Check our short video slideshow at the bottom of this post for a musical photo tour. ;)
I'm not a "negative" person by nature, but I want to tell you the truth and nuthin' but the truth about our experience at this park. ;) So bear with me... there is plenty of good as well.
Highlands Hammock SP is a beautiful, natural, peaceful, and really beautiful park to bike and hike, but if that's what you're looking for, don't make the mistake I made, by reserving on the ONE weekend a year that hundreds of people will be there for the annual "Haunted Hammock" Halloween event...I was unaware of this event.
I love kids and I think camping is one of the best things a family can do together, however, hundreds of VERY loud children in costume and high on sugar is not my idea of a peaceful weekend in the wilderness. ;)
We arrived on Friday after driving through some very pretty open prairie dotted with trees. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the park staff was not very friendly. Rather they ignored us and seemed irritated that we were even there. :/ They checked us in on our reserved campsite and we drove into the camping area only to find that our site was already occupied and the campers were planning to be there for another 2 nights.
The Bad and the Ugly:
We camp because we love nature and peace, meeting people and seeing wildlife; birds, deer, little creepy crawlies, anything, I especially love the sounds of birds early in the morning... you get the picture... right?
Well, no sooner had we gotten settled in than it began... the sites got full... ok, that's nice, but it became so loud, so very, very loud. :( I think the camp staff passed our site (on the main camp road) over a 1000 times that weekend in their Kubota. Back and forth (constantly) to somewhere in the back, hauling trash, hauling food, hauling people, hauling an old tire...???? Hauling candy.... sigh.
Needless to say in this campground that is full of gorgeous lush trees and shade, I saw ONE bird all weekend. Just one. Ahhh, but it was one I'd never seen before so that was nice. ;)
Black and White Warbler
We decided to go for a nice long bike ride through the paved shaded hammock loop..... which would have been much more lovely except for two things: Large groups of LOUD people scaring away every possible living thing, and LEAVING TRASH along the trail!!! This was upsetting. In addition, the beautiful shady hammock was decorated with corpses hanging from the trees, blood and gore everwhere as decorations for the "haunted hammock"... it pretty much ruined the beauty of nature and I'm surprised they would do this to a State Park. :/
The Good... because there is always good. :)
We forgot about the hammock trails and paved loop and headed out on the back dirt roads... there we saw so many pretty plants, and heard nothing but the gentle sounds of the prairie.
In addition, right off the campsite is a trail through open prairie area that is dotted with some lovely butterfly plants (see history of this park to find out why the plants are here)... I called this trail the "butterfly fairy trail"...because I'm silly like that and because there were SO many butterflies, all sizes, types and colors... it was wonderful, we were surrounded.
On Sunday, it seemed that everyone left the park, so we did have one very quiet, very peaceful evening at this park.
Would we go back again? Yes, but I would be CERTAIN to check for events!
What time of year would we go? Spring. I would definitely go back in the spring to experience the blooming flowers, birds and butterflies.
What to bring? Your walking shoes and a bicycle.