Join podcast hosts Stephanie and Jeremy Puglisi of RV Family Travel Atlas as they interview correspondents from around this big and beautiful country. Each episode features a complete campground review and includes regional activities and attractions.
Campground Review: North-South Lake in the NY Catskills
An Overview of North-South Lake Campground
Most campers that visit North-South Lake for the first time fall in love with its fragrant wildflowers and pristine waters. The campground here is the most popular in New York State's Catskill Forest Preserve and it is easy to see why. The campground is beautiful and it is surrounded by lush forests filled with great hiking for a variety of skill levels. You can depart for many of those hikes, including the popular hike to Kaaterskill Falls, directly from your campsite--so there is no need to battle for parking at overcrowded trailheads. This direct access to several of the area's best trails is one of the campground's best features.
North-South Lake is not a state park, but it is run by the state's Department of Environmental Conservation. This DEC site includes a campground with seven loops and over 200 sites for tents and RV's. It is also included a popular day use area that encompasses both lakes and both swimming areas. Both campers and day trippers can enjoy swimming, fishing, and kayaking in both of these tranquil and peaceful mountain lakes. We have long believed that New York State is one of the most underrated states in the country for camping--and North-South Lake is just one of the many reasons why.
The Best Loops and Sites at North-South Lake
Loops one through six at the campground wrap around North Lake. Loops five and six have a series of sites that are right on the water. Most would consider them to be the best sites at the campground--but they are also the hardest to reserve. Some of these sites have panoramic views of North Lake while others are more deeply wooded and offer partial views of the water. All of these sites are large and quite desirable. Grab one of them if you can.
Loop seven sits alone above South Lake--but not directly above it. It would take a short walk to get to the water. This loop almost serves as an overflow loop for the campground and it looks like it was added at a later point to increase capacity. That being said it is still pretty and the sites are still big--but it is a further walk away from most of the activities and amenities. Some may prefer this loop for that reason--because it could, hypothetically, be quieter here on busy summer weekends. But it would be our last choice when booking sites at North-South Lake.
If you can't get a waterfront site then do what we did and get one of the sites on either side of the meandering stream that cuts through loops one, two, and three. Almost every single one of these stream side sites are excellent and we liked them almost as much as the sites that are directly on North Lake. Children can play in the stream and spend hours wandering around and enjoying nature. When we were in early June the stream was a bit low and a little bit buggy. But we used bug spray and were totally comfortable. When the water is running a bit higher in early spring these sites must be absolutely dreamy. We look forward to visiting again earlier in the season.
Amenities at North-South Lake Campground
The amenities at North-South Lake are fairly standard for a public campground in the Northeast. There are no hookups at any of the sites, but there is a dump station, and there are clean restrooms and showers. Some of the restrooms are dated and could use an upgrade--but they are kept clean and most are conveniently located within each loop. The campground also offers canoe and kayak rentals in season, guarded swimming beaches in season, a fishing pier, and horseshoe and volleyball courts.
The Hike to Kaaterskill Falls (and others nearby)
The trailhead to Kaaterskill Falls can be accessed on the far side of South Lake. Get up early and go if you want peace and quiet. This iconic hike gets crowded--especially on summer weekends.
8 Great Jellystone Parks to Consider for Your Next Epic Family Adventure
There are over 75 Jellystone Parks across the country, and each one of them is very different. Some of them are quaint and rustic, with lots of activities for kids that harken back to summer camps of old, and others have off-the-hook water zones, gigantic water slides, laser tag courses--and much more. All of them are worth taking a look at for your next family vacation. But don't assume that they all offer the same level of amenities and activities. Know before you go and do your research so you can pick a Jellystone that is right for your family. Here is a list of eight amazing Jellystone Parks across the country that represent the best the brand has to offer. There are so many other great Jellystone Parks across the country. So after you check out the eight parks below, head over to their website to find one near you.
Jellystone Park Golden Valley (North Carolina)
This gorgeous campground is located along the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Asheville and Charlotte. The property is situated around a beautiful lake that is great for stand-up paddleboards, canoes, kayaks, fishing, and more. The RV sites here are very good, but those without an RV should not despair. This Jellystone's cabins and glamping accommodations are award winning and have appeared in travel magazines and blogs across the country. The Mountain View Treetop Cabins look particularly cozy and charming. At the time of this writing the campground is building a Lookout Tower at the top of Cove Mountain that should make for a great family hike right on the property. Activities like zip-lining across the lake, and laser tag (to name just a few) will keep your kids occupied all week long.
Jellystone Park Estes Park (Colorado)
This Jellystone Park's location near Rocky Mountain National Park is absolutely stunning. The RV sites here climb up the side of the mountain, and many have sweeping views--so choose wisely based on the size of your rig. There are good hiking trails that are accessible right from the campground, so bring a comfy pair of hiking boots. The heated swimming pool is great for kicking back and relaxing after spending a day in the National Park. Don't feel like cooking? The onsite Pic-a-Nic Basket offers up quick meals at reasonable prices. Combining a great Jellystone Park vacation with a national park adventure is always an epic option for making family memories.
Jellystone Park Lakes Region (New Hampshire)
The location of this Jellystone in New Hampshire's Lake Region looks absolutely epic. They have two sandy beaches right on Northeast Pond and the swimming is heavenly during the summer months. If the lake water is chilly then try the brand new activity pool with warming tubs. Contrary to popular belief, many Jellystone Parks are actually excellent for teenagers, and this is one of them. The basketball and GaGa ball courts, baseball field, laser tag course, and outdoor ping pong table will keep them occupied for hours. Want a hot tub delivered right to your waterfront RV site or cabin during your stay? Jellystone Park Lakes Region can make that happen. Just make sure you call ahead. The hot tubs (and the waterfront sites) are incredibly popular and sell out on most summer weekends.
Jellystone Park Mammoth Cave (Kentucky)
This is the best camping option near Mammoth Cave National Park--especially for families. Jellystone Park Mammoth Cave has an awesome Wibit on Karst Beach, their own private lake. What is a Wibit? It's an inflatable obstacle course and a wet and wild playground all wrapped into one. No matter how you describe it--it is a whole lot fun. Kentucky can get hot in the summertime, thankfully there are plenty of ways to stay cool at this popular Jellystone Park--playing on the Wibit is just one of them. Campers that love to fish will enjoy the stocked fishing pond with Bass, Bluegill, and Catfish galore.
12 Amazing Campgrounds Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the entire country and one of the most popular places to camp. The park is spread out over 500,000 acres with dozens and dozens of campground options, it can be overwhelming to choose from all of the amazing campgrounds in the area. In fact, one of the most frequently questions asked in the RV Atlas private Facebook group is, "What's the best campground in the Smokies?"
There's no single answer to that question. Where decision of where to stay should be based on the geographical area you wish to be in, the type of environment you wish to experience, and the amenities you are looking for in a campground. There are resort campgrounds smack dab in the middle of Pigeon Forge and dry campgrounds tucked away in the national park. And yes, it's hard to pick just one out of all the amazing options. Perhaps that's why we often end up staying at a few different campgrounds during our visits. Just call us campground hoppers.
Whether you choose one campground or three, here's a roundup of 12 of the most amazing campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park region. All of these campgrounds come highly recommended from experienced campers in the the RV Atlas community. Good luck finding your perfect place. Here's a Google Maps list of the 12 campgrounds we are featuring in this roundup, and we've personally visited each one.
The campgrounds are organized into loose geographical areas. However, close is a relative term in the Smokies, and you should map your campground choice to calculate the distance between your basecamp and chosen attractions, hikes, and drives. For example, we stayed at Imagination Mountain to be near Gatlinburg, but it's still a 25 minute drive. That's mountain life for you.
Campgrounds near Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg is arguably the most popular tourist hub in the Smokies. It's known as the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the main visitor's center, Sugarlands Visitor Center, is just 10 minutes from downtown. Some of the most famous park hikes and drives are near the main drag as well, such as the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Chimney's Picnic Area. Some campers love to be right in the middle of the action, and others will cringe at the streets full of tacky t-shirt and fudge shops. If you want a quiet getaway, Gatlinburg is not your best option in the Smokies. However, if you love to mix your hikes with amusement park rides and aquarium visits, check out these fabulous campgrounds near Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Little Pigeon River runs around the Greenbrier Campground, offering guests a swimming hole, private beach, and onsite trout fishing. There are full hook up sites--some with direct river access--and some wooded options, plus tent sites and cabins. Campers rave about the pet-friendly policies and cleanliness. Greenbrier offers plenty of recreation for families including volleyball, gaga ball, badminton, bocce ball, and corn hole. The campground is less than a half mile from the Greenbrier entrance to GSMNP.
Imagination Mountain (previously known as Great Smoky Mountain Jellystone Camp Resort), is a short 20-minute drive to Gatlinburg but feels like a million miles away. Almost all of the sites are creekside, and the friendly camp hosts will get your RV situated perfectly in a snap. There is a pool, arcade, ice cream parlor, and well-stocked camp store. Organized activities are available on a daily basis for the kids during the summer season. The combination of natural beauty and family-friendly amenities has made this campground a favorite for a lot of campers.
Campgrounds near Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Pigeon Forge
People seem to either love or hate staying in the Pigeon Forge ar...
Snowbirding at Camping on the Gulf near Destin, Florida
Are you looking to become a snowbird and spend the winter months enjoying the gorgeous white sugar sand beaches and sparkling waters of Florida's Emerald Coast? Or are you just looking for a great place to spend spring break in your RV, or in a cabin or glamping tent? Either way, you should consider Camping on the Gulf (formerly known as Camp Gulf.) It is an excellent choice that is beloved by RVers of all ages. The waterfront location of Camping on the Gulf in Miramar Beach is excellent. Downtown Destin and Henderson Beach State Park are a short drive to the west, and Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is a short drive to the east. Whether you want to stroll along quiet beaches, or eat terrific seafood in Destin's bustling downtown, the location of Camping on the Gulf has much to offer.
Let's zoom in and take a closer look at this popular resort-style campground, just minutes from Destin. We think it makes a great choice for most RVer's who want to visit the area. However, those camping on a strict budget should take a look at the state park campgrounds nearby. They cost significantly less.
To listen to our interview with Erik and Jeanne Anderson about their four month stay at Camping on the Gulf, click on the media player above. Or subscribe to The RV Atlas wherever you get your favorite podcasts. Thanks to Erik and Jeanne for providing the photos for this post and for their extensive notes about Camping on the Gulf!
RV Sites at Camping on the Gulf
Camping on the Gulf has 217 sites, 16 of which are directly on the beach. These beachfront sites are a bit narrow, but they are still popular because of the spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico. Water and electric sites are available at these sites, but they do not have sewer hookups. It is also important to note that pets are not allowed on these sites, and they are not allowed on the beach in Walton County without a permit. So If you are camping with a pup, you will need to look for another site at Camping on the Gulf. Thankfully, the other sites are also very nice, and the rest of them have full hook ups.
Some of the sites here have shade, and others get direct sunlight. So depending on the time of year that you visit, you should choose wisely between shade and sun. Most sites are level and paved, with nice picnic tables. Also please note--you will need to bring your own above-ground fire pit if you would like to have a campfire at night.
Cabins and glamping tents are also available for those without RV's. Always check and see what is included with a cabin or glamping tent rental so you don't show up without essential items for your trip.
Amenities at Camping on the Gulf
The amenities at Camping on the Gulf are excellent. Guests love the outdoor pool, and their kids love the large waterslide. During the winter months the domed indoor pool is also very popular--especially on chillier days. The indoor activity center is also a hub of activity when the weather does not cooperate. It has pool tables, foosball, board games, and plenty of room to spread out and relax. If you are are feeling cooped up in your RV, then this is a great place to get some work done or read a book.
Other Facilities at Camping on the Gulf
Camping on the Gulf has many other more practical amenities. Many of them are much appreciated by the snowbirding residents in the park. The bathhouses and laundry room are clean and well maintained, and they even have a nice dog washing station. Erik and Jeanne Anderson travel with their beloved Hershey Pup and he definitely loved getting a nice bath during their stay last winter (see above). You can also have your mail delivered right to the campground during your stay--which saves snowbirds like Erik and Jeanne from having to go to the post office over and over again.
An Epic Adventure to Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio
Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio will have you wondering if you are still in the Midwest. With its waterfalls and unique geological features, it feels more like an exotic location in New Zealand. Yet, it's only 50 miles from Columbus, Ohio, and only 30 miles from Athens, home of Ohio University.
Does Little Arrow Outdoor Resort Live Up to the Hype?
Does Little Arrow RV Resort live up to the hype that it has been receiving these past few years? Sorry to spoil the ending, but we think that it does. This is a beautiful campground in Townsend, Tennessee that is just minutes away from Cades Cove. It is located right next to the Townsend KOA right off of TN-73 in the heart of "the peaceful side of the Smokies." The entire property is beautiful, and all of the accommodations (from tent sites to tiny homes) are excellent in almost every way. And we think they are fairly priced across the board. We loved almost everything about our stay at Little Arrow Outdoor Resort.
To learn more about Little Arrow keep reading, or listen to our complete review on The RV Atlas podcast by clicking on the media player above, or subscribing wherever you get your favorite shows.
RV and Tent Sites
RV Sites at Little Arrow Outdoor Resort
Back in sites along the river at Little Arrow Outdoor Resort
The RV and tent sites at Little Arrow Outdoor Resort range in price from about $50 dollars to $200 dollars and there is truly a site for everyone, depending on your budget and the requirements of your rig. We loved the luxury RV sites with covered bar/seating area, a sink with running water, and plenty of counter space for eating and entertaining. This sites are around $180-200 dollars per night, but we think they are a delightful splurge. You can also share these sites with a second RV buddy for a small, additional fee, and then split the cost in half. Doing so would make these sites a bargain. There are also a variety of back in sites along the Little River that are excellent and fairly priced at just under $100 per night. Overall, it is hard to find a bad RV site at Little Arrow. Tent campers may struggle to find a site with adequate privacy. But for RV owners--this is a little slice of heaven in the smokies.
Cabins, Tiny Homes, and Glamping Tents
Glamping Tent at Little Arrow Outdoor Resort
Little Arrow does not call itself a campground. They call themselves an "outdoor resort." When you see the charming selection of cabins, tiny homes, and glamping tents, you can clearly see why. Much like the RV sites, all of these unique accommodations are lovely, and very reasonably priced for what you get. We stayed in the Magnolia Tiny Home (pictured above the glamping tent) for approximately $250 per night. It was clean, charming, and comfortable. The highlight for our kids was the double loft areas with plenty of space for them to spread out. The highlights for mom and dad were the comfortable master bedroom, spacious kitchen, and washer and dryer! It was wonderful being able to do laundry while on vacation. We create huge piles of dirty clothes when we are exploring a national park--and we used the washer/dryer every single day.
Pool and Hot Tub Area
The Hot Tub at Little Arrow Outdoor Resort
The highlight for most guests at Little Arrow Outdoor Resort is the luxurious outdoor pool and hot tub area. Every inch of this area is comfortable and thoughtfully designed. The zero entry pool (with grottos!) was nicely heated, and the hot tub was an absolute delight. You take a short flight of steps up to the private hot tub area, so it feels like it is in a little hidden world away from the pool area. The sign on the hot tub gate says that kids are not allowed. But there was no one there to enforce this rule during our stay, and there were many, many kids in and out of the hot tub during our stay--including our own.
The Camp Store and Coffee Lounge
During our stay the camp store at Little Arrow Outdoor Resort was only open from 9am to 5pm. We were in the park from early morning to after 5pm during our first few days there, so we could not get into the camp store for a few things we needed.
This is an excellent podcast. I really enjoy listening every week. Very well thought out reviews and very informative. Jeremy and Stephanie have a great chemistry and make for a very enjoyable show. Thank you so much.
Just found this podcast and LOVING it! Binge listening to all the reviews in the northeast part of the country. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome! Thank you and keep it up!
Thoroughly enjoyed the Fort Wilderness review. Have seen and heard others but this was my favorite. I also liked the comparison to the Wilderness Lodge. I have stayed there and loved it!!!! The restaurant is top notch!! We had a room with bunk beds and honestly don’t know where we could have put a 5th. Have also stayed at The Beach and that was nice too. Lots of options and excited to hear what you decide to do!!!!