Archive for the ‘Camping Destination of The Week’ Category

Escape the Crowds at a National Forest

Monday, March 26th, 2012

It’s a typical scene: A sea of crackling fires amid rows of eight-person tents, dogs run loose, a child is crying, somewhere in the distance an acoustic guitar strums the chords of Sweet Home Alabama.

The truth is that camping in National Parks rarely offers an authentic out-of-doors experience. Sure, you can find solitude on a long day hike, and most parks offer backcountry permits, a fine option for the more adventurous. But spending a night in designated campgrounds can be a frustrating and crowded experience.

A good option to avoid whirring RV generators, rowdy family reunions and cramped quarters is to check out a National Forest instead of a park.
With 155 National Forests in the United States containing nearly 190 million acres of land, there are plenty of options. Most of these destinations, often bordering National Parks (and just as stunning), don’t have the same nation-wide appeal as parks — or the same crowds.

Aside from certain guidelines – e.g. the distance between your campsite and a water source – dispersed camping is allowed and welcomed in most forests. You can explore the public land on your own terms and camp wherever you see fit, or you can stick to developed campgrounds of which there are many. Not to mention, fees are usually small or nonexistent.

Here are a few options to consider:

Dixie National Forest

Southern Utah is jam-packed with incredible national parks — eight in total. I am not saying they shouldn’t be explored; some of my favorite camping memories are from time spent in Bryce Canyon, Zion and Arches. But Dixie National Forest offers a great alternative. It’s less commercialized, less crowded and equally breathtaking.

This forest straddles the divide between the Great Basin and the Colorado River. One gem that stands out is Red Canyon, an oasis of crimson sandstone formations that shoot up out of a forested area. Plenty of great hiking opportunities to be had.

There are 26 developed campgrounds to choose from, with drinking water, restrooms and fire pits available.

Sierra National Forest

When I think of Sierra Nevada, the first thing that comes to mind is a delicious beer. Then I’m struck with images of one of the most captivating mountain ranges in the country.

This national forest is nestled on the western side of the mountain range in California. Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are all nearby. This may be a great place to camp in solitude before checking out some of the parks.

Dispersed camping is certainly an option, along with more than 60 developed camping areas. You’ll also find thousands of miles of hiking trails at your fingertips. That’s another thing about so many National Forests: they’re huge. Sierra National Forest encompasses more than 1.3 million acres. Yosemite National Park is 761,268 acres to put things in perspective.

From John Muir himself, a man who explored the Sierra Nevada’s more than most: “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”
–From John of the Mountains (1938)

Bridger-Teton National Forest

You could just call this forest “The Greater Yellowstone Region.” And I mean that in a good way.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks seem to have about as many photo-snapping tourists as elk, or bison during the peak summer months. If you are interested in avoiding those Yellowstone traffic jams and the hustle-and-bustle of one or our nation’s most popular parks, the nearby Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming offers the same expansive skies, and stark, looming mountains. You’ll find more than 40 peaks, with hiking trails ranging from novice to “you better know what you’re doing.”

There are 17 campgrounds among clear mountain lakes, rushing streams, lush vegetation and a diverse wildlife.

About the author: Eric Voorhis is a journalist, photographer and blogger living on Long Island. As a reporter and freelance writer he?s covered everything from education and local politics to recreation and the environment. He has been camping in nearly every state of the contiguous U.S., from the backwoods of Maine to the beaches of California, and hates it when people burn marshmallows.

Destination: Hungry Mother State Park, Va

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Hungry Mother State Park is located in southwestern Virginia near the town of Marion. The area was once a Civilian Conservation Corps park.

Camping is available inside the park. There are 31 sites that are electric/water that accommodate RVs up to 35 feet. Eleven sites are tent only. Showers are available. There is another camping area named Camp Burson that is located just before the entrance to the park. It has 30 sites that are full-hook up (electric, water, sewer) and 22 that are electric/water only. Camping fees range from $20 to $30.

Inside the park is a 108 acre lake with a swimming beach. Guests can rent canoes, kayaks, or paddleboats. Other activities include fishing, hiking and bicycle trails. There is a nice playground, also. Nature and history programs are presented weekly June through Labor Day. There is a visitor center with a gift shop near the entrance to the park (this is where you check-in if camping in the park). The park also has a restaurant if you are tired of camp food.

We have visited Hungry Mother twice. One time we camped in the park and the other time we camped in what is now Camp Burson (it was a privately owned campground at that time). When camping in the park, we had what we considered the best site! It was right beside the creek and had a small beach area. We could take our camp chairs to the beach and sit and relax and watch our kids try to catch crayfish (which was an entire afternoon of entertainment for them and us!).

On one of our trips to Hungry Mother, we rode our bicycles on the Virginia Creeper Trail. This is one of the many Rails-to-Trails linear parks. We
drove approximately 34 miles to Damascus, VA and rode a shuttle van (there are several shuttle companies) to Whitetop Station. From there, the Creeper Trail was 18 miles (basically downhill) back to Damascus (and our truck). I recommend doing this in the fall; the tree color was beautiful! You cross a creek several times on trestles. You can take your own sweet time and enjoy the view or speed on down the trail. This trail is for hikers, bicyclists, and horses. Be careful around the horses!

Winter Camping Destinations

Friday, December 9th, 2011

If you’ve studied up on your winter camping tips and feel ready to brave the frigid temperatures, where are some good destinations for winter camping? Thankfully, it’s a big, beautiful world, so you shouldn’t have to struggle to hard to find a great winter camping destination. Here are a few stand-out suggestions:

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is located just north of the Mexico border in Texas, between San Antonio and El Paso. The park contains the gorgeous Rio Grande river canyon pictured blow.

The nice thing about considering Big Bend National Park as a winter camping destination is that it’s a nice warm-up to more extreme iterations of winter camping. January, the coldest month at Big Bend, still has an average high temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit with an average low of 35 and you might require to stay in tents only at night. If you are planning to go as a group, try always to get an 8 person or more tent and if you already have one, then these are perfect. As these are huge, thus they allow you more space to crawl around and this will also make the process of sleeping much more comfortable. Those temperatures are still extreme and require full winter camping preparation, but it’s quite a bit more pleasant than trying to negotiate a winter camping experience where the high temperature never goes above freezing.

There are four campgrounds in Big Bend, many of them located nearby restaurants and convenience stores. Backpacking and bird-watching are two popular activities in the park.

Mojave Preserve

The Mojave Preserve is a National Park in the southeastern part of California between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. This is one place you wouldn’t want to choose as a summer camping destination; the desert climate is scalding hot with highs regularly above 100. The winter is far more suitable although temperatures can get below freezing at night. One must follow normal winter camping protocol when camping here despite the fact that it is a desert.

Two campgrounds in the park are open year round. The park is known for it’s sand dunes, volcanic cinder cones, mountains, wildflower and Joshua tree fields. Roadside camping is also allowed. A favorite visitor activity is paying a visit to the abandoned mines and military outposts which can be found all over the 1.5 million acre national treasure.

Killarney Provincial Park

For some real winter camping, give Killarney Provincial Park in central Ontario, Canada a try. The park has a designated area for winter campers. They require all campers in winter months to file a trip plan with the park office. Temperatures at night can sometimes get as low as -20 Fahrenheit! The winter camp site includes a hut with a wood stove for frigid campers eager to warm themselves.

A popular activity for winter campers in Killarney Provincial Park is snowshoeing. The park is considered safe for blazing your own trail on foot in the winter since the terrain is fairly flat and relatively shielded from the elements by the dense forestry.

French Creek State Park

French Creek State Park is located in Pennsylvania in close proximity to Philadelphia.

For those appealed by the idea of winter camping with some amenities, French Creek State Park is a great place to look. They have ten cabins available to rent with electricity and heat. You won’t score many points with the hard-core campers, but it’s a good way to wet your beak to what it means to camp in the winter. The park is known for its hiking trails and is popular as a site of cross-country skiing in the winter. The park has a store with equipment to rent or purchase, checkout their website for a good summary of their best products. Ice fishing and ice skating is extremely popular in the winter.