Gotta say this was my first attempt at free camping and this place did not disappoint. Since my stay I have learned the area I camped has been designated as day use only by the ACoE, but I say as long as there aren't signs posted, (there weren't when I went) you're safe to set up camp. You turn into the park and before the pay sites, there are two left turns, the first is for RVs and the second is for tents and cars. We arrived the first weekend after Labor Day 2018 and we only saw 2-3 other campers there, and we even made a friend for the night. In total I would say there are about 7-8 official sites with fire rings, but there is plenty of space regardless. We arrived at dusk and as soon as we got our tents up we were greeted by the largest swarm of dragonflies I had ever seen in my life. Didn't have an issue with bitey bugs, but the bugs were plentiful. The lake is nice too, with cranes swooping in and out and we were treated to a wonderful sunrise. That place was just overall a good omen for the beginning of our trip. We plan to use this place as our main waypoint to the west.(Hope to run into you again someday, James!)
Not a fan of pay sites usually, but I wasn't planning on hanging out, so it didn't matter.
I got all checked in and paid for a load of firewood which they urged me to take more, which is always nice, so I had plenty for my stay. Electric and water on site was a nice surprise for the 25/night price tag, and the clean bathrooms and showers were an added bonus. Used this stay for my first time hammock camping, and honestly I was lucky to find trees suitable for it, but I did manage to get it hung and slept comfortably. This place is obviously popular with families and RV campers so expect to get past a crowd going in and out. Distance from Cumberland Falls and city amenities was a big help for me.
Arrived late and took a minute to find the actual campsites. They aren't right next to the fireplace shelter, rather just around the corner. Had the place completely to myself on a thursday night/friday morning. Biting bugs weren't bad,(late May) but there were still a ton of other varieties. Several toilets on site, but no water. Picnic tables, tent pads, and fire rings at each site. There are only 10 tent sites, and the ones by the shelter are for picnics only. I wouldn't recommend a long RV up there, although there seems to be another 10 or so sites big enough for RVs and trailers. I was really impressed by the overall quality of the campground, but the distance from everything is a big negative. The northern road in isn't all that bad, but the south road is what I NEEDED to use to get to my various destinations, and it was a rough one. I made it in and out twice in an HHR, but I was bottoming out on gravel and such. Overall, the HHR handled it fine, it just wasn't worth it, so I ended up only staying the one night. If not for distance from everything and the road conditions, it would've scored a 5.
Got there late and was greeted by the hosts, they led us back on a 4-wheeler, so we know what to expect on the the dirt lane back to the sites. They're first come, first serve, but all the sites have their own advantages. Some are a little slanted, but not so bad its disruptive for sleep. The stars can get pretty bright at night, despite the pollution from neighboring cities, so it makes for some nice stargazing. Apparently firewood is included, and if you let the hosts know, they're very attentive and will come right out to make sure you've got firewood, or even paddles for the boats that are available to use free of charge. There's a shed that is normally stocked with fishing gear, firewood, life vests, trolling motors and other goodies. (Though it was a little sparse on our visit) I wouldn't say it's entirely RV friendly, but maybe 1-2 sites could handle one. If I recall correctly, pets are allowed, but they must be leashed at all times since there's farmland nearby. Overall we loved our visit, and can't wait to go back since m'lady broke her ankle night one, and hence we spent most of our day in Lexington. Getting into a boat can be a chore with a broken ankle, but once you manage it, its rewarding. HLF is a great place to go if you just want (some) privacy and to relax a bit.
No fee in off season, but is limited to 3 tent sites and 2 RV pads near the entrance. Surprisingly quiet considering the proximity to the road. Toilet was clean and unlocked. We decided to try and boondock somewhere near Custer and visit on our way home since we love this area so much. Just happened to spot this in the national Forest. Good thing, because we went for a walk at Sylvan Lake later on and I decided it was so beautiful, that would be the place I'd pop the question, right on those rocks. I carried that ring around for a week straight…
She said "yes." :)
Beautiful spot with a gorgeous view of a couple of mountain peaks (Thunderbolt Peak?) with the reservoir in the foreground.
-Camping is on the left as you approach the lake, there is nothing past the first big area you see.
-Many spaces available, just pick a primitive firepit and setup around it.
-Lake is technically private and the locals WILL hassle you if they catch you fishing/swimming/boating.
-We easily made the drive up in a low clearance car, and Rv's should have no problem.
- In total I'd say around 15 separate campsites could operate here comfortably on a busy weekend.