Tara S.

Bennington, VT

Joined September 2017

Vermonter, writer, photographer, and lover of beauty.

Small, Family-Friendly and Close to Everything!

Our stay at Blue Bell Campground was one of the highlights of our recent cross-country road trip. With only 30 campsites suitable for tents or RVs, this was a nice spot to unwind after busy days within the park. 

Unlike many of the other campgrounds in Custer, this one is not waterfront, so it is a bit quieter and more relaxed. Campsites are $21 (plus the entrance fee) for a standard tent site without hookups. Sites with electricity are $25, and camping cabins are $50 per night. 

We stayed in one of the tent sites at the edge of the campground, so it was super quiet, but close to the amphitheater for ranger programs, as well as the bathhouse, and the Blue Bell Stables for trail rides.  

There is so much to do in Custer State Park. We stayed for three days, but could easily have stayed longer. We hiked the Sunday Gulch Trail near Sylvan Lake, which was fantastic, drove all of the scenic drives, including the Needles Highway, The Iron Mountain Road, and the Wildlife Loop. We also swam in Legion Lake, which is the closest lake to Blue Bell, and canoed on Center Lake. 

While we were there, we made friends with our camping neighbors, who all agreed that Blue Bell Campground was one of the nicest in the park. The campground hosts are incredibly nice and cell service was pretty good compared to other spots in the park.

Clean and Quiet Campground for a Quick Overnight

We passed through the area while driving on route 1 and decided to spend the night here because it was clean and quiet and relatively cheap at $15 per night. The sites are shaded and large enough for RVs. We stayed on a weeknight in July and there were 10 other campers. 

There are pit toilets and faucets with water, but that's about it. You can gather downed wood for campfires, and there is plenty of it. Georgetown Lake is nearby, but we didn't have the opportunity to explore it properly. There is no direct access from the campground.

Of the 31 sites in the campground, 20 are reservable on recreation.gov.  We heard a pack of coyotes loud and clear in the night, and we saw a lone elk in the distance. While we enjoyed our stay at Lodgepole, it seems like more of a drive-by campground. I imagine that it is also an overflow campground for people visiting Georgetown Lake.

Primitive Campground in an Amazingly Wild Spot

There's a lot of wildlife in Badlands National Park, but we saw the bulk of it right in Sage Creek Campground. This is a totally free campground, which is basically a field surrounding a prairie dog town, with two pit toilets and no water. There is also no shade, but there are a few picnic tables under sun shelters in the campground.

Unfortunately, we didn't score a sun shelter because we arrived late in the day. We did have a tarp that we set up over our picnic table for shade. During our stay in July, we saw several bison in the campground, as well as hawks, meadowlarks, magpies, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and a family of burrowing owls. 

There are trails that lead up to the surrounding hills, and plenty of wide-open spaces to explore. If the campground gets busy, it does feel a bit like the grounds of a festival, as there is no privacy and people tend to pitch their tents wherever there is room. Also, it took us about an hour to drive back and forth from the visitor center, and the road is extremely rough, so you have to drive really slow. 

We loved Sage Creek Campground - the remoteness, the wildlife, and the amazing sky, and would definitely return! Sites do fill up in the busy summer season, but not until late in the evening.

Quiet little oasis in the middle of the Minnesota prairie

This was a drive-by site for us and not a destination, so our review is based on only one night. We found the park to be very quiet and only had a few camping neighbors during our stay. It seems like it might be a destination for retired RVers, as everyone seemed to know each other well, which was fun. 

Highlights include nice, easy trails through the prairie, lots of wildflowers, and a herd of bison. We only saw the bison from a distance, but apparently, there are tours. We experienced lots of bugs in early July - biting flies and mosquitoes, and there was a constant humming noise from a nearby farm that really detracted from our experience. 

Otherwise, the campground was really peaceful and the bathhouse was clean. We arrived around 4:30 pm and the office was closed. We didn't see a single park employee or campground host during our visit. 

We checked out the tipis, which looked really fun, but with all the flies, we opted for setting up our tents to keep them out. We'd totally stay here again, but we probably wouldn't go out of the way to visit.

Quiet campground, except for the train

We enjoyed our stay at Indiana Dunes National Park with a few exceptions. First of all, as many of the other reviewers have mentioned, the bathrooms and showers were dirty. The noise from nearby trains was very loud, and it definitely felt like an urban camping experience. The campsite was clean and spacious, with plenty of room for our two tents and a hammock. 

We really enjoyed hiking the Long Lake Trail through dunes and woods and the Cowels Bog Trail to a secluded beach. We watched the sunset from the nearby Kempil Beach. It was so lovely, but we spent much of the evening picking up trash, which was everywhere. I'm glad I paid a visit to our newest national park, but I'm not sure I would go out of my way to return.

Busy Campground. No Privacy

This is a huge park on Lake Erie about an hour from Niagara Falls. Th day-use picnic area and beach are quite nice, clean, and well cared for.

The campground is another story. The tenting are is basically a field with no privacy. Yo can see the lake on the other side of a chainlink fence. In wet or rainy weather the whole thing becomes a swamp.

The RV sites are also close together, although a few of them seemed private. There are also 5 yurts that w really nice. Restrooms were filthy, with hair, empty shampoo bottles, and razors on the floor. Dumpsters were all really full and we didn’t see any staff people at all.

If you do visit, I suggest going for the day to picnic and swim, and skipping the campground.

Ranger Review: Gregory Octal 55 at Gilson Pond Campground

Gilson Pond Campground is small— just 37 sites nestled into the woods near a swampy, but beautiful pond in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Most people stay here because it is located in Monadnock State Park at the base of Mount Monadnock. Have you heard of it? 

Mount Monadnock is 3,165 feet tall and is best known because of its cameos in writings by both Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It’s quite a prominent peak in southern New Hampshire, and I’ve heard tell that it’s the second most hiked mountain in the world, after Mount Fuji in Japan. Mount Monadnock may not be the tallest mountain in New Hampshire, but it’s rocky and bald, and provides 365-degree views of the surrounding valley and distant mountains. 

We chose Gilson Pond Campground because of its proximity to Keene State College, where we were headed for a college orientation, but we figured since we were camping near the base of a famous mountain, we might as well hike it. First tip, camp at Gilson Pond Campground the night before so you can get up early to beat the heat, if that applies, and the crowds. 

This is one of the quietest and most peaceful campgrounds I’ve ever stayed at. The sites are super private, the rangers are friendly, and the mosquitoes are ferocious, but I can’t give a campground a bad review because of the mosquitoes. Just a warning to be prepared. There’s a decent bathhouse with pay showers, a small playground, and a loop trail around Gilson Pond that leads right from the campground. No matter which site you choose you’ll be happy. They’re all really nice. 

A few words of caution- don’t bring a large RV- the sites are not meant for big rigs. Also, dogs aren’t allowed anywhere in Monadnock State Park, and while we were sad to leave our goodest boy at home, he would have hated the hike up the mountain anyway- too many rock scrambles. 

A Quick Overview of the Hike up Mount Monadnock 

The ranger at the trailhead office recommended that we hike up the White Dot Trail (2 miles) and down the White Cross Trail( 2.5 miles) so that we could do the steepest route on the way up and take it easy on the way down. This was a great suggestion. 

The White Dot Trail starts off flat, but that’s very short-lived. The trail begins to climb steeply pretty early on. The second half of the trail is very steep with lots of rock scrambles. You definitely have to watch your footing most of the hike because the rocks can be wet in places and very slippery. Once you get above the treeline, follow the rock cairns across the ridge. On a nice day, you will be able to see for miles in every direction. 

The White Cross Trail is not as steep, but my knees were still pretty sore after all was said and done. We started the hike at 8 am and finished up at 12 pm. We saw about 15 people in total, but when we got to the trailhead, the parking area was full and many people were starting their hike. I’m a middle-aged woman who does more walking than hiking, and I would consider this a strenuous hike that is totally worth the huffing and puffing.

 Gregory Octal 55 Review 

As a ranger for The Dyrt, I occasionally get to test out products and gear. For this particular trip, I received a discount on the Gregory Octal 55 Ultralight Backpacking Pack. It’s meant for short treks and can carry a maximum of 35 pounds. I used it for day hiking, and found to my surprise, that it was lighter and more comfortable than any of my day-hiking packs. 

This pack has oodles of awesome features, including three external pockets, large hipbelt pockets, an Aerospan ventilated suspension system that wicks away moisture and keeps the pack off of your back, and a quick stow system for your sunglasses. 

The Octal 55 is hydration bladder compatible, comes with a custom rain cover, and an ultralight aluminum frame. Oh, and I almost forgot the most important part— it’s designed specifically for a woman’s frame. Not to sound cliché or anything, but this pack was so comfy, I hardly knew it was there. 

I had a small issue early on in my hike that I will mention. My water bottles, which were stowed in the two mesh side pockets, fell out on the rock scrambles. Because they weren’t held in securely, they would just slide out whenever I bent over. I realized after the fact that there are small straps that can be tightened around them within the pockets. This solved the problem after I scrambled down several rock faces after my runaway bottles. 

All-in-all I’m really happy with this pack and can’t wait to take it on some longer adventures.

Glamping on the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Don's Cab-Inns Campground unique for several reasons. First, it is a private campground located in a public park - in this case, Explore Park in Roanoke, Virginia (milepost 115 on the Blue Ridge Parkway). Explore Park is run by Roanoke County, who partners with different vendors to create a full outdoor experience for folks who want to the gamut of outdoor adventures without having to drive all over the place. Within Explore Park, you can hike, mountain bike, take a trail ride on horseback, paddle the Roanoke River, go tubing, pitch a tent, embark on an aerial adventure course, and more. 

Explore Park is, as far as I know, the only public park and campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway that isn't run by the National Park Service. There are many different camping options at Explore Park. At Don's Cab-Inns, you can stay in a standard RV site with electricity hook-ups, a tiny cabin that sleeps between 4 and 6 people, or a yurt, which has electricity and a bathroom.

Another private company, Blue Mountain Adventures, offers primitive tent camping, and glamping tents, which I'll also review.

I stopped at Explore Park and Don's Cab-Inns Campground while road tripping on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. The campground opened in the fall of 2018, and everything still feels brand new. Of the 18 or so sites available, I think half of them were full during my visit on a weekend in early May.

The little cabins include a full-size bed below and another in the loft, air conditioning, heat, electricity, a microwave, a small refrigerator, and a coffee pot. There is a fire pit, water spigot, and picnic table outside the cabin, as well as a lovely front porch to relax on. 

You do have to bring your own bed linens or a sleeping bag with you. The brand new bathhouse includes private bathrooms with showers, and there is a small store on site for buying ice, firewood, and necessities like bug spray or soap. 

Cost for the small cabins is $75 per night. The yurts, which have their own full bathroom are $100 per night.  

My cabin was delightful. My bed was comfortable, and Don was a delightful host. He even showed me around the other sites so I could see what I was missing. This is definitely a five-star campground, and Roanoke is an awesome town to explore -- breweries, a walkable downtown, and great hiking and mountain biking.

Awesome hiking, Quiet Campground

This is an amazing park, with a total of 4,822 acres to explore. It's a dream for hikers, allowing you to embark on numerous day hikes and connect with the Appalachian Trail. As many folks have also mentioned, there are feral ponies in the park, and if you hike on the Wilburn Ridge from Massie Gap, you will almost definitely see them. 

During my visit, I camped on a Monday night in early May. I did not make reservations, and there were plenty of sites available, although it was way busier than I expected. I'd say that half of the campsites were taken at Hickory Ridge Campground where I pitched my tent.

There are a few choices available here. If you choose a "primitive" site, which simply means no hook-ups, you pay your fee and choose whichever site is open when you get to the campground. You can not choose a specific site in advance. If you choose a site with full hook-ups, then you can pick the one you want. There are also four yurts available, but you have to book them for at least 2 nights in a row.

Primitive sites are $37 a night for out-of-state residents, which I think is quite pricy. The sites are also quite close together and not very private. Restrooms are clean and firewood is $6 for a bundle. 

I stayed in site #15, and while it wasn't private, I was lucky to have very nice and quiet neighbors. This is an amazing park, and I would definitely return to do some backpacking or to hike up Virginia's highest peak, Mt. Rogers. The four-star-rating is mainly because the sites are close together and because the campsites are expensive.

Ranger Review: RovR 60 Cooler at Shenandoah River State Park in Virginia

Shenandoah River State Park is located right on the Shenandoah River in northern Virginia. It is just a short drive from the northern section of Shenandoah River National Park and includes lots of hiking trails, a few canoe launches, gorgeous views, and nature center, and lots of different camping options. The park encompasses more than 1600 acres and includes 5.2 miles of pristine shoreline.

Campground Review

I stopped at Shenandoah River State Park on a two-week road trip from Vermont to Alabama. I had been traveling for a few days when I stopped here, and I did not make reservations in advance for a Thursday night in May. I arrived at about 3 pm and popped into the visitor center to ask about my options for camping for the night. Turns out that campers have a lot of choices here.

Camping options include huge RV sites with water and electricity hook-ups, small camping cabins, yurts, and large cottages with separate bedrooms, bathrooms, full kitchens, and air conditioning, which I guess isn’t really camping at all. The last option, and the one I chose, is “primitive” camping, which are large, private tent sites along the river. The only thing primitive about them is that they have no vehicle access. You park your car in a lot nearby and truck your stuff out to your campsite.

These primitive sites have access to a large bathhouse with private showers, as well as grungy pit toilets that are a bit closer to many of the sites. The campsites have a fire pit, lantern pole, and picnic table, and some have room for several tents. A few of the sites are right on the Shenandoah River, with incredible views. My site, #3 had a river view but was set back a bit from the banks. All of the sites are wooded and quiet.

There are carts available at the parking area for lugging your stuff out to your site, and there is also a small shed with firewood that you can purchase for $6 a bundle. The rangers come through every so often and are incredibly friendly and knowledgable about the area. I learned that there are copperheads within the park, as well as huge bees that look menacing but are pretty harmless. Bears also frequent the park, so it is very important to pack away your food in your car or your bear-proof cooler. Don’t have a bear-proof cooler? Check out the RovR Rollr 60 below.

This was a clean, quiet campground, with beautiful hiking trails and great river access. The cost for a primitive campsite was $36, which I thought was a bit pricey. It is cheaper for Virginia residents.

It may get really busy on summer weekends, but I only saw a handful of people during my visit. There is a privately run ziplining course within the park, and a local outfitter does paddling trips that begin up-river and include class I and II rapids. All-in-all, I give Shenandoah River State Park 4 stars for their primitive campsites, and I can’t wait to come back to stay in a yurt.

RovR RollR 60 Review:

As a ranger for The Dyrt, I am occasionally given products to test and review on my camping adventures. During this trip, I was thrilled to test out the RovR Rollr 60 cooler. The Rovr was recently ranked #1 for ice retention by Outside Magazine, so I was excited to use it for a mega road trip where I knew I wouldn’t be able to restock it with ice every day. Plus, I was carting large quantities of Vermont beer to my family in Alabama, and warm beer is really lame.

The RovR Rollr is a “rotomolded cooler,” which basically means that it has a consistent wall thickness and two full inches of foam insulation to keep the insides frosty for a lot longer than traditional coolers. They are also made with heavier, more durable plastics that ensure that they last longer than other types of coolers.

The downside to the RovR Rollr, and all high-end rotomolded coolers, is that they are quite a bit heavier than their competitors. Fortunately, the RovR Rollr line includes incredibly rugged tires that make it easy to maneuver just about anywhere. I did have trouble lifting it in and out of my car and dragging it up a full flight of stairs, but because of the tires and the sturdy handle, my issues were minimal.

RovR Rollr 60 Features:

This cooler is really big and holds 60 quarts of food, beverages, and ice. It is a workhorse, and can definitely keep enough food and drink cold for a long weekend or more. The RovR Rollr includes a removable plastic bin that secures snuggly into the cooler to keep your food dry, but still nice and cold. You fill this bin with your eggs, meats, and veggies, and then pour the ice into the cooler on top of your beverages. This system is so great — no more fishing for Hershey bars when your cooler turns into a lake.

The RovR website mentions that the RovR Rollr will give you 10 days of ice retention if you follow some recommended steps, which includes prechilling everything, keeping the cooler full, and keeping it out of full sun. I could do none of these things, but keeping the cooler in the back of my car (in the sun), half full, and not prechilling anything, the ice lasted a good 4 days before needing to be replaced.

There is a handy valve to release excess water, and the dual-grip handle is made of aluminum for easy pushing and pulling. The latches are made of sturdy rubber and the lid is fitted with an airtight gasket, making it entirely bearproof. The cooler comes with a 5-year warranty, and many of the parts can be removed and replaced if necessary.

The RovR Rollr comes with a removable, foldable wagon bin that secures firmly to the top of the cooler for easy transport. I kept dry goods in here that didn’t need to be cold - fruit, cereal, trail mix, peanut butter, etc.

Optional Add-Ons

For this particular adventure, I just got the cooler and the wagon bin that fits on top, but there are a bunch of optional features that would make the RovR even more versatile. These include an attachable cutting board, drink holders, an umbrella holder, and a bike kit for pulling the cooler behind your bike.

Bottom Line

The RovR Rollr 60 is obviously a high-end cooler with a high-end price tag, but the quality is obvious from the very first use. This is an investment for sure, but totally worth it. My biggest complaint is that it is heavy and a bit unwieldy for one person to maneuver. And to be fair, this is a big cooler that is not meant to be used by one person. I was impressed with the rugged tires, the overall design, and its ability to keep stuff cold and dry and would love to invest in a smaller model for smaller adventures.

Loved the Walk-In Tent Sites!

Hancock Campground is one of 6 national forest campgrounds along the Kancamagus Highway. Campsites can't be reserved and the campground does fill up on the weekends. We were lucky to score a walk-in tent site on a Saturday in August, and while it did feel a bit like a tent city, we loved that there were no cars at the campsites. It made the tenting area feel more like a community. This is a busy campground, but lovely all the same.

We got site #19, which was one of the last sites available. It had a picnic table, fire pit, and bear box. There were awesome waterfront sites nearby, but they were taken, of course. Cost was reasonable - $22 per night. Pit toilets were near the parking area, but there was a real bathroom with a sink and a flush toilet in the car camping area. There is also a fabulous swimming hole. Clear, cold and deep just off the car camping area.

Hancock Campground is a five-minute drive from Lincoln, NH, and very close to awesome hiking trails in the White Mountain National Forest and Franconia Notch State Park.

Ranger Review: Ethnotek Premji Pack at Point Lookout State Park

From Civil War prison camp to one of Maryland’s most diverse and popular natural areas, Point Lookout State Park is located at the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River in St. Mary’s County. We chose Point Lookout State Park to spend Memorial Day Weekend, and were thrilled with everything but the weather, which flip-flopped from stormy to super hot and muggy.

Point Lookout State Park Campground Review

This is just one of those parks where there are a million things to do. We were last minute campers on Memorial Day Weekend, so we didn’t have many sites to choose from. We also brought a dog with us, and while the park is mostly dog-friendly, there are definitely some restrictions. Dogs are not allowed in Loop C or D of the campground, and are prohibited from some of the beaches and day areas as well. While we didn’t score a waterfront site, or even one with a view of the water, we did get a nice shady site with lots of privacy (in the Tulip Loop).

All of the sites are plenty big, and the loop we were in came with water and electric hook-ups. We were originally hoping for something in the B Loop, but we ended up being really happy in our spot because while the B Loop was beautiful with waterfront campsites, the bugs were awful and there was no shade anywhere. I think it would make for pretty miserable camping, at least in the summer.

As for activities, fishing is probably the biggest draw here. There are piers for fishing, separate piers for crabbing, and a fishing beach. There is also a full-service boat launch with a fish-cleaning station and a park store with provisions, including bait.

The swimming beach was busy, but the water was clean with a sandy bottom. There is a separate beach for dogs. Other attractions include the original Point Lookout Lighthouse, which was built in 1830 (currently closed for renovations), a Civil War and nature museum, kayak and canoe rentals, and a nature trail.

What We Loved:

  • Clean restrooms
  • Spacious, private sites
  • Nice, sandy beach
  • Designated dog beach

What We Didn’t Love:

  • So many horseflies in the B Loop, on the nature trail, and near the shore
  • Not a lot of hiking opportunities
  • Plenty of poison ivy
  • The lighthouse was closed

Ethnotek Premji Pack Review

As a Ranger for the Dyrt, I am occasionally offered products to test and review while camping. On this trip, I tested the Ethnotek Premji Travel Daypack, which I used at this campground, and on a 2,000-mile road trip exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park.

First, a bit of background info about the Premji Daypack:

This is a 20-liter pack. It is roomy enough for all your day-hiking essentials, including extra layers, lunch, water bottles, and your 10 essentials. When I ordered my pack, I was able to choose the outer fabric from a collection of 14 different fabrics from around the world. The ethically sourced fabrics are handmade in villages across five countries (Ghana, Guatemala, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia). I fell in love with almost all of the designs, but settled on a blue and white pattern created using a batik dyeing method in Indonesia.

The pack features a very roomy main compartment, is lightly padded, and opens from the top or the side for easy access. There is a separate partition for a small laptop in the main compartment, but if you’re looking for a designated laptop bag, I would definitely go with the Setia Laptop Backpack, which is a bit slimmer and more padded.

There are a bunch of things to love about the Premji Daypack, and I only have two small complaints. Let’s start with the awesome:

  • In addition to the main compartment, there are two strategically placed pockets. First, a large, flat pocket on the front of the bag. This is where I keep my trail maps and my journal. There is also a smaller compartment on top, which is perfect for a phone and wallet. Both pockets are easy to get to quickly. I love that this bag isn’t full of pockets and partitions that I’ll never use.
  • There are side straps on both sides of this bag so you can carry a beach towel, yoga mat, etc. I used it to carry my tripod, which was so awesome! Where the side straps cross the front of the bag, they form two loops, which are great for attaching a carabiner to. This is how I carried my sandals when hiking.
  • The molded high-density foam back panel and the contoured shoulder strap make this pack extremely comfortable. I maxed out at 7 miles while wearing it, but I’m sure I could wear it all day without a problem.
  • The main fabric of the bag is 100% recycled PET plastic bottles. The interior fabric is ripstop nylon and very easy to clean. Both fabrics are water resistant, and you can buy an optional rain cover if you want it to be totally waterproof.

My minor complaints:

  • There is a handle on top of the bag for carrying and/or hanging. While I love this in theory, you can’t hang the bag from a hook and keep it open for easy access. I would rather see a handle on the back of the bag above the straps so there isn’t so much pressure on the main zipper. This would allow you to hang the bag open or closed.
  • The side zipper to the main compartment is supposed to make it easy to access things at the bottom of the bag without pulling everything out, but the zipper opens from top to bottom, and a few times while hiking, it worked its way open a bit. This wasn’t actually a big deal because I had my rain jacket in the bottom, but if I had smaller items, I would worry that they would fall out while hiking.

All in all, I’m thrilled to have discovered Ethnotek. The bags are beautifully and sustainably made, the price is reasonable, and there are so many cool designs to choose from. A great product from a great company!

Amazing Park - Busy Campground

We stopped at Cape Henlopen State Park on a road trip from Virginia to Vermont. We didn't make reservations, but because there was a storm threatening, there were tent sites available. The campground is divided into three sections - one for tenters, one for RVers, and a row of awesome cabins. We stayed in the tenting area, which offered little in the way of privacy. The campsites were flat and sandy, with a nice mix of sunny and shady sites. From the campground you can easily access bike and walking trails, but the beach is more than a mile away.

While the campground was kind of busy and crazy (summer at the beach), I wouldn't hesitate to stay here again. There was so much to do. The beach is huge, and there are sections for swimming (with lifeguards), surfing, fishing, and dog-walking. You can climb a lookout tower, rent a free bike, take a guided kayak tour, visit a nature center or museum, or head to the bay to check out the lighthouse. There are tons of trails to explore too, which makes this the perfect place for campers who don't want to lie on the beach all day.

In conclusion, the campground isn't anything special, but it's got all the amenities and clean bathrooms, but the awesomeness of the park makes it worth visiting for sure. Campground - three stars. Park - five stars.

Great Base Camp for Exploring Stowe

Smuggler's Notch State Park has a small campground with 20 tent sites and 14 lean-tos. We almost always splurge on a lean-to so we can camp comfortably rain or shine. This year we stayed in Hemlock, and it was so secluded and quiet. The whole place has a real wilderness feel, but it is very close to lots of hiking and the attractions in Stowe. You can easily walk to Bingham Falls across the street, which I think is one of the most lovely waterfalls in the whole state. There's also easy access to lots of hiking trails, although I would suggest driving to the trailheads as route 108 is not fun to walk along.

A favorite Smuggler's Notch weekend in the summer would include a visit to Bingham Falls, hiking to Sterling Pond, and possibly up to the top of Mt. Mansfield. When we don't have time to hike up Mt. Mansfield, we splurge on a drive up the toll road. Then we can hike around on the summit. Lastly, we always stop at the Alchemist for a case or two of Heady Topper to bring home.

Waterfront Camping in the Heart of Groton State Forest

There are several campgrounds in Groton State Forest, and we've stayed in most of them. I think Ricker Pond is our favorite, but I also think it depends on what site you get. Some of the sites are a bit close together. Our favorite (aside from the cabins) is Aster because it's right near the boat launch, and we always have a canoe or kayak with us. There is nothing like making camp coffee and heading onto the pond as the sun rises. It's magical. Anyway, if we had small kids, we would probably be tempted to camp at Stillwater because there's more going on there. When we have dogs, we camp at Kettle Pond because it's secluded, and when it's just my husband and I, we choose Ricker Pond.

Aside from getting out on the water, we also love the hike to Peacham Bog and the short hike up Owl's Head for sunset. There are lots and lots of trails we haven't explored yet. I wish summer was longer!

Climb Mt. Olga then relax by your campfire

This park is close to my house in southern Vermont. We usually visit during the day to hike to the top of the Mt. Olga firetower. It’s always clean and very quiet, so this summer we decided to give camping a shot. We stayed in one of the lean-tos because it was threatening rain. I wish I could remember the name of it. We love the site. The only thing we didn’t like is that is was facing the neighbor’s campsite, and we felt like we were always staring at them. They were friendly, though, so it all worked out.

The hike up Mt. Olga is 1.7 miles (round trip). There’s a fire tower at the top, which provides awesome views of the Green Mountains. It’s also fun to explore the relics of the old Hogback Ski Resort. They are rested remnants of the ski lifts and warming huts, and they are slowing crumbling back to the earth. The trails from the park connect to the Hogback Mountain Conservation area trails, so there are actually many miles of trails you can explore without having to drive anywhere. If you do want to embark on a little road trip, check out the little town of Wilmington, which has an awesome lake for swimming, or the bustling town of Brattleboro, which is perfect for shopping and nightlife.

No Shade and No Privacy

Lake Havasu is a beautiful lake with lots of wildlife and it's very scenic too. We visit every year, either in January or April because we have family in the area. The Best Park of Camping at Lake Havasu State Park is using it as a base for kayaking and fishing on the lake. The park itself has decent amenities, but it definitely caters to motor boats, and people with lots of toys. We only bring a small tent so we kind of stick out among the huge RVs. The place is packed in the evenings, but it thins out during the day when everyone is on the water. Because there are so many boats on the lake and at the boat launch, the fumes can be a bit overbearing. Also, there is no shade at all, which I guess I kind of expected. Luckily we were there in January, so that part was okay.

There is a nice playground and swimming area for kids, but there were also very loud campers on either side of us. Next time, we are going to stay at one of the BLM sites on the lake. We've heard they are very quiet and peaceful.

Beautiful spot, busy campground, no privacy...

Sites at Sunset Campground can not be reserved, and at 11 am on a Friday morning, we snagged the very last site available. I’ll admit that the site itself wasn’t the best - no privacy at all, and ground that was a bit eroded. We did manage to find a flat spot to pitch the tent, which was the most important thing, and we were super happy to be able to explore many of the trails right from the campground.

The campground had basic amenities - toilets and drinking water, but nothing fancy. There had been a mountain lion spotted a few days before we arrived, so campers, especially those with pets, were on high alert. We took the trail leading from the campground early in the morning, and were excited to have it to ourselves. What a beautiful spot for watching the sunrise.

Beautiful spot, busy campground, no privacy...

Sites at Sunset Campground can not be reserved, and at 11 am on a Friday morning, we snagged the very last site available. I’ll admit that the site itself wasn’t the best - no privacy at all, and ground that was a bit eroded. We did manage to find a flat spot to pitch the tent, which was the most important thing, and we were super happy to be able to explore many of the trails right from the campground.

The campground had basic amenities - toilets and drinking water, but nothing fancy. There had been a mountain lion spotted a few days before we arrived, so campers, especially those with pets, were on high alert. We took the trail leading from the campground early in the morning, and were excited to have it to ourselves. What a beautiful spot for watching the sunrise.

Beautiful spot, busy campground, no privacy...

Sites at Sunset Campground can not be reserved, and at 11 am on a Friday morning, we snagged the very last site available. I’ll admit that the site itself wasn’t the best - no privacy at all, and ground that was a bit eroded. We did manage to find a flat spot to pitch the tent, which was the most important thing, and we were super happy to be able to explore many of the trails right from the campground.

The campground had basic amenities - toilets and drinking water, but nothing fancy. There had been a mountain lion spotted a few days before we arrived, so campers, especially those with pets, were on high alert. We took the trail leading from the campground early in the morning, and were excited to have it to ourselves. What a beautiful spot for watching the sunrise.