Celina M.
Los Alamos, NM
Joined June 2018
Love to travel, camo and backoack with my family.
Good campground for lake access

We camped at Vallecito for a week in July of 2019. The water to the reservoir was pleasantly over capacity (a joy after a drought) but meant that the water line was well into the brush making swimming a challenge among the branches and driftwood that would tangle little feet. I saw signs that I assume were supposed to be at a beach, twenty feet out into the lake. I would imagine that this would be a great swimming hole when the lake was at a normal capacity. 

The campground was typical for a forest service campground. There are vault toilets and the host comes around once per day. There is a dumpster. There is clean water.

The campground is almost entirely shaded by tall pines. There is a creek that trickles past some of the campsites (which makes for a pleasant sound when lying in the tent at night).

Noise travels over the water and through this area like it doesn't at many other campgrounds. While overall, I found the campground to be quiet and peaceful, neighbors arguing a few campgrounds down, or being rowdy by the fire, will keep the light sleeper awake at night.

There are many RV parks on the other side of the lake (about a 20-30 minute drive from North Canyon) where showers can be purchased for about $5. Call ahead. There is small store on the other side of the lake too, but it was closed when we went trough.There is a camp store in an RV park only a few miles away from North Canyon where a camper could likely purchases supplies. Bayfield has many amenities.

The campgrounds on the East side of Vallecito are all located on a very well maintained dirt road. If driving to the camp from Bayfield be sure to take a right before the dam. We camped in a large group of people, and most of them missed this turn. Trying to drive around the lake will create two problems. The first is the addition of an hour to your drive time. Secondly, a couple miles north of North Canyon Campground, the road ceases to be well maintained (this questionable area is not marked as a road on all maps and is likely seasonal). There is a dirt road that will connect the North to the East--however, but many vehicles and trailers are not recommended to pass through. To drive through it will look as though the traveller is going through at least two different, private campgrounds. They will pass a warning sign about the road conditions, and they will have to go up a steep grade and around a sharp corner. The dirt road is minimally maintained. Having said that, I arrived at Vallecito from the North after and 4 day wilderness trek in the Weminuche, so I wanted to investigate this stretch of dirt road.  I was able to pass through with my minivan (nicknamed VanJeep). Needless to say, it would be better to take the right before the dam!

First to Review
Ranger Review: Outdoor Element Firebiner, Wombat Whistle and Tinder Quick a

Campground Review: 

Northeast of historic Downtown Durango, CO towers a mountain wilderness with an alpine lake whose breadth and width defy its altitude above the clouds, Emerald Lake. From the bounty of Emerald lake streams ramble, which cascade into waterfalls, and form into large rivers that overflow the reservoirs downstream. The first day of our out-and-back trek, we followed the Pinos River along the fairly level Pinos River Trail for about 6 miles before setting up camp. There is ample camping space along this part of the trail with small fields opening from under the cover of the trees, which is never far from the roaring Pinos River. In the morning, we packed up to turn from the Pinos River Trail and made a 4-mile ascent up to Emerald Lake via Lake Creek Trail. The trail upwards was dramatic, taking us through forest and field, past a tumbling river with many falls, through heavy vegetation, through a hail storm, and into rocky terrain. Many switchbacks later and we spotted the jewel of the mountains, little Emerald. Little Emerald forms from the runoff of Emerald proper. In its own right, little Emerald is larger than any alpine lake that I’ve hiked to or camped at previously. It is near little Emerald that we set up camp. 

Finding a campsite at Emerald lake can be like playing a game of hide-and-seek. A strict camping set back from the water pushes campers out into a boulder-filled moraine where a level patch of ground is not so easy to find. There is no camping directly alongside Big Emerald Lake, whereas the entire canyon makes up the watershed. However, there is a small side canyon towards the northside of the lake where the adventurer can find some great campsites with a little more elbow room. And venturing another half mile beyond the northside of the lake will yield more camping space. The northside will afford the camper more solitude, but it will come at the cost of a longer walk to the water to replenish supplies. We were happy to find our place among the boulders of the moraine above Little Emerald, where we camped for two glorious nights. 

With camp set up, we sat still and quite by the moraine and watched our curious marmot and shy, silky pika neighbors pop in and out of their boulder-made mansions. Mule deer silently wandered in and out of camp, foraging on the abundant plants throughout the forest. Exploring little Emerald, we found Lake Creek, peaceful and playful, large for the name of "creek", here in the Southwest. Hiking alongside Emerald Lake proper carried us through lush vegetation, overflowing with wildflowers. The lake surpasses all expectations, surrounded by snowy peaks that stand like sentinels. From a distance we could gaze at a waterfall freefalling off the cliffs high above us. In the evenings we sat by the campfire and watched the sky turn to fire and the peaks glow purple, reflecting their brilliance on the water. Despite the fact that Emerald Lake is a popular destination, we found peace and restoration by the shores of Emerald. 

Trail to Emerald Lake begins at Pine River Campground and is approximately 20.5 miles round trip.

Product Review: 

As a backpacking enthusiast, I weigh out every ounce of my gear before setting it in my pack. Anything that I bring into the backcountry must carry more than its weight in value, while having almost no physical weight. This is what makes the products designed by Outdoor Element so brilliant. Outdoor Element makes survival gear for the adventurer that is based upon the essentials that we already carry in our pack. Their gear helps me to be more prepared, while carrying less. On this trip I carried Outdoor Element’s Firebiner and Wombat Whistle stuffed with their Tinder Quick(https://www.outdoorelement.com/product/firebiner-carabiner/). . )

The Wombat Whistle is emergency gear that no hiker/backpacker should travel without. While I had the great fortune of not having a misfortune to require the use of the emergency whistle, my sons and I played with it before setting out on our adventure. The shrill, sharp notes of the whistle are sure to grab the attention of any would be rescuer. It is lightweight and clips easily onto the outside of my pack, where I can grab it in any emergency situation. The Wombat whistle doubles as a waterproof vial to keep the Outdoor Element Tinder Quick dry and ready for use. The Wombat Whistle boasts a screwdriver tool for the Firebiner that doubles as a reflector. While the screwdriver works nicely with the Firebiner, the reflector is so small that it would take a lot of skill to direct any noticeable amount of light into the eye of a passerby; so I'm not counting on that feature. 

Outdoor Element’s Firebiner delivers on every promise. It primarily served my needs as a lightweight carabiner. I always clip a carabiner on my pack; their uses are many. I used this one to clip on some camp shoes for the weekend. The utility blade is handy. It doesn’t get caught on the assortment of straps, and gadgets that may swing from my pack, and instantly helps to cut through athletic tape, food bags, or anything too tough to rip or shred. 

The key to the Firebiner’s namesake and emergency preparedness is the Ever Spark Fire Wheel. We placed a Firebiner on every pack in our household and my son was the first to test the Ever Spark Fire Wheel. The wheel itself operates perfectly, tossing sparks in a predictable arc, which made aiming the sparks easy. Smaller and lighter than the traditional flint and steel, we love knowing that we are ready to make a fire when our matches and lighters give us grief. We gathered the fire materials to progressively build a safe, small, but roaring campfire. Spinning the Ever Spark Fire Wheel, we gingerly directed the sparks onto the Tinder Quick, kept snug and dry in the Wombat Whistle. The very first spark landed on the Tinder Quick which immediately lit, and tenderly encouraged flame among our awaiting materials, until we could rest beside the warm glow of fire. Outdoor Element has provided us security in time of an emergency without requirement me the need to carry an extra ounce. 

Fine Print: The lighting wasn’t favorable for photos during the outdoor adventure, so I took a few in my backyard with just enough material to demonstrate.

Tranquility near Old Town

Mother Bosque Gardens is a little retreat in an urban Albuquerque neighborhood. I’ll admit, for me, it was a first for camping in a backyard (that wasn’t my own). Ernesto and Michaela, our hosts, were immediately welcoming and kind. They feel like we could have known them for a lifetime, even though we’ve only met for minutes. Upon arrival, they gave us the tour, and even offered to share a bowl of the aromatic soup simmering upon their stove.

Campsite and Amenities

The campsites (I believe there are two tent sites) are located on the two opposite sides of the house. They are both very private and remarkably quiet. The quiet was surprising being in a city, but it was quieter than many campgrounds we’ve stayed where other groups of campers may be playing music or chatting (loudly) by the fires. The campsite has a private entrance through a gate; parking is off the street. Our campsite space in the side yard, had a table, a couch, and a grill. As stated on the website, and in the Dyrt details, there are no campfires allowed. Michaela and Ernesto welcomed us to use their kitchen, although we preferred some mother and daughter time outdoors during our stay. The tranquil backyard is towered over by old growth trees, and the gardening is exquisite. We shared the space with hummingbirds and roses. The clean bathroom is inside the home where there is a shower available. Michaela and Ernesto even offered the use of their towels. My daughter quickly pointed out that there is Wi-Fi.

Location

The location is very near to the Rio Grande River and the Bosque, which is the natural forest that runs along the Rio Grande. My daughter and I left early in the morning to explore the banks of the flooded Rio Grande (May), and noted the many remarkable birds: violet green swallows swooping along the river exposing their vibrant colors, ducks, egrets, herons, a red-tailed hawk, and several Canadian Geese. We sadly missed the wily roadrunner with three babies in tow. The Rio Grande Nature Center State Park was an excellent starting point for the Bosque. 

Mother Bosque Gardens is also located only a few miles from the heart of old Albuquerque, including Old Town, the zoo, the botanical gardens, and the excitement of Central Avenue.

Practical Pointers

As noted on the website, the camp space can only accommodate an 8X8 tent; it may accommodate two smaller tents. We’ve shared a photo of a standard 2-person backpacking tent set up in the space. I believe the website lists a maximum of three campers in the site. A family with children exceeding a total of 3, who can manage to sleep in tents that meet the size restriction, might consider contacting Michaela and Ernesto for permission to bring more than three. Finally, there is a small walk from the parking at the front of the house to the campsite, so plan to make sure your gear is portable enough to carry it the 75-ish feet (I’m not a good judge of distance so it may be anywhere from 40 feet to 100).

Final Impression

My daughter and I planned to spend a day in Albuquerque for some quality time. In honor of new experiences, we tried something new for us by staying at Mother Bosque Gardens. We were both incredibly happy that we did. We had a wonderful experience not only camping in a beautiful garden, but from the opportunity to meet Michaela and Ernesto. We were welcomed strangers, but I couldn’t help but feel like we departed from friends.

Fine print about my ratings 

When I use a star rating system, I truly do consider 3 out of 5 to be average and expected. Anything above three stars is superb and awe-inspiring. I save 5 out of 5 for what I feel is the most enchanted locations. After all, dishing out a 5 for every spot I like wouldn’t help other campers (as it doesn’t help me in return). I consider it rather difficult to provide a star rating for Mother Bosque Gardens because it was such a unique experience for me. As hosts, I would absolutely give Ernesto and Michaela a 5 out of 5. The campsite has some natural limitations as compared to a traditional site, so while the campsite was very comfortable, when compared with large campsites surrounded Giant Sequoias or a serene alpine lake, well…that’s just hard to beat. So, I’ve settled on a 4 out of 5.

Booking with The Dyrt

I had the honor and pleasure of booking this trip through The Dyrt even as they were still rolling out the bookings. I found the process to be simple and effective.

Cherry on the Sundae

This was our second summer camping around the the country for 40 days, and the second summer that we finished our trip in Colter Bay. Colter Bay is a great place to kick back and unwind. We choose these tent-cabins because they are reservable whereas the campground is first-come first-serve. Honestly though, they are really fun. The area is close to horse corrals, a short walk to Colter Village, the visitor center, the marina, the boat ramp, some hiking trails, and the swim beach beach on Jackson lake. The village has a gift shop, an excellent market/grocery, two restaurants, a laundromat, and showers that cost a little less than $5 each, but are not timed. There is public WiFi at the village and campers can charge in the laundromat. There are plumbed bathrooms close in the campground and a dishwashing sink. Every site has a bear box. The bear boxes do get hot in the sun and some ingenious campers bring reflective covers to o keep their box cool.

Centrally located base camp to explore Yellowstone

Yellowstone is an enormously vast park. Exploring the many valleys, geysers, and sights can mean hours of driving. This was our second trip to Yellowstone; the first time we stayed in Grant Village. We found the location far more suitable as a single base camp for exploring Yellowstone to the north, south, east and west.

Canyin Village has a service station with gas, a cafeteria style restaurant, as well as a diner style restaurant, a visitor center, gift shops, and a small grocery store. The grocery provisions are minimal, and not too overly priced, considering… Campers probably won’t want to rely on the grocery and should come well stocked. Having said this, Yellowstone at large is one of the few locations where we tend to grab a bite out at least as often as we cook. This is mostly due to the vastness of the park and the unlikelihood of making back to camp at a reasonable time to cook. The early evening is also some of the best opportunities to see the otherwise crowded out destinations. The campground has a large laundromat and showers. 2 showers per site, per night come for free. Once admitted to the shower, there is no time limit. Ice and firewood are both available at the laundromat. Each campground loop has one or two plumbed bathrooms, and one of those bathrooms has a lovely dishwashing sink.

Like all the Yellowstone reservable campgrounds, campers are advised to reserve early and are not able to select their sites. The sites are assigned upon arrival. Yellowstone only guarantees space for a 12X12 tent for tent sites, but many sites can accommodate larger tents. We used a 10X14 without any problems. Some of the campsites are fairly crowded. The one assigned to us was directly behind the bathroom so we had the joy of hearing every flush and stall door open and close. I did find that cranking that bathroom windows shut helped a lot. Unfortunately, our neighbor across the way felt it was appropriate to march through our site in the middle of the night to make a faster trip to the bathroom. And the crowded nature meant we heard our other neighbor’s baby crying periodically throughout the night (I felt for them because they felt awful the noise but no one can tell a baby not to cry). Unless you luck out with a great perimeter site, or super quiet neighbors, the noise is just part of camping here. I would have liked to choose our site and would love for Xanterra to work this detail out for the campers. And yet it still beats the first-come first-serve campgrounds throughout the park that actually fill up by 8:30 on weekdays throughout July. And those campgrounds don’t have showers.

Oh, and we did have a bear visit us one morning. It left everyone alone and ambled onward and away. Follow those bear rules!

Great camping on the West side of Glacier

We reserved early and got a great site right along the lake (D-173). There was a pad in the site which technically limited us to a 10x12 tent, but the site was large enough that we could have worked out other options without breaking any rules. There was water and a plumbed restroom close to the site. Dishwater must be dumped at restroom facility (bear country rules). There were only 4 showers for the whole campground and they are located in A-loop. There is no parking at the showers and campers l must walk over. But the showers were warm and no quarters or tokens were needed. Using a trail that cuts through the amphitheater, we found it to be a short walk.

Read campsite details carefully; you should find info about tent pads or trailers sizes there. Be aware that no trailers/RVs over a certain length can pull through D-loop.

Perimeter sites are more spacious but the interior ones are a little more crowded. Also, some of the sites that look like they are more on the road than in a loop were pretty small.

There are limited groceries at Eddie’s in the village. If needed, there is WiFi by the visitor center and a shuttle that runs through the summer. I’ll try to add more detail when I am home with a real keyboard.

Lakeside Camping on Flathead

The campground offers many lakeside campsites complete with picnic table and fire rings. There were 3 yurts for those interested. all vehicles, including camping vehicles, park alongside road; there are few, if any, pull-in sites. There is room for a tent or two in the sIte. Most of the lakeside sites also have a small amount of slope.

The camp hosts were absolutely fantastic! There is firewood and ice for sale at the park. Polson is about 20-30 mInutes away and has grocery stores, etc. If you go to Polson, check out The Cove Deli for some really great ice-cream.

The showers were really awkward, but did the job. They take $ coins (available from host if needed) and quarters.

If you aren’t bringing your own boat, Boat Rentals and Rides is only 2 miles down the road. We rented 2 glass bottom kayaks. Warning: lake conditions change suddenly and we saw the waves blow in 2 dIfferent directions durIng the 2 days we were there. There were no bear boxes at the sites, only one by the bathroom.

WiFi for 2 devices. FYI

Tenting at this KOA we found some bright moments along with a few sour notes. I like to be positive, so I’ll start with the plus list.

Bright Moments:

The staff and one of the owners (male) are all super friendly. There is a pool and a hot tub—although anyone under 18 isn’t allowed to use the latter. There are two dishwashing sinks, which is handy. There is also laundry, showers, a nice little outdoor recreation area, and a family friendly game room along with the typical, convenience camp store. There were some activities on the weekend, which is always great for establishing community. The facilIities are all very clean. The game room really was a very nice touch and nicely done.

Sour Notes:

The campsItes were really crammed. The corner of our tent was only 4 ft from our neighbor.

The road noise!!--I mean we were practically shouting to be heard over it, and it NEVER stops…ever, not even to sleep. Some sites are likely quieter being further from the road. I uploaded a video. The birds were really close and should be loud. If you can’t hear them, then turn your volume up! On a positive note, the road noise almost covered up our neighbors who were shouting until 11. We‘ve never been so tired; our kids were a mess.

The bathhouse only had 3 showers for the whole, large campground--and they were super tiny. There were frequently lines. The access to toilet stalls and showers, etc is super tiny. There is no way there could be handicapped access unless there is another office bathroom available somewhere that is hidden from the public. I would give 3 stars if it weren’t for this

There is only one bathroom anywhere on the property, and it closes for one full hour for cleaning. Gotta go? Hold It please.

Finally, I found one issue to be particularly frustrating because I believe in honesty and transparency. This KOA goes through great lengths to advertise free WIFI. It was only after registration and payment that we learned only 2 devices can be connected. Electronic access these days are so frequently device specific. With a family of 5, sharing wasn’t an option. The funny thing was that we didn’t even care if only 2 people used it at a time…but we needed to be be able to exchange devices. I nicely asked the woman owner about thIs, and she was immedIately hostile and defensIve. I got the impression that she is approached about this issue all the time. I suggested at least making this information available so that people can plan accordingly—all she had to say in reply was that “we said we offered free WiFi, not unlimited WiFi.” She was shockingly rude. After this encounter she gave me a smug and rude smile whenever she saw me, and I really felt rather uncomfortable staying there. Which is a shame, because her husband was so, so nice, and cares so much about the property. So for the record: there is only WiFi, free or otherwise, for 2 devices. Further access codes cannot be purchased either. This owners sheer rudeness also contributes to the 2 star rating. Had she been friendly and if there were ADA bathrooms, then I would bump up to a 3-star rating.

I forgot to take the usual number of campground pics that I like to share, in part because it was crowded, and in part because I was pretty tired. There is so much to do in the area. We enjoyed Olympic, and a whale watch tour with Island Adventures. They brought us up to Minke whales, Orca and a Humpback all in one night!

Beautiful spot off the Wonderland Trail

This campground barely qualifies as backcountry, being little more than a mile from the trailhead at the Sunrise Visitor Center. It is located off of a popular day hike to the Glacier Overlook—which provides an excellent view of Emmons Glacier. There are community bear boxes to share, no water, and no fire. There is also an outhouse but plug your nose for this one! Note that Shadow lake is a small hop, skip, and a jump from the camp. There are also group sites. The camp itself wasn’t very busy when we were around. If can be a great base camp for the Burroughs, or a stopping over point in the Wonderland or many other great trails.

If this is part of a longer trip, Sunrise Village is only a little over a mile away and has some hot food grabs, and minimal groceries. Not sure if there are places to send boxes to here—but putting Wonderland on my to do list personally. Rainier was simply amazing.

Knocking on the gates of Rainier

There is no mistaking why the village perched on the slopes of Mt Rainier is called Paradise. Rainier is spectacular! And Mounthaven is so close to the Rainier gate that visitors could stroll over to show their passes or pay those entry fees. Note that the gates are still a distance from Longmire or Paradise. The resort is so close in fact, that upon arriving around 4pm on a Sunday, we waited in a long line of traffic backed up 2 miles past the gate and 1 1/2 past the resort. We were told this only happens on busier weekends, and it certainly held true for our weekdays camping here. Just be aware if time is an issue so plans can be made accordingly.

We are traveling the Northwest this summer with camp packed in the back of our car, and as such we occupied their only primitive, tent site. The site itself was the most out of the way, quiet, and secluded that we have camped in all summer. It has a water pump onsite, which is quite handy. There is a dumpster close enough to not be a chore. The bathrooms/shower/laundry and pretty close too.  

The resort has several hook up sites for RV’s or tents—I don’t believe any were pull-through, but call to confirm. The amenity sites weren’t as private, but they seemed reasonable. The resort prides itself in cabins, and from all accounts they appear to be stocked with all necessities like linens, very nice, well maintained and downright cute.  

Firewood is sold onsite, but no other provisions are available at the resort. There is a super extra pricey Grocery-Mart closer to Rainier, and two fairly pricey, better stocked options 5 miles in the other direction. They sell gas there too. Visitors would be wise to come to the area with groceries in their trunk regardless.

The resort has one toilet and one shower. They are quite nice, actually—the cleanest we’ve come upon so far. We were concerned about the number, but overall we didn’t spend a lot of time waiting, if we waited at all.

There is also one coin operated washer and dryer. WiFi is usually good, but no so much at peak times.

The owners James and Zandy were really friendly, and seemed to deeply care about their property as well as their clients.

Good Base Camp for Mt St Helens

This campground is under very new ownership and the owners are some of the friendliest we’ve met to date. They are also in the process of renovating the property to make improvements. So as I review this it is with the anticipation of all the great changes to come.

Most of the tent sites had a decent amount of space, and the perimeter ones were a little more private too. We did see some campers set up on the roadside—not sure if they knew what they were getting at the time (I wouldn’t want to be right on the road).

There were some decently sized RV spots, but the pull through spaces looked a little crowded.

There are only two bathrooms, each having a toilet and shower in a self contained unit. Naturally, if two people are showering this means that all flush toilets are also occupied. There are two porta-potties to accommodate for this. The owners did keep the bathrooms as clean as possible—but the bathrooms could use some renovating themselves and have a musty smell. There is laundry on site. It’s not the quietest campground we’ve stayed at (not the noisiest either) and it might benefits from clearly defined quiet hours.

Two blocks away there are two gas stations with mini-markets.

Only a few minutes away are the Cougar and Beaver recreation areas in the Lewis River. It only takes 10 minutes to get to Mt St Helens Ape Cave, Trail of Two Forests and Lava Canyon area.

Majestic Redwoods

The campground is beautifully situated among the majestic redwoods, and the flora and fauna that so brilliantly thrive under their canopy. The growth of all things green offer a decent amount of privacy in what might otherwise be a crowded campground. The campsites are not very large, but we found it easy to set up our 10 X 14 tent, and I believe most sites would accommodate at least that much. Most sites also seem to be conveniently located near water and drain, as well as trash, bathrooms and showers. There is a visitor center onsite, and many favorite Jedidiah Smith trails begin from the park. The Smith river is tame and enjoyable for tubing or kayaking, and swimming. It’s surprisingly not very cold for early July.

It is recommended to reserve a site at lest 6 months in advance. And since campground maps are not topographical, note that only the one loop of sites near the boat launch are actually “on” the river. Note: I am not guaranteeIng proximity of the lower sites (some were fairly close), just that they are the right elevation. The other sites are raised above the river barring direct access, however it is only a short walk down to the beach. I tried to mark these on our camp map. I also uploaded a video of site 18 as an example of the upper sites.

It’s a 10 minute drive to Crescent City where campers can find any services they may need.

As of early July 2018, camper registration occurred at the entry kiosk rather than the other building designated for such events. There is no other way into the park, so campers coming and going would be advised that returning to their site may involve waiting in a line of people registering—a little annoying…but hey, enjoy the redwoods while you are in line!

Family Friendly, Sparkling Gem

Manzanita Lake is a really family friendly campground. It’s great seeing the kids ride around the loop on their bicycles and scooters. We had a perimeter site in the A loop, adjacent to the trail that runs to the lake. These sites feel particularly spacious. Due to the type of pine forest, none of them will be private. The interior sites were ok on space for being in a National Park. There is a mix between 3+ night campers and the one nighters, so the park doesn’t completely empty out each day. First come first serve campers would be advised to read the reservation signs carefully, sometimes they are marked a day or two before occupancy and that might be enough time to squeeze in a visit.

There are both plumbed and vault bathrooms, but there is no electricity—so wear a headlamp to the bathroom at night. There is also a water and drain area for dumping dish-wash water, etc. Each site has a bear box, and use of it for all food and food prep, as well as toiletries is expected—campers cannot use their cars. In A loop, we are only a short walk from all things Lake, the laundry and showers, and the camp store. The store has a small menu of hot food offerings available, and the groceries surmount to things found at a gas station plus a few extras like bacon. While travelers should always buy where they burn to prevent introducing invasive bug species, buying wood right outside the park might be a smart choice; the bundles here are $10 each! Ice is $4.65+ for a small 7 lb bag. Showers are $1.75 (7 quarters) for 3 minutes. Many of the groceries are double normal prices. I didn’t dare to check their gas prices! The kayak and canoe rentals are more reasonable. Cabin packages with cook stove, etc, are no longer available with reservations—even though they are still advertised. If staying here for a bit, adventurers will have to drive through Chester to get to other points in the park, like the Devil’s Kitchen (a most beautiful hike). Chester has gas, grocery, hotels, more campgrounds, and some really great local eats. Also check out Drakesbad Ranch if comparing alternatives; we hiked by it on our outing to Devil’s Kitchen and it looks pretty neat.

Waking up to the sound of the wind in the braches of the tall pines, while feeling nothing more than a breeze down below, is a pleasant experience. The drive through Lassen Volcanic is stunning. Under the snow capped peak, wildflowers cascade down the mountainside to frolicking creeks and waterfalls. Emerald lake shines like a deep, green Emerald, and around the corner, Lake Helen is a sparkling Sapphire. The geothermal areas are always interesting and remind us of the forces behind this volcanic tower, and that Lassen is still active. All in all, a great place to car camp.

The sites on the creek look fantastic

First of all, let me be up front and say that I did not actually camp here; I camped at Mazama next door. Officially, Lost Creek was closed when I visited in June and I thought it was a great opportunity to snap some photos to add to Dyrt—because I am actually super excited about a one spot go to for camping info.

I believe Mazama is the only reservable campground at Crater Lake, making Lost Creek first-come first-serve when open. There is a creek that runs through the campground, but it’s hard to see at first glance. Sites, like number 5, are creekside (whIch is really neat). The campground has what appears to be plumbed bathrooms when open. The privacy in the central, rather than perimeter sites, is more limited here due to the nature of the forest environment as opposed to the spacing of the sites themselves. Lost Creek is as far from the rim as is Mazama. However, it’s a solid drive down the road from both Mazama and Rim Villages. This may be just what is wanted to get away from the busy-ness of the villages.

Both villages have restaurants, visitor centers, and gift shops. Mazama village also has a payphone, a small laundromat, showers and a camp store with limited grocery goods. Check out my Mazama review to learn more about the services in the village, including photos.

All in all, Lost Creek campground seems as tucked away as the creek. It is down a long dead end road that only serves a waterfall trailhead, the campground, and the pinnacles.

Serenity

We arrived at Mazama Campground after being on the road for almost 8 hours, the last 4 of which were through the seemingly endless sagebrush country on the road through Christmas Valley. We were tired, ready to get out, and full of the anticipation of Crater Lake.

We entered from the South. Immediately upon passing through the official gate, we took a right and landed at Mazama village. Check-in is at a little kiosk beside the camper store. We had reserved four nights for a tent site and somehow, one of these factors rendered us as “blue”. We were instructed to drive around the campground until we found an unoccupied site with a blue stripe on the post. Once we found our perfect spot in the woods, we were able to set up and no further communication was required. As a system, this has both its pros and cons. It is, in fact, really nice to drive around and scout out some sites before settling in. We passed a couple before finding a spot that would fit our 10X14 tent and had the right trees for 2 hammocks, while also feeling a little spacious. On the other hand, we arrived at 4 pm and sites were already, mostly, claimed. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to find an open site if arriving in the evening in a busy, let alone having the opportunity to choose a favorable one. The system definitely favors campers that can arrive closer to noon rather than after dinner. The colored post distribution for site type will help the first-come, first-serve camper have excellent site choices despite not having a reservation (assuming they arrive earlier in the day than later). We also noticed that during our stay, the campground almost emptied out daily due to the large volume of one-night campers.

When it comes down to it, I prefer the backcountry. But compared to other major National Parks like Yellowstone, I found more of the spaces than not to be far more roomy and semi-private even at full campground capacity. A few have fewer trees and feel a little more cramped.

We camped in late June 2018, and the water faucets were turned on throughout the campground. They were placed every 6-8 sites. There appear to be a couple bathrooms in each loop. The amphitheater is situated between the E and D loops. That can be convenient if you like the evening ranger programs. If on the other hand, you prefer to be away from the foot traffic at night, find another loop. Overall the campground is pretty quiet. I’ve noticed some of the E sites at least (and I think many if the loops), back up to a large and beautiful canyon right along the Annie Creek/Spring trail. What a view!

There are showers in the village. My first time in, I put in my 3 quarters and didn’t take more than the 4 minutes allotted, because the trickle coming out of the shower-head was rather chilly. The second shower was hot and my third was warmish. The food prices at Annie’s cafe are not unreasonable and the food was pretty good. The camp store has limited groceries, so come prepared. I’ve added photos of the groceries sold, additionally there are some snack foods, camping gear, and gift items. Grocery-wise, it is equivalent to a gas station convenience store. They sell gas, ice and wood: remember to buy where you burn! There is also a small laundromat with a charging station for electronics. The laundromat is a busy place and shared by Pacific Crest hikers with terrific stories to tell!

All in the campground is a solid place to camp, and the many mosquitoes will keep you company on the cold Crater mornings. The reason we came here, however, is the lake. Arriving to the rim for the first time was jaw dropping. The scale of Crater Lake can’t be related in photos. We took a morning drive around the rim and were awestruck by the views of snow capped mountains in the far distance on the left, and the deep, sparkling, blue lake to our right.

The park isn’t in full swing even as late as the last week of June. It meant for us, that the park wasn’t very crowded at all. I’m fact, setting out in the morning hours left us feeling like we had the park to ourselves. It also means that some services may not be available such as the boat tours. While they are supposed to be operational, having only just turned them on for the year, they also discovered that they had mechanical problems. We lucked out, and one was fixed in time to take a standard tour. We had dearly hoped to hike on Wizard Island, but alas, it gives us an excuse to come back. The views fr m Garfield Peak were something else.  

The weather can be cold; there are still snow patches, and we were told it snowed the week before we came. I believe June begins with a park covered in at least a few inches of snow, and gradually transforms to the July, mountain-summer loveliness.

All in all, we loved our visit and it is on our “must see again” list.

In it for the snake

The snake river and the 1,000 Springs are beautiful. Having the opportunity to camp alongside the winding Snake, while watching the sun rise and set over the springs and hear their thundering in the quiet of the night was an amazing opportunity. We brought tubes, life vests, and ropes to tie the tubes to the dock, and we let the kids float in the river. They loved bouncing around on the waves as speed boats passed by. The sites are pretty shady which was a relief from the blazing, hot sun.

FYI: cell service anywhere in the canyon is sketchy at best. The campground provides WiFi—but it doesn’t carry strength very far past the main building.

I’m not sure that I expected more from the “resort” before I arrived, but I did find the overall care and management of the property to be disappointing, although the staff was friendly.

For starters, the sites were cramped and campers really have to hope for good neighbors. The only water pump was a hike for most tents. When we arrived, we found our fire bowl filled with trash and ash. We had to remove the garbage and did our best to prevent to ash from choking our charcoal.

One couple was given one site for their first night and then asked to move, without advance warning at check in, per convenience of management. It’s a lot of work to set alone camp, let alone having to do it again.

It felt campers were nickled and dimed at pricey rates for ice, wood, etc., and even the fee to swim in the pool. There are signs everywhere reminded the visitor that this or that is extra.

The facility feels like it was built in 1960 and not maintained since. The camp bathroom/shower was filthy, and the though if using it made us fell dirtier than clean. I’m pretty adaptable, I live my showers, but skipping the shower seems like a good option.

The geothermal swimming pool was nice. It was really warm—like a mild hot tub or super warm bath. There are hot mineral baths that we didn’t try because they cost even more than it cost us to swim in the pool.

I would like the campground a lot more if they reinvested at least a portion of all those fees into their facility to maintain the premises.

While totally not the fault of management, the campground can be subject to really high winds. During our stay a full night and day of high winds caused many tents to completely collapse. Be advised so you can be prepared.

Would I go back? Maybe.

A place for open minds

Going into Antelope Island we had the voices of the critics in our minds: sand is too hot, it is too smelly, the brine flies etc; we were pleasantly surprised. I do believe that the circumstances can change, like the lake level, on a daily basis.

Badger bay is a no amenity, basic campground with a commanding view of the salt lake. There are vault toilets and shaded picnic tables. All of the sites accommodate small RVs, some of the sites may not provide a level tent pad. 2 was terrific! The sites are pretty roomy too.

We loved going for a dip in the lake. We went early on a late June morning before the sand became too hot, and walked the distance barefoot. We only noticed the wet dog smell as we entered the park—but that could change. The brine flies were actually pretty cool. They only hang out on the shoreline for a small distance. They don’t bite and they left our path in droves as though they were enacting the parting of the sea. Honestly, I find houseflies buzzing around my head to be more irritating. The water was smooth and partial buoyancy is cool. Swimmers would be advised to keep cuts out of the water. The brine shrimp don’t bother anyone and float around like typical lake debris.

There are showers at the swimming beach close to the campground. There are basic no-soap cold water rinse showers outside and private pay showers too; bring quarters.

Great Campground on Lake Michigan

We really enjoyed this shady campground. The sites were spacious enough that we didn't feel crammed in with our neighbors. The walk to the beach was pleasant, and playing on the dunes was something we will never forget. It's a great place to pass the weekend and have some fun with the family.

Cleanest Camp Showers and Bathrooms!

This is a perfectly pleasant campground and a good spot to be close to Lake Michigan. The campground has enough amenities to satisfy most car or RV campers. We had a perimeter site in the Lake Macinaw grouping, which afforded us a little more privacy--however the road noise was ever present, especially after traffic for the beach backed up past the campground. There is swimming at lake Macinaw (just across the busy road), and a very small beach area to set up. The camp bathroom and shower facilities are really up to date and absolutely, marvelously clean.

The lake M campsites are a fairly long walk to the beach at Lake Michigan. A long, hot walk in the sun, on the pavement, and beside the road full of stopped traffic waiting to park at the beach. Parking at the beach isn't an option unless one goes very early in the morning (note the stopped traffic for over a mile). The walk can be a pleasant stroll if just going to the beach. However, if campers plan to tote a beach blanket, towels, lunch, water, sunscreen, water toys…etc….then they would be wise to bring a wagon. This wasn't our favorite Lake Michigan campground--but it works, and it's not bad either.

On the other hand, Deboer Bakery and Dutch Brothers Restaurant down the road was incredible. I am tempted to drive 1,000 miles just to go back again. AMAZING

Ponderosa Peace

Jemez Falls campground is located in the heart of the Jemez, close to climbing, great hiking, fishing, hot springs, the Valles Caldera NP and Bandelier National Monument.

The campsites have plenty of space, and are more private than most campgrounds with the exception of those that are heavily wooded. The ponderosa canopy provides a fair amount of shade during the hot days. There are picnic tables and campfire rings at every site. There are vault toilets that are surprisingly clean. Just down the road are the Jemez Falls, a great place to splash in the river.

The campground is generally a family friendly environment where kids can roam in bicycle gangs, and dogs can chase a frisbee. Warning though, on many occasions the weekends have been a little noisy with rowdy campers that don’t think quiet hours apply. Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t like kicking back by a campfire with friends? Who needs to be so loud that their voices ring through all of the camping loops and keep 70 other campers awake until 1 a.m? So yes, the quiet hours are from 10-6 or 8, but they don’t seem to be enforced. As a result, our family tries to weeknight camp at Jemez Falls whenever possible.