Great Escapes: National Treasures Located Within Easy Reach
Visiting a National Park can make for an unforgettable vacation, but many of the most well known ones require a long journey.
Yet, there National Park Service manages a wealth of treasures near every major metrololitan area. Chances are there's one of interest near you.
Alcatraz Island: San Francisco, California.
Set between the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, the island hosts one of the country’s most famous federal prisons. Guided tours are available, and the island is easily accessible by ferry.
Channel Islands National Park: Ventura, California.
Comprised of five islands teeming with wildlife, this park west of Los Angeles offers stunning vistas and ocean breezes. Just remember, these are islands, so the park is only accessible by park concessionaire boats, private boats or planes.
Biscayne National Park: Islandia, Florida.
Downtown Miami is visible from this National Park boasting azure seas, coral reefs and verdant islands. Boating, snorkeling or simply lounging on the beach represent activities available to visitors.
Everglades National Park: Florida.
About 80 minutes southwest of Miami, the Everglades might be America’s most famous swamp. Home to the Florida panther and American crocodile, the Everglades blend beauty and danger. In addition to being a National Park, the Everglades is a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Brecksville, Ohio.
The Cuyahoga River meanders through this serene park roughly half an hour south of Cleveland. Lush forests, open farmlands and rolling hills define the picturesque landscape. Follow the Towpath Trail to retrace the historic route of the Ohio & Erie Canal.
Motor Cities National Heritage Areas: Detroit, Michigan.
See where Ford’s iconic Model T rolled off the assembly line. But this National Heritage Area doesn’t only cater to Ford enthusiasts, exhibits include histories of the other two members of big three automakers: General Motors and Chrysler.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: Empire, Michigan.
Located in the pinky of the mitten, the lakeshore’s soaring dunes offer dramatic views of forests, Lake Michigan and inland lakes. There’s more than 100 miles of hiking trails, while Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail provides more than 4 miles of paved trail that’s groomed for skiing during the winter.
Gateway Arch National Park: St. Louis, Missouri.
A symbol of the United States’ Westward Expansion, the park’s signature feature is the Gateway Arch. Clad in stainless steel, the weighted catenary arch stretches 630 feet high. Besides standing taller than the Washington Monument, the Gateway Arch is the tallest manmade monument in the Western Hemisphere. The park also includes the courthouse where the enslaved Dred Scott sued for his freedom.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park: Salt Flat, Texas.
The four highest peaks in Texas are found in this National Park that hosts the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef, a geological formation formed during the Permian Period. Mountains and canyons accent the National Park’s desert landscape, a popular destination for stargazers.
Padre Island, National Seashore: Corpus Christi, Texas.
Separating the Laguna Madre from the Gulf Of Mexico, Padre Island is one of the few hypersaline lagoons in the world. The destination protects more than 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies and tidal flats. More than 380 species of birds take refuge here, and Padre Island National Seashore is a safe nesting ground for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.
Ice Age, National Scenic Trail: Madison, Wisconsin.
Venture back 15,000 years, when sabertooth cats and mammoths roamed Earth, and a large ice sheet covered most of North America. Remnants of the glacier exist in Wisconsin’s myriad of lakes, river valleys, ridges and gently rolling hills. Established in 1980, the nearly 1,200 mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail outlines the glacier’s edge.
Edgar Allen Poe, National Historic Site: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
See the home of one of the nation’s most widely known authors, a man whose dark, unsettling work remains widely read to this day. Poe spent six years of his life in Philadelphia, and they are considered to be among his most productive and personally successful in a life hampered by tragedy and inner demons.
Baltimore, National Heritage Area: Baltimore, Maryland.
A hub of commerce and culture for more than 300 years, Baltimore is living history. The Baltimore National Heritage Area preserves the places and people who shaped the nation.
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad, National Historic Park: Cambridge, Maryland.
This National Historic Park celebrates the Underground Railroad’s most famous conductor. See where Harriet Tubman traveled while freeing scores of Black Americans from the bondage of chattel slavery.
Lincoln Home, National Historic Site: Springfield, Illinois.
This 12-room Greek Revival built in 1839 is the only home ever owned by the 16th president of the United States. Abraham and Mary Lincoln's spent 17 years at the residence.
Morristown, National Historic Park: Morristown, New Jersey.
See where General George Washington and his troops hunkered down during an historically cold winter in 1779 and 1780. Artifacts from pre- and post-revolutionary America are on display at the historic park’s museum and library.
Weir Farm, National Historic Site: Wilton, Connecticut.
Check out the home and studio of one of the nation’s most beloved Impressionist painters, J. Alden Weir. The site preserves more than 60 acres of woods, fields and waterways. Weir himself described the estate as a “Great, good place.”
The Last Green Valley, National Heritage Corridor: Danielson, Connecticut.
Mill villages, surging rivers and vibrant town centers await along this rural, historic trail. Forests and farms dominate nearly 80 percent of The Last Green Valley’s 1,100 square miles, meaning ample views of bucolic landscapes