With the cost of family vacations rising, one affordable alternative is to reserve a campsite at a state or national park. Whether you pitch a tent or rent a cabin, at these campsites you'll have a low-cost base of operations for outdoor activities like swimming and hiking. Reservations can be made online at www.reserveamerica.com.
Pocahontas State Park (Virginia)
Pocahontas State Park is an easy, 20-mile drive from bustling Richmond, Virginia. Visitors can enjoy hiking, fishing, boating, and much more along several miles of trails and two equally stunning bodies of water: Beaver Lake and Swift Creek.
Goblin Valley State Park (Utah)
Located near the sleepy hamlet of Hanksville, Goblin Valley is a bit out of the way, but far less busy than some of its bigger brethren in the Four Corners area. The "goblins" are spectacular rock formations, which have been sculpted by wind and water over a period of millions of years to resemble mythical creatures.
Boston Harbor Islands (Massachusetts)
Residents and visitors in Boston don't have to go far to get away. The Boston Harbor Islands make for a bucolic campsite that's still in sight of the city skyline. Visitors can reach the islands by ferry or by private boat. Most sites are open only from mid-June through Labor Day weekend, so visitors are strongly encouraged to reserve their sites in advance.
Devil's Fork State Park (South Carolina)
Devil's Fork, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, boasts the same amenities of many popular parks and campsites. Its gorgeous natural waterfalls, which mark many of its undemanding hiking trails, are the real attraction. There are several falls located along miles of easy to moderate trails.
Lafayette Campground (New Hampshire)
Lafayette Campground is located in Franconia Notch, the unofficial capital of New Hampshire's White Mountain range, and offers services and amenities to families who want to rough it in name only. Nestled between Cannon Mountain and the picturesque Franconia Ridge, the Notch is home to some of the best hiking in New Hampshire. But it's not far from civilization, either, including fine dining in the nearby towns of Lincoln and Woodstock.
Norway Beach Resort (Minnesota)
Set among the pines of Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota, Norway Beach Resort provides guests with a rustic, lakefront cabin with amenities including fully equipped kitchens and bathrooms. All cabins are just a step away from a cornucopia of outdoor activities, including fishing, canoeing, and bike riding.
Hart-Tish Park at Applegate Lake (Oregon)
Applegate Lake is a manmade beauty that was created, along with its namesake dam, in 1976. Although the original intention was to create flood protection for the surrounding valleys, the creation of the lake also gave the state of Oregon a brand-new outdoor destination in the Siskiyou National Forest. This campground provides eight RV spots (no hookups) and eight tent sites.
Mueller State Park (Colorado)
At an average elevation of 9,600 feet above sea level, Mueller State Park is the perfect place to take in the grandeur of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Visitors can hike, ride bikes, or ride horses through a trail system spanning 50 miles. For the kids, there's the short, educational Dragonfly Nature Trail, which is like an outdoor museum.
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park (Nebraska)
This park, in Southeastern Nebraska, has something for any price range. Families can reserve hotel-style rooms in the grand lodge, private cabins, or tent sites around the park. While the natural beauty of the park is pristine, kids will especially enjoy the Family Aquatic Center, which has two water slides, a wave pool, and a water playground.
Bayou Segnette State Park (Louisiana)
Southwest of New Orleans, Bayou Segnette State Park offers waterfront vacation cabins, as well as plenty of sites for campers in tents or in RVs. A thrilling wave pool is only $8 for adults and $6 for kids. Nature lovers will appreciate the wildlife diversity on display - Bayou Segnette has both a saltwater marsh and a freshwater swamp.
Castle Crags State Park (California)
One of Northern California's many geological gems, the Castle Crags Park is made up of granite formations that have been forced upward from deep underground over a period of millions of years. The park features almost endless hiking with thousands of feet of vertical change, with views of the massive Mt. Shasta not too far off.