My three-year-old and I backpacked in and it was amazing. Crazy crowded and crazy loud with the military jets overhead (Naval Air Base nearby) – but beautiful none the less. It’s good to note that the jets do shut off around 5 pm and there is plenty of quite time from that point on. But be prepared during the day for some ear splitting noise - I would actually advise ear plugs!
We hiked in for the adventure, but also because all the drive-in sites were reserved. They have several secluded campsites set aside for hikers and bikers, and they were totally worth the work. We ended up in site #233 and it was perfect. Totally tucked away in the trees with soft ground and simple surroundings. If you plan to hike or bike in and use these spots, get there as early as you can. All the sites got used and several folks who showed up toward evening didn’t get spots. We walked around to see all the drive-in spots and there are some pretty nice ones, but none as secluded as the hike/bike spots. The hike in from the northern park boundary is amazingly beautiful and it sure makes you appreciate the spot once you get there.
There are trails everywhere from the campsites, but most importantly down to the beach and Cranberry Lake. I must say it’s quite amazing to sleep amongst the tall trees of the forest and then meander down to the beach to play! Cranberry Lake has a designated swimming area where the water is super shallow and just perfect for the kiddos.
Amazing beauty and well worth the experience!
Green Goo – Multiple Products
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time – on this trip I tested the amazing variety of salve and such from Green Goo. I made sure to take the salve for Dry Skin, Foot Care, and Pain Relief – all great stuff for backpacking! One feature I really like about the salves is the tin, they are perfect for stuffing in a little side pocket of your pack and don’t add much weight at all. It was heavenly to rub the balm into sore muscles and feet after we set up camp and recovered from the hike. The foot care stuff is especially helpful for me since my heels crack so bad. This stuff has really made a difference for my heels like nothing I’ve tried before. My daughter is a pretty rough and tumble little adventure seeker and has never been without some sort of scrape, scratch, or bump from climbing everything and running everywhere – the Skin Repair tin gets multiple uses daily – and it really does help heal her up quick. Overall – this stuff rocks, I’m totally sold on it and can’t wait to try other products from the company!
This is a great mid-week spot. We camped on a Wednesday in late June and there were only two other spots occupied and it was fantastic. We did notice that almost every spot was reserved for the coming weekend. Even if there were lots of other campers the sites around the outside of the loop have lots of trees and brush separating them offering decent privacy. The spots are quite sizeable with multiple options for tent location. We selected site 12 because the trail to the overlook and down to Hayden Lake runs right next to it. The trees are fantastic and their interwoven canopy offer near constant shade. One nice feature we had never experienced was the gigantic picnic table – you can really spread out on this thing!
Access to the lake is super easy, although it does involve a steep section of trail. We took the paddleboard down to the water and had fun watching all the fish dart away from us. If you are into to fishing there are plenty of good spots accessible from the campground.
Overall this is a very nice spot, especially if you are going to utilize the lake for recreation of any sort.
Product Review: Primus Firehole 100 Camp Stove
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time – on this trip I tested the Primus Firehole 100 Camp Stove.
This stove has some nice features – namely it’s super easy set up and compact shape and size for transport. The recessed knobs help with it’s packability for sure.
The key feature I enjoy is the integrated flexible fuel line that stores compactly under the stove and pops out easily for super quick set up. The little magnets on the side panels used to hold up the wind screen are great and add to the intuitive and fast set up.
Most importantly – the flame is even and has quite a range from super low for simmering all the way to high output for fast boiling. The only real drawback was that the twist-click igniter did not work every single time, but I’ve never run into one that does and this one always caught eventually.
I am overall very pleased with this stove’s performance.
We used this as a launching spot for some stand-up paddle boarding on the lake. We camped further up the road at El Caso (see my review!). Because we were camped further away this day use parking area was just what we needed and it served it's purpose well.
The site has good bathrooms and a paved path heading one direction and a dirt path the other - or you can head straight through the grass out to the water's edge - which is what we did. If we had it to do over again we would use the the actual boat launch because the swampy edge was tough on the little one (3 yr old).
TIP - if you are fishing it seems like the way to do it it is to park on the road between this spot and the boat launch area and head straight down to the water- that's what the locals were doing anyway.
Crowded - granted it was Memorial Day, but it doesn't take much to overwhelm this small lake! It is certainly gorgeous and I'll definitely go back, I'll just make sure it's on a random Tuesday. If you are headed here and you don't need picnic tables or pit toilets, go just up the road for beautiful camping! TIP - go up to FS road 378 (next road just north of the lake) and drive a short distance for some amazing "primitive" camping spots filled with green grass and bright aspen trees - well worth it.
This spot is a real gem for anyone with limited mobility. Multiple paved paths lead all the way down to the water's edge where one could even fish from. It's a great way to get lovely nature time for those with less mobility.
We hiked up the canyon on the trail and it was amazing! TIP - wear water shoes for the multiple stream crossings! Tall trees loom above you as do gnarled rock formations. This is a perfect spot to access intense beauty with very little effort. TIP - because of the $5 parking fee, this hike is much less crowded than the East Fork trail just up the road, on weekends and holidays it's with the five bones!
This is a pretty sweet spot. Great little meadows between camp areas under Ponderosa pines. There is a vault toilet and big camp fire rings but no picnic tables. I'm not sure if it's the lack of picnic tables or the distance from the lake but there were very few people here on a beautiful weekend in mid May. We hiked towards the lake right from camp and it was gorgeous - a little creek meandering through trees and meadows. Skip the developed campgrounds near the lake a stay here for a bit more peace.
This spot is high in the pines which makes it a great get away from the desert below! The camp site itself was well maintained but didn't seem to be utilized for camping all that much. We had our pick of the spots and selected one an the northeastern most corner which ended up being a great selection. If you hike to the northeast right out of the back of the campground you will end up in this amazing canyon which had some great pools of cool water to dip your feet in. The interpretive trail heads out the northwestern corner of the campground and is very nice and has interesting signs about the history of the area. Overall it's a great Ponderosa getaway and worth the windy drive up the mountain.
We went here for a quick overnight and it did not disappoint. The campground itself is pretty small and would be cramped if full, luckily it was no where near full when we were there (late fall). The rocks of the Dragoon Mountains are amazing and wandering among them is certainly worth it. We came back another time and discovered multiple dispersed camping spots on the Forest Service road that veers off just as you cross the Forest boundary as you head in towards the campground - this is where we will camp in the future (no fee). The hiking is amazing - head to up at least to half moon tank to see water and amazing rock formations.
We reserved this spot for a large family gathering and it served our needs perfectly. The spot is in a great patch on Ponderosa Pines in the primarily pinyon juniper surroundings. It is a very large space and each family can spread out as much as they want - and still have space for wiffle ball! Hiking from camp was nice along a dry creek bed (in June). Overall great spot for big gatherings.
This is a fantastic spot! Turkey creek flows right next to the campground and offers fantastic hikes along it's banks. There are multiple small waterfalls and pools to splash in. There are several dispersed areas offering a bit more privacy both below and above the official campground. This little out of the way spot has never been busy during our multiple visits. Plan to stay more than one night because you'll be sad to leave.
We have camped here multiple times and never seen the actual campground full - bonus! The campground itself is nice but there is some really nice spots just up the Forest Road to the west. There is water flowing in the creeks in the winter and spring. On Friday and and Saturday nights you can expect at least one truck full of high school partners to drive by looking for a bone fire spot, but they move on quickly.