Camping at Falls Lake

This weekend, I took my almost-eight-year-old son for his first camping trip.  Some long-time family friends of ours have kids that are close in age to our children. We gathered the two families for a dinner including hot dogs roasted over a roaring fire, followed up with the always-popular s’mores. A bit before the 8pm park-closing, the wives took the younger children home, leaving my friend and I and our two sons to camp for the night.

If you have kids, then you know we didn’t get much sleep, but we did have a great adventure that we hope our boys will always remember.

We stayed at Shinleaf, part of the Falls Lake State Recreation Area. Shinleaf offers about 45 hike-in camping sites that include a fire pit and a good-sized picnic table. We had a bit of trouble finding a spot for my friend’s enormous (sleeps 6!) tent, but settled on a site that was close to the lake and offered a bit of privacy. Camping is available at Shinleaf from mid-March through October. Other camps at Falls Lake offer year-round camping. One of the things that worked in our favor is that Shinleaf doesn’t charge a per-car entrance fee like some of the other Falls Lake Campgrounds.

On this warm Fall day, we had the camp pretty much to ourselves. I figure there were only about 5 sites in use. Reservations can be made up until 2 days before your visit by phone or online. Otherwise, sites are first-come. You can pick an unoccupied site, drop your tent on it and put your $18/night fee in the collection-box near the parking lot.

The camp at Shinleaf features 3 restroom buildings. The main one has showers, too. The two smaller restrooms (one of which was convenient to our camp-site) were closed. It appears that they’re only open during the busy parts of the season. Shinleaf is located a bit north of Blue Jay Point and can be accessed by the NC Moutains-to-Sea trail.

The only down-side of camping at Shinleaf is that it’s in the flight path for RDU. Thankfully, the frequency of flights drops a bit by late evening.

After doing a bit of prep for breakfast (chocolate chip pancakes!), we walked down to the lake. We were treated to a visit by one of the lakes bald eagles, out hunting for it’s breakfast.