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THE BEST CAMPING NEAR
Bessemer, ALABAMA
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Super park, but those bath houses are another story

We've lived in AL most all our 50+ years, but have never camped at this jewel of a park. Checking in was efficient and organized. All the staff was super helpful. Everything was great until we needed to use the facilities. They were clean, for the most part, but so very old and outdated. Why? This park and campground is outstanding - just need to desperately update the bath houses.

Great campground with lots of history

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.

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.

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.

One of my favorite campgrounds!

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.

Quiet and Relaxing

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.

Clean and lots to do

Camped in a tent in a power & water hook up site. Our site wasn't the greatest. It didn't have any trees and one very bright street light, however, it was close to the bath house and pavilion. We were with a SOTF group, so I could hang my hammock on a friend's trees. We hiked around the large lake. It's a beautiful park! The staff was very friendly, helpful and had a great sense of humor! There are lots of trails, several lakes, horse stables, golf course, and a wildlife rescue center that does tours. Oh and a beach and paddle boats to rent. Would camp there in a heartbeat!

Close to Birmingham; close quarters

This state campground in the Birmingham AL metro area is a quick getaway for city and suburban dwellers. We were looking for continued warm fall weather on a slow trip north; this met the warmth and fall criteria in late October. The proximity to the city made it a good choice for exploring Birmingham.

Campground as Hotel

We left in the morning and came back in the evening. Using the campground strictly for accommodations worked out well; it wasn't a place where we would have wanted to hang around the campground all day. The large RVs crammed on sites that weren't very large gave us a closed in feeling. We pulled down the shade in our teardrop to avoid the light pollution from the campers who leave ground lights and other decorative lights on all night. (Do they leave their outdoor holiday lights on all night at home?)

Tent Only Sites

  • The tent only sites are the best feature of this park. You can pitch your tent among the trees away from the RVs packed together in the rest of the park. 

  • There's no power or water at these sites.  

  • These sites are listed as tent only, but the park office attendant told us there were a few where we could fit our vehicle and teardrop. We declined because we thought we'd be too close to the road although we later saw several that would have been fine

  • Site 42B is the BEST SITE IN THE PARK! You walk down to the site from the parking area, and then there's a great view of the water. I took a photo looking back at the site from the beach area.

Other Sites

  • All sites not designated tent only have electricity and water. There are some sites with sewer hookup as well as 50 amp power. See site map photo.

  • Loop A's sites are more spread out than sites in Loop B.

  • Loop B: B33 was ok. I recommend sticking to the outside of this loop because there are two roads down the center where you'll have sites on both sides, across the road and behind you. Inside the loop seemed crowded because there were large RVs.

Restrooms

Several restrooms are spread throughout the park. They each have a couple toilets and a shower along with hot and cold water in the sinks. Restrooms are clean and a checklist indicates they're inspected 2 or 3 times per day. Everything works fine, but they could use an update inside. If the usage at the end of October is any indication of overall usage, this park is heavily used. It's close to Birmingham which has over a million people, one-fourth of Alabama's population. The state of Alabama should step up and do some renovation.

Site Taxes are HIGH

Be prepared for a significant jump to the cost when taxes are applied. Our campsite fee was a reasonable $22.65/night which included a 15% senior discount. Regular price is $26.65. Taxes and a $4.50 one-time fee were added for a grand total of $85.62 for 3 nights. If you're counting, that's 20+% in taxes.

Things To Do In The Park: boating, fishing, swimming, hiking. You can purchase a detailed hiking map for $1. If you aren't from the area and want to take in some Birmingham history, there are options.

  • Red Mountain Park has hiking trails along with old iron ore mines. There's an adventure park with zip lining, climbing, etc.

  • The base of Vulcan, Alabama's entry in the 1904 World's Fair, is the best place to see Birmingham. The museum next to the statue was well done; it provides a history of this steel city.

  • The park across from the 16th Street Baptist Church (site of the bombing on 9/15/1963 that killed 4 young girls) is a window into the sad part of Birmingham's history. There's also a civil rights museum nearby.

  • The craft breweries (Good People and Avondale) were good. And great barbecue at Saw. Pizza was good at Post Office Pies but they need to put more basil on a pizza advertised as a white basil pizza, not 5 little scraps.

closed

I was trying to go to Birmingham to see the Sloss Furnaces and wanted to stay the night before making it into town but this was closed!!

close to Birmingham attractions

I was very excited to visit Birmingham for my first trip. I didn’t know what to expect out of the city although I have heard several things about it’s long standing history.

One of the most attractive things about this location was that it was close to the Botanical Gardens which I had seen raved about and a lot of top magazines. Southern Living had featured them as one of their southern living gardens and I was very interested in seeing exactly just what that had in store.

Since I am a tent camper finding a location close to a city is sometimes somewhat difficult. However Birmingham location and proximity to this park are very close and that made for the best of both worlds.

While I was at the campground I enjoyed a wonderful tent site that was primitive. They have both primitive and improve sides at the campground and you can pick and choose from either. I enjoy the primitive sites simply because it does save a little bit of money while on one of my budget blog trips this stretches my dollars further and helps me go a little bit farther to the next location. I noticed that the RV sites were plenty long and could accommodate almost any size rig and still have space. There were both pull through and back and sides for both tent campers and RV campers.

The shower house although it was not the most improved our house I have been to was nice and the water pressure was strong. I enjoyed several hiking trails while out at the park during the day and then made my way into Birmingham for the evening.

The community of Birmingham it’s a wonderful place and I truly enjoyed this stop I only hope that I can explore it more on my next trip there. So many things to do while here it was hard to not have a bit more time here.

Backpacking near Birmingham

Update for recent visit: Check out my other reviews of Oak Mountain to get an idea of some of the amazing hiking and places to see views. This site is one of four backcountry sites that the park offers. I have been to this one twice now since it is the closest to a parking area so is the most forgiving if you get a late start. The major thing to be aware of is that they do not allow fires at any of these sites so keep that in mind and you will need to either bring in your own water or purify it from one of the small seasonal streams that runs near the site. Overall this is a nice large site and you will definitely have your privacy since they closely regulate who stays at these backcountry locations and only a single group is allowed at each at a time. It is a wonderful place to get away for a night and see the stars.

Great camping near Birmingham

Update for most recent visit: This is by far the best place to camp near Birmingham and has many different options. I was just there this past weekend and it was so beautiful to see all the fall colors starting to show. My wife and I hiked up to the King’s Chair lookout on this visit and it was such an amazing sight. I would definitely recommend this time of year to visit the park. Make sure to check out my videos that show off some of the great features of the trails. The campground here has several different types of sites including walk in (tent only), RV, and even horse camping. Just make sure to check in advance if they have space since it can fill up in the busy season.

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.

Scenic

This place is beautiful! Well kept, safe, but still way out in the open and with an incredible natural feel. Waters great too

Well kept, beautiful, family fun

We went to Oak Mountain for a boy scout weekend camping trip. They have a bmx trail, nice places to fish and swim, shower houses, walking trails, you are able to build campfires. Our scouts and parents had so much fun.

Family friendly

This campground is nice, small but nice Bathrooms are clean kept, camp sites are shaded. The pool is big but wasn’t open when we were there. It has a cave on site with a guided tour.

Great camping experience

This is a gem right in the Birmingham area! Oak Mountain is located in the suburbs of Birmingham, but it's surrounded by a vast natural area and a huge lake. I camped right on the lake and it was the perfect place for a midnight swim!

Great place to camp lots of things to do!

This campground was a great place to get away! There are a lot of tent sites that are back in the woods for quiet and solitude. The swimming area and dock were a short walk from our campsite. The kids loved it. There are many beautiful trails for hiking. We did the hike to peavine falls! Beautiful!

Great SP

We love going to Oak Mountain SP when we are close to Birmingham! Beautiful and peaceful!

Nice Site near your vehicle

With the sites being inside Oak Mtn State park you get to enjoy the other attractions in the park which include Hiking, Biking, Petting Zoo, Horseback Riding, Lake, Swimming Beach, Wakeboard Course and BMX Track. They have a good number of site with a few having electrical hook up. They also have RV spots. They have a playground for the kids to play on. Several bathhouses spaced out over the camp ground. They also have a small convenient store located in the check in office.

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.

This place is awesome! Lots to do and yummy ice cream.

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.

Quite Escape

This campground was unique as each site was set into the hills. We had lots of privacy and peaceful quite. They had two play areas with balls and other toys for the kids. It was very clean and friendly.

Beautiful location

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.

Friendly staff but ...

For RV sites there is no shade. Your stacked up close and there is absolutely no privacy. There were 50+ kids running around in the few days we were there. The showers kept us away as they looked like they need some tlc, but the rest of the bath house was ok. For the price I expected more. Will not return.

Peaceful retreat

This campground was unique as each site was set into the hills. We had lots of privacy and peaceful quite. They had two play areas with balls and other toys for the kids. It was very clean and friendly.

Yearly trip full of adventure

My group goes to The Ridge the second weekend in November each year. There are dirt bike trails, a zip line, an air soft course, a pond, and stunning views of the valley below.

the staff brings around all the firewood you could ever need, but feel free to collect your own on a hike through the surrounding woods.

we bring our dogs each year and they also have a great time!

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