A few days ago, I shared my preparation for my first real camping trip with my son. The odds were stacked against us: his knee was injured, there was rain in the forecast, and we really had no clue what we were doing. But I loaded up the 2017 GMC Sierra Denali anyway, put it in gear, and headed into the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania.
Taking the GMC Sierra Denali to Hickory Hollow Campground
From the pictures, you’ll see what a lovely time we had. We pulled into our beautifully canopied campsite with no one directly near us and set up our gear. With our “bedroom” all comfy and cozy in the back of the truck, we started a campfire, cooked some hot dogs and marshmallows over an open fire, and ended the evening playing cards in the tent.
All of that is true. And the sentiment is true as well. But, as you know, the internet tends to show you all of the highlights. There were definitely a few lowlights on this trip.
Yay! We made it to the campsite with plenty of time to set up!
Boo. The camp office was closed and we had no firewood.
Yay! We found a little grocery store in town that sold firewood!
Boo. We burned through it very quickly.
Yay! We cooked hot dogs and marshmallows on the fire!
Boo. The fire went out and I had to break out the camp stove to cook the beans and finish the dogs.
Yay! We had a beautiful, spacious tent with a comfortable bed inside.
Boo. It took me and my ineptitude over an hour to set it up.
Yay! We slept comfortably and woke to the sounds of the gently falling rain.
Boo. We enjoyed the rain for a little too long and ended up disassembling the tent in a major downpour.
You get the idea, right? Camping is something that takes practice and I was clearly a beginner. But I’m still pretty proud of the fact that we survived a night outside on our own and there were no zombies that approached out tent (apparently, I’ve been watching too much of The Walking Dead).
I did learn a few camping tips:
- Make sure you have plenty of firewood but wait until you are near your campsite. You should always use locally sourced wood to prevent the spread of disease.
- Bring a pillow. I’m not sure why I thought I didn’t need one but I really would have appreciated one.
- Make sure your lantern is fully charged before evening falls.
- Bring a flashlight as backup.
- Keep a tiny pocketknife by your bedside just in case those zombies do show up.
Sightseeing After Camping
In the morning, we cleaned up in our pajamas in the rain. Then we changed into clean, dry clothes and decided to forgo a camping breakfast and went to a nearby diner for a hot meal. (By the way, if you’re ever in southwestern Pennsylvania, check out the Summit Diner for the best pancakes you will ever eat.)
After our meal, we set out for our target destination – one that’s been on our bucket list for a while. We drove to Fallingwater. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it’s one of the most unique homes in America having been built on top of a waterfall.
After touring for the afternoon and being stunned by the lack of rain for the rest of the day, we ventured into Ohiopyle, known for the nearby Youghiogheny River and whitewater rapids. We’d had enough adventure so we grabbed a few sandwiches and simply looked at the rapids.
Getting Intimate with the GMC Sierra Denali
Although I had the 2017 GMC Sierra Denali for almost a week, I didn’t get really intimate with the truck until it became my home away from home. And putting that to the test in the mountains was perfect.
Believe it or not, all 5’3″ of me fit comfortable in the GMC Sierra Denali. Sure, I had to lean forward to reach everything on the dash but I felt in command on the road. In fact, I felt a little too in command at times. With a curb weight of over 5000 lbs, it’s a big, heavy truck. That means when you get going, you really get going. And when you want to stop, you need to be thinking about that in advance because it does takes extra time and distance to come to a full stop.
With that said, I found that I discovered some pretty cool features while I was driving – like the Grade Braking Assist that would engage when I was descending steep hills in the mountains. In fact, most of the information I needed was featured in the center of the console.
The information display included information on my gas mileage (I averaged an impressive 18.2 mpg for the week including all of the mountainous driving) and the “mode” of my vehicle while driving. The GMC Sierra Denali has a 6.2L (wow!) V8 Ecotec engine. When accelerating, I experienced the power of the full 8 cylinders. But when I was driving on a pretty straight stretch of road, it would switch to 4 cylinders, providing a much needed dent in the fuel economy.
It’s also a pretty well-connected car. With a large 8″ color touch screen, it was easy to access everything I needed for Apple CarPlay, weather forecast (I needed constant reassurance!), navigation, and 4G LTE connectivity (my son loved that feature!).
For camping purposes, we were thrilled with our power options. It’s almost the first thing I check in any vehicle I’m driving and I was pretty pleased with not only the “extras” (the row of 7 switched in the center) but the 2 USB ports, 12V charging port, and 110-volt power outlet. And yes, there were more in the center console and the rear seat.
The real value of the truck, though, is in its utility. We loved the spray-in bedliner which served as a great non-slip location for our sleeping quarters. But we did use this truck for more than camping.
Not only did I shove groceries back there when prepping for the camping trip, but I hauled a tamper that we rented to finish our patio out back.
And the best part for short girls like me? The built-in cornerstep makes it so easy to climb up and down out of the bed.
After the postponements, delays, injuries, rain, and everything else that added to my comedy of errors, my son told me repeatedly that he had so much fun on this trip. He was giddy in the tent and fell asleep right away. Awakening to the sounds of rain and birds helped him to appreciate why people ever choose NOT to sleep in a luxury hotel and to spend the night in the great outdoors.
I asked him if he’d ever consider going tent camping again. He jumped at the idea and quickly added, “but only in a truck.”
The 2017 Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab was provided to me for a week for review. GMC also provided some of the camping equipment for this trip. As outfitted here, this truck has an MSRP of $63,795. All opinions are my own.
Video Review of the GMC Sierra Denali
Want to see more of the truck in detail? Want to get a better glimpse of the beautiful scenery we saw in Maryland and Pennsylvania? I’ve got it right here for you.