We started with just a few pieces of camping gear that D had leftover from his Yellowstone/college days, so we were basically building up from scratch. I will make a separate post about our gear once we have more camping trips under our belt. There are tons of blogs and articles by experienced campers with great information on buying gear on a budget. I may mention a few things we bought that really helped us out, otherwise, I will primarily stick to our experience.
I read about multiple sites before choosing Backbone Rock and I’m so glad that we chose this spot. We decided on a two-night stay just to see how everything went. Beaver Dam Creek runs directly behind the campsite so you will fall asleep listening to the water. The creek is gorgeous with crystal clear water and beautiful rhododendrons and trees for shade.
Backbone Rock Campground is just outside of Damascus VA, so you are very close to the Creeper trail if you want to bring your bikes along. I posted more about the Creeper Trail here.
The campsite has 10 spots and a host spot, so it is not crowded at all. We went at the beginning of Covid, so this was one of the reasons I chose this site. The spots are a good size with trees separating them. Each spot has its own fire pit and lantern poles. There is a water source between every few spots. There is one central bathroom separated into men’s and women’s that was kept clean and stocked with toilet paper while we were there. You will need to bring your own soap and paper towels/towels. There is no shower on site. The town of Damascus has a Food City and just is a short drive away. We were able to get firewood and a couple of things we needed while we were there.
A little bit about each camping spot…
We camped in spot #5 and really enjoyed this location.
Spots #1 and #2 are closest to the main road.
Spot #3 is really nice but is a double spot.
Spots #4 through #6 are the ones I will choose from when we return.
Spot #7 is directly across from the bathroom.
Spot #8 is another double.
Spots #9 and #10 are right across from the host and a little less private.
(You can view a map of the campground here)
There are multiple paths down to the water behind each campsite. We found it easiest to walk to the path behind spot #4 to reach the creek. There are some steps down to the creek if you go all the way down the path behind the first couple of campsites.
We enjoyed that this was a quiet site that felt very safe. The host was nice and approachable if needed but mostly kept to himself. We never felt intruded upon, which I had read can be an issue in some places. There were only two or three other sites occupied while we were there so it was a peaceful and relaxed environment.
Our oldest son is allergic to dairy and soy, so even simple things like graham crackers can be difficult to find for him. My husband found this tasty and simple recipe for dairy free graham crackers in case you have special dietary needs, (pictured on left ⬇️). Everyone should be able to have a s’more!
There were a few simple things we got that helped us out a ton on this trip:
1. This portable clothesline was great to hook around trees and hang wet bathing suits/towels to dry. We spent our afternoons in the creek so we had a lot of wet items.
2. Instead of investing in padding to go under the kids’ sleeping bags, we used foam square tiles to cover the floor under where the kids slept. They are so light that it provided plenty of cushion without the cost. We have found lots of other uses for them since then.
3. Glow sticks worked great in the tent as night lights for the boys. They were fun to play with outside in the evening and then they created a dim glow in the tent that eventually just burned out through the night.
4. The last thing that really helped was to have a collapsable basket outside the tent to throw muddy shoes in. This kept our tent cleaner and all the kids shoes contained in one spot. We did end up putting our dog’s crate in the tent with us, so we were packed in tight! We made a lot of fun memories in those couple days.
Aside from the nearby Creeper Trail, there are a couple of short hiking trails within walking distance from the campground. We drove just because the road is narrow going through the tunnel and we felt it would be easier to park and go to the trailheads from there with the boys. Backbone Rock Tunnel is a man-made tunnel that used to have a train going through. You can hike on a short trail, (Backbone Rock Trail- 0.4 miles), up to the top, and cross over the tunnel. There is a lot of signage about staying close by little ones. There is a part that only has a guard rail on one side only. The boys did fine at their ages, but I wouldn’t want to go up there by myself with multiple adventurous toddlers.
Backbone Falls Trail is another short trail, (0.3 miles), going to a waterfall. Again, the signage warned about staying with small kids on the trail. It was a steep trail for sure, but as long as you are right with small children, I think it is fine for them to do. Both trails were very short. We did both of them in one afternoon.
Overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better first camping trip experience. We plan to come back to this spot again because we absolutely loved the creek area, but we hope to try out some more sites next year!