Bargain Vacations at National and State Parks
by Candyce H. Stapen
The great bargain vacation is (almost) in your own backyard: visit a state or national park. Easily accessible, these gems come with budget priced accommodations and activities, but first-class scenery. Savor wildlife, walking trails and wonderful views. The lodgings vary, ranging from rustic cabins to comfortable, grande hotels. Since these rooms go fast, reserve now for next summer.
Zion National Park, Utah, offers towering mesas 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 also walk through narrow canyons whose walls flame red in the sunlight. The tram ride makes it easy for young children and for grandparents who don’t want to walk far to see the park’s highlights. From the open-air cars, a guide points out such well-known spots as the Great White Throne, a 2400-foot-high monolith and the Temple of Sinawava, a towering cliff with a cascading waterfall. The comfortably furnished lodge rooms come with balconies, bathrooms, heat and air-conditioning. Xanterra Parks and Resorts, 888-297-2757.
Cacapon Resort State Park, West Virginia, a 6000-acre “poor man’s country club,” offers hiking, horseback riding, swimming, fishing, boating, tennis and an 18-hole golf course with inexpensive greens fees. Twenty miles of trails wind through meadows, woods and along Cacapon Mountain. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, cabins, all of which have kitchens and bathrooms rent only by the week. The more modern cabins also come with air-conditioning. 800-CALL-WVA.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, is distinguished by its namesake, a pure blue 1,932 foot deep lake, 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. Young kids like the easy 0.4 mile Castle Crest Wildflower Trail and teens who want a challenge can take on 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. Perched on a ridge overlooking the lake’s caldera, Crater Lake Lodge has hotel rooms while Mazama Village, seven miles from the lake, offers cabin-like accommodations with one or two bedrooms. Xanterra Parks and Resorts, 888-774-2728.
Custer State Park, South Dakota, adjacent to the Black Hills National Forest, consists of 76,000 acres of rolling grasslands and pine forests. The park, home to one of the nation's largest herds of buffalo, has four lodges. Western-themed Blue Bell offers horseback riding and hayrides. The popular Buffalo Safari Jeep tours depart from the State Game Lodge and Resort, a gracious stone and wood building that served as the 1927 “summer White House” for President Calvin Coolidge. Sylvan Lake and Legion Lake resorts sit lakeside. 888-875-0001