It may seem premature, but you should book now for spring and summer stays at state parks. These hidden gems, often eclipsed by the National Parks, are easily accessible, offer wallet-friendly accommodations, engaging activities, and first-class scenery. Two good choices: Canaan Valley Resort, West Virginia and Fort Robinson, Nebraska. At the parks, enjoy the wildlife, the walking trails, and in season special activities.
Accommodations range from rustic to comfortable cabins and hotel rooms. Like any good deal, these book months ahead, so make plans now for getaways during the warmer months. You can always check for last-minute cancellations.
Canaan Valley Resort, West Virginia
Located in a 15-mile long valley in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, Canaan Valley Resort caters to skiers during the winter and golfers and nature lovers in the 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. Don’t forget to take in panoramic views from the chair lift. You can also tackle a 25-foot climbing wall, swing through 18-holes of golf, play tennis, miniature golf, and 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 two and a half-hour drive from Washington, DC, a two-hour and forty-five-minute drive from Charleston, West Virginia, and a three-hour drive from Pittsburgh. Ask about discounts for active military, seniors, and AAA or AARP members.
Fort Robinson State Park, Nebraska
Nebraska’s largest state park lies on 22,000 acres. Fort Robinson, Crawford, Nebraska offers history, a scenic setting of pine ridges, and sandy colored buttes – plus plenty of activities. An active military post from 1874 to 1948, Fort Robinson, established to protect the Native Americans, was the site where Sioux Chief Crazy Horse was killed. From 1919 to 1948, Fort Robinson served as the United States’ largest quartermaster remount depot – providing horses, mules, and dogs to the military. During WWII, the fort housed German prisoners of war. A small museum displays period weapons and clothing and details the changes in Fort Robinson.
In the summer, sign-up for jeep rides into the Cheyenne Outbreak Buttes, named for the route the Indians used to escape from the Fort in 1879; go horseback riding; tour the park by stagecoach or wagon; watch the weekly rodeo; gather for chuck wagon cook-outs; and hike to catch sight of the buffalo herd.
Many of the original buildings have been converted to guest accommodations. Hotel rooms are available in the Lodge, the former 1909 enlisted men’s barracks; duplex units are in Adobe, the 1887 officer’s quarters; cabins have been created out of the 1874 to 1875 officer’s quarters; and multiple bedrooms are available in the Bricks, the 1909 officers’ quarters. The accommodations are functional and some stretch toward spacious encompassing small kitchens, a master bedroom, and an adjoining room with bunkbeds. The catch: While serviceable, the units remain uninviting-looking, and are in need of repainting and updating. Nonetheless, the scenery, activities, and good rates combine to make Fort Robinson a popular state park.