Adventures, Bargains at National and State Parks
By Candyce H. Stapen
The great bargain vacation may be (almost) in your own backyard: a sojourn at a state or national park. These easily accessible getaways come with budget priced accommodations, and activities, but first-class scenery, literally as wonderful and varied as all-outdoors. A stay at the parks allows you to enjoy wildlife, walking trails, nature programs and much more.
The cabins range from rustic to comfortable depending on the facility, and like any good deal, these go fast. At some parks, the lodges take reservations a year in advance. Here are some good choices.
Zion National Park, Utah, offers towering mesas, massive canyon walls and spectacular red rock formations. You can hike along the Virgin River lined with cottonwood trees and box elders to towering cliffs with cascading waterfalls and through narrow canyons whose walls flame red in the sunlight. Certain trails are open to bicyclists and horseback riders. Rentals of both are available.
Get a sense of Zion’s spectacular beauty by taking the virtual tour of a hike on Angels Landing. Even though Zion is a popular park, the shuttle bus system replaces individual cars once in the park so the roads aren’t bumper to bumper with tourist vehicles. Lodge rooms come with balconies, bathrooms, heat and air-conditioning.
Cacapon Resort State Park, West Virginia, a 6000-acre “poor man’s country club,” features hiking, horseback riding, swimming, fishing, boating, tennis, and an 18-hole golf course whose green fees for 18-holes range from $18-$32. In spring, rangers lead wildflower walks through acres blooming with dogwood, trillium and mountain laurel. Twenty miles of trails wind through meadows, woods and along Cacapon Mountain. You can try archery as well as shooting at clay targets.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, cabins, all of which have a kitchen and bathroom, are rented only by the week. Reserve these 9-12 months ahead. Some cabins are rustic, without heat or air-conditioning. The more modern cabins come with central heat and air conditioning. The smaller bungalows have bunk beds and a combination living/dining area. The park’s inn has 40 hotel rooms
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, is distinguished by its namesake, a pure blue 1,932 foot deep lake, and the deepest in the U.S. The fiery eruption of Mt. Mazama more than 7,700 years ago created the lake and the volcano-like landscape. The 33-mile drive around the lake provides access to more than a dozen scenic viewpoints. The Castle Crest Wildflower Trail, 0.4 miles, is an easy walk. For those wanting a challenge, hike the Cleetwood Cove Trail, a mile-long path that drops steeply to the lake. Coming back up is comparable to climbing 60-flights of stairs. Crater Lake Lodge has 71 rooms and Mazama Village Motor Inn has 40 motel-style units.