Trip planning: Spring quickie to the mountains

We went on this little trip in April 2023. This post has been edited to include where we actually went!

We haven’t had the Airstream out since November (despite only finishing the Big Trip #4 posts just a few weeks ago–it took us a while to write everything up!), and we’re itching to hit the road! We are excited to be able to squeeze in a five-night trip in the next couple weeks. Of course we’ll hit our favorite close-by camping/hiking/eating/drinking destination, Asheville, but we’re also planning a couple nights in the West Virginia mountains, and one mystery night between the two.

Nights 1 and 2: West Virginia

dog on table rock canaan mountain backcountry
Adolescent Bugsy in WV near Canaan Valley

Waaaaaaay back before we were even married we bought a tiny weekend cabin near wee Franklin, WV, to entertain friends and explore the area’s phenomenal hiking options. We’ve only been back to the area a couple times since selling the cabin in the early Aughts, so we’re going to spend two days hiking our favorite spots north of Franklin, in the Monongahela National Forest. We’re camping at Seneca Shadows Campground (power only) near Seneca Rocks (a good short hike for poor old Bugsy’s poor old legs) and plan to hike to our favorite waterfall near Spruce Knob.

Nights 4 and 5: Asheville

Bugsy by waterfall in Florence Nature Preserve
hiking near Asheville

The last two nights of our trip will be in Asheville, staying at the usual campground, eating at the usual restaurants, drinking the usual cocktails and beers, and running our usual trail. My goal is for us to try ONE new place; think we can do it when we have so many must-do favorites?

Night 3: ?

That leaves us a night between WV and Asheville. Where should we stay? Below are some of our thoughts, for our future reference. If you don’t want to read it all, I’m currently leaning toward the new campground in Damascus, with one of the new campgrounds in Fayetteville in second place.

Working roughly north to south:

Lewisburg, WV

Lewisburg is a sweet little town; we’ve stayed there in a hotel a couple times, but never in the Airstream. Looking at the map, I see an RV park with no info and bad reviews, and the state fairgrounds–but the official website doesn’t mention camping when the fair’s not going on (although I did find reference to that elsewhere…). Just south of town there’s a campground on the Greenbrier River which is probably a nice spot but riverfront sites are tent-only.

White Sulphur Springs, WV

White Sulphur Springs’ main claim to fame is the huge and posh Greenbrier Resort, but the village has a couple other restaurants along the main drag, and even a brewery. The Greenbrier allows non-guests to visit the property and eat and drink there; it might be fun to dress up and go to a fancy place. The campground in White Sulphur Springs is well-located, but it’s tiny (in one place I read it has five sites, and in another I read eight) and there’s not much info about it online.

Fayetteville, WV

view of the bridge from Long Point Trail
our favorite breakfast spot in Fayetteville

Taking a 20-min longer route to Asheville, we’d pass through Fayetteville, an easy and fun overnight stop. We could get breakfast from Biscuitworld and take them on our favorite little hike in the New River Gorge in the morning before leaving. We really like our usual campground in Fayetteville, but this is a nice-looking new campground on the north side of town, and one of our hangouts, Arrowhead Bike Farm, now has a few RV sites, so we look at trying one of those campgrounds instead.

Abingdon, VA

Abingdon is adorable and has some good food and drink options; we’ve only spent about half a day there when we camped in Damascus but it was enough to make us want to try to stay there sometime. Unfortunately, there are no RV campgrounds near the little downtown area.

Damascus, VA

dog on virginia creeper bike trail
riding the Virginia Creeper Trail in Damascus (note J’s Luckenbach shirt!)

Damascus is just south of Abingdon, a bit off the interstate, but it only adds a total of fifteen minutes to the drive to Asheville. Damascus is known as Trail Town USA; it celebrates the Appalachian Trail and is especially supportive of thru-hikers. It’s cute, walkable, has good food and drink, and just a really cool vibe. Here’s what makes Damascus my top choice for our mystery night: there’s a new campground right in the middle of town.

South Holston Lake, VA/TN

I know nothing about South Holston Lake, a large reservoir straddling the VA-TN line, but it looks pretty in pictures, and there are a couple lakefront campgrounds on the map. The VA-side campground seems huge and busy from its website, not scenic and peaceful like our last lake-front campground. There are a couple in TN that are equally uncompelling, except one that looks promising–but also looks closed.

Bristol, VA/TN

We’ve never been into downtown Bristol, just driven by on the interstate, and the views from the highway have never made us want to stop and explore. But Bristol was named Best Medium Town in Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine’s Best Adventure Towns (over Boone and Charlottesville???), so we should check it out at some point. There’s no good RV camping option close to downtown, though, so exploring Bristol won’t happen anytime soon.

Johnson City, TN

white duck tacos johnson city
we are fans of White Duck Tacos, and Johnson City has some

We’ve spent a couple afternoons in Johnson City: once when we camped nearby in Jonesborough, and then again when we camped in Unicoi. Johnson City has a fun downtown area with interesting bars and restaurants, but there’s nowhere to park an RV close to downtown.

Jonesborough, TN

dog sleeping at riverpark campground jonesborough
our riverfront campsite

On Big Trip #1 we spent two nights in a fantastic riverfront campsite in Jonesborough and enjoyed our site and the nearby hiking so much that we didn’t visit historic downtown Jonesborough. I regretted not popping into town when we were there, so we could spend our mystery night there… a couple riverfront sites are available at our previous campground (now a KOA) now, but looking at the map of downtown Jonesborough, there’s really not much there to entertain us, so maybe we don’t need to rush back there after all.

Watauga Lake, TN

Watauga Lake is another pretty mountain reservoir, in Cherokee National Forest east of Johnson City–not quiiiite on the way but not too far off. The forest service operates a couple very small campgrounds near the lake that are geared toward tent campers and small RVs. This riverfront campground on the west side (closest to the interstate) looks peaceful, but it has a 2-night minimum.

Erwin, TN

sunset over the Airstream and Nolichucky River
Nolichucky sunset

We loved our stay in Erwin at USA Raft’s Resort in late 2021. Our site had a view of the Nolichucky River, and the resort has trails and a little beach and a fun outdoor bar with fire pits and local beverages. Unfortunately, since then all the RV sites have been relocated two miles down the road to USA Raft’s new Red Banks Outpost facility. I’m sure it’s a nice place to stay, but part of the appeal was walking over to the Tavern.

Andddd those are the candidates. Where would you choose?

So where did we end up going?

Our itinerary went a little cockeyed from the start, because J was driving home from Maryland the morning we were due to leave with the Airstream, and didn’t want to be in a car alllll day. That meant we’d spend the first night somewhere closer to home than Seneca Rocks and drive straight through from Seneca Rocks to Asheville. But then we changed our mind about that, too. Here’s what we did, and it was a super trip!

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