See my previous full review of the campground below. We had site 5 this time with some friends next door on 4D.
Update from my previous review, they now except cards at check in for walk up sites. This is a big change as last time we were here, just a month back, they were cash only.
As always, very helpful staff and we love the water front sites with easy access to launch kayaks and canoes right from your site.
The campground was clean and stayed quiet. About 40 feet between sites. Trees but no underbrush, so no real privacy between sites. The campground is geared towards RV's. It's not bad. There is water and electric at all the sites. Dont plan on playing in the lake unless you get the outer side of the loop. It's good that the waterfront sites are not reservable in that you have a chance at something. I've never been one to plan out my camping weekends 42 years in advance like everyone else seems to. Its on the far south side of bankhead national forest. We went to hike some trails in the Sispey wilderness and it was about an hour drive to get up there. Our neighbors, which I think are camp hosts are friendly enough, but they left there dozen strands of led lights on all night. It looked like the Vegas strip not the woods. I prefer the woods. But if you like the big RV culture you will probably love this place. I'll keep looking for a quiet place in the woods.
Campground Review: My wife and I had the amazing opportunity to stay at Parksland retreat this weekend making our first campground reservation through the Dyrt. Parksland is a beautiful off the grid campground and home that is well cared for and a wonderful experience to stay at. They have set up several areas for guests depending on what your camping preference is. The owners live at the highest point of the property and have an outdoor kitchen surrounded by a garden and chicken coop with woods in every direction. If you are interested in what would typically be considered classic car camping you can stay at one of the many tent sites they have set up around the kitchen area. Many of these sites already have tents set up for you to rent or if you prefer to bring your own tent you can use one of the other available spots. All of the sites in this area are already covered with large industrial tarps so you can stay dry no matter the weather. If you are interested in a more private area they have two more primitive, trail campgrounds a short hike down the hill that each has cleared ground providing space for several tents. On this trip, we had reserved the further, more private and smaller site but ended up staying at the closer site since it was available and more convenient with the weather conditions.
We arrived at the campground on Saturday around noon and got a tour around from Dustin the owner where he showed us all of the options. We then climbed down the steep hill with all our gear and set up camp before the rain came in. Since the site was relatively large we were able to find the perfect spot for our tree tent. After a quick lunch of grilled cheese, we headed off to explore the hiking around the area. Dustin suggested we take the Ridgeline loop trail and with only a couple of wrong turns, we managed to complete the loop and finish at the swimming hole. Although the water was cold it still felt wonderful and is a much welcome amenity in the hot and humid Alabama weather. Other than the poison ivy (which you can’t really do anything about) the hike was really scenic and a good afternoon trek. Make sure to take the map though cause it helps to make the turns at the right spots. We got back before the rain began so had time to take advantage of the hot shower they have available and cooked dinner by our fire (firewood is provided). We whipped together a wonderful sweet potato and chili combo with recipe inspiration provided by Fresh off the grid. After dinner, we cleaned up around camp, moved everything under our tent, and climbed in for the night.
Although we were prepared for the rainstorm that we knew was coming overnight we were not prepared for rain inside our tent… We woke up in the middle of the night with puddles on our sleeping bags and a storm raging outside. Luckily we were able to stay warm and relatively dry but woke up intermittently. In the morning with rain still pouring we decided to just trek back up the hill with the gear and load up the car since we were already wet. We packed everything up and headed on home discussing how even with the crazy weather and unfortunate leakiness we had a fun and adventurous time and were glad we went.
Overall, Dustin was so welcoming and helpful throughout our entire stay and he has created a wonderful oasis that makes a perfect getaway. I highly suggest checking it out.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to try out new and interesting products at campgrounds I visit. On this trip, I stored all my food in the RovR RollR 60 Cooler to keep it cold and fresh for the weekend. My takeaways from using the durable rolling cooler are:
- Transportability: Although there are now several rollable rotomolded coolers out on the market none are designed with off-road capabilities like the RovR. With large inflatable tires, I was able to go over steps and rocks, move through waterlogged mud, and glide gently over gravel paths with minimal amounts of effort. The cooler is on the heavier side but this was barely noticeable since it is so much more maneuverable than any of the other options. On top of that, it comes with a collapsible gear bin that attaches to the top proving even more space to keep gear that needs to be moved around. Since this campground required a short but steep hike to get to over fairly rough terrain there was no possible way we were getting any other cooler to and from this campsite but with the RovR it took 1 trip. I was able to roll the cooler down all by myself with most of our cooking gear loaded in the bin on top. My wife could then carry down the tent and clothes and we were able to get camp set up much sooner and get to eating lunch. Although I wouldn’t want to backpack with a piece of gear like this (though you probably could) I can’t imagine a camping situation where the RollR 60 wouldn’t succeed in making food transport easier. I also loved the design feature with the handles on the side since I have a tendency to perpetually hit my heels while pulling things directly behind me.
- Temperature Stability: I didn’t get a chance to test this out to an extreme level since we only camped for one night but I did get a general idea of how well this cooler holds its temp. We loaded it up with ice and food on Friday afternoon to save time on Saturday and then unloaded it when we got home on Sunday and about half of the ice was still sitting in the bottom and everything felt like it was coming out of the refrigerator. The ingenious design also features a water runoff area underneath the dry bin so that you don’t have things sitting in a large pool at the bottom. This also ends up surrounding the dry bin with ice cold water turning it into a refrigerator of sorts.
- Dry bin: Speaking of the dry bin this is by far the best design I have seen for organizing a cooler yet. It has two deep sections that sit all the way in the lowest part of the cooler as I mentioned earlier. This was so helpful for 2 reasons. First, the items in the dry bin actually stay cold rather than when the dry bin sits at the top of the cooler in the warmest part making you decide whether you would rather have your frozen items in cardboard packaging either soaking in the water at the bottom or fully thawed in the dry bin at the top. The second amazing thing about this dry bin is that it is deep/tall enough to store items that need to stand straight up. We were able to put things like sour cream and open cans of olives and jalapeños without worry about them falling over when the ice melted. Take a look at the picture I included to see just how much it helped with keeping everything organized.
Overall, this is by far the best high-end cooler I have had a chance to try out. My wife and I found ourselves continuously impressed and excited about how well this cooler was designed and how much fun it was to use. If you are ready to pull the trigger and spend a little bit to get a nice cooler I can’t recommend the RovR more highly.
Campground Review: This is considered the site for the best bouldering in Alabama and is known nationally for its climbing and annual festivals. It is organized as a large spread out, somewhat wooded area with designated campsites around fire pits. When you arrive and check in/pay your camping fee you then drive to pick a site. There is really no privacy for each individual spot but you can find ones that are a little more removed or larger depending on your needs. The campground area is then situated right next to the expansive boulders which you can explore throughout your entire stay. Since this is why people come to Horse Pens 40 it is the focus of the park and therefor the campsites function mostly for the sake of being close to the boulders. I wouldn’t suggest coming here if you aren’t a serious climber and very interested in the bouldering aspect. Since my wife and I are only amateur climbers we found the rocks to be more of a challenge than we were expecting and got pretty worn our very quickly. We also struggled to finish most of the routes. Overall, we did enjoy the trip but found that for our needs which were a relaxing weekend of camping and some easy enjoyable climbing it didn’t fit us so well. I had hoped for a more secluded camping experience and more manageable climbing options. I personally prefer making the little bit further drive from birmingham up to Cherokee Rock Village which provides a superior experience for less cost in my opinion.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to try out new and interesting products at campgrounds I visit. On this trip, I took along the Icemule Pro Cooler to keep all our food fresh for the weekend. My takeaways from using the soft shelled cooler are:
- Transportability: With built in backpack straps and the ability to roll closed and strap everything tight this cooler is the easiest I have ever used to transport cold items while camping. Even just going from car to the site which was no more than a 1-2 min walk would have been miserable with my traditional hard sided cooler packed full with ice and food. The Icemule got tossed on my back freeing up my hands to carry the bag with all our cookware. On another trip we even hiked in to a backcountry campground with the cooler and just loaded it with all of our food and cookware to make transporting everything easier.
- Temperature Stability: I had my doubts that a soft shelled cooler could maintain its temperature anywhere near my hard sided coolers since I have seen how quickly my ice pack melts in my lunch each day. The Icemule Pro managed to surprise me in this regard as well since when we arrived home after 2 full days out in the sun and Alabama hot fall weather all the ice packs were still completely frozen solid. We were able to bring things that needed refrigeration without worrying about storage and without having to lug around the giant cooler.
- Flexibility: Since the cooler is made out of a flexible fabric material this provides two wonderful features. First, it can be rolled up and stored in a small space when not in use. I really appreciated this since we live in a small home and space is always a factor with our gear. Second, when loading the cooler you aren’t limited by the form factor of a rectangular box. We had a lot more ability to squeeze items in where we wanted them and didn’t have any dead corner space.
Overall, this is an incredibly engineered addition to my gear collection and has already proved useful on multiple camping trips. It had tons of space for a weekend trip, is easy to transport and move around the campsite, and performs incredibly well in its role as a cooler.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
This site is a glorified parking lot across the street from the racetrack in Talladega. If you have a choice and others are not full I would suggest continuing down the road a little further to check out the other options. It is mostly just a large field where you can park your RV. They do have amenities such as water, electrical, and sewer which is nice. On non race days these campgrounds also work for a low-cost place to stay over for visiting the nearby Cheaha wilderness area. If you are staying here or in the area I highly suggest checking it out.
This is another of the many RV parking lot/campgrounds right near the racetrack in Talladega. This one was a little nicer than some of the others in the area and seems to be well taken care of. It incorporates a large grassy field to set up your site and some more wooded spots in the back. They also have amenities such as water, electrical, and sewer. On non race days these campgrounds also work for a low-cost place to stay over for visiting the nearby Cheaha wilderness area. If you are staying here or in the area I highly suggest checking it out.
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.
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.
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.
This is another RV site for people coming to watch races at the speedway. As a typical tent camper I wouldn't stay here but it seems to have nice amenities if you are traveling in an RV. They are also very close to the highway and near the raceway so it would be a good option if those are concerns. Overall check out my video of the sites for more details.
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.
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!
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!