Adventure By Dayna Engberg

Hit the Road on a National Park Adventure

Iconic wildlife, pioneer history, natural wonders—the stunning landscapes of America’s national parks have it all. Where else can you see a steaming prismatic spring, witness a spiraling exodus of near half a million bats or ponder the strange phenomenon of the sailing stones? From purple mountain majesties to amber waves of grain, read on for some of our favorite national parks that are easily accessible from America’s top destination cities. 

LOS ANGELES

From Los Angeles, make the short two-and-a-half-hour drive to Joshua Tree National Park, where the park’s namesake grows in abundance. Winding gravel roads carve into the desert, revealing miles of curious yucca trees and their distinctive clusters of spiky leaves. The park offers several rustic campsites with climbable boulders at every turn. Find a good vantage point to watch a watercolor desert sunset transform into a galactic blanket of awe-inducing constellations overhead. Or, drive an hour northwest to board a ferry at Ventura to Channel Islands National Park. Here you can paddle a kayak through a sea cave, hike to a picturesque lighthouse or take a whalewatching tour on the open ocean.

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CHICAGO

Departing from the windy city, scenic state parks and interesting historical sites are just a podcast away. In less than an hour’s drive, you could be competing in a sandcastle-building contest along the sandy beaches of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Or, for a fun history lesson, travel south to explore the numerous historical sites within the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, like Lincoln’s log cabin and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. For a longer journey, drive four hours north to the Huron-Manistee National Forests, where the nature trails wind through nearly one-million acres of prairie, coastal marshlands, bogs, dunes and oak savannahs.


BOSTON

The historical landmarks in Boston are so dense that you hardly need to leave your neighborhood to find them. In the heart of the city, trace the Freedom Trail, seeing important sites like the Bunker Hill Monument, the Old North Church and the Paul Revere House, all part of the walking tour at the Boston National Historical Park. For a short day trip, visit the home and stone library of one of the founding fathers of the United States at Adams National Historical Park in Quincy or learn about the first battles of the American Revolution at Minute Man National Historical Park in Lexington.

Boston is an oasis in the desert, a place where the larger proportion of people are loving, rational and happy.

About an hour away is a living monument to America’s industrial beginnings at Lowell National Historical Park where you can see some of America’s first waterpowered textile mills and walk along the charming canals that once fed them.


PHOENIX

From painted deserts to lush forests, Arizona was made for road trips. From Phoenix, it’s less than two hours’ drive to Saguaro National Park in the heart of the beautiful Sonoran Desert. See hundreds of the nation’s largest cacti framed by the magnificent Tucson mountain range. Or, head about an hour and a half north of Phoenix to the Montezuma Castle National Monument—a mysterious, fivestory pre-Columbian cliff dwelling carved into a natural limestone alcove high above the ground.

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Continuing north, you’ll pass through the soaring red plateaus of Sedona and the snowcapped peaks of Flagstaff to the mother of all monuments: the Grand Canyon. The dramatic panorama of the mile-deep canyon changes by the hour as the shifting shadows retreat across layered bands of red rock, chased by a sun reflecting golden on the Colorado River before dusk washes the canyon in rich hues of blues and purples.


SEATTLE

The foggy coastlines and dewy forests of the Pacific Northwest are simply enchanting. Within two hours of Seattle, there are plenty of nearby opportunities to experience these spellbinding landscapes for yourself. No stranger to precipitation, the misty conditions in Olympic National Park have enabled moss to thrive, enveloping rocks, trails and even entire trees with a magical natural carpet. Some hikes—like the Hall of Mosses Trail—reveal valleys of trees shrouded in chartreuse fur, trails padded in emerald velvet and riverbanks ablaze in green. After spending time in this mossy wonderland, travel upstream to the river’s source at Mount Rainier National Park. This glaciated volcano is the source of six major rivers in the area, and its majestic peak—rising nearly 14,000 feet—is visible from as far as British Columbia. 

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