PITCH YOUR TENT ... SOMEWHERE ELSE
Camping is usually an inexpensive way to spend time relaxing outdoors, but not every campground delivers on its promise of peace and quiet. Cheapism.com recently compiled a list of scenic and inexpensive campgrounds across the country, but we also found some sites that have received less than stellar reviews. Problems include overflowing toilets, nearby highways, high prices, and difficult management. The following campgrounds received poor ratings on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and/or Google Reviews. Each has multiple negative reviews and recurring themes that point to genuine problems that prospective guests should be aware of.
FORT COLLINS KOA LAKESIDE: FORT COLLINS, COLORADO
Sitting next to a scenic lake, the KOA campground in Fort Collins offers great views. The campground has both RV hookups and tent camping sites, but some guests report unhelpful and rude staff members. The unhappy campers perceived that the campground was nickel-and-diming them with extra fees for activities, guests, and fire rings -- services that are often free at other KOA sites. One camper said that in the end he could have stayed at a high-end hotel for the same price.
VENTURA BEACH RV RESORT: VENTURA, CALIFORNIA
This campground is primarily for RVers, but there are tent sites available as well. Two issues came up in reviews: the noise and the undisclosed fees. Tent sites are right next to a highway. One reviewer says she camped about 40 feet from the slow lane; others say that it's hard to sleep due to the noise, even with earplugs. Some campers say they were charged more for premium RV sites even though they requested regular ones. Others say the price they were quoted over the phone was lower than what they had to pay when they arrived.
CAMPER'S PARADISE: GRAND HAVEN, MICHIGAN
Camper's Paradise is anything but heavenly, according to campers. There are multiple reports of the owners screaming at campers and being generally unpleasant. To make matters worse, noise from nearby rail lines and a highway bleeds into the campground, and there are mixed reports on the camp's cleanliness.
LONG RAVINE CAMPGROUND: COLFAX, CALIFORNIA
An hour from Sacramento, the Long Ravine Campground attracts campers looking for a quick getaway from the city. However, the campground is so close to Interstate 80 you'll hear the hum of cars at night -- that is, if the neighbors aren't blasting music and arguing into the wee hours. There are pay showers, but no change machine. The flush toilets are a bonus, except many campers report they're filthy and sometimes flood the bathroom. In spite of the running water, there's no place to wash dishes. Individual sites are small and guests need to keep an eye out for poison oak near some of the campsites. Several campers say that although outdoor grills are advertised, their sites lacked one. To add insult to injury, the sites aren't cheap; each costs $29 (plus $8 per vehicle) to $95 (including three vehicles).
YOGI BEAR'S JELLYSTONE PARK CAMP-RESORT: PORTAGE, INDIANA
Guests say they've had pleasant experiences at other Yogi Bear's Jellystone campgounds, but this isn't a location they'd recommend. Campsites are dirty and so close together there's no privacy. Several reviewers point out that the place is primarily a trailer park with permanent residents, with a few campsites and rental cabins squeezed in. Nearby trains and semis on the highway do little to add to the atmosphere.
CAROLINA BEACH FAMILY CAMPGROUND: WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA
The Carolina Beach Family Campground has friendly staff and reasonable rates ($24.50 for tent sites), but not much else to offer. Reviewers on Google and TripAdvisor leave reports of dirty bathrooms and unkempt grounds.
PONDEROSA CAMPGROUND: BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA
The Ponderosa Campground gets low marks not for its price ($20) or staff but because of the surrounding environment. Multiple campers report that all kinds of bugs -- yellow jackets, mosquitos, bees, and flies – swarm the campground, so much so that some campers left early. There are also rattlesnakes to watch out for and poison oak lurking on the grounds.
SHADY OAKS CAMPGROUND: PIGEON FORGE, TENNESSEE
One reviewer on TripAdvisor says that although he's used to roughing it in the wild without even a pit toilet, he found that the bathrooms at the Shady Oaks Campground were so bad that left soon after arriving. He wasn't the only one who walked out, and some campers even sacrificed their deposits once they saw the condition of the bathrooms. Other common complaints include run-down facilities, stray dogs, and sketchy permanent residents.
BEAVER POND CAMPGROUND: STONY POINT, NEW YORK
Beaver Pond Campground gets mixed reviews. Sites are only $15 to $19 a night, and if you get a site in the secluded W section you'll have a fine time. Other areas, however, are so crowded that you won't have any privacy and the bathrooms get dirty fast. According to reviews, the no-alcohol rule is enforced but quiet hours most definitely are not.
PINE CONE RESORT AND CAMPGROUND: FREEHOLD, NEW JERSEY
When a campground calls itself a "resort," it sets a certain level of expectations, but many campers left the Pine Cone Resort and Campground feeling disappointed. The bathrooms at the resort, which primarily serves RV campers but also has tent sites, look as though they've never been cleaned, according to several reviewers on TripAdvisor. One recent review says the bathroom stalls and showers don't have locks and the laundry facilities are broken.
HIDE-A-WAY LAKES: YORKVILLE, ILLINOIS
The Hide-A-Way Lakes campground has a friendly staff, shaded sites, and a river nearby. But even those who gave it a decent rating on Yelp say there are broken vehicles and trash throughout the grounds. It's a private campground and alcohol is allowed, which means you might be kept awake by loud neighbors. As several reviewers note, it's a party campground and not for families. The tent-only sites are reasonably priced at $27, although they're not necessarily cheap for what you're getting.
JIM THORPE CAMPING RESORT: JIM THORPE, PENNSYLVANIA
Tent sites at this camping resort cost $32 and are decently spaced and shaded. Aside from being on the expensive side and lacking the organized activities found at other resorts, the campground is in pretty good shape. However, the management needs a lesson in customer relations, according to reviewers. The managers reportedly have argued with some campers and have kicked out guests after disputes. A reviewer on TripAdvisor says the police were once called to remove a guest after an argument grew heated.
FIDDLEHEAD CAMPGROUNDS: OXFORD, MAINE
One camper described Fiddlehead Campgrounds as a never-ending frat party. The staff is friendly and attentive, but be prepared for drunken crowds staying up all night to party and shoot fireworks. Even those who knew what they were getting into give the campground mixed reviews on Yelp, citing bad roads, a lack of rules, and port-o-potties as downsides.
CAMP HUACO SPRINGS: NEW BRAUNFELS, TEXAS
The river is nice but the camping at Camp Huaco Springs is not. The campground in general is dirty, according to several reviewers, with broken picnic tables, filthy bathrooms, and bottles, cans, and trash scattered around. The sites are also disorganized and overcrowded, forcing people to walk through others' sites to get to their own. Quiet hours start at midnight but the rule isn't enforced, according to many reviews.
HEART OF THE ROCKIES CAMPGROUND: SALIDA, COLORADO
Tent sites are affordable ($20) at the Heart of the Rockies Campground but recent reviews on Yelp say the management can be difficult. Some campers were yelled at about their dogs, and one says the manager teased his wife when she needed to use the restroom but didn't have the access code.