4 Things Every Camper Should Know
If you really want to unplug from your everyday life, spending a night or two alfresco may be just the trick. Let us be your guide to the perfect outdoor adventure.
5 Outside-the-box Camping Experiences
The Ultimate Castaway Experience
Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles west of Key West, Fla., is accessible only by seaplane or boat (yankeefreedom.com, $180 for round-trip ferry). In addition to beaches, coral reefs, 80-degree waters, and a walled 19th-century military fort, the park has a handful of first-come, first-served campsites (nps.gov/drto, $3 fee per person per night). Grills, picnic tables, and toilets are available, but campers must bring their own shelter, water, and food and haul away their trash-not a bad trade-off for sleeping among palm trees on a protected tropical island.
A Hike-In-Only Lodge
Northern Georgia's Amicalola Falls State Park is home to the Southeast's tallest waterfalls, the southern end of the Appalachian Trail, and a brilliant option for folks who love the outdoors but not sleeping on the ground. Len Foote Hike Inn is a 20-room lodge accessible via a five-mile hike from the top of the falls. All rooms are private and equipped with bunk beds and electric lighting but, to suit the unplugged atmosphere, no outlets. (Guests are asked to leave cell phones behind, too.) You'll also find linens, hot showers, family-style breakfasts and dinners, wood-burning stoves, and Adirondack chairs facing the mountains. hike-inn.com, from $70 per person.
Camping Almost Too Nice to Be Camping
Lots of RV parks and campgrounds have swimming pools. But a spa and a nine-hole golf course? The Springs at Borrego, in a 600,000-acre park two hours east of San Diego, has both—as well as a dog park, tennis courts, and an "astronomy park," which hosts stargazing events beneath the desert sky with dinner and drinks. springsatborrego.com, $249 for two-night package with RV site and two 60-minute massages.
Rooms With a View
The U.S. Forest Service operates hundreds of mountaintop wildfire lookout towers across the country. These days, many of these lookouts—which are especially prevalent in the West and Pacific Northwest—now serve as simple, scenic lodging options. Bald Knob Lookout, in Oregon's Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, is a 16' x 16' cabin built atop a 20-foot wooden tower, with nothing but forests and valleys for miles around. While guests get a roof overhead, along with a propane stove, a mini fridge, propane lights, and a futon bed, there's no denying this is still roughing it: The only restroom is an outhouse 100 feet from the tower, and you'll have to BYO sleeping bags and water. recreation.gov, $35 per night for up to four people.
Yosemite, No Tents or Cooking Required
Yosemite National Park's rugged terrain is tough enough to navigate without a backpack full of camping gear. To lighten the load, bed down at one of the park's High Sierra Camps, which are outfitted with canvas tents (dorm-style beds and wood-burning stoves included) and are spaced a hikeable six to 10 miles apart. Breakfast and dinner are included, and a few (but not all) sites have hot showers. yosemitepark.com, $151 per adult per night.
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