Every summer in North America, there’s an exodus of vacationers to American and Canadian national parks. As a result the parks are often crowded. Buck this trend and head instead for the many smaller and closer state and provincial parks.

Here are five reasons why this is a great idea.

Low Fees for Admissions

Many state and provincial parks don’t charge admission. Those that do usually charge less than $10. Passes are also available that cover all parks in an entire state or province for a season or for a year for less than the cost of an average hotel room. That’s an amount that most every traveler should be able to afford.

Cheap Accommodations

There are plenty of opportunities to camp at state parks. Fees will vary according to whether it’s a tent or RV site with hookups, but they’re far less than any hotel.

Some parks offer cabins to rent for those who want a few more creature comforts like a real bed. Some also offer alternative accommodations like yurts or teepees and are relatively inexpensive.

Variety of Free and Low Cost Activities

Typical park activities that top the list include hiking, biking, photography, boating, fishing, bird watching and wildlife spotting. But some state and provincial parks can offer additional amenities or activities for visitors.

Divers will enjoy the underwater areas of Florida’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Spelunkers will enjoy the challenge of Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park in British Columbia.

Mine for diamonds and other precious stones at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. Hunt for fossils in Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nevada. Wander amongst the sea caves in Dungeon Provincial Park in Newfoundland.

Relive American history at locations like Fort Sumter State Park in Illinois, where there is a museum and historical replica of the fort, or at Fort Sisseton State Historical Park in South Dakota, where they hold an annual festival complete with battlefield re-enactments.

The list is only limited by where one chooses to vacation.

Nearby Park Locations

With thousands of parks to choose from, the question becomes how far to travel. For those low on budget, there are probably several parks within a tankful of gas. This makes vacationing in a state or provincial park a great idea for budget travelers. For those with a bit more money or time to spend, visit several parks and enjoy the different offerings of each one.

Not sure where one is? Many state or provincial convention and visitors bureau websites have complete listings.

Enjoy Quality Family Time

Without the trappings of modern day society, vacationing in the natural beauty of state and provincial parks can be a great bonding experience for families and friends. It’s a great chance to make memories and spend quality time together. Nowawdays opportunities like that are priceless. The fact that it can also be inexpensive is a bonus.

So grab some camping equipment, pile everyone in the car and enjoy a low cost vacation in the nearest state or provincial park. It’s an experience no one will forget.