Camping on Lake Barkley

Sunrise on Lake Barkley
Shawn Dunnaway

Roughin' It - Basic & Dispersed Camping

If you love camping but crave the serenity, peace and quiet of nature, basic or dispersed camping (also known as backcountry camping) may be what the doctor ordered.

Backcountry/Dispersed Camping

Throughout Land Between The Lakes, there are hundreds of incredible spots to pitch a tent.  You'll be in the middle of nowhere, potentially miles from civilization with only yourself and nature.

The best places, in our opinion, are along the shores of Lake Barkley on the eastern end of LBL or Kentucky Lake's shoreline in the west.  Drive down an old gravel road, just park by your site or get out and hike to your destination.  There are a few places where dispersed camping isn't allowed:

  • Within cemeteries, picnic areas, and day-use areas
  • With horses
  • Nightly fee campgrounds
  • Colson Hollow Group Camp
  • Brandon Spring Group Center
  • Woodlands Nature Watch Area between Mulberry Flat Road and Silver Trail Road, east of Taylor Bay to Lake Barkley
  • Within 200 yards of US68/KY80, Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway (formerly The Trace), Mulberry Flat, Silver Trail, KY Lake Drive, and Fort Henry roads
  • Within 200 yards of any public day-use facility, Nature Watch Demonstration Area in TN south of Ft. Henry Road, or Central Hardwoods Scenic Trail

There is a maximum stay of 14 nights during any 30 consecutive days. On day 15, camping unit and occupants must move off Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Other regulations apply, see this link for details.

Purchase Basic & Dispersed Camping Permits Here 

Basic Campgrounds & Camping Areas

Some may prefer a touch of amenities when camping, such as a vault toilet, trash cans, mowed areas and perhaps even a boat ramp.  Basic Camping Areas feature some of these amenities with these areas:

Basic Campgrounds are a step up from Basic Camping Areas.  You'll find defined campsites, fire rings and/or grills, picnic tables, vault toilet, trash cans, mowed areas and a boat ramp.  These Basic Campgrounds are:

  • Twin Lakes

Purchase Camping Permits Here  

Self-Service Campgrounds

Just a tad step up from the basic and dispersed camping options, there are three self-service campgrounds in Land Between The Lakes.  They offer a source of drinking water, designated campsite pads, picnic tables, grills, fire rings, vault toilets, trash service, lake access and boat ramps.  You'll simply pay a nightly free for each camping unit.

Here you'll choose a site, fill out a provided fee envelope, insert your camping fee and deposit the envelope in the "Iron Ranger" fee collector at the entrance of the campground.

Firewood & Other Camping Rules

It's important to not import your own firewood into Land Between The Lakes due to the potential introduction of invasive critters.  LBL would like you to use local sources for firewood (such as felled trees, limbs or sticks).  Also, whatever wood you pile up for a campfire, please burn it all.  And don't forget to put your fire out completely before leaving.

All camping in Land Between The Lakes are subject to rules and regulations.  Check these out here.