advertisement

Great Smoky Mountain National Park straddles the southern Tennessee-North Carolina state line and is home to over 800 miles of hiking trails and 730 miles of fishable creeks and rivers. LeConte Lodge (tel. 865/429-5704; www.leconte-lodge.com) has seven rustic cabins located atop the 6,593-foot Mount LeConte plus an authentic home-style cooking restaurant so the best part is the Appalachian comfort food -- including biscuits and grits. A stay here in a cozy cabin costs $93 per person per night including breakfast and dinner and $72.50 for children ten and under. There are two and three bedroom cabins available sleeping up to 13 guests. Keep in mind that this is a property has no electricity -- it is lit and heated using kerosene lamps and propane heaters, so pack flash light. And in case you're wondering, there are no showers either -- just basins for sponge baths so you'll get to experience the National Park as previous generation would have.

Maine's Acadia National Park has been drawing millions of visitors since it opened to the public in 1919. Apart from bike trails, hiking up 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain, exploring the rugged coastline on foot, bird-watching or climbing Otter Cliffs, this is a sea kayakers' paradise with dozens of remote coves and islands to explore. The Porcupine Islands are a collection of four small islands in Frenchman Bay, off the larger Mount Desert Island, where much of the National Park is located. Bar Harbor-based Coastal Kayaking Tours (tel. 800/526-8615; www.acadiafun.com) offers three-day trips of The Maine Island Trail -- a 350-mile thoroughfare that connects 162 islands along the coast, including many around Acadia National Park. This kayaking adventure is suitable for all levels. Paddle all day and stay overnight on small islands. The three-day expeditions depart every Friday throughout the summer and they keep their groups small. The cost is $375 per person including kayaking equipment, accommodation, meals and priceless scenery.

For a shorter kayaking trip, Aquaterra Adventures (tel. 207/288-0007; www.aquaterra-adventures.com) offers a two-and-a-half-hour paddle around Sheep Porcupine Island for $45 per person with a chance to see Harbor seals, bald eagles and guillemots. They also offer a Sunset Kayak fro $45 and a Moonlight three-hour Kayak around Frenchman Bay for $50 per person. Duck Harbor campground is Acadia's only remote island camping, so reserve ahead for one of the five ocean-view lean-tos. Access Duck Harbor by kayak or via the daily mail boat, Isle au Haut Stonington Dock Company (www.isleauhaut.com) from Stonington. The one-hour and 15-minute ride is priced at $16 one-way (or $17 using a credit card). The boat service can also arrange bicycle rental for the day for $20. The fee is $25 per campsite per night and a permit is required from National Park headquarters, three miles west of Bar Harbor.

Glacier National Park in Northern Montana boats 700-plus miles of trails, 653 lakes, dozens of glaciers and hundreds of animal species, including bighorn sheep and gray wolves. The North and Middle forks of the Flathead River are havens for fly-fishermen and whitewater kayakers on the Class III rapids with names like Jaws and Bone Crusher. Granite Park Chalet (www.graniteparkchalet.com) located seven miles up the High Line Trail is a mountain lodge built by the Great Northern Railroad Company at the turn of the 20th century. It offers 12 rooms with basic bunk beds and a large, shared kitchen where guests can cook their own food. Accommodation here is priced at $70 per person during the summer season.

Allenspark Lodge Bed and Breakfast (tel. 303/747-2552; www.allensparklodge.com) is a traditional pine log and native stone property located 15 miles south of Estes Park, Colorado, near Rocky Mountain National Park's south-eastern corner. Relax and take in the mountain scenery from the outdoor hot tub or unwind on the sofas in front of the roaring open fire. Comfy rustic style double rooms with shared bathrooms start from $75 and rooms with private baths (including claw foot tubs) start at $105 per night.

In the far south west corner of Colorado lies the spectacular and fascinating Mesa Verde National Park, an area that protects a series of archaeological sites featuring cliff dwellings created by the Anaszi Indian people between 750 to 1300AD before being abandoned. Durango Reservations (tel. 800/409-7295; www.durangoreservations.org) offers a three-night Iron AgeStone Age package that combines the popular Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Mesa Verde National Park. The package includes one-night stay in Durango at the historic Strater Hotel, two round-trip tickets on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, entrance into both the Durango and Silverton railroad museums, two-nights at the Far View Lodge inside Mesa Verde National Park and a half-day professionally guided bus tour of the park for two people. This package is priced from a very reasonable $655 for two people for a three-night mid-week trip during the summer 2007 season.

Looking for a girlfriend getaway with a difference? In August 2007, Yellowstone National Park (tel. 307/344-5566; www.travelyellowstone.com) and Yellowstone Fly Fishing School (www.yellowstoneflyfishingschool.com) is running a women's-only program called "Fun on the Fly: Learn to Fly Fish." No longer the bastion of men, this program is scheduled for August 10, 2007, based for four-nights at Lake Yellowstone Hotel. It includes accommodations in Frontier cabins, a gift for each participant, breakfast and lunch daily, one dinner, a whopping eight hours of instruction each day, handouts, and use of equipment, including fly rods, reels, flies, fly-tying tools, lines and waders. For some female bonding and lots of fresh fish, this package is priced at $1,867 per person single occupancy or $1,649 per person double occupancy.