Relax in a Hammock, Pan for Gold, and Make S’mores at Gold River Camp in NC

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If a unique family or couple stay is in your future, Gold River Camp & Cabins in beautiful Marion, NC should be on your list for their location, outdoor entertainment area, and beautiful accommodations. Overnight accommodations were provided so we could do this media review. 

When Kathryn and Trevor first visited the land that is now the site of Gold River Camp & Cabins, they drove home in silence, each guessing that the other also knew that they had found the spot they wanted to not only call home for themselves but build their dream cabin and glamping village at. It was a done deal. 

Two years later, Gold River, which sits along the banks of the Second Broad River, has several glamping tents, two tiny riverfront houses, and several cabins for guests. Kathryn and Trevor live on-site with their two adorable children and have created an escape that many of us have been searching for – a place to reconnect as a family or couple and just get away from our busy lives. 

A Gold River Camp and Cabin Pavilion

About Gold River Camp & Cabin

Everything at Gold River is laid out and designed to be an invitation for guests to relax and unplug. There are Adirondack chairs everywhere, hammocks strung in several places, the bubbly, calming sounds of the river, chairs sitting on the river bank, fire pits waiting to be lit, and comfy cushions for lounging on. Literally, every place you turn, there is something that issues a silent invitation to you to relax and enjoy your time. 

This is the goal of Gold River Camp for their guests – to come to a place where time slows down a bit and where they can easily relax and unplug yet be recharged when they leave, which you really won’t want to do after visiting. 

There are two luxe glamping tents on stilts that have a boho vibe and are very comfortable. Two bell tents, primitive camping sites, tiny cabins, and cabins that have private bathrooms are also offered at Gold River. So depending on your level of camping comfort, they’ve got everything you need. 


Before Kathryn and Trevor bought the Gold River Camp and Cabin property, they had traveled extensively and stayed in all kinds of interesting places. The one thing they found to be a highlight of most of the spots they went to was the communal aspect of meeting people from around the world and you know, actually talking face-to-face instead of spending all the time traveling on phones or laptops. That stuck with them and they brought the same philosophy to Gold River, wanting to make it a place where people could gather together, hang out, and just talk, whether it’s meeting new people or reconnecting with your own family or loved one. 

Gold River Camp and Cabin glamping camp sites
Luxe glamping tents

Being in the North Carolina mountains, cell service is spotty and none of the accommodations have televisions so Gold River has a big open-air pavilion with super comfortable lounging areas, swings, games, coffee makers, and grills. They have picnic tables, hammocks, and fire pits, as well as gold panning. It’s an obvious gathering place and we loved hanging out there during our time at Gold River. 

When my kids and I were at our cabin, we took advantage of the games offered and my kids just laughed so loud while playing Apples to Apples. It was a joyous sound and we had so much fun. 


We stayed in The Cottage, a one-bedroom cabin with a bathroom and futon. It was so cute and comfortable and I appreciated the full kitchen, which I used to cook breakfast and dinner during our trip. The kitchen was well-stocked with pots, pans, salt and pepper, cooking spray, and utensils, which was an added bonus. 

Gold River Nook Cabin

I got a peek at a couple of the other places to stay like the adorable Gold River camp cabins by the river (moms who need a getaway alone, this is your place to go), romantic nooks, and the luxe glamping tents. I thought everything was so beautifully decorated that it made the experience even more of a getaway from everyday life. It was easy to feel transported to someplace special here. They even have primitive riverfront tent sites or bell tent sites if you really want to embrace the outdoors, but still have access to accommodations.


Because not all of the accommodations have private bathrooms, a bath house is available for those guests who need it. There are three huge showers and a men’s and women’s bathroom. Since I was there for a review, I tried out one of the showers and it was so nice! The stall was very clean and spacious with lots of hot water and a chair inside to put my clothes and towel. 

The bathrooms were also very clean and large and the bathhouse isn’t far from any of the cabins or tents. The place has lights that turn on at night and some of the accommodations are provided with lanterns for nightly bathroom runs. 

Activities at Gold River

Gold River isn’t just a cute name for the glamping campground. The Second Broad River, where the camp is located, was known for its gold panning during the Gold Rush of the late 1800s, and even today, people can still find gold there.

Gold River has gold pans, shovels, and screens available for guests to use free of charge. That was the first thing my kids decided to do and they had such a blast getting in the river and panning for gold. We had no clue what we were doing but they had fun and found some cool rocks. The river is the perfect way to enjoy some downtime. We wouldn’t figure out how to actually pan for gold until the next day when we visited Lucky Strike Gold & Gem Mine. Here, you will find a gold gem panning operation that makes for a fun family activity.

Panning for gold in the Gold River in Marion, North Carolina

There is also a little sandy beach next to the river for guests to hang out at plus lots of hammocks (my favorite), swinging chairs, picnic benches, fire pits, and grills. You’re welcome to use any of those things during your stay. 

I personally really loved the open-air pavilion with comfy pillows on a low-to-the-ground table (a nod to other cultures that typically utilize this kind of community space). 

And both nights we lit a fire and made s’mores next to the river. They have firewood for sale as well as marshmallow roasting sticks to borrow. My kids would probably tell you this was their favorite part. Don’t forget the bug spray if you’re a mosquito magnet like myself.

Nearby Activities

Kathryn has multiple itineraries she put together for guests, which I really appreciated since it made my job so much easier! On our way there, we picked up dinner at Todd’s Chicken, about 15 minutes away and it was really good. I rarely eat fried chicken and was happy I made an exception for this place. We got fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, green beans, and gravy and had enough for dinner for the next night. Definitely recommend. 

We also checked out Lucky Strike Gold & Gem Mine, not three minutes down the road from Gold River. You can read my review of our time there and how we actually found gold. I didn’t think it would happen but it was such a cool experience. This is one of the closest activities within 30 minutes of camp.

Mile High Bridge at Grandfather Mountain
Mile High Bridge at Grandfather Mountain

We also took advantage of nearby hiking trails like one of my bucket list hikes: Crabtree Falls. The trail is only about 2.5 miles long and is located about 45 minutes from Gold River. The waterfall is a 60-foot spectacular site that is stunning. I was so happy we added this hike to our time in the area. 

A free activity that also relieves stress is just five minutes down the road from Gold River. Brackett Town Farms is a nonprofit farm where you can hold and pet baby goats, donkeys, bunnies, horses, and chickens. It’s awesome but be sure you make an appointment before you go.

Holding a baby goat at Brackett Town Farms
Pure happiness

Other activities are fishing at a nearby trout farm and visiting wineries. Catawba Science Center is 45 minutes away and you can get in free if you have a Roper Mountain Science Center membership. I wish we had several more days there because there’s a lot to explore.

Linville Gorge and Grandfather Mountain are very close, about an hour away, and Chimney Rock is about 40 minutes away. Lake James State Park is a great option as well since it has a sandy beach to enjoy during the warmer weather and is just a short 25-minute drive from Gold River. 

Honest Mom Review

I really enjoyed our stay at Gold River and loved spending so much time outdoors with my kids. Kathryn and Trevor put so much thought into Gold River from the layout to the design to the communal aspect. As parents themselves, you can tell they made a place where families could relax together and make special memories. 

Making smores at Gold River
Gold River Camp

The location couldn’t have been more ideal either. It is a little slice of paradise nestled in the mountains. That area of Western North Carolina just has so many fantastic places to explore and being the adventurer that I am, I was like a kid in a candy shop. It was a joy to be able to stay at Gold River.

Booking Your Trip

You can book your trip to Gold River through the Gold River website. Prices vary depending on time of year and accommodation you choose but they generally range from $57 up to $140/night. They also have primitive tent sites starting at $34. There are rooms you can rent as adjoining spaces if you need more bedrooms. You can also rent out the entire camp for a special event like a wedding. 

Gold River does offer some pet-friendly accommodations.

Gold River Camp & Cabins
43 Polly Spout Road, Marion, NC 

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About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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