Travel

From camping to comfy at our national parks

Blog: National Parks Traveler

Site: www.nationalparkstraveler.com

What you'll find: Information to help you explore the nearly 400 sites of the National Park System. The site is comprehensive, with stories about the parks that journalists and others write. Besides deep background material, there are ongoing features - park updates, reviews of relevant books and more. In-depth features often have embedded videos.

Click "search" at the home page, type in the name of a park, and there you have it. Also, you can use the "Traveler's Week in Review" box on the homepage with a "join" button to sign up for a weekly email newsletter.

From the blog: "There's nothing wrong with backpacking - it's an authentic national park experience available all over the United States. But the Europeans have it right - there is a role for an easier overnight option in the backcountry. The high 'huts' of Europe's Alps, where comfy beds and meals make it possible to experience the roof of the continent without camping, are an approach less than widely available in America. Luckily, there are some locations where a 'hut hike' is possible - and LeConte Lodge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of them.

"It's not easy to find a 'convenient' reservation at LeConte, but anyone with the flexibility to take any open slot that's available won't find it impossible to check-in at the lodge atop the Smokies most distinctive summit. That's what vacation days are for - and they're well-spent atop LeConte."

Make reservations for next year at www.leconte-lodge.com/reservations_2011.html.

"Don't expect a lot of entertainment options beyond cards or reading in the main lodge room. After walking a short distance away to Cliff Tops for summit views, all there is to do is watch Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge emerge as twinkling lights, far below and a world away. ...

"After that view, a great overnight experience awaits. Cozy cabins, propane heat, flickering lamp light, Hudson Bay blankets, and hearty meals. ..."

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