Dave V.

Pro

FL

Joined August 2016

Outdoor enthusiast and lover of all things exploring, camping, backpacking, hiking, paddling and cycling. Spending 70-100 days camping each year.

A Welcomed Reststop along the Trail

Greenbrier River Trail Mile Post 49.3 Primitive Campsite, Watoga, WV

West Virginia's Greenbrier River Trail  (GRT) stretches from its Northern Terminus at the Cass Railroad Station, Stumptown 78-80 miles (depending on what resource you read) to it's Southern Terminus in North Caldwell. The Greenbrier River Trail is a Rails-to-Trails initiative, so being a former track bed, the surface is predominantly ballast, though there are some black-topped areas. Some locations of the trail that either see more sunlight or less traffic have seen grass overtake the trail to form a "two-track" or at times a mown grass trail. Most parts drain well and easy to navigate, while some heavily wooded areas adjacent to rocky cliffs see more puddling and thus muddier…but all navigable. 

Because of it's relative remoteness and light traffic, wildlife flourishes along the GRT. This is bear country so I would recommend utilizing a bear bag or bear canister for your food and toiletries. I used a BearVault BV500 that I strapped to the Salsa EXP Anything Cradle attached to my handlebars…worked great. Eliminated concerns about losing food items and attracting Yogi and Boo-Boo. A Father/Daughter duo trailing us observed a juvenile bear not far off the trail mid-day. But bears aside, raccoons, chipmunks and other rodents can wreak havoc on panniers or backpacks containing food and fragrant toiletries. 

At the time of our visit there were 15 Primitive or Rustic Campsites along the Greenbrier River Trail. Each person traveling the Greenbrier River Trail will determine which primitive campsite they prefer for a night's rest. 

All the primitive campsites positioned along the Greenbrier River Trail (GRT) are free, first-come, first-served. Note that some offer more amenities than others, so those will likely be the sought after locations.

Traveling West Virginia's Greenbrier River Trail is a highlight whatever mode of travel permitted, whether on foot, horseback, bicycling or even paddlecraft…no motorized vehicles are permited. The Greenbrier River Trail was chosen by Backpacker Magazine as one of the top ten best hikes in the U.S. of A. That's quite the billing to live up to.

I will add that we chose to bikepack the GRT, so I felt we did not stop at all the available sites, cascades, waterfalls, bridges, etc purely because we were a little spread out and by the time you past by a special site, the others were too far down the trail. While I absolutely loved our entire GRT trip…had I been on foot…more exploring would have taken place.

PROS:

  • Raised fine gravel tent pad
  • Nice, clean, maintained and stocked pit latrine
  • Picnic table
  • Metal fire ring
  • Metal Bear-proof trash receptacle
  • No cell service

CONS:

  • No water pump
  • No cell service
  • Tent pad located very close to elevated trail

NEARBY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Town of Marlinton
  • Watoga State Park
  • Greenbrier Resort
  • Snowshoe Mountain Resort
  • Cass Railroad
  • Seneca State Forest
  • Seneca Rocks
  • Spruce Knob (WV highest elevation)
  • The Wild Bean Cafe and Thunderbird Taco (Lewisburg)  (Suggestion: Order the Guacadilla!…thank me later)

The GRT Mile Post 49.3 Primitive Campsite does not offer a well water, so fill up before you get there. Although, if you utilize a filter, you can draw water from the river or the tributary down the trail several hundred feet. Even though Mile Post 49.3 tent pad is directly alongside the trail, traffic is so light that it is really a non-issue. There is not a large clearing and with dense vegetation…pack your bug juice.

This is West Virginia, so even in populated areas cell service can be spotty…but on the trail, I would not count on it. This is both a blessing and a curse. However, for safety purposes, I do carry a Garmin InReach Explorer + in case of emergencies.

The GRT Mile Post 49.3 Primitive Campsite makes for a great overnighter from either Marlinton or a nice out-and-back from Cass Railroad from the north or from North Caldwell from the South…eliminating the need for a shuttle.

Final Thoughts: Whether you chose to spend the night at Mile Post 49.3 or not, is not the point…all the primitive campsites along the Greenbrier River Trail are great choices…the point is, mark your calendars, plan this trip and travel West Virginia's Greenbrier River Trail!

Easy Access, Great River Location

GREENBRIER RIVER TRAIL MILE POST 9.5 PRIMITIVE CAMPSITE, KEISTER, WV

Greenbrier River Trail Primitive Campsite at Mile Post 9.5 is close enough to North Caldwell, WV…the GBT Southern Terminus…that you could make a quick journey north from the parking area for an exceptional night of camping.

Traveling West Virginia's Greenbrier River Trail from it's Northern Terminus at Cass Railroad, Stumptown to it's Southern Terminus in North Caldwell has created a thirst that can only be slaked by multiple future returns. What a fantastic trail!

The Shelter is so new its not even noted on any but the newest Trail Map. It appears that individuals or families have either constructed or donated for the construction of both shelters and several protected bench areas. The Dale McCutcheon Shelter was so clean and comfortable, it's hard to call this primitive camping. Note: All campsites on the Greenbrier River Trail are first come-first served…no reservations. Backstory on McCutcheon Shelter: https://www.wvnstv.com/news/west-virginia-news/greenbrier-county/new-shelters-built-along-greenbrier-river-trail/

PROS:

  • Adirondock Style Shelter (New)
  • Raised Tent pads
  • Picnic Tables
  • Metal Fire Rings
  • Large, clean Pit Latrine
  • Hand pump well water
  • Metal Bear Proof Trash Receptacle
  • Free
  • No Cell Service
  • Great Swimming Rock Trail South

CONS:

  • No Cell Service
  • Hand pump well water was inoperable during our late June 2020 visit

NEARBY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The Greenbrier Resort
  • The Wild Bean - Lewisburg (restaurant)
  • Seneca Forest/State Park
  • Snowshoe Mountain Resort
  • Cass Railroad
  • Spruce Knob
  • Seneca Rocks

In late June 2020, weather along The Greenbrier River Trail was cooler, with late afternoon/early evening rain showers. Only the last day did we enjoy warmer weather with blue skies. Which made the allure of a nearby swimming rock a great temptation. Several mall cascades lined the West side of the trail, which is ordinarily the side cut from the mountain for the railway. 

With a few short miles until the journey ends at the Southern Terminus…we slowed our paced and stopped more frequently to enjoy all the sights and sounds.  

Trail conditions got soft and muddy after the previous night's deluge through the more heavily wooded areas, once the trail was exposed to constant sun, it dried quickly. Blow-down did slow us down a few times. Interesting note: This campsite area is a relocation of one destroyed by the heavy rains and buried by landslide of 2016. The Greenbrier Trail itself travels between the Greenbrier River and was, in many places, hewn from the mountainside. It is these areas where heavy rains soften the soil and old growth trees dislodge and cause trail blockages and/or mudslides. Oftentimes, when bicycling, one keeps his eyes forward to the trail/road in front of them…but if you gaze around you on this trail…there is much to see all around and often above!

Overall, it is a must-do…and I can't wait to ride the Greenbrier River Trail again!

Riverfront Property needs camper!

Campground Review: Greenbrier River Trail Mile Post 28.5 Primitive Campsite…(Between Rorer and Renick, WV)

Bikepacking West Virginia's Greenbrier River Trail is a delightfully peaceful adventure! If you enjoy bicycling, camping and wilderness…then you this trail is for you. Actually, you can replace "bicycling" with horseback, backpacking, XC skiing. In fact, with a keen eye, you could paddle the Greenbrier River and enjoy these campsites.

These primitive campsites are free, first come-first served and cannot be reached by motor vehicle. The campsites that dot the Greenbrier River Trail are meticulously maintained by State Park employees and are in well thought out locations.

Mile Post 28.5 Primitive Campsite, as all campsites are linear along the Trail and usually positioned between the Trail and the Greenbrier River…with access to the River. This campsite is stretched out a good distance and though not listed on some Trail maps…it does have an Adirondock style shelter near the southernmost tent pad in a partly wooded area. The tent pad to the north of this area is in an open grassy area with tranquil long views of the river. Swimming and fishing are permitted in the Greenbrier River (Fishing: if you have a WV Fishing License). In late June, temperatures were still quite cool, so while the river looked inviting, we did not take the plunge.

Late afternoon showers soaked the three groups of bikepackers that set up camp at Mile Post 28.5 for the night. So being the first to claim the Shelter is a coveted position.

PROS:

  • Adirondock Style Shelter
  • Raised Tent pads (2)
  • Picnic Tables
  • Fire Pits w/grate
  • Large Pit Latrines
  • Bearproof Trash receptacle
  • Hand-pump well water
  • Quiet & Peaceful
  • No cell service

CONS:

  • No cell service

Nearby Attractions:

  • Droop Mountain Battlefield SP
  • Snowshoe Mountain Resort
  • Cass Railroad
  • Seneca Rocks
  • Spruce Knob (WV Highest Elevation)
  • Seneca Forest (Thorny Mountain Fire Tower)
  • The Greenbrier Resort

HIGHLIGHTS: 

  • Traveling through Droop Mountain Tunnel
  • Traveling over the nearly 100 year old steel RR bridges

Traveling the Greenbrier River Trail allows the traveler to be sent back in time…passing through old Railroad towns, seeing old Railroad buildings, water towers offers a glimpse backwards.

Heavy rainstorms brought down numerous trees across the GRT during our trip…but the State Park  employees worked diligently and feverishly to clear the trail. At one location, employees graciously offered to assist us haul our bikes over the multiple downed trees as they worked to clear them.

It is easy to see how the Greenbrier River Trail made Backpacker Magazine's Top Ten hiking trails in North America…surrounded by wild and often very remote wilderness, abundant wildlife, a century old trail, a picturesque river, great camping…ticks all the boxes!

A State Park for all Seasons

Campground Review: Canaan Valley State Park and Resort, Davis, West Virginia

The Canaan Valley State Park and Resort is situated in a very popular outdoor activity area…for every season. Winter brings copious snowfall and the skiing here draws thousands…downhill and XC. The summer sees backpackers, hikers, mountain bikers, gravel grinders, car-campers and RVers. Not only do you have hiking trails here on the State Park location…you can drive up to the nearby Dolly Sods Wilderness Area for camping, day-hikes or multi-day backcountry trips; Blackwater Falls (10 miles north) offers memorable falls, great hikes with long gorge views (Lindy Point a favorite). Even Seneca Rocks and Spruce Knob are only 30 minutes or so away. Possibilities are endless in this neck of the woods. This very weekend was to be the Mountainbike Festival, but due to Covid-19, well you know the rest of that story. The Abe Run Trail was a pleasant trail leaving from the campground.

The campground portion is not expansive but 34 sites are situated in three small loops (see photo of campground map). Primitive tent sites don't have water or electric and parking is roadside but you are within 100 yards of the "Comfort Station." The three "tent only" sites have only been around for a couple years…but sites 1 and 2 are in a nice grassy area away from the RV loop 2. Always verify current rates, but June 18, 2020…mid $30's nightly for nonresidents (WV residents get 30% off). Primitive tent sites were $17 a night.

The Resort Lodge, Golf course, swimming pool and a covered ice skating rink (obviously the last three mentioned being seasonal) were further up the windy park roadway. (See rates on park website).

The campground "Comfort Station," is a restroom/shower/laundry and soda machine building. The gender specific restroom/shower rooms each have two wooden stalled modern facility stools, two shower stalls (men's are separated by a shower curtain, women's by a wall); a separate unisex ADA restroom/shower sits adjacent to the men's and appears newer.

The grounds are well-maintained and manicured as are all WV State Parks. Trails are scattered throughout the park. some are foot traffic only, others permit bicycles. The Back Hollow Trail was predominantly a mown grass trail but occasional wooded sections were rocky two-track. This is Wet Virginia, so expect to experience rain and bring foul weather gear in the summer months. I have mastered the fine art of campsite tarping due to West Virginia camping. It also still gets chilly in these mountains during the early summer months.

Deer meander through the primitive tent sites with their fawns each morning and evening. A kid's playground is situated beside (separated by a field) primitive tent sites 1 & 2.

We spent three days in June and experienced afternoon rain showers daily, but arranged our hikes and bikes around them.

All you need for a great time, nothing more and nothing less!

Greenbrier River Trail Milepost 63.8 Primitive Campsite, Located between Clover Lick and Clawson, WV (south of Sharp's Tunnel)

The Greenbrier River Trail is one of the most beautiful and often most remote trail I have had the privilege of bikepacking. If you aren't familiar with camping in West Virginia, you are in for a treat. The WV State Park system is fantastic and the State Park employees take incredible pride in keeping all their parks beautifully maintained despite poor budgets to work with. 

GRT MP 63.8 Primitive Campsite is close to 17 miles south of the Cass Railroad Station. Trail conditions were wonderful, typical Railroad ballast, crushed gravel…at times it was wide like they recently removed the track, and other sections grass has grown down the middle to make it two track. All flat with a gentle one percent downhill grade from Stumptown to North Caldwell. Frankly, it wasn't discernible…but I'll take it.

Wildlife and songbirds were abundant and as shocked to see you as you were them. Oftentimes, the deer would run the trail ahead of you for 200 yards before cutting off onto their sidetrail.

The trail itself is recorded at differing lengths depending on what you read, but we started at MP 80…at Cass Railroad Station…traveling south to North Caldwell.

PROS:

  • Free camping(First come, first served) 
  • Newer Adirondock Style Shelter 
  • Newer Large/Clean/Stocked Pit Latrine 
  • Raised Tent pad(pea gravel) 
  • Cold well water- Hand pump 
  • Metal Fire Ring 
  • No Cell Service 

CONS: 

  • No Cell Service 

NEARBY HIGHLIGHTS: 

  • Cass Railroad Station 
  • Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort 
  • Seneca Forest (**Thorny Mountain Fire Tower)
  • Seneca Rocks
  •  Spruce Knob(WV Highest Elevation) 
  • Green Bank Observatory 
  • The Greenbrier Resort

*Note in the video, I initially thought the steel containers were bear proof storage, but I was incorrect and they are bear proof trash receptacles. 

This is bear country, so we kept all our food items and toiletries in a bear cannister during our trip. We did not experience any encounters or sightings, but fellow cyclists traveling in the same direction, observed a juvenile bear during the day along the trail.

In fact, WV has an abundant wildlife population and it is evident along the Greenbrier River Trail, which set this trail apart from other bikepacking trails I've traveled.

You will see in a couple photos that a certain slithering resident was unwilling to give up his claim on this Adirondack Shelter, we attempted to dissuade him, we even gently relocated him, but he was neither afraid of our presence nor was he about to pass up a roof over his head. So we acquiesced and moved to the raised tent pad 100' down the trail. He was a very curious character.

In June, you can anticipate random, short afternoon or evening cloudbursts…but they can be gully-washers. Nights were cool and most mornings I wore a long-sleeve Merino shirt.

Riding and camping along the picture-perfect Greenbrier River offers fantastic views and opportunities to cool off…bring your swimwear.

Private, Primitive, and Pleasant

GREENBRIER RIVER TRAIL MILEPOST 69.6 PRIMITIVE CAMPING AREA, Clover Lick, WV

The Greenbrier River Trail is a converted C&O Railway that travels 80 miles from Cass Railroad Station, Stumptown, WV to North Caldwell, WV. This Rails-to-Trails is wonderfully maintained by WV State Parks and was featured in Backpacker Magazine as one of the top 10 hiking trails in the country. This former railbed would be considered flat by most, but there is a 1% downhill grade from the Northern Terminus in Stumptown to its Southern Terminus in North Caldwell.

There are plenty of these Primitive Camping Areas along the trail to make this a "must-do" trail. The trail is made primarily of the old Railway ballast and a finer pea gravel most of the trail…but there are some overgrown grassy two-track and some muddy sections as well.  This is called "Wet Virginia" for good reason…pack a rain jacket.

The trail itself is recorded at differing lengths depending on what you read, but we started at MP 80…at Cass Railroad Station. 

PROS:

  • Free camping (First come, first served)
  • Newer Adirondock Style Shelter
  • Newer Large/Clean/Stocked Pit Latrine
  • Raised Tent pad (pea gravel)
  • Cold well water - Hand pump
  • Metal Fire Ring
  • No Cell Service

CONS:

  • No Cell Service

NEARBY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Cass Railroad Station
  • Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort
  • Seneca Forest
  • Seneca Rocks
  • Spruce Knob (WV Highest Elevation)
  • Green Bank Observatory
  • The Greenbrier Resort

The Greenbrier River Trail is a delightful bikepacking excursion.  Very doable for all ages. I'd recommend road bicycles with tires no narrower than 700x32 or mountain bikes. Because of the wetter climate, there were soggy sections that would cause difficulty for thin tires, especially when laden with panniers.

The MP 69.6 Camping Area is along the Greenbrier River, so camping along it affords great wildlife viewing at dawn and dusk when the animals head to the water to drink. The amount of wildlife we saw throughout the day was incredible while biking the trail. Mostly deer, rabbit, chipmunks and Eastern Box Turtles sharing the trail…but we did see a few turkey, fox and bobcat. An elderly fellow cyclist, sharing the camping area, saw a juvenile black bear. The Greenbrier River Trail travels through Watoga State Park, Seneca State Forest and the Monongahela National Forest

The Greenbrier River Trail is a mutli-use trail, so there is potential to see bicyclists, walkers, hikers, horseback and in the winter, XC skiers. Near towns we encountered very polite and pleasant walkers and cyclists enjoying the trail…but away from the towns it was very quiet, peaceful and remote.

NOTE: If you choose to ride the Greenbrier River Trail from Stumptown to North Caldwell or the opposite direction…unless you are going to ride back the way you came, you will need to have someone shuttle your vehicle. I used Chuck Workman, owner of Appalachian Sports in Marlinsburg to shuttle my vehicle to the Southern Terminus…Oscar from Cass Railroad Station shared that useful information!

Drop everything and visit here!

Ranger Review: GRAYSON HIGHLANDS STATE PARK-Hickory Ridge Campground.

Every once in a while you end up staying somewhere and think…this was just unreal, I don’t want to leave. That’s what I experienced at Grayson Highlands State Park.

Grayson Highlands is expansive. It was a two mile drive from the Contact Center to the campground entrance… passing by a scenic view turnoff on the right, with long valley views.

At over 4300 ft, even at the end of June it got downright cold at night. Hiking trails are abundant, some higher than 5200 ft, the AT passes by and the Wild ponies of Grayson Highlands inhabit these heights.

You have several campsite options, from Electric/Water sites, Standard sites (no water/electric), Specific Sites (Reservable), Yurts, cabins to Equestrian sites. And a range of pricing depending on choice.

Without reservations, I rolled up and got the last available site (or so I was told). It has been a very, very long time since I have stayed at a full campground…and that even on a Wednesday night. So I was out of my element…and struggle a bit with the closeness of neighbors and noise. ..along with competing for a place at the shower, restroom or sink station. It wasn’t awful, just not the freedom I am use to primitive or backcountry camping. Site SP 54 set me back $30 a night as a non-resident. Virginians see a discounted rate.

The yurts appear newer, and the Pinnacle Yurt (#3) not only has a massive 360 degree deck like the others…the deck stretches out over the mountainside with a railed boardwalk, incorporating the huge rocks.

Restroom/shower house is clean and stocked. The shower was the hottest I’ve ever experienced. There are two private single shower rooms between the men and women’s restrooms and one shower in the men’s restroom. The wash sink for dishes is outside at the north end of the same building and also doubles as the water spigot. I guess they covered all the campground water spigots because of the current health issue and centralized it to one location. Not certain but doesn’t make much sense or make things convenient with a full campground.

Being a mountainous region, most tent pads and pull in drives appeared fairly level, except ours, which may be why it was the only one available…only a partial piece of wood remained of the “elevated tent pad.” The likely tent area was between half a dozen trees and a dirt/pea gravel mix. As long as it didn’t rain our tent site would work out okay.

On our circle, there was very minimal ground vegetation and distance between sites, so you can always see and hear your neighbors. Our neighbor’s eating area was less than ten feet from our tent pad. Not ideal, especially for Virginia State Park pricing, which in most cases is double to triple what I’ve paid for tent camping in seventeen other states I’ve camped in across the U.S. But you’ve got to pay the fiddler if you want to dance. Virginians get s healthy discounted rate.

“Fill-in” hosts (the Smith’s) were fabulous, kind and helpful. May their tribe increase! Drove around the wood cart in the evening for purchase which was helpful as well. Good sized bundle was $6 at the time of this review. They also manned the Outpost located in the campground where you could buy a few things.

With that in mind, bring or buy whatever you need because it’s a long haul to find groceries.

We drove 8 miles (25 minutes) to two different stores to find hot dogs and buns for lunch and dinner. The first had hot dogs but no buns…pass. The second gave us both from their back room stock. A Mennonite women brought in her pastries while we were there so we bought apple fritters, and several fold over mini pies, black raspberry, cherry and chocolate. Very tasty breakfast snacks.

Trails: miles upon miles…all clearly marked. Trails that lead to 180 degree views, trails that lead to 360 degree views, AT trails, trails to waterfalls and cascades, trails through rolling fields covered in flowering berry bushes, dark-cool-wooded trails, rocky trails, root covered trails, trails with wild ponies…tons of trails!

The Visitors center, oddly, is on the opposite side of the park but a treat to visit…as you will learn and see the history of the area…and find some nice trinkets to purchase.

Backpackers can pay a nominal $8 fee and leave there vehicles in a specific parking lot close to the AT. But you also must call ahead to make reservations. Countless backpacking folk of all ages were either coming or going.

There are playgrounds for the kids both in the campground proper and in the picnic and Homestead area further down the park roadway. A beautiful sprawling picnic area where the kids can run wild and parents can relax.

John Denver’s “Almost Heaven”

Seven Mile Campground, Seneca State Forest, Rt 28 Dunmore, WV

$18 for seniors over 60. $20 for those under 60

This rustic campground is one mile north of the park office and initially feels odd from a security standpoint as there is no formal gate or entrance and no cell service…phones are useless (unless at the park office area a mile south). The campground is located directly off Rt.28. The campground sign itself is partially tucked to the east side of the roadway, dark green and blends nicely into the surrounding lush forest undergrowth. A thousand feet before the equally nondescript campground entrance are small green signs with a tent symbol with 1,000 ft printed below it. Though directly off the main route, road noise is distant.

Being the only one in the campground, it is very serene, songbirds singing nonstop even past dusk. Ten sites in all. Spaced out nicely, with 9 and 10 dog legged to the right from the covered well handpump (your source of water, other than filtering stream water). We stayed at site 9, which had a nice gravel pull through. A large raised tent pad is between the site driveway and the campground road…I imagine a small teardrop camper or popup could be patiently maneuvered onto this site (that’s a tent camper speaking…larger campers may fit just fine, but you better feel comfortable backing long distances)

The campground is fairly linear and quite narrow along a stream gradually ascending…likely termed a “holler” to West Virginians. Sites 7 and 8 are beyond the turn for sites 9 and 10. Main campground roadway is new blacktop and smooth as silk. Campsite pull-ins are gravel, the tent pads are large, raised timbers with a fine pea gravel, leveled and raked. Tent stakes pushed in without much effort but held fast.

There is a tiny wooden vault toilet at the base of site 9, across the campground road from the well pump. Halfway up the campground roadway from the entrance is a newer, larger vault toilet. Both are very clean and stocked.

Modern showers/restrooms are behind the ranger/registration office…along with the laundry room. Open until 9:30 when they are then locked for the night. Note: the websites state coin operated showers, but if you simply push the coin slide in…you’ve got your shower.

Each site has a picnic table (nicely shellacked to prevent soggy wood and easily wiped dry), a lantern pole, a fire pit (or in our case a fireplace, a raised tent pad and a wooden sump stand (where you can wash your dishes) and a twist-lid garbage can (foils the raccoons and less determined bears).

Speaking of bears and raccoons, this is Seneca State Forest within Monogahela National Forest …they are present, so leave no food or trash out. Interestingly, Seneca State Forest is WV’s oldest State Forest.

Site 9 and 10 don’t have the stream, but there is a bubbling brook that leads to the stream, passing along the inside of the two sites…and the water’s melody lulls you to sleep.

East Fork trail passes right through the back end of site 10. There are miles of trails nearby.

An ADA specific site #6 offers a small pull thru; site 5 has a paved 52’x14’ drive, 13’x14’ tent pad opposite the newer latrine.

I love camping in WV as much as I do in the Rockies or Sierras…it’s a special place. Seneca State Forest also offers pioneer cabins and a 65ft tall Fire Tower for nightly rentals. We stayed in the Fire Tower several years back for a truly epic experience.

You can fish Seneca Lake, toss your own paddlecraft in, or rent their boats. You can also swim at your own risk in the Greenbrier River.

There is so much rich history and much to visit nearby. Seneca Rocks, Spruce Knob, Cass Railway and Snowshoe among others.

Had we not needed to continue our bikepacking adventures, we would have spent several days.

One of the Best GAP Trail Campgrounds and Definitely the Toughest to get to

Ohiopyle Kentuck Hike/Bike Campsites are positioned directly off the trail, but only after pushing your heavily loaded bike a quarter mile up Beech Trail from the GAP Trail.

Once you are at the top, campsites are all good and its a short walk further up the campground roadway to the modern restroom/showerhouse, complete with a double sink inside to wash dishes and secure fresh water. 

Amenities:

  • Level campsite area to place tent
  • Picnic table
  • Fire Ring

For the same price per night for non-electric, you can travel up to the main campground area, which is what several bikepackers did, just to be close to modern conveniences.

Camping midweek brings quietness as very few sites were filled. Now this was mid-June, mid-week, during Covid-19 Sites are$23 a night.

What goes up, must come down…when you decide to head back to the GAP Trail, its back down the Beech Trail to the GAP Trail. You walk your bike and are feathering the brakes the entire 1/4 mile down.

So…before you trudge up that hill, you cross over the Yough River and visit Ohiopyle for lunch or dinner, ice cream, shop around the area or schedule a rafting trip down the river. Falls Market offered a delicious burger and fries with a fantastic root beer float. The main roadway through town is under massive construction so its a bit clogged…the noise was deafening when eating lunch at Falls Market (no fault of their own) as inside seating was prohibited. 

Ohiopyle is both a GAP Trail Town and a River Town, with rafting a huge part of their economy. Sadly, we saw many small, unique businesses shuttered for good in each Trail Town along the GAP, so we did our best to spend as much as we could to help support the few still open.

Firewood Stacked at each Site

Bikepacking the Great Allegheny Passage Trail from Pittsburgh PA to Cumberland MD brings with it the opportunity to camp along the way…oftentimes, directly beside the trail.  Such is the case with Husky Haven Campground, which is positioned on the edge of the tiny trail town of Rockwood. The history behind these towns is pretty cool, but little is left from those boon days.

Husky Haven Campground is an interesting place. The actual primitive tent camping is located directly alongside the GAP Trail, but the office, showers, modern restrooms, laundry and watersource are back down the trail, down the main drag and off a side street on the opposite side of the river. So it is not convenient after a long day in the saddle on the trail. And the price, I feel, is a bit steep at $15 per person…others may disagree. If you are flying solo, it’s a great deal, if not, it gets pricey.

During our stay in mid-June, as things were operating on abbreviated hours due to Covid-19, the laundry facilities were not available to us, not any amenity in the office area…other than the restroom/showers (which were very nice…and the water was hot).

For bikepackers with laden bicycles, it was not an easy task to travel back and forth.

The campground itself was well-maintained and clean. It was entirely dirt but it was flat and racked free of debris. 

Campsite amenities:

  • Former milk jugs filled with water are brought to your site
  • Firewood is provided than is possible to use and more is available, Newspaper to start the fire is also provided
  • Portable latrines are spaced throughout the campground
  • Picnic table
  • Fire Ring/cooking grate
  • For $20 more there are pavilion rentals

Campsites are open and visible from site to site. We were fortunate and were the only campers in the entire campground. The endless supply of dry, cured firewood was very nice.

They do offer a Guesthouse for rent that is attached to the office/laundry/restroom/shower area on the opposite side of the river.

Note: nights are noisy. It seemed as though you heard every voice, every dog bark, every car and definitely every train from the opposite side of the river. So I would not consider it a peaceful campground, but it certainly met the need.

Great Hike/Bike Camping Area on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail

Round Bottom Camping Area at Slush Run is a free camping area directly on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail around Mile 99 (East of West Newton roughly 15 miles).  For those not familiar with the GAP Trail, it is a Rails-to-Trails initiative that travels from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD…meandering through numerous Trail Towns that were former thriving railroad towns at the end of the 1800's.

Round Bottom Camping Area at Slush Run can only be accessed by the GAP Trail, which means on foot or bicycle…or paddlers on the Youghioheny River. Being positioned directly off the GAP Trail grants easy access to those traveling the trail. 

Amenities:

  • Raised Tent pads (4)
  • Vault Toilet
  • Adirondack Shelters (2)
  • Firepits
  • Picnic tables

No potable water…there is hand pump but the water was discolored.  It is a short walk down a trail to the river's edge, where I filtered water for drinking.

There is plenty of grassy area for scores of tents in this area.   So if you are not fortunate enough to secure one of the two Shelters or tent pads, you can still set up a tent in the nicely mowed areas, which are still level.

We were bikepacking the GAP Trail east from Pittsburgh and arrived on a Sunday evening mid-June. We secured the only open Adirondack Shelter and were able to set up our tent inside, along with keeping our bicycles inside and out of the elements. Which made it wonderfully convenient when it started to rain. Sites and shelters are first come, first served.

Usually the vault toilets along this trail are clean, maintained and stocked…but on this visit, piles of trash were inside likely from an overly busy weekend.

The only negative was the train traffic on the opposite side of the River…it is loud when they rumble through. If you don't sleep with ear-plugs, you will wish you had.

Bicycle traffic was fairly light during the week, so not only did you have the GAP Trail mostly to oneself, the camping areas were either sparsely filled or empty. Although, things just did start opening up from the Covid-19 shutdown.

Apart from the train noise during sleeping hours, Round Bottom Camping Area is very peaceful and though you can still visually see the GAP Trail, you are not disturbed by passing cyclists.

Fascinating History and Formations

Providence Canyon State Park, Lumpkin, GA

https://gastateparks.org/ProvidenceCanyon 

Providence Canyon State Park is tucked away in the southwest corner of Georgia…but offers a surprising beauty as a result of erosion. As you enter the State Park, it is fairly linear running alongside the roadway. Day use appears to be the high volume. 

Two children’s playgrounds, two picnic pavilions and two restrooms are positioned along the upper rim as you head to the visitor center. The visitor center offers location specific clothing, souvenirs and some snack items…along with additional restrooms. 

Opposite the first playground, on the right side of the roadway when you enter the park is a Methodist church from 1832 and a small pioneer cemetery that offers a realistic view of the hardships faced by these adventurous folks. 

The actual“Georgia Grand Canyon” is barely visible as you make your way to the visitors center. But once you’ve paid the daily use fee($5) and signed in…you can choose the trails you desire to explore. An upper rim trail, fenced by split rail, travels the canyon rim… is easiest and offers a splendid Birdseye view and wonderful photo opportunities.. 

Hiking down into the shallow canyon affords a worthwhile close-up view and nicer photographs (in my opinion) especially with the backdrop of azure skies. Because the canyon and formations are merely sand and clay, they are fragile. As I briefly climb upon my soapbox, the plethora of posted warning signs are not heeded, so violators climb and scramble for their coveted selfies…defacing the natural beauty and causing more damage. While warning signs make threat of prosecution, without consistent or constant enforcement it will continue. 

Once on the canyon floor, you have a few options…but for the best views hang a left and follow the small wooden Canyon 1-5 signs. All the reviews state canyons 4 and 5 are the nicest…and they are…but if you explore the canyons in numerical sequence, each gets better as you go. With fully leafed trees and foliage, viewing is tough in canyons 1-3. Signage is absent as to where the trails end, as past hikers tread further and higher in each canyon. Canyons 4 and 5 offer more prohibitive signage. 

The canyon floor is a mixture of wet and dry sand. In areas a steady stream of water flows. It was dry weather on my visit so I can only assume the water would be deeper during or immediately following rains. During my late October visit, water wasn’t deep enough to enter your hiking shoes. Heed the heat and drinking water warnings during hot days, Little to no breeze in the canyon. 

I did not travel the longer backcountry trail on this visit, so defer to other reviewers comments on its enjoyment.

 Camping: You have two choices…a handful of Backcountry Primitive Camping that require a backpack into the canyon and 3 Pioneer Group Campsites. It’s easy to miss Pioneer Campsites 1& 2, as they are located beyond the gated park and down a two track gravel drive. Unfortunately, from the campsite, the roadway can be seen through the trees and traffic noise is loud when traveling by. During normal sleep hours (midweek) night traffic was sparse, but still disruptive. Because of road construction during my visit, it wasn’t excessive during daylight hours. 

Pioneer 1-3 are essentially group sites designed to accommodate larger camping parties. But for one tent and two people $43.00 was an exorbitant price, especially with merely a pit toilet, two picnic tables and a fire ring…NO electric, NO water. But I’ve found Georgia parks a tad steep in cost in comparison to other State’s parks. 

Interestingly, time zones shift from Eastern at the visitors center to Central Time at Pioneer Campsites 1& 2…so be cognizant of the switch. Pioneer 1 group site boasts a newer pit latrine with a solar spot light for nighttime…and was amply stocked. Previous campers removed the two large picnic tables from beneath the shed style shelter to the campfire ring area. The picnic tables are large and heavy, so without a group present, you won’t be moving them back to their rightful location. 

For a tent camping location…there is negligible flat ground to pitch a tent, but if you are a hammock camper there are plenty of trees. The grounds at Pioneer 1 where strewn with plastic and pop tops, cigarette butts, partially melted plastic ware and snack food wrappers littered the wooded area. Not cool. A lidded plastic garbage can is tethered to the shelter so there is no excuse.

 Pioneer site 2 had a grassy field, flatter area for tents and further down into the canyon past Pioneer site 1. 

Pioneer site 3 is appears to be the coveted group site with ample flat, grassy field for tents, area for parking and a huge shelter. The long winding gravel two-track is also located immediately to the left upon entering the main entrance so you have the“security” of the park’s front gate being locked at 6:00 p.m.(A pavement sensor permits egress if you need to exit, but you won’t be driving back in til morning when they reopen.) 

Overall, if you shared the site as a group, defraying the cost…midweek camping would not be bad. After visiting the canyon for a couple hours, there is not much else to visit in the immediate area, so bring a book. 

Wildlife: you’ll likely hear some owls calling out throughout the night and woodpeckers in early morning. Small yellow finch’s were abundant. Mention of wild hogs in the park as well. 

Final thoughts: A one time camping visit is sufficient for my tastes. Even at half the price, I’m not sure I’d camp here solo. However, I will likely visit the canyon in the future to see possible changes due to further erosion.

A Relaxing Shoulder Season, Weekday stay

Hueston Woods State Park, Oh.

http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/huestonwoods 

Campground Overview: Hueston Woods State Park is very close to Miami University…in the Southwest area of Ohio. The direction we traveled from the south took us on numerous winding country lanes through farm country that actually meandered in and out of Indiana and Ohio.

(Disclaimer: I am a tent camper, preferring backcountry sites of solitude and privacy…so take my reviews of campgrounds with a grain of salt). 

The campground area is separated not only by roadway, but a short walk, ride or drive from the reservoir, docks, boat rental beach area and tiny nature center. 

The Campground Office sits at the campground entrance and does offer quite a bit of camping items for its tiny size should you have forgotten anything. The cabins and lodge are on the opposite bank of the reservoir. The tent site area was sparsely occupied and the particular area was empty that I chose. 

All campground sites are line of sight, no barriers or buffer between neighbors(something I do not enjoy)…the trees are mature and tall so offer no privacy. Noise/sound travels so when full, you’ll likely hear your neighbors conversations. 

Unknowingly, it appeared every weekend in October has a big Halloween emphasis, so the upper campground was sold out. I was advised the lower non electric loop would also be sold out…which reinforced my gratefulness for midweek camping. 

With the vast old growth forests, dried/dead branches for firewood was plentiful for a chilly night(38) fire. We evaded the impending rain for once and pressed on. Weekend campers experienced heavy storms as we left. 

There are several hiking trails and biking trails. Streams were dried up at our visit. A cool restoration covered bridge was a short hop from the campground. The lodge has a restaurant, a gift shop, an outside pool and a nicely equipped activity room for older kids complete with numerous arcade games, pool table, and ping-pong table. There is also a token tiny exercise center-Key card entrance for lodge stayers. The A-frame lodge, though nostalgic, needs some TLC and updating(especially the exterior). 

Traffic noise is noticeable, especially during quiet hours. While not excessive, it’s disruptive. 

Deer sighting were plentiful as were chattering tree rats…ahem, squirrels, sorry. Woodpeckers stayed busy overhead. At dusk an overly friendly“masked trash panda” encroached seeking to share my delectable and perfectly toasted s’more…having to be chased off(unfortunately, it appeared he has been fed by campers to be that bold). Other small birds were plentiful as were migrating Canadian honkers. 

Housekeeping notes: In the larger non-electric loop newer restrooms existed…modern bathrooms and showers were clean and stocked with TP. No paper towels offered, only electric hand dryers. Bathroom stalls, like the showers, utilized shower curtains rather than lockable doors. In my tent area…antiquated wood shed pit latrines…that truly needed razed. 

I did not have time to walk any trails, but talked with mountain bikers that spoke favorably. There were several marked trails near the reservoir area. 

Final Thoughts: It was a nice choice for a stop-over as I drifted north. However, I would not want to stay when it’s busy or on the weekends. The reservoir beach and watercraft fishing appears a big draw…and I wish I had brought both my bicycle and canoe.

A delightful surprise!

Vogel State Park, Blairsville, GA

https://gastateparks.org/Vogel

$32 a night with water/electric, walk-in tent sites$30…as of this review. 

Arriving in the dark for the first visit, is a bit confusing in the labyrinth of roadways(some One-way) throughout the campground…but for the normal camper it would be no problem. 

After the visitor center is closed, a list of available sites are posted and a sign-in Sheet for the site you choose. 

After experiencing 12 hours of straight rain(9-9)…the sun broke through for a beautiful fall mountain day. The campground sits at 2500 ft.so it was comfortably cool.

Campsite are spaced reasonably, but with tall, mature trees, although you do see and hear your neighbors. In fact, you see and hear your neighbors half a dozen sites away. During my visit, it was almost entirely retirees from out of state…so other than a random yappy terrier, it was quiet. 

There are several loops offering more or less “privacy.” Had I known about the incredible tent “walk-in” sites before arrival, I would’ve stayed there. They are tucked away on their own loop on a wooded hillside. 

Bathroom/showerhouses are strategically located in each loop. They are modern, bright, well-stocked and clean! Also provided are individual “family/unisex” bathroom/shower facilities. 

Numerous very nice cabins are available for rental, from efficiency to 3 bedroom interspersed throughout the park…and appear moderately priced. 

Available State Park Activites: Two separate children’s playgrounds exist, not too far from one another. One near a small kids ball field…the other near a very nice volleyball court, permanent corn hole pit and state of the art outdoor exercise machine area…the likes of which I have never-ever seen. Two 9 hole miniature golf courses next to the visitor center are reminiscent of the old Putt-Putt courses of yesteryear. Bicycle and boat rentals are available during summer months for reasonable hourly, half and full day rates. A swimming beach also exists on the park’s 22 acre picturesque lake.

 A gravel walking trail circumnavigates the lake and at the far end, a trail leads down to lovely Trahlyta Falls. If you are a waterfall chaser, this immediate area boasts numerous worthy falls. The closest being the upper and lower Helton Creek Falls. The upper and lower Desoto Falls are 7 miles away in one direction and several in the opposite direction. 

Terri Tucker, manager of the visitor store, and her staff are excellent and knowledgeable about not just their park but also the surrounding area and nearby parks. They are pleasant, cheerful and helpful. Additionally, Terri has outfitted this visitor center store about the best I’ve seen in all my years of camping. For a state park visitor center, it has a unique balance of food items, camping comfort foods, park specific knick-knacks, souvenirs, and practical clothing items, along with a fantastic assortment of camping, hiking related necessities. Shoot…they even sell Eno hammocks and slap straps! Did I mention two bookshelves of outdoor books and maps?! For as small as it is, it is masterfully stocked. Well done! 

Several creeks meander through the campground, notably Burnett Branch, Wolf Creek…so the rushing water noise is both soothing and assists in drowning out neighborly conversations. 

In most advertisements, the phrase “one of the oldest and most beloved state parks” is used and frankly, I see why. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay.

The hiking both from Vogel State Park and nearby are incredible. Take half a day and climb Blood Mountain along the Appalachian Trail. Views from the summit are breathtaking…doing the hike is also a little breathtaking too. It is worth stopping and shopping at Mountain Crossings just a few miles away (turn right out of the park)…you just can't leave the area without buying some souvenirs.

I am planning next fall's return already!…I do wish GA state parks were a tad cheaper though.

A relaxing lakeside atmosphere

Uwharrie National Forest-Badin Lake Campground, New London, NC.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/recarea/?recid=48934 

https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5368418.pdf

Campground Overview: 34 sites, two loops…upper loop and lakeside loop. Relatively large sites with vegetation that blocks constant view of neighbors. 

Each site has a gravel parking pad and separate gravel tent pad, a standing charcoal grill, firepit with adjustable grate, a picnic table and a metal pole for hanging lanterns, etc. I would advise securing online reservations, but they do have an Iron Ranger to drop your payment in should you find an empty site. Note: There are warnings that online reservations take precedence, so if you use the Iron Ranger payment drop chute and someone reserved the same campsite…you will be required to move to a different location when the online reservation campers arrive. Just so you know.

No electric. 

Oddly, no firewood for sale…although scrounging produced plenty of things and fallen branches to keep a fire going.

I preferred the lower loop as nearly every outer site was on the lake with great views and lake access and sites are spread out. The inside sites of the lower loop are pretty spacious and deep. Water spigots were spaced out around the loop, so a short walk as we were equal distance between two. 

Restroom/showerhouses were quad door buildings. Separate men’s and women’s restrooms and two separate shower rooms. Facilities were kept clean and stocked by resident hosts. 

With Verizon, I never lost signal…a plus for a National Forest!

The upper loop appeared to offer a little more solitude than the lower lake loop…but no lake views. 

The lake loop trail crosses the main campground roadway between the two loops. This trail is relatively flat and meanders around the lake and it’s many fingers…offering lovely lake views and some nice fishing locations. 

During my midweek visit it was quiet day and night. The sunset across the lake was gorgeous and relaxing. Loud powerboat noise was minimal as only a couple bass boats thought it essential to travel at high speeds from location to location. Next visit my canoe and mountain one will accompany me. 

What I enjoyed: as much as I dislike tree rats, I was entertained by two feuding squirrels that chased each other relentlessly and knocking each other out of tree tops. Woodpecker and Turkey wake up calls. 

For a National Forest, I was surprised by the level of daytime industrial noise nearby. 

Overall, a fantastic location relatively close to Raleigh/Durham and Fayetteville for a great camping getaway. I was only able to stay one night as the campground was booked, all reserved in advance. So plan ahead.

Offroader's Paradise

Uwharrie National Forest-Arrowhead Campground

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/recarea/?recid=48934 

https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5368418.pdf 

Uwharrie National Forest is fairly vast, but several camping areas are located in one general area. Equestrian campgrounds, hunting camps and then Arrowhead and Badin Lake campgrounds, along with the boat launch area. Arrowhead Campground has had a bigger budget compared to its lesser sibling Badin Lake Campground. 

Campground roadways are paved, as well as the campsite parking pads, The restrooms are newer, larger and offer paved parking for users. 

Sites are reasonably large and offer a picnic table, firepit, charcoal grill and metal hanging pole for lanterns, etc. some foliage exists between Campsites, but you still have a visual of your neighbors. 

It appeared during my visit that most users were off-roaders with either 4x4’s or quads. The onsite host advised that it is very popular with the off-road enthusiasts. Enclosed and flatbed trailers filled most of the sites. 

Caution: During hunting season, the National Forest is open to hunters…wear brightly colored or hunter orange clothing especially dawn and dusk.

Reserve well in advance if you desire a site…these campgrounds fill quickly. 

Arrowhead also offers an inner-campground paved walk/bike/stroller trail…and the drive down to the boat launch(which has a fairly sizable paved parking lot and latrines). You can also pick up the lake loop trail by the Boat Ramp.

Being located so closely to the Raleigh/Durham area…and the Fayettville area…I can see this being filled to capacity most days and definitely weekends. Mid-week it was filled.

Conveniently located for all things outdoors

Smokemont Campground-Blue Ridge Parkway, Cherokee, NC-

-site 25($25 nightly). 

https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/232486 

Nestled in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park at 2200 feet, close to crystal clear mountain streams, great hiking, and right down the Ridgeway from Clingman’s Dome. 

There are far too many outdoor activities to list that are a short drive away. So the location is prime.

(Disclaimer: My perspective comes from a tent camper that prefers privacy and solitude…so take my ramblings with a grain of salt…and I ordinarily fly by the seat of my pants without reservations). 

Even during the week in late October, there were only four available sites left right near the entrance. Campground Rangers in the office and walking the grounds were very friendly and helpful. All sites are line of sight…and though at capacity, campers were politely quiet. 

Tent sites have a gravel pad that you must utilize…firepit and picnic table. An all non-electric, non-generator campground. You won’t get cell service either…you must travel to the nearby visitor center for that convenience. 

Bathrooms are modern, no showers. 

Water is available throughout the campground. 

The park’s visitor center, roughly a mile down the road usually have local herd of elk grazing in the adjacent fields where tourist stop to take photos. A few gobblers joined the elk during my visit. Warning signs and Rangers on foot, keep photographers from encroaching onto the fields…but the visitor center parking lot is usually filled and vehicles are parked along both side of the roadway. 

Clingman’s Dome is a highlight. Realize that though you get to drive most of the way up the mountain, you must still walk from the parking lot to the summit and up the ramp for the birds eye 360 view.(**Pit latrines are in the parking lot only…not in the tiny visitor center, nor at the summit) Note: while the walkway to the summit is paved, it has a fairly steep pitch. Tip: earlier in the day has fewer clouds, afternoon tends to see more view-obscuring cloud cover. The wind is strong and several degrees cooler than the parking lot.

 Final Thoughts: Smokemont Campground is a quiet, comfortable, conveniently located campground for short stays in a wonderful setting…but realize it is extremely popular and fills up nightly.

Close proximity to natural attractions

Hocking Hills State Park, Oh-Site 89. https://thehockinghills.org/

Hocking Hills State Park offers close proximity to most of the popular natural attractions…Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, etc….but for a tent camper that prefers solitude and space, I found it unappealing.

I did arrive late on a Monday evening, mid-October and got one of the last available sites. Packed on a Monday night!

I found the camping sites a bit cramped both in depth and width. Site 89 and 90 shared the same parking pad. Limited flat locations existed for a tent and my tent footprint is fairly small. You do have a firepit and picnic table with all three in fairly close proximity, so you must be extremely cautious with wind direction when deciding for a fire, else you’ll have embers dotting your tent and picnic table. Even though the neighbors were trying to be respectfully quiet…you heard every conversation and saw their every move.

No electric, which is fine in my book…the water spigot is centrally located on the loop and happened to be next to my site.

The restroom/shower facilities were not well cared for upon my visit. The floors were very muddy and trash was piled up in the corner of one stall and out of necessities.

Construction and dump truck noise started early with a project behind the restrooms.

The visitor’s center was well-stocked and the employee was pleasant. Cell service is unavailable and even sketchy at the visitor’s center. Wood can be purchased at the visitor’s center.

Close proximity to local attractions and a swimming pool are likely the big draw.

Knowing that I prefer solitude and distance when camping, I’ll likely not return but choose nearby Lake Hope State Park for my local visits.

A relaxing shoulder season stay

Hungry Mother State Park, Royal Oak Campground, Marion VA…site 3. https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/hungry-mother

Campground Overview: Located outside of Marion VA

Hungry Mother State Park is somewhat split up and fragmented on either side of a local highway and the first campground is distanced from the other two. So a little different than most parks but not necessarily a negative.

The Visitor’s Center is on the left after the first campground (Camp Burson) and across the roadway from the reservoir and beach area. The remaining two campground loops are past the beach area…one to the right along a feeder stream (Creekside Campground) and opposite that is the third loop (Royal Oak Campground) on the side of a hill with wooden platforms for tents.

I was hoping to paddle this meandering reservoir but it was being drained for bridge work…so it was six feet or so lower than normal. Even the migrating geese weren’t too happy about it, as they waddled around on the mud.

During the peak of the summer season, it appears that it would be very popular with s nice swimming beach, paddlecraft rentals, cabin rentals, conference center, ample covered picnic pavilions and both paved and dirt trails.

I stayed on site 3 in Royal Oak Campground, pitching the tent on a 20’x20’ leveled wooden platform. Several pros and cons to elevated platforms.

Pros: It’s level and large enough for any tent I’ve ever seen. Water drains pretty decent between wood decking, so no pooling. D-ring lashing points were attached to the decking to assist in securing tent or rainfly.

Cons: When the cold wind blows, it’s hard to retain heat in the tent…360 cold. While there are D-ring lashing points, they don’t accommodate every tent of rainfly. Previous knucklehead campers drill Tapcon screws or nails in the wood decking and rails to secure their tent…then leave them there so everyone else snags or rips their tent on them.

It rained for 12 hours straight with cold, high winds…so it was a bit chilly, but still enjoyable.

What I enjoyed: deer wandering through the grounds, the Molly’s Knob Trail and Vista Summit,

The ugly: the lake (reservoir) was drained. Heaters weren’t on in the shower rooms…37 degree showering gets tricky.

Peak Bagging Coolness!

Spruce Knob is West Virginia's highest peak and on a clear day offers breathtaking 360 degree views from the Observation Tower.      https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mnf/recarea/?recid=7053

Because of the thick conifer growth, long mountain views don't occur till nearly to the top and that only along the western roadway…but once you climb the observation tower…(as mentioned, on a clear day) you are rewarded with wonderful views of WV and VA mountains.  Watching storm clouds or simple clouds roll in and envelope the Knob offers a wonderful experience.

I've taken the opportunity to camp on Spruce Knob on several occasions, once to the NE of the parking lot just into the pines, once a couple hundred yards down the Seneca Backcountry trail to the right and once directly south of the Tower in the pines.  Each offered a differ experience.  There is no cost, which is a huge plus!

In the pines, just below the summit, it is eerily quiet and muffled.  I've never seen another camper when I've stayed, so the solitude is glorious.

If you want shelter and a picnic table for cooking/eating…they are available, but only along the parking lot.  Pit latrines are nearly on the summit in the parking lot near the trailhead for the Observation Tower.  So practice leave no trace when camping and hiking!! No water, so bring enough with you. There are waste receptacles but be wise and take trash with you. 

There are two levels to the concrete Observation Tower…and best views are from the upper level. I've often though about cowboy camping on the second level after the last sightseer has left for the night, but haven't seen, heard or read if its forbidden or permitted…so I haven't…yet.

Obviously, on a clear night, star gazing is incredible as there no ambient light. It is much cooler at this elevation, even in the summer…and the winds on the summit cut through like a knife. 

Note: utilize good camping practices and set camp on a previous location where there is an established fire ring. Again, use caution with campfires because of the wind.

If you desire a more established campground, Spruce Knob Lake Campground is not too far away…down the mountain.

Spruce Knob summit camping is a family highlight!