Hi Maddie, we camped at Bear Branch back in the fall for the first time and loved it. While we were there, we drove to several of the other campgrounds in the area just to check them out. In our opinion Bear Branch was the best. We plan to go back in the fall again this year.
Donnie & Melinda Rosson
We and several other couples stayed there a couple of years ago and none of us liked it. We went to Hayes Canyon, right next door this year and everyone loved it! In our, and this is about 10 of us, opinion Hayes Canyon is the place to go. Everything there was superior to what we had experienced at Bear Branch and you have access to the same trails. We are not going to Shawnee this fall going somewhere new but when we do go back it will be to Hayes Canyon. We have friends from other states who travel and meet us at different areas, so this is not just a TN opinion. We love riding at Shawnee, it is just spectacular!
We were at Hayes in Sept of 2009 and loved it! We actually drove to the area to check out campsites before we booked Hayes. We had read so many opposing views on Bear Branch and while the pictures on the website looked okay the campground in person was less than impressive. We tried to talk to a couple of people and get some information and they acted as though we were bothering them....these may have been campers and not anyone affiliated with Bear Branch so I can't speak directly about the owners. The campground, however, was very rundown. Hayes is our choice for sure!
Haynes Canyon does have a couple of cabins, but they are not like the ones at BSF or East Fork. Very simple and small but clean and inexpensive. Have all you need just not fancy. They are posted on their website. We go to ride so as long as it is clean and serviceable, we are fine.
I did not like Bear Branch at all. We love Hayes Canyon, Cirle B, 34 Ranch, and our favorite is Little Lusk Lodge. They actually have a nice lodge there if you don't have LQ trailer. It's very affordable and the cleanest camp arounf.
Bear Branch had a rough crowd the two times we stayed there, the "cabin" we reserved was a tiny mobile home with a plywood type divider. Oh and "Bubba" the resident drunk was camped on our couch. It was a mess, and you had to camp right on top of other trailers. The web site looks wonderful, but we were very let down when we arrived.
I went to Bear Branch the summer of 2008 with a couple of friends who hadn't been there in years. We were disappointed. The campground was ok, we stayed in a cabin that was ok, the barn was ok, the restuarant was open, but the waitresses acted like they hated being there, food wasn't that great, got one of our orders wrong (completely different meal than what was ordered) and the owner was...well...kinda arrogant to be honest! We met another group who drove all the way from Utah and they said they would never stay there again. The trails around Bear Branch were not marked well, either. We had one horse throw a shoe not too far from Hayes Canyon so we went there to see if they could give us a number for a farrier. Even though we weren't staying with them, they were very friendly and helpful and called us a farrier. The campground was not real fancy as I recall but each site had pens for your horses. There were some spots that had motor homes set up semi-permanent...to me this meant this was a nice place to stay...why would you rent a place for the season if it wasn't a good place to stay? Now, I didn't see the bath house or any other amenities at Hayes Canyon, but I would go and stay there just because the people there were so friendly. The trail signs around their camp were much better also. They had large signs that were the "You are here..." type signs. They had multiple trails shown on them so you see other trails besides the one you were on and where you were in relation to them, and they could easily be read from horseback. I haven't had a chance to make it back there, but when I do, I will definitely not be staying at Bear Branch.