This is a great campground managed by the University of Alabama. It is on the site of the Moundville Indian mound complex, from the Mississippian period.
There are several camp sites, most with electric and water, some have sewer. There is a central bath house, which is closed in winter. However the campground is open all year. There is a dump station as well.
The museum is very interesting and the park offers several events throughout the year based on Native American culture.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
I’ve been camping here 2 or 3 times a year for the past 19 years. Wooded area, spacious campsites, & the cabins are always so clean. Trade days & Halloween are my favorite times to come. A couple of short hiking trails. A lot of history. Ironwork museum I think it’s like $1 or $2 a person & it’s worth walking through.
Two night stay on site 39. Love the large sites that are nicely separated from neighboring sites and overlook the water. Friendly staff and clean bathhouse. Only one bathhouse that is centrally located and is a decent walk from some sites. Only limited, easy hiking available in the park. No WiFi, but good cell signal with Verizon throughout the park. No camp store, but convenient and grocery stores about 15 minutes away.
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
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.
The park manager and workers are so nice and accommodating! I’ve stayed in the cabins and the primitive sites and both had wonderful views of the lake. The hiking trail that loops around the water is beautiful. My dog loves it too! It’s such a great place to go relax, have fun, grill out, and make memories.
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.
Beautiful historic buildings and a very cold spring fed creek. Great for kids bikes and swimming in the creek. Bathhouses need attention but overall very nice camping place.
Beautiful location but the bathrooms were dirty. It seems we went during a semi busy time. The have lots of spots and most are in the shade. There is a creek to splash in and lots of history to enjoy. There is a nice playground for the kids. Bring lots of bug spray.
This camp site has camping from primitive all the way to cabins. Bring your RV or camper and enjoy the views. Situated on a beautiful mountain side just minute from university of alabama. Camp beside a churning creek and listen to nature. Historical museum included with very reasonable camping fee or just a visitor charge. Very nice homestyle restaurant and creamery in site. Craft cabins to keep the kids entertained and plenty of trails for hiking. Visit the original forge site or go watch the blacksmith school and learn some tricks.
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.
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.
This is one of my favorite campgrounds in Alabama. So much for so many to enjoy. In the fall they have a Halloween decoration contest between campers and then after that comes the Christmas. There is many trails to enjoy. My favorite spot is the bubbling springs, no matter how hot the summer sun is the water is always ice cold and bubbling! They have an Ice cream/candy store on site, a church is located on the campground. There is a restaurant in the park. The third weekend of every month they have the trade days which is a huge sale of trades and other goodies. So many hidden treasures in this park! Be sure not to miss!
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.
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.
This was a small campground, and while initially unimpressive, we had a really great time here and there was surprisingly a lot to do and keep you busy.
When we first drove in to the "regular" part of the campground, I found it unappealing as it seemed more like a parking lot with a bunch of RV sites, but we were able to stay in the primitive camping "loop" and had SO much space and woods to run in, hills to climb, and space to explore. It was absolutely perfect for kids. There are only a few of these sites and while you can see them from each other, there is so much space between them that it feels more private. The sites were bordered by woods and hills which gave the kids lots to explore.
The pool was closed when we were there in April, but I believe they said it was closed indefinitely.
The cave tour are a real highlight of the park. The cave is fascinating and fun to tour too - lots of tight spaces and interesting formations. There is a bit of climbing (stairs) so if that's not your thing, you may want to think twice. We saw lots of super cute tiny bats but none of them ever bothered us.
There is also a cute playground for the little ones and a great hiking trail that was absolutely gorgeous.
Overall a surprisingly awesome park!
This campground is near to home so it's our most frequented camping spot. There is a nice little Creek that flows through for fishing. My family has caught small bass and bream and once a year in April they stock it with trout and hold a trout tournament. There is a natural spring called bubbling springs that all the kids love splashing in. It feeds right into the creek and often you find people swimming in the creek there. The creek snakes through park with walking trails alongside it so the walks are nice there. They have many trails that people ride bikes on as well. There is a museum to look at the historical aspects of the park. The old iron works still stands. All of the cabins are old site cabins that were brought in and you can rent those. My family from out of state have rented at least once a year for the last decade. If you look at the website for the park they list activities year round. All kinds of things for old and young alike. Tannehill will always hold a a special place due to the memories made with our family there!