Katy S.


Charlotte, NC

Joined June 2019

Comfort and privacy

My husband and I stayed at the Happy Tales Campsite on our 22nd wedding anniversary and we had a great time. The location is very private, we were on our own the whole time. The setting is rustic, right next to an animal sanctuary. We had to bring water from a spigot nearby, but the host said they could do it for us if we wanted. 

The tent is spacious and turned out to be the best feature when it started raining in the evening. We simply moved our camp chairs inside and listened to the rain and cicadas. Then later that night the sky cleared up and the stars were so beautiful, we could see the Milky Way. 

The tent had everything we needed - a private toilet, a trash can, a water canister, a fire pit, chairs, a table, and a food storage box. One thing I would recommend is to bring a lamp, and a grill or a grilling grate, in case you want to cook.

The host was great, she was in touch with us prior to our arrival, met us at the gate and showed us the property. 

This place is great for couples, but also for parents with younger children, who want to spend the night under the stars, but still in a comfort of a bed.

The road to the site is unpaved and probably requires a 4x4 vehicle to get there.

Hike In campground for MST hikers

I spent a night in Shinleaf walk in campground in April as part of a backpacking trip along the Falls Lake MST trail, sections 8-12. The fact that it doesn't have vehicle access to the sites makes it somewhat not popular with the usual camping crowd. It's a pretty big campground, but when I was there it was mostly empty. My site had the lake view and I spent the evening watching the sunset on the lake, it was amazing.

The bathroom was clean. I didn't use the shower, but I think it was available.

It's a great spot if you backpack MST or otherwise don't mind taking your stuff from the car to the site on foot.

I booked site 39 and it was great, I also remember that the two adjacent sites 37 and 38 were connected and could serve as a great spot for a small group.

A huge primitive group site

The groups site is basically a huge field equipped with a fire pit, picnic tables, and pit toilets. the field is level and provides plenty of space to park cars and setup tents. 

The campground is located very close to Brevard and all wonderful attractions it has to offer - the shops and restaurants, hikes and waterfalls. BTW, there's a beautiful waterfall just a few miles from the campsite - Catheys Creek Falls.

One thing you need to know about the campsite - you'll need to cross a stream when coming into the camp. It's not deep and an SUV wouldn't have a problem. However, a lower clearance vehicle can get into trouble, especially after heavy rains.

A great spot for MST hikers

This is a hidden gem for a MST hiker. The campground is located on a private land, has a shelter, a fire pit, and a number of tent sites. It's a hike in only campground, located approximately 1 mile from the roadside parking on Red Mill Road, Durham NC. 

The information can be found here:

There is an authorized camping area available on private property in this section of the Falls Lake Trail(between Red Mill Road and Old Oxford Road). Follow the blue-blazed trail off the MST approximately 1 mile west of Red Mill Road. NOTE: This campsite is on private property. It is a HUGE PRIVILEGE to be allowed to camp at this location. Vandalism, neglect or any trash left at this campsite could result in closing of this campsite by the landowner. No water or toilet facilities are provided. There are seven established campsite pads for 2-person tents. Campsite rules:(1) Practice Leave No Trace ethics.(2) Do NOT leave any trash. Pack it in= Pack it out.(3) There is a 2-night maximum stay.(4) Do NOT explore past a 75 yard radius of the Shelter.(5) NO FIRES except in the established fire pit.

4x4 Camping Heaven

Freeman Park is a beach area located in Carolina Beach. It's the place to take your 4x4 vehicle, your friends, kids, and dogs, and have some fun in the sand, wind, and waves.

First and foremost, make sure you know how to drive in the sand and what to do when your car gets stuck. It happened to us, as well as to many vehicles on the beach.

Also, be aware of the tides, it's dangerous to be driving near the water when the high tide comes in.

The camping is allowed on the beach Labor Day through memorial Day, but might require a permit, check the rules before you go. In the past, the permit was required only after April 1, so we always tried to come in February or March, when the weather is nice but not too hot.

The camping is allowed in the designated spaces. There's enough room for one tent. Remember, when camping on sand, you don't need stakes. Instead you bring 4 plastic bags, fill them with sand, tie the tent corners to the bags and bury them in the sand. This will prevent your tent from flying away,

There are several pit toilets on the beach, some trash cans are provided too. There's a store next to the fishing pier a short distance from the beach where we usually go to brush our teeth in the morning. 

I love Freeman park and give it 4 stars only because it's a primitive camping spot and people should be aware what to expect. It doesn't have fancy amenities, but the proximity to the ocean is priceless. 

Our favorite dining spot: The Shuckin' Shack Oyster Bar in Carolina Beach.

A perfect spot next to Bryson City and the Smokies, limited space

The Deep Creek Campground is located just minutes away from the charming Bryson City with its shops, breweries, little cafes an other attractions such as steam train rides on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.  It's located inside the GSM National Park and provides access to Deep Creek and its various fun activities - swimming, tubing, as well as several easily accessible waterfalls. 

The campground itself is quite open, the sites not separated from each other at all. Each site has a pad and the staff is super adamant about all tents and even hammocks being on or above the pads. I'm giving the campground 4 stars only because of the lack of privacy and limited space. The rest is great and I love this campground. The bathrooms are clean.  The shower is located outside of the campsite as far as I remember, requires a short drive.

Here's what you can do while at Deep Creek:

  • Swim in the cold waters of Deep Creek just a few steps from your tent.
  • Rent a tube and ride it down the rapids
  • Hike the waterfalls - Deep Creek area loop hikes include Juney Whank Falls(0.6 mile), Three Waterfalls Loop(2.4 miles), and Deep Creek-Indian Creek Loop(4.4 miles). The trail head is located right behind the campground.
  • Hike Noland Divide Trail, a 8 mile long (one way) strenuous path that will take you up to Clingman's Dome. You can hike about 3 miles up to see a very pretty view of Bryson City.
  • Drive to town to enjoy local bear, ice cream or ride the train.
  • Take a scenic drive along Blue Ridge, watch sunset from a West-facing overlook.
The best camping option in the Black Mountain area

Two adjacent campgrounds Briar Bottom Group Campground and Black Mountain Family Campground provide the perfect summer getaway in the heart of the Black Mountains area. The group campground is more expensive, and is more suitable for groups of 10 and more, whereas the family campground is perfect for couples, families, and small groups of friends.

The sites differ in terms of the privacy and amount of shade. We stayed at site 32 and loved it. The driveway is flat and the site is a little downhill from the road. We noticed that a few sites on the other side of the road (like 31) are uphill, not as convenient in my opinion. 

The campground has clean bathrooms and free showers with hot water. The campground office sells ice and firewood. The campground doesn't have any cell reception! The closest place where you can connect to the internet is the golf course, or the general store on HW80.

This is a wonderful spot to be to explore the surrounding areas:

  • The famous Mount Mitchell trail, starts a short walking distance from the campground. This is a 5.5 mile trail(one way) that will take you 3600 feet up to the Mt Mitchell summit. The trail is super strenuous and takes about 3.5-5 hours one way, depending on your shape. There are no good views from the trail, except at the top of Mt Mitchell. 
  • The South Toe River Loop Trail- it actually has two loops. The upper loop starts between Laurel and Poplar sites, continues along the river, crosses on the bridge and continues up the hill. Eventually it will bring you back to the campground entrance. It's a moderate hike that will take you a couple of hours. The lower loop starts from the showers at the Black Mountain Family Campground, between sites 27 and 28. First it goes into the woods, then takes you to the river, crosses two bridges and loops back through the woods again. This part is easy, no elevation change at all, but the trail is narrow and rocky at places. 
  • Setrock Creek Falls- a nice waterfall just a few steps away from the group campground. 
  • Roaring Fork Falls- a super nice and beautiful cascade located at the intersection of South Toe River Road and HW 80. It's a short drive from the campground and then an easy 0.5 mile hike on the old gravel road. 
  • Black Mountain Crest Trail(also known as Deep Gap Trail or the 5 Peak Trail). Starts from the Mt.Mitchell summit and goes across Mount Craig, Big Tom Mountain, Balsam Cone to Cattail Mountain, all about 6,000 feet. The trail has beautiful views, and is moderate to strenuous, with some ups and downs, rocks, boulders, steps and ropes. We always go from the top to Cattail Mt and back, which is 3 miles each way. The trails continues to Deep Gap and has other options, including a 2 day backpacking trip.

There are several camping options in the Great Smoky Mountains NP. I loved the Smokemont Campground. It's located next to a river, and is very peaceful. The sites are decent size. Great location to get to the trails.

Paddle In Sites

We stayed at site 14, which is on the other side of the island and is only accessible on a boat. We kayaked from the park office and boat launch. The route was difficult for me, the tide was coming in plus a strong wind, it took us about an hour to get to the island. The site itself was perfect, much better than the rest as much as we could see as we looked around. It's located in the woods with a nice shady clearing, its own very private little beach. We kayaked to the beach and walked around to see the ferry dock.

Make sure you know the tide schedule. The water levels are changing pretty dramatically during the day. 

We also experienced a  lot of mosquitoes during the night on the island, but it probably depends on the weather.

The fires are not allowed on the island, which requires some thoughts around cooking and reheating food. 

Overall I would say it was a very unique experience.

Outer Banks camping option

The campground's location is awesome, it's right in the middle of the Outer Banks, close to Bodie Island Lighthouse,  Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Jockey Ridge State Park, Wright Brothers National Memorial, etc.

We stayed at the group site, which is basically just a patch of grass with a few picnic tables. We visited on Memorial Day 2018, and the first night was very pleasant, with nice cool breeze from the ocean. The second night though was hot, humid and brought an army of mosquitoes. The campground has no shade, so I wouldn't go there during the summer months. If you do, bring your own shelter or beach umbrella.

You can walk to the beach through the dunes, it's a very short walk. The bathrooms and showers are clean and nice.

When we stayed there in 2018, we could hear some noise from the bridge construction nearby. I'm assuming it's done by now, and even back then it wasn't too bad.

Great location near Grayson Highlands

I love Grindstone Campground. It's nice and spacious. I usually come with a group of friends and we book a double and a single site one across from another. The sites are level, have tent pads but they are not enforced, you can put your tent anywhere as long as it's on the gravel and not grass. The bathrooms and showers are very clean.

There's a trail that goes from the campground into the wood on a nice easy loop. We enjoyed the volleyball field.

Your gateway to Grand Canyon

I've stayed at Mather campground several times, basically, every time I go on a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. I love the campground, it's quiet, peaceful, spacious, and very private even though the site and pretty open. There's not a lot of shade, but there's enough trees to find a nice spot for the tent. Wake up in the middle of the night and look up at the sky, what a view!

The showers are great, especially when you come back from under the rim. They are coin operated, you need a dollar to have 8 minutes of hot water. The staff at the shower building is very nice and friendly and keep the facility in a great shape. The same building has the laundry, washers and dryers, also coin operated.

The Grand Canyon village has a number of dining options, from simple dining halls to fancy restaurants. And of course nothing can beat the view from the South Rim.

Huge campground, great trails

We stayed at a "group" site D167, which allows up to 15 people and 4 cars. While the campground is very nice, with clean conveniently located bathrooms, the site itself is probably not suited for a large group of people. First of all, it's located in the middle of a large patch of grass right next to other family campsites, so no privacy at all. If you travel with friends you might want to stay up a little longer and have a good laugh around the fire, but this site isn't really designed this way. The quiet hours are after 10PM and it's enforced. Second, the space is really limited, especially if your group members have larger tents. Also, there's no overflow parking, except at the entrance to the campground.

The showers are nice and clean, but they are coin operated.

The rangers are very strict. We had some food related items left on the table (salt/pepper shakers) and they were confiscated while we were hiking. I'm not saying it's wrong, but be aware, because these rules are not enforced at the same level in different places. We ended up with a $80 fine.

Also, since this is a national park, you cannot bring the firewood from outside, have to buy it in the park.

Other than that, we enjoyed our stay. The campground location allow an easy access to many trails within Shenandoah National Park, as well as close by, such as our favorite Old Rag Mountain. It's also technically a part of the NP, so keep your entrance receipt to show at the Old Rag's parking lot.

Make sure you taste blackberry ice cream at the general store at the entrance. It's a local specialty and it's delicious!!!

Super nice campground in the heart of Pisgah National Forest

Davidson River campground is my favorite spot when I go to Brevard to see some waterfalls. It's located right at the entrance to the forest, close to amenities such as Walmart supercenter, gas stations, breweries, restaurants, a great BBQ place and an ice cream joint. On the other hand, it's just a few minutes away from several easily accessible waterfalls such as Looking Glass falls, Moore's Cove Falls and Sliding Rock. A short drive up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and you can get to Skinny Dip Falls and Graveyard Fields. Drive in the other direction and you can walk around Dupont State Forest with its beautiful waterfalls that were featured in major movies. A little further away you can reach Gorges State Park with more amazing waterfalls and trails. Drive to downtown Brevard to dine in fancy locally sourced restaurants with live music and local beer. What a wonderful place!

The campground itself is located near the river, has nice spacious sites and clean bathrooms and showers. The staff is always helpful. When I travel with a large group of friends, we book a double and a single site, one across from another to have enough room and enjoy each other's company. The sites don't have cover or shelters, and since the probability of rain is always high (don't trust your weather forecast!), I recommend bringing a tarp or some sort of a shelter.

Long Arm camping area - the BEST boat in campground!!!

This is probably my favorite place in North Carolina. Lake James is a true gem, clean and beautiful, with amazing views of Linville Gorge, Shortoff Mountain, and Table Rock. The State Park has several camping areas. I have stayed at the Long Arm boat in campsites. Area 3 is my favorite one, this is sites L23 through L30. They are located right on the beach. The campsites are very nice, close to the water, have nice clean tent pads, fire rings, and food storage. Plenty of trees to provide shade and opportunities to hang a hammock. There's a pit toilet with no running water. It's nice and clean though, no nasty smells or anything like that.

You can only get to the sites from the water. We usually launch our kayaks from Mimosa Boat Landing across the lake. The overnight parking is $10. It takes us about 20 min to get to the site. The lake can be pretty busy with motor boats and jet skis during the day. The campground is located away from the main motor traffic, which provides great opportunities to paddle around and watch the wildlife along the shores.

One of the most diverse state parks in NC

Hanging Rock is one of the best state parks in North Carolina. With breathtaking views from the cliffs, miles of hiking trails, a lake, and 5 waterfalls, it can keep you busy for a few days, or just over a weekend. I have been to the park throughout the year, in sunshine, rain, and snow, and always enjoyed it. I stayed at the family campground a few times. I usually book sites 3, 4 or 6 - they are spacious and conveniently located close to the bathroom as well as the hiking trail and the little stream behind the campground.

The sites are bigger than you would expect from a typical state park campground. The bathrooms and showers are clean and nice. The host is very nice.

Discover the swamp and the beach

I stayed at the Carolina Beach State Park Campground a few times and enjoyed every moment. First of all, it provides an affordable option for those who want to be close to the beach but also enjoy camping, woods, and hiking trails. It's also a nice campground with clean nice bathrooms and showers with hot water. 

Sites 71 and 73 are connected and provide plenty of space for a larger group with several cars. The site doesn't have tent pads, it's basically just some gravel, pretty level and with a lot of space for tents.

The park has about 5 miles worth of trails. My favorite is the Flytrap trail, which leads to swampy areas with Venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants. They are small and easy to find if you know where to look. Ask a ranger for specifics. 

BTW, if you're in Wilmington area, check out https://www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/listing/stanley-rehder-carnivorous-plant-garden/901/ - this is a cure little destination for kids and adults.

The weather can be hot and humid during the summer months. Bring a lot of bug spray!!!

Great hike, nice campground

We enjoyed staying at Pilot Mountain State Park campground. The sites are on a hill, some above and others below the road. We booked site 13 and it is basically on the hiking trail that goes to the Pinnacle. It didn't provide a lot of privacy, but we actually enjoyed watching the hikers walking by. The site provides plenty of shade and trees to hang a hammock. We had a great time at the campsite. The bathrooms and showers were ok, the level you would expect from a state campground - nothing fancy but clean.

We were there on June 30th and it wasn't hot, much better than spending a weekend in the city.

Great location, uncomfortable campsite

I love Mount Mitchell and visit it every year. However, in terms of camping options the state park campsite is the worst you can find in the vicinity. We stayed there for one night in May and didn't enjoy the experience. First of all, there's no parking next to the sites. You have to bring all of your stuff from a small parking lot up the stairs to the site, to unpack and then again, to pack. Second, the top of Mount Mitchell has its own micro-climate and is often foggy. The night we spent there was cold, windy and miserable. We were in the cloud, with strong winds and rain through the night, with no trees to protect from the wind. In the morning I couldn't start the stove, so we packed and drove half a mile down to the Blue Ridge Parkway where we found late spring, bright sun light, chirping birds and beautiful views.  If you are looking for camping around Mount Mitchell, check out Black Mountain Family Campground at the base of the mountain.

Great access to the lake

This is a pretty nice campground, similar to other state parks in North Carolina. The sites are spacious, we stayed at a double site that allowed up to 4 cars. The site was level and stayed dry during the heavy rain, however we saw other sites that had big puddles, with tents in the water. The bathrooms were cleaned regularly, but they were not very nice. The shower didn't look good at all, we didn't use it.

A great things about the campground is that it has its own kayak/canoe ramp, just a few minutes drive from the site. We saw people fishing from the ramp as well. On our morning paddle we saw a couple of bald eagles, they were amazing. We stayed at the campsite after heavy rains, so the beach was closed. It must be nice when not flooded.

This is a state campground, so alcohol is not allowed.