Where should I pitch a tent?
September 19, 2010 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan a camping road-trip (starting from Kansas City, MO) in early October? Challenge: 1 toddler & 1 pre-schooler.

I've been working way too much for the past several weeks, and would like to steal back some of the time that my job has taken from me, and get out of town for a few days (5 or 6) with the family.

Unfortunately, I can't really afford to fly the whole family anywhere, and can't -really- afford hotel for 5 or 6 nights (but probably could for a couple of nights). So we were thinking about road-tripping and finding some interesting places to camp along the way, since the kids are pretty good in a tent at this point.

My first though was to head towards Rocky Mountain National Park, but we're not really prepared for sub-40-degree weather, camping equipment-wise, and with a 2.5- and 4.5-year-old I don't want to freeze anybody. It looks like odds are good we'd hit that in the higher altitudes in early October. So, I'm looking for other options for interesting places to pitch our tent for a night or two.

Any direction from KC, MO is fine, though more southerly than northerly is probably indicated. Bonus points for a.) places where there are interesting enough things to do to spend a couple of nights and be occupied during the day, b.) specific campground recommendations, and c.) interesting festivals or activities to schedule around.
posted by jferg to Travel & Transportation (2 answers total)
Don't know about camping there exactly, but there are some interesting sites in the Ozark Mountains, specifically Eureka Springs.
posted by tamitang at 4:34 PM on September 19, 2010

There are lots of lovely places in Arkansas and Oklahoma. I've spent time camping and rock climbing in Arkansas state parks, and you could easily make a nice road trip hopping from one park to the next, with a stop in Ouachita National Forest. Going south and west through Arkansas, you'll see a lot of different landscapes and ecologies, and it would make for relatively short drives between camping/hiking stops -- always a good bet with kiddos in the car.

The Current River, at the border of Missouri and Arkansas, is also a beautiful place to go paddling with your family in the fall; hardly anyone is on the river at that time, but the trees are lovely at that time of year, and there are lots of very nice campsites along the river. In the past, we've rented canoes through these guys, but there are dozens of great places to camp or rent a canoe in the area; you can't go wrong.

If that doesn't fill up your 5- or 6-day roadtrip, you can head west to the Wichita mountains in Oklahoma. Beautiful geology and lots of animals -- buffalo, elk, deer, and prairie dogs.

Eureka Springs and other big touristy spots in the Ozarks might be fun with the kidlets, but they are, in my (limited) experience, super commercialized and involve spending lots of money on things that (in my opinion) are less fun than they cost. If you'd rather be out in the wilderness, stick closer to the state parks and national forests.

Have fun!
posted by Spinneret at 5:13 PM on September 19, 2010

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