Magazine article Sunset

Best Fall Camping

Magazine article Sunset

Best Fall Camping

Article excerpt

ARIZONA

Twin Peaks Campground

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

So for south it's almost in Mexico, this park flaunts an array of desert flora, including the sentinellike saguaro and the organ pipe cactus. See them by driving or biking Ajo Mountain Road, a 21mile interpretive loop highlighting the wonders of the Sonoran Desert. Or hike the short trails leading from camp, where 208 sites are bordered by lush desert greenery. $16; $12/vehicle; no reservations; nps.gov/orpi.

CALIFORNIA

Mesquite Spring Campground

Death Valley National Park

For a desert adventure without the crowds, head to Mesquite Spring in Grapevine Canyon. This 30-site camp is ideally situated for visiting the 32,000-square-foot mansion known as Scotty's Castle, the 000-foot-deep abyss at Ubehebe Crater, and the strange moving rocks at the Racetrack Playa. Distances here are vast and services few, so triple-check your packing list. $12; $20/vehicle; no reservations; nps.gov/deva.

Ryan Campground

Joshua Tree National Park

Watch a desert sunset or a dazzling star show from the top of a massive boulder, then crawl into your sleeping bag when the night turns cool. The gargantuan rocks also provide a cozy sense of privacy for most of the 31 sites. During the day, take the strenuous hike to Ryan Mountain's viewfilled summit or visit the ruins of the 1890s Ryan Ranch. $15; $20/vehicle; no potable water; no reservations; nps.gov/jotr.

Sunset State Beach

Watsonville

Search for sand dollars, scan the waves for whales and dolphins, and warm your toes at a beach bonfire as the sun sinks over Monterey Bay. Sixteen miles south of Santa Cruz, Sunset State Beach's 85-site campground is a short walk from the waterline, where anglers reel in surf perch and striped bass. Dogs are allowed in camp but not on the beach; drive two miles north to Manresa's day-use area to let them romp in the sand. …

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