Fort Wilderness is one of the three original resorts at Walt Disney World. Along with the Contemporary Resort and (as it was known then) the Polynesian Beach Resort, Fort Wilderness was available to the very first guests that visited Walt's "Florida Project."
In recent years, the campground has been expanded a bit. The grounds remain rustic, but all of the campsites are comfortable and the facilities well-maintained. Entertainment and recreational opportunities abound.
I'll start off the tour with some pictures of the campsites. Later, we'll go see the settlement, meadow, and wilderness areas along with the Tri-Circle D ranch area.
Part of the 500 loop, this is a pretty typical view of the arrangement of the campgrounds with several sites in one area serviced by a common road, comfort station, etc.
Each campsite has a long concrete pad for a camper or personal vehicle as well as a sandy area (for setting up a tent, if you so desire). Electricity and water connections, a picnic table, and grill are all provided. Preferred sites, which are located mostly around the settlement and meadow areas, also include a cable TV hookup.
Here's a picture of a site with a camper. Even though there are a LOT of sites on the grounds, they are well-spaced and there is plenty of foliage to give a nice sense of scale to the immediate area of each loop.
Several sites in loops 1500 and 2000 have only partial hookups, and are intended for guests with tents or pop-up campers. However, the site with a smaller tent, was actually in one of the loops right along Fort Wilderness Trail (700, 600, or 1000 I think) so clearly you can put up a tent anywhere as long as you pay the going rate for the site you're using.
There are sixteen comfort stations scattered about the campsite loops. Each station includes restrooms, showers, vending machines, laundry facilities, pay phones...
...and ice machines. The ice isn't free, though. You'll pay a pretty penny ($2.00 per bag, as I recall) for it.
The Settlement is a group of buildings and other facilities up at the North end of the campground. It's the area of the campground closest to Bay Lake, and in fact has a nice beach area right on the South shore of the lake.
The main resort boat dock, from which water transportation to the Magic Kingdom is provided (and from there you can easily get to any of the other Magic Kingdom area resorts), is close by as well. Also, you may note that there is a marina here, in case you'd like to rent a catamaran or water mouse for a zip around Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon.
One of the resorts playgrounds is located here, too. If you have little ones in your family, this collection of slides, swings, and climbing bars is sure to be a hit.
The Settlement is also the home of one of WDW's most venerable dinner shows -- the Hoop Dee Do Revue. A combination of vaudeville, slapstick, comedy, and music, the show plays nightly at Pioneer Hall, just as it has for over 25 years now.
The Settlement is also where Trails End Buffetteria, the resort's only restaurant, and Crockett's Tavern, the local watering hole, are located.
Rounding out the Settlement is the Trading Post which, like the Meadow Trading Post, sells all kinds of things -- from food to souvenirs.
Many of the items are pretty typical of all of the other WDW shops, but some western themed items are for sale that may be of particular interest for any rhinestone cowboys that are stopping in for a visit.
The selection of food and beverage is a bit more extensive than at most WDW resort shops, though. I suppose that's because many guests staying at the campground are inclined to prepare their own meals. Be aware, though, that the Settlement Trading Post is not a good alternative to a solid supermarket run to Publix or Goodings. They have some staples, but the prices are high and selection is limited.
The Meadow is a collection of buildings and facilities near the center of the campgrounds. Surrounded on three sides by canals, the Meadow includes a small marina, a trading post, the campfire site, and the resort's premier pool area.
From the picture below, you can see that even in mid-afternoon, the Meadow is a quiet area.
The closest campsite loops are separated from the Meadow by canal. Only the 1400 loop is directly adjacent, but it's separated from the rest of the Meadow by the campfire area.
The Meadow Trading Post, like the Settlement Trading Post, sells all sorts of trinkets and souvenirs along with a limited selection of food items.
Right in front of the trading post is a large parking area for bikes. Not surprisingly, the campground has a LOT of self-propelled transportation. If you're staying at the campground, you should feel free to bring your own.
But if need be, you can rent bikes at the Bike Barn.
The Bike Barn is also where you can rent electric carts. You may want to call ahead to reserve a cart since there's a limited supply. The carts are expensive, but may prove to be a leg-saver over the course of a long vacation stay at the campground (especially if you're spending a lot of time walking around in the parks, too.)
The meadow also has a small marina where you can rent pedal boats and canoes. The quiet canals that wind through the campground make for a nice boat outing -- although guest water travel is limited to the area right around the Meadow.
The Meadow pool is the largest one at the campground. It's not themed, but the area is well-maintained and is perfect for a mid-day dip or just to catch some rays.
The Meadow pool area is also the location of the campground's arcade.
Last but far from least, the Meadow is also home to the campground's campfire area. Each and every night, folks gather around the campfire for a sing-along and a showing of a Disney film.
The Wilderness area is actually the closest one to the front gate and check-in area of the campground.
There's not a lot to note here, except that this is the only location where the Wilderness Cabins are located.
Here's a picture of one of the cabins. The Fort Wilderness Cabins are free standing structures that sleep up to six people on a combination of double and bunk beds. Each cabin has a bedroom, living room, bathroom (no need to run to the comfort station, if you're staying here) and a full kitchen. You can read more about the cabins on the Fort Wilderness Cabins Fast Facts Page.
All of the cabins are located in the 2X00-numbered loops. Since these loops are all in the South-West part of the campground, they're all a good distance from the Settlement and Meadow facilities.
The Wilderness area does have it's own pool, though. Unfortunately, when I was there, the pool was being rehabbed so I didn't get a good picture of it. It's not themed, and is much smaller than the Meadow pool, but it is filled with water so it's capable of performing it's primary function most admirably.
Fort Wilderness Campground is also home to the Tri-Circle D Ranch. The Ranch is home to the huge Belgian horses that pull the trolleys over at the Magic Kingdom. The Tri-Circle D (check out that name, I think it might be the only text-based hidden Mickey at WDW) is also home to a petting farm and a working blacksmith shop (which helps maintain the horse equipment).
Here's the blacksmith shop. There's not much to see, unless you're lucky enough to stop in when some work is being done. During our visit, things were pretty quiet.
The petting farm has several different animals from goats to peacocks.
The domestic animals are fun to watch. Plus, if you have a little one with you, a few minutes of barnyard education - up close and personal - can be a fun experience.
Pony Rides are available, too. The ride takes place along a short, fenced circuit. An adult must lead the animal while the child rides. My son's ride on Blueberry set us back $2.00, but he's still talking about the adventure several months later... and wants to go back and buy Blueberry and bring her home on our next trip... He'll have to settle for another $2.00 ride.
The Belgian's are kept in a huge barn. In fact, an addition was being made to the facility when we were there. You're welcome to walk right into the barn to check out the gorgeous animals.
Just inside the Barn door, to the right, is a great display of the history of horses at the Disney parks. The presentation includes some background on the breeds of horses that are used in the parks, as well as some trivia about their work in the Magic Kingdom.
Just a couple of closing comments here...
First, below is a picture of the trail that runs from Fort Wilderness Campground to Wilderness Lodge. The end of the trail is located just a stone's throw from the Ranch. If you'd like to enjoy a walk (about 20 minutes at a moderate pace) to visit the Lodge, perhaps to have a meal at Whispering Canyon Cafe or Artist Point, you'll have easy access via this walkway.
Second, I would be remiss in not mentioning that River Counter (for which I have no pictures, unfortunately) is a small water park themed along the lines of Tom Sawyer's Mississippi River era. For guests that are staying at sites near the Settlement and Tri-Circle D, River Country provides a great place to swim during the day.