(Mirror) Where else can you strike up a conversation with a stranger on a perfect summer morning, in your pajamas, carrying a bag of dog poop? Gay camping of course.
Gay camping is perhaps the single biggest growing gay institution.
As gay bars close, gay neighborhoods attract a variety of buyers, and gay businesses take on a broader base of customers, gay campgrounds continue to prosper. Gay camping is not a poor man's sport, yet most gay campgrounds continue to grow. Gays tend to love 'their' place much like fans love 'their' team. They find a haven in a safe and friendly environment and become comfortable with the community and culture.
There are many passable, good and great gay campgrounds across North America. Most are located east of the Mississippi River and most of those within about a two hour drive of a major metropolitan area. Size and success of individual properties appear at first glance to be directly related to the size of the market from which they can draw campers. The Woods in Pennsylvania draws from at least four major metropolitan areas making it one of the most popular.
In addition, new gay campgrounds open each year. In 2017 and 2018 there were at least ten new gay campgrounds across the U.S. Several including Rainbow RV in Groesbeck, Texas, Copper Cactus Ranch in Queen Valley, Arizona and The Homestead at 3218 in Crawford, Texas have opened west of the Mississippi River. The west is an area that has had notably few gay campgrounds. California, where many facilities might be expected to serve a large and open market, has none.
Fledgling smaller properties like River Ridge in Kentucky and Saddleback Campground in New Hampshire are founded by owners who love camping. Smaller new gay campgrounds tend to be built from the bottom up making new uses of limited acreage.
Major new properties like Creek Ridge Campground in Michigan are filling voids left by under performers. Larger new gay campgrounds are usually already camps. Some are failed religious camps or even failed gay campgrounds finding new life with new owners.
The worst performers have become so bad that new nearby properties have succeeded in drawing members away. Camp Out Alabama has taken over a closed campground and is drawing back some of the displaced campers who moved on to others nearby.
Rumors of a new facility opening near Rehoboth Beach in Delaware are just rumblings. If that occurs it will share a market with The Woods in Pennsylvania. New competition taking advantage of a vacancy in the market could satisfy excess demand.
Beginning a new business of any kind requires a certain dedication and appetite for risk. Opening a new gay campground generally puts the new owners in a rural, usually remote and often isolated location. Surrounded by non urban neighbors, each can take whatever reaction to the new business that fits their beliefs.
Mostly, new owners find neighbors friendly and accepting. Areas surrounding large gay campgrounds quickly learn to embrace their new gay customers who spend more and more readily than less affluent locals. Setting up a culture of giving, a natural attendant to gay entertainment, local organizations from volunteer fire departments to animal rescues benefit directly from the generosity of gay campers in the new parks.
Let's take a look at some of the new and less well known gay campgrounds in North America.
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-Gay Campgrounds Listed '2019
Sugar Creek Campground
4977 Highway 230 West
163 Campground Road
Geneva, AL 36340
5250 Williamston Rd
Stockbridge MI 49285
The Homestead At 3218
3218 Canaan Church Road
Crawford TX 76638
1662 LCR 800
Groesbeck, TX 76642
Whispering Oaks Retreat
926 Walker Road
Hampshire, TN 38461
Copper Cactus Ranch
9117, 4516 North Elephant Butte Road
Queen Valley AZ 85118
7975 County Road 181
Eutaw AL 35463
River Ridge Campground
1385 Harding Road
Mt Olivet, KY 41064
County Rd 822 # 1333
Grassy, Missouri 63751
Pack Up And Get Camping
Seldom passes a week that someone on their first visit to a gay campground doesn't cross my path. Though I am consistently surprised to know there are those who have never heard of campgrounds oriented to gays I remember that I too was one. Once initiated most return for more.
Getting comfortable with routine is easy and safe. Going to the same places, shopping in the same stores, eating in the same restaurants and visiting the same gay campgrounds is familiar and comfortable. Yet, that very comfort precludes new experiences that often lead to interesting individuals and broadened understandings.
As our world changes, as our rights and acceptance expands, new gay campgrounds open. Scattered about the country some campers realize their dream of owning a gay campground and set about the task of creating a place and experiences for their friends and customers.
Get out and check out a new or improved gay campground. I enjoy the same several camps mostly out of habit, and I already have a membership. Many gay campgrounds participate in the industry program Friends With Benefits that provides for half price memberships with ownership of a membership at a participating campground.
Every gay campground has its own character, culture and topography. Each is populated with a cross section of the metropolitan areas from which it draws customers.
Some are huge, crowded and loud. These can be difficult to get a reservation in, particularly during gay High Holidays and special events. Some are small and intimate and deliver a uniquely personal experience including mingling with owners and other campers.
Many are well managed businesses with excellent entertainment options, up to date, clean and well maintained facilities and beautiful properties. Some are small camps etched out of forests or hillsides offering little more than a place to pitch a tent, revel in nature and meet other campers.
Old standards in the business have been around for decades, serving generations of gay campers. They are located in the eastern U.S. near big cities. New ones open each year all across the country some in places never before served by a gay campground.
The beaten path leads us to many, close to home and easy to find. The road less traveled leads to opportunities for adventure at new found slices of gay heaven.
They are our retreats. All worthy of a visit. Every one the actualization of the owners dream with a personality driven by those who call it their own. Each a place where gays can be who they are unencumbered by expectations at home.
So get up, pack up and get camping.
Ric Reily is a gay camping enthusiast and an SFGN contributing columnist. This Best Gay Campgrounds in North America By Category article is his fifth annual feature about gay camping. Ric Reily is a newly elected member of the Board of Directors of Sawmill Camping Resort in Dade City, FL, and regularly summers at Jones Pond Campground and RV Park near Angelica, NY. The content of this article is primarily taken from respondents comments to a survey conducted in the fourth quarter of 2017 and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the writer.