Archive for the ‘state parks’ Category

Lodging Where the Rivers Meet in Grafton, Illinois

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Tara Point Inn, Grafton, Illinois

Grafton, Illinois is one of those cute little towns that most people haven’t heard of, but it’s a great place to spend a weekend kicking back where the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers join up and flow together. It’s a winery town, a river community, and the gateway to nearby Pere Marquette State Park.

If the car ferries are running, it’s also a short hop from St. Charles, Missouri and an easy drive to St. Louis. The Sam Vadalabene bike trail connects Grafton with Alton and the state park. If you don’t have your own, you can rent a bike at Wild Trak Bikes in Alton.

There are no big chain hotels in Grafton and most visitors like it that way. Here are a few notable places to spend the night in after eagle watching, wine tasting, or biking.

Tara Point Inn – This is the top lodging choice in Grafton, both literally and figuratively. It sits perched high on a bluff, with a terrific view overlooking the confluence of the two rivers. There are lots of windows to get the whole panorama in the public areas and main building rooms, but the cottage suites in separate buildings provide more room to stretch out. Rates are $168 to $216 including tax and breakfast. See more at

Riverside Cottage by the Loading Dock Restaurant

The Loading Dock Guesthouse and Riverside Cottage are two mini houses by the river, right next to the great Loading Dock restaurant and bar. This is the best spot in town to hang out by the river anyway, so then you only have a few steps back to your private cottage with all the comforts of home, including a full kitchen, Wi-Fi, and satellite TV. Rates are $100 to $225 per night for up to six people (some on bunk beds) in the Guesthouse.

In the Lodge at Pere Marquette State Park

The Pere Marquette Lodge, located a few miles away in the state park and facing the Illinois River, is one of those grand, solid lodges built with government stimulus money in the 1930s. With 73 rooms and cabins, it’s the largest lodge in the area and has a pool, a massive fireplace, and a giant chess set on the floor of the main hall. There’s a restaurant on site and a wine bar featuring the local Mary Michelle Winery label. Hiking trails intersect the 8,000-acre site. Visit the official lodge site for current rates, which start at $125.

The Loading Dock is the only one of these three that is walking distance to all the restaurants and wine bars in the town of Grafton itself. The most interesting other choice in the center is the Ruebel Hotel on the main drag. Built a hundred years ago and renovated in 2008, it features a beautiful restored bar from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Rates start at $99 and there’s a complimentary upgrade program for weekdays.

See more Grafton hotel info here. Get more information on attractions, restaurants, and wineries at the official Grafton site.

Story and photos by Tim Leffel, author of The World’s Cheapest Destinations.

Kiptopeke State Park, Virginia is for Bird Lovers

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Kiptopeke State Park for long walks on the beach...

Since 1963, Kiptopeke State Park in Virginia has been the site of bird population studies.  According to their website: Volunteers capture, examine, weigh, band and release resident and migratory birds each year from mid-August through November. In the raptor research area, hawks, kestrels, osprey and other birds of prey are observed and banded from September through November. Kiptopeke’s hawk observatory is among the top 15 nationwide.

Famous for: That bird thing sounds pretty cool.

Admission: There are numerous fees for camping, cabins, picnics and swimming.  The rates vary greatly by season and can be found at the Virginia State Park website.

Families with young kids will like: Swimming and fishing

Families with teenagers will like: Hiking and bike trails, bonfires

Other travelers will like: Birdwatching, canoe programs

Best hotel in the park: The park has a number of lodges that can cost over $200 per night.

Best campground in the park: Stay in a Yurt! It is a modern adaptation of an ancient nomadic shelter, combining a beautiful wood frame and durable, electronically bonded architectural fabric. Functionally speaking, it’s a cross between a tent and a cabin.

Best months to visit: October 7, 2010 through the 10th is their annual Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival. Admission is free.

Nearest major cities: Virginia Beach and Norfolk

Related posts:

Reid State Park

A Colonial Christmas in Williamsburg, VA

Photo courtesy of: Virginia Hiker

Oro Valley, Arizona

Monday, April 5th, 2010
A path among the yet-to-bloom mesquite trees in Catalina State Park.

A path among the yet-to-bloom mesquite trees in Catalina State Park.

A few weekends ago my husband and I drove about an hour and a half south of where we live, to an area just north of Tucson known as Oro Valley. Among other things, we wished to hike the Catalina State Park. So we got up early on Saturday morning, showered and packed and did all the things homeowners (and pet owners) do when they’re going to be gone for a 24-hour period of time.

We arrived at the CSP right at noon – which, upon reflection, wasn’t the best time of day to start our hike. The 68-degree weather was lovely, but the breeze barely provided a defense against the direct sunlight and lack of shade. Plus, the harsh sunlight is not ideal for photography. Still, we weren’t altogether miserable, were sun-blocked up, and had plenty of water. So after a cursory look at the “Wildlife Display” (which featured a half dozen various snakes, a few gila monsters, and some pelts) we addressed the trail map and set off.

I wrote a recent entry about our hiking experience, along with my first attempt at a video blog, which you can view here.

We stayed at the Oro Valley Holiday Inn Express, which was just a short distance away from the park. We checked in, and lugged our stuff to our room. The first thing my husband does whenever he enters any hotel room is immediately turn on the A/C, which is when we discovered that it was a very noisy, very unhappy little A/C unit. So we got cleaned up (and had to deal with a very uncooperative shower head) and changed our clothes and re-packed, then requested that we be moved to a different room with a functional A/C. They were happy to oblige (despite the fact that they had to re-clean the bathroom of our original room – I kind of felt bad about that), and fortunately we pack light. The second room’s A/C worked fine, but the shower head was just as wonky, and it turned out that the bedsprings had serious poke-through issues. So! While I would recommend the Holiday Inn Express as a chain, our experience at this particular hotel was less than stellar. The staff was great, though, and the rooms were clean and neat.

Saturday night’s dinner was at the Hi Falutin’ Rapid Fire Western Grill. My husband ordered a fillet, I ordered the shredded beef tacos, and OH MY GOD, was that food INCREDIBLE. I didn’t bring my camera in, else I surely would have embarrassed us with all the pictures I’d have taken of our plates.

After dinner, we drove back over to the hotel, parked, and walked across to the neighboring Taste of Chicago. We occupied a table on the patio for several hours, watching the light change on the mountains.

View of the Catalina Mountains from the Taste of Chicago patio.

View of the Catalina Mountains from the Taste of Chicago patio.

We talked and sipped our drinks and took pictures. I happened to be sitting facing the gully that runs alongside the restaurant, and saw a pair of rabbits go racing by. My “Oh, bunnies!” exclamation caused my husband to look in the opposite direction to see what the bunnies were running from. He leaped up from the table and said, “Holy crap, it’s a bobcat! Quick, gimme the camera!”

The bobcat is in the center of the photo.  Click to enlarge!

The bobcat is in the center of the photo. Click to enlarge!

He chased off along the fence, camera in hand, being all “here kitty kitty” while the bobcat disdained his efforts. Eventually my husband came back tot he table, mourning the lack of a telephoto lens – he never was able to get close enough to get a really clear picture. Then, in a fit of wildlife photography inspiration, he proceeded to attempt to capture the flitting efforts of a bat, who had come out early to partake of the bugs.

The bat - click on it to see it in a larger size.  It's actually a pretty cool shot.

The bat - click on it to see it in a larger size. It's actually a pretty cool shot.

We ended up hanging out on the patio for several hours, watching the stars come out and enjoying the live entertainment the restaurant provided for the evening.

We checked out of the hotel the next morning by about 9:30, and headed in the general direction of Phoenix. We came across the type of mom-and-pop breakfast place we were hoping for, the Sunny Side Up Cafe. Lots of bikers and truckers, and a packed parking lot on a Sunday morning, which was all the assurance we needed that this local place was good. The place was standing room only, so we opted for seats at the counter, which I always enjoy anyway. I like observing the well-oiled machine that is a good diner. The coordination between the prep station, cooks, and wait staff was flawless. They kept up the snarky banter the whole time, too, which was entertaining while we noshed on our corned beef hash and eggs.

We took Route 71 back to the Valley, passing the Tom Mix monument and wash. I asked my husband who he was (hubby’s an Arizona native, so I figured he’d know), and he said he couldn’t remember and thought he was some sort of an outlaw cowboy. I looked it up when we got home. Come to find out he was an actor who occasionally played an outlaw cowboy. So my husband’s memory wasn’t entirely inaccurate.

All in all it was a lovely weekend getaway.

Photo credits (all): Tiffany Joyce.

A Basic Guide to Montauk State Park in Missouri

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Trout Fishing at Montauk State Park

Though Montauk State Park has the normal outdoor activities like hiking and boating to offer visitors, the real lure of the park is the fishing. Trout fishing to be exact.

This is because the park is located in southcentral Missouri at the headwaters of the Current River, which combines with the smaller Pigeon Creek to provide the ideal home for rainbow and brown trout.

Anglers descend on Montauk State Park from March 1 to Oct. 31 for the official trout season, and on winter weekends for a catch-and-release season.

Nearest major city: Springfield, Missouri (90 miles southwest)

Famous for: Did I mention the trout fishing? That’s the #1 draw for this park year-round.

Admission: Free

Families with children will like: Um…fishing? They’ll also enjoy a visit to the park’s trout hatchery to see how the whole process of stocking the river works.

Other travelers will like: Situated in the Ozarks, there’s plenty of natural beauty to explore via hiking.

For those not into trout, the park was also home to an early settlement of western pioneers and there are guided tours of the still standing 100-plus year old grist mill to undertake.

Camping information: The park has several campsites ranging from basic tent-only to those that offer RV sites with electric hookups. Rates range from $13/night for tent-only primitive sites to $26/night for full electric/water/sewer hookups.

Other park lodging: Inside the park, guests can also stay at the Montauk Resort, which offers both motel-style rooms and cabins for rent. Free Wifi is available for guests of the resort, in addition to the usual amenities. 2010 rates are from $61 to $73/night in the motel portion, and from $61 to $152/night for the cabins.

Other nearby lodging: The town of Salem, Missouri (10 miles northeast), has several motels/hotels.

Best months to visit for weather: Late spring and early fall are best for moderate temperatures.

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

Nearest major airport: Springfield, Missouri

More info can be found at: Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Related posts:

[Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Natural Resources]

A Basic Guide to Meramec State Park in Missouri

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Those who love the fresh air of the outdoors in Missouri flock to Meramec State Park to enjoy the Meramec River as it flows through the Ozarks. From fishing and boating to rock climbing and hiking, nature lovers have plenty to do.

Those who like their vacations in cold, dark and wet places also come to Meramec State Park. This is because the park is home to a system of caves, just ripe for exploration. Many of them are in remote areas of the park, but Fisher Cave offers naturalist-led tours on a daily basis from spring through fall.

This is truly a park that offers something for everybody.

Fisher Cave at Meramec State Park in Missouri

Nearest major city: St. Louis, Missouri (60 miles northeast)

Famous for: Tbe park has over 40 naturally created caves to explore, including the popular Fisher Cave.

Admission: Free

Families with children will like: Tours of Fisher Cave, which are available on a daily basis from April 16 until October 15. Visitors can view well-preserved bear claw marks, cave wildlife and a vast array of calcite deposits ranging from intricate hellectites to massive columns 30 feet tall. 2010 fees are $8/adult; free for children 5 and under.

Other travelers will like: Fishing (license required) for catfish and bass. The park also has more than 10 miles of hiking trails.

Easy sightseeing: One of the best ways to explore the park is to rent a canoe and do a lazy float down the river. Those who don’t want to take to the water can still learn about the Meramec River with an extensive exhibit of the park at the visitor center.

Camping information: There are several campsites ranging from basic tent-only to those that offer RV sites with electric hookups. Rates range from $13/night for tent-only primitive sites to $26/night for electric/water/sewer hookups.

Other park lodging: The campgrounds also offer several cabins for rent, from a 1-bedroom that sleeps four to a 5-bedroom that sleeps 10. Rates range from $90/night to $220/night, with a two-night minimum. Each cabin comes equipped with pots, pans, dishes, coffee pot, toaster, towels and linens, air conditioning and heat, full size beds, refrigerator, either a stove top or full stove, and most have a microwave and fireplaces. There are no televisions, telephones or clocks.

Inside the park, guests can also stay at the Hickory Ridge Motel and Conference Center. Rates are $60/night for 2 queen bed rooms and $90/night for three queen beds and a loft rooms. Rates are for 2010 double occupancy; additional guests are $10/person.

Other nearby lodging: The town of Sullivan, Missouri, has a wide variety of lodging available.

Best months to visit for weather: Late spring and early fall are best for moderate temperatures.

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

Nearest major airport: St. Louis, MO

More info can be found at: Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Related posts:

[Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Natural Resources]

Denali State Park, Alaska

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Denali State Park

Denali State Park, Alaska

Intro: Denali State Park is really, really big — at 325,240 acres, it’s half the size of Rhode Island!

The park was established in 1970, and expanded in 1976. On the western side it shares a boundary with the similarly named, but much more developed, Denali National Park and Preserve, formerly Mt. McKinley National Park.

Famous for: Denali is the original name for Mt. McKinley. At 20,320 feet, Mt. McKinley is North America’s highest peak. It literally and figuratively towers over South central Alaska from its base in Denali National Park.

Admission: Denali is such a huge park that there are a variety of day, season and annual pass options. See the Alaska State Park Fees page for information about the specific activity you have planned.

Individual Fees:

* Nightly camping: $10 to $20 per night
* Daily parking: $1 to $5 per vehicle
* Boat launches: $10 to $15 per day
* Sanitary dump station: $5
* Firewood: $5 to $8 per bundle where available
* Guided tours of historic sites: $2 to $10

Families with young kids will like: seeing so many wild animals, even from your car.

Families with teenagers will like: Getting out and getting active in the great outdoors. There’s something for everyone, from hunting and fishing, to photography, animal watching, hiking, cycling, dog sledding, boating, canoeing, rafting & kayaking,…if you can do it in a flannel shirt and a pair of hiking boots, you can do it in Denali.

Other travelers will like: “Flight seeing” — a popular way to see the icy expanses of Alaska is from the windows of a small plane or helicopter. See bears from a safe distance!

Easy site seeing: This is pretty rugged country, but it’s easiest to do a drive up George Parks Highway, the major road link between Anchorage and Fairbanks, that divides the park.

Best hotel in the park: Has yet to be built, but a visitor center is in the works for the southern part of park.

Best campground in the park: The park operates three campgrounds, four viewpoints and five trailheads. The park also offers three public use cabins available for rent on Byers Lake. But if you’ve gone all the way to Alaska, you should really go all the way and do some backcountry camping, which is allowed any anywhere along the ridge trail. Just remember to camp away from the trail, avoid spots where others have camped, and bring a stove, because campfires are not permitted on Kesugi Ridge.

Worst lodging experience: Just be careful of bears! Use bear proof containers for your food, and read up on Safety Tips!

Best months to visit for weather: June through early September, but you can catch some pretty cold, wet weather at higher elevations. Be prepared, this isn’t a trip to the beach!

Best months to visit to avoid crowds: The nice thing about a park the size of Denali is that crowds aren’t really a factor. That said, the peak months of June through September will also be the most visited times. For a true adventure, check out the park in the winter!

Nearest major cities: 130 miles north of Anchorage by car, about 100 air miles north of Anchorage, Alaska.

More info can be found at the Denali State Park page

Related posts:
Denali National Park & Preserve
Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge
Alaska National and State Parks
Lake Clark National Park

Photo courtesy of: Denali State Park

Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Thursday, April 1st, 2010
franconia state park

A rustic sign welcomes you to Franconia State Park, NH

Intro: One of the most famous parts of 1-93 is the eight mile stretch that winds between the Kinsman and Franconia mountain ranges, and through Franconia Notch State Park.

Franconia Notch is home of the famous Old Man of the Mountain, which could be seen from two spots on the highway until it crumbled after nearly two centuries. The park is filled with easy to get to, family friendly activities, like the Flume Gorge Visitor Center, the aerial tramway at Cannon Mountain, and the New England Ski Museum.

You can swim at Echo Lake, fish at Profile Lake, bike on the Recreational Trail, go rock climbing, see wildlife or hike on the Appalachian Trail.

Famous for: Old Man of the Mountain, gone now, but you can still see cool pix, and where it used to be.

This striking profile was discovered in 1805, and made famous as “Great Stone Face” by notables like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Daniel Webster. Natural erosion finally took their toll when the profile collapsed on May 3, 2003.


Adults: $4.00; Children ages 6-11: $2.00
Children ages 5 & under, NH residents age 65 & over: FREE

Families with young kids will like: Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway

Take the 8 minute tram ride to the 4,180′ summit of Cannon Mountain and see the mountains of four states plus Canada on a clear day. At the top you can walk around, hang out on the observation deck or in the cafeteria. Bonus: restrooms.

Families with teenagers will like: Flume Gorge & Visitor Center

The dramatic natural gorge was discovered in 1808, and extends 800 feet from the base of Mount Liberty. You can walk through the Gorge, or see the whole area on a two mile loop hike, which includes lots of up hill and stairs. You can also get out of the summer heat and watch a 20-minute movie about the park.

Other travelers will like: Boise Rock

It’s a bit of a gory tale, but travelers who enjoy oddities or the travel essays of Sarah Vowell will probably be fascinated by the story of Thomas Boise survived the night by wrapping himself in his horse’s body.

One night in the early 1800s, Thomas Boise got stuck in a blizzard.  He killed his horse, skinned it, and wrapped himself in it, and spent the night under a rock. Rescuers had to cut him out of the frozen hide, still living but in need of a new horse.

If that story doesn’t put you off your lunch, there are some lovely picnic tables and a great view right by the chunk of granite that sheltered Thomas Boise.

Easy site seeing: Echo Lake Beach

Drive up to the lake, hang out at the beach, with life guards on duty, and enjoy a quick lunch from the snack bar. Perfect summer afternoon!

Best hotel in the park: Lonesome Lake Hut

Okay, it’s more of a cabin than a hotel, and you have to hike in with your own sleeping bag. But it’s an easy 1.75 mile hike, great for kids, and it’s open year round. You can even ski in during the winter!

Best campground in the park: Lafayette Campground and Lodge

Centrally located, Lafayette Place can be your base of operations for every kind of park activity, from hiking, to biking, fishing, swimming, plus all of the nearby attractions of the White Mountains.

You’ll find shaded spots, with open fireplaces, parking — and of course a picnic table at each of the 88 “by reservation” campsites, plus seven first-come/first-served spots. Bonus:  coin-operated showers and a camp store.

Open from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend, with self-service/self-pay camping available during the off season, weather permitting.

Worst lodging experience: Getting caught in a thunder and lightening storm while camping in the mountains. Pack rain gear, even if you don’t think you need it.

Best months to visit for weather: It’s a year round park, with summer and winter sports, gorgeous fall foliage, and plenty of stunning waterfalls that will awe you during the spring melt.

Best months to visit to avoid crowds: It’s always pretty crowded, the shoulder seasons will have slightly fewer people, but also worse weather.

Nearest major cities: They aren’t really cities — this is New Hampshire we’re talking about — but these towns are nearby: Franconia, Sugar Hill, Easton, Bethlehem, Bretton Woods, Littleton, Lincoln, and North Woodstock

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

Related posts:

Photo courtesy of: New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation

A Basic Guide to Odiorne Point State Park in New Hampshire

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

From early American settlers to World War II, the land that is now Odiorne Point State Park has played an important role this country’s history.

Ships from Europe landed here in 1623, and in 1660, John Odiorne joined the settlement and acquired enough land to begin a full-fledged community. Following the Civil War, the area became a popular seaside resort area in the northeast.

WWII saw the land taken over for the building of Fort Dearborn, which helped to protect the harbor of nearby Portsmouth and its naval shipyard. It was sold to the state of New Hampshire for $91,000 in 1961, and was then turned into a state park.

Today, the land functions as a day-use park for the city of Portsmouth. It is also home to the Seacoast Science Center.

The Rocky Coastline of Odiorne Point State Park

Nearest major city: Portsmouth, New Hampshire (15 miles west)

Famous for: Odiorne Point was the first settlement in what would later become the state of New Hampshire.

Admission: $4/adults; $2/children 6-12; Free under age 6

Families with children will like: Exploring the military remnants of Fort Dearborn.

Other travelers will like: The park does have nature trails to explore, both on foot and bicycle.

Also, just off the coast, barely visible during low tide, are the ancient remains of a sunken forest. Certified scuba divers can explore these 3,500-4,000 year old trees that became submerged when the glaciers melted during the last ice age.

Easy sightseeing: Visitors to the Seacoast Science Center are welcome to touch and learn about tide pool animals in the indoor touch tank, watch deep ocean fish swim the the one thousand-gallon Gulf of Maine tank, and follow nearly four centuries of local history on an interactive timeline.  Admission fees are $5/adult and $2/children age 12 and under.

Camping information: Because this is a day-use state park, there are no campsites or other lodging within the park’s boundaries.

Other nearby lodging: Portsmouth has everything from campgrounds to luxury hotels for travelers to choose from.

Best months to visit for weather: Late spring and early fall are best for moderate temperatures.

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

Nearest major airport: Portsmouth, NH

More info can be found at: New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation

Related posts:

[Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation]

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Humboldt County, California

Thursday, April 1st, 2010
prairie beach, humboldt county, ca

Prairie Beach, Humboldt County, CA

Intro: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park offers hiking, nature study, wildlife viewing, beach combing, picnicking, a visitor center with year-round exhibits and a nature store. You can see Roosevelt elk, do some whale watching, and see interesting birds like the spotted owl and the marbled murrelet.

And of course, there are 75 miles of trails in and around the Northern California Redwood forest.

Famous for: being a sanctuary of old growth coast redwood trees.

Admission: $8/vehicle

Families with young kids will like: The visitor center with exhibits, the easy trails and glimpses of wildlife.

Families with teenagers will like: Seeing the redwood forest that was the location for Endor in Star Wars.

Other travelers will like: The range of hiking trails, from the 1 mile Loop through Fern Canyon  to the 6.5 mile, 500 foot elevation Gold Bluffs Beach trail.

Easy site seeing: Many trails are accessible to individuals with physical or visual limitations, as well as the Nature Store and Visitor Center with exhibits open year round

Best hotel in the park: None, if you don’t want to camp, check out hotels in nearby Eureka, CA

Best campground in the park: The visitor center & Elk Prairie Campground, located at the southern end of the Parkway.

Worst lodging experience: getting caught in the cold summer fog without warm clothes. You may think it’s summer time, but imagine you’re packing for London in the winter, just in case.

Best months to visit for weather: October in Northern California is ah-mazing. In the summer temps run 40-75 degrees, and it’s cooler along the coast. Morning & evening fog is common. In the winter, 35-55. Dress for rain November to May.

Best months to visit to avoid crowds: You’ll see loads of locals whenever the weather is nice on the weekends, year round. Non-school vacation days during the week will be less busy.

Nearest major cities: The park is 50 miles north of Eureka and 25 miles south of Crescent City.

More info can be found at the always helpful California state park site for Prairie .

Related posts:
Fort Humbolt State Park, Eureka, CA
Samoa Dunes Recreation Area, Eureka, CA

Photo courtesy of: California Coastal Records Project

Mount Greylock State Reserve, Massachusetts

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

mount greylock state reserve

The view from Mount Greylock, MA

Intro: Out in the Berkshires (the western part of the state) rises Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts. Mount Greylock State Reserve is the historic state’s first wilderness state park, established in 1898. Spread across six towns (Adams, Cheshire, Lanesborough, New Ashford, North Adams and Williamstown), it’s classic rural New England — wild, yet just steps away from civilization.

Famous for: Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts

Admission: Free, with a $2 parking fee for parking lot only. Parking is free for ParksPass  holders, vehicles with Handicapped, disabled veteran plates/placard, and seniors 62 and above with the Massachusetts Senior Pass.

Families with young kids will like: the Visitor Center with nature and science exhibits, and accessible restrooms

Families with teenagers will like: Awesome mountain biking trails

Other travelers will like:

  • 70 miles of designated trails for hiking, including an 11.5 mile section of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail
  • winter sports like back-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling
  • bird watching
  • hunting in season

Easy site seeing: Drive all the way to the summit and enjoy the sunset from the porch at Bascom Lodge. Be sure to make reservations for the fixed price dinner, if you’re lucky there will be blueberry something for dessert!

Best hotel in the park: Bascom Lodge at the summit. Drive up, enjoy the enclosed porch (important during black fly and mosquito seasons!) and they even have wifi!

Best campground in the park: This is not car camping, my friends. There is a “primitive” campground that you hike into, as a well as five trailside backpack shelters, and you hike into all of them. There are 15 tent sites, 7 group site, and you need to make reservations from April1 through November 1.

Worst lodging experience: You are in black bear country. Do not leave out food, and hopefully you’ll never find out about the worst experience.

Best months to visit for weather: April through October — early fall is stunningly gorgeous, although it can get cold fast!

Best months to visit to avoid crowds: Late spring, early fall

Nearest major cities:

  • Lenox, MA
  • Springfield, MA

More info can be found at:

Related posts:

Photo courtesy of: MA Department of Conservation and Recreation