Sunday, October 2, 2011

Winton Woods Campground Review

This past Friday, we kicked off our fall camping season with a stay at the Winton Woods Campground that is part of the Hamilton County Park system in Cincinnati. It was just about an hour drive for us, and we were immediately impressed with how nice the campground was. The Hamilton County Park system is truly a gem for the Cincinnati resident. They currently sell entrance passes for $10 for one year, with a $5 rebate for available for residents. Otherwise, entrance fees are $3 per vehicle.

We were able to get a campsite rather last minute when a lot of other parks and campgrounds were booked solid. Our campsite (#21) backed right up to the lake, and had a fair amount of level area to pitch a few tents. Sites were generously spaced apart too, so you did not feel like you were on top of one another. In the tent camping area, there were also plenty of tall, mature trees that really added to the camping experience (something many new campgrounds often lack). This campground was quiet, clean and family friendly. There was a playground for the kids and a nice sized bathhouse not too far from most of the sites.

It was a little windy and chilly during our stay (night time temperatures were close to 40 degrees F), but we stayed warm with our wool hiking socks, 20 degree REI down sleeping bags (which were super toasty and comfy), Therm-a-rest sleeping pads and our REI Half Dome tent. We dressed our 15 month old daughter in lots of layers (for sleeping she wore 2 footed sleepers, the outer fleece, with a wool hat and mittens), and she stayed warm as well. We did actually forget our own gloves, but extra hiking socks helped with our cold hands during morning camp chores!

Here are a few things you should know if you plan to camp there:

1. Sites can be reserved online, and there are no minimum night stays. This was important to us since we could only camp one night and it had to be on a Friday night due to Rob's work schedule. During our stay, the rates were $25 a night for the standard electric sites (30 amp), and there are no online reservation fees to mess with either. The nice thing about this campground is that you can view pictures of each and every campsite prior to booking! I LOVE this feature as I am all about getting the perfect campsite. Sites 8, 9, and 10 are very nice and spacious. Sites 22 and 23 are also very nice and preferable if you need multiple flat tent sites.

2. The new RV area is not shaded in the middle section, so be prepared if you get a spot there. Sites 13F through 2F would probably be preferable if you were RVing it, since they back up right into the woods.

3. The campstore sells hot food, including pizza you can order straight to your campsite (I guess this is handy if your campfire goes disastrously wrong, lol). They also have firewood available for sale for $4.99 a bundle. The firewood is not the greatest however, so bring your own (if you live in the area, otherwise don't move firewood!) and plenty of kindling if you can. The campstore is really a very nice building and has all the basics stocked in case you forget something important. The hours were 10am-8pm during our stay, so a late evening arrival still allows you time to get what you need.

4. Reserve online and early. Weekends book up fast, especially during prime camping season such as early and mid-fall. We were lucky to get a site a little over a week in advance, but the next two weeks are already entirely booked through. So book early if you can!

5. They also have deluxe as well as basic camping cabins available for those that prefer that route. I would stay away from the camping cabins 1, 2 and 5 though since they are in a very high traffic area. Although I didn't get to look inside, it appeared that the basic cabins had window AC units in them (check with the campground office though to be sure). This would be a really nice option if camping in the hot summer. The deluxe cabins are open year round, but the basic cabins are not. Price for the basic is $50 a night and the deluxe is $125 a night.

All in all, our stay at the Winton Woods campground was enjoyable and surprisingly quiet despite its proximity to the city. We are looking forward to our next stay, as soon as campsites are available that is! This is definitely a favorite campground we'll be returning to again and again.

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