A colleague asked me how I have found some of our family’s most treasured camping spots over the years. I explained that it was a combination of factors – networking with other outdoor adventurers, time spent with scouting programs, places I had camped as a child with my parents, and other word-of-mouth referrals.
Recently, I have been exploring more resources on the internet to find places I haven’t already heard about to make up a ‘wish list’ of places I’d like to visit – either for a day trip, or for camping (with my family or a group of scouting alumni).
One resource that I’ve blogged about in the past is “www.discovertheforest.org” which connects folks with nationally managed forests open to day use, overnight camping and other recreational opportunities. This site provides educational tips (how to prepare for your trip and what to expect, etc.), and filters to help find forests based on anticipated activity (i.e. hiking, camping, fishing, etc.)
Since there is a wide variation of names used for recreation areas (i.e. state forests, natural areas, national forests, national grasslands, landmarks, monuments, historic sites, geologic sites, recreation trails, memorial sites, preserves, wayside areas, heritage parks, resource centers, scenic rivers, metro parks, fishing piers, fish hatcheries, wildlife areas, etc.) I have found that clearinghouse sites which include many resources tend to be more helpful than trying to go into the more specialized portals.
One such clearinghouse is http://www.stateparks.com/usa.html and there are likely more out there. This resource enables visitors to target a specific state and get a summary listing of hyperlinks to the various parks, forests, etc. At that point visitors can also narrow their search within select territories of the selected state. One feature I didn’t find was the ability to filter the list by key amenity such as permitting overnight camping or public swimming area, etc. Some state government portals do offer those filters which reduces frustration when I find a great location, but then discover that there is no overnight camping permitted, etc.
Another site that I’m just beginning to explore is https://roadtrippers.com Here, I can enter my starting location (typically my home address) and a destination location (arbitrarily selected) and then use check boxes to indicate which features I’d like displayed on the map of my trip (i.e. outdoor recreation areas, camping sites, points of interest to explore, etc.). I like this site since I can immediately get a feel for the drive time to various places of interest, and get the details by clicking on the target pin in the map. I am still working to master their interface and set the filters precisely.
Another site that was new to me is “RootsRated.com” This is a very easy to use portal where you can simply pick a type of activity from a drop box, and then type a location and get results located in the vicinity of your specified base camp. The “about us” section says that the portal “…connects users with the best outdoor experiences…” based on on local experts and outdoor outfitters/guides.
Of course, the National Park Service web site remains a classic way to locate National Parks by state, interest area, events and activities. http://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm
We’d love to hear about your favorite sites for finding adventure locales – just add a comment, below!
Post Trip Summaries
I think it is a great idea to post a summary of your experience soon after getting home. Sharing pictures and high points about the facility, the local points of interest, etc. is a great way to popularize the best getaway spots, and, in the process, to create a scrap book or history guide to the places you’ve been. I’ve done this through the blog site, at local travel guide review sites (i.e. Trip Advisor, et.al.) and by sharing my experiences through other social media such as Facebook. As a troop, this helps show the world that your crew engages in interesting activities and has a lot of fun in the outdoors. It can draw in families who were previously unsure about whether to commit. Just keep the story focused on the general details, and don’t mention individual’s names to preserve their privacy.