Dispersed Camping in White Mountains National Forest

Driving my RV up Cherry Mountain Road
After a week in crowded pay campgrounds followed by a week at HH and BDW, I am more than ready for the independence and privacy of a dispersed camping experience. Like at Allegheny in May, I must find a site on my own without the benefit of James riding ahead to scope out conditions or secure a site. The White Mountains National Forest Ranger Station told me about Cherry Mountain Road having dispersed sites suitable for an RV. It is a gravel road not maintained in winter but they assured me that it was safe to drive and not too hilly. Hmmm.

Gorgeous waterfall just a 1 minute drive west down a side road at the base of Cherry Mountain Road.
Gorgeous waterfall just a 1 minute drive west down a side road at the base of Cherry Mountain Road.

So I head up this road and discover that it is a narrow, winding gravel road with a severe crown, meaning it slopes off into ditches on either side. Further, it climbs up and down as much as it winds from side to side and is only wide enough for one vehicle to pass most of the time. To accommodate this, there are small pull-off areas every 100 to 300 metres where one vehicle could pull over and allow another vehicle to pass. Hmmm.

Once I get started, I have to continue and maintain a certain speed on approach to each incline to be sure I will reach the top hoping I won’t come across an oncoming vehicle. Normally finding myself towing on a road like this could put me in a panic but somehow knowing that I may find a dispersed site settles my fears enough to keep pushing forward.

The sites are numbered: half are occupied, I stop to investigate the ones that are not but they are each too hilly or the entrance too rutted for my low-clearance trailer. Finally I reach site 8 and see that it is available, beautiful and has a manageable incline and passable entrance. I do something I don’t normally do: concerned another vehicle may come up behind me (one already passed while I was pulled over), I lined up and backed in without walking the site first. Once I am fully off the road and out of harm’s way, I climb out to investigate further and adjust to re-position in the best spot. The site slopes down toward the road so I can use the tongue jack post to level up but I have to crank it up all the way on 4 blocks to get there. Not ideal but with my solid chocks, I should be okay.

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My lovely free dispersed campsite in the White Mountains National Forest. A bit sloped but manageable with my solid chocks.

What did I learn from all this? Ask the ranger more specific and open-ended questions about the road conditions: How hilly are the road and the sites? Rate this road from 1 – 10 for passability for a minivan towing a travel trailer? Is it a one lane road with pull offs or a real 2 lane road? Would you drive a minivan towing a travel trailer down that road? Other RVers have said that if they are unsure about a road, they unhitch and go down it without the trailer first. But this is exactly what I am trying to avoid: hitching and unhitching are a lot of work. I am beginning to realize just how critical James is to riding ahead on his motorcycle to scope out free campsites before I get there. I got into my site okay but would I do it again knowing what I know now? I am not sure.  As long as I don’t come across an oncoming vehicle on the way out, I should be okay.

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When I unhitched on this slope, the tongue actually lifted the entire back end of the van off the ground. I put the orange levelers under Eddie’s rear wheels to reduce the differential.

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