Dec 17, 2021- The Best of the Best

Our route while towing the RV, a total of 8626 miles.

To summarize our 2021 travels – we pulled out of Chokoloskee on April 9 and returned on Nov 11 with an additional 17,319 miles, 8626 of which were towing miles. Traveling spanned over 216 nights, 48 locations, 16 states, and 8 new states meeting our sticker map criterion which is at least one night in the RV. We visited 10 national parks and stayed in 7 state parks (representing 4 states) and spent 41 nights in 8 Army Corp of Engineers campgrounds across 6 states. We boondocked a total of 4 nights (3 Harvest Hosts) and enjoyed full hook up 76% of the time.

As we near the end of another year, it is only fitting to reminisce on our travels. And because I am a blogger, I will share my reminiscing with you! But wait, don’t leave yet because what I will do is boil our travels down to some highlights, provide you information on specific regions (routes, campgrounds, places of interest), and perhaps add some useful tips, especially for those who are current or future RV travelers.

I begin my reminiscing with a top ten campground list from 2021. Chosen out of 45 campgrounds, these 10 stand out because of one simple criterion – we would be contentedly happy at this campground for an extended period because of its abundant natural space (land or water) that can be explored, irrespective of its amenities.

However, this list comes with a BIG DISCLAIMER – rating is not based on amenities such as wifi, phone signal, antennae TV or laundry; rather it is all about the aesthetics, the wilderness, the space, the wildlife. In fact, lack of all said amenities were absent at some of these campgrounds! So, I will admit, the great outdoors is the draw, lacking certain amenities, especially a phone signal is challenging beyond a 2-3 day stay.

Nevertheless, if you want to “get away” to a conveniently located campground where you can paddle or hike in a wilderness area while having the comforts of a campground that accommodates large RVs, check out these campgrounds.

Coming in at #10: a Northern Michigan Campground

Located in the middle of the “tip of the mitten”, Headwaters is halfway between Grayling and Gaylord and near I-75. Traverse City & Sleeping Bear Dunes are about an hour away as is the straits of Mackinac and Lake Huron. It is named Headwaters as Big Bradford Lake is the headwaters for the Ausable River.

Headwaters Camping and Cabins. Out of necessity, we stayed at this rustic campground on Big Bradford Lake in northern Michigan for 42 nights.

On most mornings, I would make the short walk with my coffee in hand to the lake where the sun rose over the misty water. Although our campsite was not directly on the water, many sites are.
The campground is relatively old (gravel sites) and the site we stayed on was recently converted to full hookup. I needed extra hose length for the water and an extension cord to reach the electric. Despite the challenges of maintaining a lakefront campground, the owners have done a great job. Being a seasonal location, maintaining laundry and wifi is not cost effective.
Adjacent to national forest, Big Bradford Lake is not really THAT big, but it is mostly undeveloped. While it is shallow along its shoreline, the bottom drops off quickly to depths of 100 feet toward the lake’s center.

So, we really got to know the place well. It is relatively secluded (but easy to get to) and among the quietest campgrounds we have stayed in. Viewing the sunrise over the lake, long walks in the surrounding forest, the ease of launching the kayak, and the wonderful onsite owners, all made the lack of wifi and laundry facility less painful. Read more about this northern Michigan location here.

#9: A Northern New Mexico Campground

Riana Campground. One of the 3 Army Corp of Engineers campgrounds making our top ten list, this one is located on Abiquiu Lake in northern New Mexico – about 50 miles north of Santa Fe, and 70 miles west of Taos.

You can see our RV on the right. Walking to the opposite side of the campground loop gave me a higher vantage point to view the lake.
Although the campsite did not have a concrete pad like so many Army Corp campgrounds do, Riana offers a paved driveway and our site was level and spacious. Sites are spread out well enough for privacy.

Despite unusually low water levels (which made kayak fishing next to impossible for Vivian), the ambience of a spacious campground overlooking a large body of water with mountains in the background just made my heart sing. Although not full hook up, it has, like most Army Corp campgrounds what RV’ers value highly – easy in and out, space, a view, and easy hook ups (water and electric in this case). I loved walking around the bluffs overlooking the lake, so enjoy this slideshow from those hikes.

And lastly, please check out my previous blog about our visit to the Abiquiu area, or what I like to call “Georgia O’Keeffe Country”.

#8: A Florida Panhandle Campground

St George Island is a barrier island in the Apalachicola Bay and about 80 miles south of Tallahassee, Florida’s state capital.

St George Island State Park. It comes as no surprise that 4 of the top ten campgrounds are state parks and there are two more given honorable mention at the end of our list.

At site #43 situated at the end of a passthrough road in the middle of the campground loop, we had plenty of pavement real estate to back in easily. This is premium because not all sites were so accommodating. This site was beautifully shaded and on the other side of the trees in our rear view are the sand dunes.
Lots of passerine birds pass through here in the spring, including this male cardinal that (along with a female) visited our site daily.

It is also no surprise that among our top ten campgrounds is one located on one of Florida’s spectacular Gulf of Mexico beaches. Vivian and I are beach loungers, but the sand dunes were among my favorites to photograph, and Vivian loves to fish. Hiking trails, an easy walk to the beach, and lots of birds & other wildlife makes this one of Florida’s best.

Read about our visit to St George Island State Park here.

#7: A North Dakota State Park

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is in the town of Mandan, southwest of Bismarck, North Dakota.

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. We stayed here for two reasons; convenience and desire to visit Bismarck on our way through North Dakota.

A first for us, a double pull through, which was a back-in given that our camp neighbor got there first. Our campsite was large, but there were plenty of back-in sites easy to get into and offering more privacy and prettier views.

We could have stayed at the Bismarck KOA but when I discovered that this state park campground offers wonderfully large campsites along the Missouri River and has an interesting history, it was a shoe-in. Not only was having the Missouri River near our campsite a perk, but so were the miles of hiking trails that offer beautiful overlooks of the river, lots of deer, and a historical tour of a Mandan Village and Fort Abraham Lincoln where several replicas of buildings are scattered about as you can see in the slideshow below.

You can read about our visit that includes a tour of North Dakota’s state capitol here.

#6 A Northeast Texas State Park

Texas’s Caddo Lake State Park is close to the Louisiana border and about 30 miles from Shreveport.

Caddo Lake State Park. What brings Caddo Lake to this list are many things, among which are the following – our campsite, the relatively small and peaceful campground, miles of hiking trails and of course, Caddo Lake itself.

Woodpecker Hollow loop offers paved pullthroughs with full hookup and private campsite facing the forest. Hiking trailheads and Caddo Lake are all a short walk away.

If not for the fact that it rained constantly during our 5-night stay, we would have enjoyed more of this park and it likely would have ranked higher. Read here about our visit to the surrounding areas including the historical town of Jefferson. Above is a slideshow from the park, including the very hilly road coming in and out of the campground.

#5: A southern Alabama Campground

Foscue Creek Campground is about 100 miles west of Montgomery and 50 miles west of Selma.

Foscue Creek. Another Army Corp of Engineers, west of Montgomery, Alabama near the town of Demopolis.

Most campsites are waterside and with a few exceptions, full hookup. Consequently people come here and stay the maximum length, which is two weeks during a month.
The first of three campsites was the best one, scenic, adequately shaded and spacious.

Funny thing, we were originally reserved for five nights but ended up staying an additional 3 nights which required us to move twice. So, we had the pleasure of staying at three different sites, all of which offered a waterfront view. We enjoyed the water, the peacefulness, relatively easy access to water with a kayak and plenty of hiking trails to go around. Read here about our civil rights tour taken while we stayed at Foscue Creek and another Army Corp campground, Gunter Hill.

#4: A rural Indiana County Campground

Near the town of Cicero, White River Campground is north of Indianapolis and for us, a 28-mile drive to my sister’s house in Indianapolis.

White River Campground, Hamilton County. Other than being a county park with level concrete full hookup campsites that accommodate large rigs, there is nothing extraordinary about this campground. It is after all, in Indiana, located among corn and soybean fields.

Our campsite next to the White River. We stay at this campground each year so that we can visit family in nearby Indianapolis. Other than the extremely high sewer holes located at the far end of certain campsites, it is a wonderful park with decent amenities. There was a threat of flooding on the day we arrived, but water levels did not get high enough to force us out.
The walking bridge in the campground crosses the White River. On the other side is a large 26 acres of land with hiking/biking paths, one that leads to a small lake. All of it is part of a the Strawtown Koteewi Park.

To visit family in Indianapolis, we could stay at a campground located closer to the city, but instead we keep coming back to White River because we really enjoy it. Maybe it is because this rural campground is a welcome reprieve after spending a day in the city. With miles of hiking (biking) trails, an easy walk to a lake and the White River, we enjoy the wildlife and wildflowers that come with its open surroundings. I wrote about our first visit to White River back in 2018, check it out here.

#3: A Northern Wisconsin Campground

On Iron Lake and a short distance from Highway 2 is Top O’ the Morn Resort. Duluth, MN and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are each about 45 miles away from the campground.

Top O’ the Morn Resorts. If I have any regrets from our 2021 travels, it is that I did not take more photos of this Wisconsin campground we called home for a short 3 nights.

New owners have maintained the rustic appeal of Top O’ the Morn, including a heavily wooded section of the campground for seasonal campers that have built permanent structures on their sites. Our section for transients included well maintained pull throughs.

Located on Iron Lake, not far from the Apostle Islands, we serendipitously discovered Top O’ the Morn given that the coveted coastal campgrounds were either full or unaccommodating to our RV. So glad we found it because we fell in love with its quiet lake ambience. We didn’t have time to get out on the lake with the kayak, but we’ll be back.

#2: a central Florida State Park

About 20 miles north of Lakeland and 50 miles from Tampa, Colt Creek State Park is in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve area.

Colt Creek State Park. There is no doubt, Florida has some of the best state parks in the country. Although many of them are not accommodating to our RV, a handful are and the best of them is Florida’s newest state park, Colt Creek.

We stayed at Colt Creek two years ago and could not enjoy it like we did this time. Why couldn’t we enjoy it? Read all about that here, especially if you are interested in RV suspension disasters. Colt Creek is Florida’s newest, so new even the washer and dryer machines still work!
We considered our site, #30 to be the best, with maybe a couple others comparable to it. Each site pad is well groomed, very spacious, nicely shaded and with only about 25 RV sites and a handful of tent sites, this small campground is remote and quiet. Only the sounds of a barred owl can be heard at night.

There is no beach or spring-fed water filled with manatee, nor is the campground itself on the water. Instead, it is within central Florida’s wetland and pine flatland territory, home to much wildlife including otter, eagle, deer, alligator, and wading birds, all of which we saw while there for a short 2 nights. With lots of hiking trails, a couple lakes to kayak on and a paved road with little traffic for bicycling, you could enjoy this park for an extended time easily.

Drum roll #1: a western Georgia Campground

About 80 miles southwest of Atlanta, GA and 90 miles east of Montgomery, AL, Georgia’s R. Shaefer Heard Park is located near the GA-AL border on West Point Lake.

R Shaefer Heard Park. I didn’t think of this Georgia park as being #1 when we were camping there, but in retrospect, my thoughts kept going back to this place. What sticks in my mind is the water view from our campsite and the fact we could launch the kayak within feet away from the RV.

The view from from our campsite one evening.
The view of our campsite from the kayak.

Not only that, the lake is so picturesque with its cypress trees and near perfect waterscapes (no manmade intrusions).

Although there are no hiking trails, the well shaded campground is very large with several loops that it took me over an hour to walk its entirety up and down relatively steep inclines. It’s a wonderful campground to have a bicycle. We discovered that the loop we camped on, sites 1-10 (we were on #10) was the easiest for water access.

I have three more campgrounds to give honorable mention to. Here they are:

Goblin Valley State Park

An overlook view of Goblin Valley State Park’s small campground. If not for the 90+ degree temperatures and 20+ mph winds, we would have stayed a second night. But we loved this park nevertheless!
The best part of Goblin Valley was exploring the hoodoos.

Deer Creek State Park

Another Utah State Park, Deer Creek near Provo. Although it was near a heavily populated area and on a heavily used lake, it was still a beautiful and comfortable park to stay for a few nights.
The view of the Wasatch Mountains and the Provo River as seen from one of the hiking trails in the park.

Gunter Hill Park

Another Army Corp of Engineers campground is Gunter Hill Park, only 10 miles from Montgomery, AL. Concrete level pads, full hookups, and lots of space and privacy makes this campground all the more appealing.
Many of the sites had views like this one of the Alabama River. We stayed at Gunter Hill Park for a total of 14 days to spend quality time in Montgomery discovering the Legacy Museum among other things.