Review: North Shore Campground, Lake Arrowhead, CA

North Shore was the first camping trip Darren and I took solo.

Just before the trip, we were gifted with some pretty special gear: My dad’s old camping stuff. Lest you think my camping roots go deep, let me correct you.

coffee pot camping percolator

Dad’s old coffee pot.

After Dad and my stepmom Lorraine were married, they took off for a one-night honeymoon while the kids went back to the house with Nana and Granddad. In the middle of the night, they returned with an RV that belonged to Nana and Granddad and announced that we were going to Disneyland and staying at the KOA Campground.

For that trip, Dad and Lorraine purchased a brand-new lantern, grill and coffee pot. Thirty years later, the items were handed down to us, barely touched. But not entirely unused; my brother-in-law made a vain attempt to get my sister into camping and gear had been sitting in his garage ever since.

Okay, okay. I’m being a bit of a windbag.

The review

Caveat: We took our trip to Lake Arrowhead in September 2011. Things may have changed since then, but I doubt it’s all that drastic. Still… check before you head out!

A few tips:

Whatever you do, avoid buying firewood from the nursery on 173. They charge $12 a bundle in an area where much cheaper options are to be had.

Instead, here’s what you do: Drive about five miles up the road (pass Hospital Road and all that). Eventually you’ll see a sign for a wood mill. Turn in there and they’ll load you up right. The guy there charged me $5 a bundle, but I’m pretty sure we got wa-a-a-a-a-y more than that. The owner suggests calling ahead, since there’s not always someone there: 909-677-9047.

The camp host is also reasonably priced at $7. Jensen’s is no good, either. I don’t know what they charge, but it’s all pine and nothing else.

Do not use Google Maps to get here. They’re going to send you off on some crazy forest service road, which was really great for the shocks on my Honda Civic. Thank you, Google. Just go up 173 and turn right on Hospital Road. Any other directions are stupid.

Site No. 20 seemed to be one of the nicest. It’s away from the main road and faces the mountains. There isn’t much shade at that site, so be sure to bring a canopy or some other kind of shade.

The good

The things we liked about this place:

  • Camp host is super nice and helpful.
  • Campsites are large and fairly private. We could hear other people (especially the jackass who felt that his campsite was the perfect place to blast Leta Ford and Ozzy Osbourne), but it was generally quiet in terms of hearing other people.
  • Big picnic tables.
  • The bathrooms are very, very clean. They even smell good! When have you ever said that about a campsite bathroom? Never, probably.
  • If you’re running low on wood, you can gather anything on the ground. Nice if you’re in a pinch.
  • There’s water.
  • Dog friendly.
  • Near town if you want to get outside of camp and go see the area or just load up on some things you forgot.

The things we weren’t so crazy about

  • The grills on the fire rings are teeny, tiny and grossly malformed. This isn’t a campground made for people who like to cook adventurously when they camp.
  • Our site (No. 22) was listed as “partial shade,” which pretty much meant a sliver of shade between two trees. Do not get partial shade sites if you don’t have a canopy (like us).
  • You can hear the road from many of the campsites, and you can hear the boats in the lake during the day as well.
  • Our view wasn’t terribly inspiring, as it looked right over the hospital. Again, campsite No. 20 seems to have the nicest view.
  • Again, not North Shore’s fault, but Google Maps sent us on a wild goose chase. Use the directions given on http://Recreation.gov (which are essentially: Take the 173 to Hospital Road and follow it right up).
  • No signage in the campgrounds. Once we finally found it, we had to drive all over looking for our site. Even the numbers on the posts are hard to read from the road. Not fun after a long drive.
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