Not everyone is a beach lover, and that’s OK! Boat, kayak, canoe, fish and swim — all while saving money — by heading to a state or national park. Enjoy the lakes and the natural scenery in Minnesota, Michigan, Montana, Oregon and Kentucky. Come on in — the water is fine and the parks are scenic.
Lake vacations are literally cool — the lower-than-inland temperatures, boating and refreshing water make the following getaways prime summer territory.
To stretch your budget, consider the lakes at national and state parks. Although park accommodations often fill months in advance, check for cancellations, camp or stay in hotels outside the park.
Minnesota: Voyageurs National Park
In Voyageurs, one of the U.S.’s premier water-based parks, paddle, portage and boat through Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan and Sand Point lakes. Pine and aspen thickets line the water and land trails. En route, look for moose, foxes, coyotes and bald eagles. The park offers guided boat tours, which are best to reserve as far in advance as possible. Camp or contact the park for a list of nearby accommodations.
Michigan: Isle Royale National Park
You will not find crowds at Isle Royale, a group of 400-some islands in the northwest section of Lake Superior reached by boat or seaplane. Scuba dive to see the most intact collection of shipwrecks in the National Park Service, and you can also canoe, kayak, fish and hike. Rock Harbor Lodge is the park’s only full-service facility.
Montana: Glacier National Park
Glacier-carved Lake McDonald, the largest of the park’s 700 lakes, stretches for 10 miles. Rent kayaks for a soothing, slow-moving lake tour. For more adventure, paddle through whitewater on a guided raft trip along the rivers that border the park. Hiking trails range from easy to make-sure-you-know-what-you’re–doing difficult. Lodging includes the National Historic Landmark Many Glacier Hotel and the lakefront Lake McDonald Lodge, Cabins & Suites.
Oregon: Crater Lake National Park
The park is distinguished by its namesake: a pure blue 1,932-foot deep lake, the deepest in the U.S. This lake was created by the eruption of Mount Mazama more than 7,000 years ago. A good way to experience the lake is on a ranger-led boat tour, which should be reserved in advance. You can also savor scenic views of the cliff-rimmed water from your car by following the East Rim or West Rim drives. Along the way, get out of the car to hike some trails. Xanterra Parks & Resorts operates both the park’s lodges, Crater Lake Lodge and the Cabins at Mazama Village.
Kentucky: Lake Cumberland State Park
With more than 50,000-acres, Lake Cumberland is immense. However expansive, you will not be alone since the lake claims fame as “the houseboat capital of the world.”
Nonetheless, sleeping, fishing and dining surrounded by water create timeless summer memories. On land, the park offers hiking, disc golf, mini-golf and other activities. Lure Lodge overlooks Lake Cumberland and the park also offers cottages and campsites.