Cheoah Point Campground Review

The location on Santeetlah Lake makes this an ideal base camp for daily adventures in the western North Carolina mountains..

Mike Rhodes | December 26, 2019

When I was younger, summer was my favorite season of the year. No school and a trip to the beach made it the clear winner. I’ve been out of school for more than 30 years now, I lived at the beach for five years, and I haven’t had a spring break since 1988. Summer has lost its luster. Fall is the current ranking champion in our house. Cooler weather, UGA football, deer season and colorful leaves.

As my October vacation days were approaching, I was looking to escape the heat. Heck, it was still in the 90s in the north Georgia mountains in October. Where could I go get some good hikes and not sweat all night sleeping in a tent?

Western North Carolina came to mind.

The last time I had been to Robbinsville, North Carolina, I was carrying my oldest son in a back pack as my wife Tracey and I hiked the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Michael graduated in 2017, so it had been a minute.

I pulled out of the driveway early on a Wednesday morning for a solo trip with Cheoah Point Campground plugged into my GPS. Having never been there before, I wanted to arrive early to increase my odds of picking a prime site.

Cheoah Point Recreation Area is in the Nantahala National Forest. The campground is open March 31 to October 31. There are 23 sites, and 17 of those are first-come, first-pick, and the other five are RV sites that can be reserved in advance.

Initially I was disappointed as I pulled in and drove a loop around the campground. The sites were right on the loop road. Many of them are stacked tight together with no real separation from the site next door. On the bright side, it was 11:45 on a Wednesday morning, so there were plenty of campsites to choose from. As I looped a second time, I notice parking for some walk-in sites. No cars parked there, and all four site signs without reservation slips attached. This was me!

I grabbed my tent and collapsing chair and started down the trail. These sites are situated on a small peninsula sticking out into Santeetlah Lake. They are larger with more trees and privacy from neighboring sites. No electricity, no water. All have decent views of the lake, but site 17 is at the end of the trail and has THE view. That’s where I dropped my chair and setup my tent.

It took me a few trips to get all my gear, but about 30 minutes later camp was set. I drove back to the check-in board, got an envelope filled out, put in some cash for my stay, and tore off the part that clips to the site sign. I met the camp hosts as I was headed back to clip my reservation slip to the board. They handed me a local map with a list of hiking trails and gave me a heads up on where to buy firewood.

I ventured up the road a fews miles to find the trailhead for Yellow Creek Falls. This is a short out and back trail that is less than a mile roundtrip. Not much elevation change, but the trail has plenty of roots and rocks. Wear good hiking shoes or boots. The falls at the end of the trail is a nice payoff for a short walk. I didn’t spend much time there, but it was perfect for a late afternoon hike before heading back to camp.

By the time I got back to camp, the sites were filling up fast. Sites 14 and 15 had campers Wednesday night. Site 16 was filled sometime Thursday afternoon. The place was full by Friday morning. I mention this as a reminder that with first-come first-pick campgrounds, there is a risk. I’ve pulled into some on a Friday afternoon and couldn’t find a spot.

If you get shut out, there are some fall-back options in the Robbinsville area. Along with Horse Cove campground, you will find several established forest service campsites scattered along the banks of Santeetlah Lake. If you prefer flush toilets and warm showers, these are not for you. You’ll find a few vault chemical toilets here, but that is about it.

I used Cheoah Point as a base camp for day hikes, which I will share during another Camp, Hike the Southeast blog.

I can also see just hanging around the campground all day during the warmer months. They have a sandy beach area on the lake. Plenty of swimming and fishing to be found. For me though, I’m not sure I would enjoy any sites other than 14 – 17. Personal preference.

The bath houses could use some care and weren’t the cleanest I’ve found. They serve their purpose, and if your family wants to have flush toilets and showers, you’re covered here.

What I Learned About Cheoah Point Campground

It’s first-come first-pick here. Get there early. Midweek if you can. The cost is $20 a night for tent sites and $25 a night for the RV sites. The bathrooms are functional but could use some maintenance. Most tent sites are on the loop road and tight quarters with your neighbors. It’s about a 12-minute drive to downtown Robbinsville if you need supplies. Santeetlah Lake is beautiful with wispy clouds over the water each morning and sunsets that will make your chin drop in awe.

While I was in Robbinsville I hiked Yellow Creek Falls, Stecoah Gap Loop trail and Huckleberry Knob trail. The 360-degree view atop Huckleberry Knob will remain a favorite of mine. You can find these hikes on the AllTrails app. This has become my go-to app for finding trails when I’m headed to a new location.

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