Rehoboth Beach – Dewey Beach

Just when you thought the summer couldn’t get any better, Rehoboth Beach – Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce invites you to join its 37th Annual Sandcastle and Sculpture Contest in Rehoboth Beach! Saturday, August 1st, the town comes alive with shovels, buckets, and more! Whether you are a serious castle-builder or simply like watching sand run through your fingers, this event has something for everyone!

Boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach


The Sandcastle and Sculpture Contest is open to all ages, businesses, and individuals. Watch sculpture demonstrations from sculpting artist Darrell O’Connor, on July 31st and participate in creating sand sculptures, whether you’re there to win or to watch. Registration for the contest opens on Saturday, August 1st, from 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at the north end of Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk on Fisherman’s Beach. Awards will be announced at 5 p.m. for the most creative, structural, aesthetic, and representational works. Check out more details on this great event by visiting the RBDBCC website for more information.



While at the beach, you can also take advantage of the many other activities around. Cheer on your friends and family as they mold dragons and mermaids. Then go for a swim or a stroll. And don’t forget to download the FREE Delaware State Pocket Ranger® App to guide you to the best activities around.



The Rehoboth Beach – Dewey Beach area is well known as the Nation’s Summer Capital in Southern Delaware. The Pocket Ranger® App is the perfect companion for your summer vacation or just a weekend get-away. The app features information on weather, recommended activities, and scenic drives using the Pocket Ranger® GPS tours and is available to you at no cost. Kick back and enjoy the sand and the sun this summer in Delaware!


Take Your Dog to Smyrna Dunes Park

This post is contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior

Not many beaches in Florida allow you to bring your dog to the beach. The reasons are endless and if you bring your dog to the beach you’ll be asked to leave after being handed a hefty fine. It’s kind of a bummer because it’s just so much fun to bring your little pup to the beach to let him/her swim in the ocean, eye down the birds, and play a little fetch. Not to mention that it’ll wear him/her out and your pup will be sleeping soundly for the rest of the day and into the night.

One of the few beaches in Florida that does allow dogs is Smyrna Dunes Park at New Smyrna Beach. New Smyrna Beach is a great little beach town just south of the bustling Daytona Beach. At the far north end of the beach is Smyrna Dunes Park, just past the Ponce Inlet Coast Guard Station. When you get to the park entrance, have $10 ready to hand over to the toll attendant.

Lighthouse in front of water Smyrna Dunes Park

Image: Justin Thicke

You have the option of walking on a 1.5-mile boardwalk or walking on a dirt trail that runs right next to the boardwalk. Dogs are welcome on the boardwalk until 10am, afterwards, you’re supposed to walk them on the dirt path. You’ll pass a lot of flatland that’s desolate and doesn’t remind you of the beach at all. There are lots of boardwalks that’ll take you through the mangroves to the beach on the inlet.

Image: Justin Fricke

Image: Justin Fricke

Your four-legged friend is more than welcome to run and play with you and go in the water, just make sure you clean up after them and keep them on a 6 foot leash. Stay on the intercostal side of the jetty as well. If Beach Patrol catches you on the south side of the jetty, where all the cars are, they might slap you with a fine depending on how their day’s going.

Make sure you bring plenty of water for everyone. There aren’t any water fountains and you just spent $10. No need to cut your day short because you forgot some water.

At the end of your day, make sure to clean off your dog at the dog washing station. Use the hose by the sign labeled “Dog Wash Station” to clean all the salt water out of their hair. Give them a bath while you’re at it, with dog soap that’s environmentally friendly of course.

Image: Justin Fricke

Image: Justin Fricke

Smyrna Dunes Park is a fantastic way to spend the day with your dog waving at the boats as they go by, running on the beach, soaking up some sunshine, and digging holes. Your dog can dig as many holes as he/her little heart desires.

Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Gorge State Park and Jim Thorpe

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

To some, the birthplace of the United States is an ideal place to spend the Fourth of July. With places like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell to visit, it’s no wonder Philadelphia is busier than ever when Independence Day comes around. But for me, spending a long holiday weekend in a small town near the woods sounded much more appealing. This year, I chose to visit an old favorite, Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Gorge State Park, an hour and a half outside of bustling Philadelphia.

Why spend a holiday at Lehigh Gorge State Park? This particular park is home to stunning waterfalls, endless opportunities for recreation, and sits just outside a beautiful, historic town. Be sure to add the Lehigh Gorge and Jim Thorpe to your list if you’re in the area this summer, and take note of these activities and insider tips.

Man looking at a gorge at Lehigh Gorge State Park

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Hiking Glen Onoko Falls

Though Lehigh Gorge State Park has over 30 miles of trails, hiking Glen Onoko Falls is a must for adventurous visitors looking for a serious challenge. To get there, plug “Glen Onoko Falls” or “40.883555, -75.760422” into your GPS. The Glen Onoko Access parking lot fills up quickly in the summer, and though there are overflow lots, it’s best to get there early.

Path at Lehigh Gorge State Park Image Credit: Katie Levy

Image Credit: Katie Levy

I’ve yet to find a reliable map for the area and the trail is sparsely blazed, but once you’re on the trail, it’s simple to follow. Look for Falls Trail signs and information boards at the southeastern end of the parking lot and follow stairs down to the Lehigh River. Turn right, pass under the bridge into the parking lot, and turn right up a small hill. The trail turns left and flattens out until you reach the cascading stream which originates at a mountain spring and flows all the way down to the Lehigh River.

Stream flowing in the woods at Lehigh Gorge State Park Image Credit: Katie Levy

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Then, the nearly 1,000 vertical foot climb begins. Hikers head straight up along the side of the falls, and sturdy hiking shoes are an absolute must. The area is subject to significant erosion, and due to the trail’s close proximity to the stream and waterfalls, it’s almost always wet. But the treacherous mile long ascent is well worth it. When you reach the last waterfall, proceed a bit further uphill and look for a blue blazed trail that turns sharply right. It’s an easier way down, and makes a complete loop for those who’d prefer not to go back down the way they came.

Whitewater Boating on the Lehigh River and Biking the Lehigh Gorge Trail

Not into hiking? There’s still plenty of fun activities to do in the park. Whitewater rafting and kayaking are popular summer activities, and I’ve done multiple rafting trips with Pocono Whitewater. They offer family friendly trips as well as specialty trips and the highly recommended dam release weekend (class III) trips, which give you between four and five hours on the river.

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Prefer to stay on land? Bring your mountain or hybrid bike, or rent a bike from Pocono Biking and explore the Lehigh Gorge Trail. The relatively flat 26 mile multi-use trail that follows train tracks next to the Lehigh River, and this method of exploration give visitors a chance to see a good bit of the area in a short period of time. Shuttle services are also available if you prefer a one-way trip.

Exploring the Town of Jim Thorpe

Though Lehigh Gorge State Park has plenty to offer, when you’re done with outdoor adventure, historic Jim Thorpe is a great spot to spend a day or a weekend. The town was originally known as Mauch Chunk and was founded in part due to the area’s coal mining industry. Mauch Chunk hosted a busy rail system, including the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway, and the town grew as the industry progressed.

Water cascading through the woods at Lehigh Gorge State Park Image Credit: Katie Levy

Image Credit: Katie Levy

In 1953, the town was renamed in honor of Jim Thorpe, the Olympic athlete, following his death. It’s since become a bustling, beautiful little tourist destination with shops, dining options, and a beautiful historic inn. Fuel up for the day’s activities with breakfast at the Broadway Grille and Pub and coffee and snacks from Strange Brew, and wind down on the patio at Molly Maguire’s Pub and Steakhouse for dinner. If you’re looking for fine dining, Moya is well worth the heftier price tag. And if you’d prefer to stay in town all day in lieu of outdoor adventuring, take a ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway and visit St. Mark’s Church or the Old Jail Museum to get a feel for the town and its history.

Have you been to Lehigh Gorge State Park or Jim Thorpe? What are some of your favorite things to do or places to visit in the area? We’d love to hear from you!

Art and Photo Contests

Calling all shutterbugs and artists!

Parks are one of the best places to capture the natural beauty of the world around us. There really is no better source of inspiration to bring out the photographer and artist in all of us, which is why we’ve compiled this handy list of art and photo contests to make it easy to share that creativity with the rest of the world. There are plenty of opportunities to have your work proudly displayed in a gallery, stamp, magazine, calendar or online album. Don’t worry about your skill level as many of the these events are catered towards novices and non-professionals. Plus, there are several open to children so even your kids can get in on the fun!

Some of these art and photo contests are hosted by state agencies and some by non-profit organizations. However, all of them are directly related to state parks so expect to take a trip to the park to participate. Along with your camera, don’t forget to download one of our Pocket Ranger® apps on your mobile device to help you navigate through the park grounds and trails. Before you begin, take time to read through the rules and guidelines as eligibility conditions will vary.

Now it’s time to get out there and join in on the fun! Capture in a photograph or piece of art the striking beauty of wildlife, the awe-inspiring majesty of landscapes, or the simple joy of people enjoying nature.

Outdoor Alabama Photo Contest

2015 Birds Category 1st Place Winner in a photo contest  [Image:]

2015 Birds Category 1st Place Winner [Image:]

Deadline: October 31, 2015
Eligibility: Open to amateurs only, separate adult and youth divisions
Sponsor: Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

California State Parks Foundation Photo Contest

Deadline: Monthly & yearly winners, ongoing
Eligibility: Open to all
Sponsor: California State Parks Foundation

Cheyenne Mountain State Park Photo Contest (Colorado)

Deadline: August 10, 2015
Eligibility: Open to all, separate adult and youth divisions
Sponsor: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Connecticut Junior Duck Stamp Competition

Deadline: March 15, 2016
Eligibility: Open to youth only
Sponsor: Connecticut Waterfowlers Association

Florida State Parks Photo Contest

May 2015 Winner [Image:]

May 2015 Winner [Image:]

Deadline: Monthly & yearly winners, ongoing
Eligibility: Open to all 13 years or older
Sponsor: Florida Department of Environmental Protection / Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc.

Cloudland Canyon State Park Annual Photo Contest (Georgia)

Deadline: December 2015
Eligibility: Open to all
Sponsor: Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Georgia State Parks Instagram Contest

Deadline: Weekly winners, from June 8, 2015 to August 17, 2015
Eligibility: Open to all
Sponsor: Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Wild About Kansas Photo Contest

Deadline: October 23, 2015
Eligibility: Open to all, separate adult and youth divisions
Sponsor: Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park Photography Weekend (Kentucky)

Deadline: October 16 – 18, 2015
Eligibility: Open to all
Sponsor: Kentucky State Parks

Minnesota Fish & Wildlife Habitat Stamp Contest

2015 Trout & Salmon Stamp Winner []

2015 Trout & Salmon Stamp Winner []

Deadline: Varies from August 14, 2015 to December 18, 2015
Eligibility: Open to Minnesota residents only
Sponsor: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

MissouriDNR Photo Contest

Deadline: August 1, 2015
Eligibility: Open to amateurs only
Sponsor: Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Missouri Snapshots Photo Contest

Deadline: October 31, 2015
Eligibility: Open to amateurs only, separate adult and youth divisions
Sponsor: Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives / Missouri Department of Natural Resources

NEBRASKAland Magazine Photo Contest

Deadline: July 31, 2015
Eligibility: Open to all, separate adult and youth divisions
Sponsor: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

50th Anniversary Photo Challenge (North Dakota)

Deadline: September 7, 2015
Eligibility: Open to all
Sponsor: North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department

50th Anniversary Roscoe’s Coloring Contest (North Dakota)

Roscoe's Coloring Contest [Image:]

Roscoe’s Coloring Contest [Image:]

Deadline: September 30, 2015
Eligibility: Open to youth only
Sponsor: North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department

Pennsylvania Waterfowl Management Stamp Design Contest

Deadline: August 31, 2015
Eligibility: Open to Pennsylvania residents only
Sponsor: Pennsylvania Game Commission (PDF)

Washington State Parks Foundation Photo Contest

Deadline: Monthly & yearly winners, ongoing
Eligibility: Open to all
Sponsor: Washington State Parks Foundation

Friends of Wisconsin State Parks Calendar Annual Photo Contest

2014 Calendar Winner [Image:]

2014 Calendar Winner [Image:]

Deadline: August 31, 2015
Eligibility: Open to all
Sponsor: Friends of Wisconsin State Parks

Buckhorn & Roche-A-Cri State Parks Annual Photo Contest (Wisconsin)

Deadline: September 30 , 2015
Eligibility: Open to all
Sponsor: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources / Friends of Buckhorn State Park / Friends of Roche-A-Cri State Park

Figuring Out Your Camping Style

The first step in ensuring a positive camping experience is making sure you’re comfortable and happy at your site. After all, a night spent in the great outdoors should be a night well spent. Whether you want to be as close to the bare ground as possible or you’d rather sleep under the stars in style, determining your preference before you head out will make the difference between striking up a continued interest in camping or permanently putting out that flickering campfire in your heart. Here are five types of camping that can help you figure out what works best for you.

Glamping (Glamorous Camping)

A full living room inside of a tent.

Camp…er…GLAMP in style! [Image:]

Glamping is perfect for those that want to enjoy the great outdoors, but don’t want to get their hands dirty while doing so. A relaxing weekend away from the stresses of every day life with all the conveniences of home at your fingertips makes for a great opportunity to clear your mind. Glamping can be done in villas, huts, yurts, cabins, lodges, or at park hotels and motels.

RV Camping

A family sitting near a campfire next to an RV in front of a the lake as the sun sets.

Gather the whole family for some cozy RV camping. [Image:]

Similar to glamping, packing up an RV and driving to a campground offers a close-up view of nature’s beauty from the safety and comfort of a camper. An RV can be stocked with all the conveniences that you’re used to and is essentially just a home on wheels (mobile home—get it?). With the open road laid out ahead of you and a cool drink at your side, there’s not many vacations that can compare!

Car Camping

A car packed with camping gear parked in front of a mountain with a tent in the background.

Pack the car and head for the hills! [Image:]

A bit more rustic yet still comfortable, camping from the convenience of your car gives you easy access to a lot more supplies than just one or two backpacks can hold. It’s a way to get into nature and enjoy yourself while also making sure you didn’t forget your favorite jacket or lucky socks. Just make sure you pack the car in a well-organized and easily accessible way!

Tent Camping

A tent next to campfire in front of a lake as the sun sets.

A peaceful camping trip is just what the doctor ordered. [Image:]

When people typically think of camping, they imagine pitching a tent in the woods and cooking over a raging campfire. This style of camping is best for those outdoors enthusiasts that want to respect and honor the nature that they’re partaking in. Head for the hills with your tents in tow, and don’t forget to camp with the best interests of curious animal friends in mind during your stay.


A backpacker standing on a cliff as the sun rises.

Load up your backpack and go explore. [Image:]

For those adventurers looking for a challenge and deeper connection to nature, backpacking is the best type of camping to take advantage of. A pair of reliable hiking boots, a backpack stuffed with lightweight camping gear, and good company are all you need before you set off on a backpacking adventure. Part hiking, part camping, it’s perfect for those who like to make a plan and stick to it—set your hiking course, figure out where you want to set up camp come nightfall, and you’re ready to go!

Whether you’re looking to get down and dirty in the woods or want to have a taste of nature with the comforts of your home, this list should help give you an idea of what type of camping you’re most suited for. Browse our Gear Store to get any last minute camping necessities, and don’t forget to download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps before you head out to find an accommodating campsite near you!

Five Types of Trees that Have Our Attention

Summer is here, and now it’s time to finally stop marveling at the blooming trees and hide underneath them for some valuable shade. It’s easy to forget just how many unique and interesting tree species are scattered across the world, but luckily we came up with a list of just five that’ll have you planning a tree-touring trip around the world.

1. Baobab Trees, Madagascar

A huge, misshapen Baobab Tree.

Try wrapping your arms around these interestingly shaped giants. [Image:]

Baobob Trees are known by many names (Upside Down Trees, Bottle Trees, and Monkey Bread Trees to name a few) due to their distinctive, mostly leafless appearance. Most of these trees can be found in Madagascar, but certain species appear in Australia and Africa as well. They come in handy for both humans and animals in the unbearable savannah heat, and the thick tree bark is fire resistant and great for making cloth or rope. These fascinating trees are thought to have long lives, and rumor has it that there’s one in South Africa that’s over 6,000 years old!

2. Cannonball Trees, Sri Lanka

Cannonball-like fruits hanging from a tree trunk.

Look out, above! You don’t want to get knocked on the head by these heavy fruits. [Image:]

The nickname Cannonball Tree makes sense once you see the large, round fruits hanging off its trunks. Don’t get too close, though, because they live up to their name, and a falling fruit could lead to lots of pain! Often found in Central and South American rainforests, these trees are an exquisite sight. If you can tolerate the horrible smell, the fruits are edible, too.

3. Dragon Blood Trees, Yemen

Umbrella-shaped trees.

The Dragon Blood Trees’ shape make them the perfect place to hide from the sun. [Image:]

Native to the Socotra archipelago in Yemen, the rare and distinct Dragon Blood Trees have an even more interesting characteristic underneath their bark. Once cut, the trees appear to bleed by releasing a red resin commonly used in medicines and dyes. Unfortunately many populations of this tree are struggling because of poor regeneration and increased tourism and overdevelopment.

4. Rainbow Eucalyptus, Hawaii

Colorful tree bark.

No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you—these trees ARE rainbow! [Image:]

Streaked in color and looking almost like part of an art project, the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees are a gorgeous, tropical sight. They naturally occur in the Northern Hemisphere and can be found in tree plantations around the world as well.

5. Windswept Trees, New Zealand

Trees bent to the side because of drastic winds.

The only other living creatures you’ll see by these trees are probably sheep! [Image:]

Some pretty intense, Antarctic winds relentlessly hit Slope Point in New Zealand, leading to its breathtaking Windswept Trees. Aside from these drastically bent trees, the only other living creatures in its proximity are herding sheep.

Don’t just take it from us, though—discover some of these majestic beauties on your own! Download our Pocket Ranger® State Parks Apps and National Park Passport Guide App to find some rare and remarkable trees near you.

GIANT & MARTIN’S Now a Sponsor of the Pennsylvania State Parks Pocket Ranger® App

We here at ParksByNature Network are very excited about our new sponsor, GIANT Food Stores and MARTIN’S Food Markets!

Screenshot showing the GIANT ad on The Official Guide for Pennsylvania State Parks & Forests.

If you’re a Pocket Ranger® app user in Pennsylvania, you may have seen their ads in The Official Guide for Pennsylvania State Parks & Forests Pocket Ranger® app.

We are thrilled about GIANT & MARTIN’S not only because of their sponsorship, but also because they’re the perfect partners for the season! Summer is a great time to explore the state parks and forests and the perfect season for picnicking and grilling. Our sponsors will make it easy and fun for you to make the most out of your park visits this summer.

A hiking trail carpeted in pine needles passes under trees at Caledonia State Park. [Image:]


Planning a day hike at one of Pennsylvania’s 120 state parks? Stop by GIANT or MARTIN’S for water and energy rich snacks, like nuts and bars.

Chicken and veggies on a grill. [Image:]


Itching to start off the season with some grilling? Use the Pocket Ranger® app to find the nearest location that offers grills. On your way over, pick up some juicy steaks, burgers, hot dogs, wings, veggies and other tasty foods from GIANT or MARTIN’S. They also have some terrific summer grilling recipes on their website. Your satisfied bellies will thank you.

Forested hills line the lake at Frances Slocum State Park. [Image:]


Looking to have a quiet picnic by the water? The Pennsylvania State Parks Guide can help you with that as well – search by activity and look for parks that offer picnicking. Once you find your ideal spot, buy some simple prepared foods at GIANT or MARTIN’S, along with some cheese and crackers or fresh fruits and veggies and head to the park for a relaxing picnic with your loved ones. Don’t forget the blanket! Also, check out our sponsor’s website for picnic perfect recipes, as well as our own tips on planning the perfect picnic or the perfect outdoor meal.

Sunlight shines on a tent at a campsite in Pennsylvania State Parks. [Image:]


Or perhaps you want to tackle an overnight camping trip to take advantage of all the amenities and activities the parks have to offer? Remember, a prepared camper is a happy camper. Stock up at GIANT or MARTIN’s for your camping essentials. And if you’re taking home your big catch after some fishing or hunting, make sure you pick up some herbs, spices and veggies to help you make that perfect dish. If you’re new to camping but want to try it, read through our tips on the basics, camping in the wilderness, camping with kids, and leaving no trace.

Not sure which Pennsylvania state park to visit? You can find some suggestions from past blog posts that highlight parks with beautiful water views, waterfall hikes and hiking destinations.

Regardless of whether you’re planning for a quick day outing or an extended overnight camping vacation, the Pennsylvania Pocket Ranger® app and GIANT/MARTIN’S are here to help you make the most out of your trip.