Kentucky Lake is one of the two lakes that border the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (the other is Lake Barkley) and is the state’s largest artificial lake. Spanning the western portion of Tennessee and southwest Kentucky, the lake is 184 miles long and has 2,380 miles of shoreline. Kentucky Lake is considered one of the best places to sport fish in the country. Boaters, sailers and paddlers come from all around to enjoy the waters, and Kentucky Lake camping draws adventurers looking for a weekend getaway. But it’s not just people that love Kentucky Lake. Because the lake is located along a major waterfowl migration route, it’s home to a wintering population of more than 450,000 waterfowl!
As one might expect, recreation at Kentucky Lake centers around the water. Boating, skiing, swimming, kayaking, SUP, and canoeing are all enjoyed in the summer months. Spring and fall offer the best in fishing and the hiking trails at and around Kentucky Lake can be enjoyed all year long.
12 Great Kentucky Lake Campgrounds
Ready to make a trip to Kentucky Lake? The Dyrt has rounded up all of your Kentucky Lake camping options.
Okay, let’s start with the campground that isn’t technically on Kentucky Lake. Perched on a peninsula between Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, Canal Campground actually faces Barkley Lake (Kentucky Lake is just a 1-mile walk across the canal.) Canal Campground isn’t the most remote or private campground of the Kentucky Lake camping options but it’s on the list because of its popularity with families and RV campers.
This 114-site campground’s amenities include electric hookups, flush toilets and showers. In the warm months, a designated swimming beach is usually packed and families flock to the picnic pavilions and playground. This Kentucky Lake camping option books up fast so make sure to secure your reservation months in advance. The campground is open seasonally from the end of March through the end of October.
“I love everything about this campground. They have a small playground, beach, several bath houses, a group camping “pad,” boat ramp, boat dock and easy roads for cycling.” -The Dyrt Camper Rachel T.
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One of the largest campgrounds on Kentucky Lake, Hillman Ferry Campground has a whopping 374 lakefront and wooded campsites along the southeast shore of the lake. The campsites sit beneath oak, hickory and pine trees and are connected by connector paths that loop and wind throughout the campground. Because of the lack of understory, there’s not much privacy at this campground.
This full-service Kentucky Lake camping option is open March through November. Services include basic, electric, water and sewer sites, potable water, and hot showers. There’s a ton to do at the campground, including playing at the ball fields, riding on the bike trails, and trying your hand at the archery range. The swimming beach, hiking trails and fishing dock are also popular. Walk-in tent sites are available as first come first serve and all other campsites must be reserved in advance.
“This is our favorite family campground. They have everything except a pool (kids love swimming at the beach). Biking, hiking, horseshoes, disc golf, nice bath facilities, swimming, boating, fishing, it’s all there! We always make several trips to the camp store for ice cream and pizzas.” -The Dyrt Camper Erin P.
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Located on the eastern shores of Kentucky Lake, Piney Campground is another large (there are 8 loops!) Kentucky Lake camping option. There’s a lot to do at Piney Campground that will keep the whole family busy including ball courts, a camp theater, archery range, hiking trails and swimming in the summer. The Piney Outpost provides campers with food, drink, and camping supplies
There are 369 total campsites at Piney Campground, 31 of which have full hookups (full hookup sites are in the Dogwood loop.) There are no hook-ups in the Virginia and Sweetgum loops and electric hook-up is scattered throughout the rest of the loops. The campground is open year-round.
“We spent seven nights at site 41 and it was spectacular. The lakeside sites have electrical hookups but no water but there are potable water sites throughout the park… We were glad to see the many safe areas for children – swimming, bike riding, baseball, playgrounds, etc. There is truly something for everyone.” -The Dyrt Camper Jodi S.
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Considered by some to be overflow for nearby Piney Campground, others choose to skip super-developed Piney in favor of this more rustic and laid-back campground. Considered a backcountry campground, the sites are basic (no electricity or hookups) and have vault toilets. Water can be obtained at Piney Campground.
Boswell Landing is open year-round and has 19 campsites– some of which are right on the lakeshore. Hikers enjoy the fact that the campground provides access to the Fort Henry Trail network.
“Boswell Landing is a quiet spot of the park with gorgeous views of Kentucky Lake where you can pull up a chair (or tent!) and relax… Within walking distance of the campground, down the paved road are a few notable things: Buchanan Cemetery, which is a civil war cemetery, and the site of Fort Henry.” -The Dyrt Camper Jessica L.
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If you’re looking for secluded Kentucky Lake camping check out Redd Hollow, a rustic campground with beautiful views of the lake. Campers report frequent visits from bald eagles and naturalists can collect thousands of shells from the boat ramp.
The campground is open year-round and is popular with anglers. It has 39 total sites, 6 are tent-only and the rest can accommodate RVs. Tent sites are available on a first come first serve basis. These primitive campsites have vault toilets and water can be obtained at the Golden Pond Visitor Center.
“About half of the sites are on the left hand side when you drive in and you can pick from sites tucked back in the woods a bit or sites nearer the water. Farther into the campground the road passes the vault toilet and boat ramp and goes uphill to higher sites in the woods with a longer walk to the lake but potentially better views and breezes.” -The Dyrt Camper Daniel N.
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Situated on a peninsula along Kentucky Lake’s Pisgah Bay, Birmingham Ferry is a small and primitive campsite that offers great views of the bay and is a favorite place to watch the Drag Boat Races that take place once a month over the summer. The campground is shaded but there isn’t much privacy between campsites.
This Kentucky Lake camping spot is open year-round and has 26 total sites. 10 of the sites are tent-only. There are vault toilets but no electricity or hookups and no access to potable water. The campground’s boat ramp is the perfect place to access all that the lake has to offer– skiing, fishing, boating, and kayaking opportunities abound.
“Birmingham Ferry is the elite campground for national level drag boat racing, and the camp ground reflects the elite sport enthusiasts who enjoy drag boat racing while camping. While considered to be back country and primitive, people come in from all over the US to participate in the drag boat races every year.” -The Dyrt Camper Staci R.
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Popular with tent campers and those that like launching small watercraft like kayaks and canoes, Smith Bay is a quiet, rustic Kentucky Lake camping spot with great views of Smith Bay. The wooded campsites offer a fair amount of privacy and the small campground means that the crowds never get out of control.
Smith Bay campground is open all year long and has 16 total sites. Two of the sites are tent-only and the others can accommodate tents or RVs. There are no hookups for electricity but there are vault toilets. Water can be obtained at nearby Birmingham Ferry campground.
“Some areas are wooded and well shaded, others are in direct sun without shade. All sites have a picnic table and fire ring, are first come first serve, and require a back country camping pass (available at either Land Between the Lakes Welcome Station or Corps of Engineers campground) or you may pay a daily fee.” -The Dyrt Camper Staci R.
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Sugar Bay campground is located between Kentucky Lake and Sugar Bay. Another small and primitive campground, the campsites here wind around a hill. Campsites at the top of the hill have views of the water. Fishermen and those who enjoy communing with nature will enjoy this wild campground.
Sugar Bay is open all year and has 16 total sites, 6 of which are tent-only. There are vault toilets but no electricity or drinking water so bring what you’ll need with you.
“Quite a ways off the beaten path, Sugar Bay seems to be popular among military families for day use as well as for camping. Campsites are well marked, packed gravel, with no electric or water (there is also no cell signal – almost anywhere in LBL- which may be what makes Sugar Bay so popular for unplugging)! Campsites are best for tents or hammocks, as the roads through the campsites are gravel and can be somewhat hilly.” -The Dyrt Camper Staci R.
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A campground that’s well loved by hunters and angler’s, Twin Lakes campground is situated on the shores of an unnamed bay and Kentucky Lake. This Kentucky Lake camping spot is primitive, but campers looking for solitude and a view of the lake can find both here. The campground has a few docks as well as a great bank to fish from.
Twin Lakes campground is open all year round and has 14 total sites, 7 of which are tent-only. The only real amenity here is vault toilets, but potable water and a dump station can be found at the nearby North Welcome Station.
“This very primitive campground has some great lookout points, if you’re lucky or savvy enough to get one. Aside from a select number of cliff spots, these basic sites are nestled away from the shoreline for shade… I was lucky to be camping here on a weekday, otherwise reserve ahead for a site with a view. I wound up using the campsite as a home base and driving to the Woodlands Nature Station a few miles away to rent a canoe and spend some time on the water.” -The Dyrt Camper Daniel B.
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A large resort park on the shores of Kentucky Lake, Kentucky Dam Village State Park is a world away from the primitive camping found at many of the smaller Kentucky Lake camping spots. The park features boating, fishing, horseback riding, hiking and tennis as well as an 18 hole golf course, marina and even its own airport.
The campground has 219 paved campsites with water and electricity hookups that can accommodate RVs or tents. The campground has a wide range of amenities, from hot showers and laundry facilities to nature programs and a retail store. There’s even an Air Camp that allows aviators to camp by their aircraft. The campground is open April 1 through the end of October. If you want full-service camping you’ll find it at Kentucky Dam Village State Park.
“We have camped here many times and it always is such a pleasant trip. We never feel like it’s crowded and the bathrooms are clean. There are plenty of activities to do if you want to get off of the camp site. There is swimming, horseback riding, kayaking, or shopping in the cute little towns close by.” -The Dyrt Camper Faith S.
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Located on the western shore of Kentucky Lake, Kenlake State Resort Park is a massive vacation retreat. The park’s developed campground has 90 standard electric campsites and a full range of amenities including showers, drinking water and a camp store and is open seasonally April through the end of November.
If you’re looking for a Kentucky Lake camping option that provides an endless number of things to do, Kenlake State Resort Park is the campground for you. The park boasts an archery range, marina, outdoor theater, tennis and playgrounds as well as hiking trails and swimming opportunities in both the pool and the lake.
“Very friendly staff, and it is very peaceful when you go after or before the holidays. The sites with the decks have amazing views of Kentucky Lake, and there is a trail just south east of the camping area that leads down to the water for easy access for canoes or kayaks.” – The Dyrt Camper Lucas C.
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Nathan Bedford Forrest is a Tennessee State Park on the western shores of Kentucky Lake. The park is home to the Tennessee River Folklife Interpretive Center and Museum featuring the ways and customs of people living on the Tennessee River. The park also has a number of things to keep visitors busy including hiking trails, a disc golf course, SUP and kayak rentals, fishing, birding, and swimming.
The park has two campgrounds. Happy Hollow camping area has 37 sites with water and electrical hookups. Happy Hollow also has drinking water, a bathhouse with hot showers, a dump station for RV campers and a playground for kids to enjoy. The other, more rustic campground is the Lakefront Campground. This primitive campground has 13 sites, potable water and a centrally located restroom.
“We enjoyed our visit and the wonderful view, but if we return, we will get a site further from the boat access ramp. There are 2 ramps, but everyone wants to use the one right in the middle of the site at zero dark thirty.” -The Dyrt Camper Jeff B.
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- Natural Bridge Campground, Frankfort, KY
- Lake Cumberland Campgrounds, Jamestown, KY
- Elkhorn Campground, KY