Marta S.

The Dyrt Pro

Chicago , IL

Joined May 2019

Hiking & Biking & Dogs

LOVE LOVE LOVE

We stayed at three different campsites throughout our trip (went backpacking 4 days, 3 nights - could have just set up camp and day hiked, buttttt didn't necessarily think that through). 

The first campsite we stayed at was on the Green Valley Trail, the second one was on the Panthertown Valley Trail right near the Schoolhouse Falls Trail, and the third was on Mac's Gap right past the Granny Burrell Falls Trail. 

All the campsites were beautiful, but the Green Valley Trail campsite was our favorite. It was the most secluded and in an utterly beautiful location. There was foliage covering it from the trail and there was a creek steps away which made it easy to get water and make for. The Panthertown Valley Trail campsite was our least favorite, but that is because it was right off the main trail and not secluded whatsoever and kind of disappointing compared to the Green Valley campsite. It was also dirty with water bottles and socks and lots of mud from horses stepping all over the place. We were also woken up at 2AM by a group of loud hikers which left us concerned because it was down pouring and they were being extremely belligerent. However, we camped here because we were exhausted and wanted to stay near Schoolhouse Falls to be able to swim around and get wet and there were some unknown animal tracks in the sand near Schoolhouse Falls. We stayed on Mac's Gap for the same reason - to be near Granny Burrell after a long day - and even though it was the most crowded trail, it was a lot of fun. There was a pack of llamas we were next to and they were so sweet (part of a boys camp), and we felt the safest from predators (read: bears). Even though there were a lot of people, I felt a strong sense of camaraderie. 

You will need a bear canister, practice the Bearmuda Triangle, and make sure to bring a poop shovel. Pack out what you packed in.

Great campground

This campground is beautiful and spacious and we were able to get a spot on the water side even though we were coming for the weekend and did not have reservations. My only qualms is that if you are looking to "get away" and for a more remote feel, this is a more family friendly campground and there aren't many trails and such nearby through the national forest. It was difficult for us to try to go do things since we were ill prepared and forgot our maps and cell phone usage was impossible since there is no service. Otherwise, the campground served us well to just get away and relax and the pooch loved it.

Note: the location of this campground is inaccurate on the map.

My Favorite

This is the most amazing campground there is. I was on the side of the water and it was absolutely exceptional. Easy access to the water and lots to explore whether on the beach or on the trails. Words cannot do the beauty of this campground and area justice. The campground itself was easy to get to, you had privacy, lots of awesome cars and trucks, and it was clean and spacious. I dream of being back here because even despite the 40 degrees and rain, I had a blast of a time, and so did my dog.

Spectacular

We stayed at 3 different campsites as we took the entire Four Pass loop over four days. It was an AMAZING experience. All the campsites had amazing views, and most were incredibly private. The last campsite had the most people, which was the one by Snowmass Lake. Even though there were lots of campers and people at this site, it was still incredibly clean, and it was nice to gather and catchup with different individuals about our travels. Each of the campsites were clean and well maintained with a stream nearby for water. The trails were well maintained as well, but be ready to work hard as it can get a bit grueling and stressful. I cannot recommend this trail and its primitive campsites more. If you're looking to backpack with some amazing views, this is definitely the place to do it. 

Also, thankfully no bears were encountered on our journey, but we did see a fox, a moose from a distance, and a deer.

ABSOLUTELY STUNNING

We stayed at 3 different campsites as we took the entire Four Pass loop over four days. It was an AMAZING experience. All the campsites had amazing views, and most were incredibly private. The last campsite had the most people, which was the one by Snowmass Lake. Even though there were lots of campers and people at this site, it was still incredibly clean, and it was nice to gather and catchup with different individuals about our travels. Each of the campsites were clean and well maintained with a stream nearby for water. The trails were well maintained as well, but be ready to work hard as it can get a bit grueling and stressful. I cannot recommend this trail and its primitive campsites more. If you're looking to backpack with some amazing views, this is definitely the place to do it. 

Also, thankfully no bears were encountered on our journey, but we did see a fox, a moose from a distance, and a deer.

Unimpressive and crowded

The campsite is considered to be primitive, which is fine, but it is right along the trail without any cover. All the campsites are one on top of the other without any cover in between or from the trail. They were all taken and incredibly packed during the Memorial Day weekend and honestly seemed very messy and unpleasant. I would not feel comfortable leaving my equipment and gear here unattended at all. I'm not sure if it's any better the further along the trail you go, but the areas we hiked it didn't appear there were additional primitive/dispersed camping spots available other than the ones near the trail head. Also, important to note that there are lots of ticks and poison ivy everywhere.

I have camped in backcountry locations and have done dispersed/primitive camping and enjoy it quite a bit, but I would have been miserable at this location.

Clean, Fun, and Lots of Features

We were a bit nervous about this campground when reading reviews and seeing the location (there is an Impact Incarceration Program that shares the border), but I'm glad we found it. We booked this spot a few weeks in advance for Memorial Day weekend, and honestly we only booked it because it was the only campground left that seemed somewhat acceptable out of campgrounds that accept reservations. I'm glad we did. The location is amazing, it didn't seem as crowded as other campgrounds in Shawnee National Forest, it was well maintained, and had lots of features that range from hiking trails to a swimming pool (and pretty confident a basketball court as well). Even though we did not take advantage of these features, the campsite itself was wonderful. It was exactly what we wanted - a little pine forest to sleep in and get away from the city and take it easy for the weekend. There were lots of kids and other people as expected for the holiday weekend, but that did not interfere with our stay. The campsites are very compacted, but it still feels very personal and private due to all the tree cover and bushes. Additionally, there are bathrooms onsite that are pretty clean, but expect lots of mosquitos on them. Finally, Golconda is only 10 miles away and has a grocery store that was stocked with essentials we forgot and a gas station to fill up. 

Here are some of the negatives: LOTS of poison ivy and ticks. Luckily, we expected this and came prepared with tweezers, tick remover, insect repellant, and poison ivy wipes. I gave my dog tick medicine two days prior to our departure, and the tweezers and tick remover came in handy since I was bit despite the ample amounts of insect repellant. The poison ivy is EVERYWHERE. Anywhere you see trees and bushes, there will be poison ivy. It was definitely nerve wracking putting up the hammock and unfortunately did not get to cuddle our dog at all since we were nervous of the possible oils on his fur. Also, their system for reservation is flawed - when we arrived the campsite we booked had a family already all settled in, and luckily we were able to find another available campsite otherwise we'd need to talk to the superintendent and kick that family out in order to get settled in. I would have been incredibly disgruntled if this ended up happening, but luckily the campsite we ended up having was better than the one we originally booked. Could have gone either way though. Finally, cars aren't allowed next to the campsite. We initially parked next to it and the superintendent asked us to move it to the parking lot. Makes it a hassle and is a bit of a bummer, but it was fine.