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Camping in the mountains of wnc

A few days ago Blind Pig reader Liz left the following comment:

Tipper, will you put something on your blog regarding longstanding campgrounds that are safe for an old lady (70+) and a 6 inch tall, 3 pound dog? My heart longs for the mountains but I'm hesitant to go alone.

Liz

I think all the campgrounds in Cherokee County NC are safe, but I don't really know anything about them.

Do you think Liz could contact the Forest Service or some other state agency to find out more about campgrounds in the mountains?

If you have any suggestions about campgrounds in the mountains please share them with Liz.

Tipper   

*Photo courtesy of Starlite Camping Resort

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Thanks, Tipper and all....

For all your suggestions. Sam (teacup Chihuahua) and I camp in a small Rialta motor home. I have a senior access pass.

Thanks again for your suggestions. Hope to see y'all at a campsite soon.

Virginia has an excellent state park system. I haven't camped in probably 15 years, but when I was growing up my family spent a couple of weeks camping every summer and my Girl Scout troop camped a lot, and more often than not we'd go to a state park. Here's a link where you can search for a park according to available amenities: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/amenity-search

Roan Mountain State Park southeast about 5 miles from Roan Mountain , Tennessee is a great camping and mountain experience. " The Roan " or the top of the mountain is 6200 + elevation. The state park lies near the base of the mountain . I don't personally camp there but I have hunted the surrounding mountains for over 45 years. The park is well staffed with cabins for rent as well as RV campsites . The park reminds me of the Cosby campground in the Smokies 50 years ago . You can enjoy the high country without the mobs of people . The Appalachian Trail runs along the tops of the mountains there with Tennessee on the northwest side of the trail and North Carolina on the Southeast side . Feel welcome to call me anytime if you are this way . Larry Proffitt

Tipper,
It's nice to see so many Appalachian folks suggesting help for Liz. I called our Christian Radio Station today to thank Donna Lynn for playing "Angles Rock me to Sleep" by the Pressley Girls and "Cabin by the side of the Road" by the Wilson Brothers." These are among my Favorites and are pure Appalachian at it's Best. ...Ken

Tipper--I'm late to the table but maybe I can offer a bit of insight a quick perusal of the remarks above didn't answer. Someone provided a link to the "drive in" campgrounds in the GSMNP, but if she wants to take her dog along they are pretty much a non-starter. Canine companions aren't allowed on Park trails (not sure about campsites, since all of my experience has been in the backcountry, but I suspect they are verboten there as well).
In and around my old stomping grounds on the N. C. side of the Smokies USFS campgrounds are probably the best bet. In essence you can camp in the backcountry almost anywhere on National Forest land, but I think she's looking for a drive-to location. Good destinations would be Tsali or Cable Cove on the south shore of Fontana, or there's a campground immediately below the dam connected with Fontana Village. There are campgrounds aplenty in state parks in N. C., TN, etc. and these are invariably clean and reasonably priced. Some of them have restaurants and other facilities on the grounds. Another possibility, and this is one I've enjoyed on multiple occasions, would be the first-come, first-served campgrounds, usually with a table and perhaps a lantern pole but not much more, scattered along gravel roads in National Forests. One specific example would be Big Snowbird Creek in Graham County. There must be at least a dozen pull of the road and set up camp sites here (just don't think about it in "bar and hawg" hunting season.
I know nothing on a personal level about commercial campgrounds, but they are scattered all over my native stomping grounds in Swain County as well as in nearby counties such as Graham, Jackson, Macon, and Clay. Several have sprung up on the opposite side of the river from Highway 74 in Jackson County, there are a number (including a KOA) on the Cherokee Reservation, some along old Highway 19 between Bryson City and Cherokee, etc. Here checking the website of the chambers of commerce for each county would be the logical starting point.
One thing for sure, there's not shortage of possibilities.

Jim Casada

Couldn't resist posting a 2nd time about a kind of camping only just now becoming available. And that is Airbnb.com because owners are hosting already-set-up campers and even sometimes tents. The trend seems to be for more of these all the time. They can be rather pricy; about $50-60/night for an RV and/or when they have other amenities. Occasionally a listing is for one site in a large private campground such as maybe Laurel Valley in Townsend, TN. I know lots of folks would scorn the idea this is camping but it can have its place if trying the idea on for a fit or maybe just taking advantage of an unexpected opportunity.

I'm glad to see you are "live" again. I hope and pray you continue to improve!

Tipper,
I am amazed at all the information on camping your readers have posted. I plan on writing down a few of them myself.
Sure does make you want to organize a "caravan" and go camping in the mountains for some great camaraderie! Why we could have a big fish fry, hotdog n' marshmallow roast or a hamburger cookout and fill our face while sittin' around the campfire. Then as the day is winding down we could listen and sing along with the Blind Pig Gang as they provide us with the truest and best mountain music ever!
Thanks Tipper,
PS...Just by the varied comments, I can tell in this group are some real lovers of our Appalachian mountains and heritage....A great bunch don't you think?
Hope you are continuing to feel much better! Get well soon!

I have camped on both sides of the Smokies national park and never had any issues. Go for it and have a wonderful time!

Tipper,
I'm like you, I know nothing about camping in National Parks, etc. But when I was a teenager, I camped in a lot of places, usually on a River to fish. We'd put up a lean-to and build a nice, roaring fire in front. We camped an awfully lot at the head of the beautiful Nantahala, on White Water above the Falls, and on Horsepaster Rivers. Hope someone chimes in for Liz. ...Ken

I am 70+, too, and have always felt safe camping at Natural Tunnel State Park in Duffield, VA. I've been there several times either with same-age friends or with young grandchildren. Park rangers are always about and no outside visitors are allowed after a certain hour. There are too many pluses to mention. Check out their web site and its events page. Happy camping.

Tipper,
We camp in a 5th wheel RV. When we're close to Brasstown we stay at the KOA in Murphy.
The owner, Matt , is very helpful & friendly. They also have small cabins to rent. Our dog is welcome & it feels like home to us.
Not sure what kind of camping she's looking for. ( what area, price range, tent, camper...) There are several options out there. Sounds like fun! Hope she gets it worked out.
Karen

Tipper, Liz could be me. 65+ and full of myself, I've been watching YouTube channels for just what she's talking about. Liz, there are many, many older women on the road and they love it! The best YouTube channel for traveling 101, covering everything from safety to solar power is by far "CheapRVliving". Bob interviews folks asking about their rigs, safety, tips, etc. Every woman interviewed said that originally they were concerned about "being alone", due largely to other people's fears. Once they got out there, they discovered that the rare times they were uncomfortable, they could just drive off.

I understand the RV club, Good Sam Club, has a group of single women, many are 60's and up, that travel together, have meets, etc. Viginia State parks has a lifetime pass for seniors, which just went to $81 that allows free entry for anyone in your car with you, and 1/2 price camp site fees. My last tent camping trip cost me $7.50/ night! They also have RV hookup sites. I feel very comfortable camping there and it's beautiful. In fact, being a Virginian, I plan to dip my toes into nomadic life on the Skyline Dr. My advice, Liz, start with state park systems where you and your little dog will blend in with all the other women and their little dogs, and farm YouTube for all the information on RV living you won't believe, starting with CheapRVliving. Go for it!.. Hope to see you on the road, Happy Trails, Sky

Three cheers for Liz still wanting to camp!! Shows how she really knows how to enjoy life. So here's just another idea for her since a solo camping trip can be a chore, especially if she's planning on pulling a camper in the mountains. Many campgrounds offer little cabins to rent. Many only have beds, a little table, & a few chairs. Some fancier ones might include a little refrigerator & stove. You must take bed linens, & usually bathing items for the same bathhouse campers use. But that's still much easier than setting up camp by yourself, while enjoying all the same atmosphere as a campground. We've occasionally chosen this route instead of hotels while traveling on long trips purely because we love the camping atmosphere. Only drawback is they do get booked up, so you usually have to get reservations. Good luck on your adventure, Liz!

Campgrounds in Great Smokey Mountains National Park =
https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/frontcountry-camping.htm

Also, there a campgrounds on the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state parks. Check out Stone Mountain or South Mountains State parks.

Camping is allowed on most of the National Forest land, but may be more primitive and remote than she is looking for. The campgrounds in the state parks and GSMNP are very family oriented and affordable with the Senior Pass thatLiz would be eligable for if she doesn't already have it.

The best place to start these days is of course the internet. The public library would be a good place to do that. Most questions about when, where, how much, etc can be answered there. There is a growing tendency to consolidate across agencies in the public sector. Many places now use a recreation.gov web site where a campsite can be reserved online.

The US Forest Service has a campground host program and when a host is on site there is contact with the outside world all the time. However, one must check first and see if there is a host because they are seasonal and even then the USFS has difficulty filling the entire time and only the most popular campgrounds have them.

For her situation I would recommend either a state park or a private campground. They also have the advantage of someone being there all the time. In addition, some state parks have a range of amenities from primitive to full hookup. In Georgia there is Unicoi and Vogel for example. On the outskirts of Asheville is a USFS campground at Lake Pocahontas also, close to the NC Arboretum and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

By the way, for Federal entry fees she can get a Senior Access pass for $10 until August 28, 2017. After that it goes to $80. It is lifetime. One can be purchased in person at a Federal agency office such as National Park Service or US Forest Service. However, it may or may not provide a discount for camping or other activity fees. It varies by agency and campground. One has to ask.

If she wants to contact me directly my email is "mrronbstephensesquire@gmail.com". I have had some experience in the Federal maze. 😊

How vicious is that 6" dog? :)
I do hope Liz finds a suitable spot. There's nothing quite as lovely as being in the mountains.

I know nothing about the campgrounds, but if I were looking for myself it would be for campgrounds that are less isolated. I might even contact the folk school and see if they have any camping accommodations or suggestions.

Tipper,
It would depend on the type of camping she intends on doing. If pulling a camper, trailer etc. There are many, many in and around the mountains of WNC and TN. We personally have camped between Pigeon Forge and Townsend several times but it's not totally out in the woods. More of a community type setting but close to a lot of mountain craft shops, tourist sites, etc.
If she is speaking of tent camping with all that type of gear, then some of these accommodate tent campers as well.
Back woods camping is another thing entirely. I'm not sure they still allow it in the Smoky Mountain Park like they used to and special permits were required depending on the area one wanted to hike into. In that case it certainly would be advisable to contact the Park Rangers of NC and or TN for advice on safe areas. I bet Jim Casada could answer those questions quickly or know for sure someone that could help.
Also, we love Cades Cove and find it to be safe...Our son did some tent camping there...Still a community type setting. Lots of wildlife and of course seeing the history of Cades Cove, cabins and churches of our mountain pioneers... I never tire of going...my favorite time of year to drive the loops of Cades Cove is Fall, Winter and Spring. I can't imagine living way back in there and sustaining a lifestyle...We come from some strong mountain folks...ha
Thanks Tipper,

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