Shane Young

The West's Best State Parks

Near Tillamook, Oregon

The only late-night noise you're likely to hear at thiscampground on a sand spit is the roar of the ocean just across anarrow dune. Miles away from busy U.S. 101, the park is tuckedbetween Netarts Spit and tall, narrow Cape Lookout, projecting 2miles into the Pacific; both are inviting for all-season hiking.Grab a campsite on loop A for quickest beach access; for moreseclusion, tuck into a forested tent site at the back of loop D,near the cluster of yurts. Brand-new log cabins all have an oceanview through the conifers; they're in the day-use area south of thecampground. Hiking trails lead 7 miles through the forest andheadlands. - Bonnie Henderson

WHERE: From U.S. 101 in Tillamook, follow Three Capes ScenicRoute southwest 12 miles.

WHEN: Year-round; winters are rainy.

COST: $3 per car.

CAMPING/LODGING: 216 sites from $16, 10 yurts from $27, and4 log cabins from $65; (800) 452-5687.

CONTACT: (800) 551-6949, (503) 842-4981, or

Near Taos, New Mexico

At 8,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains,sun-dappled, wildflower-filled, 8-mile-long Cimarron Canyon StatePark is a haven for campers, hikers, and anglers. Deer, elk, wildturkeys, and eagles are readily spotted, and the 400-foot-highgranite Palisades are not to be missed. Trout abound in thecrystalline Cimarron River. Clear Creek Canyon Trail, 7 miles roundtrip, is one of many beautiful hikes. With 100 sites in three shadycampgrounds, many within the sound of the river, Cimarron Canyondraws crowds of loyal visitors each summer. - Sharon Niederman

WHERE: On U.S. 64, 36 miles east of Taos.

WHEN: Year-round; best May-Sep.

COST: Free.

CAMPING: 100 sites from $10; (877) 664-7787.

FYI: Bears are a concern for campers.

CONTACT: (888) 667-2757, (505) 377-6271, or

Lake Tahoe, California

There aren't many more scenic spots to set up camp inCalifornia than along the forested shores of Lake Tahoe's deep bluewater. At these two neighboring parks on the lake's dramaticsouthwestern corner, you can walk the beach, hike to see alighthouse or the lake's only island, and visit Vikingsholm, aScandinavian mansion built in 1929. Campsites are popular for areason: They run along 6 miles of shoreline and up the surroundingsteep slopes, for gorgeous views and star-speckled nights. - L.T.

WHERE: From South Lake Tahoe, take State 89 northwest 7miles.

WHEN: D.L. Bliss: May 24-Sep 30. Emerald Bay: Jun 14-Sep1.

COST: $2 per car.

CAMPING: 268 sites, plus a group campground and 22 primitivesites accessed only by boat, from $12; (800) 444-7275.

FYI: Water at D.L. Bliss may not be drinkable; inquire atranger station.

CONTACT: (530) 525-7232 or

Near Kalispell, Montana

Glittering, glacier-carved Flathead Lake is the largestnatural freshwater lake in the West and comes complete with alegend of a monster lurking in its depths. The 128 shoreline milesvary from densely forested on the east to drier and more open onthe west. The park is made up of six units: On the east side,camping at Finley Point is popular with RV owners and boaters;larch-shadowed Yellow Bay is surrounded by cherry orchards; andWayfarers, close to Bigfork, has a great beach with wildflowers andtrails for hikers. On the west side, Big Arm has a nature trail andis a takeoff point for boat trips to Wild Horse Island. West Shoreis considered the most private unit. - Caroline Patterson

WHERE: 8 miles south of Kalispell. U.S. 93 traces the westshore; State 35 edges the east shore.

WHEN: Camping May-Oct; day use year-round except for FinleyPoint. COST: $4 per car.

CAMPING/LODGING: 113 sites from $12 and yurts at Big Armfrom $35.

FYI: Boat ramps at all parks except Wild Horse Island.

CONTACT: (406) 752-5501 or

Near Jenner, California

On the rugged Sonoma County coast, this 6,000-acre park has6 miles of coastline with rocky coves, tidepools, and an underwaterreserve popular with divers. Camping here among the pines can becool with damp fog in summer, but the setting, with dramaticcoastal views from rugged headlands, is sublime. Watch abalonedivers heading out or join the tidepoolers at Gerstle Cove MarineReserve, go mushroom hunting (it's the only California state parkthat allows it), participate in interpreter-led programs, or justhead out on miles of hiking trails. - L.T.

WHERE: 18 miles north of Jenner, off State 1.

WHEN: Year-round; wet in winter. COST: $2 per car.

CAMPING: 130 sites from $12; (800) 444-7275.

CONTACT: (707) 847-3221 or

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