Whether you’re planning a celebration or an escape – especially after the recent election – consider a getaway at a US state park. These hidden gems come with scenic settings and resort amenities at budget-stretching prices. As a result, park lodgings fill up months in advance. Now is the time to book spring and summer trips. Need some options? Try Claytor Lake State Park in Virginia; Stephen C. Foster State Park in Georgia; Custer State Park in South Dakota; and Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center in Ohio.
Claytor Lake State Park (Virginia)
Created when the Appalachian Power Company built a dam on the New River, Claytor Lake, the gem of this 472-acre park, is big: 4,500 acres and 21 miles long with 101 miles of shoreline. Boating and fishing enthusiasts especially like the southwestern Virginia park, which features a full service marina, docking slips, and boat rentals. The Park, near the town of Dublin, also offers a paved, wheelchair-accessible trail to the beach. Cabins and camping are available.
Stephen C. Foster State Park (Georgia)
Stephen C. Foster State Park lies within the 402,000-acre Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. A gateway to the refuge, the state park delivers classic swamp scenery of Spanish moss-laced trees, dark waters, and alligators stretched out on logs, basking in the sun. You can opt for a guided pontoon boat tour of the swamp or paddle a kayak or canoe along the refuge’s 100-plus miles of canoe trails. Spring is among the best times to visit this park as the weather is temperate, flowering waterlilies carpet the waterways, and the swamp resounds with the bellowing of breeding ‘gators and the exuberant trilling of frogs. Situated 17 miles east of Fargo, Georgia, the Park offers cabins and camping.
Custer State Park (South Dakota)
Adjacent to the Black Hills National Forest, Custer State Park features 71,000 acres of rolling grasslands and pine forests. More than 1,300 bison roam the park. You might spot some of these formidable beasts as well as deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep from the scenic, 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road that winds through prairies and pine-studded hills. 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, and hayride and chuck wagon cookouts. Lodge rooms and cabins are available. Custer State Park is 42 miles southwest of Rapid City.
At Acton Lake, the centerpiece of Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center, enjoy boating, swimming, and fishing. More resort amenities include golf, horseback riding, indoor and outdoor swimming pools as well as a disc golf course. The Hueston Woods State Nature Preserve cares for injured hawks, owls, bald eagles, and golden eagles. In season, the park offers naturalist programs, children’s activities, and evening bonfires. Hueston Woods, which offers lodge rooms and cabins, is located near Cincinnati and about a 90-minute drive from Indianapolis.