Hester’s Bottoms: Family-Friendly Lakefront Campground Offers Tons of Fun in Upstate, SC

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Camping can be such a fun family activity to get outside, enjoy nature, and detach from technology. There are lots of great places in our area to go but Hester’s Bottoms in Mt. Carmel, SC is a special campground under two hours from Greenville, SC that we think our readers will really like. 

Camping is truly an enjoyable activity for my kids and I, even though I get so little sleep from a lack of finding a comfy sleeping pad (send recommendations if you have a good one!). I’m always looking for great campgrounds to bring my kids, which usually looks like a good location with either nearby trails in the fall and spring or a lake over the summer, spacious campsites, and a safe environment. 

Hester’s Bottoms in Mt. Carmel, South Carolina checks all those boxes and way more. 

About Hester’s Bottoms

The campground is situated on the banks of Strom Thurmond Lake, which flows into the Savannah River on the South Carolina side of the SC/GA border and is under two hours from Greenville. New owners bought the property last year and have worked hard to transform it into a relaxing and fun destination for all visitors. 

The campsites are huge. We’ve camped here twice so far and in both sites, we fit a six-person and an eight-person tent in our site and they are spaced out far enough that feels pretty private. Our first time, we stayed in the tent-only part of the campground, which juts out into the river, and hardly heard our neighbors down the road. This isn’t to say you won’t see and hear your neighbors but the secluded feeling is just really nice and private. Our second time, we camped further into the campground at a different site and still couldn’t even hear our neighbors.

I scanned the camper and RV sites and they seemed to be a bit closer together but still semi-private given the abundance of trees separating the sites. There are 39 RV waterfront sites, which offer 50-, 30-, and 20-amp services, and five primitive camping sites. The campground is adding more sites.

Hester’s Bottoms has a private dock for guests to put their boats in the water or, as we used it, to jump into the lake! Guests can put their boats into the lake and park right at the dock, which is a nice amenity for those who need it. 

Hesters Bottom Camp dock

There is an awesome general store at the campground, which sells everything from fishing gear and pool toys to hamburger meat, hot dogs, bacon, eggs, cheese, and wine and beer. The bathhouse is right next door, which is cleaned daily and has toilets and a shower. There are two other bathhouses throughout the campground. Also, if you need WiFi, I was able to connect to the WiFi at the general store and at the tent/RV site we stayed at but not at the tent-only site. The website does say that all RV sites have WiFi so you should be fine if you choose one of those sites and need WiFi access. 

Check-in and check-out is totally contactless. All you do is pull into your site and set up your stuff. A bag with a map and parking passes (you get two for each site) is hanging on the pole that has the number of your site listed. Super easy. 

Things to do at Hester’s Bottoms

There’s a lot to do at Hester’s Bottoms, especially for a campground. I was surprised at everything there was to keep kids entertained and enjoy family time together. 

Next to the general store and main bathhouse, there is a spacious cornhole game area, which we made use of while there. The bags can be borrowed from inside the general store. They’ve also added a Connect Four game and a ping-pong table.

Hester’s Bottoms also rents out golf carts – which it seems like everyone had – plus kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. You can also fish and ride bikes around the campground.

Beach at Hester's Bottom

There’s also a playground on site, which we used after a later dinner. It was great to have the kids get out the last of their energy over there. 

Near the playground is a cute little sandy beach with a swimming area denoted by yellow pipes. My kids loved this area and begged to go back again and again. There’s also a volleyball net on the beach. We stayed over Memorial Day weekend our first time and were pleasantly surprised when the owner came by our campsite to tell us about the beach party to celebrate the holiday. We had so much fun! They transformed the beach into a slip-n-slide and had a DJ blasting awesome music. It was the quincentennial summer beach party and so fun and relaxing. I loved that the owners were in the water and having just as much fun as their guests. 

Water Fun 

Being that the campground is right on the lake, the biggest activity is to get out on the water. I have a couple paddleboards and this is what we did most of the time we were there. The water wasn’t cold and we had so much fun paddling all around the river. For the most part, the water was pretty calm. Sometimes the wind whipped up but it didn’t last long. We saw a lot of people with boats and water toys there as well. Our camping trip there, I thought our site had direct access to the water but it did not, unfortunately. We had to walk across the road and through some weeds to put in the paddleboards. Our second time, I called the campground and they told me which sites had direct water access and helped me book the one I wanted. It was so perfect! So if you aren’t sure of the site based on the photos, just call them and they will help you out.

Waterfront site

My kids swam a lot at the sandy beach and dock plus wherever we were able to pull the paddleboards onto the shores of the river. I was so surprised at the lack of motorboats on the lake and river. It was a holiday weekend but so quiet compared to some of the other lakes in the Upstate I usually go to like Lake Keowee or Jocassee. It was a pleasant surprise and made me feel more comfortable on our paddleboards. 

One amazing thing we saw was a huge bird’s nest up next to our tent-only campsite. It was the coolest thing. I don’t know which kind of bird it was but we saw a bald eagle flying nearby and thought perhaps it was one of them. Regardless, all of us really enjoyed seeing it. It’s hard not to appreciate the vast beauty of nature here. 


Hester’s Bottoms isn’t close to any major town or shopping area. This means that if you forgot something, you’ll have to use the general store. This isn’t a bad thing. However, while the general store has a lot, it doesn’t have everything (for example, I needed a screw for my paddleboard fin and they didn’t have it). The nearest Walmart is about 35 minutes away. Home Depot and Lowes are 40 minutes away. Bring what you need!

If you want to rent a kayak or paddleboard, give the campground a call a week or so ahead of time. Don’t stress too much since they had them available even when we got there on a holiday weekend. 

Slip-n-slide at Hester's Bottoms

If you want a site with direct water access and are unsure about the location, call and ask. I wish I would have done that ahead of time our first trip but overall, we had such an amazing experience so it wasn’t a huge deal. Also, I was so pleased that our site had plenty of shade given that it was pretty hot. Some of the other tent sites I was eyeing with direct water access were out in the full sun all day long, which I’m sure made for a hot tent. I definitely have my eye on some shaded water sites for our next visit! Our second visit was even better since our sits was right on the water.

Hester’s Bottoms allows pets except for Pitbulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, and Chows but they must be registered at the general store with up-to-date vaccination records and they must be leashed throughout their stay. 

All their policies are easily accessible on the Camp Hester’s Bottoms website.

Booking Your Camping Trip 

Booking your trip is easy through the website where you can search for dates based on the number of people in your party.

Tent sites are $30 a night and RV sites start at $40 a night. They also offer buddy sites, which fit up to two RVs. They start at $80/night. Refunds are not offered within 14 days of your reservation date but if you cancel in that time period, they can apply the money towards a future stay, and all camping fees are paid when you book. 

The campground is open all year round and has a three-day minimum booking policy from May 15 – September 15. 

Hester’s Bottoms
2926 Fort Charlotte Road, Mt. Carmel, SC

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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