If you are the type of person that enjoys unadulterated wilderness, then you might consider dry camping in the southeast. Unlike boondocking, dry camping just involves getting out away from power and water hookups or other resources.
The freedom of camping in the wilderness can be exhilarating, and dry or dispersed camping provides that experience. Finding a great spot to dry camp without paying ridiculous fees can be like finding a needle in a haystack; so here are some suggestions to get you started.
1. Congaree National Park
The Congaree National Park in South Carolina is the largest floodplain of untouched forest growth in the southeast. This park is known for the abundance of hardwoods that support its diverse habitat. With its beautifully preserved ecosystem, backcountry camping here is a unique experience worthy of a visit. If you plan to camp here, keep in mind that only tent camping is allowed. Also, although dry camping is free, you will need to obtain a permit beforehand at the visitor center.
2. Ocala National Forest
After visiting the largest undisturbed forest in the southeast, you can check out the southernmost forest in the country located in Florida. Some of the best features about this forest are the first magnitude springs. Salt Springs Recreation Area is an excellent camp site that provides you with a pristine mineral spring where you can swim, snorkel, and enjoy the tropical atmosphere. If you do not want to pay the tent campsite fee, there is a dry camping area nearby at Davenport Landing.
3. Bankhead National Forest
If you want to have a truly primal dry camping experience, you may want to consider a trip to the hunter camp at Bankhead National Forest in Alabama. Sipsey Wilderness is the largest wilderness area in the eastern United States and provides opportunities for hunting, camping, fishing and hiking. It is advised that you wear orange if you plan to camp in the hunting area. By the way, hunting feral hogs is encouraged because of their invasive, destructive behavior; just make sure you have a permit.
4. Talladega National Forest
Another unique wilderness experience in Alabama can be found visiting the Cheaha Wilderness of Talladega National Forest. This forest actually includes some great vantage points with higher elevations as it is near Cheaha Mountain, the highest spot in the state. The bluffs and overlooks provide excellent scenery for backpacking through the wilderness during every season of the year. If you are looking for a dry campsite not far from the beaten trail, try visiting Turnipseed Camp located near the Cheaha Wilderness.
5. Chattahoochee National Forest
If the foothills of Alabama whet your appetite for hiking the Appalachian foothills, you should take a trip to the Chattahoochee in Georgia. Alan Jackson crooned about his exploits here. As the first or last point on the Appalachian Trail, camping near Springer Mountain will be exhilarating for any hiker. If you are not up for the 2,200 mile trek from Georgia to Maine, there are plenty of smaller trails to conquer around the mountain that will bring breathtaking views of foothills along the Blue Ridge Mountains.
6. Santee Coastal Reserve
Camping along the coast is a picture of paradise, and this coastal reserve in South Carolina offers you a slice of it. This reserve is located along the Atlantic coastline in a wildlife managed wetland and offers two dry camping opportunities. There is a free campsite easily accessible from the highway and camping available on barrier islands that are only accessible by boat. Keep in mind this is a swamp habitat filled with alligators, mosquitoes and plenty of other wildlife.
7. Carolina Hemlocks
The most enjoyed camping area in North Carolina can be found in Pisgah National Forest at the Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area. Although this area belongs to the United STates Forest Service, it is managed by the Cradle of Forestry in America Interpretive Association. This means there are additional restrictions for camping, but you can still find excellent spots for dry camping. Along with the fun of tubing and fishing on the river, this place also provides a great history lesson of early forestry in America.
8. Tishomingo State Park
The Mississippi River, a massive waterway worthy of a camp trip, is the largest river in North America. There are many excellent camping spots along the river, but down in Mississippi there is another great destination located along this river. The Natchez Trace Parkway is famous for native history and natural beauty and Tishomingo State Park is one of the best camping spots nearby. If you want primitive, dry camping with scenic landscapes and Native American history, you should plan a trip here.
9. Jackson Island
National forests and state parks are not the only places you can find wilderness camping spots. The Tennessee Valley Authority allows dry camping on their undeveloped land throughout the valley. Jackson Island is a secluded spot not far from civilization so you can dry camp on this island and still enjoy the Chattanooga city life that Tennessee has to offer. As a free place to pitch a tent, this spot is a local secret that is gaining attention among primitive campers.
Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky has several natural gems to explore, and one of these is Lake Cumberland. The third largest lake in Kentucky has many recreation opportunities for nature lovers. As part of the Wolf Creek Dam project, this campsite also offers the potential for a little engineering education. This lake is supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers and, although primitive camping is allowed, there are designated areas along the lake.
With so many excellent options for dry camping in the southeast, deciding on one destination can be tough. Maybe this list will help you narrow down the options and give you an idea of what the southeastern states have to offer. Perhaps you will find another spot that provides a unique camping experience.
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