Now is the time to plan ahead for spring and summer vacations at US state parks.
Parks such as Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center, OH; Canaan Valley Resort, WV; and Custer State Park, SD are typically booked months in advance for prime summer dates and holiday weekends. That’s because these gems offer scenic settings and wildlife encounters plus, depending on the park, resort amenities such as golf, fishing, boating, horseback riding and swimming plus lodging at budget-friendly prices.
Enjoy swimming, boating and fishing at Acton Lake, the centerpiece of Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center, a state park in southwestern Ohio. The park also features an 18-hole golf course, hiking, horseback riding, a paintball target range and field, plus a 27-hole disc golf course and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Your four-legged family members can romp in the 3-acre dog park. Bird lovers can see recovering hawks, owls, bald eagles as well as golden eagles at the Hueston Woods State Nature Preserve. In season, the park offers naturalist programs, children’s activities and evening bonfires. Nearby are a barn-red covered bridge and a Pioneer Farm and House Museum. Hueston Woods, which offers lodge rooms and cabins, is located near Cincinnati and about a 90-minute drive from Indianapolis.
Located in a 15-mile long valley in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, Canaan Valley Resort caters to skiers in winter and golfers and nature lovers in spring and summer. In warm weather, zip down the Turtle Slide Tube Ride, hike and bike on 18 miles of trails through woods, meadows and streams as well as take in panoramic views from the chair lift. You can also try skeet shooting, tackle a 25-foot climbing wall, swing through 18-holes of golf, play tennis and miniature golf plus take wagon rides. A recent $34 million renovation updated the public areas and added 160 new guest rooms, each with bathrooms, in-room refrigerators and flat-screen televisions. Situated in north central West Virginia, the resort park is about a 2.5 hour drive from Washington, D.C., 2.75 hour drive from Charleston, WVA, and 3 hours from Pittsburgh. Ask about discounts for active military, seniors, and AAA or AARP members.
Adjacent to the Black Hills National Forest, Custer State Park features 71,000 acres of rolling grasslands and pine forests. A large herd of buffalo—1,300 head—roam the park. Drive the scenic 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road that winds through prairies and pine-studded hills and hike the park’s trails and you might spot some of these formidable beasts as well as deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep and sometimes coyotes. The park also offers hiking, mountain biking, and good trout fishing in summer in four lakes—Center Lake, Legion Lake, Stockade Lake and Sylvan Lake. Custer State Park Resort offers horseback trail rides, buffalo safari Jeep rides plus hayride and chuck wagon cookouts. Four historic lodges—Blue Bell, State Game, Sylvan Lake and Legion Lake–offer rooms as does the modern Crreekside Lodge. Seven cabins accommodate from 10 to 28 people. Custer State Park is 42 miles southwest of Rapid City.