David and I were able to stay at some pretty awesome campgrounds on our trip and I'd love to share pictures and descriptions of each so you can know where to go when you're in the area.
Mary Smith Campground and Lewiston Lake
Heading up Highway 5, northwest of Redding, in the midsts of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest lies this camper's dreamland.
On entering the campground you pass a cluster of tent sites and also a few recently added glamping units facing the lake on your right. Continue following the road along the lake and you'll find more sites tucked in the trees to your left, a bit more private and spacious than those of the first group. We chose the the sites up in the trees, obviously (lovebird camping). It was absolutely lovely being enveloped by pines and yet still having a gorgeous view of the lake.
This campground has only 17 units, for tents only – no trailers here. I grew up camping in a pop-up tent and I'm sure some day I'll return to a more glamorous version of camping, but for now, I enjoy our little tent and it was nice to look around at our surroundings and see others doing the same. Like I said, I'm sure I'll want more some day, but I think I can vouch for other tent campers when I say that it's nice to have the simplicity of tent camping being cherished still.
There is so much to be explored and enjoyed around this campground. If you head back onto the main road and continue north you'll find more campgrounds (not as awesome as Mary-Smith, in my opinion) and a few spots on the side of the road with boat access. We relaxed at a day-use site called Pine Cove Recreational Area complete with a boat ramp, picnic tables, a little island close by, and a short foot pier to jump off or fish from. The water is cold so watch out, but it is quite refreshing to take a dip if you're feeling a bit light-headed from the sun.
It's the easy enjoyment of your surroundings that makes camping so desirable, and I will tell you that Mary Smith Campground and Lewiston Lake offered just that. We could have spent a whole day just exploring in the trees and water by our site.
Hunting, Kayaking, Fishing, Boating, Hiking, Off-Roading, Relaxing – this place has it all!
In the short day we stayed in this area our eyes were constantly being opened and our jaws dropped. We saw plenty of deer, munched on wild blackberries, drove through walls and walls of trees, witnessed a baby bear gallop out of the brush (true story), enjoyed a lovely view of Trinity Lake and its Dam, saw the sun dance on the water's edge and through openings in the trees, and even had time to peruse the nearby city of Lewiston looking for firewood (not much happening there, but you can see an interesting picture display of locals' wildlife catches from fishing and hunting in the gas station/market – pretty unique).
I wish we could have stayed longer. Mary Smith had a perfect balance of excitement and relaxation. It was easy to sit by the lake for hours on end and in a minute jump up to find adventure. Clear, sunny skies, ample greenery, and water galore marks its territory. It would be a great place to spend a week hiking, fishing, relaxing on the water's edge, and enjoying some good ol' camp vibes.
Campground Pluses and Minuses:
+Far enough away from big cities
+No bear notices
+All sites close to water's edge
+Water faucet on camp site
+Glampsites available (for those who like to do outdoors with a real bed)
-Bit of a trek into the mountains (if you don't like that kind of thing)
-Most sites don't have parking close up (meaning you have to carry belongings to and from site)
-Water from faucet was sometimes discolored (yellowish, possibly from pipes)
-Only open May-Sept
On a scale of 1 to 10 I give this place a solid 10. Either we came at the perfect time of year where everything is booming with beauty, or this area is just always spectacular. We were very impressed and enjoyed every minute of our stay. We wil definitely be coming back. Hope to see you there too!