My family and some friends went camping at Little Bennett Regional Campground, located in Clarksburg, MD, over Memorial Day weekend. We had an absolute blast! We camp 1 to 2 times a year generally at Cunningham Falls, Greenbrier State Park, and Lake Anna State Park and so had not tried this park before. Usually I insist at camping at a park that has a lake for swimming, since it can get hot in the summer. Little Bennett does not have a lake, but does have a stream you can hike to. Because it was cool and we were not planning on swimming, we thought we would give Little Bennett Campground a try. I am so glad we did because it’s now one of my new favorite spots to experience the great outdoors.
I loved that the campground was so close to the metro DC area. From Arlington, it took us less than 40 minutes from door to campsite. We stayed in the C loop and I was surprised at how large, shady and private the sites were. We shared our site with another family and there was plenty of space even with multiple tents on the site. Each site comes with a fire ring, picnic table and lantern post. There are other loops that have sites with electrical outlets or that can accommodate large groups, but the C loop was tents only with no electricity.
The bathrooms were clean, but lacking in toilet paper. The bathroom during the day was out of toilet paper for over 6 hours on both days of the holiday weekend, and it took calls to the office each day before anyone came to restock the paper. Bottom line – I recommend that you come prepared and bring your own toilet paper. The showers were clean but the water temperature varied. One father who took a shower in the morning told me the water was lukewarm. My shower later in the afternoon was warm/hot. The bathroom had skylights which let in natural light during the day. While taking my shower mid-afternoon, the sun was streaming in and created a rainbow effect. It was heavenly.
The kids on the trip ranged from 7 to 11 years old. We brought bikes and they enjoyed biking around the various loops. It was a 5 minute, mostly flat, ride to get to the playground and the athletic field. The roads were paved, making biking easier than on dirt or gravel roads. Some other camper families took advantage of the paved roads and brought chalk. We saw evidence of kids chalk designs when walking to the bathroom. There was little automobile traffic through the park, even on the holiday weekend, when the park was filled to capacity.
There are three playgrounds at the campgrounds. We only tried the one near the athletic field. We did see another playground soon after we drove past the registration office on the left side of the road, but it really was geared for the toddler/pre-k ages and our kids were older than that. The playground near the athletic field included a large field perfect for soccer, kickball or tag. There was a basketball hoop, and a hopscotch board painted on the basketball court along with playground equipment for elementary aged children. On Saturday, we went on a guided hike, attended the camp’s ice cream social, and saw a family friendly movie under the stars near Hawk’s Reach Activity Center. We didn’t do the crafts activity that was offered earlier in the day. The guided hike was just a walk down to a creek, lead by two young park employees. There was no discussion on the history of the park or any talk of the things we saw along the way through the woods which was disappointing. But it was a nice hike through the woods anyways. The ice cream social was held in the evening. For $2 per person you could get ice cream or for an extra .50 cents a root beer float. The activity center was a short walk through the woods from the C loop.
The following day, we took a car ride to Black Hills Regional Park, which I’m told is the sister park to Little Bennett Regional Park. Black Hills is about 5 miles away and easy to get to (only 2 turns once out of the campgrounds). You can pick up directions to Black Hills Regional Park at the Little Bennett Campground registration office. We really enjoyed our trip to Black Hills. They have a very nice nature center and you can either hike some of the trails, or take a boat ride. They have rowboats, canoes and kayaks for rent at $8/hr. Also, three times a day they have pontoon boat rides (12:30, 2 & 3:30pm) for $4. It was 1.5 hour guided ride with a naturalist who gave a history of Little Seneca Lake and the animals and birds that live around it. When we were on our trip, we saw deer, beaver lodges, and turtle. The line to reserve boats was long, so plan to get there early if you want to rent a boat or take a tour.
You can also fish at Black Hills Regional Park, off the dock or along the edges of the lake, but you’ll need to bring your own fishing equipment. There is no swimming allowed in the lake. If you are looking for some way to cool off in the water while you are on your camping trip and have young children, you can try South Germantown Splash Park which is only 10 miles from the park.
The registration office at Little Bennett Regional Park also has a camp store. They have the basics – things like firewood, s’more supplies (i.e. marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers), candy, ice, and ice cream. You can’t bring firewood from outside the park, so you’ll need to get firewood here if you want to have a campfire.
I absolutely loved that the campground felt so remote but was so close to other things. Just one mile outside of the campgrounds was a Bennigans restaurant located within a quaint historic looking building. Four miles away was a Target, Giant, McDonalds, Walmart, Starbucks and Home Depot. It made getting extra dinner supplies the second night a snap. We forgot a few items and it was easy to get other things we needed. It also made me less nervous about meat going bad in hot weather since I could just buy before I needed it.
Because we were so near to home, some friends who could just come for part of day were able to drive up and spend some time with us making our time at Little Bennett even more enjoyable. They left in the evening after enjoying dinner and a campfire with us. Other non-camper friends agreed to come up next time too.
The shady, big, clean, quiet, and private sites so close to home and civilization made us very happy campers. We look forward to a return visit.
Photos by Danielle Werchowsky.