30 Gorgeous Spots for Spring Hiking and Camping on a Budget
Spring is in the air, and campers and hikers around the country are ready to get outside to enjoy the many national and state parks the country has to offer. It's no coincidence that National Park Week starts on April 15, when weather in many parts of the country is finally warm enough for adventuring. It's also a great time to save some money. During both weekends of National Park Week (April 15-16 and 22-23), entry is free. Here are some of the best parks to visit in the spring.
Acadia National Park offers a broad network of hiking trails, from the relatively gentle Ship Harbor, a 1.2-mile loop of forest and shoreline, to the more strenuous 4.4-mile Cadillac North Ridge Trail, with its views of Frenchman Bay. For those who want a real challenge, there's the much steeper 4.6-mile Sargent Mountain trail. For hardy campers, Blackwoods Campground is open year-round and free from December to the end of March (the fee is $15 a night in April and $30 a night May to October).
Thanks to the drought-busting rainfall in California this year, many desert parks are experiencing a rare "super bloom" of wildflowers. Anza-Borrego, California's largest state park, is drawing record crowds eager to see the flowers, so plan to arrive early. Visitor center parking is $5.
Deep beneath the Chihuahuan Desert lies Carlsbad Caverns, which actually comprises more than 119 caves (and those are just the ones we know about). It's possible to take self-guided tours through the caves, but consider taking a ranger-guided tour (fees vary) to see more of the caverns. The basic entrance fee is $10 for adults, and children are free.
As America's most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (which is located in Tennessee and North Carolina) has lots of breathtaking hikes, including the popular 8-mile round-trip Charlies Bunion hike on the Appalachian Trail. Spring means fewer crowds, but check before visiting, as some trails are closed due to recent fire and storm damage. There are no entrance fees to this park, which straddles Tennessee and North Carolina.