I’ve known about this campground for a long time, but I never got a chance to camp at it until now. It was long overdue. The campground has pull-through and back-in sites. The sites are level and most have 30/50 amp hookups, as well as water. There is also a primitive tent camping area. You can choose to stay along the river or next to the woods. There are viewing platforms to look at the river, trails, and at least three ponds in which you can fish. There is not a swimming pool or an arcade pavilion, but there are a lot of things for children and adults to do. The campground is along the Neuse River, and it is part of the Neuseway Nature Center complex. The Nature Center has a variety of live animal exhibits, and across the street there is a planetarium and science center. Also included on the premises are a playground, a fossil dig, a picnic shelter, and a small train in which visitors can ride. You have to register at the Nature Center, which is about a hundred yards from the campground, and the fee was$20.00, which I thought was very reasonable. The host was one of the nicest hosts I have ever encountered at a campground. He answered all the questions we had, and he walked us to the bath house to make sure we understood how to enter the code to unlock the door. There are some drawbacks to the campground, although not many. It is a long walk to the bath house from the campground, but our host said that they are trying to get a bath house within the campground itself. The reason it has not been done sooner is because the whole area is in a flood zone, and they have to figure out the best way to have bathrooms there. The waters from the Neuse River have covered the entire campground and Nature Center complex more than once and almost every year. With that said, you will want to make sure the river has not flooded before you decide to go. It rained the entire time we were there, so we didn’t get to enjoy many of the outdoor opportunities, but I enjoyed seeing the river and the animal exhibits. However, there is a lot more to do across the bridge into Kinston. With a short drive of three-tenths of a mile, you will be on Herritage Street. Over the last three decades, the city of Kinston has been in a steady decline in population, and the crime rate has increased. However, city leaders have been bringing things back to life. This campground is right across the river from Herritage Street, which has a nationally known restaurant(The Chef and the Farmer), the only full size Civil War ironclad replica in the world, a successful brewery(Mother Earth Brewery), and many other eclectic shops and parks. For breakfast and lunch, Lovick’s Café is a great choice, and it has been in business since the 1940s. It is most famous for its dough burgers. For some people, this might be a two star campground because it doesn’t seem to offer much. Others, including myself, would rate it five stars because it has a little bit of both worlds—nature and civilization(Herritage Street). I will give it only four stars because I’m trying to be objective, knowing that people looking for campgrounds want swimming pools, game rooms, Wi-Fi, etc.
The good news about this RV park is that it is conveniently located next to Interstate 95. The bad news about this RV park is that it is conveniently located next to Interstate 95. Needing to stop for the night on the way home, I found this place along the way. The rate was reasonable, and it was close to fast food places. It was late, and I didn’t want to cook supper. I think that most people stay at this campground for one of two reasons. One is that they are traveling either north to south or south to north, and it is just off the Interstate. The other reason is for the shopping. This area between Selma and Smithfield is a mecca for shoppers, especially during November and December. There are dozens and dozens of outlets, and people from hundreds of miles stop at them. That’s why this RV park is a great place for people who fit into one of those two categories. This RV park does NOT accept tents. It is strictly for RVs. As far as amenities, there is a clubhouse and a large swimming pool. I didn’t see anyone in the swimming pool, especially since it was December. However, I can imagine that it would feel great during the summer, and it seems large enough to handle lots of people. Some of the“picnic tables” were interesting. Many of them looked more like patio furniture, which is a nice touch. All of the spaces that I saw were pull-through sites, and they were level with water, sewer, and 30 and/or 50 amp hookups. The campground roads were paved, and the RV sites were gravel. There was also a dump station. Other than the swimming pool, there is also a large pond in which you can fish without a license. For the younger children, there was a swing set, which surprised me. For a campground this size, I would have thought they would have had a large playground. On their website, they list a playground. Either I missed it, but I don’t think I did, or they don’t expect too many children staying here. There is also a fenced area for owners to walk their dogs. Although there is Wi-Fi, I got the message that the internet was not available. I was happy to see that their bath house was heated, although I never could get warm water to come out of the faucet. Fortunately, the shower had hot water. The only complaint I would have about the showers is that they are small. The area to dress and undress was just large enough to turn around in. I would imagine that most people who are overweight would have a difficult time, but then again, this is an RV park. Most people would be taking a shower in their RVs, so if you are in a teardrop like I was, you would appreciate a larger shower. The worst part about this campground, for me, was the noise from the Interstate. I thought it would die down during the night, but I was wrong. There was also the sound of trains—at least seven or eight times during the night. In the campground office, they have a little store with canned food items and a few other necessities. I got there late, but the hostess was very nice and pointed out everything I needed to know. Overall, it is everything you would expect from a top notch RV park, including the amenities and the services, but I wouldn’t want to stay there for several nights unless I wanted to hear traffic 24/7.
This campground is out in the middle of a farming community miles away from the nearest large city. Decades ago, it was a popular destination for folks for miles around. There was a store and a mill, but more importantly, it was a social gathering place. We took our Cub Scouts there to camp and to have ceremonies a few times. The worst thing about this campground that I have found is that there are venomous snakes that come from the millpond. As far as activities, it does have a swimming pool and a trail or two to explore; but the main attraction is the fishing. Fast forward to the present. A previous owner turned the campground into a cat rescue, and in the past, I have seen dozens and dozens of cats around the campground, sometimes gathered together as the owner is feeding them. This time I only saw five. With that said, you have to watch out for cat droppings. Because of several hurricanes coming through, the pond has washed over the banks a few times, and the dam has broken on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, the dam is still broken and is in need of repair. The millpond is the main attraction for this campground, but with the pond being completely drained, you cannot fish in it or boat on it until it is repaired. In the past, most people launched their own boats instead of renting them, and since it is a millpond, there were lots of places to fish among the cypress trees and stumps. You could see plenty of turtles and geese. There was a peaceful beauty there. My favorite part about the campground is taking pictures of the old mill and store, although it has deteriorated and has“no trespassing” signs. There was once a dock for fishing, but that has also deteriorated and has“no trespassing” signs. The campground did have a store that sold live bait, but with the pond drained, there is no need for it to be in business anymore. Most of the people at the campground are seasonal or permanent residents. The campground has RV sites with cable/internet connections, an in ground pool, a fishing pier, and a pavilion for gatherings. Even with it needing a lot of work and updating, it is a place where you can camp without the sounds of traffic all night long. At night, you could hear owls, geese, and frogs, but this time, it was quiet since the geese aren’t around anymore. The campsite was a little soft because of all the rain, so staying in the back of my SUV seemed like a better option. During the day, you will hear an occasional piece of farm machinery since it is surrounded by farms. Overall, it’s a good place to camp if you just want to get away from the sounds of traffic, and the owner was very nice. As I talked to her, she said she was trying to get help from the federal government to get the dam/embankment fixed so the pond can fill up again. I would like to go back there when the pond is back to its normal level.
Raven Rock State Park is known for its namesake cliffs on the edge of the Cape Fear River. It has over a dozen miles of trails, which include horseback riding, hiking, and cycling trails. Since this park is along the fall line, most of the trails are easy with some rise and fall in elevation. Make sure you hike to the“Raven Rock” while you are there. It is impressive, and there are other trails that offer peaceful walks through the forest and other views of the river. The only camping allowed, for now, is primitive tent camping. The campsites can be reached either by hiking or by canoeing/kayaking in. There is a privy, but there are no showers. I counted seven spaces for camping. There is a site(or was) for group camping. The ranger told me that it is no longer in use. When I was talking to her, she said that they are working on an area for RV camping and that it would be ready next year. If I understood correctly, it will be in the area of the Mountain Laurel Loop Trail. When you camp there, make sure to take a good head lamp or flashlight. I had to walk quite far to get to the privy, and during the night, it is dark! The site that I chose was a longer walk to the privy than the other campsites, but it was a little more remote and private. I also had to by-pass a mud hole on the way to the privy, so again, take a good light source. The best thing about Raven Rock State Park is, of course, the 150’ cliffs along the river. The best thing about camping at Raven Rock State Park is how quiet it is. The hike is 1.7 miles, and other than the sounds of Cape Fear River down below, the only thing you hear at night might be an occasional airplane flying overhead. Since it was during December, I didn’t see any other campers. During the day, however, the park had several day hikers. If you want to camp in the backcountry but don’t want to hike very far to get there, this is a great place. If you have an RV or just want to camp where you can drive to, you will have to wait for a year, according to the park ranger.
This campground is off the beaten path, literally. It is out in the country, and without a GPS, I would have had a difficult time finding it. I had written the directions down from the website, but at night, it takes some maneuvering to look at directions and find country road signs in the dark. The campground is close to its namesake town of Hiddenite, which is a famous gem mining area known for gemstones such as hiddenite (spodumene), emeralds, sapphires, etc. I didn’t realize when I got to the campground that it also was a place for people to come watch their Christmas lights display. All of the mobile homes and RVs were lit for a beautiful display. When I first tried to book a reservation, I had to fill out an online request. After two days, I hadn’t heard back and I was going in that direction on my way home. I decided to take a chance. I stopped at the entry to what I think was the campground/Christmas lights display entrance. After a few minutes, a gentleman came out to ask me if he could help me. I told him I had contacted the campground two days ago, and after that I followed his golf cart to where he showed me a few places I could park my teardrop for the night. It had water, electricity, and sewer, as most of the sites do, and it was close to the creek. It had rained quite a bit a few days ago, so the grassy site was soft with ruts. They do allow tent camping, which is good to know for future reference. It appeared to me that most of the other campers here were permanent residents. When I went to the bath house, I was told the ladies’ bathroom was not working, so if I hear a woman in there I would know why. Most of the campers, however, would be using the facilities in their own RVs/trailers. During the summer, the bath house wouldn’t be so bad, but it was cold and there was no heat. The concrete walls made it feel even colder. There was hot water, however, but I chose not to take a shower there since I was only three hours from home and I would be leaving the next morning. The floor needed sweeping and somebody left beard hair all over the one sink. The host was very nice, and the campground served my needs for an overnight stay. There are a swimming pool and a playground for children. The road coming into the campground is dirt as was the road within the campground. There are shady spots in the campground with pull-through and back-in sites. Although the Christmas lights were on until I went to sleep, it didn’t seem to bother me that much, and other than the synchronized Christmas music, it was quiet. It would be interesting to see how the campground is during the summer.
The main attraction for this campground is, obviously, the lake. It is a place where people can fish, boat, canoe/kayak, etc. My favorite thing to do is put my kayak in the water and paddle around no matter what season it is. I have stayed at this campground numerous times with my son, grandson, and/or his family. The sites are fairly level, although some do have a slight slope. There is no water or electricity at any of the sites, but there are fire rings. Some of the sites have a standing grill and a picnic table. There is plenty of shade, and many of the trees are close enough that I can stretch out my hammock for an afternoon siesta. The sites are grassy, and the road is gravel. Depending on where you choose your site, the bath house is a short distance away. My grandson loves camping there because of the playground, and for dog lovers, there is a fenced dog walk. Sometimes, you can find wood where the local residents cut their trees and shrubbery and drop it off adjacent to the campground. Otherwise, you need to take your own wood for a fire. However, every time I have been there, including this time, we were able to find plenty of wood for a campfire. Since the campground closes during the winter, the bath house is not heated, but the showers do have hot water. There are electrical outlets as well in case you need to plug in a blow dryer or electric razor. The last time we stayed here, only my son and grandson were with me, and we sat around the campfire just enjoying the occasional sounds of geese and the regular sounds of tree frogs and crickets. The only other distractions are a few cars passing by along the road, but that diminishes significantly after about ten or eleven o’clock. For children, another fun thing to do is to play in the spillway, which is also part of the road. The embankment dam and spillway are only a few steps from the campground, and there is a place to launch your canoe or kayak. The boat ramp is farther away into the neighborhood. This campground has ten sites and is by reservation only for its over 4,200 residents and their friends and family. Overall, I enjoy staying at this campground because it is a quiet setting when you just want to get outdoors.
To get to this campground, you have to travel curvy, mountain roads. It is not a campground for large RVs. It is better suited for tents or small RVs. Once you get on Bull Pen Road, which is a national forest road, you have to drive about 1.2 miles on gravel. Although the road is in good shape for a gravel road, the short campground approach road is a bit rougher. There are only four sites available, but there are tent pads, lantern poles, and fire rings. I was also pleasantly surprised that there is a pit toilet at the campground, which is unusual for a dispersed camping area. The toilet was clean and actually didn’t smell as bad as you would think. It may be because it is winter, and not too many campers stay at this campground during this time of year. We were the only ones at the campground this time. The only fault I have with the campsites are that the tent pads are very small. We had an 8’ x 10’ tent, and it could not completely fit onto the tent pad. However, the site we were on wasn’t too bad because the back of the tent pad was almost level with the pad itself. I chose this particular site for two reasons: 1) there was firewood at this tent site, and 2) it was close to the pit toilet. That is important because our two young grandchildren were with us. At night, it is quiet, especially since there was no one else there, but also because it is miles from the nearest town. The only sounds this time of year are the sounds of Ammons Branch and the wind. I do not recommend staying there in the winter unless you are ready for cold nights. Fortunately, a down sleeping bag is my best friend when camping in the winter. Overall, I liked this campground because of the wilderness solitude, although during the summer, that may not be the case when others are camping there. However, it is a remote campground close to some magnificent waterfalls and lots of trails.
I am going to preface this review by saying that giving it five stars, three stars, or one star really depends on what you expect from a campground. It might be five stars if you are looking for a real wilderness getaway. However, it might be a one star if you are looking for modern amenities with electric, water, and sewer hookups. For me personally, I rate it as five stars, but I know that people looking for a campground wonder how it can be five stars when it does not have hookups or Wi-Fi. Of all the designated primitive camping areas I have been to, this one seems to be one of the most popular, and for good reason. The Avery Creek Roadside camping sites have raised gravel pads, sturdy fire rings, and lantern hangers. Most designated primitive areas do not have such“luxury.” To get to the sites, you have to turn onto a gravel national forest road and drive for about half a mile before you get to the first campsite. The road continues for quite a way, and you can find several designated sites along the road. I was surprised that there were quite a few campers since it was in December. It is a good thing there are a lot of campsites. One of the best things about camping in this area is that there is so much to do within a short driving distance. For example, three miles down the road there is one of my favorite waterfalls. It isn’t very tall, but it has a lot of volume and is a beautiful waterfall. Five miles from the campsites, there is Sliding Rock, which opens during the warmer months and is very popular. Nine miles away is the Cradle of Forestry in America, and in my unbiased opinion, I think everybody needs to visit there at least once. The campsite itself provided a pleasant stay. You can hear the creek all night long, and you are at least four or five miles from a town. It doesn’t seem like a long distance, but it is far enough that you don’t hear the sounds of traffic. Fly fishing for trout is a popular activity, as well as hiking. There is an abundance of hiking trails nearby, including the Art Loeb Trail, Avery Creek Trail, Andy Cove Nature Trail, and lots more. The Blue Ridge Parkway is also only twelve and a half miles away. The area is also a popular horseback riding area with stables down the road. Unlike another camping area I had reviewed earlier this year, horse manure did not seem to be a problem. There are no bathrooms, except at the group camping area, which has to be reserved. The only water is from the creek, so be prepared and take lots of water or a water filtration system. Overall, Avery Creek is fantastic if you want to get away from civilization. There are no amenities such as swimming pool, game room, etc., but it is an outstanding place for people who just love the outdoors.
I had wanted to stay at this campground for several years, and I finally got the opportunity to do so. It looked inviting every time I passed by it. When I looked on the website, it showed tent sites, but most of the sites are for RVs. I was surprised to see that the best sites are along Jonathan Creek. These do not have water or electricity, but that didn’t matter to me. There are tent sites that have water and electricity, but they are behind the office, which is part of the main building. I am guessing that there are well over 100 RV sites. Most sites(if not all) have water, electricity, and sewer hookups. There are not many tangible amenities; there is no pool or playground, basketball court, etc. However, this campground is all about location. Not too far from the campground is Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hemphill Bald(mountain and trail), the Cataloochee Divide Trail, and the natural beauty of the mountains. There is also Jonathan Creek, which is known for trout fishing. The tent sites along the creek are beautifully arranged in a line with enough space not to be crowded. Unfortunately, most of them do not have fire rings, but I found one at T5 that did have. I am guessing that the picnic tables at the entrance to the tent sites are for the tents since only one or two tent sites had picnic tables and it is close to the end of the season. My favorite part about the tent sites is that you can sit facing the creek and look at the mountains in the background, although you will see a few houses in the mountains. Another advantage of the tent sites by the creek is that you hear the creek all night long, which drowns out any road noise. This campground is privately owned and not part of a franchise. It is good to see that they still welcome tent campers.
On my way to Virginia from western North Carolina, I decided to stop here. It makes the eight hour trip less tiresome if you can break it up. It is convenient since it is along the interstate. However, staying in one of the cabins at this KOA in Greensboro requires a minimum two-night stay, and they run about$100 a night. The person in the office was really nice and informative, but I think KOA is trying to discourage tent campers. She told me that since it had been raining, the ground was saturated and tent campers don’t like all the noise from the road; and she is 100% correct. Nevertheless, a tent site was my best option. The tent sites are sloped and very small. There is very little privacy since the sites are just about on top of each other. Don’t get me wrong; there are good things about this KOA… for RV campers and RV campers with children. The RV sites are spacious and mostly level with electric, water, and sewer hookups. The cabins are really nice(this being based on staying in a KOA cabin in the past and the exterior looks, which have been updated since I last stayed in one). The children will love the caboose/play area, and there is a large pool, which was actually open. There is also a fenced dog walk and another playground for children. The main bath house is located at the end of the office, and there is another bath house which was closed due to repair(?). Perhaps I’m being a little too harsh since it had poured rain for two days, but being on a small, unlevel, tent site with saturated ground is not my favorite way to camp. There were only brief minutes to take any photos since it was constantly raining. With all this said, if you want an alternative to staying at a motel/hotel/inn in Greensboro to experience the numerous things the city has to offer, this is a good choice for RV campers or for those who want to stay in a cabin.
This campground is about views. It doesn’t have water or electric hookups. It doesn’t have sewer hookups. It doesn’t have a swimming pool, playground equipment, an entertainment pavilion, or any of the other things many campgrounds and RV resorts have. The biggest attraction for Mile High Campgound is the view, but I guess I should say views(plural). The campground is adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but there is a long approach road to lessen any traffic noise—not that there would be any anyway. It seems to be situated on a ridge, so it offers different views in several directions. The host was nice and suggested that I pick a site before paying. I camped during the week and when it was cold, so I had a good choice of sites. She highlighted the available ones with the best views, and it was difficult to decide which one I liked best. I chose one with a view of a sunset rather than one with a sunrise, knowing I might not get up early enough to catch the sun rise. You can expect it to be at least ten degrees(or more) colder than down in the valleys. There is a reason it is called“Mile High.” This is a primitive campground, and there are no hookups that I know of. There is, however, a bath house with flush toilets and showers. The bath house is a bit rustic, but it serves the purpose. Some people might not like that it has a concrete floor and just one stand up sink, but again, it serves its purpose. There are also“toilet facilities” at opposite ends of the campground since it is a long, narrow campground. Since I forgot to take any firewood, I bought a bundle of kindling for$5.00. I knew I wouldn’t have a long fire anyway. As I mentioned earlier, there are no modern amenities like a swimming pool, playground, or recreation hall. Did I mention that this campground is all about the views? There is a platform for viewing the sunsets close to the camp office. The campground is within a short driving distance of several waterfalls, places to view elk, Harrah’s casino, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so sticking around the campground all day is not something you probably want to do. The towns of Maggie Valley and Cherokee are close, so if you like shopping, those towns have several quaint shops and other attractions. Overall, this campground is a pleasant campground to stay in because of the peace and quiet and the beauty.
This is the second time I have been to Kephart Prong Shelter. The first time was over thirty years ago, and it seemed dreary. This time, however, was a much better experience. To stay here, you have to get a permit from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park since it is within the park boundaries. To get to the shelter, you have to hike two miles starting from Hwy. 441 through the national park between Cherokee and Gatlinburg. The trail is not as steep as some trails, but it is rocky! It is so rocky that my trail shoes didn't quite seem adequate… because the trail was rocky. It was rocky all the way after the first of four foot bridges. After the first footbridge it became"rockier." Large rocks, small rocks, medium sized rocks. It was rocky. Did I mention that the trail was rocky? BTW, I finally decided to take a break at the fourth foot bridge because my feet hurt from the rocky trail. Once you get to the shelter, the trail continues up to the Appalachian Trail. In my opinion, the main reasons for staying at this shelter are(1) that it is on the way to the AT, or(2) you just want to get into the woods for a night. The“bathroom” is a short trek into the woods to the seventh big tree on the left. You have to hoist your food up at night via one of two cable systems. Otherwise, you risk of your food being taken by mice/rats, bears, or other critters. The only water source is from the creek, which is a pleasant sound at night while you’re sleeping. Make sure to take a good inflatable pad. You can take a closed cell foam pad, but they don’t provide a whole lot of cushion on a wood platform. Overall, Kephart Trail shelter is good for a night’s sleep, but I have been to better shelters.
The first time I came here decades ago, I stayed in a tent. The second time, I stayed in one of the cabins. This time, it was a whole different experience. This campground has transformed, like many campgrounds, into more of an RV resort. Not having to walk to the bath house in the middle of the night was a welcome relief, but RV camping is not my favorite way to“camp.” Primarily a tent camper, I am not used to being shoulder length from my neighbor at the campground. However, this campground/RV resort is a great destination campground for RVers. It has all the amenities you could want—a swimming pool, basketball court, open pavilion; and some people were even playing corn hole under one of the pavilions. A great thing about this campground is that you get a sense of“community” here since some of the campers stay here for six months out of the year. Besides the aforementioned amenities, there are at least two areas for children to play that have swings, slides, etc., and there are horseshoe pits for older“children.” Trout fishing is a popular activity in this area, and with the adjacent creek being stocked on a regular basis, visitors often come away with some prize catches. I have seen more than one fisherman coming away with three or more trout. The campground is along Jonathan Creek, so if you are lucky enough to get a spot along the creek, the sounds are very relaxing. Where we were, we heard lots of road noise during the day, and since this area is a destination for bikers, we heard lots of motorcycles. Fortunately, staying in a camper, the road noise is somewhat lessened. Unless you are staying around the campsite all day, the noise shouldn’t bother you. After all, this area is a popular destination for lots of activities outside the boundaries of the campground. Some people go to“Wheels Through Time,” a nationally famous motorcycle museum, and some people just like driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is only five to six miles from the campground. Others enjoy going to see the elk at Cataloochee Valley or in Cherokee, or they might catch a sunset at Waterrock Knob. This is just a small sampling of things to do near the campground. Overall, the campground is a great“jumping off” destination and has lots of things to do for all ages. Although I prefer tent camping and a little more privacy when I camp, it is ideal for RVers.
This small campground is conveniently located close to the casino in Cherokee, the town of Cherokee, and along Soco Creek. It is within the Qualla boundary of the Cherokee Reservation. This is the second time I have stayed at this campground, and it has changed a little since the first time. There are more cabins and RV sites than I remember from my first visit. It is still a quiet and peaceful little campground. If you enjoy trout fishing, this is an ideal place for it. The creek is stocked on a regular basis. The host was nice and very helpful. There is a store where you can get basic camping supplies. Some of the tent sites have raised gravel pads, and some are just gravel. Large groups, such as Scouts or church groups, have the option of staying in their bunkhouses. It appeared to me that all of the sites have water and electricity, if I am not mistaken. For RVs, there is a mixture of back-in and pull-through sites. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of privacy since the sites are relatively close, but you get a sense of community here. I spoke to an elderly couple who were very friendly. At night, the creek pretty much drowns out the sounds from the road. Because of the location of this campground, you will find lots of things to do. If you are not into casinos, there is the whole Cherokee Indian culture to explore with the museum, the outdoor drama(during the summer), the Oconaluftee Indian Village, and more. Thousands of people come to Cherokee every year to see the elk, which most times can be found close to the Oconaluftee Visitors Center. There is also the Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill. There is just so much to see and do close to this campground. Overall, this is a great little campground, and I would not hesitate to recommend it.
Since we had a wedding to attend in Oregon, it gave me a chance to visit Silver Falls State Park. My first impression was how crowded the campground was during the middle of the week. The bath house was more than I expected, especially for a state park. I don’t know whether or not the other Oregon State Parks have modern bath house facilities like this one, but I was impressed. The campsite that I chose was flat and had plenty of shade, and the trees were huge. As a lover of all things natural, especially trees, this was great. It hadn’t rained in a while, so I couldn’t judge how well the site would drain, especially since there were no raised tent pads. The main attraction for this large state park is obviously centered on waterfalls and trails. I didn’t get a chance to explore all of them, but the ones I did get to see were impressive. South Falls is a short hike, and you can walk behind it. From the bridge facing the waterfall, it looks like the Garden of Eden. You can also walk to the top of the waterfall. North Falls also is a short hike. Although it is not as high as South Falls, it is one that is worth the hike. The main campground areas were booked, but the group camping area had quite a few sites available the first day we were there. However, the next day, the group camping area was also filling up since it was getting closer to the weekend. Overall, I was impressed with this campground. Unfortunately, I probably will not get to visit it again for quite a while since I live 2,500 miles away. With that said, I do highly recommend this state park and campground.
This campground is one of the two listed at Falls Lake State Recreation Area, and I chose it because of its good reviews. The“primitive” area is Loop C, which means it does not have water or electricity at the sites. However, the sites do have picnic tables and lantern hangers. There are no designated tent pads, but you are instructed to set your tent up on the gravel. Unfortunately, the campground has flooding problems in the Loop C sites when it rains, and it started raining after I set up my tent. After thirty minutes of rain, my tent was standing in at least an inch of water, and there was nowhere else to move it. I ended up abandoning my tent to stay in the back of my SUV. The next morning, I looked at the other sites in Loop C, and they were also flat, which meant that it didn’t matter which site I chose. That is one of only two drawbacks that I saw in this campground. The other drawback was the nose from jets overhead from the RDU International Airport. It wasn’t noticeable at night(that may have been because of the pouring rain and the thunder), but during the morning, it was constant. My advice is not to stay in Loop C if it is going to rain. A raised tent pad would have prevented my tent from being flooded. The bath house is especially nice for a state park(state recreation area). The shower doors are a little narrow, except for the handicapped shower, but there is hot water. There are electrical outlets in the bath house as well, which I used to charge my cell phone. Other features about this campground include swimming beaches, a marina, canoe/kayak rentals, at least two fishing piers, a couple of playgrounds, and a store. The Mountains to Sea Trail passes through this park, and there are several other short trails as well. Overall, this campground is pretty good if you are in an RV or if you are in a tent and it is not going to rain.
I think this is only the third time I have stayed at a cabin at a campground, and it was all right but I like tent camping better. Because of the intense heat and health concerns, we chose to stay in a cabin here. I wish I had taken more pictures of the campground, but my buddy(seen in the photos) and I are photographers who look for scenes of beauty. It’s not that the campground was not“pretty,” but when you are this close to New Bern, there are better things to photograph. There’s Tryon Palace, Union Point Park, the historic Confederate cemetery, the fireman’s museum, the Pepsi Cola museum(New Bern is where Pepsi was born), etc. The New Bern KOA is perfect in every way. The sites are large with full hookups, Wi-Fi, cable TV, etc. It has all the amenities of a top notch campground that you would expect from KOA. I have stayed at several KOA campgrounds, and they all seem to have the oversized chess; and I have never seen anyone playing it with seriousness. They have two pools, a pavilion, a bouncer… and I could go on and on. IF you want to spend your time at the campground, there is so much to do that you don’t need to go anywhere else… HOWEVER… Did I mention New Bern and Tryon Palace? You can’t come this close to New Bern and not go to Tryon Palace. The campground is located on the shores of the confluence of the Trent and Neuse Rivers. Since they join here, you seem as if you are closer to the ocean. It looks more like a bay. There is a really nice pier at the campground beach for fishing, and the KOA here has outdoor boat rentals. There is also horseshoes, pedal bike rentals… Did I mention there is also New Bern and Tryon Palace? Seriously, the New Bern KOA is about the best campground at which I have stayed, but my buddy had never been to New Bern. There was more to see. If you go, make sure to make reservations. New Bern is a historic town with lots of vacationers during the summer. Looking for something to eat? My favorite place to eat in New Bern was Captain Ratty’s, which has great clam chowder. However, New Bern has lots of other great places to eat as well. The downtown area is also a great area for shopping. Back to the campground… the first time I stayed at the New Bern KOA was over thirty years ago, but it has grown in size and amenities. Now, it is more like a resort than a simple campground.
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.