RV Sites
Tent Sites
Fires Allowed
Pets Allowed
Drinking Water
About Horse Cove Campground

Closed indefinitely due to a water system issue.  

This campground, near the entrance to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, has 18 campsites located beside a rushing mountain stream, Little Santeetlah Creek. A few sites remain open year-round, although no water is available in the winter.

National Forest
Drive In
Boat In
ADA Accessible
Alcohol Allowed
Drinking Water
Fires Allowed
Pets Allowed
Picnic Table
Trash Available
Water Hookups
Horse Cove Campground is located in North Carolina
35.365 N
-83.92 W
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Horse Cove Campground is located 13 miles north of Robbinsville, NC near the entrance to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.
7 Reviews of Horse Cove Campground
Gorgeous wilderness, no amenities

This campground has very few sites and they don’t allow pre-bookings. It’s very rustic - there is a bathroom with toilets but no showers. The campground is walking distance to Joyce Kilmer memorial forest and a boat launch on lake Santeetlah. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever camped.

Great Little Hideaway Haven

If you drive the Cherohala Skyway from Tellico plains, make a left onto Joyce Kilmer Road. You'll come to an intersection; Left gets you Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Straight ahead will garner you a fabulous view from Maple Springs Overlook, and Right, will take you by Hose Cove Campground. Go Right first and secure a spot at this first-come first-served campground, nestled among the trees of the Nantahala Forest, beside the rushing waters of the Little Santeetlah Creek …and then go back for hiking and views:)

This campground has 13 sites on the opposite side of the road from the lake, and several spots flanking Santeetlah. If you are a tent camper, my suggestion is go for the opposite side of the lake. I don't think you can even fit a camper into one of these spaces. The campground is a dead end with #13 at the very end, and no turn around past #10. 

We arrived at the perfect hour of the day and had our pick of any site. We chose #12, for its privacy and the beautiful rushing water to sleep by and watch while sitting beside the fire and enjoying morning coffee. If you like camping with friends in adjoining campsites, it looked like #8 and #9 would be good to grab as they are closer together and have a little path that runs between them.

There are flushing toilets and sinks with cold running water, but no hot water and no showers. Just don't even think about using the bathroom facilities until you've selected your spot and paid for it. Elizabeth and John are the camp hosts and NOTHING gets by Elizabeth. Dogs are welcome, but should be leashed. There is a boat ramp with plenty of parking, maybe a mile past the campground, perfect for putting in kayaks and canoes. Bear proof trashcans are on site at Horse Cove, and usual Bear Precautions apply.

This is a great little tucked away haven and totally worth the $10 a night!

Great step before backpacking!

Very peaceful campground! You can find sites the you can pull right up to or one like ours J2 that you have to park and hike about .25-.5 mi to camp out. It is right off a lake for access to water, (must purify yourself) because we werent close to the purified water. We loved swimming in the lake daily. It is also only a 10 min drive to Joyce Kilmer National Forests where you can see some of the oldest/largest trees in the southeast. It was a great test to see if our girls were ready to try backpacking because of the hike. Sadly we learned they were not but they loved the site and the short hike to the grounds. The campsite was big enough to set up our slackline without issues too with great privacy. We barely knew we had neighbors until we saw them simming in the lake as well. We will go back again. Amazing experience.

Great small campground

Great campground on lake. Clean restrooms and near great hiking trails.

Beautiful secluded mountain retreat.

Very quite sites tucked away beside the river, about 5 or 6. Then across the street is about 10 more sites. All nice looking. The facilities are older. There are no showers.

I stayed by the river the past 2 years. I love falling asleep to sound of rushing water. You can fill your days hiking the local trails or trekking down river. It will always be a favorite site to go.

Best Sleep Ever!

This cute little national forest roadside campground is situated in the Nantahala National Forest, just due south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is well-kept, and allows for access to a variety of outdoor activities* in the greater area. It’s just about a mile from a boat launch on Lake Santeetlah, a beautiful reservoir for fishing, canoeing, SUPing, or sea kayaking, and very close to some great hiking in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. The famous Tail of the Dragon (Highway 129) between here and Tennessee, with twists and turns and beautiful views…very popular among both cyclists and motorcyclists. The closest town is Robbinsville, NC which is about 30 minutes away and has all the basics you need. Nothing fancy or special, though the people are extremely nice. Don’t expect to get a signal in the campground, as you are deep in a gorge.

*If you are a whitewater kayaking enthusiast like my husband, be sure to watch the release schedule for the Cheoah River. The day after we arrived, we saw dozens of vehicles with kayaks and the campground went from empty to completely full overnight!

Most of the creek-side campsites are on the small side and designed for tent camping, but they are the only ones open in the winter months. With some creativity, we were able to get our little adventure rig and truck into the parking area. It’s great to sleep near the creek, though, as it blocks out nearly every sound from the road and other campers. There are about a dozen other sites on the uphill side of the highway which are open during the main season, but only a few large enough for mid-sized RV’s.

Each site is well-maintained with nice flat, well-drained tent pads, cooking areas (1 grill and 1 firepit per site), a picnic table, and not 1 but 2 poles to hang lanterns, shower bags, etc. Lots of trees around for hanging hammocks, too. There are 3 well-kept pit toilets – 1 close to the creek-side sites and two others in the main campground uphill and across the road. During the main season, drinking water is available, but during the winter months, you need to filter from the creek. Camping price is reduced in the winter due to no drinking water, but the creek was actively running.

No reservations necessary, or even possible. This is a first-come, first-served campground with an iron ranger for payments. During the winter, we only paid $5 per night to camp here, which is absolutely amazing given the quality of this little campground. It is normally $10 per night during the main season, but we saw a posted sign about possible fee increases in the future. Check out our blog on The Dyrt's Online Magazine about our experience in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

First to Review
Off season camping

Lake Santeelah is a really great camping spot on a lake that doesn't get the crowds that some of the other lakes in the area draw. There are a lot of primitive sites along the lake on Joyce Kilmer Rd. It's paved the whole way and easy to find. More sites on a gravel road on the east side of the lake, some are car camping others are hike in. None of these sites have hookups, water, NO RVs. Sites have a tent platform, fire pits and parking area off the road. Camping in February was a perfect. We saw a small handful of cars and one or two boats with fisherman. Otherwise it was extremely quiet and private, bears are in the area so make sure food and garbage are stored during the warmer months. Plenty of fishing for trout both in the lake and in Santeetlah Creek right up the road.