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Camping at Cliffside Lake Shelters Campground

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Cliffside Lake Recreation Area is a scenic gem nestled in the Nantahala National Forest of Western North Carolina, near Highlands. The campground, which can be a delightful retreat for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life, is known for its proximity to a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, swimming, and picnicking.

Camping Information

Availability and Reservations:

  • Cliffside Lake Campground usually operates on a seasonal basis, so it is typically open from spring through fall.
  • Campsite reservations can be made through the Recreation.gov website or by phone. There may also be some sites available on a first-come, first-served basis.


  • Campsites at Cliffside Lake are equipped with standard amenities such as picnic tables, fire rings, and access to restrooms.
  • The campground is known for having tent pads and offering a traditional camping experience, but it may lack full hookups for RVs.

Lake Activities:

  • Cliffside Lake is a popular spot for swimming with a designated beach area.
  • Anglers may enjoy fishing in the lake, which is usually stocked with trout.
  • A small day-use fee may be required for visitors who aren't staying overnight.

Hiking Trails

The area around Cliffside Lake is rich with hiking opportunities. Some notable trails that can be accessed from the campground include:

  • Cliffside Lake Trail - an easy loop around the lake, perfect for families.
  • Highlands Area Trails - a network of trails with various difficulty levels, providing stunning views and access to waterfalls.

Wildlife and Safety

  • The region is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears. Campers should follow proper food storage rules and bear safety guidelines.
  • Always let someone know your itinerary and expected return time when exploring the backcountry.

Weather and Preparation

  • Weather in the mountains can be unpredictable. Campers should come prepared for changing conditions, even during the summer.
  • Evenings can be cool, so pack layers and adequate bedding to ensure comfort overnight.


  • Check in advance for information on the accessibility of trails and facilities if you require accommodations.

Local Rules and Regulations

  • Familiarize yourself with the camping and recreation rules specific to the National Forests in North Carolina.
  • Firewood restrictions may be in place to prevent the spread of invasive insects; buy local firewood or gather it on-site if permitted.

Cultural and Environmental Sensitivity

  • Respect the natural surroundings by practicing Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment.
  • Some areas may have historical or cultural significance; treat these sites with respect and follow any posted guidelines.

Contact Information and Resources

Before finalizing your plans, it is advised to contact the National Forest Service or visit their website for the most current information regarding the Cliffside Lake Recreation Area and its campground. The conditions, availability, and services may vary from year to year or even seasonally.

Forest Service Contact:

  • For direct inquires, contact the local ranger district office serving the Nantahala National Forest.

By being informed and prepared, your visit to Cliffside Lake Shelters Campground can be a safe and enjoyable experience, allowing you to fully enjoy the natural beauty of the National Forests in North Carolina.

Location of Cliffside Lake Shelters Campground
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