The economy may be improving, but many families continue to be frugal, looking for vacations that will give them maximum fun for their dollar. Family camping trips have seen a resurgence over the past few years, especially in our national parks and forests, and that trend appears to be continuing into 2012. Many national parks are seeing a steady increase in the number of visitors, making it more difficult to find campsites in the park’s campgrounds and to enjoy the solitude and pristine beauty of the out-of-doors. ForestCamping.com offers an alternative to staying in a national park campground by camping in a nearby national forest campground.

National parks remain a popular summer vacation option; however, once in the park visitors tend to find popular attractions crowded, roads congested and campgrounds cramped. With 175 national forests located in 43 states, many within a day’s drive of most large metropolitan areas, and many surrounding a national park, camping in a national forest is a good alternative. Not as developed as national parks, which have specific attractions for visitors, visitors to national forests must find their own attractions and navigate near empty roads. Two other features campers at national forest find are, except for holiday weekends, campgrounds are rarely crowded and campsites are spacious.

True, national forests tend not have the amenities found in a national park, such as cafes and historic lodges, nor the many organized events available at national parks. However, for families looking for spacious campsites nestled in a forest of towering trees without crowds and congestion but close enough to a ranger-led hike or one of the other activities available in a national park, here are a few suggested alternatives to camping in a national park:

A day’s drive from Sacramento, CA is Stanislaus National Forest’s Diamond “O” campground on Yosemite National Park’s west side and a short drive to the Park’s entrance.

Not far from Asheville, NC is the Blue Ridge Parkway, famous for its magnificent Fall foliage, and the Pisgah National Forest. The forest has a number of developed campgrounds convenient to the Parkway but Black Mountain campground is perhaps the best choice.

It’s an easy drive from Eugene, OR to Umpqua National Forest’s Diamond Lake campground just a few miles from the north side entrance of Crater Lake National Park.

Near Phoenix, AZ is Kaibab National Forest with Ten-X campground on the Grand Canyon National Park’s south rim. Towering Ponderosa pines provide amply shade for campers, something much appreciated in an area where trees aren’t much taller the 15 feet.

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