|Started thinking about next years vacation yet? We all know how popular a
trip can be to one of America's national parks. Yet, for those of us who have navigated
the crowded roads to Yellowstone or Yosemite know, summertime visits can be unpleasant if
you encounter hordes of fellow vacationers!
Here's a selection of 10 of the best national parks, that can provide a variety of outdoor experiences, beautiful camp grounds, minus the maddening crowds.
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
Sandstone canyons, rocks, and the world's largest concentration of naturally carved arches await the visitor to this eastern edge of Utah. This park is known for its trails too, the most popular is to the 45-foot-high Delicate Arch, maybe the park's most spectacular. You may also drive out to see where parts of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" were filmed. Only 54 camping sites (no hook-ups) so plan on an early arrival! (801) 259-8161
CANYON de CHELLY, ARIZONA
Red rock monoliths, sandstone buttes and mesas dotting the landscape make this park a campers paradise! It's in the northeast corner of the state, and has the largest American Indian reservation in all of North America.This land was the home of the Anasazi, the "ancient ones". The area has more than 100 village sites, that date back as far as the fourth century. Two rim drives offer awesome views. Cottonwood Campground offers FREE CAMPING with 52 RV sites with hook-ups, and 95 tent sites. No reservations accepted, call for more info at: (602) 674-5436
FORT DAVIS STATE PARK, TEXAS
A trip to Fort Davis means history, science, and the great Texas outdoors. It's named for a frontier fort constructed by the U.S. Army, and is close to the intersection of the Chihuahua Trail and the San Antonio-El Paso Trail. Besides the museum and visitors center there are restored officer quarters, barracks, commissary, a sound reproduction of the 1875 retreat, and history programs presented with volunteers in costume throughout the summer. Not to be missed is the McDonald Observatory atop 6,800-foot Mount Locke, considered to be among the top observatories in the world. Phone (915) 426-3224
JOCKEY'S RIDGE STATE PARK, NORTH CAROLINA
A series of barrier islands stretching 130 miles along the coast of North Carolina, boast some of the most spectacular beaches on the East Coast. While the area has something to delight every visitor, this ocean-side park manages to bring out the little kid in every visitor. This is a delightful place for kite flying, hang gliding, hiking, picnicking, and picture-taking. For more information contact: OUTER BANKS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE (919) 441-8144
GULF STATE PARK, ALABAMA
In Gulf Shores, you'll find everything that America has ever placed beside the ocean for amusement, from a wave pool to miniature golf courses, fast-food outlets and video arcades. Gulf State Park is a 2.5-mile stretch of white beach along the Gulf of Mexico that also includes 6,000 acres of marshlands, forests, and freshwater lakes. This park offers guided canoe trips on Little Lake, plus has canoes and johnboat rentals. There's bicycling, pier fishing, swimming in a beach-side pool, the ocean or lake. There are 468 camp sites, some with hookups, many are located right on Middle Lake. Call (205) 948- PARK.
WATOGA STATE PARK, WEST VIRGINIA
This park derives its name from Watauga, the Cherokee word for "river of many islands". In fact, the Greenbrier River runs along several miles of it's boundary. There are more than 10,000 acres of lakes, trails, woodlands, and camping areas here. Options for outdoor fun are bountiful, including bird-watching walks around the 11 acre Killbuck Lake. You'll see black bear, deer, beaver, and raccoon. Also offered are mountain biking, horseback riding, and a junior naturalist program for kids. 88 campsites in wooded areas along the river or creek. Call 1-800 CALL -WVA.
CAPE HENLOPEN STATE PARK, DELAWARE
This park is near where the ferries cross the bay to New Jersey, and is a reminder of the way the Atlantic Coast used to look before it was developed. Here you can enjoy hiking trails, tennis and basketball courts, softball fields, and a nine-hole Frisbee course. Besides the Seaside Nature Center, they have shoreline treasures that are spectacular, from piping plover nests to cranberry bogs. 158 campsites in the park. Call (302) 645-8983.
ADIRONDACK STATE PARK, NEW YORK
The sheer size of this park is daunting. The state set aside 5.7 million acres as parkland in 1892, making it the largest park in the contiguous U.S. It has some of the most beautiful forested mountains and pristine lakes. Water-skiing, boating, biking, swimming, horseback riding, hiking trails, and serenity are the things visitors love. Numerous campgrounds, call Lake Placid County Visitors Bureau at (518) 523-2445.
MOUNT GREYLOCK, MASSACHUSETTS
This is the spot for brilliant, vivid fall colors in September and October. You can visit the summit of Mt. Greylock at 3,491 feet and see five states and a distance of about 100 miles. Camping sites, Call (413)499-4262.
GRAFTON NOTCH STATE PARK, MAINE
This small but dramatic park is great for families looking for short hikes to scenic waterfalls and caves. Throughout the park, you'll enjoy picnic areas, swimming holes, and spectacular views of the White Mountains. On the way here, you'll pass through the town of Newry and its Artists' Bridge, the most famous of Maine's covered bridges. Lots of camping, call (207) 824-2912.
We're wishing you and yours miles and miles of safe, healthy, happy camping!
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