Derek E.

Fredericksburg, VA

Joined August 2018

Off the beaten path NOVA campground

I spoke with Steve, the owner for the past 20 years, and this campground has some significant history that goes along with it including the river facing campground used as a crossing point during the civil war. He specifically mentioned that Custer came through for which Steve has documented in a book he wrote about his 50 acre estate.

The area of the campground is deep in the woods with the only audible intrusion coming from the infrequent airplane or helicopter passing by.

I slept in campground 37 which is in the area closest to the river. There are some other sites (1-15) that are further up the hill. The river side campground has sites that line the perimeter of a large oval opening in the trees near the water. Some sites are wooded (37 was the most wooded with the ability to handle a few tents) with half of the sites along the river bank.

In general, you are open to the other sites which is not my cup of tea, hence I selected site 37. If this were a big group outing, then I think I'd prefer to hangout closer to everyone else especially since the stargazing through the hole in the trees was very nice.

The bathrooms are more like outhouses and the showers are a drive from the campground. Steve said the showers had hot water from propane, but I stayed overnight only and didn't try them out.

I purchased 10 large pieces of wood for $5 which is a way better deal than any of the places where I live and a few more pieces than the national parks/state parks offer for that price. That was nice burning the fire late into the night.

The area is quiet and a nice drive from local worries and stresses.

Best KOA I've been to. Period

Without going into the plethora of reasons that you should visit Yellowstone, let me say that this campground stands on its own as a family-approved space. The views are fantastic (can you go wrong out in that part of the country) and the amenities are unparalleled in a campground.

There is every type of facility that you can imagine: washing, hot showers, dining, store, indoor heated pool, hot tub, etc. I mean, is this even camping? I was less than impressed with those features when we arrived and more with the fact that I was with my teenage daughter, younger brother, and father to see Yellowstone NP, but boy did that indoor pool and come in handy when it rained and got a bit chilly. The hot tub helped ease the hiking woes my body was taking in from the long hikes in the area.

Did you know there are so many stars? You feel like you can see them all from that darn KOA. The energy of the campground is palpable as the sites are only separated by a rustic wood fence. It is a busy place, so I was okay with that part. These days I prefer to be away from everyone or at least further 10', but my daughter loved it.

The main thing here is that I would recommend staying within Yellowstone if that is your purpose of your visit. It does book up fast, though, so this is still a viable option. I think we paid more for the KOA site vs. Grant Campground at the southern end of Yellowstone a couple of years later, but there is no comparison to what people paid to stay in town near the West Gate to YNP.

Oh, be ready for a LOOOONNGG wait at the YNP gate and DEFINITELY have your annual pass already purchased. We had a pass so we were able to skip about 30 minutes of a waiting to get in, but you still need to navigate four roads converging 1-2 miles out from the park's entrance. You've been warned.

Great little KOA

Let me start by saying that I'm not a huge fan of the KOA campgrounds, so take my star rating with a grain of salt. Having said that, this is a cute little campground.

We were towards the back of the campsites, but there is really nothing out there to block your view. It is WIDE OPEN, let me tell you. Only a short drive from Great Sand Dunes NP, we found the location to be ideal plus we got some late night pizza ordered up which is saying a lot out there.

Staff was very helpful and the guests were even nicer. I'd have no problem going back to this site. I'd try for the National Park first, but this one was just fine. Amenities were better than most NP or SP's I've visited since, but again that is a trade-off for being closer to the action.

Oh, and bring your Elmer Fudd accent. This place is overrun with rabbits. Not a bad animal as far as infestations go.

Perfect way to visit Mount Rushmore

This campground is VERY close to Mt. Rushmore and is a perfect location for simple hikes leading up to the big show. The terrain around the park is generally rocky with dramatic changes in elevation, but this campground feels level (for the most part). Our tent was a bit off angle, but we didn't notice it much after such an exhausting day running around and seeing the sites.

We were closer to the loop near the water which I recommend as that view is something to relish. The road heading to MR is close by, so you will get some road noise. Restrooms were meh, but they got the job done.

This place is really meant, in my eyes, for people that want to be close too Rushmore while still getting the thrill of hiking the Black Hills.

A hidden gem in Northern Colorado

My family stumbled on to this campground while trying to find overnight accommodations between the Sand Dunes NP and Yellowstone's West Gate. We stayed at a KOA the night before and we were heading to another KOA outside YNP and oh boy did I love this site! Coming from someone who had never camped at the time, KOAs seemed a logical first step. This was a campground that made me want to truly embrace the park system that our country has done so well with.

The first thing you can say about staying anywhere in the Rockies is that your views are impressive. We faced our tent to take advantage of the view out of our front door. We got in a bit late, but still made a very interesting Ranger led presentation at the amphitheater regarding deer and elk.

I woke up to views of the mountains, an abundance of wildflowers up to my shoulders, and a brief walk to watch the lake's natural beauty unfold while sipping on some coffee.

I wish I could have stayed longer and so will you.

Teddy Roosevelt Would Be Proud

We stayed here over one night while driving from Wisconsin out to Glacier National Park. This campsite is on the southern end of the park close to I-94 exit.

I just love this place! The feel of the park is unlike anything I've experienced in that it is expansive, rough, beautiful, unforgiving, and remarkably unforgettable.

Keep these things in mind:

  1. This campground has amenities that are not kept up very well. Toilets are on the dirty side with outside critters coming inside.
  2. There is a sense of roughing it even without being out there all alone. This isn't a "pretty park," but rather a natural park.
  3. You will see Bison and you will see prairie dogs. All other wild beasts are hit or miss. The prairie dog fields are beyond belief in their quantity. I mean there are a TON of PDs.

The families that were there were nice and talkative if you engaged them. Truly a pleasant experience.

Do yourself a favor and drive/hike the park before it opens to the public. Unabated driving for the views is worth it and only compliments your morning Joe.

Yellowstone's Southern Campground

When driving out West for a family camping summer trip, we decided to spend a couple of days at Yellowstone. We saw Bison (not Buffalo per my daughter), elk, deer, wolves, and tons of smaller animals. This was my second trip to the park (I'm out near DC) and, while you can't go wrong with Yellowstone's wide variance in sites and things to do, this review will be on the Grant Campground as I'm sure there are other resources for the entire park.

The first time I visited Yellowstone, we stayed at a KOA near the West Gate. While I remember that trip fondly, I found that KOA appeals to a different type of traveler. One that is okay with being "closer" to nature without losing any of the frills of a home. The real bugger about it was that we had to wait about 45 minutes for the line getting into the park. I knew I wanted to be inside from that point on and the location of Grant really sells itself here. Essentially, the park is free to roam around if you stay within its boundaries before the gates open to the public.

By staying on the southern side of the park, you get to explore the area around Yellowstone Lake, specifically the West Thumb. There are active geysers which smell of sulfur, but nothing I noticed near the campground.

The campground itself was VERY busy compared to every other place we stayed. Hey, it's Yellowstone and that was to be expected. Just give yourself plenty of time to settle in. We were in line for over an hour getting checked-in. I'm not sure how normal that was, but it was the middle of August.

The generators and the RVs with their TVs, radios, etc. were TOO LOUD for our taste. I felt like our tent was on top of the next site, but that could be because every other National Park I've stayed at has had at least 30' between my tent and someone else's. The close confines, though, helped us out in the end as there were a few wolves that came through the campground at night. Still, I prefer to "get away" from those things when I camp. Just me, I suppose.

The summer was still chilly enough for us to need long john's and a knit cap. The facilities were awesome throughout the park and Grant was no different. There were over 20 showers available, but they were tiny. Think the size of a regular bathroom stall sans the toilet. Food, supplies, and wood were all easy to get to, but pricier than other places. You HAVE to try the Bison Burgers if you are a meat eater.

The layout of Yellowstone let's you drive in a figure eight and you should probably give yourself a couple of days minimum to see the sites. I loved that the southern gate is less busy than the others. I believe that is because driving south essentially takes you to another awesome park, Grand Teton National Park. There really is a cool feeling you get being close to water when the day winds down.

I would say that you may want to consider Lewis Lake campground if you are comfortable staying even further south. It's a bit less busy, but Lewis Lake was probably the prettiest body of water I saw the whole time in Yellowstone. Still, Grant did a great job for our time there.

Good weekend getaway outside of the summertime

The campground is well off the main road which means you have very little noise and light pollution. We camped in our smaller tent and had the rain fly off so we could stare at the stars all night. It was awesome.

The sites feel close together and many are exposed albeit a few seem sectioned off. We came in the summer and those trees helped create a cozier feel, but we could definitely see people and hear everyone else's conversations. In fact, there was a lodge about 400' away from our campsite and we could hear them until around 10pm. Seemed like a younger crowd, so no harm no foul.

It was insanely hot when we went. Something like 100% humidity and 93 F in the day. It only got down to 74 F at night which meant we were constantly sweating unless we were in front of our little battery powered fan. Oh, that sweet little fan paid for itself. Honestly, it was so hot I think we could have easily called it quits after the first night.

The lake is a 15 minute walk down a clear trail called Campground Walkway Trail. There is a pretty intense climb that is much harder coming back, so probably best to leave the flip flops and go shoes or hiking sandals. The trail takes you to a semi-private beach. It is close to the main beach, but it is separated by a wall. The real treat is if you take the loop along the water called the Railroad Ford Trail. It's 1.5 miles that takes you along a gentle slope along the water. That's where I took my pics hanging the hammock.

The boat traffic was LOUD and could be heard all the way at our camp site. They really know how to start early and stay late.

Wildlife is minimal including snakes. The campground host said a woman was bit by a copperhead recently on her exposed big toe. There are quite a few spiders since you are so close to the water, but the insects were not bad within the campground. A couple got into the tent, but I didn't dare tell the wife.

The campground hosts checked in frequently and were VERY nice. The showers were free and expansive. There was even a coke machine with many outlets for people to charge their devices.

Overall, this was a good campsite that will be better suited to Spring/Autumn weather conditions. If you are going to get in the water, try and stay somewhere else unless the weather cools down while you are there or you have a way to escape the heat.

Awesome Campground in Shenandoah National Park

This campground is perfect for those looking to just get away from things for a couple of days. The drive in from Swift Run Gap or the South Entrance is fairly easy, but off the road enough that you won't hear traffic. The roads within the campground are curvy enough to encourage people to go slow. Also, most sites are hedged on all sides with woods, boulders, and bushes except for the road side.

I've only car camped here, but there were plenty of people hiking into their sites. Those sites look far more remote and peaceful than the car camping, but having a potty-training 1-year old, I opted for a site close to the restrooms. We were actually right next to one and the sounds were a bit bothersome to me, but it was a great trade off for the family.

This is bear country and we saw a few bears lolly gagging in the area. They were curious and never posed a danger from what we could sense. If you are comfortable with being close to a more docile black bear, then you'll get your chance out here. Having said that, keep your food in a bear bag or in your car. DO NOT leave it in a rag top Jeep/car as I've had a friend replace their Wrangler roof after it was torn into by a bear smelling food.

The camp store is loaded with everything you need from food to needed gear. Plus, the showers are a couple of bucks in quarters for 5 minutes and they are far cleaner than I've experienced out West.

There is not a gas station close by, so be sure to have at least a half tank when you arrive. I'm sure the rangers would assist, but just not worth it if you can prepare.

There is a short hike (around 1 mile) called Frazier Discover Trail. It starts at a Wayside point at the turn off for the campground from Skyline Drive. It's got a nice incline, but the views are worth it.

My favorite part with the family was the Saturday night Ranger presentation. The location of the presentation allows you to get FANTASTIC views of the sunset while learning about mushrooms, local wildlife, or something else the rangers make interesting. You've got to make the sunset to make it worth it.

This was my second stay at Loft Mountain and I'd do it again.

Great Camping for Groups

I recently stayed in Big Meadows campground at Shenandoah and it was right in the heart of everything I wanted to do with my group. You have an similar drive from either end of the park as well as if you enter from Thornton Gap or Swift Run Gap. It's really in the middle of it all.

The sites are generally wooded with facilities relatively close to all sites. There was a bit of traffic going until 10pm as it is a busier campsite, but I didn't mind as we were looking at some amazing stars with a fire pit and a beer until we crashed.

Many campers hiked right out of their sites on to the Appalachian Trail which seemed awesome, but there are also more than 20 great hiking trips within a drive of less than 20 minutes either North or South on Skyline Drive.

Big Meadows lodge is very close which offered a nice restaurant when we didn't want to cook. There is also a gas station, store, and hot showers within the Big Meadows area making this convenient if you need anything that you left at home. Also, Skyland (no campground) was a short drive away and offered horseback riding as well as some pub nightlife.