Charit Creek Lodge in Big South Fork is AMAZING! There is a price tag on any unique experience but you do have a choice as to how unique it want it to be.
The Lodge offers group cabins, single beds, tent sites and Tentsile sites WITH a beach ;) What makes it so cool is these are original wood cottages with wood bunk beds and stoves for in the winter. They offer meal packages with your reservations too.
The guy that runs the place looks like a settler from the ole days with a red beard and “earth” attitude.
To get here you have to hike, ride a horse or bike. There is a road in but not for visitors. There are stalls for your horses to as well as a tie out area if your just passing through.
A place to visit even if you don’t want to over night just for the history. The lodge is located at the “intersection” of several trails. My favorite trail down is from the Twin Arches and back through Jakes Place.
There is a large lodge that is split into sleeping areas and a dining area with a nice covered porch with rocking chairs to pass the afternoon away in. Adjacent is the small kitchen that is used to prepare meals and there are snacks that you can purchase(bring cash) There is a restroom above a storage locker which is surrounded by a small kitchen garden. The cabins are behind the lodge as well as an old barn.
We walked back to the Tentsile area that had just been set up with brand new Tentsile 3 person tents. The creek that runs past has a little sand beach and there is an area that is almost waist deep to relax in. You pass a small mowed trail that leads back to two rope hammocks to relax in . On the way back to the cabins you can see the trail that leads in to one of the tent sites that also sits next to the river.
Dogs are permitted in the cabins and tent areas , not in the Tentsile area. Horses are allowed in the stable and tie out areas.
Just an awesome place to visit, it really makes you think about how people used to live in the old days and how remote they actually were.
Alum Ford Big South Fork Recreation Area is in my top 10 favorite areas.
I try to participate in the Yamacraw Trail Run every year because it is just AWESOME, and this area is part of their route due to the excellent scenery of the area.
If you like trees, hills, streams, falls, historical markers, old cabins and history , plus not much use of modern technology when you camp then you will thoroughly enjoy Big South Bend! If you are a bring the kitchen sink kinda camper you might wanna find a nearby KOA or other type campground.
The campground has no signal, no electricity, no showers, no host. Just you, a tent pad, picnic table and fire ring. Oh, and there is one pit toilet. Bring 5$ cash for the honor pay station and your hiking shoes and watercraft. There is a Trailhead at the back of the 6 site campground and a boat ramp down the hill.
The sites are well maintained and old , probably CCC built with wood steps leading up or down to your site. There is no direct access to the boatramp but there is a short trail that connects the sites to the boatramp that runs along the cliff face down to the ramp.
The trailhead is part of the Sheltowee Trace Trail and connects to the Yamacraw Bridge. You could easily stage a multi day backpacking trip from Alum Ford to take in the local sights.
Not far up the road is the Yahoo Picnic Area. I think it used to be a campground just by the way it’s set up. Picnic tables on pads and a nice old pavilion for groups with a grill. Past that Yahoo Falls. This is a technical, moderate trail down to the tallest falls in Kentucky. Also a very old area but maintained with newer restroom facilities. The loop trail was approximately 1.5 miles long with a metal staircase on one side and trail on the far side. This is also part of a thru trail. Get you an old fashion paper map before coming cause your fancy electronic gear may or may not work here.
This is one of many areas through the Kentucky/Tennessee Big South Fork if you are able plan for an extended stay to check the whole place out;)
Ranger Review: Mountain House Meals at Alum Ford Campground ,Big South Fork, Ky
Campground Review: Near Yahoo Falls Alum Ford this small (6 sites) primitive campground is a good place to set up base camp for activities your planning in the area.
Not much to the actual campground:
• Picnic table, bear box, tent pad ,fire ring
• Pit toilets
• Co-located with a boat-ramp (Cumberland River)
• A trail that meanders along the cliff face behind the campsites that takes you down to the boat-ramp
• Trailhead in the very back to Yamacraw Bridge and the Sheltowee Trace
The campground is quiet aside from loading and unloading boats (which went on until after midnight) There were only two occupied sites when we arrived on a Saturday. No reservations and $5 per site. There is credit card information on the pay envelope but I prefer to use cash and not have my info floating around.
The campground was clean and well maintained but obviously old and in need of some restoration, no surprise with all the cuts in Park positions. I like this type of campground but not so much the noise from the boat-ramp. There is no direct put in from the sites. I doubt I would leave my watercraft tied off overnight either.
This would be an excellent and cheap spot to do some extensive hiking from or even backpacking/dispersed camping from. Due to there being no through traffic you could leave your vehicle and odds and ends and not have to worry about anything wandering off while your gone. We camped here after hiking some of the Tennessee end of the Sheltowee Trace. Sunday we hiked some more and visited Yahoo Falls.
Product Review: Mountain House Freeze Dried Meals are surprisingly very good….https://www.mountainhouse.com/m/abus.html
Now I say this from a background of years of MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat….in someone’s opinion) and T-rations. So it should only be improvement, BUT some of the other products I’ve tried were not that great.
I first tried Mountain House a few years ago on a backpacking trip and thought it was okay, but not great. I tried Mountain House again last year and enjoyed it a lot more. I don’t know if they changed anything or maybe I read and followed the directions ;)
So when given the opportunity as a Dyrt Ranger to review Mountain House I was like absolutely!
I selected breakfast items, Granola and Egg mixtures( not together;) because that’s the time of day I like quick and easy so we can get on the move.
I read the directions and boiled my water, poured a cup in, waited 3 minutes and Had Some Scrumptious Eggs and Bacon! Just that easy, quick AND filled me up.
I’m trying to think of any cons but right off hand the only problem I ever had was not reconstituting it correctly. Eggs needed some salt and pepper but that would go back to preference.
Mountain House comes in pro-paks for backpackers and high altitudes, which are packed to save space. They have cans for crowds and kits for preppers or just emergency preparedness.
Definitely good for at the house, in the camper and the car just in case.
My brother visits KOA’s all the time for camping. Me, not so much. I have a hard time paying $40 for a tent site when I can camp for free or under $20.
The Bowling Green KOA, Ky is located on the outskirts of Bowling Green near the I65 and Natcher interchange. You can actually see the back end of the campground from the ramp that connects the two. My first thought when considering a stay.
I spoke with two of the very friendly and helpful ladies in the office and got a plethora of information. So much so that I’m sure I’ll forget some of it, but here goes;) So first with your fee you recieve (you and all your group) a free game of Minature Golf a day. Next there is wifi and cable available. There is a swimming pool on site and two pay lakes with paddle boats. A dog park and short trail. Depending on the month you visit there are also special incentives to stay an extra night. In May some of your fee is donated to Camp. With a KOA card there are special incentives too and you earn points with every stay. So, all that being said I did purchase a KOA card. Though this is not my favorite type of camping it will come in handy on an upcoming trip and when I camp with my brother ;) I was pleasantly surprised that the interstate noise was mostly not noticiple. There are plenty of trees that help block the noise and offer a lot of shade. We were in a busier site at the end of Abby Dr but it was an easy walk to the two small “lakes“( more like ponds ) and the dog park and showerhouse (with dogwash station) were a short walk away. Not much else to do but a fun enough spot for younger kids. ( no “bears“ to take photos with) and not as many special activities as some other theme campgrounds. This is a nice older campground, worth a night or two visit to get away from the grind for a bit.
Cave Creek Campground at Rough River Lake is off a single and a half country road. If your pulling a trailer or RV take your time, curvy road.
The basic sites are at the top of the hill to the left. When we visited it was completely empty. It is a nice shaded area, very open, spread throughout a small hilly area. No direct lake access from here. Some of the sites are very short for parking but have plenty of grass room. There is a disc golf course in the area.
The RV section was almost full, reserve ahead if you want anything close to the water and it’s a good chance that this is one of those campgrounds that is booked for the season. Laid out across and down the hillside, the sites are in a tiered configuration with big rocks. No direct lake access. There were watercraft tied near the fishing pier which is on a strip of grass adjacent the boatramp. No swimming “area” there is an inlet near the fishing pier that people probably swim in. There are a few basic campsites between the boatramp road and the inlet. The “facilities” are co-located between the two campgrounds at the back of the overflow parking area. There is a small pit toilet near the top of the hill. We picked a site in the back curve(picked as in only ones left open. Not much privacy but you have the woods at your back.
A very busy boatramp. Make sure you back as close to one side as possible. Someone will be attempting to back in beside you. People were in a very big hurry, make sure your craft is ready to go in the water before you get in line unless you want to hear about it. I’m of two opinions on this. I understand to not block the ramp for an extended period of time but on the same token not everyone is as apt as others at backing and unloading/loading. Stay calm and enjoy yourself!
Dixon Springs State Park is within Shawnee National Forest near Golconda, Il. This park has some unique features.
It sits on a block of rock along a fault line. Directly accessible from the parking lot is a waterfall and covered spring. Plus huge rocks to wander through. The pool is in the same area. Ghost Dance Canyon Trail is .7 miles long and an interesting, picture worthy hike.
Up the hill you will find the campgrounds.The RV campground is very open , you do have more space if you pick an outer site. Past some historical buildings you will find the primitive area parking lot. Hike in and pick your site. Some of those sites aren’t far from the parking area, others are further in the woods.
This is a nice basic camping area, but I wouldn’t choose to stay here for longer then a night/weekend, my opinion. If you have young children or just want to relax at the camper and pool it’s quiet and slow paced. We overnighted and got on the road home.
Lake Glendale Recreation Area, Shawnee National Forest, Il is not to far from Harrisburg, Il if you need to stock up on supplies enroute to your camping excursion.
If you enjoy sampling at local wineries while you visit different areas there is a short tour in this area, one of the wineries is Hogg Hollow. We stopped in while we were in the area. You will see the signs on your route between Harrisburg and Lake Glendale. Nice little winery with a tick covered Lab to greet you in the parking area. There is a longer wine trail further west in Shawnee National Forest.
When I entered Lake Glendale, Cardinal Bay boat launch was the first area I visited. It’s across the lake from the beach and has its own parking area. There were people fishing near the launch and you can access the lake trail from this area. Electric motors only on the lake.
The picnic area is a large area with a nice size pavilion and single tables sitting in several different locations near the lake and trail. The walk from the picnic area to the beach is not far either by road or lake trail.
You have the option of two different camping areas in Oak Point Campground, with several double sites that are ideal for family and group camping. There are electric and non electric sites with plenty of room for the bigger rigs. If you pick a water side site it is a short walk to the lake trail and I saw several personal watercraft sitting on the shore for use.
There is a group camping area , Duck Campground that is at the very end of the road, so it’s nice and secluded. It has its own pavilion and facilities . I’m not sure if it’s open or closed. The CCC pavilions fire place was closed up but a grill at the pavilion had been used recently. The road in had a gate closed across it but a sign that said you could walk in.
While we were at the lake it was very quiet and peaceful even with the expected noise from the beach. Dark nights with star gazing and even a little bit of that eerie scary movie vibe at the far end of the lake where it’s a little too quiet……just sayin ;) We thoroughly enjoyed floating and hiking.
Oak Point Campground at Lake Glendale, Shawnee National Forest, Il was a very well maintained area with convenience in mind.
First the sites are well laid out within the wooded area affording plenty of room, privacy and shade. Next depending on which site you pick it can be a short walk to the lake and direct put in of your water craft. A very cool feature is that several of the sites are double. Which if you are camping with family or friends is nice but I guess it could be bad if you don’t know the people in the attached site……
There is a boat ramp area with parking , electric motors only. Makes for a quiet lake experience, sans the screaming children across from the ramp at the beach area, lol. The lake is large enough though you really don’t notice them when you head to the far end.
We took the lake trail which follows the edge of the lake all the way around. It connects Oak with Duck and the boat ramp and the beach and the picnic area. This is one of those campgrounds if you have all your supplies you can park the car for your entire visit and never miss it! All the activities are within walking or biking distance and you can carry your watercraft from your site straight into the water.
Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest, Il used to be a favorite of my kids. They would climb all over the rock formations trying to catch lizards, stressing me out continually with their acrobatic antics.
Visiting these days is definitely less stressful but just as enjoyable. The view is extraordinary and the geological wonders are very cool. The pathway is still the original stonework done by the CCC in addition there are modern day improvements most notably being the barcode information signs. Then there is the bike parking and the new toilet facilities.
Pharaoh Campground has improved immeasurably from the 90’s when I would make the kids stay in the car until I checked the campsite for drug paraphernalia. The campground is very well maintained and you have the choice of camping near other people or picking a more secluded site.
Garden of the Gods Wilderness offers not only a challenging hike but a lot of scenery along the way. It’s part of the River to River trail and horse riders use the same trails in the GOG area.
We took the time to walk the rock formations and explore down the path a ways. Interesting history and awesome area. I never get tired of checking out the views.
Saline County State Conservation Area in Shawnee National Forest is EXCELLENT! in my opinion.
This is my favorite type of campground. Direct put ins at your campsite, wide open spaces and all kinds of room between sites. There is also a horse campground area, secluded, very nice.
I was excited as soon as I pulled into the campground and saw the sites sitting near the shore. My thought was “I’m parking the car and not driving again until we leave ;)”
I drove all the way through the area before picking a site and was surprised by the distance between sites, especially on the back half of the loop which is not on the water. At first I thought that area was for horse camping due to the huge expanse of space between site pads, but the horse campsite is in a completely secluded area in the trees!
AND almost every area had its own pit toilet nearby!! No long walks in the dark( cause of course everyone walks all the way to the toilet at 2 in the morning)
We moved in, set up, placed the kayak near the water and took in the peace and quiet (sans the Canadian Geese doing their thing)
We hiked, we yaked, we napped in the hammock, (the dogs may have chased a goose or two…) then we started all over again .
There is some interesting historical information about the area, a statue that is apparently very life like to dogs and a nice day use area with pavilion.
This is a definite at peace, restful, quiet, contemplative area ( or at least it was when we visited, it may be busier on the weekends) We will be back!
Duck Bay Campground is part of the Glendale Lake Recreation Area, Il. We hiked into the area , the road was gate restricted during our visit.
There is an original CCC picnic pavilion that has a closed off fireplace, donations for its renovation are greatly appreciated. The restroom was locked up tight but it was evident by coals and cigarette butts in the grill the area had been used recently. It is marked as a group camping area and is the last area along the road which would be ideal for a scout trip.
We used the trail along the edge of Lake Glendale to hike in. Passed a creepy old shed just prior to reaching the area and then a sudden thunderstorm blew up and we stopped in the pavilion to stay somewhat dry and safe for the worst part of it. It was truely the makings of a scary movie! While I sat on the picnic table with two shivering dogs ( Storms don’t faze Blu, the other two were not happy) I played several scary movie scenarios through my head. Did I mention there was no phone signal plus my phone was going dead?
So anyway, Nice field area for tents, plenty of shoreline for fishing. Direct put in if you have the watercraft and not to far of a hike to the beach area. Quiet, aside from the noise from the beach which you can’t hear at Duck it is toward the end of the lake. Dark, excellent constellation identification opertunities and no through traffic.
High Knob is a Horse campground in Shawnee National Forest near Garden of the Gods off Il1. The entire area has extensive trails through some awesome, hilly, rocky, cliffy areas. There are some excellent things to see. The trail traverses some of the River to River trail that meanders through the area. There used to be an annual ride through “One Horse Gap” I don’t know if it’s still a thing.
The campground has options in addition to sleeping in your rig, cabins, travel trailers and a “hotel” . There’s also stalls and tie outs in the area you park in. A good staging area for Shawnee NF treks with several trailheads to pick from. Groups can set up in here and either stage or use it as base camp. Quiet , depending on who you are camping with, all amenities available on site too. (showers, laundry, store)
We enjoyed the trails though we went no where near as far as the horse people do. (There is so much to see, we have been going to Shawnee NF for over 20 years but I still find something or somewhere new almost every visit.)
Pounds Hollow Recreation Area located in Shawnee National Forest, Il is easier to find then some of the other areas in Shawnee.
You have the Pounds Hollow Lake, there is the Rim Rock Trail and picnic area and there is Pine Ridge Campground.
First there is no boat ramp at the lake and it is an electric motors only area. So it’s excellent for kayak, SUP and canoe excursions. There is a swimming area and picnic shelter circa CCC era construction.
Next Rim Rock trail is for hikers only, there are horse trails on the far side of the lake.
And then the Pine Ridge Campground which sits, you guessed it, on a ridge above the lake. There are access trails through the woods to the lake. There are nice size sites spread throughout the campground area. Tons of privacy. Electric sites as well as your basic sites with picnic tables, fire rings and those poles with hooks( I’ve seen them used for many things in addition to lanterns ) and of course pit toilets. But newer, cleaner pit toilets.
The lake was quiet and relaxing. Even though there was a large group present at the pavilion the area of the lake makes it easy to find a quiet space to just float or fish.
Only thing that would have made it better for me would have been if there was direct put in to lake. I like to park the vehicle and then leave it for the whole visit. Having to move the water craft back and forth takes away some of the enjoyment. (Very, very minuscule take away)
Tower Rock Campground, Shawnee National Forest, Il is ideal for fishermen.
Coming off the ferry from Marion, Kentucky there were no signs pointing the way. ( side note: lots of Amish in the Marion area, some very good products for sale and scenery to see)
No or spotty signal in this area so have your directions on paper. In Cave in Rock ( this is where the ferry crosses to) you take W Clay St to the left. It turns into Cave in Rock Rd which will get you there. Cave in Rock has some food and fuel, you might want to fill up here if you haven’t already. Cave in Rock State Park is with in a mile to the right.
Once on Cave in Rock Rd. watch for the sign (near 280 “block” of street addresses) because if you miss the turn it will be a minute before you can turn around to come back on the country road. On the road in stay to the left.
Tower Rock is boonyville like most of the Shawnee NF sites in this area. Perfect for a get away from the hustle and electronics of city life.
The actual campground is basically a mowed area in the woods close to the river. There is a pit toilet but otherwise pick your area and settle in, there was plenty of room for a group gathering or to just string up your hammock next to your vehicle. We continued down to the boatramp which is a cement pad into the river. Parking is in an overgrown dirt lot. Dark and quiet at night unless you have loud fellow campers. No camp host to speak of, just you and the woods and river (and bugs and snakes ;)
I don’t kayak on the Ohio River so we did not put in, it was a nice quiet no frills stay with only two other campers while I was there.
Me and my kids used to camp at Pharaoh Campground and Picnic Area at Garden of the Gods, Shawnee National Forest.
It hasn’t changed much, one good change is it is better maintained then in the 90’s when we used to visit. Back then you had to check the sites for drug paraphernalia before letting the kids out of the car.
A few other changes I noted were the cool barcodes to scan that give you interesting information about the area. Of course you don’t get much signal soooo.
Then there’s the bike parking area and renovated latrines. Otherwise the really cool rocks haven’t changed much, left there from an inland sea. Very awesome views.
The sites to choose from are cliff side ( don’t wonder around in the dark) and the inner area. Good space between sites and several secluded ones to choose from. There were several trails into the woods that take you to more rock formations, just watch your footing. Bring cash to pay and get your fuel and food before you drive out here. Quiet, relaxing and just plain meditation/yoga/koombyya ready!
It was an easy walk down through the picnic area to the trail at the main attraction. Then there’s the trail, River to River that runs through the area. There is a horse preparation area right by the main parking lot that has direct access to the trail.
The picnic area had a pit toilet, pavilion and several tables set in the shade on top of a short ride with parking.
Camp Cadiz in Shawnee National Forest was fun to find :) The GPS is a little off BUT it gets you in the area.
On a gravel road, in the back country like most everything else on this side of Illinois , fill your gas tank up and your food locker or you will be driving back out a ways to refill.
IL1/Ohio River Scenic Byway(in Illinois, who knew;) off the ferry from the Kentucky side, not much phone signal in these parts so bring the old fashion paper map.
There is a sign for Camp Cadiz, trust the sign. Stay right onto the gravel road at the Y and you will pass JJ’s.
This is a very cool little basic campground with two stone fireplaces and several other sites with shade. A pit toilet and water source that’s about it.
This is a campground you wanna use if you like being off the beaten path out on your own. Would also be a good group outing.
This is the Eastern trailhead for the River to River trail , there is also a shorter trail , Beaver. Good one to practice your backpacking skills on. Very dark at night, bring your headlamp. Good times to be had ;)
Cave in Rock State Park, Il is sorta out in the middle of nowhere. That being said it is an adventure worth the trip. Weekday visits will supply you with more things to do but weekend adventures are just as fun.
If your coming from the Kentucky side first there is Amish country to visit. Check in Marion for what’s available and where (fill your gas tank up!)
Next there is the ferry ride across. If you’ve done it a lot no big deal, but my kids used to love it every time.
Write your directions down for this whole area, the cell phone coverage is spotty and it will keep frustration down.
Signage will greet you as soon as you exit the ferry and Cave in Rock city has several small businesses you might want to visit. Plus a bunch of painted bikes…
To the right down the road a bit and your in the park.
The RV area is spread throughout a hilly, tree’d area, after being in Army Corp of Engineers last week which uses every foot of area available this campground seems huge and vacant. There were many sites occupied they are spread out across a huge area which is awesome. There is a playground near the showerhouse and a pond back in behind the playground.
The primitive area is up another hill back in the woods, my favorite. Two handicap accessible spots next to the pit toilet let’s everyone have some fun.
If you want a shower you have to return to the RV area. These basic sites have a grill, fire pit and picnic table. Some are pretty level some not so much ;) Best of all there are several options if you have a Tentstile.
We took a 2 mile loop hike across to the lodge, along the cliff face and down to the cave. A lot of history here and some nice views.
This was our second outing with our new to us EVAC Trailer (www.evactrailer.com) I added some metal poles and a tarp and bam! we have an impromptu sitting area. The tool box made a nice meal prep and cooking area. Still looking at other ideas, but it’s a sturdy little trailer that is serving its purpose well!
Laurel Recreation Area on Rough River Lake has three separate campgrounds that run along side the road with the boatramp between the second and third areas.
In the very first campground the sites along the road to me are not good if you have kids or dogs due to road traffic.
The “wood” side sites are better in that you can set up a more private area for camp life.
The second campground area is smaller with less sites. There is a day use area in between the first and second campgrounds with a short nature trail.
The third campground down is the largest and is adjacent to the day use beach area
There were no direct put ins at the first two campgrounds. All three campgrounds had the usual; shower house, picnic tables and fire rings.
The boat ramp is not very long and has limited parking, you will get the opportunity to practice your backing skills with the trailer if you use this one.
This is a nice camping area but crowded and to use any of the recreation areas you will need to load up your vehicle to get there. The third campground does have some sites with put in possible but you will need to reserve ahead.
Axtel Recreation Area on Rough River Lake was probably the noisiest area we stopped at. I thought I had found an adequate spot in one of the rear loops which had campsites squeezed along the hill face, road and water way. However we were obviously on one of the main water thoroughfares because watercraft traffic did not let up and the noise just amplified against the hill. It was mostly shaded but the sites were only a little wider then the vehicle and then you had the drop to the water with no put in possible because it was too steep.
In the upper loop there was a somewhat quieter spot, I just don’t care for these type campgrounds. The showerhouse was a distance away but we did have a water point across the road from us.
The campground and boatramp were on opposite sides of the road. This is a large campground with a nice size sand beach for campers only. Unless you get a nearby site it is a bit of a walk to the beach.
Maverics Place restaurant is nearby and the intersection at Ky259/79 has fuel, food and a liquor store.
North Fork Recreation Area at Rough River Lake is a little discombobulated. The lay out of the area is missing any Feng Shui.
There is a nice picnic area with a large pavilion , parking area and fishing pier next to but not connected to the boatramp. The boatramp has parking along one side, two ramps to use and it in turn is next to but not connected to the campground.
Pro: there is a nice size beach on the other side of the road with a large shaded picnic area that looks like it used to be a campground, a good size parking lot and a large pavilion.
Con: regardless your plans for the day/weekend it’s almost impossible to easily/safely move from one activity to the next without the use of a vehicle.
This campground was crowded , noisy and there was no privacy.
Con: sorta felt like setting your tent up on Main Street in a mid-size town.
Pro: you might make new friends (hopefully quiet, courteous friends)
Con: very strange lay out which uses every inch of space.
Con: there was a lot of noisy water traffic.
Pro: you could tie your water craft near your campsite in several areas.
Con: some of the sites had little room to park your car.
We ended up way down at the end in site 66
Pro:cut down on vehicle traffic
Con: we were right next to the boatramp area, very noisy.
Pro: there was a restroom nearby
Con: it was shared with the boatramp
When driving to North Fork you pass through a small town with a gas station, Dollar General and food available. I gave a three star due to the noise, crowd and lack of privacy. You may enjoy this kind of camping.