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Looking to Camp - TN/KY in June

sharpsicle

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Hi everyone.

I'm getting married next year, and to get to the venue the future wife and I will be driving from Florida to Wisconsin in late June with the Jeep loaded up. We'll have a RTT and want to find a spot to stop somewhere around Tennessee or Kentucky to camp for the night. Was hoping for a few recommendations on good spots to go.

Our planned route takes us into Tennessee at Chattanooga, going through Nashville, and entering Illinois at Paducah. So anything reasonably along that route would be great. But that doesn't mean we can't take a slightly different route within reason. Bonus points if it takes a bit of light off-roading to get to the site. Also, we're going to be staying in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the way back down, so we're already covered on seeing that area. Based on the route we're taking, I was originally looking at Land Between the Lakes, but it's been ages since I was out that way and can't remember how it was or how it would be for RTT camping.

Jeep Gladiator Looking to Camp - TN/KY in June 1699831774695


Any suggestions or experiences on places in this general picture would be great.
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Lost1wing

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Congratulations!

I live in south Georgia and have done the trip to Wisconsin many times (Oshkosh). I have been to a few State parks in Tennessee, along 24 but nothing stands out as a recommendation. You have the Mammoth cave area attractions, off of the I 65 route. Sorry I'm not of much help, just wanted to congratulate you and you future wife.
 
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sharpsicle

sharpsicle

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Don't apologize, that's fantastic help! That looks like a solid place to consider as neither of us have ever been there. What was your experience like when you went?
 

ShrimpHappens

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https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/camping/basic/

I'm not an expert on Land Between the Lakes, but I've camped there a handful of times over the last few years. In general, it's legal to do dispersed camping nearly anywhere, which is the whole dang place via backpacking, but with your RTT you'll have to stay on road/trail.

The very first time we went, we did dispersed camping in an open field along some random road. Again, I'm sure it's very unlawful to drive off-road, and we kept the driving in the field to a minimum. But the rangers must be ok with this, because I've seen plenty of other people who've done the same thing: pull a vehicle into an opening just off the road to camp.

All the times since then we've camped at Redd Hollow, which has a vault toilet and defined campsites with picnic tables and fire rings. There are many campgrounds like this.

Again, not an expert, so I don't know of any particular place that's well-suited to RTT camping that is a must. There are many places where roads get right down to the water (couple of spots at Redd Hollow where you can get a vehicle right to the water), and obviously there's an infinite number of places you can tuck away in the woods.

And when you're looking at the maps, 100-series roads are the best quality--a Corolla can drive on them. 200-series roads are a bit more rugged, but still in softroader territory, and then 300-series roads are the least-maintained roads and are a mixed bag. There's one 300-series I know of that a Jeep can do in 2wd, and we've encountered others where 4x4 is helpful, though not 100% necessary. I've heard there are some 300-series roads that are super-rugged where 4x4 is a must, but I've never been on any (I've always been there with groups and haven't had the opportunity to find them).
 

TomH

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Paducah is a cool little river town that is worth checking out, if you have time.
 

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Astroguy881

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I grew up in Princeton, KY, which is like 20 miles away from the Northern entrance to LBL.

There is an off-road area (Turkey Bay) that has some really nice camping sites by the water on KY lake, but there are literally dozens and dozens of little roads that are not well-traveled, with plenty of spots where you can camp, especially with a RTT.

The offroad area: https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/trails/turkey-bay/

Camping rules: https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/camping/basic/

Basically, you can camp anywhere you want with the right (reasonably priced - $10 for three day) permit. I live in Nashville now, but there's lots to do in LBL.

There is a pretty nice planetarium at Golden Pond obesrvatory (https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/attractions/planetarium/), and there is a car-accessibe Elk and Bison prairie where a herd of Elk and a herd of Bison are available to see, (https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/attractions/elk-bison-prairie/)

There is also a working farm that is a replica of an 1850's farm, but TBH I haven't been there since I was in grade school, so I can't make a reccomendation on that (https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/attractions/homeplace/)

Kentucky Dam is nice to visit, as it is a huge earthen and concrete dam that forms KY Lake on the Tennessee River (probably the only thing that KY and TN share, lol). I don't know if the powerhouse tours are back on or not, but that is nice to see if you're interested in that kind of thing.

As mentioned earlier, Paducah is a pretty cool little town, and the site of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers is right near there. I don't know if this would interest you, but the National Quilting Museum is in Paducah, as well.
 

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I grew up in Princeton, KY, which is like 20 miles away from the Northern entrance to LBL.

There is an off-road area (Turkey Bay) that has some really nice camping sites by the water on KY lake, but there are literally dozens and dozens of little roads that are not well-traveled, with plenty of spots where you can camp, especially with a RTT.

The offroad area: https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/trails/turkey-bay/

Camping rules: https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/camping/basic/

Basically, you can camp anywhere you want with the right (reasonably priced - $10 for three day) permit. I live in Nashville now, but there's lots to do in LBL.

There is a pretty nice planetarium at Golden Pond obesrvatory (https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/attractions/planetarium/), and there is a car-accessibe Elk and Bison prairie where a herd of Elk and a herd of Bison are available to see, (https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/attractions/elk-bison-prairie/)

There is also a working farm that is a replica of an 1850's farm, but TBH I haven't been there since I was in grade school, so I can't make a reccomendation on that (https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/attractions/homeplace/)

Kentucky Dam is nice to visit, as it is a huge earthen and concrete dam that forms KY Lake on the Tennessee River (probably the only thing that KY and TN share, lol). I don't know if the powerhouse tours are back on or not, but that is nice to see if you're interested in that kind of thing.

As mentioned earlier, Paducah is a pretty cool little town, and the site of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers is right near there. I don't know if this would interest you, but the National Quilting Museum is in Paducah, as well.
I spent alot of time at LBL when stationed at Ft Campbell. Back country permit used to be 11 bucks a year 2002 time frame.

Took the kids back 3 years ago... again back country... no facilities... and more important... no people 🤣.

The kids loved it just as much as I used to.

I understand they have more facilities and things now would be ciool to check out with my littler ones... 3 and 5 now
 
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sharpsicle

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I grew up in Princeton, KY, which is like 20 miles away from the Northern entrance to LBL.

There is an off-road area (Turkey Bay) that has some really nice camping sites by the water on KY lake, but there are literally dozens and dozens of little roads that are not well-traveled, with plenty of spots where you can camp, especially with a RTT.

The offroad area: https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/trails/turkey-bay/

Camping rules: https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/camping/basic/

Basically, you can camp anywhere you want with the right (reasonably priced - $10 for three day) permit. I live in Nashville now, but there's lots to do in LBL.

There is a pretty nice planetarium at Golden Pond obesrvatory (https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/attractions/planetarium/), and there is a car-accessibe Elk and Bison prairie where a herd of Elk and a herd of Bison are available to see, (https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/attractions/elk-bison-prairie/)

There is also a working farm that is a replica of an 1850's farm, but TBH I haven't been there since I was in grade school, so I can't make a reccomendation on that (https://landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/attractions/homeplace/)

Kentucky Dam is nice to visit, as it is a huge earthen and concrete dam that forms KY Lake on the Tennessee River (probably the only thing that KY and TN share, lol). I don't know if the powerhouse tours are back on or not, but that is nice to see if you're interested in that kind of thing.

As mentioned earlier, Paducah is a pretty cool little town, and the site of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers is right near there. I don't know if this would interest you, but the National Quilting Museum is in Paducah, as well.
So pardon my ignorance, but I want to make sure I understand how this works as I've never done it. You pull up, pay the $20 OHV fee, sign the waiver, and then you just find any ol' place to park overnight? I mean it sounds so simple and makes sense, but I just want to make sure I'm not missing something.

I suppose the next trick is knowing where to go in the OHV area!
 

Astroguy881

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Yeah, it's basically that simple. For once, gov't doesn't make things unnecessarily complicated :LOL:
 

Jclayc

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I know it’s not the route you’re taking but Big South Fork is more remote than LBL and there are plenty of back country campsites accessible although 4wd not needed. There are some amazing sights to see there too as well as it is an international dark sky park. Likely you will not see another person in certain areas of the park. Some places I’ve seen more bears than people in 24 hours. I backpack there often and backcountry permits are $5.00, send me a pm if you’re interested in that and I’ll share some gps coordinates of campsites. Also, Pickett State Forest has some amazing 4wd trails and is just outside the park.
 

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Not much help with camping spots, unfortunately, but my wife and I just went from Illinois to Tampa, Fl for a vacation. Sadly not in my Gladiator. Couple places that we stopped at on the way down that you'll be passing in the Chattanooga area are Rock City, and Ruby Falls. Definite places to visit if you've got a half day or even just a few hours. If you're looking to camp in the Southern Illinois area, check out the Shawnee National Forest. There are a lot of places to camp around that area and check out Garden of the Gods while you're there. Congrats on the wedding and have a great trip!!
 

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While out of your way, it time and moon phase permits, the moon bow at Cumberland falls are worth a trip. Its been 10 or 12 years since I went but camping in the park was $10.
 
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sharpsicle

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Thanks again everyone for the suggestions. I've booked a site at Mammoth Cave for our stop on the way up, and Great Smoky Mountains NP on the way back. Super excited to get out there with the Jeep!

I think LBL is on the short list to try out in the coming year or two. I ultimately decided against it as we're going to have wedding stuff with us in the Jeep, so I figured simpler is better for this trip.
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