I decided to drive by on a roadtrip to see if I could spend the night before continuing on in the morning. The dates were not populating on the reservation website and no one answered the phone, so I just drove in around 10. There were plenty of people still out and about and the bath house was lit up. I drove around one time trying to scope out an empty tent site where I wouldn't disturb anyone. I looked at both tenting areas and either would have been pleasant. The campground was pretty full with only a few spots left. There was a large church group. Nice flat ground with lush grass. I chose a spot at the end of the lot past the RV Loop and I could see a ton of stars and let the sounds of the night lull me to sleep. Very quiet and it was still that way when I packed up before 6 the next morning. The office didn't open until 9 , so I left some cash in the door. I didn't explore anything other than the bath house and the general layout. Seemed to be very well maintained, clean, quiet, and certainly convenient just minutes off the interstate. I wasn't sure I was going the right way at first as you go through a patch of rough neighborhood before arriving at the property.
I had a friend's wedding at The Stables (which I didn't realize was 3 min away) and decided to camp here rather than get a hotel. I set up right at 3 at Site 7 - there's no check-in process or attendant. I hadn't printed my permit, so I wondered if I would get a visit from a ranger but all was quiet. The site was spacious, sandy, and well suited for both tent and hammock. The fire ring was in good condition and fire wood was already stacked. The property was well maintained and the bathrooms clean and cool - the women's did have some standing water from a leaky toilet it looked like. You can hear distant cars and some not so distant planes. Also, while all the sites are wooded the woods are not very thick so you can see and hear your neighbors pretty well. Site number three looks at the most secluded to me while site number four was pretty much in the open beside the bathrooms. Group sites were full sun it appeared. The stream behind my site was dry. Nice map and brochures at the parking area. Sturdy picnic tables.
Our absolute favorite spot is #3 but we were very happy with #5! They went to an online specific reservation system now so no more guessing which spot you'll fight for. A long side trail off the main loop, you'll get some mountain views between the winter trees and climb up to what feels like the top of the mountain. Very private. There's a nice flat spot for the tent and plenty of running space for the pup to play fetch. The picnic table is right next to the fire pit which was nice and I was able to hang my hammock up on the other side! The only downside is your water source is down at the main loop so you'll want to get that on your way in or out.
There's a little trail that leads to the park border and private property I assume.
I am all about some waterside camping spots, especially when the river is touted for having some unique wildlife sighting opportunities! I was disappointed in the camping situation when we visited though. I wanted to scope out the sights since we live nearby. All the sights are along the clay forest service road leading to the swimming hole and pretty close to one another. It was wet when we visited so the sights were very muddy. Looked like a lot of locals hole up there on the weekends. Toilet at parking area was very dirty neglected. Road is rough. Swimming is great though! A little more shallow than I expected for a snorkeling destination but felt great on a summer day.
Disclaimer: Did not camp here On my hike up Big Frog trail this weekend I came across this great site. Lots of shade, on a beautiful stretch of trail around 1 mile north of Big Frog summit on Big Frog trail. Plenty of space for several tents and probably a decent view from either side of the ridge with a little bit of scouting. Would have given 5 stars but I didn't come across any water sources nearby.
Did not camp here but passed by hiking Big Frog trail. Just south of the intersection of Benton MacKaye (Fork Ridge) and Big Frog, there is a small primitive along the trail. No good water sources spotted nearby. Pretty section of trail from here on up to Big Frog summit. The group site further south before summit of Big Frog has more shade, more space, and is nicer in my opinion. It's all uphill from Big Frog Trailhead to the summit though so be prepared with plenty of water.
I didn't stay here but passed by on my hiking Big Frog trail. On Big Frog trail, just south of intersection with Yellow Stand trail there is a primitive pine campsite with fire ring. Not the most smooth but could probably fit 2 small tents or a few hammocks. Very limited water sources nearby (some trickles on Big Frog north)
Starting out late at Big Frog Trailhead off FS221, I was hoping to find a site relatively close. About 1.5-2 mi in at the intersection of Rough Creek trail and Big Frog I saw a grassy patch with a fire ring and set up camp. There is a small path leading to another primitive site, a little more private. Small trickle crossing Big Frog trail just south and there is a stagnant pond 0.1 mi down Rough Creek trail if you get desperate. Hung a bear bag and good trees for hammocking. Great place to camp if you want to do some loop trails or be close to the trailhead.