Tommy S.

Pro

New York , NY

Joined June 2020

Limited dispersed sites

Mitchell Creek Road in Hoosier National Forest, is just one small section of a road that runs along Mitchell Creek. On the west end, where the road turns right (north), there was a small drive to the right that went down towards the creek bed. There was a small fire ring here, and another fire ring around the back, both set up on the rocks of the dry riverbed. These didn't seem like great camping areas, let alone a "campsite". Towards the middle this road, just east of an intersection for a road to the south, there was a campsite creek side, and a little farther, a campsite on the hillside. The hillside spot was taken, so we took that last spot. Lookout for turtles on the road, we spotted and removed 4 of them.

The area was rather buggy, and to be honest a little sketchy, so we slept in our van. Only two cars drove by, each time kicking up a big cloud of white dust which covered most of the foliage by the road. It hadn't rained in a while. We went briefly down to the creek, but it was very buggy and not very nice to hike. At night, we heard some loud mysterious crashing in some nearby trees, and what was possibly a large band of coyotes in the distance. Can't imagine I'd ever come back to this area, but it's there as an option for sure!

community campground, nearby activity area

This was a nice campground, yet very full when we stayed. There are two outhouses, and a well pump to get your water. It's a bit of work for the water, but its cool and fresh and very worth the pumping. Pay box is up front where you put in cash or check with an envelope. The was a camp host there who seemed to do some minor, very unobtrusive, patrolling. 

We snagged a great spot with lots of space and amazing trees. There was also a trail leading out the back of the site, which petered out, but if you continue down the hill, you will come to the less popular of the parking areas for the swimming holes. You can access this also by driving left out of the campground, and left down the hill. You can access the more popular parking area by turning right out of the campground. 

The campground was noisy, but nothing offensive, just a nice communal roar of campers. 

The hiking and swimming area is very interesting. There's hiking trails, but they can potentially be confusing, so take a picture of the map and make a plan if you can. There's a natural rock arch formation, and lots of dramatic cliffs. I was curious as to what "Boulder Falls" was like, but I never made it there. There is a spring/large swimming hole, with a few places to jump off of, but check with the locals to make sure the water is deep enough. Water levels were low when we were there, so you couldn't jump from the highest ledge at this time. There's also "Devil's Backbone" a large rock you can apparently jump from too, but I wouldn't dare. There were also a lot of smaller swimming holes to choose from. Locals warned of poisonous snakes. We never saw any, but it's a good idea to keep a lookout, especially since they can swim too. 

All in all a very great area to stay, with some nice activities. Worth the $10 for toilet and fresh well water, as well as a clean and safe camping area.

very nice campground, unfortunate guests

This is a great free campground, no water or anything, just a toilet house. Campground has 8 spots, two of which were taken, one in the front, one in the back. We stayed at one of the middle sites which was nice and spacious. There was a trail leading down to a pond at the site across from us. The bugs here were a little worse than average, but not so much that I didn't get to enjoy myself.

What DID prevent me from enjoying myself was the family staying at the front of the campground. They had quite a set up, and also a dog in a cage under a blanket, and a child who was either kept or stayed inside their small RV. We heard the parents yell at both the dog and the child. The child screamed and cried, to the point where it was worrisome that these parents were abusing him/her. We were considering staying two nights, but there was more screaming in the morning, so we left. The people at the back spot came back after dark and left at first light.

There was a trailhead by the horse stall/parking area, but we didn't hike. This would have been an INCREDIBLY LOVELY visit if not for the troublesome family.

local hangout/know where to look

The area is mostly a hangout for fishers and locals. There's a loading dock and small piers, and a couple of lawns with some campfire rings and places to set up a tent. Fishers and boaters were loud, and we were there on a Tuesday. Dozens of kids came to hang out on a bridge above the water, jumping off the bridge occasionally, and making quite a commotion. No alcohol is allowed but they clearly had coolers full of beer. You are also not allowed to swim. I was surprised park services didn't shoo them away. 

However, if you follow the trail to the right over the bridge and around the lake, there is a wonderful path through the preserve. It is especially nice to walk around sunset. There are some sites, only a minute or two walk, on the water along this path. If you continue down the path for about 10 minutes, to the right, under a canopy of trees, was a neat secluded "campsite". There were probably more of these hidden gems down this way, along the quieter side of the lake. It's a decent walk from the car, so we stayed at one of the closer spots along the water. All of the sites had LOTS of trash. So sad to witness all the locals throwing their bottles everywhere, very careless people in this area.

Boats stayed out on the water well after dark. All in all it was not peaceful, but at night the fireflies were amazing, and it was truly the most diverse symphony of bird calls I have ever woken up to.

Odd free campground

This state park/campground is definitely.. unique. Following GPS directions to this camping area led us into the park and to a locked gate. Drive beyond the gate and there's an open field to the left with one official 'campsite'. Continue to drive past, following the road around for about 1-2 minutes, and you arrive to the "campground" / "Frisbee golf course", where there's 10 spots, I believe, and a donation based toilet. 

There was someone set up at the single site in the open field, but the campground was empty. There were hookups that didn't look like they functioned. Since there were blue signs with "camping" written on them, and arrows pointing to the open field, we pulled our van along the back behind some trees, where there was a cute spot with a picnic table, and access to "Lake Bottom Trail" which really looked like a mowed path around a hunting ground. There was also another trail or two in the area, but we did not explore them.

The air was filled with tiny black flies (though harmless) but dozens and dozens got caught in my arm, head, and leg hairs, and it was quite frustrating, but again they were quite small and harmless, but that was my main issue with the location. 

Locals drove by a few times, as it seemed farmland and some houses are accessed through the park. The town of Oberlin has very limited food/supplies.

BEST primitive dispersed camping

Take County Road past the campground into the valley and you’ll find plenty of roadside sites. They vary in size, distance from the road, access to the creek, privacy, etc, so its worth a scout to find one that best suits your needs! 

It was Saturday night when we arrived, and many were taken, but we found one just before the hairpin turns in the road before the Missouri Gulch trailhead, about 5-6 miles in. The road is VERY bumpy. We parked on the side of the road, and the site is about 50 feet down the hill and mostly hidden from the traffic. You could see the roaring Creek, and walk down to it in 30 seconds. Mountains tower over both sides of this site. There were pines everywhere and aspens down by the water. I saw a couple hummingbirds and one small snake in the bushes. The mountain scenery is just incredibly breathtaking, as is the altitude. We attempted a hike up Mt Belford (a 14er) but only made it around 12k feet before turning back as it was too cold and windy (and difficult!). Pace yourself and drink A LOT of water if you’re not accustomed to the altitude; I was prepared but it still caught me off guard. Bring your poop shovel.

Nearby campground to Preserve area

This is the best and just about the only camping area if you want to visit the Black Mesa Preserve, which somewhere around 15-30 minutes away by car. There are many tent and RV sites in the creek area, and there is a bathroom here, though it feels like a high school locker room, wasn't very clean, and didn't have soap (during the coronavirus pandemic, so this was a little upsetting). There are tent sites in the lake area, which is a short drive from the main camping area. 

There was a camp host there to guide us, and she was very friendly and helpful. 

Thankfully, this site now doesn't turn on its street lights, so you can see the stars in all their glory! This is the darkest skies in the continental US, so I was so happy to hear they've finally shut off their street lights. View of the Milky Way is stunning from here.

The creek was dried up when we were here. But we saw a fox, a couple deer, rabbits, and many bird species.

YOU MUST go visit the Preserve. The scenery is gorgeous, and you can find dinosaur track fossils, and ancient native peoples rock carvings, if you know where to look. Also check out the tri-state marker, and continue maybe 100 yards beyond it to see an older original marker. Bring loads of sunscreen and look out for snakes.

Great campground in an unexpected environment

Coming in from the east, entering this area is like finding an oasis in the sprawling desert. In June, the road entered under a green canopy, very unlike the hours of driving through Oklahoma it took to get here. It is a very well manicured place.

There are a couple camping areas, and we ended up in the Whitetail Campground, which had the most tent sites. There are lots of RV sites here and in the other areas. Within minutes of arriving, the park ranger came over to see we payed for the site online, then cheerfully left us to it. 

If you can, choose site A in the Whitetail area. It is shaded, spacious and the most private. It was a very hot day, but the shade and breeze made the experience quite lovely. There is a VERY short, flat, hiking trail around this campground. There is also a nearby pool which is open in the afternoon, and charges a few dollars to swim. We unfortunately didn't visit the actual spring, so I'm not sure how that is.

The bathrooms here are pretty nice. One shower and two stalls in the men's room. Dividing walls are just a little short. Very clean though!

At nightfall, we were harassed by a couple raccoons, but they kept their distance and retreated after we repeatedly threw some stones and made loud noises towards them. But they were persistent at first, so just keep a lookout for them. We saw one deer here, and found a couple ticks, so bring your bug spray!

Glass Mountain is the nearby attraction a drive away, and nearby Woodward should have just about everything you need to stock up.

Dispersed surrounding sites

I visited this area in June 2020, and the campground itself was closed. I had found information online that Arkansas campgrounds were reopened, so it was a surprise to see it closed. Fortunately, there are dispersed campsites along the road leading to this campground and beyond. We arrived on a Friday, late afternoon, and it was very difficult finding a site. We actually managed to find a TINY spot, up a small hill on a driveway to a larger spot down by the water. It fit our van, the fire pit, the tent and that's it. Luckily, it was right next to the creek, so we were able to swim and cool off. The family who was staying at the larger site did keep walking past our site and gave us some raised eyebrows for setting up so close to them in such a small space. I don't think they realized how competitive it was so find a campsite that evening. 

The creek is the ultimate reward: cool rushing waters, providing relief from the heat and incredible white noise. We had a few horseback riders pass right by on the trail/road our site was on. Bugs weren't bad. There's no bathroom anywhere near these dispersed sites.

I would suggest having a back up plan if visiting this area on a nice weekend. I left the next day, and even more seemed to be piling into the area on top of one another. Go during the week if possible. It's a gorgeous area, and best to take in when it's peaceful, not overrun by families.

Unexpected Riverside Parking Lot

This definitely doesn't seem like an ideal campsite. There was a dispersed site along the road before you get to the water, and then its basically a parking lot, with a small patch of grass and a firepit by a loading dock into the river.

We arrived just after sunset and were the only ones. A nice mist hung on the water, and a swarm of bats began to make their way over us out to hunt for the night. It didn't seem like a great place to set up a tent, so we slept in our van. Two smaller cars ended up pulling up after dark, parked maybe 20-30 ft from us, and neither of them set up tents either, everyone staying in their cars.

Pristine Roadside Site

This is the Little River Dispersed Camping in Monongahela National Forest, WV.

We drove in from the south, through Durbin, which is almost 7 miles on a pothole ridden dirt road. Dangerous for RVs, great for those looking for an escape. 

We noticed two small gravel camping areas to the left when we entered the area, but were then rewarded with the first open site on the right by the creek. The site was breathtaking, with a small stream pool running along one egde, and the rushing river on another. Soft dirt padded the entire area, and great trees filled the space with their natural architecture and canopy. There was a fire pit by the main camping area, and a fire pit down by the creek. It was a mansion in terms of campsite sizes, though it's primitive still, so don't forget your shovel. Small trails led along the creek in either direction. Two white cross grave monument memorials could be seen from the creekside. 

It had rained a lot recently, so the driveway into the site got muddy towards the end, causing us to park half way down. We couldn't get a fire started either of the two nights we were here as everything was wet, though we were graced by copious amounts of some interesting mushroom species. 

On two occasions, deafening aircraft, possibly military, passed over what seemed like the treetops. It was frightening in the peace of the area, so that's a small heads up. I only saw one other traveler drive by, two construction vehicles, and the park ranger truck a couple times.

Otherwise, on a month-long roadtrip, this was probably my favorite location of over a dozen. We didn't drive any further past our site, but I've heard there's over a dozen locations here, guessing they may be of similar quality. We hiked the Span Oak trail, at the beginning of the camping area, which led us along a beautiful ridge.

Stunning Primitive Roadside Site

Many of the spots were taken when we arrived, even on a Tuesday night, but about 3-4 remained. We lucked out with a very spacious site right at the creek's edge. Towering pines lined the sight, and provided a gorgeous backdrop for the stars and fireflies at night. 

This site I believe was two sites down from the one at the gigantic cliff carved up by the bend in the creek. That was my top choice, as the scenery was stunning, but it was taken. Our site, though, had a hidden waterfall across the creek. If you listen, you can hear the loud falls over the normal creek sounds. I noticed it as I was collecting firewood on the opposite shore, and felt some water about 20 degrees cooler than the creek joining from the mountains. I've included a picture of this waterfall. 

The fire ring was wonderful. There are no toilets, so bring your shovel. Also, the sites are so spaced out on the road that each is very private, though you see an occasional car drive by.

We hiked up the Lafe Elza trail, about a 5 minute drive down the road. It was a perfectly nice hike, with options for days worth of hiking, though we turned back after 2 hours, not having seen much to note.

NOT THE CAMPGROUND, Primitive Roadside Campsite #10

This was our second time in Michaux State Forest. We previously stayed at #6, but this site #10 was definitely an upgrade. 

There's a parking area which fits several cars, and I actually counted 4 campsites there is immediate access to. One is immediately to the left, one is maybe 50 feet further down the trail, another straight down the hill and along to the left, and the last is about a 5 minute walk from the road, straight down the hill, right at the T, and then at the back of the open field you come to. 

We stayed at the second site to the left, where there is a sign that says "Camps Trail", and I believe this is the main site. It is very roomy. There's a large fire pit, and two decent spots for a tent. My two drawbacks were no stream/creek, and lots of big flies, especially in the morning, though harmless. 

The Upper and Lower Lollipop trails are literally at this campsites front doorstep. Both trails branch off the the right where there is a sign for the Lower Trail. You can do a loop if you connect at the bottom along the road the come to. It is an easy trail, 1-2 hour loop depending on your speed. 

The Camps trail starts at this campsite's back door. We hiked part of this gorgeous trail, which enters many different types of forests. We saw a baby deer on this hike. We were the only hikers, but mountain bikers love this trail. 

All in all the campsite was gorgeous, though not incredibly private because of all the trail heads, but that didn't bother us for everyone passing by was very friendly.

NOT THE CAMPGROUND, Primitive Roadside Site #6

Most of these roadsite sites are listed on Google. You can stay for free, but you need to obtain a permit for large groups, or if you plan to stay for 2 or more nights.

6. This was the last site available on this section of road when we arrived on Sunday night. The site had some discarded food items around, but was otherwise pretty clean. Its right in the nook of a hairpin turn up the hill, so you hear cars come and go from almost the same direction, though the site is somewhat hidden. The fire ring was a good size, there's a few level spots for a tent, and plenty of nice trees for shade and a hammock. No bathroom, bring your shovel. Wished there had been a stream or creek near this site, but there wasn't.

The Appalachian Trail was a few minutes drive up the hill, where you can take a short hike North to the AT midway marker. It’s a beautiful, clean trail where you pass very few, even mid-spring on a gorgeous day.

You can also drive 10 minutes to the Sunset Rocks trailhead from this campsite. It is a short but very steep climb to Sunset Rocks, with a limited but very decent lookout.

Multiple Roadside Campsites

The Fox Lair campsites are named for some abandoned facilities nearby, which I did not see but you can research how to visit them.

Rte 8 has plenty of campsites, but there is a concentration of several in this one area. There are a few obvious dirt road turn offs, and some not so obvious turnoffs, so keep your eyes open!

We visited a few sites, and most were small and/or trashy and/or taken. We managed to snag a spot at the very top of a wide open hill. There was a fire ring, and a wide open grassy hilltop. This is definitely the site to seek if you're a star gazer. There were many annoying black biting flies, but a little bugspray went a long way against them. The nearby creek was a 10 minute hike down a hillside, and across a wild, grassy field. There was a pit toilet house in between this site and the one next to it, but when you're at the campsite, you see only a small section of the road, no other campsites in view. 

The Siamese Ponds Wilderness trailhead is a 2 minutes drive north. I hiked round-trip to the Pond, almost 12 miles, making for a grueling all day-hike. The swim in the pond was worth it, an oasis after a wild trail. There are also a few primitive campsites along this trail.

State Land Roadside Campsites

There are two primitive campsites at this location. The small parking area can accommodate several cars. One site is to the left, one to the right. We stayed towards the left, which was slightly closer to the road, but was much larger and next to a pit toilet house. The other site was nestled intimately among the trees, and closer to marshy land. Both sites are have access to the creek, which showed active signs of beavers in the area. Some of the land behind the sites have No Trespassing signs, as it belonged to the local YMCA, but there is an info board by the parking area which labels the camping areas as state land. The sites were very clean and quiet, though you will hear occasional cars driving by. 

There are a couple trailheads 5-10 minutes west down the road, Slide Mtn and Panther Mtn. I took a hike up to a vantage point along the Panther Mtn., which has a great view of the Catskills. There are also many campsites along this trail and at the top, but after a significant hike uphill. The nearest areas for fuel/food are Phoenicia to the north, or Ellenville to the south.