6 spots to camp in comfort

Looking for a spot to camp in relative comfort not to far from the Baltimore-Annapolis area?

For many families, camping the old-fashioned way can be more than they bargained for. When kids think of camping they most likely envision roasting marshmallows, catching fireflies and sleeping under the stars. Parents, meanwhile, can't get past sleeping on the hard ground, trekking to the bathroom at midnight and fighting off biting bugs.

These days many parks and campgrounds in Maryland and beyond now offer more than just a space to pitch a tent.

“Families may love to camp, but we’ve found that they also want a place to sleep comfortably and a spot to prepare their food without having to lug all the equipment that goes along with it,” says Rich Shattuck, owner of Three Otters Eco Retreat in Great Cacapon, West Virginia.

Nowadays families can choose a cabin resort with real bunk beds or an air-conditioned yurt complete with a coffee maker, providing a nature-based vacation all can enjoy. The six resorts below offer the fun of old-fashioned camping with fire pits, hiking trails and fishing holes, but with the option of cushier accommodations so your family can connect with nature in comfort.

Traditional camping with added comfort

Camping 3 otters WThree Otters Eco Retreat

Stay in anything from a tent cottage to a cabin on 14 pastoral acres along the banks of the Potomac River at Three Otters Eco Retreat. Situated on the C&O Canal Towpath at mile marker 141, Three Otters is popular with those biking the length of the trail.

Accommodations include a vintage trailer ($75), a tent cottage that sleeps eight (from $75), a three-bedroom riverfront cabin ($160) or a riverfront yurt that sleeps six ($90).

With a ¼ mile of gentle, shallow riverfront, Three Otters is perfect for kids learning to kayak or tube, and families can use the resort’s equipment to take a float trip down the river. Enjoy hiking, biking fishing, or any number of sports on the resort’s ballfield or take one of the occasional workshops such as creative writing, cooking or meditation.

Three Otters also has a full riverside kitchen, grilling pavilion, campfire circle, and seasonal store and café.

Distance from Annapolis: 2 hours
8497 Low Line Road, Great Cacapon, WV
304-947-5446, threeotters.com

Herrington Manor State Park

Head to Herrington Manor State Park where your family can sleep in one of 20 cabins, each with a full bathroom and electricity (from $90). Located in Western Maryland, the park has 365 acres of preserved forest and a 53-acre lake. Families can swim or canoe from the beaches of Herrington Lake or use the fishing pier to catch bass and rainbow trout. The park also has 12 miles of trails, one of which connects with nearby Swallow Falls State Park. A year-round destination, families also can enjoy the heated cabins in winter and try cross-country skiing on the trails.

Distance from Annapolis: 3 hours
222 Herrington Lane, Oakland, MD
301-334-9180, dnr.maryland.gov and click on parks, find a state park and Herrington Manor

Lake Anna State Park

Try camping on the shores of one of Virginia’s most popular lakes, the 13,000-acre Lake Anna. Aside from traditional campsites, the state park has 10 two-bedroom, air-conditioned cabins (from $139), seven of which are directly on the lake. Swim from the sandy beaches, fish in the 1.5-acre stocked pond designated specifically for children, or hike, bike and horseback ride on 15 miles of park trails.

Lake Anna has a visitor’s center that offers frequent educational programs, many of which focus on the area’s gold mining history. Families can even take a guided tour of the Goodwin Gold Mine. The park also has amenities like a playground, park store, boat launch and picnic facilities.

Distance from Annapolis: 2 hours
6800 Lawyers Road, Spotsylvania, VA
540-854-5503, dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/lake-anna

Commercialized camping with added fun

Tiny House Boo Boo Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resort

Take camping to a whole new level at Maryland’s Jellystone Park. Yogi Bear, Boo Boo Bear and the entire gang play host at this whimsical campground that has a water park with slides, a zip line, laser tag, mini golf, sport courts, an outdoor movie theater and more. The park also includes the basics of old-fashioned camping like fire circles, hiking trails and horseshoe pits.

Families can choose to stay at a basic tent site ($32) or a Red Carpet RV campsite complete with concrete patio, picnic facilities, and electrical and cable hookup ($60). For the ultimate in comfort, stay in a Pine Forest Cabin with cable, a full kitchen and sleeping area for six (from $167).

Distance from Annapolis: 90 minutes
16519 Lappans Road, Williamsport, MD
301-223-7117, jellystonemaryland.com

Frontier Town

Ease into a camping experience at the Wild West-themed Frontier Town campground just outside of Ocean City in Berlin. Spend the day floating down the lazy river at the water park, play a game of 18-hole miniature golf, or venture into the resort’s Wild West Village, complete with shows and Native American crafts. Take the complimentary shuttle into Ocean City for a day at the beach. Accommodations range from rustic tent sites (from $55) to cabins that sleep six comfortably and include air-conditioning (from $71).

Distance from Annapolis: 2 hours
8428 Stephen Decatur Highway, Berlin, MD
800-228-5590, campground.frontiertown.com

Camping Lake in Woods WLake-in-Wood Resort

Get a taste of nature while visiting Pennsylvania Dutch country at the Lake-in-Wood Resort in Lancaster County. The campground has a lake for fishing and paddle boating, hiking trails, an indoor/outdoor pool, and multiple playgrounds and sport courts. Forgot your equipment? The resort has a trading post that rents or sells everything a camper could need, from fishing gear to bikes.

The resort also offers hayrides, campfire circles and seasonal shows in its entertainment hall. Families can explore nearby Strasburg to learn about Amish life.

Camp at a tent site (from $60) or stay in a classic cabin ($148). Lake-in-Wood also offers unique accommodations like a converted double-decker bus that sleeps four ($129) and a Native American tepee structure with a mini kitchen that sleeps five ($145).

Distance from Annapolis: 2 hours, 15 minutes
576 Yellow Hill Road, Narvon, PA
717-445-5525, lakeinwoodcampground.com

By Katie Riley

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