State Park Budget Getaways
By Candyce H. Stapen
Looking for an easily accessible, budget getaway with first-class scenery? Then, visit a state park. These gems, often eclipsed by the better-known U.S. National Parks, offer low-priced accommodations, but first-class scenery, literally as wonderful and varied as all-outdoors. All of the parks below offer hiking trails, scenic outlooks, ranger programs in summer, as well as accommodations in addition to camp sites. The lodgings range from rustic to comfortable depending on the facility, and like any good deal, these book early. Book now for summer and fall getaways.
Fort Robinson State Park, three miles west of Crawford, NE, founded as a military post in 1874, offers pine ridges and sandy colored buttes as well as military and Indian history. The park sprawls on 22,000-acres. Take a jeep ride into the Cheyenne Outbreak Buttes, named for the trail the Indians used to escape from the Fort in 1879, and tour the museum with its period weapons and clothing. For more western flair, take a nature hike to catch sight of the buffalo herd, try a stagecoach ride, enjoy the rodeo and taste buffalo stew at the summer cook-outs. Stay in cabins or camp.
Explore high-desert topography at Bruneau Dunes State Park, one hour south of Boise, Idaho. On these 4800 acres you'll find North America's tallest, single sand dune, a commanding 470 feet. NASA came here to study the theoretically similar topographical conditions on Mars. Take the 5-mile self-guided nature trail around the dunes for an explanation of the habitat, and allow time for great fishing for bass and bluegill in the two lakes. Rent one of two cabins or camp.
At Lake Cumberland State Park, Jamestown, in Kentucky, enjoy swimming, horseback riding, hiking, tennis, and golfing, at both 9-hole and disc golf (Frisbee golf) courses. Enjoy boating too on one of the largest man-made lakes in the country. Opt for camp sites, one or two-bedroom cottages or lodge rooms.
Mohican State Park Resort & Conference Center, Perrysville, Ohio, stands out as one of Ohio's best resort parks. The facility’s 1110-acres include five miles of the Clear Fork branch of the Mohican River. In addition, the Mohican Memorial State Forest, nearly 5,000 acres, surrounds the park. The state park has 13 miles of trails and the state forest adds another 32 miles. These take you through forests of hemlocks, sycamores, maples and white pines to waterfalls, scenic overlooks and shady hilltops. Mountain bikers can pedal along the 25 mile bike trail. A favorite picnic spot is the 1,000-foot wide Clear Fork Gorge, whose cliff walls tower 300-feet above the river. The park also has indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a basketball court, and, in summer, a recreation program of hikes and activities. You can camp, rent a rustic getaway camper cabin, a two-bedroom cottage, or book a lodge room with private bath and television.
A big draw in Virginia’s scenic southwest Blue Ridge Highlands region is Claytor Lake State Park, named for the 4,500 acre lake with 101 miles of shoreline created when the local power company built a dam on the New River. The park contains three miles of lakefront. Swim, boat and fish in the park, which has a paved, wheelchair accessible trail to the beach.