This was the first MN state park we’ve been to in the “shoulder” season (weekday before Memorial Day) that was staffed and had boat rentals available. Very spacious sites; the best ones in the main campground (with electric) are along Grass Lake (7,8,15,16) but all would be decent sites. Well-marked hiking trails, however, if you take the figure 8 hike around Cataract and Grass Lakes, it IS longer than the two miles advertised! Clean restrooms and showers. Friendly and knowledgeable staff. The only warning (and we were warned upon arrival) is to watch for ticks. I found two on me.
Sites were a mix of electric and non-electric in the same loop, with the non-electric on the outside of the loops and some might consider to be better, as they are closer to the bluffs and views of the water. Clean bathrooms and showers and well-marked hiking trails. Sites were a little closer together than in some MN state parks we’ve been in but spacious enough. In our camper van, we had no problem, but if you have a large Class A, it might be a tight squeeze (as evidenced by us watching one struggle to get into the site next to us)! Bring your bug repellent if you are there in the spring - you will need it!! We used our screen room to escape the bugs, not shield us from the sun!
We stayed here after visiting nearby Pipestone National Monument. With the exception of noise from the adjacent road and the occasional train thundering by, this small campground was very quiet and peaceful (we could even hear the birds twittering). Sites are generous in size but with limited privacy from foliage. Electric and non but only one water spigot near the bathrooms. Bathrooms were clean as was the shower, however, in the women’s shower, it was necessary to hold the button continuously for water flow (not the case for the men’s shower). We did not need reservations in mid-May, however, only downside is there was not much to do in the shoulder season when we were there. In summer you can rent kayaks for the small lake.
I learned of this place through the Dyrt (thank you!) and knew I wanted to stay here! There are several options available: tent camping (including a tree tent!), RV camping (two with electric hookups), and a 170-year-old log cabin. If you are RV camping, there are two very clean, private, and fully stocked "outhouses" (see photo below)
We originally planned to camp in our van but with below-freezing temperatures and a forecasted snowstorm, we decided to take refuge in the log cabin. To call this a log cabin is a disservice; yes, it is made from logs(and is 170 years old) but I was expecting a tiny one-room cabin; instead it is a two-story cozy home that can sleep up to six people, all in one upstairs room (two full-size beds and two twin beds; would be great for families). It was cozy and warm, heated by a gas stove. The bathroom (with a shower) is accessed from just outside the back door but is heated. The kitchen is an outdoor grill and picnic table, but we did not use this.
Tim and Beth were very welcoming, as was Juno, their dog. We enjoyed helping to feed the Alpacas– they have over 50. The rooster crowed gustily at dawn (but dawn was after 7 am and we were already awake). Also on the farm is Stormy, the horse, chickens, and some barn cats. There is a shop that sells goods made from Alpaca wool and we made sure to visit before departing.
Staying here was truly special and we hope to return to camp in one of the RV spots or the tree tent in the future.
Ranger Review: Firebiner and Fiber Light Fire Starter at Greenbrier State Park
We were here one week before this campground closed for the season (open April through October) and it was so quiet that it was hard to imagine what it is like in the summer when the beach is open and the campground is likely full. There are four loops; two with no hookups and no pets allowed, one with no hookups that allow pets and one with electric sites that allow pets. Each site is clearly defined, and the sites all appeared level with gravel pads. The bathrooms were reasonable. There are several trails in the campground plus it is close to several AT day hikes.
There is a large day-use area and beach with lots of picnic tables. While the beach was closed for swimming, we saw a kayaker and two people fishing from a boat. Many hiking trails and this is an excellent place to camp if you’d like to do AT day hikes.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I have the opportunity to test products. At this campground, we tested the Firebiner and Fiber Light Fire Starter by Outdoor Elements. I’m reviewing both products since they can be used together, and we had much more luck with one than the other.
Upon unpacking my box from Outdoor Elements, my first experience was that it took a sharp knife to free the Firebiner from its cardboard backing, which was not an auspicious start. Once at our campground, we were able to use the safety blade to easily open the plastic packaging on our firewood. Unfortunately, it took several tries by two men trying the Firebiner to get a spark; they had to really crank on it, and it was not enough to light a fire. I’m guessing that with more patience and practice, it would have worked. Admittedly, we are car campers and not backpackers (and have the luxury of being able to carry/use a butane lighter), but I was looking forward to trying a new method.
We did use the Fiber Light Fire Starter and using our tried and true fire-starting methods, we got a roaring fire started very quickly. So, we had a 50% success! Packed in a small tin, you only need a pinch to easily get a fire started so we will use this in the future.
We also used the cutting tool on the Firebiner a few days later to remove the wristband from an activity we participated in and also used it to hang our lantern on a hook; this little tool is very strong (did not test but appreciate the 100-pound weight limit). I appreciate that it can also be used as a screwdriver, so the Firebiner is truly a multi-use tool!
Ranger Review: HeadSpin Convertible Light System at Trap Pond State Park
We enjoy camping in the off or shoulder season more than peak because the campgrounds are quieter, however, sometimes this means we cannot enjoy the full amenities a place has to offer. At Trap Pond, we missed being able to rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboat by a week. Free bike rentals were still available (donations accepted) so we were able to take a ride around the pond (about 4.5 miles). There are four loops plus cabins and yurts. All sites appeared level and some have a view of the pond. Bathhouses were very clean, including the showers. When we were there, they were delivering a new bath and shower facility to one of the loops. Although I did not check it out, there is also a laundry facility. The camp staff was extremely friendly and helpful and there is also a small store for t-shirts and essentials. We only stayed for one night but would definitely consider returning at a time when we could rent a boat to be able to see the Cypress trees up close.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I have the awesome opportunity to occasionally test products. At this campground, we tested the HeadSpin Convertible Light System by Headspin Outdoors. The first thing I noticed when I unboxed my HeadSpin was how compactly it was fit into its semi-hard, zippered carrying case. That said, however, if packing space is at a premium, you may want to decide which elements you want to use before taking a trip to reduce what you pack. Although intuitive to figure out how to use, there were no instructions (maybe missing from mine?). Because of this, I was not sure when the unit was fully charged (the green light was flashing and did not change to solid, but the unit seemed to be charged). We travel in a campervan, so we have USB and electric charging capabilities while camped but if you are tent camping, make sure everything is charged before you leave home (or, if you are driving a distance to your campground, you can charge it in your car using the USB port). Assuming the flashing green light indicates it is charged, this process did not take very long.
There is one light that can be attached to three base options: flashlight, headlamp, and bicycle mount. There are three light strength options, as well as a wide or narrow beam, and a strobe setting. The light is attached via magnets and I found it very easy to attach and detach the light from the different mounts. We also used the light as a stand-alone magnetic mount on our van door and on the metal lantern post; making the magnet system very versatile.
I have a favorite flashlight I have used for over 10 years, so it was going to take a lot to convince me to change. I was very pleased with the HeadSpin flashlight– it is very lightweight and easy to hold, however, a strap would be helpful. My husband thought the strap was necessary since the handle was so slender (this was a plus for my smaller hands!). Also, there was a warning in the packaging about how strong the light is and not to place it face down while on. Because of the design of the flashlight, I would likely have done this, so this warning was good to include.
We had recently used headlamps on a guided trip and had considered buying them to add to our supplies, so I eagerly looked forward to trying this one out. Although it worked fine, it was a bit bulkier/heavier than the headlamp I recently used. I used it to go to the restroom and to cook dinner and wash dishes in the dark; the more I used it, the more comfortable I became with it.
We don’t travel/camp with bicycles, so we were not able to try this mount. I rarely bike at night (if I can help it!) so not sure I would use this option, but it is a good addition, as I know many do bike in the dark.
Overall, I really liked giving the HeadSpin a try. I loved the flashlight, and the packaging is top-rate, however, it is pricey, so it is an investment. Picking up a battery-operated flashlight to find the batteries were dead would convince me it is worth the price! I think campers who like gadgets will like this product very much.
We really don’t care for RV parks but occasionally, we decide to check one out. We found this place because we were looking for a covered bridge that, it turns out, used to be on the property but had been sold and moved! There was nothing wrong, per se, about this family-owned facility, except that we travel in a small camper van (we tend to live OUT of our van, not IN it) so RV facilities generally don’t appeal to us. The sites are very close together, like parking spaces, and afford no privacy between them. This is typical for an RV park. Sites range from 50 amp W/E/S, to 30 amp W/E. Some sites also have cable. WiFi is available and free for the first seven days of your stay. There is also a non-working mill, a pool, a game room, a camp store, and fishing access on the property. The staff person in the office was very friendly and helpful; if you like RV parks and want to explore Amish country in southern Pennsylvania, this would be an ideal location for you to stay but we decided to move on.
Since it was late in the season, I called ahead to make sure this campground (22 individual sites plus two group sites and four cabins– two rustic and two modern) was still open. I was reassured that it was, that reservations were not needed, and that a ranger would come around to collect our fee ($30 cash or check). We arrived around 6 pm to a completely empty campground. Granted it was a rainy Sunday night, but the gates were open and so were the restrooms, so we settled into site 16, across from the restrooms. Aside from occasional road noise on Cafferty Road, we didn’t hear any noise or see another soul (including the ranger) during our overnight stay. There was no place to self/register/pay that we could find. The next morning, we woke to sunshine and the campground looked beautiful. No hookups and the bathrooms were reasonable but not the best we’ve encountered. The shower did not look very appealing. I did not see the cabins or the pool that is open Memorial Day through Labor Day. I read that two water releases each year in March and early November are very popular for whitewater rafters and many of these paddlers stay in the cabins and campground. I also read about hiking trails but could not find them on the Google map on my phone. Not seeing much to do, we packed up and left what was likely the most peaceful night of camping we’ve experienced in a long time!
After spending several very quiet nights in sparsely occupied campgrounds, we arrived at Watkins Glen to a full campground. The Six Nation Campground is comprised of six loops, each named after a tribe, with a total of over 300 sites. It looked like some of the sites were being rehabbed. The Mohawk Loop is the only one with electric hookups. There are also cabins, but I did not see them. Rates vary depending on how many nights you spend, whether you have an electric or non-electric site, and if you are a NY resident or not. Although the sites are spaced a decent amount apart, most do not have trees or any other barrier to separate them. However, despite our loop being completely full, we did not feel too close to our neighbors. The bathroom/shower facility was reasonably clean. There are two shower stalls and four toilets, and I feared it might be overwhelmed when the loop was full, but I never had to wait.
There is a large day-use area with some nice playground equipment and there are additional playground areas (not as nice) in the loops. There is also a swimming pool but since we were there in October, it had already closed for the season (despite temperatures hovering near 90 degrees)! Normally, there is a trail that leads from the campground to the South Rim Trail, from which you can access the Gorge and other trails, however, due to recent heavy rains, this trail was closed when we were there. There are three access points to the trails: south entrance, upper entrance, or main entrance. From any of these, you can do a loop or just part of the trails. The most popular Gorge trail can get very crowded. We arrived at 10 am on a Tuesday in October and by the time we left at noon, the trail was much more crowded. I can only imagine how crowded it could get on the weekends (judging by the size of the parking lot).
We travel a lot around the country and as such, trash and recycling policies can vary greatly. There was a sign on all the dumpsters listing materials accepted for recycling so we assumed we should use one dumpster for all garbage and recycling (this is how it was in Acadia NP). It wasn’t until later that we saw on a bulletin board that there is a recycling bin near the camp office. This could easily be confusing and could easily be remedied with additional information on the sign indicating where to bring recyclables!
The biggest draw to this state park (which no one in Pennsylvania I spoke with seemed to know about) is the 22 waterfalls! We saw 18 of them on a four-mile moderate hike, but if you want to see the additional four, you could make it a seven-mile hike. The trails are very well marked.
We stayed in the large loop, which is a peninsula on Lake Jean. Many of the sites have lake views. The bathhouse was clean but not adequate for 73 sites. The campground was about ¾ full and there was often a wait in the bathroom. Showers looked reasonable but I did not use them.
There were many tent campers in this loop, which does not allow pets (the other, smaller loop does allow pets). There are no hookups at all in the park. The water had been tested earlier in the season and unsafe levels of manganese were detected. All water spigots were shut off and covered but we were told it was safe to wash our dishes and brush our teeth. However, the water for the dishwashing sink was turned off as well as the water in the restroom at the trailhead. Since we had a reservation, we received a phone call in advance of our stay letting us know about this.
There are trails to the beach, but we woke to rain the next morning, so we did not explore this.
One trash/recycle area a distance away from the campsites which seems typical for PA state parks. Alcohol is strictly forbidden– we were warned that if a ranger saw any alcohol outside of our vehicle, we would be cited. Quiet hours are 9 pm– 8 am, which is more restrictive than other state parks, however, some did not observe these quiet hours (a guitar-playing singing camper thought he was talented, but I disagree!)
Very large park with a variety of campsites ranging from tent, 20/30 amp, 50 amp, and yurts. Price is the same for all electric sites, regardless of amperage. There is a 40-foot maximum vehicle length allowed in the campground– not a problem for our 17-foot van but the staffer who checked us in remarked that many people come in with larger rigs trying to squeeze in and are unable to. We had no problem securing a site with no reservation on a Monday evening after Labor Day. Very close to two Frank Lloyd Wright properties– Kentuck Knob and the more widely known Falling Waters. Other things to do in or near the park include whitewater rafting, rail trail biking, hiking, zip-lining and touring Laurel Caverns. The nearby town of Ohiopyle has many outfitters and several restaurants. The sites are all located on roads leading off the main road; we stayed in a 20/30amp site on Cherry Road (Site 49). It was right next to the bathroom which was good and bad. Good for proximity but bad because we could hear the hum quite clearly. Also, the door to the women’s room would hit you in the rear quite forcefully unless you held onto it (it took me three times to remember to do this)! There was a dishwashing sink in the women’s room (and I’m assuming in the men’s room?); it was very clean, but the only downside was having to do the dishes by myself! Alcohol is prohibited. Only certain areas allow pets. Only one garbage/recycling station outside of the campground. Wood and ice are available 24/7 on the honor system– very nice not to have to wait until a host is on duty to get what you need. Quiet hours 9 pm-8 am, a bit longer than most campgrounds but except for some sites with campfires still burning with people talking, it was very quiet in this campground. Surprisingly strong cell signal for being deep in the woods.
This is a HUGE state park campground with 355 sites (although a number of them were being restored when we were there). Most of the sites are on the lake; some have more of a direct view while others have a filtered view through the trees. The sites are very close together and some have trees to provide privacy, but many do not. We were fortunate to have an empty site on either side of us, otherwise it would have felt very crowded. Site 27 did not have an obvious “driveway” and it looks like the last rainfall caused the person in this site to get stuck in the mud as tire tracks remained. The sites are also littered with pinecones and tree roots, so you must be cautious not to trip on them. The bathrooms are clean but small and don’t have air dryers, hooks, or garbage receptacles. The showers had been shut down for the season, but we received a phone call in advance letting us know of this and the alternative available showers in a nearby park. There is one garbage/recycling area in the park. There is a paved roadway that goes all the way around Fish Creek Pond and Square Pond, making it good for bicycling or walking. Nice amphitheater. Also saw basketball and volleyball nets plus a very small swing set
I read the reviews and was excited to be in a state park near the water for such a reasonable price. Imagine my surprise when we found out that a water/electric site for an out of state camper was $45 per night! This was our first visit to a Rhode Island State Park so not sure if they are all like this but this one definitely caters to Rhode Island residents who camp in large RVs! The sites with the best views are the full hookups (water/electric/sewer) and the rates for out of state campers are significantly more than for residents. I’m used to paying $5 or even $10 more for being from out of state but here the fee is double or more for out-of-state campers. Geez– way to make us feel welcome!
There are four areas, and each has advantages and disadvantages. Area One has the best views and full hookups but there is no bathhouse; Area Two also has full hookups, no view and some of the sites (55-65) are decidedly not level; Area Three is for tents only with no hookups but is close to the bathhouse; Area Four has water and electric hookups, the pads are not paved (as in the others) but most of the sites have more separation than in the other sections. See the photo below to understand the different areas.
No matter where you camp, there are noise issues. Road noise continued throughout the night and there is a wind turbine on the property. I’ve never been this close to one and yes, there is noise, although the road noise bothered me more. Alcohol is prohibited throughout the campground. There are pay showers available. There are the remains of two bunkers but other than walking by them, you cannot go inside. One (in Area One) is a grassy knoll with stairs to a lookout.
On the plus side: The bathrooms were clean, there is excellent cell service, Judith Point lighthouse is nearby, it is close to the ferry to Block Island, and there are numerous recreation options available (playground, tennis courts, volleyball net, and basketball courts). Also, the grouchy staffer I read about in reviews was not there the night we arrived and, in fact, the two staffers were very friendly and even recommended a good restaurant in the nearby town.
This was the second of four huts on Maine Huts and Trails network of trails and it is situated very close to a gorgeous lake. The fall colors were at peak when we were there. I had never heard of Maine Huts and Trails (a small non-profit organization) and likely would not have if we had not traveled with an organized group for a three-day hut to hut experience. Although they are called huts, I would call them lodges. There is a large main area with showers, compostable toilets, a kitchen, and shared dining and living room space. There is a pack-in, pack-out policy. There are no electrical outlets or cell service, so you are off the grid.
The bunkhouses are shared and each one accommodates up to eight people.
When it is open and staffed, meals are provided, and the food is good. Dietary needs are taken into account.
Now for the bad news: One of the four huts (Poplar Stream) has already temporarily closed and all the huts are in jeopardy of not operating during the winter due to a severe financial shortfall. The catch 22 is that they likely do not have money for advertising so very few people know about them. I’m hopeful that by spreading the word on The Dyrt, more people will discover how beautiful they are, become members, donate to them, volunteer, and/or hopefully enjoy time spent in one of the huts.
I had never heard of Maine Huts and Trails (a small non-profit organization) and likely would not have if we had not traveled with an organized group for a three-day hut to hut experience. Poplar Flat is one of four gorgeous huts (and huts do not begin to describe these accommodations– they are more like lodges) on a trail system. The huts were constructed 11 years ago, and Poplar Stream was the first one completed. The main “hut” has showers, radiant heat floors, and compostable toilets. There are no electrical outlets or cell service, so this is an off-grid experience. There is a pack-in, pack-out policy.
The bunkhouses are shared and each one accommodates up to eight people. When it is open and staffed, meals are provided, and the food is good. Dietary needs are taken into account.
Now for the bad news: Poplar Flats hut is currently not open to the public (we stayed there as part of a group) and all of the huts are in jeopardy of not operating during the winter due to a severe financial shortfall. The catch 22 is that they likely do not have money for advertising so very few people know about them. I’m hopeful that by spreading the word on The Dyrt, more people will discover how beautiful they are, become a member, donate to them, volunteer, and hopefully enjoy time spent in one of the huts (I believe that the other three are still open).
We loved our two-night stay at this park. It is a very compact park and once you are settled, everything is within walking distance. 76 sites plus 12 cabins in two loops– an “old” one and a “new” one. The old loop has 35 sites (sites 1-12 have electric hookups but, in my opinion, they are not nearly as nice as other sites with no hookups. These 12 sites are very close together (1-6 are more like parallel parking spots) with no privacy between them. Sites 36-72 are in the new loop and can vary significantly. I was told there are future plans for electric hookups in the new loop. If you are camping in the summer, you will want Sites 36, 38, 40, 42, 48, 50, or 76 as these are very shaded and private. The sites on the outside of the grassy area(52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72) were in full sun, which was very nice in September but could be brutal during hot summer months. Some have trees for separation, but these sites are spaced a generous distance apart. The sites on the inside of the loop seem less desirable to me and no one occupied them during our stay.
Only the bathhouse in the new loop (which was very clean) had showers, which were very nice (clean with a good hard spray and hot water).
The office was staffed until 6:30 pm and since we pre-registered, the process was very smooth. There is one garbage/recycling area between the two loops and the bonus for us was propane canister recycling. There are a large day-use area and a shelter available to rent, along with two playgrounds (one designated for ages 2-5 and the other for ages 5-12). During the summer months, there is a swimming hole fed by Lower Falls; swimming is only allowed when lifeguards are present.
What we loved most about our stay here was the hike on the Gorge and Rim Trails. You can make a loop by hiking both. It was a good workout, but the views were incredible on the Gorge Trail. With your camping fee, you can also visit nearby Buttermilk Falls State Park and there is a similar, but shorter, Rim/Gorge Trail which was also worth visiting.
We travel in a 17-foot camper van, but no one ever believes that we are no bigger than a standard cargo van and can easily fit in a regular size parking space. Upon arrival at Ausable Chasm, we were told we had to take a site with water and electric since we had a camper van. These sites were $13 more per night and we really did not need the hookups. We were finally able to convince the staff that we could take a standard tent site, which was more than big enough.
The road through the campground is dirt and rutted but the speed limit is 5 mph, so it wasn’t that bad, but it would be a mess if it was raining.
Bathrooms and shower rooms are individual rooms, but the doors are not labeled so it’s a game of “what’s behind door number 1?” There was no light in the shower room that I looked at so a night shower would be out of the question. The bathrooms were clean and had soap, paper towels, a garbage receptacle, and a mirror in each.
Lots of ant hills throughout the campground so be cautious where you set up a tent. Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring. Large and nice-looking playground, pool, volleyball net, disc golf and mountain biking/hiking trails. It also looked like there were cross country ski trails but not sure if the campground or cabins would be open in the winter.
Biggest advantage is that Ausable Chasm(a separate business) is directly across the street from the campground and it is very close to the ferry that will take you to Burlington, VT, our next destination.
Ranger Review: Men’s Rebel Stretch Shell Jacket at Letchworth State Park
I’ve visited Letchworth State Park, known as the Grand Canyon of the East, in the winter and the summer, but this is the first time in autumn and the first time camping. Although this very large state park is starkly beautiful, the campground is not as nice as other New York state parks we have recently been to. We were in the 600 loop, the farthest from the camp office and closest to the Genesee River (although we could not see it from our site). The sites on the outside of the 600 loop were larger and more private; most of them were pie-shaped and had many trees that provided ample separation. The sites on the inside of the loop were much smaller and less private. The bathrooms were reasonable but dated. The showers did not look very inviting and although I did not use them, I overheard someone comment they were the worst showers they had ever experienced!
I highly recommend the free tour of the Mt. Morris Dam on the other side of the river from the campground. The tour is interesting and lasts approximately one hour. Offered at 2 pm in the offseason and twice per day during the summer.
It rained almost the entire time we were there, so we didn’t take any long hikes. We did a short hike to the Lower Falls. The footbridge was closed for repairs when we were there. The Middle Falls and Upper Falls can be seen with very short walks. There is also a restaurant in the park which was ok but not fantastic
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to test products. At this campground, we tested the Men’s Rebel Stretch Shell Jacket by Red Ledge. The price of this jacket is much less than many other available brands, so we were interested in checking it out and ordered one for my husband.
Although it is well made and a good value for the price, it is not as functional as my husband would have liked.
Once again, we arrived after dark (the days are way too short in the fall)! and although Google Maps guided us correctly to this campground, we also appreciated the very good signage directing us! This campground is set way back in the woods and except for the hooting owl and an occasional barking dog from other campers, it was VERY quiet. No road noise at this campground!
The campsites are spread out over a big area. Sites 1-9 are located near Berry Pond and are serviced by a pit toilet. The rest are about 1.5 miles south on the loop road. We were originally in site 29 but we would have had to walk through a path in the woods to get to the bathroom; since it was dark when we arrived, we were happy to switch to Site 32, much closer. Our site was level but not all of them appeared to be so. Many trees provide privacy. It looked like the restroom/shower building was fairly new and it was very clean. There is also a group campground and day-use areas.
The next morning, I set off to walk the loop road, thinking it would be a couple of miles at most. Surprise– it was over four miles and HILLY! I got a good workout, but it was a beautiful walk. The reward was seeing Berry Pond and the view when I finally reached the top of the hill. Wish we had more time to take a hike or explore the area more.
Fairly typical national park campground. Two huge loops; sites varied in size; some were clearly for tents only as they had huge boulders that separated the driveway area from the rest of the campsite. Ours was site A46 and was a large pull-through. Easy access to the bathroom which was clean. I thought there were enough trees to separate the sites and provide privacy. Generators are annoying but their allowable hours are limited. Unusual that there were windows in the bathroom, and you could see into the handicapped stall from the windows! No showers, no hookups, no hot water. I did like the“drain” for dishwater– I’ve never seen one like this before. It was located just outside of the bathrooms in the A Loop. The biggest plus to this campground is access to the Cadillac Mountain trail, a challenging but rewarding hike! Also, as a senior, can't beat the price of $15 per night!