A Solution for the Hesitant Camper

Camping Cabin at Desoto State Park

Are you interested in trying camping, but don’t have the gear? Not sure you want to commit to sleeping outside overnight? Well, a primitive cabin may be a great option for you! After we had the twins, our primitive camping adventures never really materialized. It just seemed like a lot to manage, and honestly we were overwhelmed. Of course, we borrow my parents’ RV most of the time now, but Desoto is a challenging park to snag RV campsites in the fall.

Historically, I have not been one to plan too far ahead when camping. We would just wing it, see that we had a free weekend, load up, and hope to find a first come, first serve campsite. Honestly, this has worked out really well for us when primitive camping in the past. RV campgrounds are another story, additionally more and more parks are moving toward Reservations Required. I’ll put in a shameless plug for our Planning Printables that Irene and I developed to keep us on track to snag our most desired campsites for the year.

I say all that to say, that I started scheming a fall camping trip with our Chattanooga friends in late summer. Desoto is a great central location for us to meet and an excellent state park. The RV sites were fully booked, but I stumbled upon this Camping Cabin in the primitive campground. I love the quiet, spacious sites in primitive campgrounds, so I thought this would be a good fit!

Exterior photo of the camping cabin from the Desoto State Park website.

We camped on a beautiful weekend in late October. We arrived Friday afternoon and settled into the cabin. It’s a newly constructed cabin with a twin over full bunk bed and a twin bed with trundle. There is a table with banquette seating, a prep table with a bucket for water, and a solar powered led light. There is no heat/air or electricity for charging phones. 

Since the evenings were cooler, our camping companions ended up joining us in the cabin. So, we had 3 adults and 5 kids under 5 in the cabin. The twins were still in pack-n-plays so that helped maximize the space. The cabin is quite spacious, so there was room for air mattresses as well. There is a great front porch and a fire ring. The pit toilet isn’t too far away and there are water spigots nearby. Overall, it was such a great experience. At $54/night it’s a little more pricey than an RV site, but considerably cheaper than a room in the lodge or nearby AirBNB. 

You’ll need to bring your own linens, dishes, stove, and anything else you need to cook. We found that if we were conscious about keeping the doors closed, the cabin stayed very warm even without heat! Desoto is located on Lookout Mountain, so it should also stay a little cooler in warm weather than the surrounding areas.

Saturday was our only full day, and we were happy to see there was a trailhead very near the Primitive campground. If you are willing to add some distance to your hike or have a bike with you, you can actually connect directly from the campground to the Lost Falls trailhead via trail (see Map). We hoped to see Lost Falls and Laurel Falls, but our crew of tiny trekkers didn’t quite have it in them. We saw Lost Falls before looping back to the trailhead.

We ate some lunch then embarked on the drive to Little River Canyon National Preserve. We did the scenic drive so the kids could nap and visited the Visitor Center which is also the JSU Field School. As an alumni of Jacksonville State University, I was in college when this amazing facility was in its planning phase. I even helped relocate a cabin that is now located on a short trial behind the visitors center. It’s a really neat facility that holds several events throughout the year including a concert series. I suggest checking out their event calendar to see if they have any hikes or events you would like to participate in while in the area. DeSoto State Park also keeps a pretty full calendar of events for visitors.

So, if you are looking to start your camping journey, without investing in the pricier gear like tents and sleeping pads, renting a camping cabin could be a great choice for you! Let me know if you have questions about our stay!

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