Our Dry Camping (or Boondocking if you will) adventures this Spring have been taking us down some interesting roads to beautiful spots in the middle of nowhere. But often cell signal has been weak, and the nearest town may be 45 minutes away or a town may be too small to get supplies. But we struck gold at Meriwether Lewis National Monument Campground near the town of Hohenwald, Tennessee. Find out why this is one of the best free campgrounds in Tennessee.
Update November 13, 2017
National Park Service
This is Tennessee National Parks Camping!!
The Meriweither Lewis National Monument sits on the Tennessee portion of the Natchez Trace managed by the National Park Service. The grounds, trails, facilities and campsite are kept in impeccable condition by the dedicated staff. There is an information center (Open Friday – Sunday) where you can learn about the Natchez Trace and Meriwether Lewis, one of America’s great explorers.
Being part of the National Park Service really gives you a strong feeling of security and competence to the dry camping experience.
Remarkably though, the campground is FREE AND no advance reservations are needed. Accommodations are on a first come first served basis. If you pull up and see an open spot, you can take it whether you are in a tent, trailer, Class A or Skoolie.
Meriwether Lewis Campground allows for a maximum of 14 consecutive days, and a total of 30 days of camping per year.
Oh, and yes, you can use your generator until quiet time. But you’ll feel guilty like we did every time we ran it.
Paved, Level Sites
Dry Camping often means bumpy roads, strange directions, and questionable sites. Meriwether Lewis Campground, however is quite the opposite. The monument and campground are easy to reach by major roads so your GPS/iPhone/Android won’t let you down.
The campground consists of 32 sites in two loops, with most of them being pull throughs (no worries about backing in) in little turnouts from the loop roads.
All sites are asphalt and quite level (not perfect, but good).
There is also 1 ADA accessible site on a concrete pad located by the toilets.
Sites do not have water, sewer, or electricity. We are dry camping after all aren’t we?
If you are like us however, you’ll start to fantasize about being a campground host here… the 1 host site has water, sewer, and electricity.
A note: our Verizon Hotspot received adequate signal to be able to browse the internet and easily watch Netflix at a low data level (we did not sample Netflix at an HD level).
They Have Toilets, NOT Port-a-Potties!
These are the mintiest smelling toilets you’ll ever experience while Dry Camping. Seriously.
The toilets at the campground, by Swann Creek, and at the entrance are super clean, and smell great. You’ll feel bad violating the airspace taking care of business. No worries though. They’ll be minty again soon enough.
These full flush toilets, plumbing and warm air hand dryers, are open around the clock for when you have need of civilization.
Additionally, there are a couple electrical outlets too, so if you’re desperate, you can charge up your cell phone in your hour of need…
Hiking and Streams
Most Dry Camping sites we’ve been to have had access to hiking, but the low utilization of the trails and campgrounds have made us feel a little hesitant to go out on a hike.
Meriwether Lewis Campground however has well trod, but clean and inviting trails in two loops in addition to the Natchez Trace running through the park.
Our children had a great time completing a scavenger hunt from the campground down to Swann Creek and back up along the road.
We also had the opportunity to go for a chilly dip in Little Swann Creek. Recent rains had the creek running full and a few spots near the parking lot at Little Swann Creek were close to three feet deep. Enough to swim about a bit with the fish and crayfish. This was definitely an unexpected treat and a big highlight of our stay for us and the kids!
Watch our hike video here:
Biggie #5 – Water?
Meriwether Lewis Campground has two fresh water lines that you could pull up to (or walk to) and hook up your hose or gallon jug.
We ran dry on freshwater towards the end of day 3 as is normal for us, and it was a great relief to be able to go for a short walk to a spigot and grab some water for hand washing, dish washing and helping out with the toilet flushing.
Mind you, you still have to find somewhere to dump your grey and black water. But if you need it it is there!
One water line is located between the two loops on the entrance/exit road, and the second is located near the toilets and host site of the campground.
Need some water savings tips? Watch the video:
We have been to many east coast campgounds. In Tennessee though, we were supprised by the kaleidescope of very nice campers that we met.
There was the experienced couple from Germany who have been adventuring in their Class C through Central America apart from their RVing in Europe. You can visit their blog here. It’s in German, but Google does a great job translating!
We also met two sets of Quebecois who make it a lifestyle to travel together in the lower 48 states year after year.
Then we met tent campers, both young and old making their way through life enjoying their adventures.
And we will never forget the soil scientist, the artist, and the many other great people enjoying what Meriwether Lewis Campground and National Monument has to offer.
If you get the opportunity, go to this campground. It is one of the best free campgrounds in Tennessee.