It would be so easy to drive right past the turnoff for this park on your way down the coast. I'm glad we didn't make that mistake! The coastline scenery is exceptional, and the park offers a nice variety of activities: beachcombing, short or long hikes, scenic overlooks, paved loops for kids to bike around, and so on. We were lucky enough to see a pod of whales frolicking within easy eyesight of shore, even though it wasn't the whale migration season.
The campsites are tucked into little pockets scattered around the park, which gives it a really nice uncrowded feeling, much better than being shoulder-to-shoulder with every other camper in the place. Highly recommend this park for either a day trip or overnight.
We were checked in an exceedingly pleasant ranger who offered lots of advice and even gave me a free matchbook. The sites were nice, and firewood is $8 for a gigantic bag full of about as much wood as a person can carry. The park itself is very pretty; you'll definitely want to make a drive or hike to see the eponymous Castle Crags. The campground is right near the highway, so you get a little bit of traffic noise, but nothing terrible.
If you're looking to camp directly in groves of giant redwoods, this campground won't satisfy you. It's dense forest, but the trees in the campground are normal-sized trees. If you're dead set on pitching a tent under the giants, you might want to check out Burlington instead.
However, what you get in return at Hidden Springs is a nice secluded experience. Even though there are a ton of sites, most of them are tucked into hillsides, so you'll never see more than a handful of neighbors, if that. If you are looking to pick up two sites for a group, grab #73 and #75. You won't be disappointed.
Two small gripes: the entry kiosk gets backed up with people checking in and the road is too narrow to let other cars who don't need to check in to get past. And firewood is $8 for a small bundle of mediocre wood that's clearly been shipped in commercially, which feels like gouging.
This is the place to go if you want to camp in the redwoods. Most of the sites are nestled right in redwood groves, so you can kick back and enjoy the trees towering overhead. There's also access to the beautiful Smith River, and a walking loop through the day-use area that gets you easy access to some of the biggest trees in the area.
It's a busy campground, but most of the sites are surrounded by thick understory that gives you a measure of privacy. The lower loop (sites 47-58) is along the river flat down the hill. Those sites get prime placement among the biggest trees, but they're much more open.
Bring some bug spray. The mosquitoes got pretty insistent at dusk, though they weren't bad before and after.
My only complaints are that the facilities aren't in top shape (the bathrooms are a little run-down), and the firewood is expensive. I guess that's the price you pay for such a prime location.
The good: Nice clean facilities, free showers with warm water, generally seemed like a well-run campground. Has river access and a nice paved path for walking or cruising around on a bike. Freeway noise, while present, didn't seem too bad.
The bad: This campground, for some reason, seems to attract all the worst sorts of car campers. The blast-loud-music-from-an-idling-car people. The shouted-conversation people. The woefully-unprepared. The weird-hippies-on-a-converted-school-bus. The arguing-couple. The uncontrolled-children. They're all present, and there's almost no separation between the sites, so if your neighbors are annoying people you're going to share in the experience. This place is fine as a convenient stopover, but If you're going camping to seek solitude and appreciate the wonders of nature, this is not the campground for you.
I know the pictures are hard to believe, but yes, it's really that pretty! The campground is situated right next to a beautifully clear blue river and wooded hillsides—perfect for early morning serenity. Most of the sites are very near to each other without dividers, which could make it feel a little crowded if the campground gets full. But if you show up on a non-peak day and get lucky, you might just have the whole thing to yourself! If you do come on a busy time, look for the site past a big log at the very far end of the loop. It's all by itself which would provide some nice separation if you need it, plus it's invisible from the road so it might not be claimed yet!
There's no potable water, but the river is clear enough that you could easily boil or purify as much as you need. The vault toilets were nice and clean and pleasant. They didn't seem to have any firewood available at the campground, so you might want to plan ahead on that. There were a few bugs when we were there in late May, but nothing terrible.
Easily worth a visit! This is camping the way it's supposed to be—quiet, pretty, and just a little rough.
This campground is definitely off the main drag. It's not quite 4WD territory, but you will spend some time on a twisting bumpy dirt road to get there. Given that, we were surprised when we arrived to see that the campground was still almost full (we were, admittedly, visiting on a peak fall weekend). Despite being full, we found this campground to be much quieter than those lakeside. Maybe the folks dedicated enough to come up to Hanna Flat are cut from better cloth.
The grounds themselves are nice, if not exceptional. There's some hiking/biking trails available right from the campground, which is delightful, and the surrounding land was quite pretty.
The grounds are very pretty, and it's conveniently located a short walk from the lake by paved trail, plus near everything else Big Bear has to offer. These perks come at a price, though, and it was very busy and as a result, noisy. All the usual annoyances of car camping may rear their heads, and there's little separation from your neighbors so if you are unlucky you might suffer a little. This would be a stellar place in the off-season, but at any popular times the crowds pull it down to merely okay.