. I also don’t understand why there was one across from site 12 and one more not far down the road but for the last half of the loop, there weren’t any (except for one that had a closed sign and appeared to be more “rustic”). I’m guessing that people in those sites have fully equipped RVs. Good cell service for Verizon in the campground. Nice hiking trails - we liked the Outcroppings Trail. Evidence of the work of the CCC in the Park, especially the swinging bridge. Overall, a pleasant stay.

Pristine and enjoyable

Stayed one night this week in my 16 ft camper. Campsites spread out so you have shaded privacy near magnificent Smith Lake. Downside is they close December to March. Large showers in very clean bathrooms. Very nice camp staff.

Peaceful and secluded

Great pad sites for RV Trailer, very private well laid out the restrooms are very clean. Reasonable cost and if you have an America the Beautiful card site is 50% off. Very little Verizon Signal if any at times. Really out of the way about 30 minutes from NTP and about 40 minutes from Tupelo.

Nice

Doesn't have much to offer but it's a nice peaceful place. Right off the TN River, boat access, fishing, swimming and a couple of trails to walk. Small cafe down the road. My husband stayed here for a few months before we sold our house and moved.

Peaceful with a water view

Quiet, well maintained Corp of Engineers camp ground.

Neat place for sure

This is a beautiful park and will definitely be worth the trip.

Good place

We enjoyed the lake and the people. The facilities needed some attention but other than that everything was good!

Great Campground

My husband and I have traveled twice to this campground and we always look forward to going. The lake is beautiful and the facilities are good too. Great workers as well!!

Adequate

We were stopping in Cullman County to be with family. Since we were driving through with our RV, we stayed at Smith Lake for the evening. It was ok. The pool was nice. The lake is always nice, but the camping area itself feels like more of a trailer park than RV Park. It looked like the majority of the campers there were for the long haul.

Easy water access

Right on the lake. No traffic to fight very peaceful

Family friendly

Park has cabins on site, places for rvs, and also areas for tents. There is a beach area and a boat launch. They have pavilions with grills and electrical outlets

Great campground for weekend visits

We camped in a pop up and really enjoyed ourselves. Most of the sites face a small pond and have a good view. The staff is very nice and have activities throughout the weekend. Some sites after small, so check before you book.

Our favorite local campground

Private and secluded! All spots r shady. Great level campsites..all campsites r gated. Nice swimming area. Great hiking and waterfalls on the most beautiful lake in the US!

Camping on the Tennessee River

Great if you want to canoe or paddle board while camping. Has a little island not far by canoe. You can’t drive to the tent spots, but there is a parking lot close by. The tent camping is almost never crowded.

Great to be by the water!

Great location by the water. This extremely crowded on holidays and the bathrooms are a bit of a walk from the tent camping, but if you are up for the walk it’s not terrible. They have a small store which is nice as well and there is a gas station up the road.

Brushy Lake Camping with Family

Very family friendly. Has a fire pit and picnic table at each campground. There is a 2 stall bathroom in the middle of the campsite and another set of bathrooms with a shower a short walk away. Beautiful hiking, complete with a waterfall witching just a few minutes walk. Bring your canoe and fishing pole too! We go every year and cannot wait to go back.

OK campground

It was an okay campground. Just be careful what site you get cause we could not fit into ours. It claimed to be for a 45 foot camper but we could not get our 36 foot camper in that spot. Luckily we came with other people and were able to swap sites around. The swimming/day use area was nice.

Great hiking here!

Sites are spacious, although sometimes quite unlevel. Lots of privacy. You can fish, hike,play disc golf and just enjoy the beauty all around.. Best hiking around with lots of interesting trails, some along the fast flowing creek.

Nice Park

This is a really nice family park. RV spaces are a great size. Really nice swim area on Smith Lake. Some of the cleanest and clearest water around. Plenty of biking and hiking opportunities. Just a short drive to Natural Bridge park, restaurants, groceries and more.

unique spot

Expensive fees, but worth a visit. They protect the canyon habitat. Primitive sites, but bathroom access near the canyon entrance. Beautiful campsite at sleeping water. Great for a larger group.

Great views, Great Park

Joe wheeler state park is an awesome campground! Most sites are on the water with full hook ups! All sites are spacious! Hiking trails all around with water access everywhere! Will definitely be back!

Beautiful state park

Lucas and I camped and canoed. We stayed right on the water.

Hidden country treasure

Quiet country setting, clean park, friendly staff. Gravel level full hook up 30 and 50 ampsites. Pond with ducks, bossy goose and horses. Great place to stay for the night or longer. 2 miles off I-65 exit 310. Close to restaurants and shopping.