Julian Price Campground is part of the Julian Price Memorial Park, which is along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the northern part of North Carolina. I have heard about this park for many years, so I wanted to finally camp there. It is an older park, and it shows. We stayed at site A4, and I chose this site for a few reasons. It was close to the lake, but unfortunately, we couldn’t see the lake from the site. Many of the sites in the A loop are reservable, and they have been reserved for several weeks(maybe months) in advance. They are the best sites as far as seeing the lake and sometimes because they are larger. The worst part I discovered about sites in the A loop is that you can hear traffic from the Blue Ridge Parkway all day long except for two to three hours in the middle of the night(about 1:30 to 4:30). On average, you can count on about twenty-five vehicles every five minutes(I know because I counted). It doesn’t help that the parkway is under construction and the road is gravel, which makes the sounds of vehicles even louder. The restrooms in A loop are old and need updating. There are no showers in A loop. The only showers are between B and D loops, which are on the other side of the Blue Ridge Parkway. On the positive side, the showers in a new bath house, and they are private shower/restroom units. We rode through all of the loops to see what the other sites were like, and some of the sites are seldom used if the picnic tables and surrounding vegetation is any indication. Some of the picnic tables are covered in moss. Those were mostly in the sites that were small or sloped. For that reason, it is a good idea to look at the photos on the website for each site before reserving. Many of the sites are walk-in sites and you can set up before the 3:00 time for reservable sites. As far as activities, there is no swimming, but fishing is allowed. There is also a boat ramp, and you can rent canoes, kayaks, and SUPs. The lake is hatchery supported, and I did witness someone catching a fish as we walked along the lake trail. While we were in this area, we saw several small deer, including one that came through our campsite. Our campsite was spacious, and it had a concrete picnic table, a fire ring, a lantern pole, and a tent pad. The tent pad needed some maintenance since the dirt had washed onto it and made it slightly sloped. Not until later did I discover that there was a tall dead tree next to our tent. Only the top part was dead, but it could be a potential danger. The site next to ours was sectioned off because of a dead tree. If you are staying in A loop, I give it two stars, especially since the sites and bath house need maintenance, and because of the road noise. If you are staying in B or D loop, I would give it three or four stars. The sites in E loop are mainly for RVs and have less shade. One section in the A loop also is an open field and has limited shade. Overall, it’s not a bad choice for a campground, but it needs updating. What it has going for it is location. It is along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Cone Memorial Park is down the road, which is a great destination in itself. There are lots of hiking trails and the beauty of the mountains is spectacular.
To get to the dispersed camping area at Table Rock, you have to drive a long, winding road. It is a designated wilderness area, and most of the roads are not well-maintained. Access is not easy, and it is rough on your vehicle. If you know anything about Linville Gorge Wilderness, you know that the views are unparalleled. When you get to the camping area, it doesn’t seem like much, and you have to take everything in because you cannot park at the campsites. We were lucky enough to get one within a hundred yards from where we parked. This is a wilderness area, and there are no amenities. You have to pack in everything. The only things at the campsites are fire rings. However, we had a tremendous view overlooking the town of Marion and Lake James from our site. We looked at other campsites, but the one we chose couldn’t have been more perfect. Other than cooking and sleeping, you will not want to spend a whole lot of time at the campsite because of the trails and the views, unless you just want to relax in a chair and enjoy the view. The night we spent at the campsite, we were caught unprepared in more ways than one. We had spent most of the day hiking and taking photos and were caught in a thunderstorm. We also didn’t take time to look for firewood, and most of it was wet anyway. Our fire was small and didn’t last very long, but that didn’t matter since we had had a fantastic day of photography. We ended up eating a cold supper. If you go, make sure you gather wood during daylight hours or take your own firewood, although taking your own firewood means taking kiln-dried wood wrapped in plastic. If you go hiking along Jonas Ridge(I think that’s the name of it), you can get great views of Linville Gorge and Table Rock. The trail is not easy, and the rocky cliffs can be dangerous. However, the hike is well worth it because of the natural beauty.
This camping area is part of the Shining Rock Wilderness and is a beautiful place to spend the night. There are several dispersed camping sites from which to choose. The parking area for these campsites is the trailhead for a trail to Sam’s Knob, and there are several other trails close by. It is also within a few miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and there is a roadside waterfall about half a mile up the road along Hwy 276. Another great thing about these campsites is that they are along the East Fork Pigeon River. The campsite I chose was about a tenth of a mile from the trailhead and within earshot of the river, so sleeping at night is great because of the constant sounds of water. However, there are muddy places along the way, and the trail down to the actual campsite is steep, narrow, and mostly overgrown with weeds. Unfortunately, I hadn’t planned on“backpacking,” so I had to made several trips to my campsite—one trip for the tent, one trip for the sleeping bag and sleeping pad, one trip for food, etc. The disadvantage of the campsite I chose is that it is also a popular place for people to play in the river. While I was there, there was a family who was tubing and playing in the water within a few steps of my tent. Other than that, the site was great since it is miles from the nearest town, and at night, you can be in peace. You don’t have to worry about locals invading your space at night since there are no lights(other than my own), and it is down a trail. The worst part about this site, and another site I saw, is that a level spot is hard to find. You have to be careful not to set up your tent on rocks. If you have a small tent, that should not be a problem. It is in the mountains, and the sites are sloped. Another thing I didn’t like was that there were blackflies. They weren’t too bad but just bad enough to be annoying. If you want to go exploring by car, you can drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway and see Looking Glass Rock, or you can continue on Hwy 276 and visit Moore’s Cove Falls, Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock, or the Cradle of Forestry in America. Down the road, there is also Moore’s Cove Falls, which is a waterfall you can walk behind. However, it requires a nine-tenths of a mile hike one way. Overall, it’s a great place to get away from civilization, yet you are close to great wonders of nature.
Despite having rained for a week, staying at this campground wasn’t half bad. Building a fire was next to impossible. I think there might have been thirty minutes without rain, so pictures are limited. Being in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you need to be prepared for rain since it is a temperate rain forest. I had brought Boy Scouts to this campground years ago and wanted to go back. This time, we did not stay in the group camping area. Since it was at the beginning of the week, it wasn’t too crowded, although there were two Boy Scout groups in the group camping area. There are several camping areas, and the one we were in allowed generators during the day. I think I heard one, but it was not so bad. Unfortunately, there are gravel tent pads, which is bad news for campers with tents you have to stake down. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. As a tent camper, I hate gravel tent pads. Being in the national park, the amenities are about the same as the other national park campgrounds. However, I was surprised that the bath house had an electrical outlet to be used for blow dryers and shavers. I don’t remember any other Great Smoky Mountains National Park campgrounds having that luxury. But like the other ones in this national park, the bath house does not have showers or campsite hookups for water, sewer, and electricity. There are several trails in the area, but the ones that originate from the campground is the¾ mile nature trail and the Bradley Fork Smokemont Loop. When my son and I hiked this trail, we had to watch out for and step around horse poop. Since this trail is also used by horses, there was lots of it. Fortunately, the nature trail didn’t allow horses. My granddaughter loved walking over the log bridges and skipping rocks at the campground while it wasn’t raining. I think that was her favorite part. As with most of my camping trips, I want to explore, and there is plenty to explore around this campground. Being in the national park, there is a wide variety.
Fewer than three miles down the road, there is an old mill (Mingus Mill), the Oconaluftee Visitors Center (which has the Mountain Farm Museum), elk, wild turkeys, etc. Within the boundary of the campground I discovered something at the campground that I never knew existed. There was an old church at the campground that was built before Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established. We were able to go into the church for me to take a few pictures. It was first constructed in 1836 and rebuilt in 1912. Not too far from the campground is the Appalachian Trail, the Benton MacKaye Trail, and the Kephart Prong Trail. This campground is also one of the largest campgrounds in the national park that I have been to. Although it is not an equestrian campground, Tow String camping area is“next door,” and it is an equestrian campground. The horseback riders pass beside the campground on route to the Bradley Fork Trail. Overall, this was one of my better experiences with national park campgrounds except for the rain.
This camping area is close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, hence the name, and there are several places to explore in the general area. I had been to these campsites during the off-season, and there was nobody camped there. This time it was a different story. People who camp here want to be away from crowds, but that is difficult on weekends, especially during the summer. If they are not camping here, they come here to hike the Flat Laurel Creek Trail. There are more hikers who come here than campers, and for good reason. The Flat Laurel Creek Trail starts at these campsites and goes to Sam Knob, which is a 6,000 foot peak. You can also hike to Little Sam Knob at 5,862 feet. I made friends with two types of people who visit here. One was a day hiker who has hiked several trails in the area, and today he hiked the Flat Laurel Creek Trail. The other friend I made was Lee Ann. Lee Ann just likes camping away from people in remote areas. She and I hit it off as friends from the start since my preference is to camp where there are not a lot of people. While I was there, there were at least two large groups of day hikers, and several individual hikers. There are two campsites with fire rings, but I wasn’t lucky enough to get one since it was so close to July 4 and it was on a weekend. I had to settle for a small flat spot between the two other sites. The space was beside the trail but it was obviously a well-used site. The site was level with very few rocks where I put my tent. It was almost like a little alcove in the woods. However, even if it sounded crowded, it was not. Lee Ann offered to share her space and campfire with me, and I realized how great it is to camp in areas like this where you meet people with great stories. She even shared information about a trail to a swimming hole down the road. The camper(s) in the other campsite were friendly but not as sociable. There was lots of shade and it seemed more private than it really was. Billy, the day hiker that I met, was an older gentleman, and he told me about all of the trails in the area. I knew about a couple of them, but I didn’t realize the Mountains to Sea Trail was so close. About 3.2 miles from the campsites, you can see Sunburst Falls; but to get the best view, you have to hike down a steep embankment. In the other direction, you can get on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and drive north for about a mile to see Devil’s Courthouse. To get to the top, you have to hike about four-tenths of a mile. You can also take the Mountains to Sea Trail, which is thirty seconds from my campsite, via car, and hike it to Devil’s Courthouse, which is a much longer trail. You will hike over the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way there and not even know you are crossing it because of all the trees. There are also several waterfalls in the area, and some of them you hike to; others you can drive to or hike to. What I really did not like about Blue Ridge Roadside Campsites is that you constantly hear big trucks, including at least half a dozen log trucks and several motorcycles. The tent sites are close to the road, but the sounds from the road are partially blocked out by the sounds of Flat Laurel Creek. If you go to these campsites, you have to take or treat your own water. There are no water, electricity, or sewer hookups. Make sure to take your own toilet paper and trowel/shovel. There are no tent pads, but there are rocks. If you study the area in the daylight, you can find a soft patch of ground. Unless you have your own lantern, it will be dark at night. Unfortunately, the only sounds that make you feel as if you are not in the middle of the wilderness are the sounds of the traffic on the highway. Overall, it was a great campout for being close to several trailheads, but the camping area itself leaves a lot to be desired.
I have heard a lot of people mention this campground, so I had to try it for myself. One of the first things I learned about national forest campgrounds in North Carolina is that if you want to check out campsites ahead of time, you cannot go in the campground if it is at 85% capacity. You cannot even get through the gate. With that said, my friend and I showed up at Davidson River and were told there were only two sites left. One was a pull-through and the other one was a pull-in. I asked the host which one was more private and better for tents. Since there are over 100 campsites at this campground, I also found out that national forest campgrounds fill up quickly. The site we got was not great, and the layout was not well thought out. Why would you place the fire pit next to the lantern pole. That seems dangerous having a lantern so close to the fire. Nevertheless, it worked out since I placed my propane lantern on the picnic table. For the record, I HATE gravel pads in which the gravel is several inches deep. It is almost impossible to drive tent stakes through it. If you do manage to get a stake through the gravel, you will probably end up with a bent stake. Fortunately, I had a free-standing tent this time, but I also had to set up tarps. Rain was in the forecast, and there was a thunderstorm with a deluge of rain. I didn’t think we were going to be able to have a fire, but there was a break about 9:00 pm. This site also needed some maintenance as far as landscaping. There was lots of poison ivy, and the weeds were too close to the driveway and the tent pad.
One of the biggest reasons people come to this area is to enjoy what the Pisgah National Forest has to offer. Within walking distance is the trailhead for the Art Loeb Trail, and many other trails are not too far away. It is within a short driving distance of one of my favorite waterfalls (Looking Glass Falls), the Blue Ridge Parkway, several other waterfalls, and several other trails. At the campground, there is a popular swimming area where people can fish, swim, and go tubing. I didn’t come across a group camping area, but there is a large activity field which was titled“Deer Field.” Also within the confines of the campground, there is English Chapel, which is an active church. Campers are welcome to visit, according to the sign. There is an“exercise” trail, and I saw several joggers on the trail and on the roads throughout the campground. There is mountain laurel throughout the campground, which creates some photographic beauty. There are several camping loops throughout the campground, and each one has its own bath house. The one closest to us had one shower, a urinal, and one stall. The shower is a push button type, so you have to push it repeatedly for your shower. One thing that surprised me was that generators are allowed, except in one loop. As we explored the campground further, I can’t imagine how other campers can put up with the noise. I could hear it from a hundred yards away. This campground takes precautions against bears and we had a metal food container at our campsite. That is one thing I did like about our site. There were also recycling bins located within the campground. The only reason I didn’t give this campground five stars is because it needed some landscaping work and that generators are allowed. Other than that, this is a great campground, especially since it is so close to great hiking and great waterfalls.
The Lake Junaluska Campground seems small, but it cannot be separated from Lake Junaluska. Lake Junaluska is home of the Methodist Assembly, and the campground is part of it. Therefore, the amenities with the campground are the amenities for the Lake Junaluska Assembly. The campground itself has RV sites, tent sites, and cabins. Every time I passed by the campground in the past, all I saw were RVs in front, so I naturally thought it was strictly an RV park. Looking for somewhere to camp close to home, I decided to do some checking. Low and behold, they have primitive campsites, but I could not find prices. I emailed the campground with questions, but I didn’t get a reply until after I stayed there. I decided to take a chance and show up, and I’m glad I did. The following night would not have been very good since they were completely booked. I was lucky enough to show up on the right day for available sites. Apparently, they fill up during the weekends or when there are special events at the Assembly. The tent sites do have water or electricity, but the spaces and tent pads are very small. Even though there was only one tent camper in the tent area tonight, the space still seemed crowded. I would rather pay a little extra for an RV site with more room. Site 240 is much larger and has water and electricity, although it was really meant to be an RV site. The bathrooms are small and utilitarian—nothing fancy; however, the campground is small, so it’s a short walk to the bath house. The campground does sell firewood($6.00 for a bundle and starter). Downed wood to use for tinder and kindling is almost impossible to find, so if you don’t want to spend money on firewood, bring your own. If you are in an RV, there is a$10 fee for the dump station. Most people who camp here at Lake Junaluska Campground don’t come here specifically for the campground. They come here for the Lake Junaluska activities and conventions across the road. There, you can launch your own canoes, kayaks, jon boats, etc. for free, or you can rent canoes and kayaks to use on the lake. Canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats are $5.00 for half an hour, and paddle boards are$10.00 per hour. Fishing is allowed in several spots, and there are a couple of docks for fishing. I was lucky enough to come to Lake Junaluska at the right time of year. There is the famous“rose walk,” which is over a hundred yards long beside the sidewalk. May is the prime time for seeing the roses. Back to the campground. It does not offer a lot of amenities within the confines of the camping area, but being a part of the Lake Junaluska Assembly makes up for it. You could spend days enjoying what it has to offer, whether it is walking or jogging around the lake, playing in the water, paddling on the water, fishing, playing tennis or shuffleboard, or simply watching the swans and geese. If you are not cooking at the campsite you could drive to Lambuth Inn, which is also part of the Assembly. There are three dining halls, but when I camp, I like to cook at the campsite. Unfortunately, when you stay at the campground, you will hear noise from the road since it is a U. S. highway. Other than the road noise, the campground seemed very quiet, and a lot of the campers were senior citizens.
I camped at this campground about fifteen to twenty years ago, and I loved the coolness of the high altitude. That has not changed. When I camped at Balsam Mountain last night, there were things I didn’t remember from my first visit long ago. Now there are tent pads, and some of them are within spitting distance of each other. Fortunately, I got a site that was a good distance away from the next site. However, the site was small and sloped. If you have a large tent, just know that you might have to stake guy lines outside of the tent pad. The picnic table was not level, and the fire pit was very close to the picnic table. That wasn’t too bad, but almost every site was such that you had to park on the campground road, except for sites 26-31. Those were tent sites in which you had to park in a designated parking area and walk in a short distance. There are no hookups at this campground, which is okay with me since I am in a tent and carry my own water, and the restrooms have no showers. The worst part about the restrooms, however, is that you have to remember to take a towel/paper towel with you, and at night, make sure to take a lantern/headlamp/flashlight to the restroom. This may be TMI, but I am glad I had tissue in my pocket. Both rolls of toilet paper were empty. The men’s urinals are placed fairly high, so if you have small children, you will definitely want to let them use the toilet in the stall. There is no electricity at the restrooms, which means there is no light—not even outside. I enjoyed the campground for it being away from towns, but it was a little crowded anyway. Beware. If you are in an RV, you will have to park it on the campground road. There are no back-in sites, nor are there any pull-through sites. The RV sites are literally on wide sections of the paved campground road. Each site does have a picnic table and a fire pit, but there are no lantern poles. I did like it that there was a separate building for washing dishes. Also be aware that the campground is in a bear habitat, and you have to take precautions. I actually saw a huge pile of bear scat(poop) on the nature trail fewer than 100 yards away from the campground. Make sure when you go that you take everything you need, including ice, kiln-dried firewood, etc. The nearest town is fifteen miles away. Finding downed wood is hard to come by. I found just enough to have about a twenty-minute fire, and bringing wood from outside the park is not allowed unless it is sealed and certified. There is one nature trail that is about a half mile long, and it takes you to Heintooga Overlook, which is at the picnic area. To me, this is the best part about the campground, although it’s not really part of the campground. There is another trail not accessible directly from the campground, and years ago, you could hike to a waterfall. That is no longer the case. The trail has been re-routed, and several people have tried to find the waterfall without any luck. I came upon a small amphitheater while I was looking for wood, not that it would interest the camping overnighter, but it is interesting. Overall, I was disappointed in the campground. I was hoping to give it at least three stars, but the fact that you have to park in the road, there are not real RV sites, the restrooms are disappointing, and the site I was on was really small, I cannot give it three stars. Some of the campers I talked to loved the campground and come back every year. For me, there are better national park campgrounds in the Smokies.
I have stayed at this campground more times than I can remember. My family started staying here during visits to the mountains when I was just a young boy. Located on the Qualla Reservation(popularly known as the Cherokee reservation), it’s a good campground for basic camper lodging if you have a tent or an RV. After marriage, I continued to bring my wife to this campground. However, the campground ownership changed hands, and more permanent sites were created. Camping there as a tent camper, I got the feeling there were at least two communities within the campground—one for permanent residents and one for vacationers. As I walked down the lane with the permanent sites, I got the feeling I was in a completely different setting. As a matter of fact, one lady sitting in her vehicle asked me,“Can I help you?” It didn’t help that I was carrying a camera, but after a brief conversation, I guess she decided I was all right. Some of the permanent sites look pretty rough today, and the ones beside the main road are year-round sites. The sites have water, electricity, and sewer hookups except for the tent sites along the river. The campground host, who is in the camp store, is very friendly and was able to answer all my questions. Being a tent camper, I chose to be at a tent site along the Oconaluftee River. Being there is great because you can hear the sounds of the river all night long. When I went, however, the tent sites had quite a bit of poison ivy, which needed spraying. There are a lot of rocks, so you have to be careful about where you pitch your tent. Otherwise, you will be lying on a rock throughout the night. Believe me, it is not a pleasant experience. The worst part about choosing a site beside the river is that you get fishermen(and fisherwomen) walking through your site to find different fishing holes along the river. The bath house has hot showers, but two of them are in serious need of repainting since there are visible signs of peeling paint. There are few amenities other than a basketball hoop, but it is located right beside the Oconaluftee River, which is a great place for trout fishing. Some of the things that I think should be addressed are: 1) post signs that say“no smoking” in the bath house,” 2) not allowing fireworks at camp(since there was one camping group that was doing it for at least an hour), 3) spraying for ants in the bath house, 4) spraying for poison ivy, and 5) placing trash barrels or containers throughout the campground, since I couldn’t find one except for the one in the bath house). This campground is close to the resort town of Cherokee. In Cherokee, there are lots of shops, the Oconaluftee Indian Village, the Indian museum, a great city park on the Oconaluftee River, and the outdoor drama UNTO THESE HILLS, which I believe is one of the best outdoor dramas I have ever seen. A short drive from the campground will also take you into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and you can occasionally see a large herd of elk. The reservation is known for trout fishing, and the Oconaluftee River is stocked on a regular basis. While I was there, there were quite a few people fishing. However, you must buy a tribal permit to trout fish. Overall, the campground will satisfy your need for a place to stay overnight, but you will probably want to leave and explore Cherokee during the day.
I have been to several campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and this is one of my favorites except for one thing. I don’t like the bathroom facility. I can get over it not having showers or hot water, but I have to remember each time to take my own soap and towel if I want to wash my hands. Other than that, I love this campground. When I checked in, I had to use a pay station, the first time I’ve had to do that, and interaction with any rangers or hosts was nonexistent. I really don’t mind that since I want to get away from people(other than my own family and friends) when I camp. I was lucky enough to stay at this campground before the summer season kicks in fully. If you go during peak season, plan to be in the middle of dozens of campers, IF you can get a site. Some of the campsites are within spitting distance of each other, so be prepared to meet your neighbors. This campground is in the middle of a popular area, which is close to creek tubing and waterfall hiking. In the past, I have seen HUNDREDS of people tubing along the creek and the trails to the waterfalls are crowded. However, if you go before peak season hits, avoid the most popular times, and go on weekdays, crowds are no problem, and it is very peaceful. The tent sites beside the creek, have picnic tables, lantern posts, and tent pads. Fortunately, the gravel on the tent pads is shallow enough that you can drive tent stakes down if you need to. The RV sites are in a different section, and they have pull-through and back-in sites. There are no water, electricity, or sewer hookups, so if you are in an RV, be prepared to be self-contained. Across the creek is the picnic area, and down the road farther into the park there is a picnic shelter. Another few hundred yards down the national park road and you will come to a parking area. From there, you can hike to three waterfalls. The most popular of the waterfalls is Tom Branch Falls. You will find visitors there almost any time you go, but it will be even more crowded during the summer. I have never been to this waterfall when there were not people there, and I have been there at least a dozen times. Within a short driving distance, there are other attractions as well. The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is downtown, the Road to Nowhere is a short drive out of town, and down the road there are several businesses where you can rent tubes for tubing on the creek. I will want to go back to this campground, but I do not want to go during peak season.
Edgar Evins State Park is a large park with lots of activities for young and old. However, if you want to stay in the campground, make sure to take a freestanding tent unless you have creative ways to keep your tent up. Most of the sites have wooden platforms, and the fire pits are beside the road. Perhaps most people like that sense of permanence, but I personally prefer solid ground or even gravel pads. Fortunately, the one I used was a free-standing tent. There is another option, and that is to stay in the primitive camping area. Of course, they are walk-in sites, but they are not far from where you park. I would normally choose the primitive camping area for a couple of reasons. There is a little more privacy, and you have soft ground on which to pitch your tent. Obviously, if you are an RV camper, staying in the primitive area does not apply. Unfortunately, it was better this time to choose a site that you don’t have to walk to. Out of all the state park campgrounds I have visited, the bath rooms in this state park are the best. They are modern with tiled floors, and the showers resemble ones you would find at privately owned campgrounds. There are several different activity options—volleyball, horseshoes, playgrounds, hiking trails, etc. There is also an aviary, a marina, a restaurant, and a couple of boat ramps. For the children, there is the“Storybook Trail.” For other overnight options, there are also cabins that you can rent. In retrospect, the primitive area would have been a better choice. It definitely would have been more quiet. No matter whether you stay in the primitive area or the regular camping area, you will encounter hilly terrain. The camp store is fully stocked with most of your camping needs, and there is also a laundry. Overall, Edgar Evins State Park was a good place to spend time, but again, I have my doubts about the wooden platforms.
Ranger Review: Eclipse Sun Sleeves at Harmon Den Area(Pisgah National Forest) https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/recarea/?recid=70836
There are a few dispersed camping sites at Harmon’s Den, and they are spacious sanctuaries beside Cold Springs Creek. Harmon Den is in Pisgah National Forest, and dispersed camping is allowed but only where there is a camping symbol posted along Cold Springs Creek Road. To get to the campsite, you have to get off on Exit 7 along Interstate 40 in North Carolina and travel a gravel road for several miles. You will not want to drive too fast since there are several potholes, washboards, and protruding rocks in the road. At the campsite, there is a fire ring, but there are no other facilities such as bathrooms, showers, electricity, running water, trash cans, camp store, firewood for sale, campground hosts, etc. It is pretty much just a space for camping. With that said, it offers all the exciting activities that national forests offer, such as fishing, biking, hiking, etc. Harmon Den is mostly known as a horse camp, although car camping without horses is a common occurrence. When I was there, I passed by a couple of car campers that did not have horses. I did see a few vehicles with horse trailers pass by on the road. Because it is a popular horse camping area, you have to watch where you step. At our campsite, there was horse poop in several places, and I had to watch my grandson closely so he didn’t step in a pile of horse manure. Expect to encounter horse flies as well. There was also lots of poison ivy, so that was another concern I had about my grandson running freely. Since there are no bathrooms, practicing LNT(Leave No Trace) is important. Unfortunately, there was lots of trash, but that was a teachable moment for my grandson, and we definitely left the campsite better than what we found it. Before it gets dark, make sure you know where you are going to take care of business when you have to get up in the middle of the night. That way, you can avoid stepping in the wrong place. There were also quite a few people fishing in the creek on the way to the campsite since the creek is a popular place for trout fishing. As a matter of fact, a wildlife officer came through our camp with a fishnet full of trout to stock the creek. She asked us if we brought our fishing poles. Unfortunately, that’s one thing I didn’t take camping with me. What was I thinking? Even with the horse poop and the poison ivy, it’s a great area for camping if you like solitude and the sounds of the creek throughout the night. Another reason to camp at Harmon Den is to visit Max Patch while you are there. I would suggest staying at least two nights so you can spend one day just enjoying Max Patch. It is a large mountain bald over which the Appalachian Trail crosses. I have been there in the past when people are having picnics, flying kites, or just lying on a blanket enjoying the magnificent scenery. If you go at the right time of year, one of the trails up to Max Patch will take you by wild blueberries and blackberries. As I stated earlier, the campsites are spacious, and it felt very peaceful just being there.
As a Dyrt Ranger I get to occasionally try out outdoor products while camping and this trip I brought Eclipse Sun Sleeves(https://eclipseglove.com/)..) As a stem cell transplant survivor from stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I can never be in the sun without adequate protection for the rest of my life. That’s why Eclipse clothing is perfect for me. Even in the middle of the summer, I have had to wear long sleeves and a broad-brimmed hat. I had earlier written a review for the Eclipse shawl, but with the Eclipse Sun Sleeves, I can finally wear my short sleeve shirts again. Since I love the outdoors and have some cool t-shirts, all I have to do is put on my sun sleeves and I am protected. The only thing I could see that might need improving would be to figure out how to keep the upper part to stay up. It wasn’t that much of a problem, and I don’t how the company could solve it, but overall, the sun sleeves are great. I would further like to say that because of sun sleeves, those who are allergic to the sun have one less excuse not to go outdoors in the sun..
When you first get to the campground, you may think it is the typical national park campground, and it is in a several ways. However, this campground has a little-known area that many people ignore. First of all, the campsite we stayed in was spacious and had a fire ring. It didn’t have electricity and water, but it was large enough for my best friend to put up his monster tent. The bath house does not have showers, but they are more than adequate for primitive camping. The campground is located in an area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that has the Little River through it, so you have the sounds of the creek at night. You can gather wood for your campfire, but you cannot transport firewood into the campground unless it has been certified and sealed in plastic. If you are not tubing or fishing in the river, you can travel a few miles to explore Cades Cove. However, next to the campground, there is the little-known area I mentioned earlier. I found it fascinating and lots of fun to explore. It is a ghost town, which began as a logging town. In the early 1900s, it became a resort, and from what I understand, many of the residents were from eastern Tennessee. Some of the buildings have been restored, but most of them are deteriorating quickly. We were able to go inside most of the buildings, but you have to be careful. You are not allowed to go into the some of them, which have signs and are dangerous. However, just to walk down the streets among the buildings is a beautiful sight, especially in the fall. The last thing I heard is that they are going to raze most of the buildings. Overall, Elkmont Campground is a peaceful place to stay with a lot of history. It is also close to another popular area of the national park--Cades Cove. My advice would be to plan ahead since this campground can fill up during peak season. It is the largest campground of the Smokies, if I understood correctly, but campers come from all over the United States to stay here.
I discovered this campground along Hwy 276 on the way to Shining Rock, and I’m glad I did. Although it seems like it’s only for RVs, it does have a section for tents. Most of the campground appears to be permanent sites, and there are several mailboxes within the campground. While speaking to Sherrie(the host), she told me where the tent sites were. There was at least one overflow site that did not have water and electricity. That would be good for tent campers that don’t require water and electricity, but it also is great for having more privacy since it is a couple of hundred feet before you get to the first RVs. The tent site where I was had a concrete picnic table, a fire pit, a small tent pad, and a trash can a few feet away. These tent sites are between the small pond and the East Fork Pigeon River. There is nothing better than sleeping beside a whitewater river like this and listening to it all night. Even in the summer, you need to take a warm sleeping bag since this campground is in the mountains next to a small river. I’ve made the mistake before of thinking the nights wouldn’t be cold during the summer. I was wrong. The tent pads are small, but you are only allowed one tent and up to four people per site anyway. Do not plan on taking an extremely large tent(such as a 10’ x 18’). You can go swimming in the pond, and there is even a diving platform; but you cannot fish in it. The bath house was small, but it was clean and well-maintained, and the laundry was in the same building. The walk from the tent site to the bath house is a short walk; just don’t sleep walk to it and fall into the pond. Beside one of the bath houses, there is a place to play horse shoes. Most people who are temporary campers come to this area for the Blue Ridge Parkway, the trails, and the waterfalls, which is short drive. Another activity is volleyball, and there is a dartboard at the pavilion, so if you are not fishing in the river or travelling to the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are other activities at your fingertips. Sherrie was very hospitable, and the campground is well worth a visit.
When I stayed at Prizer Point, I felt as if I were in a small coastal town. It is the first campground I have been to that has condominiums. It doesn’t matter what kind of camping or glamping you do, this campground has it, except for yurts. However, they do have tree houses. There are also choices of cabins,“chalets”(although it didn’t look like a chalet when I looked at one), bungalows, floating cabins, etc. Of course, being a tent camper, that’s my choice. Some of the tent sites are on top of each other, but if you are lucky enough, you can stay at a site beside the woods. You still don’t get complete privacy, but it is better than being on the other side of the path where the tent sites are on top of each other. The tent sites are grassy, which I like. I prefer a grassy site over a concrete pad. Some people love the large campgrounds with lots of activities, especially when there are children with you. Since I am mainly a tent camper, I prefer the solitude of being in the woods. Fortunately, I was there at the beginning of the week, and it wasn’t as crowded as it normally would be. Personally, and subjectively, I would rate this campground one star; but objectively, I have to rate it five stars because it offers so much. While I was there, I toured the campground and was amazed at how much they have. They have go carts, oversized chess, swimming pools, a soccer field, a marina, a restaurant, and a section called Prizer Lagoon. You can also rent golf carts to get around, and you will want to do that unless you want to walk for miles. There, you can play in the inflatable obstacle course or ride in a paddle boat. There is also a zip line that crosses the water. For RVers, you have quite a few options. One section has formal concrete pads with hookups. Another section is not as“sanitized” but offers everything you need for your RV. I was surprised by the size of the marina, which was huge according to my limited knowledge of marinas at campgrounds. There is also a boat ramp for when you want to launch your own boat. If I wanted to RV, I would choose the little peninsula beside the boat ramp. Great view! If I wanted to stay in a cabin, there are some cabins next to the lake that also have great views. Overall, this campground has everything you want in a resort campground.
Pennyrile Forest State Park was a pleasant surprise, especially compared to the many state parks I visited in my earlier years in North Carolina. However, when you reserve your site make sure you ask about the specific site’s terrain. Site 48, where I was, was sloped with no grass and had just been repaired. There were a lot of grassy sites, and they were much better. When I talked to the campground host, he was very pleasant and explained that you do not have to have a horse to camp in the equestrian sites. Those sites are level pull-through sites. There is a camp store, although it is small and limited, but they do sell firewood. Not only does this state park have a putt putt course, but it also has an 18-hole golf course complete with pro shop. The thing I enjoyed best about his state park is the waterfront. There is a large sandy beach and a place to rent canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats. Also at the beach are picnic tables, grills, a playground, and concessions. From the beach area, you can hike the lake trail, but it is moderate. There is a good view of the lake from the trail, and if you walk to the left before crossing the wooden bridge, you can see a very small waterfall. Even though you have to drive a little from the campground to get to it, there is a swimming pool and a lodge. Other activities include tennis courts and basketball. Staying at the campground, other than the sloping site, was a pleasant experience. It was not crowded and the bathrooms have hot showers, but I would suggest paying the extra$15.00 to get one of the equestrian sites.
Ignore the three stars. This is a great place to camp! For me personally, this is a five star campground. I love the quiet country atmosphere, the sounds of the birds, the owl, the crickets, and even the coyote and the dogs. This is the essence of getting back to nature. However, I have to take into consideration that everybody doesn’t want to be without luxuries and amenities that larger campgrounds offer such as showers, swimming pools, sewer and water hookups, arcade rooms, etc. Therefore, I have to rate the campground objectively. What this campground does not offer in ways of amenities, it makes up for it by offering things most people don’t think about. For example, Hayden(the host) was one of the kindest hosts you could ever want. She was the type of host I would love to see at every campground. At this campground, I did not feel encumbered. The section of the campground where we stayed was a wide open field with plenty of room, and the picnic table was covered with an umbrella. There was a fire ring nearby, and at the other end of the field was a barn where we could get kindling and firewood. The toilet facility was an outhouse with a composting toilet. Although it sounds rustic, and it may be for some people, it was ideal for our needs. It was clean and well maintained with toilet paper and a bottle of sanitizer. There is water available within walking distance away from the camping area, but I knew that in advance and was prepared with my own water jug and spout. There is a 220 electrical hookup for one RV if you had rather not bring your tent. My son and granddaughter enjoyed walking around the property and exploring. There is a small creek next to where our tent was, and you could walk across it by way of a board or bridges in two or three places. Just be aware of the poison ivy in some places, but this is to be expected in any campground with woods; and as with any campground, make sure to take plenty of bug spray. Under the barn, they have a container for trash and a container for recyclables. Within a short driving distance is Pisgah National Forest, which offers hiking trails and one of my favorite waterfalls—Looking Glass Falls. There is also Sliding Rock, Cradle of Forestry in America, and other national forest attractions. DuPont State Forest is also close by, and I have been to three of its waterfalls, which are all fantastic. I really enjoyed staying at this campground with my family and talking to the host. As I said before, forget the three star rating. This is a great campground to stay at to get away from civilization and just relax even if you don’t travel to nearby attractions.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time. Today I tested the Eclipse Equinox shawl (https://eclipseglove.com/products/solstice-beach-cover-up)..) Having had a stem cell transplant, I cannot go into the sun for the rest of my life without protection, so this was an ideal product for me to review. One of the things I like best about this is that even though it says it is a“shawl,” I feel comfortable wearing it as a man. The more important things, however, are that it has a hood, lots of ventilation, and a pocket; but it doesn’t stop there. There is a cell phone pocket within the pocket. The shawl also stores within the outer pocket. I have several sun shirts, and it may be my imagination, but the Eclipse shawl actually feels lighter in weight, which I love. Since I have been accustomed to wearing a broad-brimmed hat, I didn’t initially see a need for the hood; but I later realized that the material was thin enough that I could wear it and put my hat on top. This way, my neck would also be protected. There are ventilation holes/spaces along the arms and the sides. I don’t know if it is supposed to be worn without an undershirt, but that is the way I wore it around camp. It was hot, and the ventilation was helpful in keeping me from getting too hot, unlike some of my other sun shirts. As I was walking through briers, I was worried about it getting picked, but it held up well. I am not guaranteeing it will not get picked, but my first experience was positive. What I see as needing improvement is that even though it has finger loops so that you can cover the backs of your hands, your whole hand is not covered. I can already see that I will also have to wear gloves, which Eclipse does sell by the way. Another possible improvement is for the hood to have a drawstring. It wasn’t a problem, but I could see it as a possible addition. Finally, I did not see any washing instructions. I am guessing that I should wash it like any other delicate fabrics. I hope that in the future Eclipse includes washing instructions. Overall, the Eclipse Equinox shawl would be a great investment for anyone who needs to protect himself/herself from the sun. This might easily become my favorite“sun shirt.”
The campground part of Cumberland Mountain State Park has several sections, but most of them seem more conducive to RVs than tents. Although there were a few of us tent campers there, the pads to put the tents were hard gravel. There are fire pits, lantern poles, grills, and picnic tables—all the necessities for ideal camping. However, there is not a whole lot of privacy, although my neighbor was very nice. It’s easy to get lost in this campground with all of the one way roads and different sections. You almost need a compass or GPS to get around. The bath house I used seemed in need of attention. The stalls were rusted and the outside of the bath house didn’t look much better. It was, however, clean with hot water. Close to the office there is an aviary, and once you cross the bridge, there is a restaurant and several other amenities. What was once a building for changing and bathrooms is now a small CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) museum, which tells the history of the area. There is also an outdoor screen for movies at night, tennis courts, basketball, and playgrounds. When walking along the shoreline behind the restaurant, you will want to watch out for goose droppings. For those who like water sports, there is also a canoe and kayak launch area. The equestrian camping area is separate from the other camping areas, so odor is not a problem. If you don’t have an RV or a tent, you can also stay in one of the park’s cabins.
Near Fontana Dam and along the Appalachian Trail, there is the most modern trail shelter that I have ever seen. I have stayed at a few trail shelters, but this is the first one I have seen that has a solar charging station for electronic devices. There is a reason it is called the “Fontana Hilton.” I had been to this shelter before in years past, and it was much more rustic. Now it is clean and modern. Although mainly for through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail, the road to Fontana Dam runs beside it, and there is a parking lot close to the camping area. You don’t have to worry about road noise at night, however, because the road ends at Fontana Dam less than half a mile down the road. I use the term “camping area” because there are also tent pads close to the trail shelter, so you can choose to stay in the shelter or sleep in a tent. I preferred to stay in a tent. Also unlike the other trail shelters where I have stayed, this one has a bath house, complete with running water, flush toilets, and hot showers. Next to the trail shelter, there is a gathering area with picnic tables, a place to hang your lantern, and a fire pit. I got a chance to meet some other campers—most of them were thru-hikers. It was interesting to see what gear they were using. I was curious and asked, and as I suspected, a couple of them were using alcohol stoves because of their light weight. Among other things about this camping area, you are beside Fontana Lake, so the view is pretty special, especially at night when the moon reflects over the water. When you are not at the camping area, you can go to the dam and visitors center. Being the highest dam east of the Mississippi River, seeing the dam with your own eyes is pretty awesome.
Even though the sites are walk-in sites, when I was there it was pretty crowded since the sites are close together. At night, you can hear the distant sounds of the creek … if the other campers can stop talking. This is not a campground for RVs. There are no hookups and there are no places for RVs to park. The thing I like best about this campground is its proximity to the Appalachian Trail and several other trails, including the Benton MacKaye Trail. Midnight Hole, which is a 1.5 mile hike, is a great place to cool off. Once you get there, you can swim to a big rock and jump off into a natural pool. I believe this is the same place I took Boy Scouts many, many years ago and they loved it. You just have to be careful because it is deep and COLD. The trail to Mount Cammerer is quite strenuous, but the view is worth it. Other than the great trails, the other attraction is the whitewater rafting. There are a few outfitters just over the state line, and they shuttle rafters to the starting point beside the power station. The one I used was NOC. When I first came here years ago, I thought the river looked low, but by the time we put our raft in, the river was raging. I think the most fun, besides the rafting, at this campground is playing on the rocks in the creek. There is also a group camping area, which is separate from the family campground. That is because they release the water just for rafting. This campground is conveniently located off of Interstate 40 near the Tennessee and North Carolina state line. Once you get to the national park road leading to it, it is a 1.2 mile drive on a gravel road.