the dyrt
Jen G.
Sandy, UT
Joined June 2016
Hi there! I'm Jen. I blog for The Wild Groves, and I am OBSESSED with road trips and national parks- especially together, and with lots of camping!
Gorgeous Uinta Haven

Lost Creek is the only campground in the High Uintas with reliable potable water, but even without it this gorgeous place it absolutely worth staying in!

There are multiple lakes near Lost Creek, for plenty of fishing and water activities, as well as a stream running through the campground! There are picnic tables and fire rings at every site, and the driveway types vary between pull throughs and back-ins, so definitely very RV and trailer friendly like most of the campgrounds in the Uintas.

Both the pit toilets and the bear-proof dumpsters are much larger here than at the other campgrounds in the Uintas we've seen, but this is one of the larger campgrounds as well.

During the day and ESPECIALLY in the evening, the mosquitoes are pretty intense throughout the whole summer. If you're planning to spend a lot of time outside of your tent (which you should!), bring lots of bugspray and citronella candles! We saw several people with screen tents over their picnic tables, which we thought was pretty brilliant.

There are also bears in the High Uintas and there are not bear vaults in the campsites, so plan to keep your food IN THE CAR except when you're eating it!

Lost Creek is a great hub for lots of activities in the Uintas, and a great place to camp!

Lovely Campground Near Entrance to Uinta National Forest

We visited Soapstone Campground in mid-July and the weather was perfect! The sites are well spaced and large, with lots of trees to provide good shade and adequate privacy from neighbors. There are pit toilets and dumpsters spaced well throughout the campground, and the dirt road throughout is very well maintained.

Each campsite has a picnic table and a fire ring. You'll need to bring your own water, and the only opportunity to refill your jugs is either at Lost Creek campground farther up the Mirror Lake Highway (to the east), or back in town in Kamas (to the west). Bring more than you think you'll need!

During the day and ESPECIALLY in the evening, the mosquitoes are pretty intense throughout the whole summer. If you're planning to spend a lot of time outside of your tent (which you should!), bring lots of bugspray and citronella candles! We saw several people with screen tents over their picnic tables, which we thought was pretty brilliant.

There are also bears in the High Uintas and there are not bear vaults in the campsites, so plan to keep your food IN THE CAR except when you're eating it!

Overall a really excellent campground for a great little escape close to SLC.

5 Star Campground, 0 Star Heat

We stayed at Atlatl Rock campground pretty briefly at the beginning of May. Due to a variety of circumstances, we got on the road much later than we anticipated and arrived super late, and when we got there it was so hot that we hardly slept and left fairly soon after sunrise. It really is a shame, because it was absolutely stunning and the campground itself was excellent.

The campsites all have covered picnic areas (awesome), potable water spigots (ultra awesome), firepits, and grills. In the winter/fall/spring, I think this would be probably one of the coolest places in the entire world to camp. But when we were there? It was honestly unbearably hot. It was 92 degrees at 2am, and none of us slept (especially our poor puppy, who had never camped before and is still learning how to deal with being uncomfortable) more than a few hours at maximum. I was certainly envious of all of the people in their campers with their air conditioning running!

The bathrooms are large and clean, and there are plentiful showers (which were closed when we were there, or I would've taken an icy cold shower in an attempt to cool down). Amenity wise, this campground is pretty much the tops, and I know the campground has no control over the temperature, but it definitely had a huge impact on our experience. We already have plans to go back in the winter (REAL, ACTUAL winter) to be able to genuinely enjoy it!

5 Star Camping, but 0 Star Heat

We stayed at Atlatl Rock campground pretty briefly at the beginning of May. Due to a variety of circumstances, we got on the road much later than we anticipated and arrived super late, and when we got there it was so hot that we hardly slept and left fairly soon after sunrise. It really is a shame, because it was absolutely stunning and the campground itself was excellent.

The campsites all have covered picnic areas (awesome), potable water spigots (ultra awesome), firepits, and grills. In the winter/fall/spring, I think this would be probably one of the coolest places in the entire world to camp. But when we were there? It was honestly unbearably hot. It was 92 degrees at 2am, and none of us slept (especially our poor puppy, who had never camped before and is still learning how to deal with being uncomfortable) more than a few hours at maximum. I was certainly envious of all of the people in their campers with their air conditioning running!

The bathrooms are large and clean, and there are plentiful showers (which were closed when we were there, or I would've taken an icy cold shower in an attempt to cool down). Amenity wise, this campground is pretty much the tops, and I know the campground has no control over the temperature, but it definitely had a huge impact on our experience. We already have plans to go back in the winter (REAL, ACTUAL winter) to be able to genuinely enjoy it!

Fun and Chilly Adventures!

We LOVED this campground (even though we froze our butts off)! We stayed here on the very first day of fall and it was absolutely gorgeous.

In the tent loop we stayed in (Navajo) there's a variation of how the sites are set up. Our site was set up with the parking area up above, with steps down into the gambel oak grove where the tent pad and picnic table were. We really loved this setup, and it was really nice to feel a little more secluded from our neighbors than other sites in the campground.

The bathrooms are well spaced and clean, and we're fairly certain that the Wi-Fi routers in the campground were in the bathroom buildings. If we stayed there for a longer amount of time where we'd need to be working, we would probably consider staying in a site closer to the bathroom for better Wi-Fi signal. But for our relatively short (and work-free) stay, it was fine.

There are showers and laundry located in the main building near the camp store /cafe (where they have breakfast in the mornings, yum). The showers are free, and the laundry is very reasonably priced. The showers, though, at least in the fall, weren't my favorite. The ceiling is very high, and the changing area has no real separation from the shower itself, which makes showers pretty chilly as the water and water vapor has to heat up a much larger area than a smaller shower area. I think when we go back, we might try to rig our own shower curtain with suction cups or something to keep the shower a little warmer. Our second night there it had rained all day and the temperature dropped pretty rapidly once the sun went down (it dropped below freezing overnight, we had to make an emergency stop at Walmart to buy more warm bedding as the lowest it had been the rest of our trip was 51!), and a nice hot shower helped warm us up (especially in the morning) but it would've been nicer if there had been a shower curtain. I'm sure it's just a pain to keep shower curtains clean, but it would make a huge difference, especially in the "shoulder" seasons.

There is also gas at the camp store, but it costs a fortune. Fill up in Cortez before heading up onto the mesa and you shouldn't need any gas while in the park. There are also free dump/fill stations for RVs, which is definitely handy. It's definitely worth it to stay in this campground up on the mesa rather than having to drive back down to Cortez every night.

Overall we really enjoyed this campground and are hoping to go back soon!

WonderFALL

We LOVED this campground (even though we froze our butts off)! We stayed here on the very first day of fall and it was absolutely gorgeous.

In the tent loop we stayed in (Navajo) there's a variation of how the sites are set up. Our site was set up with the parking area up above, with steps down into the gambel oak grove where the tent pad and picnic table were. We really loved this setup, and it was really nice to feel a little more secluded from our neighbors than other sites in the campground.

The bathrooms are well spaced and clean, and we're fairly certain that the Wi-Fi routers in the campground were in the bathroom buildings. If we stayed there for a longer amount of time where we'd need to be working, we would probably consider staying in a site closer to the bathroom for better Wi-Fi signal. But for our relatively short (and work-free) stay, it was fine.

There are showers and laundry located in the main building near the camp store /cafe (where they have breakfast in the mornings, yum). The showers are free, and the laundry is very reasonably priced. The showers, though, at least in the fall, weren't my favorite. The ceiling is very high, and the changing area has no real separation from the shower itself, which makes showers pretty chilly as the water and water vapor has to heat up a much larger area than a smaller shower area. I think when we go back, we might try to rig our own shower curtain with suction cups or something to keep the shower a little warmer. Our second night there it had rained all day and the temperature dropped pretty rapidly once the sun went down, and a nice hot shower helped warm us up (especially in the morning) but it would've been nicer if there had been a shower curtain. I'm sure it's just a pain to keep shower curtains clean, but it would make a huge difference, especially in the "shoulder" seasons.

There is also gas at the camp store, but it costs a fortune. Fill up in Cortez before heading up onto the mesa and you shouldn't need any gas while in the park. There are also free dump/fill stations for RVs, which is definitely handy.

Overall we really enjoyed this campground and are hoping to go back soon!

You Get What You Pay For!

Rating this place was a little bit tricky. I can't really give it four stars because there are ZERO amenities here, BUT this place is completely free. Yep, you heard me, F R E E. Bear this in mind as you contemplate staying here.

We stayed here overnight before heading into Petrified Forest. The nearest official campground is the KOA in Holbrook, and they wanted to charge me an arm and a leg to camp there. Don't get me wrong, I don't have any problems with KOAs in general, I just wasn't that interested in paying 30 bucks to pitch my tent in an RV park, when there was another option that was closer to the park and, you know, not $30. Plus, I won't lie, there's a part of me that loves to discover little off the beaten path places (some of which may even earn the moniker "sketchy"), especially on road trips. So I figured, oh, what the heck, why not?

You really can't be any closer to Petrified Forest without being in the park, where you have to camp in the backcountry (which is totally, completely, 100% recommended by the way). Night time is a wee bit tricky as the restrooms are in the gift shop that closes at night (but both are owned by the same people??). But, whatever. We were prepared for that in advance. There's also no potable water, so prepare for that as well.

Other than that, this place really isn't that bad. It's quiet (almost eerily so), reasonably well kept, and abounding in quirkiness. If you're in an RV and can handle a night of essentially boondocking, stay here! There are covered picnic tables, cement tipis, very strange dinosaur sculptures, and a LOT of free petrified wood, which is totally fine to snag as it's outside of the park. This was a fun addition to our road trip, and I will definitely stay here again for the accessibility, the price, and the kitsch.

Perfect Campground for South Rim Exploration

We stayed at Mather Campground in mid-September, and the weather was (mostly) perfect! The park itself and the campground were fairly calm by Grand Canyon standards, and the campground especially was very quiet. We stayed in Juniper Loop, which is a tent-only nonelectric loop. We definitely saw our fair share of vans and small RVs, but we didn't hear a single generator, which is always a plus!

The campground itself is very accessible to most of the activities on the South Rim, and there are shuttle stops near the campground if you choose to take the shuttles rather than driving your own car (a good idea, especially in the summer when the park is PACKED). There are nice big concrete picnic tables (which I like, because you can actually clean if you spill or there's bird poo) and nice fire rings in every site. The roads throughout the campground, including parking areas at each site, are paved.

We were there right in the middle of the elk rut, and it was fun to hear elk bugling and see them wandering through the campground. When we went to shower one morning there was a bull elk hanging out in the parking lot too!

The bathroom facilities here are flush toilets, and the bathrooms are kept clean and well-stocked. The shower facilities are coin operated, but clean and warm and well planned out with good curtains between the actual shower area and the changing area. The coin operated laundry is in the same building as the showers, near the entrance to the campground.

The only bummer we personally experienced was that it started raining early (4am ish) on the day we left, and continued to rain for the rest of the day. This certainly isn't a reflection on the campground at all, in fact the hosts were very generous about letting us stay a little past normal checkout time to see if it would clear up and allow our tent to dry before putting it away. We were a little surprised to experience so much rain, but we still had a great time at the park!

First to Review
Ranger Review: Saris Freedom Superclamp 2 at Moosehorn Campground

Campground Review:

First of all, this campground has to be in the top three coolest campgrounds we've ever been to. It's right on the edge of Moosehorn Lake, and our site had a trail right down to the lake. It's well-forested, so you don't feel like you're right on top of your neighborhoods. The pit toilets are well placed throughout the campground and well cared for (and they didn't stink at all when we were there, which is a huge plus). Even though it's right off of the Mirror Lake Highway, it feels very secluded and is very quiet. The stars are also pretty amazing here!

A few things to note- there is not potable water available throughout most of the High Uintas, so come prepared with your own water. There is a water filling station at somewhat-nearby Lost Creek campground, and the water there is clean and cold (a bonus during the Utah summer heat). The mosquitoes here are also absolutely atrocious, especially in the sites by the lake. Bring lots of bug spray, citronella candles, and anti-itch cream, because you WILL get bitten. This campground is also at a fairly high elevation (nearly 11,000 feet) so if you are prone to elevation sickness, be aware of that.

Come prepared also for FUN! The High Uintas are an absolute playground for all sorts of activities. We (okay, I, my husband hiked with the pup) did a lot of mountain and road biking (the Mirror Lake Highway is in great condition since it is closed all winter and doesn't get destroyed by plows), and are planning to return ASAP with kayaks/SUPs to play on Moosehorn Lake or any of the nearly countless lakes in the Uintas. We foolishly forgot our fishing poles, so we didn't have an opportunity to experience the reportedly excellent fishing. Sometimes we get so caught up in our love for the national parks that we forget that some of our best opportunities are close to home (roughly 90-120 minutes from our home south of Salt Lake City)! We had a great time and are already planning our trip back.

Product Review:

As Rangers for the Dyrt, we get products to test from time to time on our camping trips. This was one trip that I was super excited for, since we got to try out the Saris Freedom Superclamp 2. From my long history in outdoor retail I have a lot of experience with bike racks of varying brands, so it was fun to put a rack through its paces. From the get-go I was really surprised at how light it was! Even my UPS driver commented on it when he dropped it off. Setup was a super breeze (though I'll note that we couldn't find our standard size hex key which was problematic for taking the 2" shim off when we wanted to use it on our 1 1/4" hitch- not a big deal in the long run) and the fact that it came with a lock for the hitch pin was a nice bonus that we'll likely use even beyond the bike rack.

Since I planned to do some road biking and mountain biking, I got to see how the Freedom Superclamp handles bikes of differing sizes. I have a 19" Kona 29er, and a 58cm Fuji road bike, and their wheel bases are definitely a bit different. It took a little bit of adjusting to get everything just right, but the wheel trays slide very easily along the main bar of the rack, and tighten down with a super user-friendly tightener. The only slightly tricky bit was getting the arms of the rack over the 29 inch mountain bike wheels, and I've definitely wondered if it would be a struggle to get them over large fat tire bikes (which are very popular here in Utah in the winter). Overall though, it was insanely easy to use and I've been really happy with it.

Pros:

  • I really like that this rack has arms for both front and back wheels, even if it makes it a little trickier with two bikes of differing sizes. Most other brands will only have an arm for the front wheel and a ratcheting strap for the back wheel. I'm not saying that doesn't work, but I personally prefer having both wheels secured by arms. If you have bikes that have very different wheelbases, this could cause issues, but for the two of us, who will only be carrying adult bikes that don't vary much in wheelbase size, it's not an issue.
  • the buttons on this rack are BRIGHT YELLOW. Coming back from an evening ride it was nice to be able to see them even though the light was dying pretty fast. Maybe a superfluous pro, but one I appreciated nonetheless
  • Saris provides a decal for you to put on your rack so you know exactly how far into your hitch receiver you need to put it to be able to put the pin in. I love when things are uncomplicated without me having to MacGyver some sort of solution (like scratching the paint off or using unsightly duct tape). A+ on that one, Saris!
  • The arms themselves and the wheel holders on the arms having ratcheting systems is really nice. It's satisfying to hear that "click" and know the rack is locked in place exactly where you want it.
  • Having arms that only come in contact with the wheels as opposed to the frame is a huge bonus, especially for those with nice carbon frame bikes.
  • This rack is compatible with both 1 1/4" and 2" hitch receivers, which is a huge bonus as our vehicles have different hitch sizes, so we can use them on either car.
  • The hitch pin lock and the bike cable locks are super easy to use, and have the same key- easy peasy!

Cons:

  • I really, really wish this rack folded up. Yes, it admittedly is pretty small, but we have super limited parking space at our house (a single-wide driveway with two SUVs AND a 15' travel trailer… it's a squeeze) so I would have really loved for this rack to be able to fold up and give me an extra foot or so of room before I have to be concerned about hanging out into the sidewalk. This one is just me being nitpicky, really.
  • I also feel like this rack puts the bikes a little high, and it makes it hard to access the back of the car. If the bikes were even 4-6 inches lower (straight out from the hitch as opposed to raised) we'd be able to get the glass portion of our liftgate open, which would be really nice. The bikes also take up essentially the entirety of the rearview mirror as high as they are, which isn't a huge deal but I'd prefer them to be a little lower.
  • Getting the arms to match up with bikes of different wheelbases was a little tricky, and would be a lot more difficult if you were trying to, say, do a small women's bike and a large men's bike (or a large women's bike, I suppose) at the same time. I like having both wheels have arms, but I could definitely see how it could make this rack tricky to work with for some people.

Overall, I was really happy with the rack, AND the campground, and I will whole-heartedly recommend them both!

Ranger Review: Boost Oxygen at Furnace Creek, CA

Campground Review:

There's really no other way to put it- camping in Death Valley kind of sucks.The ground is harder than concrete (almost), it's hotter than Hades (I mean, I guess… I hear Hades is quite warm), and it's generally not a particularly relaxing experience (I suppose it might be better in the winter… so go in the winter).

That being said, the NPS has done a fairly decent job making this campground reasonably comfortable. There are water stations throughout, clean bathrooms, and as much shade as can reasonably be expected - though personally I'd love to see an implementation of the covering they used in the parking lot in the campground. We've stayed in many campgrounds throughout the west with covered areas and I think it would have a huge impact on the campgrounds at Death Valley.

Personally, I would say that if you plan on camping in Death Valley, you should either plan on visiting in the winter, or bringing an RV. The RV sites at Furnace Creek are excellent, with nice pull-throughs and a good amount of space. That, or bring along a homemade swamp cooler or air conditioner of some type, because otherwise you're likely to be quite miserable. (Just being honest! And I do recognize we're pretty crazy for camping there in the first place.)

Product Review:

As Rangers for The Dyrt, we get products to test from time to time, and while in Death Valley we tested out Boost Oxygen. We specifically tried out the peppermint flavor, as it boasted a "cooling" sensation. I'll admit I went into this demo a little skeptical- but I was pleasantly surprised. It may have been my mind playing tricks on me, but I felt much more awake and energized after inhaling the oxygen. This was extremely helpful on the long drive home to Utah when the sun went down and I was TIRED.

We tried the larger bottle and the smaller bottle, and I think the larger bottle is easier to inhale from, but the smaller bottle fits more easily in a backpack or camera bag. I think this is a great addition to a hiking pack, especially for those who live at higher altitudes like we do! You never know when a hike might hit you, and it never hurts to carry a little bonus oxygen, especially when it's INSANELY light.

Ranger Review: Optic Nerve Sunglasses at Cachuma Lake Recreation Area, CA

Campground Review:

This would be the most epic campground ever for a huge family reunion! There is something for everyone here- RV sites, tent sites, cabins, yurts, even big group sites. There are tent sites overlooking Lake Cachuma, and tent sites in the shady grass, and almost everything in between. There's a dog park, and playgrounds, and a pool (since you can't swim in the lake because it's drinking water… which was strange to us as Utahns when all reservoirs are drinking water and we still swim in them), and a general store! There are close to 200 sites here, which is mind-boggling to me. It was an awesome campground, and we were cooking up plans for a someday party (be it friends or family) there.

The restrooms are plentiful and clean, the quiet hours are well observed (though that may have had more to do with the fact that the campground was pretty empty while we were there), and the facilities are reasonably easy to navigate. Every employee we interacted with was helpful and professional. We rented kayaks for several hours while we were there and it was a blast! This place is a perfect little getaway a super reasonable distance from Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas.

My only complaints were mostly about the tent sites. Some of them are a little too smashed together with unclear boundaries, and the footing consisted of kind of icky weeds. I know, it's me being absurdly nitpicky. But I can't give EVERY campground 5 stars… right..?

Product Review:

As Rangers for The Dyrt, we get products to test from time to time, and at Lake Cachuma we tested out some Optic Nerve sunglasses. We used them throughout our trip, but they came in especially handy while kayaking! The morning started out a little cloudy so we were worried that we wouldn't get a real opportunity to use them, but the sun eventually came out and the sunglasses were PERFECT. The pairs we got were polarized, which was great for cutting glare from the water (as well as driving throughout our whole road trip. The sunglasses were comfortable and seemed high quality, which was great considering they're nowhere near as spendy as some of the high-end brands of sunglasses. I'll admit I was too much of a wuss to see if they'd float in the lake, but they were awesome for keeping our eyes safe and protected (from the sun and from splashes)! If I had to have any gripe it would be that the wood grain print on the sunglasses I got (which I love) is pretty pixelated up close- completely a non-issue that only affects aesthetics, but might look better with a higher resolution for future printings.

Pro Tip for Hungry Adventurers: DO NOT MISS Cold Spring Tavern just up the highway from Lake Cachuma. Delicious food, atmosphere that is simply out of this world, and a gorgeous setting. Seriously. Don't miss it. And if you live in Santa Barbara and you've never been… GO. NOW. You won't regret it.

Ranger Review: OOFOS Sandals at Indian Cove, CA

Campground Review:

We came into this camping trip expecting three things- 1. It was going to be hot, 2. The ground was going to be hard, and 3. It was going to be windy.

All three of those things were mostly true. When we first arrived on Saturday around noon, it was definitely hot, and definitely windy. We'd come prepared for the ground to be hard and bought new MSR Ground Hog stakes and a stake mallet. Say what you want, but that mallet is a game changer! Seriously, I don't know what took us so long to get one, but I'll never go back to the BAR method (Big A** Rock, haha).

What I wasn't quite expecting, and maybe I'll sound like a noob but I was in "hot southern California" mode, was how cold it would get at night. Our first night there dropped into the low 40s and felt even colder with the wind. We're not exactly strangers to the high desert coming from Utah, but I'll admit I wasn't as prepared as I probably should have been. I think when we go back we'll either bring a sunshade with a wind blocking wall (staked down to the max, our neighbors almost lost theirs) or just be spoiled and bring our camper. The first night we spent very little time outside of the tent once our food was finished cooking, and when we were outside it was a little miserable.

The next couple of days were a lot more manageable, as it was less hot and as a result less windy overall (less dramatic of a temperature swing). Our second night was windless and reasonably warm (in the 50s) and was generally pretty perfect.

My favorite thing about this campground was the huge rock formations spread throughout. It was a great source of entertainment for the kids in the campsite next to ours, as well as for me and our puppy. The campground was also big enough that we could walk our puppy plenty and tire him out without having to leave the campground.

The two things I didn't love are the fact that there is no water in the campground (understandable, and not something I think should change, but still kind of a pain), and that on the hot days the pit toilets were absolutely rank. I know it's a fine line to walk between accessibility to the campsites and not being so close that they make all of the campsites stink, but I felt like these were too far on the "too close to the campsites" side of things. I know pit toilets aren't perfect and sometimes there's just no way to avoid the smell, but this one seemed especially bad to me. Those two things combined are the only reason my review of the campground was bumped down to 4 stars instead of 5- overall it was a great experience and we had an AWESOME campsite, plus you can never go wrong with a guaranteed campsite in a park where most campgrounds are FCFS (Indian Cove is one of only 2 reservable campgrounds in Joshua Tree, and the better of the two in my opinion.)

Product Review:

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time, and on this trip my husband and I tested some Oofos sandals. I'll admit without shame that when I pulled them out of the box and squeezed them, I actually did say, "OOOOOH!" They are super cushy! We used them in the mornings when we needed to let our puppy out of the tent, and when we got back to camp after a long day of hiking, and they were absolutely perfect for both uses. We both liked that they're all one piece and a lot less likely to break with wear, and they're insanely lightweight- they'd be a perfect backpacking camp shoe! They have great support and great cushion, and even my husband (who normally dislikes sandals) has really liked them- enough that he's said something to me, which only happens if he genuinely likes something. So good job, Oofos, you won the approval of Mr Impossible-to-Please! Haha. I think the only thing that I personally would change is that I found the toe on the flip flops to be a bit uncomfortable, and I think I'd be happier with a slide style like my husband got.

You can also read our entire trip report on our blog at The Wild Groves!

Secluded and Private

First of all, I can't write this review without giving incredible thanks to the fire crews who were able to open this campground as quickly as possible during the Reynolds Creek Fire. We were scheduled to camp at St Mary on the night of July 29 2015, and when we went to bed on the 28th (at Fish Creek, on the west end of the park), they weren't sure if St Mary would be open. Needless to say, I was extremely stressed, but waking up in the morning to hear that St Mary Campground was open was one of the best things I'd heard in WEEKS. Though we had to circumnavigate the park to the south due to the Going-to-the-Sun Road still being partially closed, I was so relieved that I didn't have to find a contingency plan. The staff were very cheerful, in spite of the campground being pretty deserted and quiet (no birds or animals). I get the impression that this part of the park isn't as frequently visited, which is a bit odd. Most people head up to the Many Glacier area after their time in West Glacier, but I don't think St Mary campground should be passed over so quickly. It's a very well planned campground, with large bushes that block each pull-through driveway from the road and separate each site. We stayed in A07 and A09, right next to each other, and we could neither see nor hear our friends in the next site over. The ground was soft and excellent for pitching a tent, and the showers (though a bit of a trek from our sites) were warm. I think even when this campground is full it still feels very secluded - it was excellent! It's very different from West Glacier, but I don't think this campground is to be missed.

Lake McDonald Paradise

This campground, on the northwest end of Lake McDonald, is lovely! A little more quiet and secluded than the nearby Apgar Campground, Fish Creek has plentiful trees, is right near the lake, and has centrally located bathrooms with showers. The water spigot was slightly hard to find, but it was never crowded. We stayed in sites A20 and A 22, which were in the middle of the loop (but never saw high traffic). Some of our group set up and slept in hammocks, but there are large tent pads in each site. Bring your mallets for the pads- the ground is rock hard and was a little tough to get stakes into! We stayed at Fish Creek the night of July 28 2015.

Dust Bowl Dance

This is one of the dustiest campgrounds I've ever stayed in - I blame the volcano. How dare it! (Haha.) Other than the dust (which was primarily on the roads, more than the sites), this place was great. The sites are huge, at least the two that we got. I wish I could've chosen our sites, but you don't usually get to with concessionaire campgrounds - which bothers me, but what can you do? Our sites (I believe E1 and E2) were right by the road (you can see it in the background of a few of our photos) but the campground was generally quiet enough that we weren't bothered by it. There is a decent number of trees between the sites and the roads to provide a good sound barrier.

Rain, Rain, Come and Stay

I LOVED this campground. Oregon State Parks are genuinely the bomb. We were so impressed with them! When we arrived at Sunset Bay, a light drizzle had started, but it created the perfect ambiance. The bathrooms were centrally located, with the best showers I've ever experienced in a campground. The water was hot and there was plenty of room to change, hang your towels, AND there was even a little bench- perfect for leg shaving. (Girls, you know what I'm talkin' about.) The campground was quiet and tucked away in the forest. We stayed in sites D20 and D21, which were close enough to spend time together as a group, but far enough away that we could spread out at night. Being close to Sunset Bay was a treat as well for evening strolls. The blackberry bushes at our campsite certainly didn't hurt either!

Bring Your Bike!

We stayed in sites 266 and 267 (loop G) on August 6th 2015. This campground and park is awesome! The complex is huge, and would be a very fun place to have a bike. We visited the beach and the wreck of the Peter Iredale, but didn't make it to the fort- more than one night is definitely a good idea! Our sites were right near the centrally-located showers (but not too near), which were hot, and free! Always a fabulous feeling after almost 2 weeks on the road with limited shower options. My only real complaint is that the sites are packed in pretty close together (which isn't my favorite). There was a large youth group staying in the same loop who had decided to use our campsites for a pinata, and had to be asked to move when we arrived. Their behavior certainly isn't a reflection on the park, but slightly larger campsites may have prevented them from feeling the need to take over our space.

Close to the Beach, But Fills Outrageously Fast

First off, let me say that I'm definitely no stranger to campgrounds filling up quickly. I frequently camp in Zion and Arches, and those campgrounds fill up super fast- but NOTHING fills up faster than the beach access sites at Kalaloch. We camped there on a Tuesday night in August (so summer, but not a weekend) and of the 8-10 beach access sites that were available when I looked the night before I booked (six months in advance), every single one of them was gone when I got on within 10 minutes of reservations going live. It was INSANE. So I had to scramble, and booked a couple of sites next to each other (since we were camping with a group that was too large for a single campsite). I've never experienced anything quite like the speed with which this campground filled up. If you want a beach access campsite, I would definitely recommend being right on time and being ready to go! One disclaimer I should give is also that I didn't spend an extraordinary amount of time in this campground. We arrived pretty late at night (in the dark, around 10pm) and left early-ish in the morning (around 830/9). and didn't have much time to explore around the campground. So my review might not be the most complete, but I'll give it based on the knowledge that I have. My biggest complaint (which is a common-ish one for me, but this campground was the worst I've experienced) was that the tent area was absolutely rock hard. I'm by no stretch of the imagination an incredibly strong woman, but I really struggled to get the stakes into the ground for our tent. In a wet coastal environment where you want to stay dry, staking out your tent and fly is important, and it was really frustrating trying to get those dang stakes into that hard ground, especially in the dark. Another small gripe, that may have been magnified by the fact that we had just stayed in the very secluded Newhalem Campground in the North Cascades the night before, was that the campsites we stayed in (A055 and A056) were pretty much right on the side of the road though the campground. We essentially parallel parked, and set up our tents maybe 15 feet from the road. The sites were a little small (in fact one member of our group sneaked farther back into the bushes to set up his tarp and sleeping pad in a little more seclusion and space) and being right along the road definitely made at least those sites not a place I'd want to relax in. This is likely one campground where the site you're in can make or break your experience. My last small gripe is going to sound outrageously vain, but the bathrooms were a little small, there was only one sink, and the only mirror was above the sink. I like to have a mirror to make sure my face is clean and my hair looks decent, but I don't necessarily need a sink. When I went to the bathroom in the morning a woman spent almost 15 minutes standing in front of the only mirror, washing her face and doing her hair. It would've been nice to have had another mirror so she didn't "hog" the sink and the only mirror. The GOOD THINGS about this campground are the accessibility to the amazing beach, nice paved roads (so no dust), and lots of greenery. The air felt very fresh and clean here, and it was a cool experience for those of us from the desert to sleep in a place with so much green! The bathrooms were also very clean (if small) and the campground's directions were straightforward and clear.

Dreamy Forest Wonderland

This campground was my absolute favorite from our two-week-long road trip in the summer of 2015. (You can look up the hashtag #ERT_2015 on Instagram to see photos of the whole trip!) We were on a goal to visit as many national parks as we could, and even though North Cascades was slightly out of our way (coming from Whistler and heading down the coast to the Olympic Peninsula) I'm so glad we stopped, just for the campground alone! It was a genuinely magical campground. We stayed in loop C, which unfortunately has been closed for the entirety of 2016 due to wildfire damage (it broke my heart to hear about that). So disclaimer if you stay in loop C in 2017 and beyond and it's nothing like what I've described here, I'm very sorry that you missed out on the magic one of my favorite campgrounds I've ever stayed in. We stayed in campsites 99 and 101, which were right next to each other, but separate enough that if we had not known the campers in the other site it wouldn't have been awkward. My husband and I got campsite 99 to ourselves, and it was gorgeous. The tent area was sunken slightly lower than the parking area, and it was right up against a gully packed with trees and ferns. The campground was very quiet and the site felt incredibly secluded, even though we were reasonably close to the bathrooms and water spigot. The bathrooms were amazingly clean, well-lit, and well-stocked. There was a nice fire ring that we didn't use, but would have loved to had we spent more time there. We were there for just one night and I could easily spend a week there relaxing and exploring. Our friends loved how many trees there were for excellent hammock set up!

Escape from Connectivity

Oh, where do I start with this wonderful place? Do I talk about how incredible the smells of the eucalyptus trees are? Do I talk about how nice it is to be completely disconnected from the outside world? Do I talk about the amazing stargazing? I don't even know. First off, we stayed in campsite 23, on the very far end of the upper loop (about 3/4s of a mile from Scorpion Anchorage). It was great! The upper loop has all of the group sites and thus everything is a more spread out. The trees aren't quite as dense in the upper loop as they are in the lower loop, but there's still plenty of shade. There are tons of cute little island foxes EVERYWHERE at both loops- we were worried that we wouldn't see any, but that concern was quickly put to rest. Some friends of ours said they heard the foxes making a lot of noise at night, but I personally didn't hear any. The Scorpion Canyon loop trail goes right past campsite 23, but we were never bothered by that. There are two large eucalyptus trees that we put our tent right under (even though the ranger told us not to- we're rebels like that) and it was great. Be prepared for approximately a million earwigs all over everything you own, though, especially your tent. Taking down our tent at the end of our trip (3 days, 2 nights) was definitely gag-inducing for me as a creepy-crawly-hater. I don't know if anything like permethrin would help combat that, or if that only really works on mosquitoes and the like. There's a picnic table with a fox box attached and a larger fox box off to the side at every site. USE THEM. The foxes and the birds love to use every place in the world as their bathroom, and if you don't put things away you'll end up with some nasty stuff on your things. The larger fox box was plenty big enough for our two large backpacking packs and all of our food and such. The doors also make a great windbreak for starting a campstove! Along those lines I would also highly recommend bleach wipes or something of the sort to help keep your table clean. I'm certainly not averse to a little "nature" in my food, but (excuse my bluntness) I draw the line at puddles of pee and fecal matter. We didn't have anything of the sort and I wish we had. You may also want to bring your own hand sanitizer, as the bathrooms both ran out while we were there and we only had a tiny bottle. There is a potable water spigot in the middle of the upper loop, and a two-stall pit toilet bathroom. It was definitely reasonably clean, albeit a bit smelly (but what can you really expect on an island with no real utilities?). I would call it the most glamorous and easy "backpacking" trip I've ever been on. If you treat the trip as though you'll be staying in the backcountry, you'll really enjoy yourself. If you go in expecting fully lit bathrooms with flush toilets and showers that get cleaned twice a day, you're going to have a bad time. Santa Cruz is a gorgeous island, and I'd love to go back. We loved the campground and its accessibility to several hikes, as well as the small visitor center and Scorpion Cove.

KEY POINTS: -think as though you're going into the backcountry, and pack accordingly -bring wipes for the tables (lots of fox poo) -keep as many belongings as possible in the fox boxes! -upper loop sites are more spread out, but there are fewer trees than in the lower loop