Myron C.
Maggie Valley, NC
Joined June 2018
Large National Park Campground with Lots of History in a Beautiful Setting

When you first get to the campground, you may think it is the typical national park campground, and it is in a several ways. However, this campground has a little-known area that many people ignore. First of all, the campsite we stayed in was spacious and had a fire ring. It didn’t have electricity and water, but it was large enough to put a really large tent for my best friend and me. The bath house does not have showers, but they are more than adequate for primitive camping. The campground is located in an area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that has the Little River through it, so you have the sounds of the creek at night. You can gather wood for your campfire, but you cannot transport firewood into the campground unless it has been certified and sealed in plastic. If you are not tubing or fishing in the river, you can travel a few miles to explore Cades Cove. However, next to the campground, there is the little-known area I mentioned earlier. I found it fascinating and lots of fun to explore. It is a ghost town, which began as a logging town. In the early 1900s, it became a resort, and from what I understand, many of the residents were from eastern Tennessee. Some of the buildings have been restored, but most of them are deteriorating quickly. We were able to go inside most of the buildings, but you have to be careful. You are not allowed to go into the some of them, which have signs and are dangerous. However, just to walk down the streets among the buildings is a beautiful sight, especially in the fall. The last thing I heard is that they are going to raze most of the buildings. Overall, Elkmont Campground is a peaceful place to stay with a lot of history. My advice would be to plan ahead since this campground can fill up during peak season. It is the largest campground of the Smokies, if I understood correctly, but campers come from all over the United States to stay here.

An RV Park with Tent Sites in a Beautiful Setting

I discovered this campground along Hwy 276 on the way to Shining Rock, and I’m glad I did. Although it seems like it’s only for RVs, it does have a section for tents. Most of the campground appears to be permanent sites, and there are several mailboxes within the campground. While speaking to Sherrie(the host), she told me where the tent sites were. There was at least one overflow site that did not have water and electricity. That would be good for tent campers that don’t require water and electricity, but it also is great for having more privacy since it is a couple of hundred feet before you get to the first RVs. The tent site where I was had a concrete picnic table, a fire pit, a small tent pad, and a trash can a few feet away. These tent sites are between the small pond and the East Fork Pigeon River. There is nothing better than sleeping beside a whitewater river like this and listening to it all night. Even in the summer, you need to take a warm sleeping bag since this campground is in the mountains next to a small river. I’ve made the mistake before of thinking the nights wouldn’t be cold during the summer. I was wrong. The tent pads are small, but you are only allowed one tent and up to four people per site anyway. Do not plan on taking an extremely large tent(such as a 10’ x 18’). You can go swimming in the pond, and there is even a diving platform; but you cannot fish in it. The bath house was small, but it was clean and well-maintained, and the laundry was in the same building. The walk from the tent site to the bath house is a short walk; just don’t sleep walk to it and fall into the pond. Beside one of the bath houses, there is a place to play horse shoes. Most people who are temporary campers come to this area for the Blue Ridge Parkway, the trails, and the waterfalls, which is short drive. Another activity is volleyball, and there is a dartboard at the pavilion, so if you are not fishing in the river or travelling to the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are other activities at your fingertips. Sherrie was very hospitable, and the campground is well worth a visit.

A Campground for Almost Everyone

When I stayed at Prizer Point, I felt as if I were in a small coastal town. It is the first campground I have been to that has condominiums. It doesn’t matter what kind of camping or glamping you do, this campground has it, except for yurts. However, they do have tree houses. There are also choices of cabins,“chalets”(although it didn’t look like a chalet when I looked at one), bungalows, floating cabins, etc. Of course, being a tent camper, that’s my choice. Some of the tent sites are on top of each other, but if you are lucky enough, you can stay at a site beside the woods. You still don’t get complete privacy, but it is better than being on the other side of the path where the tent sites are on top of each other. The tent sites are grassy, which I like. I prefer a grassy site over a concrete pad. Some people love the large campgrounds with lots of activities, especially when there are children with you. Since I am mainly a tent camper, I prefer the solitude of being in the woods. Fortunately, I was there at the beginning of the week, and it wasn’t as crowded as it normally would be. Personally, and subjectively, I would rate this campground one star; but objectively, I have to rate it five stars because it offers so much. While I was there, I toured the campground and was amazed at how much they have. They have go carts, oversized chess, swimming pools, a soccer field, a marina, a restaurant, and a section called Prizer Lagoon. You can also rent golf carts to get around, and you will want to do that unless you want to walk for miles. There, you can play in the inflatable obstacle course or ride in a paddle boat. There is also a zip line that crosses the water. For RVers, you have quite a few options. One section has formal concrete pads with hookups. Another section is not as“sanitized” but offers everything you need for your RV. I was surprised by the size of the marina, which was huge according to my limited knowledge of marinas at campgrounds. There is also a boat ramp for when you want to launch your own boat. If I wanted to RV, I would choose the little peninsula beside the boat ramp. Great view! If I wanted to stay in a cabin, there are some cabins next to the lake that also have great views. Overall, this campground has everything you want in a resort campground.

Campground with a Lot of Activities but Doesn't Feel like a Gated Community

Pennyrile Forest State Park was a pleasant surprise, especially compared to the many state parks I visited in my earlier years in North Carolina. However, when you reserve your site make sure you ask about the specific site’s terrain. Site 48, where I was, was sloped with no grass and had just been repaired. There were a lot of grassy sites, and they were much better. When I talked to the campground host, he was very pleasant and explained that you do not have to have a horse to camp in the equestrian sites. Those sites are level pull-through sites. There is a camp store, although it is small and limited, but they do sell firewood. Not only does this state park have a putt putt course, but it also has an 18-hole golf course complete with pro shop. The thing I enjoyed best about his state park is the waterfront. There is a large sandy beach and a place to rent canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats. Also at the beach are picnic tables, grills, a playground, and concessions. From the beach area, you can hike the lake trail, but it is moderate. There is a good view of the lake from the trail, and if you walk to the left before crossing the wooden bridge, you can see a very small waterfall. Even though you have to drive a little from the campground to get to it, there is a swimming pool and a lodge. Other activities include tennis courts and basketball. Staying at the campground, other than the sloping site, was a pleasant experience. It was not crowded and the bathrooms have hot showers, but I would suggest paying the extra$15.00 to get one of the equestrian sites.

Charming Campground in a Peaceful, Country Setting

Ignore the three stars. This is a great place to camp! For me personally, this is a five star campground. I love the quiet country atmosphere, the sounds of the birds, the owl, the crickets, and even the coyote and the dogs. This is the essence of getting back to nature. However, I have to take into consideration that everybody doesn’t want to be without luxuries and amenities that larger campgrounds offer such as showers, swimming pools, sewer and water hookups, arcade rooms, etc. Therefore, I have to rate the campground objectively. What this campground does not offer in ways of amenities, it makes up for it by offering things most people don’t think about. For example, Hayden(the host) was one of the kindest hosts you could ever want. She was the type of host I would love to see at every campground. At this campground, I did not feel encumbered. The section of the campground where we stayed was a wide open field with plenty of room, and the picnic table was covered with an umbrella. There was a fire ring nearby, and at the other end of the field was a barn where we could get kindling and firewood. The toilet facility was an outhouse with a composting toilet. Although it sounds rustic, and it may be for some people, it was ideal for our needs. It was clean and well maintained with toilet paper and a bottle of sanitizer. There is water available within walking distance away from the camping area, but I knew that in advance and was prepared with my own water jug and spout. There is a 220 electrical hookup for one RV if you had rather not bring your tent. My son and granddaughter enjoyed walking around the property and exploring. There is a small creek next to where our tent was, and you could walk across it by way of a board or bridges in two or three places. Just be aware of the poison ivy in some places, but this is to be expected in any campground with woods; and as with any campground, make sure to take plenty of bug spray. Under the barn, they have a container for trash and a container for recyclables. Within a short driving distance is Pisgah National Forest, which offers hiking trails and one of my favorite waterfalls—Looking Glass Falls. There is also Sliding Rock, Cradle of Forestry in America, and other national forest attractions. DuPont State Forest is also close by, and I have been to three of its waterfalls, which are all fantastic. I really enjoyed staying at this campground with my family and talking to the host. As I said before, forget the three star rating. This is a great campground to stay at to get away from civilization and just relax even if you don’t travel to nearby attractions. 

GEAR REVIEW: 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time. Today I tested the Eclipse Equinox shawl. Having had a stem cell transplant, I cannot go into the sun for the rest of my life without protection, so this was an ideal product for me to review. One of the things I like best about this is that even though it says it is a“shawl,” I feel comfortable wearing it as a man. The more important things, however, are that it has a hood, lots of ventilation, and a pocket; but it doesn’t stop there. There is a cell phone pocket within the pocket. The shawl also stores within the outer pocket. I have several sun shirts, and it may be my imagination, but the Eclipse shawl actually feels lighter in weight, which I love. Since I have been accustomed to wearing a broad-brimmed hat, I didn’t initially see a need for the hood; but I later realized that the material was thin enough that I could wear it and put my hat on top. This way, my neck would also be protected. There are ventilation holes/spaces along the arms and the sides. I don’t know if it is supposed to be worn without an undershirt, but that is the way I wore it around camp. It was hot, and the ventilation was helpful in keeping me from getting too hot, unlike some of my other sun shirts. As I was walking through briers, I was worried about it getting picked, but it held up well. I am not guaranteeing it will not get picked, but my first experience was positive. What I see as needing improvement is that even though it has finger loops so that you can cover the backs of your hands, your whole hand is not covered. I can already see that I will also have to wear gloves, which Eclipse does sell by the way. Another possible improvement is for the hood to have a drawstring. It wasn’t a problem, but I could see it as a possible addition. Finally, I did not see any washing instructions. I am guessing that I should wash it like any other delicate fabrics. I hope that in the future Eclipse includes washing instructions. Overall, the Eclipse Equinox shawl would be a great investment for anyone who needs to protect himself/herself from the sun. This might easily become my favorite“sun shirt.”

Rustic Campground with Lots of Spaces and Things to Do

The campground part of Cumberland Mountain State Park has several sections, but most of them seem more conducive to RVs than tents.  Although there were a few of us tent campers there, the pads to put the tents were hard gravel.  There are fire pits, lantern poles, grills, and picnic tables—all the necessities for ideal camping.  However, there is not a whole lot of privacy, although my neighbor was very nice.  It’s easy to get lost in this campground with all of the one way roads and different sections.  You almost need a compass or GPS to get around.  The bath house I used seemed in need of attention.  The stalls were rusted and the outside of the bath house didn’t look much better.  It was, however, clean with hot water.  Close to the office there is an aviary, and once you cross the bridge, there is a restaurant and several other amenities.  What was once a building for changing and bathrooms is now a small CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) museum, which tells the history of the area.  There is also an outdoor screen for movies at night, tennis courts, basketball, and playgrounds.  When walking along the shoreline behind the restaurant, you will want to watch out for goose droppings.  For those who like water sports, there is also a canoe and kayak launch area.  The equestrian camping area is separate from the other camping areas, so odor is not a problem.  If you don’t have an RV or a tent, you can also stay in one of the park’s cabins.

Appalachian Trail Trail Shelter with Charging Station and Tent Sites

Near Fontana Dam and along the Appalachian Trail, there is the most modern trail shelter that I have ever seen.  I have stayed at a few trail shelters, but this is the first one I have seen that has a solar charging station for electronic devices.  There is a reason it is called the “Fontana Hilton.”  I had been to this shelter before in years past, and it was much more rustic.  Now it is clean and modern.   Although mainly for through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail, the road to Fontana Dam runs beside it, and there is a parking lot close to the camping area.  You don’t have to worry about road noise at night, however, because the road ends at Fontana Dam less than half a mile down the road.  I use the term “camping area” because there are also tent pads close to the trail shelter, so you can choose to stay in the shelter or sleep in a tent.  I preferred to stay in a tent.  Also unlike the other trail shelters where I have stayed, this one has a bath house, complete with running water, flush toilets, and hot showers.  Next to the trail shelter, there is a gathering area with picnic tables, a place to hang your lantern, and a fire pit.  I got a chance to meet some other campers—most of them were thru-hikers.  It was interesting to see what gear they were using.  I was curious and asked, and as I suspected, a couple of them were using alcohol stoves because of their light weight.  Among other things about this camping area, you are beside Fontana Lake, so the view is pretty special, especially at night when the moon reflects over the water.  When you are not at the camping area, you can go to the dam and visitors center.  Being the highest dam east of the Mississippi River, seeing the dam with your own eyes is pretty awesome.

Campground near Rafting Excursions on the Pigeon River

Even though the sites are walk-in sites, when I was there it was pretty crowded since the sites are close together.  At night, you can hear the distant sounds of the creek … if the other campers can stop talking.  This is not a campground for RVs.  There are no hookups and there are no places for RVs to park.  The thing I like best about this campground is its proximity to the Appalachian Trail and several other trails, including the Benton MacKaye Trail.  Midnight Hole, which is a 1.5 mile hike, is a great place to cool off.  Once you get there, you can swim to a big rock and jump off into a natural pool.  I believe this is the same place I took Boy Scouts many, many years ago and they loved it.  You just have to be careful because it is deep and COLD.  The trail to Mount Cammerer is quite strenuous, but the view is worth it.  Other than the great trails, the other attraction is the whitewater rafting.  There are a few outfitters just over the state line, and they shuttle rafters to the starting point beside the power station.  The one I used was NOC.  When I first came here years ago, I thought the river looked low, but by the time we put our raft in, the river was raging.  I think the most fun, besides the rafting, at this campground is playing on the rocks in the creek.  There is also a group camping area, which is separate from the family campground.  That is because they release the water just for rafting.  This campground is conveniently located off of Interstate 40 near the Tennessee and North Carolina state line. Once you get to the national park road leading to it, it is a 1.2 mile drive on a gravel road.

This is a great state park for hiking, seeing waterfalls, and for views!

There are a lot of reasons to love Hanging Rock State Park. That’s why it is probably my favorite state park in North Carolina.  However, I am torn between giving it two stars and giving it five stars.  In general, I would give the park five stars, but for the camping facilities, I would rate it two stars.  There is so much to do without having to leave the state park.  First, let’s look at the park itself, and close to the end I will discuss the campground.

To get to the park, you drive through beautiful rolling hills. The park has a modern visitor center with a nature center and friendly rangers.  There are lots of trails to explore, but they are not just trails to nowhere.  There are five waterfalls to see, a climbing access area, Cook’s Wall, and much more.  Moore’s Wall Loop Trail is a 4.3 mile strenuous hike, and it begins by walking by the lake.  There is a platform about halfway through the hike in which you can see the skylines of Greensboro and Winston-Salem.  My favorite trail is the Hanging Rock Trail, which is listed as moderate.  Parts of it are moderate, very short stretches are easy, and much of it is strenuous.  The last part of the Hanging Rock Trail is the most difficult, but the view at the end is worth the hike because it is spectacular.  From the hanging rock (I should say rocks since there are more than one), you can see for many miles across several counties.  The shortest hike to see a waterfall is relatively easy and is only three-tenths of a mile one way.  The lake has a swimming beach with mountains in the background, and there are also rowboats and canoes for rent.  According to what I understand from their website, canoe rentals and concession stands at the lake are open weekends only in the spring and fall (10am - 5:30pm).   I was hoping to take my kayaks next time, but unfortunately, private boats are not allowed.  Two large picnic shelters are also close to the lake. 

Here is why I would give it two stars.  The camping sites are shaded and spacious with picnic tables, lantern poles, and fire rings, but the bathroom facility is outdated (built in the 1960s).  Even though it has hot water, it is NOT handicap accessible, and the shower doors are narrow.  If you are not a skinny person, you might have trouble squeezing through the shower doors.  There are no electrical, water, or sewer hookups; however, there is access to water by way of frostproof hydrants. The campground hosts were very helpful and answered my questions.  You can also purchase bundles of firewood since taking your own firewood into the park is frowned upon.  If you are like me, however, and camp to experience the outdoors, you will not want to stay at your campsite very long.  There are just too many things to explore at this state park.  If you are going and want to truly experience the park, plan to camp at least three nights.  One day you can explore Upper Cascades falls and the hanging rock.  On another day, you can hike the Moore’s Wall trail and cool off in the lake.  On another day, see a couple more waterfalls or hike the Reuben Mountain Trail.

There is also a group camping area.  I took the Boy Scouts there once, so I decided to visit this time to see if it was still the same.  They have added bathrooms and more well-defined tent sites—quite an improvement since the last time.

Great Trail Shelter along the Appalachian Trail

Unlike most campgrounds, this is a camping shelter in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and you only reach it by hiking about four miles.  There are several shelters throughout the national park, but this is one of the more modern shelters.  I first camped at this shelter over thirty years ago, but I have also stayed in it at least three more times, including this most recent visit.  The first time I stayed there, you had to sleep on wire fencing.  Now, you sleep on a wooden platform.  This is why you should take a very comfortable sleeping pad.  I thought I did, but it was still a hard surface.  If this is the first time you have stayed in an Appalachian Trail shelter, be prepared to sleep beside strangers.  Sometimes, it gets to be a bit crowded.  This last time, I was sleeping beside my son and my best friend, and within a foot and a half were two female backpackers.  The shelter was actually crowded.   If you are a light sleeper, make sure to take ear plugs.  It is no fun listening to half a dozen strangers snoring all night.  The hike to the shelter is almost entirely uphill along the Appalachian Trail, but the views are well worth the hike, especially if you venture about nine-tenths of a mile past the shelter to Charlie’s Bunion.  That’s what most day hikers and overnight hikers go there for unless you are a through-hiker just passing through on the way to Maine.  Charlie’s Bunion is the main reason I go because the view is absolutely FANTASTIC!  There is a fireplace and chimney at the shelter, but I have never found it useful since you are not supposed to gather wood and wood is not available at the shelter.  What was once a very primitive privy is now a more modern pit toilet in which you shovel in mulch after you do your business.  Instead of having to tie up your food bags, there is now a cable system for hanging your food.  You WILL want to hang your food so critters won’t get to them, especially since mice love to hang around the shelter looking for food scraps, and there will be mice.  I have seen them more than a couple of times.  You can actually hear them sometimes at night in the shelter.  As many times as I have been to this shelter, I have never seen a bear, but I have heard stories about bears from other hikers.  The main attraction of the shelter, other than through-hikers staying overnight, is Charlie’s Bunion and other hikes that are close by.  The Jumpoff is a good hike, and if you are willing to hike farther, there are other similar hikes.  Make sure to take a water filter with you when you go unless you are willing to bear the weight of lots of water.  There is a water source along the trail about a hundred yards past the shelter.  Like most shelters, you are only allowed to stay one night.  To avoid crowds, hike to it in December.  Not really.  I did that one time.  Never again.  Two-thirds of the trail was solid ice, and getting to Charlie’s Bunion was not possible.  Autumn is my favorite time of year to go since the colors will be amazing, but if you have cloud cover you will not be able to get the best view from Charlie’s Bunion.

Great Campground Close to National Park and Creek Tubing

This campground has just about everything you could ask for.  Located close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is a private campground and has several types of camping opportunities.  Although most of the sites are for RVs, there are a few sites beside Deep Creek for tents.  If you have two tents, as we did, you need to make sure they are small because the tent pads are not that big.  However, it was great sleeping beside the creek away from the RVs, and it was not too far of a walk to the bath house.  If you are in an RV, there are pull-through sites and back-in sites.  This is also the first campground that I have ever seen with shelters at some of the RV sites.  As far as activities, there is plenty for the kids to do so they will not get bored.  For younger children, there are two playgrounds and a “fort.”   I can hardly wait to come here again with my grandson since I think he would especially love the fort.  The modern bath house is coupled with a laundry, and there are quite a few cabins if you don’t want to stay in a tent or an RV.  The camp store is fully stocked, and the whole campground has a quaint mountain theme.  The person I spoke to in the store spoke matter-of-factly, but she was not unfriendly.  I guess I should have bought some of the bundled firewood because we had a hard time trying to start the fire without dry wood.  We were able to miss the Memorial Day crowd since we camped there before the big rush.  Since this is also a tubing center, you can rent a tube and take it into the national park, which is about a mile down the road.  If you don’t like crowds, I suggest that you go when I did—a few weeks BEFORE Memorial Day.  Once Memorial Day comes, it will be crowded and the creek will be filled with tubers.  If you take the short drive into the national park, you will come to a parking lot, and from there, you can hike to three waterfalls close by.  The closest one from the parking lot in the national park is two-tenths of a mile, and it is an easy hike.  If you want to do some shopping or sightseeing, downtown Bryson City is a couple of miles away.  From there you can book a ride on the Smoky Mountain Railroad, or you can drive into the national park down Lake Shore Drive (a.k.a. “The Road to Nowhere”).  It is a pleasant six mile drive and has an overlook to view the beginning of Fontana Lake.

Campground with a Different Ecosystem--Woods and Swamp

Merchants Millpond is a great state park if you want to explore a different kind of ecosystem.  The heart of the park lies in its swamps filled with cypress trees and cypress stumps.  There are several camping areas of different kinds.  You can canoe in to one of their primitive campsites, which is on an island in the swamp.  There are other hike-in primitive sites, group camping sites, and there are also the family camping sites.   I stayed at the family camping site and decided to set up my hammock instead of a tent.  If you stay at Merchants Millpond, make sure you take and use insect repellent and lots of it.  I had the biggest problem with mosquitoes and ticks.  If you stay in a hammock, make sure it has mosquito netting.  The family camping sites have tent pads, lantern poles, and fire rings.  The bath house is centrally located within a short walking distance of all of the campsites.  The showers have hot water, but the bath house itself looks outdated.  The canoe-in site that I explored only has a pit toilet, but it did have fire rings and picnic tables.  You can hike to the island by way of a wooden bridge across the swamp, but it is mainly for those who want to canoe in.  If you can go off trail, you can see lots of wildlife.  I had the opportunity to do so since I was invited to participate in a search and rescue exercise.  I only saw one snake, which is unusual not to see more, but I also saw a deer and couple of turtles.  There is a bicycle trail, but the one I hiked on the most was the Lassiter Trail, which has a few wooden bridges and opportunities to experience the eastern woodlands and great views of the swampy millpond.  Fortunately, I did not run into any bears or alligators, which are common in this area.  The visitors center is large and modern, and there is a meeting facility.  The person that I talked to at the visitors center was pleasant and was able to answer my questions.  The staff is great to work with, and I know this because I volunteered to teach camping skills to 4H kids a couple of years ago at this state park.  Overall, it’s a great state park, but it lacks the amenities of modern RV parks.

State Park with Biking, Hiking, and Fishing Opportunities

The name of the park is deceiving because it is not in the mountains, but it has beauty in its meandering streams and trails.  The campsites have gravel tent pads, and tents must be set up on them.  The gravel on the site where I stayed was deeper than my tent stakes were long, and I could not get a good hold.  I was trying out a newly required tent, which was not freestanding, so it was frustrating.  My advice is to make sure you take a tent that IS freestanding.  Deep gravel tent pads and non-freestanding tents do not go together.  The tent site was large, had a fire ring, and a lantern pole, but the pad itself was NOT level.  I had to move the picnic table so I could set up my tent on the only level spot I could find.  Something you have to be careful about is poison ivy.  There was poison ivy all around the perimeter of my campsite.  The bathroom facilities were surprisingly modern and had spacious showers with hot water.  As far as I know, there are no electrical, sewer, or water hookups, but there is a dump station.  There is a mixture of pull-through sites and back in sites for RVs.  There are plenty of trails to explore, and plenty of fishing holes.  The Bluff Loop Trail leads from the campground and along Fishing Creek.  To see Medoc “mountain,” you have to hike quite a distance, or you can drive to the park office down the road and hike from there.  Cross the road to the Bear Swamp Trail, get on the Saponi Loop (which is also a bicycle trail), and then head to the Summit Loop Trail.  There are several miles of bicycle trails as well as hiking trails, and some of them are one way only, meaning that hikers are required to hike in one direction and bicycles go in another direction.  Even though this is in the Coastal Plain, the Bluff Loop Trail will take you by a couple of sections of whitewater.  They are small, but if you like a (mostly) easy hike through the forest, this trail is a good one.  There are no swimming pools or playgrounds, but if you want to just enjoy nature, there are hiking, biking, and fishing opportunities.

Primitive, Dispersed Camping in a National Forest with No Modern Amenities

When you want to camp away from the crowds and do not mind being without running water, electricity, toilets, showers, or any other amenities that you find at developed campgrounds, this one is for you … maybe. I say maybe because when I stayed there, I heard and saw pickup trucks until the wee hours of the morning. Since the campsites are along a dirt road in a national forest, miles away from civilization, it can be intimidating if not scary at times. I camped by myself and felt isolated (which is a good thing), and the scenery is great. You will be beside a rushing creek, and the sound of the creek is relaxing. If you want a little more security, you can camp a tenth of a mile away at Sunburst Campground, which is a developed national forest campground. The pros of these campsites are that they are peaceful (most times), they are in the heart of the mountains, they are only a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, they are between Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness, and there are plenty of trails. The cons are that previous campers have left a lot of trash and since it is dispersed camping, it is not picked up on a regular basis. Other cons are the late night cars and/or trucks, the lack of amenities, and that you have to cross a spillway to get to it. Despite all the cons, I got through it okay and really did enjoy my time there.

Small RV Park with Great Owners

Located within walking distance of restaurants and shopping, Hillbilly Campground is ideal for tourists who are looking for a basecamp for adventure. Although it is a small campground with limited amenities, it is well worth checking out. We have stayed at this campground many times. I'm not sure if tent camping is still allowed, but the first time we stayed there, it was in tents in the back behind the RVs. There was only room enough for two to three tents, but it was enough for us, and there was a picnic table. Since it was beside the creek, the sounds of the croaking frogs drowned out most of the road noise. Most recently, we stayed in a popup camper, which had water, electricity, and sewer. It is next to the main road going through Maggie Valley, but unless you are planning to stay around the campground all day, it won't bother you. The owners, Richard and Stacy, are fantastic. They are nice, and they keep the facilities clean. The bathrooms have always been clean every time I have been in them. There are also laundry facilities, and sometimes they have a "community" campfire. The main office is in their store called Maggie Country Store. They have basic necessities, and they have plenty of gifts and other items such as t-shirts, moccasins, etc. One of the best things about this campground is that it is within a forty-five minute drive to waterfalls, hiking, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Harrah's casino, the Cherokee Indian Museum, tubing, great trout fishing, and several other attractions. It does not have recreational amenities within the campground, but as I said, there are many attractions close by.

One Section of a State Recreation Area with Primitive Camping

This state recreation area deserves five stars, but I am reviewing only the New Hope Overlook area. I had stayed at this state recreation area in a popup camper before in a different area, and that was several years ago. This last time, a friend of mine and I stayed in a tent in the primitive area at New Hope Overlook. When we got to the gate, we were told there was no water, but I had a water filter. To camp, you have to backpack in several hundred feet, and select a site. When I went to the lake to filter water, the water was still brown, so we decided to go to the closest convenience store and buy bottled water. It was a great campout because it was my friend's bachelor party, and all he wanted to do for a bachelor party was to go camping with his best man. In this camping area, you have to tie your food bag up into a tree. There is a fire pit in each campsite, and there is a picnic table. The next day when we went fishing at the lake, which was s short hike through the woods, I was shocked by the amount of litter washed up on the shore and into the woods, included but not limited to, tires, oil bottles, drink cans, water bottles, and lots of everything else. The lake itself (at least at the shoreline) was nasty!!!!!!! It is a great area if you want to just be outdoors, but the best way to enjoy the full experience at Jordan Lake is to take a boat or a kayak, enjoy the swimming beach, and stay where there is potable water.

For my previous experience, I camped with my wife in a more developed campground at the lake. It has modern bath facilities, a swimming beach, boat access, etc. There are also a few trails. As I stated earlier, I would normally rate this state recreation area five stars, but the primitive camping at New Hope Overlook only deserves three stars.

A State Park with Primitive Camping, Fishing, Paddling, and Good Hiking

I would personally rate this as a four or five star campground for my taste, but since rating systems have to consider everything, I only rate it a three. Why? Many campers want the luxuries of RV sites with water, electricity, and sewer … and lots of amenities such as a swimming pool camp store, horseshoes or basketball, etc. You will not find any of that here. That's why I would personally rate it at four or five stars. I LOVE this state park because of its primitive nature. The trails take you into rolling hills and beside the Eno River, which is great for paddling a canoe or kayak. I have stayed at this campground before and revisited it several times. The park is divided into at least three sections, and to get to the primitive camping areas, you have to backpack in. The only facilities are pit toilets with no showers or running water. That is why you need to be prepared and take in your own water and toilet paper. The first time, I stayed at the Fews Ford area, but that campsite area moved to a different location in Fews Ford since then. This time I was in the Cole Mill section. The trails I took before and also this time are easy to moderate. The Cole Mill and Bobbitt Hole trails are connected, and I took both. The Bobbitt Hole trail takes you to a bend in the Eno River where some people go in to cool off. The trail beside the river is really pleasant and easy. One of my favorite sections to hike is in the Fews Ford area, and in order to get to the camping area, you have to cross a suspension bridge. For those who don't like "bouncy" foot bridges, avoid this one. There is also a group camping area and a cabin for groups during stormy weather. There are no doors--just doorways. This state park is long since it follows the Eno River, so don't expect to see everything it offers unless you are willing to spend at least a week exploring it. There are a couple of canoe access areas if you are interested, and there are picnic facilities. The most difficult trail (that I remember) is the Cox Mountain Trail. It is at least moderate. With all that said, this is not a park for RVers, but it is a great park if you like hiking, canoeing, or primitive camping.

A State Park Campground for Almost Every Type of Camper

I could easily give this campground five stars, but I am the type of tent camper that likes more wilderness. This campground actually a few "campgrounds" within the park and for almost every type of camper. Camp Burson is the first one you see upon entering the state park (as far as I know, since the park is really lonnggg! It is best suited for RVs, but there are gravel spaces for tents. Another campground in the park has pull-through sites, but there were also a couple of tents there. Since we are mainly tent campers, we went to the third camping area, which also had yurts. The yurts have one double bed but not water. The part that I didn't like, but many tent campers would love, is that you have to pitch your tent on a wooden deck. It's great for camping in the rain because the water doesn't have a chance to puddle. However, I'm the type that likes more primitive camping out in the woods, but I'm not holding that against Hungry Mother. Hungry Mother is a great state park, and the sites are wonderful (unless you are strange like me and prefer more primitive camping). As we drove around, we also saw several cabins and at least one or two lodges. I got the feel that it was almost a gated community, which for some people is not a bad thing. Again, there are opportunities for almost every type of "camper."

As far as I know, this is the first state park that had a restaurant. Unfortunately, we were there in April before it opened, so we missed out on that. The bath and shower facilities are modern with tile floors, which I find as a pleasant surprise for a state park. Camping there is April can actually be a good thing. You can avoid the crowds at the beach (although the water is cold) and there are a good number of empty campsites. This state park also has canoe, kayak, and paddle boat rentals. There is a basketball court and a playground, which is next to the beach. We didn't really stay long enough to enjoy the hiking trails or the fishing, but there are several hiking and biking trails from easy to moderate. The beauty of this park is amazing! With the background of mountains behind the lake, it doesn't get much better. I really would love to go back again and camp for more than just one night to enjoy it all.

State Park with Hiking, Water Sports, and Lots of Amenities

If you are looking for a state park with the amenities of a national franchise campground, look no further. I was surprised during our stay in this park. The sites are level and many are shaded. Although we are tent campers, RV campers WILL NOT be disappointed. While we were there, we were able to check out other sites before the season has gotten into full swing. There is even an area for group primitive camping. There is a complete marina for motor boats, and you can feel at ease launching your kayak as well. I didn't take my kayaks this time, but I plan to in the future. There is a swimming beach and group picnic shelters as well. I believe, if I am not mistaken, there is also a conference center. For the RVers, there is a dump station at the campground. The bath house was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting it to be like the bath houses at state parks I have visited before with bare concrete floors and cold water showers, if any at all. The bath house we used had tiled floor showers and marble/granite counter tops. I highly recommend Claytor Lake, and I will be back!

Small State Park with a View from the Cliffs

Although the family campground is closed until autumn, I recently stayed at this state park and have stayed at it many times before. It doesn't have as many amenities as more developed campgrounds, but there is plenty to do. For example, there are about 3-4 miles of hiking trails, one that takes you beside the 90-foot cliffs overlooking the Neuse River. There is a small nature center that describes the history and geographical features of the area. During the summer, you can swim or rent canoes and paddle boats. You can fish at the river or in the lake. Since this state park is in the middle of the country, the sounds of nature are interrupted only by occasional jets flying overhead from the nearby air force base. There is also a large picnic area adjacent to one of the parking lots. The biggest draw of this park, obviously, is the cliff view, but if you are looking for a relaxed atmosphere, this is a great place to camp.