Review: Koomer Ridge Campground
'Camp, Hike The Southeast' visits Koomer Ridge, a semi-primitive campground with easy access to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky.
I rarely set out on a camping trip between Easter and Labor Day. I am a tent camper and frankly, it’s too darn hot for my liking in the summer. However, I made an exception last week after reading about the Red River Gorge area of Kentucky. I poked around on the internet and Koomer Ridge Campground was right up my alley.
Koomer Ridge is a U.S. Forest Service campground in Pine Ridge, Kentucky. It’s open year-round as a first-come, first-get campground. It has 54 sites and most are set up for tents rather than RVs. There are water spigots throughout the grounds, but no water or electricity at the sites. There are a few vault toilets in the campground, as well as a central bathhouse with flush toilets and warm showers. The bathhouse is closed during the winter season, but water remains available year-round.
I pulled into the campground at 6:30 p.m., stopped at the self-check-in station to grab the pay envelope I would need to complete after claiming my site, and then made a slow drive through the main road with two loops. To my surprise, most of the campsites were already claimed. Driving through the campground I was able to get a pretty good lay of the land as I searched for an open site. I passed a vault toilet in the back loop and then the central bathhouse as I was coming back out, but still no luck on an open campsite. I completed the loop and realized my choices were limited to four sites, two on the road and two that required me to park and then walk up a set of stairs to the campsite. I chose Site 3 on the road.
I had only taken my tent out of the truck at Site 3, so I pulled out my Rugged Road Outdoors cooler and camp chair and set those at Site 44, and then drove over to find the camp host. I explained that I had set my tent on Site 3, put my payment in the iron tube and then stumbled upon Site 44 before asking if it would be a problem if I changed sites. I got the OK, so I rode over, grabbed my tent and set it up for the second time in 30 minutes.
Site 44 was much more private than any of the sites I saw on the main loop. Site 45 was probably 75 yards away, and the trees, shrubs and other vegetation were so thick you couldn’t even see the campers in that site. It’s about a 20-yard walk down a slight hill from the road to to the tent pad and picnic tables, which isn’t bad for the privacy gained. Another benefit was the volume of cars on this spur was limited compared to the other side.
I got my camp set up pretty fast, made a sandwich and plopped down in my camp chair as night began to take over the campground. I had picked up some firewood from the camp host but realized it was too hot to put a match to any of it that night so I climbed into the tent under the full moon rising in the sky. I hadn’t noticed this earlier, but Koomer is situated just off of the Bert Combs Mountain Parkway and I could hear the rumblings of vehicles in the distance. It’s not overwhelming at all, but it’s there so expect a little of the traffic sounds.
The Red River Gorge area is loaded with hiking trails of varying lengths and skill levels. Koomer has a trailhead parking area on the walk-in site’s side. From there you can access the Koomer Ridge Trail, the Hidden Arch Trail and the Silver Arch Trail. There is an amphitheater in the campground with scheduled Saturday evening events during the summer. There is also the Cliff Trail which is short and ideal for a quick family hike within the campground.
I stayed two nights at Koomer. I’ve always been partial to Forest Service campgrounds, and this one lived up to my expectations. For the most part, the sites are spaced apart to give campers a bit of privacy from other sites. The number of trees and other vegetation provide screening from other sites, so you aren’t staring at the campers next door as you enjoy your meals. The bathhouse was mostly clean and could use some additional care, but I have definitely seen worse.
Overall, Koomer Ridge Campground is one that I would recommend for both solo and family camping. The sites are clean, well-spaced and mostly level. If you’re an RV camper this might not be a great choice. Not because of the amenities, but because there are only about 15 sites that can accommodate RVs.
I will definitely go back to the Red River Gorge area, and when I do I’ll hope to find the same site at Koomer Ridge—but I will do it sometime between Labor Day and Easter when I can sit next to a fire without dripping sweat.
• Open all year
• 54 campsites – eight walk-ins, 15 RV and 33 tent sites
• Three vault toilets available year-round
• One central bathhouse with flush toilets and warm showers, which is closed during the winter months
• Self-check-in, so be sure to have a check or cash
• Ten water spigots placed throughout the campground
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