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.

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.

Inexpensive rustic camp by the lake

We stopped here after reading positive reviews but we didn’t feel the same. 

After starting in a wide open flat section, the campground winds along a narrow road. Some sites are above and easily found. These were large and filled up by a family. Others are close to the lake down a narrow dirt road. One along the road was nice but the sites at the lake were all in one open circle. The only separation between camps is done by the location. Trees and vegetation are between locations but the campsites in each area are pretty wide open. 

The price is low but it comes with a vibe we didn’t feel. Another family also left to seek out another campground - we saw them at another one we also preferred. Others love this place so perhaps you might want to try it for yourself.

Family friendly camping on a lake

Be clear on your directions. We found ourselves down a dead end dirt road and had to drive back out around town. Once here we discovered a wonderful campground. 

Campsites are nicely laid out and we found a bunch of open sites even many were already taken. It was clear that families camp here - bikes and children abound. There is even a basketball hoop by the host’s campsite. There are a few hiking trails that lead to the beach or to some close by fishing spots. The host sells firewood but there is also an ice freezer with bags for sale (a bit pricy though). Vault toilets and water are available. 

There are other local lakes and campgrounds. ATV, as well as off-road, driving trails are plentiful. Take some time to explore the small towns. 

This is a campground that is nicer than some of the other campgrounds we found in the area but it doesn’t feel as rustic either.

Very rustic with a really narrow road

First we didn’t find a sign- just a gravel circle next to the road. At the back of the gravel we found a small sign pointing down a narrow road (it didn’t say any names). We drove down it but it’s a narrow fit with few turn-outs- picture a classic, small 2-track trail. I would hesitate to take a larger camper here. After a drive we came upon the fee sign and 2 direction choices. 

We drove right and only found a few campsites. They were large and we were able to drive right into them. We actually found it easier to drive into the campsite to make the turn than to stay on the two-track. The trees are right next to the road. The lake wasn’t visible from this side. There was a walk-in site at the end of this track. It was far enough that none of the campsite was visible from the turnaround. 

The lack of signs and less well kept nature left us feeling a little less than comfortable here.

Wooded sites that are large near hiking and fishing

This is just down the road from a couple other campgrounds. It’s nice to have options when you don’t have reservations. 

The sites are large and spread out. Some are in the sun while others have separate areas for the picnic table. Trees are around which create a nice wooded setting. A water hand pump and clean vault toilets can be found. 

The Greenough trailhead is at the end of the campground. Hike or bring your fishing gear and try your luck. We saw several families heading out with their fishing rods- but we didn’t see any caught fish…. This is also just at the start of where the Beartooth Highway starts going up to the west. 

We didn’t like this one as much as Parkside Campground but it’s nice having options.

Nestled along a creek at the base of the Beartooth highway

This is a beautiful campground! The Beartooth highway starts going up to the west right here. You must drive this route but plan lots of time for photos. 

The campground stretches out along the Wyoming creek. Let your eyes go upwards and glimpse the mountains around you. This campground is in the valley. Large sites are well spread out and wander through the wooded area. Drive through and select the one you like and then fill out the form. Vault toilets and garbage bins are spread out too. We found quite a few open sites but many were reserved. If this one fills up there are a few more down the road. 

The trailhead for the Wyoming creek trail is at the start of camp. We saw plenty of cars parked here for day hiking. This is a great place.

Boat launch and hiking/ski trails out of camp

Head into the northern side of the Bighorns and you come across Sibley Lake. The campground has electric and non-electric loops. Sites are large and you find yourself under tall trees. The camp host keeps the vault toilets and campground clean. Drive through the campground, or take the road that skirts it to the left, and you find picnic areas. Launch your boat to catch some fish or just enjoy the day. We saw families having picnic celebrations on this holiday weekend. There is also a hiking/skiing route that has several loops. Go around Sibley or extend your adventure further. There is a donation box for trail upkeep. 

This is a nice campground that is closest to the towns in the east.

Close enough to town and yet remote camping

The drive to Black Fox is along quite a few ranches and follows a river. The drive is enjoyable and not very difficult to handle. The campground is right along the river. The rapids made music that is peaceful and inviting. 

A large group of ATVs drove in to picnic. Along with one other family, the campground was pretty empty. 

What better camp than right along a bubbling river? Off road trails are the closest draw. The Michelson trail has an access point a few miles down the road. Pay the access fee and enjoy the trail with hikers, bikers, and horses. 

Although some of the sites had a bit too much water and were muddy, the bulk of the 9 sites were perfect.