Dave V.

The Dyrt Pro


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 great tenting option when visiting Fort Sill or Lawton

Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area(LERTA), Fort Sill, OK


Tent Site:$10 (both in June and October)

Spending a week in Lawton, OK there are only “so many” places you can camp…so we jumped around every night to try as many as we could. The weather was blistering hot and cloudless during the day with a constant strong breeze in June…(and unseasonably windy and bitter cold in mid-October). So both Lake Elmer Thomas and Lake Lawtonka were a welcomed respite. Technically, the only swimming permitted on Lake Elmer Thomas is 11:00a-7:00p with a daily pass of $8. However, they offer packages for military families and civilians should someone desire to take advantage of the season savings. For campers it’s all included in the site or cabin costs. 

There is a separate RV/Camper Loop near the entrance and is a little lower so does not have Lake views. All cabins have lake views to some degree. 

Tent sites are grassy areas along the campground roadway on either side, but are not numbered and cost$10 a night. All are first-come, first-served. Most will snatch up the sheltered picnic table areas with an elevated charcoal grill. Almost all are along the lake bank. There is no understory or shrubbery to provide privacy, so you can see and hear your neighbors. 

During our stay, they were all young families and very respectful of others. Tent campers can utilize any of the restrooms as well as the showerhouse in the RV area. 

There is enough to stay busy right here at LERTA. Canoe, kayak, paddle board and pontoon boat rentals to enjoy the lake. Fishing is permitted and schools of bluegill are seen along the shoreline. The water is incredibly clear. A very nice mini-golf course is located across from the offices. Sand volleyball is next to the beach area. The beach and swimming area is manned by lifeguards from 11:00a-7:00p and offers a huge restroom/showers/changing rooms building. Playgrounds are located in the RV/Camper loop, outside the beach area and along the tenting area before you reach the cabin rentals. An archery range is located across the roadway from the tenting/picnic areas. 

The staff are very courteous and helpful. The entrance gate attendant will direct you (Entrance was manned in June but not in October). A bicycle event was taking place and LERTA was the halfway mark and turnaround point. So bicycling these sparsely traveled undulating roads was enjoyable. There are some two track worth exploring to the north of the roadway as well as a few other sizable lakes to fish in the area. 

DO NOT venture south off the roadway. It is a clearly marked and active artillery range. Also of note, artillery range practice, though sporadic, takes place at any hour of any day. If you treat it like an unexpected fireworks display you’ll actually look forward to it. 

I find the large resident flock of geese more annoying that the artillery….though the half minute displays were at 2359, 0245 and 0349…blasting you out of any REM cycle. 

I was advised the tent spots rarely fill up, but RV/Camper and cabin rentals(adventure travel letra)fill up quickly so reservations are a must. 

Things to do nearby: Definitely spend time in the Medicine Park Wildlife Refuge Area. Drive, bicycle, run or walk up Mount Scott(rock climbing is permitted on Mount Scott). Check out the hundreds of free roaming LongHorn’s, Bison and prairie dog towns. Coyotes, various snakes and tarantulas can be seen through these hills. Scores of fishable lakes dot the landscape. The Ferguson homestead still exists with its “cannonball” architecture. Chad's El Sabores Mexican Restaurant in Medicine Park is a fantastic little eatery on your way in or out of the Recreation Area. Medicine Park Aquarium and Natural Sciences Center is worth a visit and reasonably priced. Clarification: while this may or may not be true for every military base campground, 

LERTA is open to civilians. However, there is a process. Passes must be acquired at the Visitor’s Center at the Sheridan Entrance (plan for an hour) for each adult over 16. You must have a valid/current Drivers License, Passport or other recognized government ID. They do a background check before you qualify for a pass. Also know, certain gates close at 7:00p…so keep track of your time of off-base.

 The camp host rolled through during the evening before sunset to make sure all was well…and the military police made their rounds a few times during each day. Both of which I appreciate. 

Would I return? Yes, if I’m traveling through these parts again, I wouldn’t hesitate to camp here again (and I did in mid-October, same year for military graduations)

Beautiful Setting, but Military Ordinance can be noisy even inside a Cabin

Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area, Fort Sill, OK

Cabin 3 (both late June and mid-October)

Lake Elmer Thomas(LETRA) is a 334 acre lake located on Fort Sill in Comanche County, Oklahoma. LETRA offers a pretty nice location for recreating. Offering quite a bit for families in a limited space.                                                                                                            •A nice beach and cordoned swim area, complete with restrooms and shower house(11a-7p)…lifeguards                                                                                                          •Sand volleyball court                                                                                                             •Watersport rentals: paddle boards, canoes, kayaks, pontoon boat                                      •Mini golf course                                                                                                                         •Disc golf course                                                                                                                     •RV/Camper area                                                                                                                         •Rustic rental cabins                                                                                                                    •Random primitive tent camping                                                                                        •Fishing                                                                                                                                              •Nearby off-base hiking(Mount Scott and the Medicine Park Wildlife Refuge)              •Bicycling-ample quiet, paved road opportunities but surprisingly limited off road options 

Tent Camping: there are no specifically designated loop or numbered site tent areas. Tenters are permitted to camp all along the lake’s edge in the grassy area. There are a few picnic tables and elevated charcoal grills(no ground fires permitted), so you may have to do without. There are also a few picnic tables under shelters, but half are in a state of disrepair and caution-taped off. Tenters cannot set up tents within the cabin rental inner circle. 

The modern facility restrooms are across from the playground as you enter the cabin rental peninsula. Tent campers are able to utilize the shower house/restrooms in the RV/Camper section, as well as the beach areas during open hours. There is no ground cover to separate one tent from the next…all can be seen and heard. 

RV/Camper Sites: big rigs are lined up side by side in a separate gravel loop immediately to the left of the entrance. Sites have water and electric hookups. The nicest shower house/restroom is located there. There is a small patch of grass between sites, picnic table and elevated charcoal grill. These sites are closest to the entrance, beach area, watersport rental and campground activities. 

Cabin Rentals: log home rentals are on a small peninsula with great views of Mount Scott and Lake Elmer Thomas. At the time of this review, you must bring your own bedding linens/blankets, towels, etc. I would also recommend packing extra eating utensils, condiments and any other items that you would take camping. We rented Cabin 3, which the website says will sleep 4…inaccurate. One full size bed and a small futon will sleep two average-sized adults and one small child in marginal comfort. The table only provides two chairs, not four for two not four. I would subtract 1-2 persons on the cabins unless you count floor space. Cabin 3 was$80 nightly. 

Painted turtles are in abundance around the lake, as are smallish ‘fist-sized’ tarantulas. Bicycling the Artillary Range perimeter roadways on base, coyote dash across in early morning hours. Note: you are on a military base, so there are a number of restrictions that you need to be aware of and abide by. 

Additionally, the campground is positioned along the northern side of the Artillery range. Yes, you will see and hear C-Ram’s lighting up the sky randomly during the day and night hours, as well as other ordinance. I enjoyed the display and out-of-the-ordinary disruption. Think unanticipated fireworks.

Quiet and Endless nearby trails and attractions

Doris Campground, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK

Site 26 

  • Reservations only through Recreation.com Varying costs but $8 gets tagged on by Recreation.com. I miss the days of paying by cash in person. 
  • The Good: •Beautiful surrounding area                                                                                             •No Cell service                                                                                                             •Abundant Wildlife                                                                                                       •Great hiking trails                                                                                                         •Very scenic                                                                                                                   •Great local history                                                                                                      •Great gravelbiking/mountain biking trails                                                           •Several nearby historical landmarks 
  • The Bad:                                                                                                                             •Still no potable water(Mid-Oct 2021)                                                                           •No showers                                                                                                                 •Online Reservations only                                                                                                 •No cell service                                                                                                         •Doorless pit latrines                                                                                                   •Occasional road noise                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Heavy cloud cover and a light mist welcomed us for the night and did not relent until after noon the following day. The night life was busy and vocal from dusk to dawn. Bull elks bugling, mule deer snorting while running through our site, either the free roam longhorn or the bison called out to each other, the coyotes yipped and yapped, and the raccoons tried their best to scrounge up a feast. Early evening and early morning traffic noise is minimal but can be heard in the campsites. 

Only a random artillery boom was heard in the distance.

Prairie dog villages are a great way to spend some time enjoying their comedic antics and tight family structure.

Trails abound, both from within the campground and nearby. We walked a few in late afternoon and the bull elk bugled relentlessly…obvious signs of rut. We did not realize how close to a lone bison we passed until we heard a noise and looked back. How a large beast could go unnoticed in the low scrub was amazing.

We were fortunate to secure a midweek campsite but the weekend was sold out.

Temps were in the high 40’s overnight but climbed during the day to 70’s with a beautiful breeze.

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center was still closed. Both in June and October it was closed with varying explanations why. If you go onto FWS.gov it still has it closed from November 2015-January 2016…so that certainly isn’t current.

Would I camp here again? Yes, However, I will research when school kids have Fall Break and avoid that weekend because it does sell completely out.

Midweek Early Summer Respite

Chickasaw National Recreation Area- Buckhorn Area Oklahoma

Site 36 Loop B 

Continuing our late spring journey west…we ventured to Chickasaw NRA. 

Stopping in at the beautiful Visitor’s Center at the edge of town, those that assisted us at the information were extremely gracious and helpful, having never visited before. Taking their advice we travelled 7.5 miles south on Rt 177 and turned west on Buckhorn until arriving at the Buckhorn Area campground loops off to the south. 

Anxious to get out of the car, we settled too quickly on Site 36 Loop B before surveying the three other Loops. There are some really nice and spacious sites out there…especially on C and D. Site 36 Loop B is located amidst six other sites in an open area on Lake of the Arbuckles. Upon setting up camp, we were the solitary campers in Loop B(Tuesday night mid-June) other than the host. 

Later, another family arrived choosing a nearby lakefront site. It should be noted that this is a busy lake. Powerboats raced from end to end like today was their last day on earth and their choice of blaring music may not be to your liking. So it is not always quiet and tranquil. Pretty popular with the fishermen as well. I witnessed a lot of fishing but not a lot of catching. Once the power boaters, personal watercraft and tubers call it a night, lake of the Arbuckles is supremely tranquil. 

The lake was as warm as bath water on June 15th, which was surprising…days were 90’s with nights in the 70’s and cloudless skies. 

Personally, I would choose a more shaded site if we were to spend more than one night. Each Loop B site had a level gravel horseshoe shaped pad. Tents must be within that area. 

  • Each site has a grated fire ring, a lantern pole and a movable picnic table. Tent sites were clearly marked. 

  • Numerous lakefront sites are in a cleared area below the shower house/restrooms and Check-In kiosk…each are visible from the other we no understory or foliage to provide privacy. Those nestled in the woods along the outside perimeter offer much more privacy.

  • Water spigots are sporadically spaced for easy access in the“primitive” loops.

  • Electric/water sites obviously offer those amenities are a bit deeper, more spacious and some have two parking spots. Most of those on Loop D were taken.

  • The loops are separated substantially so that other campers are not seen nor heard from loop to loop. Surprisingly, I could not even locate trails that led from loop to loop.

  • Shower-house/restrooms were very clean and well stocked. Loop B had one shower for the entire loop in both men’s and women’s restrooms…as well as one family shower between the two. On our visit the electrical outlets were not working in the restrooms. Facilities are modern and showers are warm and on a push button timer to conserve water.(men’s-2 sinks/2-stalls, 1-standup, 1-shower)

  • Milton, Our Loop B host, was a pleasant gentleman that was a full time RVer and very knowledgeable of the area.

  • The Check-In Kiosk(located in each loop) was an easy, painless affair IF you have a credit card.

  • Multi-use trails are aplenty in various parts of the NRA. Some lead you by bison, others to waterfalls, and some simply through serene forest. The terrain is undulating so be prepared…especially by bicycle.

  • Traveling north on 177 there is a Bison Viewpoint trail, and if the bison cooperate you’ll be rewarded.

  • Several springs and 1930’s CCC built dams exist creating small waterfalls and refreshing swimming holes on many. There are some springs that are posted“no swimming.” The Travertine Nature Center is also worth a visit providing numerous wildlife dioramas and several live exhibits. NP Rangers possess great knowledge and eager to answer any park questions.

  • Dump station turnoff is 9/10 and 7/10 of a mile from thr campground entrances Primitive campgrounds also exist near the numerous falls and Travertine River closer to the city of Sulphur. Campsites appeared close to the park roadway as we traveled toward the Nature Center.

  • All in all, a wonderful park that needs several days to fully explore.

Wonderful Wilderness Close to Big City

Lake Powhatan Campground, Asheville, NC 

Tucked quietly away only 10 miles southwest of Asheville, Lake Powhatan Campground(within Pisgah National Forest) is a popular but peaceful campground. 


•Quiet, peaceful and clean•Beautiful mountain setting

•Plenty to do in and around the campground

•Spacious sites and spaced apart

•Trails by the miles

•Modern facilities-Hot Showers•


•Trail maps would be useful

•Site 28/29 picnic tables were entirely rotted

Three loops off to the left of the main entry(Big John Loop 1-21; Bent Creek Loop 22-35; Lakeside Loop 36-57)…just past Smokey the Bear…and then a 4th larger loop straight down the hill from the Entrance office and to the right(Hard Times Loop 58-97). Which is where the“luxury cabin tents” are located on a separate loop within. These large cabin tents appear nicely appointed, on an elevated wooden platform with tarred porch.

All four loops have a smattering of all types of sites…some that accommodate trailers, some offer pull-thru drives, some electric and water, some have steps up or down to gravel tent platforms. Something for everybody.

The restroom/shower house in each loop offers four(4) doors on one side. Two(2) outer doors are individual unisex bathrooms and the two(2) inner doors are individual showers. All are spacious, well-maintained and stocked. It was in the low 40’s at night and only the restroom and shower on the left side were heated, the right ones were not. I was advised that this campground and facilities are open year round. We stayed at site 28/29(a shared pull-through). Tents must remain on the gravel pull-through…bent a lot of tent stakes on that one. Water spigots are spaces evenly throughout the loops.

Lake Powhatan itself is a dammed reservoir. A picturesque setting, but more the size of a pond than a lake. There is a nice fishing dock and a separate swimming area. The feeder stream is stocked with rainbow and browns.

Trails abound…for hiking, biking and equestrian. Mountain biking seems all the rage. I was dismayed(as a lifelong cyclist) of the lack of common courtesy trail etiquette…like“on your left” or“passing.” Several bombed by without a word and most are narrow trails. Some education needs to take place.

Speaking of trails, the trailhead maps were not adequately informative and the campground was out of the pocket size. Cell service is pretty nonexistent so you can’t utilize some trail apps unless you preload them…Our campground neighbors got lost mountain biking. Locals know the trails intimately, but visitors do not. One trail leads to the NC Arboretum…a very worthwhile visit!…but is quite lengthy round trip. Tuesday was half off entrance at the arboretum for carloads…quite a deal at$8. Several local Craft breweries and Cider Mills close by…and you couldn’t throw a stone in any direction without hitting a bicycle shop. Shameless plug for the Bold Rock Cider Mill and their food truck…the smokehouse bacon burger and apple-grilled cheese sandwiches were excellent. Asheville has a REI and a Sportsman Warehouse nearby, but my favorite is the Frugal Backpacker(which was sadly closed during this visit).

A Sleeper worth Staying At

South Mountain State Park, NC From I-40 Exit 104, you twist and turn, up and down but keep a sharp eye for the small, brown State Park signs or you’ll pass your right hand turns. 

The South Mountain Visitors Center is very spacious and attractive but doesn’t offer a great deal. There is a cool 3D topo map display of the state park. At present, this is a 23,000 acre State Park…and ever acquiring more land. 

The family campground is a short distance further inside the park on the left side(approx 2 miles) marked by a small brown sign…and is situated at 1400 ft elevation. 

The campground is tiny and narrow, running between a creek and the state park roadway. The sounds of the creek melodious, the road traffic noise-not so much. I would definitely advise selecting the creek side campsites as they lay deeper in the wood line out of sight of the roadway and have the creek noise to cover roadway noise.(note: the roadway dead ends at the trailhead/picnic area, so the only traffic are day visitors and park staff) Be forewarned, Cell service is nonexistent. Your site will have a WiFi password for internet at the Visitors Center, but you need to be at or in the building for it to work. 


•Small campground with few amenities

•Mountain/creek location

•Nice modern facilities


•Adjoining trail network

•No cell service

•80’ Waterfall•Interpretive Hemlock Nature Trail

•Beautiful Day Use picnic area 


•Road noise for sites 10-14, during working hours and day use hours.

•No cell service 

Site 13 backs up toward the roadway, and without much understory, passing traffic is very visible and noisy(the high shoals falls and trail network are popular day use attractions). On the sites between the campground roadway and the State Park roadway, you are much closer than the website maps post, and without understory vegetation, you have direct visibility of several neighbors and normal conversations can be heard. Night noise restrictions, on our visit, were observed so it wasn’t an issue. My visit was Wed, Thurs. midweek Oct 7-8. 

Our site was an“leveling,” octagonal, elevated, crushed gravel pad, surrounded by landscape timbers…an elevated fire ring with a swing-over, non-adjustable grate, a picnic table and metal lantern pole. It worked fine but I used a small two-man tent. Depending on wind direction, fire ring embers would present a problem for a larger tent. Our site parking area was 45’ from the raised timber to campground roadway. 

The restroom/shower house is a monstrous, mountain lodge style modern facility…very clean, spacious and well-stocked. 

Walking the Family Camground my future site picks would be 5 or 7. Site 5 is a park and carry but it did not appear to be more than 50’ and it sat on the creek. Site 7 is on that same small loop but had a larger rectangular raised pad, for keeping tents distanced from fire pits. 

Some sites have a deep enough gravel drive for a small camper or popup. And a few have electric. 

Several trails lead from the NW end of the family campground parking lot and vary in length and difficulty. Most notable is the Raven Rock Trail to the High Shoals Falls Trail, which, depending on your level of fitness could be deemed a moderate to strenuous 2.35 mile climb and descent to the upper falls and then wooden boardwalk and steep steps down to the gorgeous 80 ft High Shoals waterfall. Smaller falls and cascades continue on the descent. Our total loop mileage was 5.5 with nearly a thousand foot of elevation gain. 

Park employees both at the Visitor’s Center desk and in the field were very friendly and pleasant. The NC State Park Ranger was very informative and helpful, as well as giving much appreciated suggestions for great and often lesser traveled hiking trails. 

Roughly 16.5 miles of mountain bike trails intermix with hiking and equestrian trails. There is a separate equestrian campground between the Visitors Center and the Family Campground. Note: there are several backcountry backpack-in campsite areas(Upper Falls Campsites offer picnic tables, fire ring and a couple pit latrines).

A Gem in Need of Repolishing

Carolina Hemlock Campground is a short distance off The Blue Ridge Parkway on 80 towards Micaville. The backcountry mountain roads wind and twist but are purely enjoyable.

Traveling from Linville Falls, we ventured off the parkway and reentered Pisgah National Forest through Micaville. Stopped and picked up a bundle of firewood on 80…what a deal!…$5 for clean, dry firewood.

Though relatively small in size Carolina Hemlock Campground is a highly desirable campground with the lower loop section(1-20) situated directly on the Toe River., and an upper loop(21-37) directly across Rt 80. The Toe River is trout stocked, so it’s a fisherman’s haven. Tubing is also a huge draw. If you desire to camp here, reserve 11 months out or you best arrive early for“first come, first serve”(FCFS) sites middle of the week during the shoulder season. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants and it was fairly empty on a Tuesday morning, mid October after three days of hurricane induced storms. We were in a quandary between site 4 on the River(FCFS) or the upper loop reservable site 30 across Rt 80. We were only staying one night, so we were able to secure site 30 before the reservation arrives on Wednesday.

Ed and John we’re campground hosts. Ed, the lower loop and John the upper loop. Great hosts, no nonsense and expect everyone to abide by the rules so everyone enjoys a good time. The way it should be.

The hosts run the campground office and phone reservations. They do offer a limited selection of camping essentials. They offered the best T-shirt I’ve seen this year, unfortunately pick-ins were slim at year end and they were just for kids.

The lower loop has the modern facility restroom/shower house(two men’s individual restrooms, two men’s individual showers and two women’s individual restrooms and two women’s individual showers) but the upper loop only has two women’s and two men’s individual bathrooms. The lower loop also has a day use picnic area, swimming area and fishing. Day use fees apply. I was advised this campground is sold out between June and end of August…and every weekend from opening mid April to October 30 when they close.

The trail along the river through the campground is flat and peaceful(in mid October), taking you by spectacular scenery, great fishing holes and a particularly nice swimming area. Even mid-October I was tempted to jump in. I can see why this campground is so popular.

PROS:•Beautiful River setting

•Small and comfortable

•Great tubing, fishing and swimming

•Modern facilities

•Cell Service(two bars for T-Mobile)

•Close to Mt Mitchell, BRP, and multiple gorgeous waterfalls


•Cell service

•Appears NFS dollars don’t make it here

•Rt 80 traffic noise

I’m not being negative, but it appears Carolina Hemlock Campground is the proverbial “red-headed stepchild” when it comes to funding. This campground has so much potential! You can tell this was a gem in its day and needs a simple overhaul to bring it back to its former beauty. It’s not for lack of popularity or natural beauty.

Andy Griffith's favorite haunt with Helen Crump

I have driven past geological knob numerous times in my NC travels, but this time I was able to visit. I usually travel 'by the seat of my pants' and hope to find an available site and being early week I was able to easily secure a site.

Of the 42 campsites, less than a dozen were filled, so I had my pick and chose site 25 just to set up and get on the trail before nightfall. Admittedly, I would likely not choose this site again because as a tent camper, the firepit was way too close to both the raised tent pad and the picnic table.

Each campsite has a raised timber, pea gravel tent pad, metal fire ring w/grill and a picnic table. Site 25 tent pad was 10.5' x 11.5' feet.  A water spigot was directly across the parking pad and one of the two showerhouse/restrooms were located a few yards beyond that. It was purely convenience that site 25 was chosen. Restrooms/showers were clean and maintained.

The trail up to the lookouts were dubbed easy to moderate, but they got pretty steep…although, well worth it.  You can avoid all the hiking if you wish and simply drive up to the lookouts. The views were worth the effort.

The new visitor's center is excellent and the displays were very interesting and informative. I mean, really, if it was good enough for Andy and Barney…its good enough for me!

Next visit I plan to stay more nights to explore the area.

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.


  • 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


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


  • 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 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/


  • 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


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


  • 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.


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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 


  • No Cell Service 


  • 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


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. 


  • 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


  • No Cell Service


  • 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. 


  • 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.

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. 


  • 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


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.


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.