Katie M.


Brooklyn , NY

Joined September 2020

A Latenight God Send

I was trying to put in as many hours of driving as I could, not realizing how sparse things like actual campgrounds are off of I-10 in the middle of Texas.

Luckily I found this place here on the app. I arrived around 11 pm and located the tent camping loop, set up and crashed for the night. The loop was nice and grassy, with picnic tables for each site.

In the morning, I walked to the gift shop to pay for my night. Tent camping is $15.

I took a quick shower and, honestly, the shower area could definitely use a really good cleaning, but it had been quite a few days since I’d seen a shower, so I wasn’t too picky.

The staff there was really nice and I stuck around long enough for a tour of the caverns ($20) before getting back on the road.

OK Last Resort

My plans changed last minute and I was left scrambling to make new arrangements in the San Antonio area. All of the local state parks were all booked up, but this place looked close enough to where I needed to be and had some spots open.

I was the only tent camper at the time I stayed there. The tent camping area is pretty nice on the surface. It’s right on a quiet, shallow section of the Guadalupe River. Picnic tables are provided (I don’t remember any fire rings tbh, but I didn’t have a need for one during my stay). The area is nice and grassy. Most sites looked a bit unleveled, but I found one flat enough to pitch my tent.

There are trash bins provided in the camp area, but they do not have lids and the bin near my site in particular was pretty full, so the campground cats were constantly in it and flies and bees swarmed around it during the day.

There is an overpass for state road 3351 that runs above the camping area. At night, the traffic is sparse and quiet, but it obviously picks up during the day. I was not around much during the day, so this wasn’t an issue for me.

There are showers and toilets on the property. I did not use the showers and that was honestly a very conscious decision. The toilets are “bring your own toilet paper” from what I could tell. There is a sink, but no hand soap provided either.

You pass through the trailer park portion of the property to get to the camping area, which is fine, but it’s pretty junky looking and kinda dampens the “idyllic river bank campground” vibe, if that’s what you were hoping for.

Gates Locked

I’ve been camping around the country for four months straight now and this is the only park - national, state, regional or otherwise - that I’ve encountered that literally locks their gate at night.

The time listed on google or their website is a hard closing time, not just when the ranger goes off duty.

There is no way in, no way out until the next morning.

I arrived around 11 pm, only to realize they close at 10 pm, so I did not have the chance to stay here.

New Fave Place!

Hidden Valley is pretty much the only first come, first serve campground within Joshua Tree National Park. All of the other reservable grounds fill up months ahead of time, making finding a space at Hidden Valley pretty cut throat. I did not find a space my first night and had to get a hotel.

There are a lot of people that come here to rock climb and they tend to set up camp for days at a time, making finding a spot even harder. This is definitely NOT a “one and done” camping place like I’ve seen at most other national parks. Campers hoping to snag a site at Hidden Valley will need to begin making rounds by at least 8 am.

I believe I had campsite 16. The actual camping area was set pretty far back from where the parking space was, which as a solo traveler made hauling my things from my car a bit of a challenge, but having the additional privacy was nice. Speaking of privacy, because of all of the rock climbing, there are generally people that could be looking down at your campsite at any given moment.

I was there in early November and the nights were brutally cold, so stock up on fire wood in town. Water is available at the west entrance gate or at the visitor centers.

Joshua Tree is probably my new favorite national park, so I hope you’re able to find a space!!

Enough Room for All

I arrived late on a Wednesday evening recently and there were plenty of sites available. I’m going to assume there are always sites available because there are several signs posted that if you see someone in your reserved space to simply just find another space for yourself.

There is a little “tent only” section, but even though I’m a tent camper, I opted for one of the spaces that was a bit bigger. I believe I was at site 74. There was a water spigot just across the road from my site. 🤘🏻

The surrounding flora is beautiful, but there is apparently a firing range just a few miles away. ALL morning long it sounds like a war in the distance. It was fine with me, but if you are particularly bothered by unrelenting noise or if you have PTSD, this may not be the place for you unless you plan to be up and out very early each morning. I cannot stress this enough that the gunfire is clearly audible from the campground and surrounding area (even as you go up the Brown Mountain Trail).

There are flush toilets and sinks with running water on premise, but no showers. The Pilot Travel Center just a short ways down I-10 has a great truck stop showering facility (seriously, it’s like brand new!) if you really need to wash up.

Saguaro National Park is maybe 10 minutes away. The drive in and out of the campground is absolutely beautiful with saguaro cactus everywhere, but it will take you at least 20-30 minutes to get anywhere else in Tucson.

Great Find Last Minute!

I had originally planned to stay at the Sierra Vista trailhead, but by the time I got there, all of the dispersed sites appeared taken. (It was well past nightfall on a Saturday night.)

Luckily I saw this campground on the app and took the half hour drive over. Even though it was Saturday, there were plenty of sites available.

The thing to know about this campground is that there are two loops, the second loop does not even show up on google maps, but it’s there and you’ll see the sign for it once you exit the first loop. The road in and out of the campground is one way, so it’s a big loop itself, so you cannot NOT see the sign for the second loop.

That being said, because the road in and out is one way, if you see a site that might work for you, TAKE IT. Or else you will most likely have to go all the way down the mountain and back up to fully circle back around. The road up is only about five miles, but the switchbacks are short and tight, which can make for an annoying drive when you’ve been on the road all day and are exhausted already.

All of the sites seem to be situated a little differently. I stayed in site 47 in the second loop. There wasn’t a tent pad, but there was a nice worn down, level spot for a tent behind the picnic area, under a tree. The view of the valley below from this site was a beautiful sight in the mornings.

This site was also right across from the bathroom and trash cans. I thought that might make for a lot of noisy foot traffic, but it did not and I was happy to have the convenience. The toilets are vault toilets and they were clean and well maintained.

I did not personally spot any wildlife while here, but had a nice talk with a birder, so if that’s your thing, it’s apparently a great place for birds. There are also a few trails accessible from the campground. White Sands National Park is about a 45 minute drive away and Las Cruces is about 20 minutes away.

For $7 a night, this place is a steal! I would def stay here again!!

Upper & Lower Madera

This pin is actually across the road from where the Upper & Lower Madera campgrounds are. As the name suggests, one is on a plateau and one is on the ground/ river level. There is a clearly marked sign for Upper Madera, but the sign to turn for Lower Madera is simply a “river access” sign. The Lower Madera sign is visible only once you turn onto the road.

I stayed for a few nights at Lower Madera because it’s the closest thing I could find to Big Bend National Park, which is still about an hour drive away. Luckily the drive up and down River Road is absolutely stunning!

I stayed in site 10, which was a bit set back from the road and could have easily fit another tent or two. I also prepaid/ reserved my stay through the Texas SP website for $12 a night.

Lower Madera is fairly desolate, there were only three other campers that I spotted throughout my two nights there. The highway was not heavily trafficked to begin with, but the plateau of Upper Madera blocks any sound that might come through. The river gurgling in the short distance is nice. This is a GREAT place for stargazing as this and the surrounding area is a designated dark sky.

Speaking of the Rio Grande, most of the shoreline is covered in brush, with an opening for boat access. From what I could tell, this boat access ramp is really the only place you can truly get to the river’s edge at the campground.

Wildlife spotting: skunks and javelinas. You can hear the coyotes yipping and howling in the middle of the night or early in the morning, but I didn’t actually see any. The skunk and javelina both went on their way when I shined my flashlight on them.

There is absolutely ZERO cell service. You may be able to pick up some phone calling service or even 3G data around Lajitas, but LTE is nonexistent out there. There is WiFi at the visitor centers within the national park.

The picnic table is metal, easy for cleaning! The fire ring was in great shape too, but there was a burn ban in effect when I came through a few days ago. There is a lot of brush to separate the campsites, but not really much for shade trees.

I would stay here again, but no longer than two nights, with a tight activity plan in place.

Just a few steps from the canyon rim!

I’be stayed here for the past few days and have loved it!

While this is a first come, first serve campground, the sites generally fill up later in the morning/ early afternoon. I’ve been to campgrounds where you have to be there by like 7 am to claim a spot, but this seems a little more lax. That being said, the spots have filled up every night, so if you arrive later in the afternoon or early evening, you will most likely come up empty handed.

I stayed in Loop D, where vehicles over 20 feet are not allowed, so it’s great for tent camping! There is a bathroom facility within the loop, but it only has one sink and no soap provided. I’ve not run into a traffic jam at “prime teeth brushing time,” but just a heads up. There are several water spigots around the loop and a dish washing sink outside of the bathroom.

The fire rings are really nice here and the picnic tables are metal, which makes for easy sanitization.

The camp store within the park is great for basic necessities, but lacks in the “real food” department, as does the local store in town (Ruby’s), so I would suggest stocking up on food before arriving.

There is a trail right at the entrance to Loop D that will take you to the Rim Trail. Once you’re on Rim, it’s .25 miles to the Tower Bridge Trail and .5 miles to Sunrise Point.

Just a head’s up that if you’re planning to check out Sunset Campground if North Campground is full: Sunset is pretty much reservations only. You might luck out and get something, but I drove through and even talked to the camp host and they were booked solid with reservations for weeks to come.

Hidden gem, unbeatable views!

I received a tip about this place from a friend who camped here last year and it did not disappoint!

There is no website for the place, no email and I’m not truly sure that’s a real phone number, but there are signs for this place along highway 163. It’s really a first come, first serve place. The owner, Kirby, comes by at the end of the night to collect the $20 fee. If you mention firewood to him, he’ll most likely have his brother drop some off for you.

Located just a few miles north of Monument Valley, you’ll be surrounded by lesser known monuments in this campground, including Sleeping Bear, where the campground gets its name. This was great especially right now, given that Monument Valley is currently closed because of covid.

This campground is pretty primitive. There was a picnic table and fire ring at the site I stayed at. There is also an outhouse on the grounds, but that’s as far as it goes for amenities. You’ll need to pack out your trash and bring your own water. The closest place for supplies would be Goulding’s. 

This was definitely the greatest view I’ve ever woken up to!!

Bit expensive, but a full service site

This was not my first choice of campgrounds in the area, but proved to be the best for me!

Most other grounds in the area are more primitive and the biggest challenge with that in this area (the desert) is lack of trees/ shade or having to deal with sandy roads, which I’d rather not fret over in my low clearance, 2wd car.

Wahweap has paved roads and several loops on the grounds. Each loop has views of Lake Powell, but please note that the sites themselves are all on sand. Come prepared with a broom, because you’ll be tracking the sand into your tent each time! Also, you really hate having dirty feet, this may not be the place for you. Your feet will be covered in sand 24/7!

People seem to come and go on a nightly basis, so getting a site the “day of” shouldn’t be a problem if you weren’t able to book ahead of time. When I walked in on a Wednesday, I was given the option of about five different sites on one loop alone. Things may be different on a Friday or Saturday though, as many people bring their boats for a weekend romp. If you’d like to rent a watercraft (boat, jet ski, etc) while you’re here, you 100% should do that ahead of time.

It seems like all loops have a mix of tents and RVs/ campers. Each loop also has a bathroom with real plumbing toilets, sinks and electrical outlets. Really nice fire rings at each site! There are a few small trees on each loop, but not necessarily at every site, so check your site out before committing to ensure you’re able to have the shade coverage you desire.

There is a shower house located at the front of the grounds, next to the registration building/ camp store. Heads up that they are paid showers though!! There is also a mini laundromat in this same area, which was super convenient. The camp store is stocked with everything you’d need, but the prices are a bit crazy ($10 for firewood!), so load up on things in town if you can.

Cell/ data service down on the campgrounds is spotty. I usually park at the Wahweap Overlook, about two miles away within the park, each night to use my phone for a bit. Also a great place to watch the sun rise or set!!

Impossible for me

I had been looking forward to staying here for three months, but I arrived only to find signs posted all over the place about the roads leading to the beach (and therefore the campsites) being deep sand and to drive in at your own risk. I took that risk in my Camry and hit some palm sweating patches of sand, but was able to make it through. I found a nice site and pitched my tent. This was really a rookie move because as soon as I had the stakes in, I began to realize the severity of the sand. I decided to try some other routes, hoping my car would fare better, but those routes turned out to be even worse. Since I was planning to be in the area for two weeks, I decided this sand driving situation is not something I wanted to deal with every day. I ended up moving down the road to Wahweap. Definitely a disappointment, but it’s what needed to be done.

If you are determined to stay at Lone Rock, a high clearance vehicle is recommended, with 4wd would be even better. If you have a low clearance or 2wd vehicle, you can risk the drive in or you can park at the bathrooms and walk your gear in.

As the title of the listing says, this is a primitive campground. There are no picnic tables, no metal fire rings, etc. The walk to the bathroom from the beach/ campsites is quite far and is through soft, deep sand. This is a desert beach environment and there is NO SHADE at any of the sites, so be prepared with some sort of shade cover!

If you are able to camp here, the view will definitely be worth it!!

Great for exploring Denver

This is the first time I’ve found a state park so close to a major metro area!!

Because of its proximity to Denver, Chatfield fills up quickly, so book well in advance. When I stayed in mid September, there was a zero percent chance of a walk in getting a space.

I stayed in Loop B, site 126. This is on what I’d call the “park side” side of the loop. If you’d like views of the lake or mountains, I’d suggest sites like 111 or 112. But this site was the cleanest I’ve ever camped at. The gravel was freshly raked, both around the picnic table and on the tent pad. Some very curious bunnies made their appearance each morning!

The bathroom was very clean, but there was no soap provided for hand washing, nor are there any trash cans within the actual bathroom, which I found incredibly odd. There is also a laundry area just outside the bathroom (which was a god send because I really needed to do a laundry!) and there was a trash can out there. The showers are coin operated and the water comes out almost directly onto the wall; there is no way to adjust the shower head.

There is a trail around the entire reservoir, which is great for a bike or a run, although many die hard road cyclists choose to use the actual street that runs around the park. And, of course, water activities abound.

The two entrances to the park make getting in and out very easy!

Breathtaking views

I realized while driving to Telluride that I wasn’t going to make it to my next camp by dark and that I needed to find some place asap to set up for the night.

About five minutes later, I passed the BLM sign for this campsite. I almost thought it wasn’t real because the view was too amazing and the grounds were almost completely empty!! I was able to get what I thought was the prime spot (site #1) and get my tent up with enough time to enjoy the beautiful sunset. The campsite did fill up a bit more as the night went on, but was at nowhere near capacity.

There are two bathrooms. The one I used was clean. There are bear proof trash cans towards the entrance to dispose of your trash. There is also a boat ramp, but that was closed the night I stayed here.

A ranger came through first thing in the morning to check slips, so make sure you pay when you get in and have your slip filled out and posted.

A good last resort

I’m a tent camper and did not really enjoy this place, but camping around Moab is pretty cutthroat and I didn’t have any other options. I stayed here one night and packed up at first light to try to find something at any of the areas along the Colorado River.

I would say this area is about 90% RVs, campers and vans. It really looks like trailer park with a very “red” overall vibe to the place.

I found a spot almost at the very end of the trail, thinking it would cut down on noise/ traffic, but it really didn’t. I did not explore this area at all, but there must be some great allure to this trail that escapes me because there were pick up trucks at UTVs coming and going all night. Even at 3 am.

The sand is very soft and silty here and will get all over and in everything, which I think is pretty typical of the area, but the open field and wind on this trail make it a bit more noticeable/ annoying.

The road in and out is incredibly manageable for a 2wd car (I have a Camry). I didn’t go all the way to the very end, but what I drove was just your standard gravel road with some rippling. Not sure why others are suggesting 4wd or high clearance. Some of the pull-in areas may be softer/ sandier and require more power in a vehicle, but the road itself is fine imo.

Rough road, great views

This was my most primitive campsite up to the point of staying here! I was surprised to find there was a camp host, but Tim was great. The vault toilets were the cleanest and freshest I’ve ever experienced. I was in campsite 24, which is technically a site for campers/RVs, but luckily there was a clearing for a tent just below the car pull in and there was also a path already worn from that tent clearing to the bathroom, so it almost felt like I had a private entrance. lol

The sites are first come, first serve, but I def saw people camping along the route up when I drove back up late at night one night. Also, most people are pretty much “one and done” with this campsite, so if you’re determined to stay here, but don’t find something on your first try, just come back in the morning.

Great views of the valley below on a clear day!

The road up is 3.5 miles from the highway and it is ROUGH. It is manageable with a 2wd drive car (I have a Camry), but my hands were sweating the whole way. This road stays fairly busy with visitors to see the falls. There is also a trail to Zapata Lake, which few seem to take advantage of.

Realest Pull In Camping Ever!

First off, make sure you’re using the GPSing to Blue Lakes Trailhead, Telluride 81435 There are two different trailheads and there is camping at the other one (going through Ouray), but you can find that through the NPS system (Thistledown Campground and Angel Creek Campground).

The true dispersed camping is along the route to the “telluride/ Ridgway” trailhead. You should be entering the forest through route 7. This is an 8-ish mile road from the highway to the forest entrance. The camping spots will not appear until you’re actually across the forest threshold (there is a sign and a cattle guard), with only about 1.5 miles left your gps-ed route. The round is rough and long, but manageable in a 2wd car. (I have a Camry.)

I stayed here the past two nights and was lucky enough to have some campers split their space with me. We were right by the stream, maybe a half mile from the TH itself. It’s shortly after the meadow, on your left as you drive in. Cars definitely came and went throughout the evening, but the sound of the stream drowned them out. The temps are def dropping at night this time of year and it was in the 30s. There was ZERO cell service for Verizon. Would def stay here again - in warmer conditions!

You are also able to hike your gear in and camp at the Lower Blue Lake level itself, if that’s you’re thing!