9 State Parks Perfect for Camping on a Budget This Summer

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By Susan Shain, Credit.com

A warm bonfire, toasty s’mores, a starry sky. Isn’t it time you went camping? With student loan and credit card debt weighing many of us down, it might seem like a vacation is out of reach. But camping is the perfect way to adventure on a budget. Instead of sticking to national parks, though, consider camping in state parks. There are more than 10,000, and they are often cheaper and less crowded than national parks.

Yellowstone, for example, costs $30 for a seven-day pass. But Sinks Canyon State Park, just a few hours away from Yellowstone, is free. Here are nine incredible state parks where the camping won’t disappoint — or hurt your wallet.

1. Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee

Fall Creek Falls, the largest and most-visited state park in Tennessee, sprawls over more than 26,000 acres. Its eponymous falls tumble down from 256 feet above — certainly a sight to see! It offers a plethora of activities including hiking, swimming, golfing and boating. You can even try your hand at a treetop obstacle park that includes bridges, swings and zip lines high in the forest’s canopy.

Entrance Fee: Free Tent Camping Cost: $13.75 to $31.25 per night

2. Sinks Canyon State Park in Wyoming

Get close to Yellowstone without the costs or crowds at Sinks Canyon in Wyoming. According to the website, it gets its name from “a large cavern where the rushing river flows into cracks and crevices in the cavern floor and disappears underground.” Whether you enjoy hiking to waterfalls, swimming in the river or fishing for trout, you’ll find it here at an affordable nightly rate.

Entrance Fee: Free Tent Camping Cost: $6 per night for residents; $11 per night for nonresidents

3. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in California

Located along the pristine Big Sur River and surrounded by redwoods, this state park on California’s central coast is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle. If you’re looking to completely unplug, you’re in luck — your phone probably won’t work here. You’ll have to settle for swimming, hiking and relaxing. Keep in mind, there’s no beach access at this park. For that, you’ll have to travel down the road.

Entrance Fee: $10 per car Tent Camping Cost: $35 per night

4. Boston Harbor Islands State Park in Massachusetts

Have only a short time to get away? As the name suggests, this state park is composed of a series of islands between 20 and 70 minutes by ferry from Boston. Enjoy hiking, birding and great views of the city’s skyline. With only 33 campsites spread across three islands, making a reservation is crucial. (Before booking any reservation on your card, it’s always wise to check your credit score. You can check your credit score for free at Credit.com)

Entrance Fee: Free, but it’s $17 per adult for round-trip ferry transportation Tent Camping Cost: $8 per night for residents; $10 for nonresidents

5. Tettegouche State Park in Minnesota

Want to go hiking to a waterfall, fishing or rock climbing? You’ll find an abundance of outdoor activities at Tettegouche, about an hour north of Duluth. Prefer water sports? It has five kayak-in camping sites, which are accessible only by paddling. How cool is that?

Entrance Fee: $5 per car Tent Camping Cost: $15 to $23 per night

6. Harris Beach State Park in Oregon

Oregon’s rocky coast is one of the most beautiful places in the world. At this state park, you’ll be able to see the beauty up close. Plus, from the sandy beaches and rocky cliffs, you might spot a sea lion, a puffin or a whale. If you prefer not to camp in a tent, the park also offers six yurts at $43 per night.

Entrance Fee: Free Tent Camping Cost: $20 per night

7. Rainbow Springs State Park in Florida

Florida’s natural springs should be on everyone’s bucket list. These cold, crystal-clear bodies of water make camping in Florida’s heat bearable. When picking a campsite, you should probably make sure you’re near one of them. At Rainbow Springs, you can swim in the refreshing water or enjoy it via kayak, canoe or inner tube.

Entrance Fee: $2 per person Tent Camping Cost: $30 per night

8. Baxter State Park in Maine

Mount Katahdin is not only the tallest peak in Maine but also the northernmost point of the famed Appalachian Trail. It’s located at the southern end of this 200,000-acre state park. In addition to hiking the mountain and its environs, you can fish, bike, climb, paddle and hunt. This park is understandably popular, so if you’re going during the summer months, be sure to make a reservation.

Entrance Fee: $15 per car Tent Camping Cost: $21 to $32 per night

9. City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico

If you’re looking for an otherworldly state park to explore, check out City of Rocks in New Mexico. Here, you’ll find a “city” of volcanic formations scattered in the desert. Don’t worry — it’s not just rocks. You also can enjoy camping, mountain biking, wildlife viewing and excellent stargazing.

Entrance Fee: $5 per car Tent Camping Cost: $10 per night

Traveling on the cheap is no easy feat, but by comparison shopping for plane tickets, rental cars and, yes, even campsites you’ll be able to cut costs and still have a wonderful time. If you’re ready to explore the great outdoors, there’s no better time than the months that lie ahead. So grab your friends and some marshmallows and get going! Plus, continue the outdoor journey by checking off some of the 37 national parks to see before you die.

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