Archive for the ‘biking’ Category

BOGO Lodging to Celebrate National Parks Week

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Let’s go BOGO. Who doesn’t love a buy one get one free lodging bargain? When it’s combined with free entrance to a U.S. National Park during the week of April 17- 25, your spring vacation is a budgetary winner. Sure, you could camp at Shenandoah or Yellowstone, but look at these bargains:


Far View Lodge

At Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado, explore the ancient cliff dwellings of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visits to Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House require a ticket on a ranger-led tour. Be sure to save some time for hiking one of the many trails or visiting the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum. From your room at Far View Lodge, high on the mesa’s shoulder, the view encompasses three states and all the stars you can count in the dark, night sky. Rooms are priced at $99 with a consecutive night free. This offer is valid from April 22 – 30, 2010. And, entrance to Mesa Verde National Park is free through the end of April.

Experience Virginia’s beautiful spring with a stay at Skyland Resort in Shenandoah National Park. The historic resort, built in 1886, offers inspiring views of the Shenandoah Valley. But don’t spend all of your time looking out the window from the highest point on Skyline Drive — take a hike, go biking or visit one of the local wineries. Book one night for $125 and receive the second consecutive night free. Offer valid from April 18 – 29, 2010.


Kalaloch Lodge

Olympic National Park in Washington encompasses rain forests, rugged beaches and mountain splendor. Confused about what to see first? Why not split your visit into two Olympic experiences? First take in the rugged Pacific coastline from your accommodations at Kalaloch Lodge. The bird-watching paradise includes hiking, biking and beach-combing opportunities. Next, head 12 miles into the heart of Olympic National Forest for a stay at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. Soak away tired muscles after an invigorating hike through an old growth rainforest. Both Kalaloch Lodge and Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort are offering accommodations priced at $157 with a second consecutive night free. This offer is valid from April 17 – 25, 2010.

Shenandoah, Mesa Verde, Olympic — I’m having a hard time deciding which National Park BOGO lodging adventure to choose. How about you?

Photos courtesy ARAMARK Parks and Destinations.

Review by Donna L. Hull, My Itchy Travel Feet.

Ohiopyle State Park, Pennsylvania

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Ohiopyle equals water, water, and more water

In southwestern Pennsylvania, at “the gateway” of the Laurel Mountains, is Ohiopyle State Park where the Youghiogheny River Gorge is like a water park that nature  made. Waterfalls abound and the park’s two natural water slides at Meadow Run are made for whisking down in a wet and wild ride. Other outdoor adventure activities include white water rafting and rock climbing. Hiking trails range from easy to difficult.

In the winter (although with spring finally here, who wants to think about that?) Ohiopyle is the place to head for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and tobogganing.

Famous for: The beauty and outdoor excitement offered by Youghiogheny River Gorge.

Kayaking is one way to take in Ohiopyle's beauty

The whole family will like:  Along with the thrill of a ride down a natural water slide, the park is a biking, hiking, horse back riding and fishing wonderland.

  • Trail-side Stables offers horseback riding in the park.
  • White Water Adventures offers bike rentals as well as organized rafting trips. If you have a tot in tow, there are pull- behind carts.
  • Ohiopyle Trading Post offers fly-fishing trips and 1 to 4 person raft rentals. If you don’t know the first thing about rafting, consider kayaking lessons. I’ve kayaked before. It’s not that hard.

Taking part in one of Ohiopyle’s nature hikes, evening programs or hands-on activities  is another way to way to further appreciate the unique qualities and lushness of the environment.

Camping: The park’s Kentuck Campground has 226 campsites, some with electric hook-ups. People without a tent or an RV can rent  one of the three pre-set up platform tents. Four yurts equipped with a refrigerator, microwave and stove top are also available. Both yurts and platform tents have bunk beds. For price details, click here.

A view of the gorge

Other Lodging Options:

 If camping isn’t your pleasure, there are several possibilities for indoor stays near Ohiopyle. This page at the website Wilderness Voyagers lists several resorts and hotels in the surrounding area.

Park Contact information:

Ohiopyle State Park
PO Box 105
Ohiopyle, PA 15470-0105

The park’s website is filled with useful information to ensure your visit is filled with everything you’d hope for and more.

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A Basic Guide to Swallow Falls State Park in Maryland

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

In the northwest corner of the state of Maryland, where it meets up with the states of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, is where you’ll find Swallow Falls State Park.

The Youghiogheny River flows along the park’s borders, creating rocky gorges, rapids and waterfalls, including Muddy Creek Falls. The park is also home to the oldest grove of white pine and eastern hemlock trees in Maryland.

Muddy Creek Falls at Swallow Falls State Park

Nearest major city: Oakland, Maryland. Within a 2-3 hour radius are: Baltimore, MD; Pittsburgh, PA; and Morgantown, WV

Famous for: At 53 feet tall, Muddy Creek Falls is Maryland’s highest waterfall. In the early 20th century inventor Thomas Edison would often camp here.

Admission: $3/person

Families with children will like: Fishing and the hiking trails. Teens will enjoy the mountain bike trails.

Other things travelers will like: The falls are great for photography buffs. In the winter, snowmobiling is popular.

Camping information: Swallow Falls State Park offers 65 wooded campsites, including some with electric/water/sewer hookups. $25/night without hookups; $35/night with. The campground is closed from December 15 through April 15 annually.

Other park lodging: The campground offers camper cabins for rent that sleep four, with outdoor grills and communal restroom/shower facilities. They’re only available from Memorial Day until Labor Day, for $50/night.

Other nearby lodging: The nearby Deer Creek Lake resort community of Oakland has a wide variety of lodging to choose from.

Best months to visit for weather: Late spring and early fall are best for moderate temperatures. Fall is best for the changing colors of the leaves.

Best months to visit to avoid crowds: Peak tourist seasons are the summer months. Spring and fall are probably the best if looking to avoid crowds.

Getting here:

  • Flying – Baltimore and Pittsburgh are both serviced by many airlines, but you’ll definitely need a car to get here..

More info can be found at: Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources

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[Photo courtesy of Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources]

Hammonasset State Park, Connecticut

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Hammonasset State Park

Hammonasset's marshy side

Here’s where you can kick it old school like Native Americans did before settlers came in 1639.  This is a beach with a long history.  Hammonasset means “Where we dig holes in the ground,” and it was where the natives farmed corn, beans, and squash, and fished and hunted.  Since then, the beach has been a rifle testing site, an army reservation, and an aircraft range, but now it’s just a plain old state park.

I grew up in Connecticut on the Long Island Sound, where there’s barely ever any surf and the beach smelled like sewage in the 70’s.  It’s better now, but I do remember that if we wanted to go to a “real” beach, we went to Hammonasset.  But it’s not just beach-type things you can do there although you can fish, sail, and bodyboard because the surf gets a bit bigger than elsewhere in Connecticut and there are spots where there are less rocks.  There’s a nature center, a kick-ass campground, and hiking and biking trails, too.

Families with young kids will like: Meigs Point Nature Center, and the ample facilities.

Families with teenagers will like: The bigger waves, relative to other beaches nearby.

Other travelers will like: If you are into rocks, there’s a lot of information about the geology of Hammonasset Beach available on the CT State Park website.

Best months to visit for weather: May through October

Nearest major cities: New Haven, CT

More info can be found at the always helpful California State Park site.

Photo courtesy of: msgsti217 via Flickr

Tags: Huntington Beach State Park, USA, things to do, California

Parking is $20 per car for state residents and $30 per car for non-residents.  That same type of pricing applies to the camping, which is amazing and beautiful in this park, and priced at $30-$70 per night.

Photo courtesy of slack12 via Flickr.

Visit Florida’s Wild Side at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

A Florida prairie

Nature puts on quite a show at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park situated between Gainvesville and Micanopy, Florida. This 22,000-acre prairie wilderness offers so many wildlife viewing opportunities that you’ll forget all about that little mouse named Mickey who lives down the road in Orlando. While you’re hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding or observing from one of the observation towers, look for alligators, bison, wild horses, or sandhill cranes. Want a challenge? How many of the 270 species of birds can you spot?

Famous for: Views of abundant wildlife on a prairie, an unexpected Florida setting

Admission: $6.00 per vehicle (limit 2-8 people per vehicle). $2.00 pedestrians and bicyclists, $7.00 per equestrian/rider

Families with young kids will like:  A walk on the La Chua Trail to view the alligators. Keep a keen eye on the little ones.

Families with teenagers will like: Bicycling the mostly level terrain on any of the numerous park trails.

Other travelers will like: Birders should visit in the winter to see thousands of migratory sandhill cranes. More birding opportunities include sightings of bald eagles, great horned owls, hawks and various songbirds. Equestrians will enjoy the multi-use Chacala Trail where a series of loop trails offers 6.5 miles of riding plus wildlife viewing that includes deer, bobcat and wild turkey.

Easy site seeing: Exhibits and an audio-visual presentation at the Visitor’s Center offer an easy introduction to the geography and wildlife at Paynes Prairie. A 50′ observation tower provides panoramic views.

Best hotel in the park: No hotels are located in the park but Gainesville, home to the University of Florida, offers a wide assortment of lodging.

Best campground in the park: The campsite near Lake Waube accommodates RV’s, trailers or tents for a camping fee of $18.00 plus tax per night, including water and electricity. Campers over 65 or those with 100% disabilities qualify for 50 per cent discount. From November thru February, park rangers lead Saturday night campfire programs.

Best months to visit for weather: Spring or autumn. Summers are hot and humid. Winter weather ranges from cool to cold but you’ll have the chance to see the thousands of sand-hill cranes that make Paynes Prairie their winter home.

Best months to visit to avoid crowds: Summer when most visitors hang out at Florida beaches due to the heat and humidity.

Nearest major cities: Orlando

More info can be found at the always helpful Florida State Parks site.

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Cedar Key on the Nature Coast of Florida
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Review of Sweetwater Branch Inn Bed and Breakfast, Gainesville, FL

Photo courtesy of: Donna L. Hull

Review by Donna L. Hull, My Itchy Travel Feet, The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Travel

Wisconsin’s Peninsula State Park

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

stunning bluffs are a highlight of Peninsula State Park

Door county boasts unbelievable beauty from every angle but no place highlights Wisconsin’s natural wonders better than Peninsula State Park.  Famous for being the state’s most complete park,  Peninsula State Park offers not just outdoor activities but an outdoor theater as well.  Located in beautiful Fish Creek, admission stickers for out of state vehicles are $10 daily and $5 for one hour. State trail pass fees are $4 daily.

The spectacular scenery will immediately grab you once you enter Peninsula State Park.  Rolling waves and towering bluffs make for truly magnificent vistas.  Families with young children will like the American Folklore Theatre, which performs whimsical musical productions from June through July. They’ll also have fun on a guided tour of  the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, which was built in 1868. Teens will enjoy kayaking in Nicolet Beach as well as a boat ride to Horse Shoe Island, the only island that’s part of Peninsula Park.  Other activities include  20 miles of hiking trails, two bike routes an an 18-hole golf course.  Campers should remember that Peninsula State Park is Wisconsin’s most popular camping destination and make reservations for one of the five campgrounds.  The camp supplies a total of  468 family sites, of which 101 are electric and three group areas. The Camp Store at Nicolet Beach sells supplies and ice and the Snack Bar features pizza, burgers and ice cream.  Camping fees are $14-$17 a night for non-residents.  To grab a little more relaxation, stroll across the street to Homestead Suites, which provides close proximity to Fish Creek stores and restaurants.

Photo courtesy of  Friends of Peninsula State Park

Indiana Dunes State Park

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

The beach pavilion at the Indiana Dunes State Park

Growing up as a kid in Chicago, a visit to the Indiana Dunes State Park was an annual summer camp event.  Just 47 miles outside of Chicago, nothing in the city compared to the miles of rolling sand dunes that we’d run through and build elaborate sand castles.  We never got past the beaches but the park has been updated since then to include 2,182 acres of  dazzling shoreline, a nature center, hiking trails and newly renovated campgrounds.

Famous for three miles of pristine Lake Michigan south shoreline with drifting sand dunes, the beach boasts a pavilion with bath houses, snack bar and shelter. 18,00 acres provide a wooded landscape and the most diversified flora and fauna in the Midwest.  You can learn about the landscape and the distinctive Indiana dune  ecosystem at the Nature Center, which offers scheduled interpretive programs. The 140 campsites have 50 amp electrical service and heated restrooms and shower houses. Reservations for the campsites can be made online or at 1-866-6campin. Besides enjoying the beach, families will love a  4.5 mile-hike through Dune Ridge Loop trail.  A dramatic trail with forest, wetlands and wooded dunes, Dune Ridge Loop is noted for its variety.  There are also 9 other hiking trails ranging from moderate to strenuous. There is a $10 admission fee for noncommercial vehicles without Indiana license plates.  Camping fees range from $17.34-$28.56 for electric facilities. If your family doesn’t want to stay in the campgrounds, opt for the charming Spring House Inn, an English cottage hotel nestled in the surrounding woodlands.

Photo courtesy of Indiana Dunes State Park

Explore Nature at Wekiwa Springs State Park, Apopka, Florida

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Designated as only one of two Federally Designated “Wild and Scenic Rivers,” Wekiva River in Wekiwa Springs State Park is a vast and incredible, nature-centered attraction. This central Florida park encompasses nearly every out-door activity in one location just outside Apopka, just 12 miles north of downtown Orlando. Guests are invited to canoe down the Wekiva River, hike through the natural park surroundings for an overnight adventure, and explore Wekiwa on horseback.

Wekiva River, Florida

Wekiva River by Kayak, Florida

Crystal clear, 72ºF water, for which Wekiwa is famous, is ready to be explored with your snorkel, by canoe, or just wading in the River. Guests are able to rent canoes for the day or overnight from the park starting at just $35/day. Guided and self-guided tours begin at Canoe Beach Landing with many options depending on your party size or your length of visit. Overnight camping is available with or without all of your sleeping necessities provided.

If horseback riding is your idea of exploring nature, Rock Springs Riding Ranch provides horses and trail guides to assist you on your adventure. Kids of all ages are welcomed to experience riding horseback. Pony rides start at just $12 per child under 8, and 1-hour guided horseback rides start at $37/person.

Nature trails are open to walkers, hikers, runners, and bikers and reaches 9 miles of park viewing. Trail maps are available at the park. Some riders may find the course a challenge, the multi-use trail is available for guests to experience Florida’s nature.

Some of the best bird watching and wildlife spotting is available on the 1/8-mile long boardwalk over-looking the springs and through the swamps of the park. Bring your camera and binoculars to spot some of Central Florida’s greatest natural treasures.

History and nature buffs will surely appreciate the recently opened Nature Center which includes live native wildlife and opportunities to learn about local habitats. Visitors will learn how to better live off of the land and respect the Earth’s resources.

Locals and visitors can take advantage of some of the pavilions and meeting spaces found around the park. Recreation Hall and Dining Hall can be rented out together or separately to accommodate up to 150 people apiece for your gathering.

Florida state parks are open from 8 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year.

$6.00 per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
$4.00 Single Occupant Vehicle.
$2.00 Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.

(More information on fees is available on the Florida State Parks website.)

1800 Wekiwa Circle Apopka, Florida 32712
(407) 884-2008

Photos courtesy: See Reeves

Redwood National Park, California

Monday, March 1st, 2010
Redwoods and ferns in Redwood National Park, California

Redwoods and ferns in Redwood National Park, California

Redwood National Park, along the northern coast of California, is often grouped together with the state parks in the area and referred to collectively as Redwood National and State Parks. Many of the resources highlighted on the National Park Services site include reference to nearby state parks, including Jededish Smith Redwoods State Park and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. One of the few national parks that allows biking on back road logging trails, Redwood National Park offers many options for all types of visitors.

Famous for: Tall redwood trees, the world’s tallest trees.

Admission: Redwood National Park is free to visit!

Visitors will enjoy: Set out on one of the many hikes through the Tall Trees Grove. Enderts Beach off the Coastal Trail, takes visitors down to the tidepools and include interpretive signs to help identify plants and trees.

Easy site seeing: During the summer, visit one of the 5 visitor stations in the park and enjoy a ranger-led program or evening campfire. Or, take one of the paved or unpaved scenic drives through the park.

Best campground in the park: Both developed and backcountry campgrounds are available within the park. Gold Bluffs Beach Campground is the most interesting option, offering easy access to the beach, as well as hiking and biking trails nearby. Reservations are not accepted for this campground, it is first-come, first-served.

Best months to visit for weather: The coastal areas of Northern California experiences thick fog much of the year. With these wet conditions, be sure to wear layers and bring a rain jacket. Summer is an ideal time to visit, when temperatures warm up.

Best months to visit to avoid crowds: Late fall or early spring are the best times to avoid crowds in Redwood National Park.

Nearest major cities: Crescent City is the nearest city with an airport, near the border with Oregon.

Visit the National Park Services website for more information about Redwood National Park.

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Motel Trees near Trees of Mystery in Northern California

New RV Park in Eureka, California

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Photo courtesy of National Park Service photo gallery.

A Basic Guide to Great Basin National Park in Nevada

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Many people think of the state of Nevada as a huge desert state. But on the eastern side of the state, just 200 miles north of Las Vegas, lies a mountainous area known as the Snake Range. It’s here that one will find Great Basin National Park.

Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park

The park is young (established in 1986) and features not just a mixture of desert and mountain climates, but an extensive network of natural caves, as well. It’s also so remote that its clear night sky makes its popular for astronomy pursuits.

Nearest major city: Las Vegas, Nevada (200 miles south) and Salt Lake City, Utah (200 miles northeast)

Famous for: Hiking; caving, stargazing, birdwatching

Park Hours: Open year-round. The visitor center is also open year-round (with the exception of January 1, Thanksgiving Day and December 25, when it is closed).

Admission: No fee for entrance to the park.

Families with young kids will like: Participating in the Junior Ranger program and earning a badge; helping to gather edible pine nuts (only allowed during fall visits)

Families with teenagers will like:
Exploring Lehman Caves with a 60 or 90-minute guided tour ($8-$10 for 16 and over; $4-$5 for 15 and under); ranger-led campfire programs (during the summer months)

Other park highlights: The night sky is generally so clear that this is a great park for stargazing. Every summer (usually August) there is a big astronomy festival.

Experienced cavers will also enjoy the challenges of over 40 different caves to explore.

Easy site seeing: Try Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, a 12-mile drive that starts in the Great Basin Desert area of the park and ascends through several ecological environments, from sagebrush to pinyons and junipers to the alpine eco-system of aspen trees. Due to the 8% grade of the climb, it’s best to have a 4-wheel drive vehicle to attempt the full length. At the end of the drive, an optional 5-mile hike leads to the park’s only glacier, near the summit of Wheeler Peak mountain.

Best hotel in the park: There are no hotels within park boundaries.

Best campground in the park: There are five campgrounds within the park. Only Lower Lehman Creek is open year round and is the only one with sites for RVs/trailers. The other four are open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Rates are $12/night for all five. Wheeler Peak Campground is the most popular, but it should be noted there are no shower facilities at any of the campgrounds within the park.

Other Lodging Options: Just 5 miles outside of the northeast entrance to the park lies Baker, Nevada. Here you’ll find the Whispering Elms Motel, Campground & RV Park. Accommodations are basic, but cheap and decent (and with showers!). Nightly rates average $17 for a campsite, $30 for a site with water/sewer/electric hookups and $45 for a motel room.

Best months to visit for weather: Early fall is best, when the foliage changes colors on the mountain and pine nuts are available for picking.

Best months to visit to avoid crowds: Late May and Early September are best to encounter low crowds with mild weather. In fact, during Spring and Fall months, it can be possible to hike for hours on the backcountry trails and not encounter another person.

Getting There:

  • Flying – Closest airports are Las Vegas and Salt Lake City
  • Bus – Greyhound services Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

A personal vehicle is required to reach Great Basin National Park.

More info can be found at the always helpful site:

[Photo courtesy NPS]

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