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.
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.