When it comes to getting up close and personal with nature, Budget Travel editors know the spots where you'll find elbow room, nightly lodging for under $30, and North America's most beautiful flora and fauna. This morning, Budget Travel's President and Publisher Elaine Alimonti appeared on the Weather Channel's AMHQ with Sam Champion to share these best-ever campsite recommendations.Here, some off-the-radar faves, surprising East Coast campsites, family-friendly outdoor spots, and places that are perfect for the adventurous camper.
TOP 3 OFF-THE-RADAR CAMPING LOCATIONS:
Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia. Take one look at Blackwater Falls and you'll see why it's one of the most photographed places in West Virginia: Five stories of amber-colored water gets its signature hue from the hemlock and red spruce needles of the forest. You'll find 20 miles of hiking trails, trout fishing, and if you need a dose of civilization, the park is also home to a lodge and an excellent restaurant.
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. If you think they go big in Vegas, head an hour northeast to Nevada's biggest state park, which boasts its own show: Stunning, 150-million-year-old sandstone formations that give the park its name; and 3,000-year-old petroglyphs carved into the rock by the region's original inhabitants. When it comes to getting away from it all, well, Valley of Fire has stood in for Mars in Hollywood movies.
Ruckle Park on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. The Gulf Islands in British Columbia are some of the most beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest, just north of the border with Washington State. Ruckle Park offers miles of shoreline, towering headlands, and gorgeous coves and bays where you can camp with a spectacular view right outside your tent. The terrain is a perfect blend of forest, grassy fields, and shore, where you can hike or cycle the miles of trailhead, or kayak along the beach. (Keep an eye out for sea lions, killer whales, and adorable otters.)
TOP 5 EAST COAST CAMPING LOCATIONS:
Mount Desert Island, Maine. Pitch your tent where the mountains meet the sea in coastal Maine, this island is also home to beautiful Acadia National Park.
Salisbury Beach State Park, Massachusetts. Yes, a public beach on the Massachusetts coast where you can camp and enjoy the legendary surf and sand.
Eagle Point, New York. On the western shore of upstate New York's Schroon Lake, this is that rare East Coast getaway that makes you feel like you're in the wilderness, but still close to great food and amenities.
Hershey Park Camping Resort. Some people consider this America's finest campsite for convenience and fun. Its proximity to chocolate (at Hershey Park) may be a factor.
Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina. Add some art to your camping adventure here, with the spectacular Brookgreen Gardens sculpture collection nearby, and cast a line at one of the Southeast's finest surf-fishing beaches.
TOP 5 FAMILY OUTDOOR SPOTS:
Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine, Florida. A perfect stretch of beach, tidal marsh, and opportunities for cycling, hiking, and canoeing make this an all-in-one camping spot.
First Landing State Park, Virginia. Add a little history to your Virginia Beach getaway here, where European colonists first landed in Virginia.
Fort Robinson State Park, Crawford, Nebraska. Kids will love the old west history, buffalo, and longhorns here, not to mention thousands of acres of parkland to explore.
Glacier National Park, Montana. Meet mountain goats up close (but stay a few feet away from those horns) at the Continental Divide, and ogle sky-high mountains that contain some of the lower 48's only remaining ice age glaciers.
Mount Hood Village, Oregon. Camp in the shadow of gorgeous Mount Hood and explore Oregon's rich forests and tasty food scene at one of the West Coast's finest campsites.
TOP 5 ADVENTURE DESTINATIONS:
Mount Washington State Park, New Hampshire. Climbing Mount Washington is near the top of many adventurers' bucket lists. Dress for all four seasons and bring water - the weather changes dramatically, which is all part of the fun if you're prepared.
Everglades National Park, Florida. Amazing opportunities for drive-in camping or backcountry for the truly adventurous. A great way to explore the waterways and wildlife of this iconic park without breaking the bank.
Big Bend National Park, Texas. A hidden gem on the Texas-Mexico border, we love the beautiful canyons and spectacular vistas this lesser-known park offers.
Lake Powell, Arizona. The seemingly endless shoreline of Lake Powell is no secret to Westerners, and presents opportunities to take on just about any watersport challenge.
Pfeiffer State Park, California. Hiking trails through the forest and purple-hued sand on the beach make this a magnet on the Central Coast, but many people don't know you can book a yurt (essentially a big, fancy tent) for a "glamping" experience like no other in the U.S.