Top Ten Camps in North America
A black-sand oasis on the south coast of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Apua Point is a mere ten miles from Kilauea, the world's most active volcano and thus one of the only campgrounds in the country where you're likely to see bona fide eruption activity. Limited to 12 campers, the primitive site requires a three-hour hike over undulating pahoehoe lava and is lapped by a swim-nixing undercurrent. But after a hot day of climbing around Ma Nature's version of asphalt, the ocean breezes offer restoration and the regular crash of waves encourages deep sleep, reason enough, apparently, for green turtles to crawl ashore and nap on the beach with you.
Lace up your day hikers for the ultimate geological field trip. Three hundred yards from the end of Chain of Craters Road is the ranger-approved spot for viewing the fireworks. To get closer to the action but not too close set out early, bring sunscreen and water, and hike 3.5 miles farther, to where Kilauea pumps 130,000 gallons of lava per minute into the Pacific via an underground tube. When the liquid-hot magma hits the sea, steam billows and toaster-size rocks explode skyward. Give the eruption zone a wide berth and always stay a quarter-mile inland—newly formed land can collapse without warning. (The kayaking here is also for the brave and/or foolhardy.) To explore more of the 218,000-acre park's otherworldly landscape, hike the half-mile Pu'u Loa Trail, which leads to 25,000 petroglyphs, or the Pu'u Huluhulu, an hour's walk to the summit of a prehistoric cinder cone.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is 30 miles southwest of Hilo on the Big Island. Take Hawaii 11 to the visitor center near the park entrance, where you can pick up a seven-day vehicle permit ($10) and backcountry permit (free, available no more than one day in advance). Then follow Crater Rim Drive to Chain of Craters Road and the Pu'u Loa parking lot. From there the Puna Coast Trail winds 6.6 miles to Apua Point. For more information, call park headquarters at 808-985-6000.
Next Time Try
Fort Kearney State Recreation Area, Nebraska
Claim a site in the secluded far west corner of the park amid stands of cottonwood and green ash. Come equipped with earmuffs, both for warmth and to muffle the racket of hundreds of thousands of honking sandhill cranes launching from the banks of the Platte River at sunrise, no less.
Location: 170 miles west of Omaha
Details: 110 sites (75 with hookups); pit toilets; about $8 to $9 per night
Prime Time: March to early April
Site 34, Bowron Lakes Provincial Park, British Columbia
Why risk frostbite to view the aurora borealis when you can see it, atmospheric conditions willing, from relatively balmy climes at 53 degrees north latitude? Namely this spruce-sheltered site on the fjordlike shore of Lanezi Lake, three days' paddle from the park visitor center.
Location: 150 miles north of Kamloops
Details: pit toilet; $60 to canoe any part of the park's 75-mile circuit; $14 per party per night
Prime Time: September
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication