In Style: 5 State Parks You'll Love
Pitch your tent -- right back in the closet. At these parks, you can experience spa-like accommodations while enjoying the great outdoors.
DeGray Lake Resort State Park -- Arkansas
At 13,800 acres, DeGray is a manmade expanse of water created for recreation in the foothills of the state's beautiful Ouachita Mountains. Here visitors find clear water, great fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling, plus all the water toys imaginable. Party barges, wave-runners, sailboats, and luxury houseboats are available for rent on the north shore of this lake. The 96-room lodge and conference center at DeGray, on its own island, has heated swimming pool, beach, tennis courts, marina, and 18-hole championship golf course. Stay in the lakeside lodge in one of the well-appointed rooms. Take a moonlight cruise. The park also has a spa, horseback stables, and lighted walking trails. To explore the surrounding forests, take advantage of the trails and guided tours, nocturnal "owl prowls," and bald eagle watches. In October the park hosts Arkansas Storytelling Festival with workshops and story swaps.
For more information: www.degray.com
Custer State Park -- South Dakota
In this big park (71,000 acres) in Black Hills National Forest there are four resorts, each with its own regional theme. To stay where presidents slept, reserve a room at the State Game Lodge Resort, which once served as the summer White House for "Silent Cal" Coolidge and later Dwight Eisenhower (who enjoyed wetting a line in a trout stream here). This resort also runs open-jeep guided safaris into the back country, which teams with wildlife. While you sip morning coffee on the front porch of the lodge, don't be surprised if a buffalo wanders by. There are 1,500 head in the park. Hike Lover's Leap Trail for a picnic and the scenic view of Cathedral Spires, a backbone of granite rock. Finish the day with a dinner of native game in the Pheasant Lounge.
If cowboying is more your style, mosey over to Blue Bell Lodge, where stables offer guided horse rides into the country. For dudes who choose not to mount up, there are hayrides and chuck wagon cookouts on the prairie.
If you prefer a room with a view of water rather than trees and prairie, consider Sylvan Lake Resort and Legion Lake Resort. For more diversions, visit nearby Mt. Rushmore National Park and Crazy Horse Memorial -- two of the world's greatest sculptures.
For more information: www.custerresorts.com
Berkeley Springs State Park -- West Virginia
It's no stretch to say that Berkeley Springs was America's first spa. George Washington may not have slept here, but he definitely took a bath here, and then along with other founding fathers, purchased land near the town of Berkeley Springs. Washington and other American Colonials touted the healing properties of the mineral-laden springs, which had been visited for centuries by Native Americans. The springs bubble up at 74 degrees; now the water is heated to 102 degrees and diverted into the park bathhouse. Choose to take a Roman bath in one of nine ceramic walk-in tubs or a Victorian bathtub. After a 20-minute soak, a masseuse will give a Swedish rubdown with ethyl alcohol and traditional olive oil. At the park and in town find most new-age medicinal therapies -- from aromatherapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic to mud treatments and sugar rubs. There are other delights in town: wine and water tasting, art fairs and food festivals, concerts, and antiques shops. If you plan to take a bottle of spring water home to drink, fill your own containers at the free tap. Although there are no accommodations within the park, there are packaged spa and lodging deals with the Cacapon Resort State Park, which is about 10 miles away.
For more information: www.berkeleyspringssp.com
Fall Creek Falls State Park -- Tennessee
Atop the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Tennessee, this gorgeous park is a waterfall lover's delight. Its 25,000 acres of rugged topography is filled with gorges and cliffs. Fall Creek Falls plunges 256 feet -- the highest waterfall in the eastern United States. Many other cascades are tucked in dense forests of hickory and oak. When you finish hiking and swimming, return to the comfort of The Inn on Fall Creek Lake, where 145 rooms offer lake views. The park also has more modest digs, including fishing cabins with front porches that jut out over the water -- lazy fishing at its best. Throw out a line, sit back in a rocking chair, and wait. And whether you're fishing or relaxing in the cabin, it's always a quiet experience. No gas motors are allowed on Fall Creek Lake. For a bit of exercise, try the 7,000-foot golf course, which has been rated as one of the best public courses in America. Pedal along three miles of paved trail, or attack the miles of mountain bike trails.
For more information: www.tennessee.gov/environment/parks/FallCreekFalls
Saratoga Spa State Park -- New York
For nearly a century, this 2,700-acre park has given visitors truly luxurious outdoor experiences. A state park since 1912, Saratoga offers miles of easy trails in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. The park is best known for its spring water, which bubbles up from 1,000 feet below and is so laced with carbon dioxide that it once was used to put the fizz into sodas. Visitors can soak in these mineral waters at Roosevelt Baths and Spa. It's a busy place, but there's plenty of opportunity for privacy and personalized care in the 42 individual treatment rooms. Saratoga offers a unique combination of architecture, history, and culture. Book a room at historic Gideon Putman Resort and Spa.
For more information: www.saratogaspastatepark.org