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Only in the fall only in the west. Conventional wisdom says that when the days get shorter, it's time to hunker inside--and see you in spring. But now is the absolute best time to be outdoors, when some of our unique landscapes come brilliantly alive. This collection of amazing experiences happens ...

Camping has its secret season

Kelsey Sheofsky, co-owner of Shelter Co. luxury camping service, shares her reasons why this is the best month to take your weekend getaway outside.

1 The fire becomes the camp centerpiece. "Mornings start with coffee around the fire," says Sheofsky (pictured at right with her husband, Mike). Evenings mean dinner, stories, and games around the fire. "In my group of friends, we have a really cutthroat s'mores competition."

2 You have the place to yourself. Most campgrounds have ample availability, and though higher-altitude locations are getting cold, many desert, coastal, and lowland forest areas "actually become more enjoyable in fall, because you don't sweat to death," says Sheofsky. Do watch the weather, though. "If it's supposed to be epically bad, skip the trip. If not, then it might be incredible."

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3 Food is for lingering. Out are summer's grab-and-go sandwiches and chips. In is anything that warms you. "This time of year, tomato soup with grilled cheese is the best camp lunch," says Sheofsky. Pancakes. Hot cornbread. Anything grilled. Cocoa all day long.

4 There's more time to enjoy the night. Look up--the fall sky has stars that you didn't see in summer. Lighting your camp becomes more important too. "We use LED lights in the tent," says Sheofsky. "Outside, Coleman or Kirkman lanterns. You can't beat them in terms of portability and output."

5 Cozy is comfortable. Cooler temperatures plus longer nights add up to big sweaters, flannel coats, whiskey in flasks, plaid wool blankets, and other touches that make the outdoors feel homey.

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RELATED ARTICLE: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Head ramps are the new flashlights

Once the province of hard-core mountaineers, headlamps today are so small, inexpensive, and convenient that every camper--even every traveler--should have one. A simple LED model goes for about $20 (see those from Utah-based blackdiamondcquipment.com) and will let you cook, clean, and gather firewood with hands flashlight-free. Just don't stare your campmates in the eye.

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RELATED ARTICLE: WHERE TO CAMP NOW

ARIZONA

The desert's open again

Picacho Peak State Park, southeast of Phoenix, closes for summer, but comes alive again in fall. Dominated by the 1,5oo-foot spire, the park has 85 campsites and a sleek visitor center. From $15; azstate parks.com

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CALIFORNIA

More than wildflowers

Vast, rugged Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, northeast of San Diego, is famed for early-spring desert blooms, but late fall is lovely here--daytime highs in the 705, lows in the sos--ideal for hiking the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail. $25; parks.ca.gov

The forest before the rains

Near Santa Cruz, Big Basin Redwoods State Park has really big trees, nearly 140tent sites, and 36 tent cabins. November's the last chance to camp under coast redwoods before Northern California's rainy season. Tenr sites $35, tent cabins from $75; parks.ca.gov

Four--star camping

El Capitan Canyon Resort, on the coast above Santa Barbara, has luxury safari tents, cabins, and yurts. December brings lower rates and 2-night minimum weekend stays instead of summer's 3. Safari tent from $155; elcapitancanyon.com

HAWAII

Maui without the hotel bill

The rustic cabins at WaVanapanapa State Park get mixed reviews (they're scheduled to be renovated next year), but this is the glorious Nana coast--even beach tent camping here isn't exactly roughing it. Tent sites $78, cabins $90; hawaii stateparks.org

NEVADA

Easy-acce red rocks

Valley of Fire State Park, just an hour from Vegas, has some of the most spectacular scenery not enshrined in a national park, and is its temperate best this time of year. $20; parks.nv.gov

UTAH

A cool time in the desert

In Snow Canyon State Park, near St. George, November nights can dip into the 40s, but days in the 6os are ideal for exploring the park's red cliffs and black lava rock valleys. From $76; stateparks.utah.gov
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Author:Dickerman, Sara; Fish, Peter; Mickle, Kelly; Mooney, Loren; Tudino, Cristina
Publication:Sunset
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2012
Words:647
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