We have survived our first camping trip with two toddlers! I know a lot of people have already done this successfully, but it was a big jump for us. We came out of it alive, and for that reason, I’m considering our trip a resounding success. Devil’s Fork State Park was the perfect place to jumpstart our camping hobby!
I’ve already received a few messages asking for tips for camping with toddlers. After just one trip, I feel incredibly unequipped to answer this question. We’re going on a second trip at the end of July, and I’m thinking by then I might feel a little more confident. All this to be a disclaimer that this post is not giving camping tips for toddlers. It’s simply to share the absolute beauty of Devil’s Fork State Park. Share what there is to do, some info about it, and tips for going.
A Little BTS on Devil’s Fork State Park
I had never heard of this place until doing some Pinteresting. It popped up, looked gorgeous, saw it was only 2.5 hours from us, and I booked it. Devil’s Fork State Park is located in Salem, SC, and it is the only public access point to Lake Jocassee. Lake Jocassee is an incredibly stunning lake fed by mountain streams and waterfalls. The water is impossibly clear. Like, I’ve not seen clearer water since the oceans in Puerto Rico, and even that’s a toss up. The fact that it is the only public access point to the lake makes this park incredibly popular- and busy. Devil’s Fork State Park was also incredibly family friendly! So many families with kids of all ages, and we never felt unsafe or like the park was dangerous with them.
What to Do
So what do you do here? So glad you asked. This park seems popular mostly for its water access.
There is a swimming area (though let me clarify. There are signs that say it is not a designated swimming area. However. Everyone swims there and there is a barrier to prevent boats and kayaks from coming into said non-swimming area. So for my purposes, I’m calling it a swim area.)! The water is chilly but honestly takes not much time to get used it. There are a few places to stretch a blanket, but the “beach” is a tiny stretch of sand with mostly a hill of rocks behind it. On top of said hill is a big grassy area, but if you have small kids, prepare to be in the water. You can bring floats and lounges and rafts and just enjoy a little lake afternoon! The kids had a blast swimming and playing with rocks. We stayed here all afternoon Friday after we arrived!
Anything on the water! We took our kayaks and spent the whole day kayaking to a waterfall on Saturday. So many people brought boats and kayaks and paddle boards. They have 3 boat ramps you can enter from. Devil’s Fork State Park also offers a ton of different rental- boats, canoes, rafts, paddle boards, and kayaks. You can go on boat tours. Truly anything. We saw so many people on boats going tubing and water skiing- definitely made me want to go buy a boat!
Waterfalls! There are four waterfalls that go into the lake. I think the majority of them are most easily accessible by boat. We went to Wright’s Creek Falls, and it took us about 2 hours to kayak there from the boat ramp. A long time, basically. The other ones seemed even farther, so probably would not recommend those unless you have a boat. Or are a very good kayaker. Our paddle out there was totally worth it, though, as the waterfall was gorgeous! We spent some time there swimming and eating lunch and just enjoying the beautiful view.
Camping. We loved just being able to hang at the campsite a little bit. There are some small trails that wind around the park that are only accessible via the camping area. These led to some cool rocks Dan jumped off of, some beautiful swimming alcoves, and hidden little beaches. Definitely worth exploring!
Oconee Bell Trail. As this park is definitely more lake-based, there’s not a ton of hiking. Oconee Bell Trail is a one mile nature trail loop that can offer you the chance to see beautiful endangered flowers in the spring. We didn’t make it over here as we spent a lot of time exploring around the camping area, but if we come again, we will definitely check it out!
Jumping Off Rock. So this is technically 20ish minutes away from Devil’s Fork State Park, but it’s a lookout that’s listed as one of the top sites in the world! It overlooks Lake Jocassee and all the gorges. Some things to keep in mind, though- the road to get up there is steep, gravel, and better in an SUV or 4WD vehicle. The entrance is really hard to find. Like, really hard. When we finally found it, it was closed. Apparently two people died recently (I know that’s not much motivation to check it out), so they had it on a seasonal schedule and wasn’t open when we were there. I’m more recommending this because I’m incredibly disappointed I didn’t get to do it.
Where to Stay
You have a few options when it comes to staying at Devil’s Fork State Park.
The first option is camping. Obviously. This park has 25 tent camp sites, plus one boat in site. You don’t pull your car up to your spot, so just keep that in mind. There are 39 trailer/camper spots. It is a 2 night minimum stay here when camping, so keep that in mind.
They also have villas you can rent. A few of these just became dog friendly in January. If camping is not up your alley, definitely make sure to check out the villas.
Airbnb. Local rentals around here seemed to be pretty big. A thing with that, though, is that you do have to pay to enter the park. If you stay off site, you’ll have to pay each day. Because it also gets busy, you’ll have to wake up early to ensure you get in. It would definitely be my recommendation to stay on site via camping or the villas!
Things to Know about Devil’s Fork State Park
Again, Devil’s Fork State Park is the only park with public access to the lake. As a result, this place gets crazy on the weekends. It’s not uncommon for the park to fill up and for there to be a line to enter. If you plan on going for a day, you will need to get there early. If you camp and stay the two nights, I recommend going on a Friday-Sunday. Weekdays are not as busy as weekends, so you’ll have a faster time checking in, and part of the day without all the crowds. Since we were kayaking all day Saturday, the crowds at the park didn’t bother us. We saw lots of boats and people on the water, but with such a big lake, it’s hard to feel crowded. When we left Sunday, however, the lines were insane to get in. We were grateful we were leaving that day- I’m sure Saturday would have been much the same.
Book early if you want to camp! I went to book out campsite in January or February, and there was only 1 weekend in June with 2 campsites open. This place seems like it gets a lot of regulars. With only 25 sites, I highly recommend booking early, even if it seems far away! (camp sites do have restrooms and showers)
You pay to get in. This doesn’t apply if you paid for a campsite. Otherwise, adults are $8, children are $5, and kids under 3 are free. Just to keep in mind if you feel like a day trip!
We went on a Friday and left on Sunday. Camping check in was 2 pm, but we were able to check in early 1pm. We parked, found our camp site, and started taking everything to our site (a wagon would have been so helpful here). We spent a little bit of time getting set up, then hit the non-swimming-area-swimming area! This was such a fun and relaxing spot, and the kids had the best time.
After dinner at the campsite, we spent some time wandering and exploring. The kids ended up swimming (again), so the only camping tip I’ll give here is to take lots of extra clothes, ha!
Saturday was kayaking day! We had looked up a waterfall we wanted to find, but it would also have been so fun to just paddle along the shore and find fun spots to get out and swim. The waterfall was Wright Creek Falls, and as mentioned above, it took about 2 hours to paddle there from one of the boat access points. We used Google Maps to help find it. This seemed to only be accessible via the water as there was no where to go on land nearby (other than a tiny trail that could take you to the top of the waterfall). Then it was a 2 hour paddle back. The water is just impossibly clear here, so we couldn’t resist jumping out in the middle of the lake along the way to cool off!
We spent the later afternoon exploring a little more and eating and tending to my fried skin (so sunburnt). And then Sunday we packed up and left after breakfast! I feel like the long weekend was the perfect amount of time to spend here, especially with such little kids! They were constantly wanting to go-go-go, and so Dan and I were tired and ready for our real bed! But it was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad we got this first trip under our belt!
Have you been?! If so, what was your favorite experience at Devil’s Fork State Park??
If you’re looking for a NC state park, make sure to check out Chimney Rock State Park!