This look at our recent experience tent camping at Fort Wilderness concludes the series of “final” activities we did at Walt Disney World BC. We previously shared our last night in Magic Kingdom at the Moonlight Magic Party and our last great meal at Epcot’s nicest restaurant. Both were incredibly memorable experiences that we savored.
The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is not exactly roughing it in the strictest sense of the term. Still, tent camping is pretty far from a posh Walt Disney World resort experience–or even staying in the reimagined value resort rooms. Regardless, it was likewise fun and memorable.
This was far from our first time camping or staying at Fort Wilderness. As adults, Sarah and I have stayed at the Cabins at Fort Wilderness several times, and it’s one of our favorite resorts for larger parties. However, prior to this we hadn’t done any “real” tent camping at Fort Wilderness, and my childhood memories were unreliable and hazy.
Growing up, Fort Wilderness was my family’s go-to up until Shades of Green opened in 1994, and we stayed in our truck camper there at least a half dozen times. I have a lot of nostalgia and fond memories for Fort Wilderness as a result, but I don’t really remember the specifics.
Unfortunately, details of a campground are not the kind of thing that makes a strong impression on a kid with the rest of Walt Disney World beyond its borders. Plus, my family camped a lot while I was growing up. Theme parks were our common spring destination, with state and U.S. National Parks being summer vacation.
Of those, my two favorite destinations were Fort Wilderness Campground and Blackwater Falls State Park, and my memories have probably blurred together over the years. That’s probably the first time in history anyone has had trouble distinguishing between West Virginia and Walt Disney World!
Sarah and I have done a good amount of camping, but we’re still pretty far from experts or even enthusiasts. For one, we hadn’t camped at all in almost 2 years prior to this (all of our nice gear is still in our California storage unit). For another thing, much of our camping is born of necessity.
We’re usually camping as a means to an end, not for the experience itself. We’ve frequently just slept in the back of the car if we’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and it’s a viable alternative. This isn’t because we dislike tent camping, but because it’s easier and often more comfortable.
With that said, we’ve camped in a range of different places: Death Valley National Park’s Racetrack Playa, White Tank Campground at Joshua Tree National Park, and Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, to name a few places. Those, plus a variety of primitive campsites or random spots while hiking.
We mention these not because they’re directly comparable to the Campsites at Fort Wilderness, but because they are analogous. All of the above campgrounds are near iconic spots, and are in high demand. Consequently, you often have to book very far in advance or (in rare cases) enter a lottery.
Even then, the only campground in even the same ballpark as Fort Wilderness price-wise is Doheny State Beach, which is located on some of California’s most expensive real estate and has campsites with ocean views. Of course, it’s no surprise that anything at Walt Disney World is pricey, but these costs border on absurd.
In fairness, there’s an on-site location premium for everything at Walt Disney World, so inflated pricing does make sense. What bugs me (to a degree) is that the campsite costs are inflated by off-site guests booking for the perks but not actually camping. It’s unfortunate that Walt Disney World doesn’t do more to curb this behavior.
In terms of basics, Fort Wilderness Campground offers 5 categories of campsites: Tent or Pop-Up Campsite (what we booked), Full Hook-Up Campsite, Preferred Campsite, Premium Campsite, and Premium Meadow Campsite. The first category accommodates two tents, while the latter four all have space for an RV plus a tent.
Pricing is all over the place, but starting rates for most campsites with hook-ups are over $100 and can reach $200 per night. Our tent campsite cost a little under $100 per night, which was about the same price as a Value Resort for our dates. (Unlike Walt Disney World’s hotels, I know of no good hacks for scoring cheaper campsites.)
Tent campsites offer a paved parking spot and large area to pitch the tent(s). All Fort Wilderness campsites include electrical hook-ups, a picnic table, and a charcoal grill. Some are pet friendly.
All RV campsites at Fort Wilderness include a sewage hookup and paved pads ranging from 10 by 45 feet to 18 by 60 feet. Locations vary, with the most expensive spots being close to Meadow Trading Post, Meadow Recreation Area, Bike Barn, and the Campfire Area.
Comfort Stations are located throughout the Fort Wilderness Campground, and most campsites are probably within a 5 minute walk of one. These offer everything you’d find in a traditional restroom plus private shower stalls with changing areas.
By campground standards, these Comfort Stations are really nice and clean. They’re exactly what you’d expect of Walt Disney World and one aspect of the “resort” that helps justify the premium pricing.
Another advantage Fort Wilderness offers over other campgrounds is the entertainment and recreation options. The daily programming lineup is formidable, making it easy to see why so many “Fort Fiends” spend so much time at the campground and so little time (comparatively) at the theme parks.
I can’t think of any other resort with as much to offer as Fort Wilderness in terms of “things to do” on a daily basis. Maybe Animal Kingdom Lodge?
Throughout Fort Wilderness Campground there are playgrounds, sporting areas (basketball & volleyball courts, jogging trails, etc.), a marina for boat rentals, and much more.
There are also two pool areas, one of which is a feature pool that’s on par with other Walt Disney World resorts. (It’s a bit on the bland side, but far nicer than what you’ll find at other campgrounds.)
Arguably, the biggest advantage and disadvantage offered by Fort Wilderness Campground are the same: its sprawling size. Situated on 750 acres of a pine and cypress forest, Fort Wilderness feels worlds apart from the rest of Walt Disney World.
We’ve seen deer every single stay, turkeys on occasion, and Disney claims there are also armadillos roaming around (Sarah’s dream is to have one creep into our campsite–she’s weird.) It’s a serene and blissful escape from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks.
The downside to this “blessing of size,” is one that mirrors Walt Disney World as a whole: convoluted transportation. Getting around Fort Wilderness requires long walks, renting a golf cart, or using the internal transportation. The bus transportation can be confusing and cumbersome, and is not for the impatient.
There have definitely been some trips where the bus transportation at Fort Wilderness bugged us. The last time we stayed in a cabin with my parents, our trip was more theme park-centric. It was thus probably a mistake to stay at Fort Wilderness then.
In general, the (Walt Disney) World and life move at a slower pace at Fort Wilderness. It’s a simpler time and place, and that really needs to appeal to you and also mesh with the priorities for your Walt Disney World vacation. If you’re theme park commandos, it’s not for you. If you’re fine with a more leisurely experience, it could work.
This campsite stay for us was all about Fort Wilderness–we had no agenda in the parks or anywhere beyond the bounds of the campground. Moreover, we really enjoy long walks in the woods, so the size of Fort Wilderness was all upside. (We’ve never rented a golf cart and didn’t use the internal buses at all this time.)
Our campsite was (more or less) across from the Meadow Recreation Area, but was not a preferred or premium site. The walk there was under 10 minutes, which we felt was reasonable (you could easily be that far from the lobby at almost any hotel).
We were a moderate distance from the Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge construction site (closer than the cabins, farther than some campsites) but couldn’t hear or see a thing. The construction was only really evident to us from the Settlement area.
If you’re primarily spending time at the Meadow or your campsite, it’s pretty much a non-issue (for now, at least). Still pretty far from ideal, and we’re not fans of Disney Vacation Club expanding to a rustic area with some of the oldest-growth trees in all of Walt Disney World.
On an odd and random note, one of the highlights of our stay was a stop at the Meadows Trading Post (no joke!). I was hit with a blast from the past walking around in there–I swear it smells exactly the same as it did when I was a kid.
Now I need to update my Top 10 Scents at Walt Disney World with “the musty old wood from the Meadows Trading Post.” I’m guessing that’s not one many others will share.
While at Meadows Trading Post, I spotted one of my absolute favorite pieces of Walt Disney World merchandise from the last decade–the art pictured above. I meant to go back and buy this before we left, but totally forgot. Hopefully it still exists next time we’re at Fort Wilderness.
Continuing with the nostalgia-trip, I recently stumbled upon this awesome Fort Wilderness shirt design that my mom had (in sweatshirt form) when I was a kid. Definitely going to be keeping my eye out for one in my size that’s not so outrageously-priced!
Our experience camping at Fort Wilderness was otherwise fairly uneventful. Sarah didn’t have her dream of seeing an armadillo fulfilled, and I didn’t get to gorge myself on fried chicken and ribs at Trail’s End. (Did you even stay at Fort Wilderness if you didn’t eat there?!?!?) Despite these massive shortcomings, it was mellow and relaxing–a nice change of pace from how we normally do Walt Disney World.
In retrospect, the memory has aged like a fine wine. This stay at Fort Wilderness was the perfect intersection of being outdoors while still being a part of civilization. Those are two things that we’d absolutely love to be able to do right now, and have camping at Fort Wilderness at the top of our “things we can’t wait to do again at Walt Disney World” list. Funny how that works!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Have you camped at Fort Wilderness? What did you think of the experience? Anything else to add that we didn’t cover? Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts/review? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!