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National Forests in Alabama, ALABAMA
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T’s outback

Very nice campground The owner is so helpful. It was tight but the owner helped us get backed in at 6:30 pm on a Sunday. Very much under priced for what this park is. I’m here for work but would come to have a great get a way. Not many aminities as far as pool and such but super nice level spots. And very quiet

Big campground on the lake

This is a work in progress as I just added this campground and will review as the days progress! So far, it is reasonably priced. It does require a BCDA permit which is $10 a person to make use of the lake and creeks.

There are RV plots with electric and water hook-ups and tent camping too. We have an Airstream on one site and three tents on another.

A picnic table is available at each site and campfire spots. Our sites overlook the lake and it is lovely so far. Super busy for the July 4 weekend!

First to Review
I’ll pass

Campground is now leased out to KOA rates have skyrocketed and is now an additional charge if you want power. Park is not kept up and bath house is in need of major repairs.

Great overnight spot

Easily accessible spot to overnight. Close to Sipsey Wilderness and several waterfalls. Clean and quiet. Short paved walking trail, fishing pier, restrooms/showers.

Beautiful campground!

We have camped at this park several times. We have always enjoyed our stay. Most of the campsites are tucked away beneath a canopy of trees with nice shade. The bath houses are always clean, as well as the entire campground. It is great for a relaxing weekend getaway.

Ranger Review: GCI Outdoor Pod Rocker with SunShade camp chair at Tomahawk Primitive Campground

Campground Review: 

Tomahawk Primitive Campground is located near Cullman, AL right off of Highway 278. The campground is primitive, and has no electricity or water pumps or hookups at the individual sites, but there is a common room area attached to the back of the owner’s house that has a clean bathroom, a coffee maker, and electricity. There are 3 campsites with fire rings as well as a large, open field at the main campground area, and additional sites by the creek, about a 10 minute walk from the main area. The trail to the creek-side sites was partially cleared, but there were a few fallen trees blocking the path that could make it difficult to carry gear to those sites. My husband, puppy and I stayed at one of the tent sites in the main campground area. If you are staying in a tent, I highly recommend air mattresses for this camp. While the ground has been somewhat cleared, there are still large stocks sticking one or 2 inches out of the ground that would make sleeping without an air mattress very uncomfortable. However, the bigger issue making sleep difficult for us was the road noise from the highway, which stayed busy throughout the night. I assume that if you are in a camper you won’t notice it as much, but in a tent it made us feel like we were camping on the side of the highway and not at a camp. Another problem that we ran into, unfortunately after we set up camp, is that our site had a ton of fire ants. I’m not sure if this is a problem at all of the tent sites or if it was just ours, but I advise caution when choosing your site and where you set up your tent. Our favorite part of this campground was the creek. It was beautiful and clear, perfect for our dog to play in, and had good locations to set up a hammock and enjoy the peaceful creek sounds. If we were to stay at this camp again, we would bring gear that could be hauled to the creek-side campsites. 

Gear Review: GCI Outdoor Pod Rocker with Sunshade 

As a Ranger for the Dyrt, I sometimes get gear to review on my camping trips. For this trip I got the GCI Pod Rocker with Sunshade camp chair. I LOVE this chair, and so did my husband and dog. The chair comes in a durable carrying case, which is great because I’ve had many camp chair bags fall apart after just a few uses. The chair was a little confusing to set up/take down at first, until I realized that easy-to-follow instructions are attached to the bag. The chair is larger than most camp chairs and provides more support. The sunshade is adjustable and can be moved in several positions as well as completely collapsed. The only complaint that we had about the Pod Rocker is that the included cup holder is a pouch that doesn’t seem like it would actually prevent your drink from spilling. For me, the benefit of having a camp rocking chair far outweighs this one detractor. This chair was wonderful for camping but would also be perfect for outdoor sporting events and concerts. I highly recommend the GCI Pod Rocker with Sunshade! Here is the link for the GCI Pod Rocker with SunShade:  https://www.gcioutdoor.com/rockers/pod-rocker-with-sunshade/

Ranger Review: Grub Stick Deluxe Kit at Tomahawk Primitive Campground

Campground Review:

We really enjoyed  the weekend at Tomahawk Primitive Campground, a veteran owned, private campground, just outside Cullman, AL. As the name suggests, this is primitive camping, so no power or water at the sites, but nothing wrong with boondocking, right?!  There are 3 private sites that could handle tents, teardrops, small trailers, or vans, as well as an open field that could hold larger RVs or group camp with multiple tents and/or small trailers. There is also 3 tents sites just a short hike down to the creek at the back of the property where you can camp at your own waterfront site. Each style site is equipped with a fire ring.

The owner has one room in his house blocked off that includes facilities for guests to use and is called the Fest Room. The Fest Room includes a full bathroom with shower that was very clean, a couch and TV (which is a nice place to get out of the elements if the southern weather suddenly turns on you or to just catch an evening movie) , a coffee maker, and a large deck. The deck overlooks a portion of the property and turned out to be a great spot to meet up with other campers or the owner/host and share your camping stories. The deck also includes two gas grills that can be used with permission from the owner.

As mentioned above, the property includes a creek that runs along the property line that was nice to take in, whether sitting on a rock and dipping your feet in the cool water, or hanging a hammock and letting the afternoon slide by with the sounds of flowing water. Our dogs and the host dog, named Bear, loved playing together in the creek!

Wild blackberries were growing all around the property and are starting to get ripe. Picking a hand full of these was a nice addition to our camp breakfast.

We found good cell phone service with Verizon throughout the property.

There is a Dollar General and gas station/convenient store 5 minutes from the property if you need to get any supplies.

While we camped this weekend we also had the opportunity to check out a few of the local attractions. Goat Island Brewery is not too far from the campground and offers up award winning craft beer. We also visited the Ava Maria Grotto at the St. Bernard Abbey, which featured 125 miniature reproductions of some of the most famous religious structures in the world.  A short 25-minute drive south the campground takes you to Mulberry Fork where you can go hiking, tubing, and the site also hosts kayak slalom races in the spring.  5 minutes from the campground is Duck River Dam that has a boat launch and additional hiking trails.

At $15 a night, you can’t beat this to get away from it all for a weekend!  The host was very friendly (and the host dog too!) and was an expert outdoorsman who loves to pass on his survival knowledge. We will definitely be back.

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Product Review:

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to test products. At this campground, I tested the Grub Stick Deluxe Kit.

The deluxe kit, from Grub Stick, is the ultimate 13-piece campfire cooking set that provides endless opportunities to make tasty treats wherever you have a campfire going. With the handles that can extend and retract in length, we found it to be useful as a skewer setup directly on the grill too.  Over the weekend, we used many of the attachments to include hotdogs on the Forks, hamburgers in both the Grubcage and Burgcage, bacon on the Grubpocket with the Bacon Clip, and cinnamon rolls using the Grubtube, Grubcage, and Burgcage.

Two items that we had problems with are the Bacon Clip and the Grabber. The Bacon Clip needs to be slightly larger as it is very tight to get on the Grubpocket with standard cut bacon. Maybe it is intended for very thin bacon? We also could only get two slices of bacon on the Grubpocket at a time. The Grabber is a two finger (thumb and index finger) mini mit that was not big enough to use on the Bacon Clip.

The hotdogs and hamburgers turned out great and the Release Tool is very useful for opening the hot cages. Making cinnamon rolls over the campfire is a skill that I will have to continue to practice as we had varying results on this trip.

I like that the kit includes a carrying bag to keep all the components together  and can be easily stored in the limited space of our teardrop camper. We also found the recipes on the website to be inspiring and we hope they continue to add more ideas.

While we had some minor difficulties, we look forward to trying to master this set. Next trip we will try s’mores, marshmallows, and toasted starburst!

Cave and swim

Olympic size pool fed by cave water!! Kids loved this campground! Low and high dive, great gift shop and cave tours. Ready to go back!!

Words really can't describe!

This campground cannot be beat. It is absolutely gorgeous. Sites are kept immaculate. Even the shower house is beautifully built. Babbling brooks are everywhere! And nothing makes a campground more than the camp host themselves. Wonderful people. It is deep in the wilderness so do not expect Wi-Fi or cell signal. It's nearly an hour to town come well-stocked!

Peaceful RV campground in the woods

Togetherness Works is 5 mile south of I-22/US-78 along a very good Alabama 253.  Junior Beasley and his wife have owned it for many years.  When they were able they were full time RVers and have traveled extensively around the country.  There are about eight sights all gravel and level.  The back in sites have a nice deck beside your parking spot.  There are also a few pull thrus for longer rigs or those who do not want to unhook. Very safe and secure.  It is a favorite location for Tiffin Wayfarer owners to stay since it's only 6 miles from the factory.  But everyone of us would stay here again regardless of it's proximity to the factory.  Just call ahead and Junior will meet you at the entrance and escort you to your site.  They also have a laundry facility for those dirty clothes.

Great cabins, beautiful lake

We stayed at two cabins at Elliot Branch in August with some friends.  It is a short drive to Bear Creek if you want to kayak or canoe, but the cabins are on lakefront property and you can just jump in!  

The cabins are clean and quiet.  They have a full kitchen, bathroom, and ours slept two in a double bed, but there is room in the living area for cots or sleeping on the couch if you wanted.  The couches are huge, and the cabins have cable.  WiFi is also available, though it is slow.

The campsites are also nice.  We drove through the area, scouting out where we want to tent camp in the future.

Better sites further down the trail

This is a very small site on a busy trail that is located smack dab in the middle of the path. It does have easy access to water and a nice flat area to set up a tent but that is about it. There are much nicer more established sites a little further down that I would recommend more highly. Also, because of its location near the start, it gets pretty busy here. 

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 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.

Close to the car

This site is the first one you see right when you get down the hill from the parking lot. It will also probably be the first site claimed since it is the easiest to see and clearly very nice with its spot overlooking the river. The site has plenty of space for several tents and a well-established firepit. The downside, however, is that you are right on the trail and very close to other campsites and the busy thoroughfare for other hikers. If you don't mind making conversation then I would highly suggest staking your claim and getting your tent set up so you can enjoy a relaxing night listening to the river.

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 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.

Flood Safe Campground-Good for spring

This site is one of the furthest along this section of trail and is nice since it is one of the larger spaces in this area. Like all the other campsites it has easy access to water and nice coverage with trees. It is also relatively private but still close to the trail. Check out my video review for more specifics about this site.

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 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.

Small Backcountry Site

Another great backcountry site in Sipsey, read below for more info about the area and the trails we took on our recent trip. Check out the video or photos for a better idea of what is available at this campground.

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 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.

Another Fun Weekend at Clear Creek

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.

Great group site across the creek

Read below for my Sipsey Review and check out the video to get an idea of the site. This particular campsite is located at the intersect of several streams and is a beautiful spot with a large area to set up tents. Because it is actually slightly removed from the trail that most people take it has an incredible amount of privacy while not being cramped or crowded. Another thing I really loved about this site is that it is right along the water without the need to climb down any steep banks. This could be a problem in the spring time when there is a chance of flooding but normally it makes for a wonderful site. Finally, the flat tent areas at this site are mostly covered in sand which means you will have a very comfortable surface to sleep on. 

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 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.

Small but convenient

Read below for a full review of Sipsey and this particular trip. This is a small site right along the trail with enough cleared flat space for a single tent and 2-3 people. It has a well-established fire put and a couple of rocks that could be used to sit on. It is also immediately adjacent to the stream but high enough on the bank that it is not at risk of flooding. If possible I suggest heading a little further down the trail to the next site but this is a good backup option if that one is already taken. One of the cool things someone set up at this spot is several flat rocks placed in the fire pit that will help protect the fire in case of wind and direct the heat towards the sitting area. I can see this being a real advantage if camping during the colder winter months. 

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 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.

Nice, but not what I was looking for.

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.

Small but secluded

When we got to this campsite we were very excited and immediately began setting up in order to claim it early in the day. We really like how level it was and that it is removed from the trail so you still have privacy from other hikers. We ended up finding that the next site along the trail was also available and more spacious so we ended up moving there but this site is a good backup if that one is already claimed. Although it was relatively clear when we were there in early spring many of these sites off the trail can be hard to find when it starts getting more overgrown in summer. Read some of my other reviews from this area for more info about backpacking in Sipsey Wilderness.

Closest to the Car

This campground is the first you pass after coming down the road from the parking area. It is located right at the 203 trail junction near the bridge and along the water. On this trip, it was occupied by a family that had walked down the hill at the same time as us and carried in all their gear in their arms with no packs. This is an ideal site if you need an easy to find a campground that is as close as you can get to the parking area. It is on the smaller size but has a nice firepit and plenty of area to put up at least two tents. It is also high enough off the bank for you to stay dry in case of flooding. One small downside is that to access water you will need to climb down a steep slope or walk around to the bridge slightly down the trail. Another downside is that the trail passes right through the campsite so if you are a late sleeper you may get disturbed in the morning by other hikers passing through. If you are able I would suggest going a little further down the trail and checking out the 2 other nearby sites. Read some of my other reviews from this area for more info about backpacking in Sipsey Wilderness.

Beautiful but crowded

Joe Wheeler campground is beautiful but when we went in early June it was packed with RVs, and most of the campsites around us had multiple vehicles/people at each site. The day use lake beach is wonderful. There were several places to launch a kayak, and the views on the river are hard to beat in the area. I don’t think I’ll camp there again, but I would definitely kayak or go to the lake beach on a day trip.

Ranger Review: Liquid IV Sleep at Sipsey Wilderness Backcountry Site

Campground Review: The Borden Creek Trailhead where we started our hike used to be down at the bottom of the hill but several years ago they moved the parking to a quarter mile away to help protect some of the areas down by the river. This means that coming into this site will require a short hike down a forestry road which isn’t shown on most of the maps. We loaded up all our gear into our hiking cooler and backpacking packs and trekked the 15-20 min downhill to this site. It is the 3rd campsite you pass after turning right at the bridge. This is also listed as trail 203 on most Sipsey maps and meanders along the river a short way. The campground will be on your right and is a large cleared out area with a fire pit in the middle.

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 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. 

This particular campsite was where we stayed our second night and it was an amazing option. It is fairly large but buried in the trees so you are both protected in case of storms and won't boil from the sun in the morning. It also provides a nice bit of privacy from both the trail and the other nearby campsites. We were able to rig up a tarp between the trees and could still have a nice campfire and stay dry despite the rainy weather. I really liked how close we were to the river and could easily pump water and rinse off our feet and bodies after a sweaty day of hiking. Overall, I would suggest passing the first two sites on this trail and checking if this one is available since you will appreciate the serenity the close grouping of trees provide. 

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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 tried out the Liquid IV Sleep drink supplement to help get a full nights rest out in the woods. My takeaways from using the powdered sleep aid are:

  1. Effectiveness: This drink mix knocked me out and that was after sharing it with 2 other people. Their mixture of 3 different natural sleep aids worked effectively to help me fall asleep and also stay asleep throughout the entire night. This is a tough feat when out in the woods so I was very impressed on that aspect. 
  2. Taste: Although there was a little saltiness in the flavor due to the electrolytes the overall taste of the drink mix was very good. I wish they had more options available for the sleep version but the blueberry lavender was a great choice. It is not too sweet and none of the individual flavors are overpowering.
  3. Ease: Since it comes in small pouches as a dried powder it is easy to bring along on any camping trip and you should always have water available so it is no problem to add to a Nalgene. You won’t notice the weight and in general, you can keep them in your day bag or any other pack where it could be useful. 

Overall, I would say this is a well-made drink mix that is very effective in helping you recover and fall asleep after a long day on the trail. I know getting a full night of deep sleep is often challenging for me out in the woods so having some extra help is well appreciated.

Not a fan

Seems to be more people living there than camping. The pull thrus are not a true pull thru. Just a big gravel lot!!

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.