Camping in January? Of course! Last year we took advantage of a warm weekend to tent camp in January. This year, weeks of the flu, record cold, and snow made for some pretty severe cabin fever and any above freezing daytime temps suddenly seemed like great weather.
Winter camping can be tricky for many reasons, not least of which is the major shutdowns that happens at campgrounds during the off-season. Surprisingly, many campgrounds don’t do a great job communicating the degree to which they will be open. A few state and national agencies seem to do their best to discourage winter camping, but not the Indiana DNR. They provide a fantastic PDF on winter camping detailing the amenities that will be available at each state park campground. A few minutes of cross-referencing this list with a couple hiking resources and mapping sites made Brown County State Park an easy choice. How have we not yet visited the “Little Smokies”?
Brown County State Park is located just outside Nashville, Indiana. This is cute town that blends tourism with a quaint county town just perfectly. There are kettle corn, T-shirt, and fudge shops, but we also really enjoyed our meal at Big Woods Brewery.
There are north and west entrances to the park and RVers should be aware that the north entrance features a covered bridge with size restrictions. When we arrived after 7pm, we were very surprised to find the entrance station manned. Indiana State Parks are on the pricier side with out of state visitors paying $9. The good news is that we only paid the fee once and then used our campground pass to come and go. Indiana also sells an annual pass, but at $70 for non-residents, you would have to visit often.
Brown County State Park is home to several campgrounds. Buffalo Ridge and Raccoon Ridge are the only ones open in the winter season. Buffalo Ridge sites feature electric hook-ups while Raccoon Ridge is better suited for tenters.
The Buffalo Ridge campground is located deep inside the park, and our after-dark, four-mile drive along snowy roads was certainly interesting. We were amused to encounter an opossum cleaning himself just off the road who appeared confused to encounter humans. Three other trailers were already set up at the campground and we would have had our pick of sites, but most of the sites were very difficult to find under the cover of snow. Eventually, we realized the parking blocks at the back of the sites gave a general idea of the location of the parking pad. I stood in the middle of one to guide the trailer in.
A wonderful DNR employee greeted us as we were filling water at the frost-free spigot. We learned that if we had made reservations in advance, someone would have shoveled our site for us. We will definitely keep this in mind in the future.
We did plan ahead enough to bring a snow shovel so we were able to clear a path to the fire ring and enjoy a fire.
The bathhouse was clean, good sized, and relatively well heated. We had no problem showering in them when it outside temps hovered in the 30’s.
By the time Sunday arrived, the melting snow turned the campground into a muddy mess, but we chose to stick around, enjoy another campfire and check off a few projects in the trailer. We love that Indiana state park campgrounds feature a 5pm check out on Sundays and holidays, leaving plenty of time to extend a weekend for one last hike, drive, or just a lazy Sunday morning.
We chose a hike at the nearby Yellowwood State Forest. We really enjoyed our weekend and look forward to coming back to explore more trails and the other campgrounds.