Moose!! Roadside camping in moose turf

Every time we passed this campground we saw empty sites. This came in handy on this holiday weekend. We grabbed a site and before we even filled out the forms the rest were taken. It’s nice to have found a campsite at late notice on a holiday but they did fill up. 

The campground has a couple loops. We ended up right next to the road. Consistent traffic became background noise if we didn’t pay attention to it. We would have preferred a quieter setting but at least we found a campsite. The campers in the other loop seemed louder and more active. One site had a bunch of dogs and a couple of sites had large groups. Our loop was quiet and restful.

The hosts keep the place clean. With all the rain we’ve had, the trail that links up to Sibley Lake trail was too muddy to hike. We walked up the hill away from the road where logging is being done. It led to a series of trails that seemed to lead to more logging. 

The highlight was finding a mother and baby moose grazing right through our campsite. The host told us that a moose killed a dog recently. I’m keeping a closer eye on ours now. 

We loved the moose coming into camp here! This is an ok campground but the closeness to the road wasn’t the best.

Primitive walk-in tent camping in a cool riverside spot

Warning: google maps will take you down a small road with houses. Skip that one. Continue straight on the main road and it will have a turn off for the camp. 

At first we we a bit worried about what it would be like. The road there went through 20 some miles of ranching and no trees. Once the national forest starts it is a beautiful area. 

This is also walk-in tenting only. The sites are beautiful and hidden under trees. There is plenty of room between sites giving you privacy. The river is right next to the campsites - perfect sound to relax to. A hand pump water source is here. This is primitive camping in a cool little spot. 

There is a historical site open to tour on the weekend. Natural Bridge site is on the way here with hiking. This is a nice place but it doesn’t handle our teardrop camper.

Large sites with play ares for families

Given our experience was on a hot and humid day, I would rate this as 3. However I’m trying to be impartial so I’m putting our temperature discomfort aside and giving it 4. The campsites are large and reasonably priced for an overnight stay.

Campsites are large- some big enough for multiple campers. Most sites have water and electric. Plenty of tall trees around for shade. The sites don't have vegetation between them but they are big enough to give you some room. Restrooms are spread around with one being a shower house. 

The lake has boat access. Some kayaks were available to rent. Short hiking trails can be found(with such a large place we were hoping for longer hikes. Playground equipment was getting consistent use today. 

Most sites have nobody in them - perhaps during the week is a slow time. There are some sites for long term camping that are clearly designated. 

The drive through the touristy area had me guessing as to what this would be like. If simple camping is not your thing, there are a couple of resort type places right down the road.

Small campground right on the river - check for flooding before traveling

This is a very small campground. Parts were closed because of flooding so maybe your experience will be better. There were half a dozen sites available this weekend. Each site has direct water access for an easy fishing experience. A boat launch and day use parking area were seeing activity too. Vault toilets are at the end on the camp host side. 

Other than fishing or watching the water flow by, there wasn’t much else here. The drive in is through active farmland. You could walk along the gravel roads. Another option is to visit Loud Thunder forest for hiking. They also have boat rentals. 

A local church held a communal breakfast on Labor Day so check out the small local towns while you’re here.

Multiple campgrounds within a forest near the Mississippi

Registering for any site means stopping at the main ranger office. We waited while a line of people rented pontoon boats, canoes and kayaks. We found site 6 in Silva Campground to be nicely set apart. 

Silva is wooded and has more seclusion than the other camps. River campground has campers right in a line with no shade around them. Silva was good for us. 

Some sites are close together- perfect for a small group. Others are open and along the road. 6 was carved out of the woods- we felt immersed in the forest. One set of 4 vault toilets serves this campground. Water can be found in a couple locations. Our site had full sun during the day so our screen tent saved the day.

A variety of hiking trails are here. Some are used by bikes and horses too. Rock Island is a short drive away and we hiked on Sylvan Island there. Many people are here for fishing. 

We didn’t like the large family gathering at the site across from us. They disappeared as soon as the rain came but there was a lot of activity going on. Some of the picnic areas would be perfect for these moments but they didn't move to them. We still enjoyed our stay.

Stuck between a fairly busy road and the slough

Squeezed between the slough and the road, a campground awaits. Close enough so that one side of your campsite is against the road. The sites were not mowed super recently so the greenery was about 6” tall in spots. Evidence of recent rain was found in the small ruts in the one roadway. There are no trails or even a sidewalk by the road. 

This campground isn’t that enticing but it’s nice to know that there are options if everything else is full. On Labor Day weekend there weren’t any campers - this was enough to send us further down the road. Loud Thunder is just down the road and might be a preferable place. 

We did see people parking in the day use lot and launching their boats for a morning of fishing.

Amazing hiking and beautifully kept but a bit pricey

This campground is in a populated area but the nature preserve is big. We rarely saw traffic once here. A train goes by a couple times but it was always during the day. 

It’s pricey if you are from out of the county. We were hoping to camp at the primitive sites but they are walk-in only. Our teardrop wasn’t allowed. We settled at site 37 and enjoyed our stay. There are vault toilets but the large number of big RVs meant they were not used often leaving them almost like our private restrooms. Each site has water and electric. Trees are around the outside with few on the inside sites. All the sites have paved pads. 

The highlight of our experience is the hiking. There are miles of trails. On one hike we were on paved, sifted gravel, grass and single trek trails. There are a lot of loops giving you options. When we left we still hadn’t hiked all of them. 

If the price was more reasonable we would certainly be back. If you need the water/electric then this is a great choice.

Twisty campground layout makes for a beautiful place

This national forest campground is right along the river. A hiking trail goes right from camp. In fact there is also a day use parking area. Peterson bridge is big and crosses right outside camp. 

The road in camp twists and turns providing a wonderful layout. Campsites are spread apart and are facing all different ways. There were a lot to choose from when we stopped in on a Thursday. It's nice to have paved campsites in a national forest camp. It wasn't raining when we were here but we still appreciated the pavement.

The Manistee River Trail is not far away either - perfect for day hiking or an a weekend backpack. This is a great spot to spend some time.

A beautiful area with only a few camping options

We were lucky and found an open site but they filled up by mid afternoon. Reservations might be the best way to go here. 

Our site had nice distance between the next camp but others are closer together. We had lots of room- enough so that the dog didn’t even get disturbed by other campers. Our camping area was beyond the car- think a straight line back the opens up into a circular camping area. Some sites are right on the water and provide sunset beauty. Vault toilets and water are available. They had a sign advertising a local place offering showers for a small fee. 

We walked over to the lighthouse. They give tours and have a camp store/gift shop. There aren’t really any trails there but you can get to the water in a bunch of places. 3 miles down the road is another part of the state park. There are some very nice hiking trails here. They are wide and go in loops giving options for distance. We went to the overlook and then down to the beach. Sadly dogs aren’t allowed on the beach so Dakota rolled in the sand at the edge and we continued hiking. 

Make sure you visit the small towns and wineries/cideries. There is a lot to do on this peninsula.

Lake Michigan camping with dunes and trails

I remember coming here when I was young but haven’t stayed here in decades. It was time to try it out again. We arrived around 5 or 6 and found lots of open sites on a Wednesday. They put us in a nicely wooded site with empty neighboring sites. We could see our neighbors and others walked by on the road so there were plenty of people in camp. There were water puddles in the road and some campsites. It rained during the night too. Our site is sandy with no grass which wasn’t as great with the wetness. However it’s camping at the dunes so it’s expected. The vault toilets are ok- one had standing water in the corner. Water is available a few sites down and a garbage bin is on the way out. We camped in the rustic loop- no electric or other hookups. There is a larger section with 2 loops that has these amenities. Showers are also located over there. It’s a longer walk or you can drive to the showers. 

We tried hiking and found fallen trees blocking the path. There are other trails to choose from. Be sure to check out the beach and climb up the sand dunes. 

This was a nice campground within a couple hours of Chicago.

Ranger Review of Midland X-Talker Radio at Fort Custer State Rec Area

Campground Review: 

After finding our original campground full, we were directed over to Fort Custer. We found a campsite that was large with vegetation separating us from neighbors. I didn't expect to find something this interesting as an alternate to original plans but it worked out nicely.

There are a couple hundred sites and most of them were full. Our site was on the far end of a loop. This meant a longer walk to the restrooms and showers. On the other hand, we were right across from an access trail to the blue hiking trail. Each site has a picnic table and fire pit. It was overcast upon arrival only to have the sun shine down the next day. We soon found out that there was enough clearing in the treetops to give our camp full sun for most of the day. If you camp here, I suggest one of the other sites that would give you a break from the sunny heat.

We hiked on a multi-use trail that the ranger suggested. The blue trail goes around a couple lakes and was wonderful. We did miss a sign or two and ended up turning our 4 mile trip into a 6.5 mile one but there are plenty of spots to rest and enjoy the time. We passed other hikers and bikers and even some people trying their luck at fishing. There are quite a few mountain bike trails on the other side of the recreation area. A horse trail circles around the outside edge. 

Product Review: 

As a Dyrt Ranger I sometimes get products to evaluate. This trip I tested out the Midland X-Talker two way radio - T77VP5. The kit we used came bundled into a zippered case that is perfect for keeping everything organized. We charged it up before our trip and even tried it out in a school building. 

We read reviews that said it might not work well in buildings and thought we should see. I gave them to two high schoolers and asked them to run throughout the place testing them as they went. They came back happy and excited and wanted to keep using them.

The real test came out in the woods. The belt clip snaps on easily and this stayed connected to my pack strap for our entire hike. The X-Talker fits nicely in the hand and the buttons are perfectly placed. Another feature I wanted to try was the weather radio. It scans channels automatically to find a weather channel in range. You just need to listen to the report as it cycles through the days. We had some rain and storms moving in so this proved useful in helping us sneak out of camp really early to avoid the downpour that was looming.

The Midland X-Talker T77VP5 radios worked wonderfully and will certainly see more use on future adventures.

Group camping in open area with prickly pear

This is a group only campground. You also need to reserve this- it’s not one you just show up to. There is a big open field with 2 covered picnic table areas. Each one has 2 tables in it. A standout feature might be the 2 huge fit pits. They each have a nice wood ring that is perfect to sit on for some evening storytelling. One set of vault toilets is off to the side. 

One drawback is the amount of prickly pear cacti. It is everywhere! There are some free areas to set up a tent but definitely watch where you walk. This camp is also in a clearing so there’s no shade except by the edges. 

Another option is Pine Campground which is just down the road. There are also individual back country sites that you can backpack to. 

The natural area has some great hiking (the ranger recommends the green trail). There is also hunting and fishing here. A horse campground around the bend means you might encounter some on the trails. 

This is a nice area set aside from all other campers but it’s in the open and those cacti are a pain.

Sandy forested equestrian camping

This is the campground for horses and their riders. Tie up posts are in each campsite along with picnic tables. The campground is one loop so the inner ring of sites are almost like a group site setup. The outer ring sites are more private and up against the woods. A set of vault toilets is commonly located. Along with garbage cans there are multiple spots to pile manure. There were a couple sites occupied the first night but it emptied out on Saturday. 

Most trails in this natural area are accessible to horses. Trails head out from camp. The longest being almost 15 miles. Hiking and hunting also happen here so keep an eye open on the trails. If you have an energetic horse that you want to work hard, head into the yellow loop. The ranger said it tires everyone because it’s steep hills of sand. 

Across the road is a spot for day use riders to park their trailers. There were a bunch parked when we passed it. 

This is a hidden gem and worth giving a chance.

Rustic camping with river access

Riverside fishing access that is about 25 miles out of town. Camping is dispersed-like so find a campfire ring and set up. Camping here is simple and pretty rustic. Campsites didn’t have an appealing look but I guess the real draw is fishing. The boat ramp gives access to the water. 

It also has little trails from camp that sneak you to the river. This is a pretty fun feature that gave a private feel to camp. 

A farm is adjacent so only go to the public area. It’s clearly signed but it’s important to respect the locals. 

This is an out of the way spot along a beautiful river. The river is so powerful! We saw quite a few people dropping off boats and moving their cars further down.

Ranger review of Banner and Oak Horizon hat at Pine Campground

Campground Review: 

This is a hidden gem! We camped immersed in a pine forest. Can you smell that fragrance? This is a nice size campground that feels larger because so few are camping here this weekend. 

Our site is up against the woods giving us a sense of being on our own. Vault toilets are clean and in a couple locations. We have two trees perfect for the hammock and yet enough sun to use the solar panels. 

One odd point is that we couldn’t find a way to pay. During office hours, you pay at the ranger’s place just down the road. We arrived late but he came around the next morning to check in everyone. He pointed out the 2 water pumps that work and we had a nice chat. 

The ranger directed us to hike the green trail. It touches on all the various ecosystems that are found here. It was a great hike and not that difficult at all. It just a short drive away. He also said to watch out for prickly pear as you roam the natural area. 

Another camper has been alternating camping here with backpacking to more remote spots. It’s good to have options. 

Backpacking, hiking, fishing, horses and hunting can all be done in this large nature area. 

Product Review: 

As a Dyrt Ranger I sometimes get products to evaluate. This trip I tested out the Horizon hat by Banner and Oak

The Freedom to Explore hat has material over the entire head (not mesh like many other hats of this type). This caught my eye since my lack of hair requires sun protection. I was perfectly happy with this hat. The material is soft and it adjusted to fit perfectly. It was a comfort to know my head was protected. 

A side job I asked of it was swatting away all the spiderwebs. We were the first on the trail and they were everywhere! Banner and Oak to the rescue! Their hat slipped on and off easily as I quickly swung it into action.

(Side comment: the Banner and Oak carabiner was great at being a second attachment for my dog’s leash. She broke the metal on her last harness and it’s nice having some reassurance) 

I’m recommending this Banner and Oak hat! It works beautifully and carries a message to encourage everyone to find the courage to get outside.

Nice campground near the Indiana Dunes National Park

We followed the signs for Indiana Dunes National Park and found ourselves here. There is also a campground directly in the park but this one is just down the road. I think it’s still part of the same place but with a self-check-in there wasn’t anybody to ask. 

The camp host left a list of available campsites on the check-in kiosk. We found just two sites still open and took one of them. Our site was a large pull-through with a separate area for the picnic table and a tent. Right across the road was the large restroom complete with showers and flushing toilets. After setting up camp, I heard people in the woods right on the other side of the hill. I walked up the path and found that the neighboring campsite winds back there. We could sort of see them, and definitely hear them, but we still felt separate. The camper and car in the pull through spot provided a nice barrier so our dog didn’t get distracted by people walking by. 

The National Park entrance is a few miles down the road. The beach was packed but the trails were emptier. We enjoyed hiking to the summit of 2 dunes. We stopped at the picnic area to have lunch in the shade. There’s also a trail that leads out from camp. However dogs are not allowed on the entire trail so we skipped it. 

This is a nice National Park that’s only an hour from Chicago.

Beautiful super small camping in town

The campsites are located past the playground and shelter. Just keep driving down the road that looks like an alley. There is a wonderful place set up for just a few campers. 

A couple sites are for tents only and the others are standard sites. There are a few trees by the sites but it’s mostly open area. Portable toilets are at the end of the camping area and in the playground area. The playground is a day use area for town so expect to meet some locals. 

Driving just down the street takes you to the police station. This is where you register for the site. Town is around you and ready to explore. There are a few train tracks and industrial businesses which provide a bit of noise along with traffic. For us, the noise just slid right into the background. 

This is a great place for a low price.

Interesting campground design with fishing and ATV trails nearby

The multi-level campsites are interesting and fun. You park above and set up the tent down a few stairs. It’s a nice way to use the hilly area. There is still room to set up a rv on some sites. The water source has its own building. The vault toilet has a ramp for accessibility. 

The entire campground was empty when we showed up on a Thursday afternoon. Some sites are right on the small lake while others are more wooded. Some of the sites are close together so choose the style you prefer. Along the road in are a variety of off-road trails to explore. 

This quiet lake is a perfect spot to getaway from crowds.

Great campground near a rails-to-trails type of path

This is a nice campground that winds around through some light woods. Campsites have electric hookups. There are certainly lots of picnic tables. We saw more than one per site. With only a few people camping here, there was plenty of space between campers. There is no separating vegetation though. 

A bike path in Pecatonica which is just down the road. Camp here and day trip on the bike path or use this as a stop for your long distance bike tour. 

This is a great campground to get away near a nice small town.

First to Review
Small sites at a rustic camp

Smaller sites can be found here. Some flooding has occurred leaving some sites waterlogged and not comfortable for camping right now. This campground might have a higher rating if the waterlogged nature was different. A hand pump is available for drinking water. The vault toilet is just ok - it’s not very clean. 

Lots of atv/snowmobile trails are in the area. A nice dirt road goes past lots of homes. We saw a group of locals walking along the road down to the campground to see the lake. This told us that the road was the best hiking option (perhaps because of the extra water?). 

Not as much for us here but it might  be better  if you had a boat for the lake.