Scenic park getaways to unplug and unwind
From hiking trails through thick forest to stargazing in the desert, these breaks to some of America’s finest parks and protected areas will feel a world away from home, yet are surprisingly accessible from a handful of major cities.
Adirondack Park, NY
At more than six million acres in size and with 2,000 miles of hiking trails, this place is plenty big enough to get lost in nature. With mountains, rivers, lakes and valleys there are opportunities galore for trekking, bike riding, white-water rafting and kayaking. To top it off is the Wild Walk, a towering treetop walkway with bird’s-eye views across the vast forest. It’s not just about getting back to nature, though – there are a number of wineries and microbreweries with tasting rooms across the Adirondacks. It’s all about four hours’ drive from New York City.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, CA
Just a couple of hours out of San Diego, this is an “unparalleled opportunity” to experience the wonders of the Californian desert (cacti, iguanas, sculptures and all), says the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The largest state park in California, Anza-Borrego Desert includes 500 miles of dirt roads, most of which require four-wheel-drive, and branching out from these are numerous hiking trails. There are plenty of places to camp out and it’s a prime location for stargazing.
Valley of Fire State Park, NV
Taking a break in the Valley of Fire might not sound that relaxing, but this area is known for its stunning scenery with red Aztec sandstone outcrops that almost light up in the sun. It offers a complete getaway one hour from Las Vegas with hiking and biking trails, rock climbing and camping.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park, TX
Some 120 miles long, 20 miles wide and nearly a thousand feet deep, “The Grand Canyon of Texas” is second only in size to that large gully in Arizona. There are various ways to get around it – by foot, mountain bike, horse or car, depending on how energetic you’re feeling – and numerous options for spending the night. They include campsites equipped with water and electricity, drive-up sites, equestrian sites, backpack camping areas and cabins. Located in the Texas Panhandle, it’s a long-weekend-doable six hours from Dallas and five from Oklahoma City.
Starved Rock State Park, IL
For a getaway that’s more on the edge of the grid than off it, try Starved Rock State Park. About 90 minutes from Chicago, it’s not surprising this wooded wilderness is one of the most popular attractions in Illinois. Visitors can relax along 13 miles of trails among trees, canyons and waterfalls, and take the chance to go fishing and horseback riding. Alternatively, sit back for a historic trolley tour and river cruise and watch it roll slowly by.
Want to upsize? Have a look at these national park destinations for trips on a larger scale, and find further inspiration and travel tips with our road trip planner.