“Cabin Fever” has taken on a whole new meaning these days.
It’s tough when the thing you once did to let yourself escape during a difficult time has also become one of the most intimidating. As countries around the world are still feeling the effects of the novel coronavirus, it has become a bit complicated, to say the least, to figure out if it’s possible (or even appropriate) to take part in travel anywhere. I’ll admit that watching movies and reading books set in exciting locales have helped fill the void to some degree, but it would be nice to finally extend my weekly leisure car rides past their usual seven-mile radius and feel the refreshing effects of a new setting.
The travel landscape is changing quite a bit nowadays. While it’s still not considered wise to board a plane and fly across an ocean or continent, there are alternatives arising for those of you itching to get out and explore someplace new. The good news is, many states are slowly starting to phase into lowering some restrictions for public areas, and road trips are making a huge comeback. They’ll likely be our go-to form of transport for a while, until all of the dust settles and other means slowly become safer for nonessential travel.
Without having to go too far, you can still experience new environments—whether they be state and national parks, beaches, small towns, natural landmarks, scenic byways, and more! So without further ado, here is your guide to state-by-state road trips you can take this summer:
NOTE: Remember to check the state’s current health and visitor guidelines to make sure you are in accordance with them before you embark on your trip, and stay informed on each area’s alerts and changing regulations. It’s important to make sure to exercise your best judgement, as these spots might be fully or partially open to the public now, but they can still get overcrowded and become unsafe. If you’re planning to visit any of the small towns, please be mindful of their tourism advice, and check their official sites to ensure that they have the proper healthcare resources available.
- DeSoto Falls: You can hike around these stunning falls and cliffs, enjoy a picnic, and more at this spot that is located in DeSoto State Park on Lookout Mountain.
- Rickwood Caverns State Park: Tour these caves, and see the 260-million-year-old formations that were shaped from ocean water
- Monroeville: This quaint town—located right between Montgomery and Mobile—is teeming with historic and artistic charm. Known to have launched famous novelists like Harper Lee and Truman Capote, it’s full of literature-inspired points of interests, such as the Atticus Finch Monument, the “Celebration of Reading” sculpture, and the Otha Lee Biggs Amphitheater. Take a walking tour to explore these sights, and be sure to check out the local eateries and shops if you can.
- Hatcher Pass: This is a super scenic drive, and only a three-hour round trip drive from Anchorage.
- Anchorage to Seward: This scenic two-hour drive to the seaside community of Seward, has several historical sites along the way to check out.
- Turnagain Arm: South of Anchorage, you can drive along one of the most gorgeous stretches of highways with the wide flats of Turnagain Arm to your right and 3,000 foot mountains to your left.
- Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge: Visit this habitat for diverse wildlife with beautiful scenic drives, wildlife viewing, hiking, rafting, backcountry exploring, and more.
- Denali National Park: This iconic park is full of incredible wildlife, hiking trails, cycling paths, scenic drives, camping, and more.
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Hike, boat, and drive around the scenic Lake Powell, visit Horseshoe Bend, and stargaze over the canyon at night.
- Slide Rock State Park: This park is a fun family excursion, with opportunities for swimming, hiking, and gliding along the natural waterslides.
- Cathedral Rock: Hike or climb Trail No. 170, and experience some magnificent views of all the red rocks (best enjoyed around golden hour!).
- Grand Canyon National Park: Explore the South Rim, take in views of the Colorado River, and drive around the scenic routes at this national marvel.
- Meteor Crater Natural Landmark: Explore around this landmark, which is a result of a meteor collision that took place about 50,000 years ago.
- Pinnacle Mountain State Park: Lying west of Little Rock, this park includes hiking and biking trails around Pinnacle Mountain, the Big and Little Maumelle Rivers, and the Arkansas Arboretum.
- Cosmic Cavern: Located in northwest Arkansas, walk through this natural cavern with incredible formations in the Ozarks (that maintains a steady 64-degree temperature).
- Eagle Rock Loop: This lengthy looped trail offers various levels of hiking in the southwestern stretch of the Ouachita National Forest, and features several mountain passes, river crossings, and waterfalls along the way.
- Temecula Valley: Located in Southern California, this lush valley features rolling hills of wineries that are currently offering “Sip at Home” experiences. Be sure to check out the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in this area as well!
- Cleveland National Forest: This Southern California forest offers a wide range of recreational activities, but is best known for its several trails (varying from mild to strenuous) to explore. One of the highlighted ones is the Pacific Crest Trail, which is ideal for beginners.
- Highway One: Drive along one of the most scenic routes in the world, and stop at the must-see sights such as Carmel-By-The-Sea, various wine production areas, the Big Sur coastline, and so many more. Keep an eye out for wildlife, such as elephant seals, sea lions, and whales.
- Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail: Drive along this serene and scenic route in the heart of wine country.
- Redwoods National Park: Take in the unique scenery from hiking trails, go on scenic drives (such as Coastal Drive and Bald Hills Road), and visit Freshwater Beach.
- Joshua Tree: hike, camp, and stargaze at this one-of-a-kind desert national park.
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison: This stunning national park is known for its super steep cliffs formed from over two million years of weathering and erosion. For hiking aficionados, exploring the Inner Canyon is quite the adrenaline rush, but if you’re into something on the milder side, try out the hiking trails on the North and South rims, or take a scenic drive along them
- Colorado National Monument: On July 4, 1911, John Otto became the first person to ascend this 450-foot-tall monument, which led to a tradition that continues on now. Each Independence Day, about 30 local climbers follow in Otto’s steps to celebrate. When you visit this spot, be sure to also cruise along the historic Rim Rock Drive, known for its red rock canyons and incredible views.
- Garden of the Gods Park: Full of 300 million years of geological history, this is a great park for hiking, biking, rock climbing, and more.
- Pikes Peak Highway: This scenic highway offers gorgeous natural views, and leads up to a 14,115 foot summit of Pikes Peak, dubbed “America’s Mountain.”
- Hanging Lake: Visit this gorgeous set of wispy waterfalls along emerald-colored waters; this is a great spot to relax and enjoy nature.
- Sleeping Giant State Park: Named after the two miles of mountaintop that look like a sleeping giant, this park is full of outdoor recreation.
- Hopeville Pond State Park: At this park located in Griswold, CT, you can spend a lovely summer day here camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, and relaxing. Its name ‘Hopeville’ is derived from the ‘Hope Mill’ that was a satinet mill in the mid-1800s.
- Gillette Castle State Park: Although the castle is closed to visitors for the time being, you can explore the park grounds around this incredible 100-year-old stone castle resembling a medieval fortress.
- Elizabeth Park Conservancy: Covering nearly 102 acres of land, this park is known for its beautiful flower gardens—most notably, its rose garden.
- Cape Henlopen State Park: This park has been part of the country’s first “public lands” since the late 1600s, and has a huge historical significance (as does the Henlopen Lighthouse!). Its beaches, the Delaware River, and several trails provide for many types of recreational activities you can enjoy.
- Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge: Take in the amazing wildlife (especially several varieties of birds) along the coast of Delaware.
- Everglades National Park: Known as “The largest subtropical wilderness in the United States,” this park is a great place to take part in activities such as boating, kayaking, camping, birdwatching, and spotting alligators.
- Biscayne Bay: Sitting in the northern Florida Keys, this spot within the Biscayne National Park is a short drive from Miami, and is full of marine wildlife (including hundreds of species of fish, sea turtles, birds, manatees, and plants). The bay offers a plethora of water-related recreation like boating, fishing, snorkeling, diving, and more.
- St. Pete/Clearwater: Visit the best hidden beaches along this 35-mile-long sandy shoreline.
- Ocala National Forest: Just north of Orlando, the southernmost forest in the continental U.S. is full of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails.
- Sweetwater Creek State Park: Take advantage of all the trails and wildlife, and explore the area around the New Manchester Mill Ruins of a cotton company that was burned down during the Civil War.
- Cloudland Canyon State Park: This park sits next to Lookout Mountain and is full of sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, canyons, caves, and more.
- Road to Hana: Drive along this scenic Maui route and stop along some insanely gorgeous sights made up of waterfalls, black sand beaches, bays, and more.
- Saddle Road: Located on the Big Island, this road was built in 1942 as a shortcut for the military to get from one side of the island to the other. It was considered one of the most dangerous roads in the past, but is now safer (but still thrilling) to drive along. For safety reasons, it’s best to travel this road on a 4×4 vehicle (especially if visiting the summit of Mauna Kea). If renting, be sure to check the companies’ policies regarding this type of off-roading route.
- Kalalau Trail: “Labeled the hike in Kauai” by Hawaii-Guide.com, this scenic trail in Hāʻena State Park is full of beaches, valleys, waterfalls, sea caves, and more.
- North Shore, Oahu: Best known for its big wave surfing opportunities (which calm down a bit during the summer months), this region is perfect for a quieter day trip away from the crowds at Waikiki. Enjoy the water at Waimea Bay, take a leisurely stroll through the charming and laid-back town of Haleiwa, and explore the shore’s picturesque beach parks.
- Craters of the Moon: Drive along and explore this “weird and scenic landscape” that was shaped by volcanic activity.
- Shoshone Falls: Located on the Snake River in southern Idaho, these waterfalls are some of the largest and tallest in the country (with their depths exceeding even that of Niagara Falls).
- Mesa Falls Scenic Byway: Cruise along this super scenic route into the lush Targhee National Forest.
- Shawnee National Forest: Nestled between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers in southern Illinois, this forest offers waterfalls, hiking trails, dispersed camping, and more.
- Mississippi Palisades State Park: Full of Native American history and legacy, this park is composed of 2,500 acres of hiking trails, fishing and boating along the Mississippi River, rock climbing, and more.
- Galena: Walk around this small and charming town full of scenic drives and overlooks, forest preserves and trails, and unique local businesses (with many of them offering online and/or personal shopping experiences).
- Fullersburg Woods: These have great quaint hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails in an urban landscape. They are also home to some diverse wildlife and the Graue Mill.
- Brown County State Park: Melting waters from ice-age glaciers helped form the steep and narrow slopes and hills, dubbing this park the “Little Smokies.” Some must-do’s at this park include viewing the sunrise or sunset, taking in views from the 90-foot tall Fire Tower, and visiting the Yellowwood Tree on Trail 5.
- Indiana Dunes National Park: With 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, this spot is great for picnics, swimming, fishing, and more.
- Pikes Peak State Park: This park is full of rich Native American history and heritage, as members of the Woodland Culture (800 to 1200 A.D.) carved out animal-shaped “effigy mounds” in this region to symbolize the harmony between them and the earth. You can still see many of these monuments today.
- Ledges State Park: This park home to many wonderful hiking trails (some of which lead to amazing views of Pea’s Creek “canyon” and scenic bluffs), and unique stone architecture from the 1930s. During the European settlement, this region was home to the Sauk, Fox (Mesqwakie), and Sioux tribes, and many of their artifacts can still be found in the area today.
- Lake Macbride State Park: With various recreational lake activities and its lush green plains, this spot is a perfect way to spend a warm afternoon.
- Monument Rocks and Chalk Pyramids: Standing at 70 feet tall, these sedimentary structures are the result of erosion of a sea that formed during the Cretaceous Period.
- Flint Hills Nature Trail: 117 miles long (and originally built on a railroad corridor), this trail is full of stunning views and is one of the world’s last remaining tallgrass prairie ecosystems.
- Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park: Allegedly named due to its resemblance to Jerusalem’s landscape, these badlands are home to many amphibians, reptiles, and birds, and also the biggest population of Great Plains wild buckwheat.
- Grayson Lake State Park: Surrounded by gorgeous cliffs and hidden waterfalls, this is perfect for boating, canoeing, fishing, and more.
- Mammoth Cave National Park: Hike, bike, and horseback ride around this park surrounding the large and complex Mammoth Cave. You can now make reservations to go on self-guided historic tours inside the cave as well!
- Atchafalaya River Basin: Explore the flora and fauna of the continent’s largest floodplain swamp, “containing almost one million acres of America’s most significant bottomland hardwoods, swamps, bayous, and backwater lakes.” Check out their houseboat rentals, go on swamp tours, or even try out birding (with nearly 400 species of them being native to this area).
- Cajun Corridor Byway: If you’re into all of the delicious Louisiana cuisine, this 34-mile route is basically a DIY food tour! Stop along the way in several villages with their own specialty dishes you can pick up and enjoy.
- Bayou Teche Byway: Drive along this scenic route to get up-close and personal with Louisiana’s lush swamps and mossy bayous. You’ll have the opportunity to stop along several cafes, dance halls, and other points of interest to immerse yourself in Acadian culture.
- Avery Island: Although it’s the birthplace and home of Tabasco sauce, this 2,200-acre island has beautiful gardens that are open to the public that you can explore.
- Kennebunkport: A coastal town located in southern Maine, this is perfect for a day or weekend trip where you can enjoy the beaches, go sightseeing, and more.
- Ogunquit: Surrounded by grassy dunes, this small seaside town is a perfect summer oasis.
- Portland Head Lighthouse: Stroll or bike along the cliff-lined shores of this beautiful lighthouse—which is the oldest in the state—and explore other points around Fort Williams Park, including the Battery Keys, Goddard Mansion, and Battery Blair.
- Mount Katahdin: Explore the highest mountain in Maine, located in Baxter State Park.
- Swallow Falls State Park: With the Youghiogheny River flowing along this park and Muddy Creek Falls as its main attraction, it’s perfect for hiking, biking, and enjoying the natural scenery.
- Assateague Island: Known for its sandy beaches, salt marshes, and coastal bays, this national seashore is ideal for enjoying the outdoors.
- Brookside Gardens: Featuring 50 acres of botanical gardens and conservatories you can visit, this is a lovely way to spend an afternoon with your family.
- Cape Cod National Seashore: Take in magnificent views of the lighthouses, sandy beaches, marshes, wild cranberry bogs, and more at this diverse and historic seashore.
- Provincetown: Explore small-town gems like Race Point Beach, charming shops, at this small beach town that sits 60 miles out to sea.
- Buzzards Bay: Full of small beaches, hiking trails, and recreational activities, this is a great place to explore the outdoors.
- Marblehead: Teeming with small-town charm, this town is best known for its ports that played a huge role in its formerly affluent fishing industry and naval/seafaring history.
- Lakeside: A super easy day trip from Chicago, this small town is located along Lake Michigan and has some great antique shops.
- Southwest Michigan: Explore Lake Michigan towns such as Saugatuck, Grand Haven, Holland, Muskegon, and South Haven, which are all known for their beaches, hiking, and boutique shopping.
- Port Austin: Sitting in the “thumb” of Michigan, visit the farmers market, Turnip Rock, Village Green, and more in this quaint Lake Huron town.
- Northwest Michigan: Visit the hillier parts of the state, with tons of vineyards, wineries, natural trails, and more. Traverse City, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Leland are must-see spots.
- Upper Peninsula: Visit gems like Tahquamenon Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Mackinac Island, and more.
- Grand Marais: Stroll around this small, artsy northeast Minnesota town that sits on Lake Superior, and visit the Superior National Forest.
- Palisade Head: Drive up to this iconic natural landmark located in Tettegouche State Park for panoramic views of Lake Superior.
- Minnesota Landscape Arboretum: Located roughly 30 minutes outside of Minneapolis, these 1,200 plus acres of gardens, tree collections, and landscape art are a great way to spend an afternoon.
- Saint Croix: This national scenic riverway is full of over 200 miles of water, surrounded by gorgeous forest views (and is great for a drive around as well).
- Red Bluff: Drive and/or hike around this vivid red geologic formation, dubbed the “Little Grand Canyon,” located near Foxworth.
- Homochitto National Forest: Spend hours hiking, biking, kayaking, and more in this woodland, and explore the nearby Mississippi River town of Natchez.
- Ocean Springs: Visit this charming town on the Gulf Coast, and take advantage of the amazing beaches, like East Beach and Lake Mars.
- Ste. Genevieve: In the wine country of Missouri, this is almost like a hidden Napa Valley in the Midwest. The small town (founded in 1735) has lots of history and some great European-inspired architecture to take in.
- Elephant Rocks State Park: Explore this unique park named after the boulders—formed from 1.5-billion-year-old granite— that are shaped like a train of elephants.
- Ha Ha Tonka State Park: This park features a natural bridge, sinkholes, springs, caves, and more, with its most interesting feature being the ruins of a stone castle, which shows off beautiful views of the Lake of the Ozarks.
- Beartooth Highway: This drive offers a true wilderness retreat through several national forests with elevations reaching up to 10,350 feet (in Montana, it gets even higher in Wyoming!). Take in views of cascading mountains, alpine meadows, glittering streams, diverse wildlife, and more.
- Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park: Tour one of the largest limestone caverns in the Northwest and enjoy all the recreational activities this geologically diverse park has to offer.
- Virginia City: “Where History Lives” is the tagline to this Old-West ghost town that used to be a Victorian mining hub and continues to represent that era.
- Flathead Valley: The quaint towns, majestic mountains, and crystal clear lakes will make you want to permanently relocate to this breathtaking destination.
- Sandhills Scenic Byway: Take in views of the rolling sand dunes and Nebraska National Forest, stop along the way in some charming small towns, and stargaze at night on this incredible rural route.
- Chimney Rock: Located in Scott’s Bluff, this is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the region. A geologic structure formed by erosion, the thin 325-foot-tall spire (atop a large conical base) overlooks the North Platte River Valley.
- Fort Robinson State Park: This park surrounds a fort that operated from the beginnings of the Old West to after World War II, and is perfect for all of your favorite outdoor activities.
- Valley of Fire: This 40,000-acre state park is eye-catching with its red Aztec sandstone, and houses petrified trees along with petroglyphs over 2,000 years old.
- Lake Tahoe: This area is perfect for every type of traveler—whether you like walking trails, boating, fishing, shopping, dining, lounging, or anything else—you’ll be sure to enjoy your time on this mountain-lined freshwater lake. As it sits on the border of Nevada and California, it’s important to note both states’ current COVID-19 policies and which phase they’re in to help plan your trip accordingly.
- Gold Butte National Monument: Located right in the vast, remote desert landscape of Nevada, these striking red rocks, canyons, and peaks are perfect for hiking and horseback riding.
- Lake Mead: Participate in all of your favorite outdoor activities at “America’s first and largest national recreation area”—lakes, mountains, valleys, and canyons covering 1.5 million acres of land in all.
- Kancamagus Highway: Drive along this White Mountains scenic byway and take advantage of the hiking paths and natural water slides! Don’t forget to check out all of the amazing waterfalls, like Sabbaday Falls.
- Meredith: Visit this small town sitting among several large lakes (most notably, Lake Winnipesaukee and Lake Winnisquam) that is surrounded by the picturesque White Mountains.
- Conway Scenic Railroad: Take in all the panoramic views of nature as you enjoy an old-fashioned train ride through valleys and mountains, and participate in additional (optional) excursions.
- Portsmouth: This small town located right on Piscataqua River oozes historical charm. It’s full of New England art and architecture, culture, shopping, parks, beaches, and more.
- White Mountains National Forest: Explore the most breathtaking mountain vistas, streams, and lakes in eastern New Hampshire via your favorite outdoor recreation activities.
- Clinton: Step back in time as you wander through this small, quaint town located on the Raritan River. It’s full of great dining, boutiques, and sights, like the prominent Red Mill Museum.
- Frenchtown: This serene town, with hills and riverbanks, is perfect for spending a relaxed afternoon.
- The Palisades: 12 miles long and half a mile wide, this park is made up of cliffs, uplands, and the shore of the Hudson River. Drive, hike, fish, and boat to your heart’s content.
- Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area: When you visit this “rolling landscape of badlands,” you’ll feel like you’ve stepped foot into a sci-fi movie, as it’s chock-full of unusual scenery (best seen in its weathered rock formations). Given its proximity to nearby tribal lands, it’s extra important to follow their special guidelines regarding interaction with their geologic features, group limits, and trespassing.
- Chaco Culture National Historical Park: Walk and explore along the several trails of this park that preserves that served as a hub for ancient Puebloan culture dating between 850 and 1250 CE. Be sure not to miss the Pueblo Bonito, the most important site in Chaco Canyon. It was the heart of the diverse Chacoan culture, which influenced the region for over three centuries. In addition, this park is quite remote and offers some excellent stargazing opportunities.
- Watkins Glen: This peaceful upstate town is perfect for exploring the nearby Watkins Glen State Park, Seneca Lake, Seneca Lake Wine Trail, Sugar Hill State Forest, and more. Keep up to date on specific reopenings (with ongoing phase changes) and COVID-19 visitor information on their site.
- Finger Lakes: Composed of 11 glacial lakes, Lake Ontario, waterfalls, woods, and rolling hills, this 9,000-square-mile region is full of outdoor activities, amazing food and wine, and even drive-in movies!
- The Catskills: Less than a three-hour drive from New York City lies this mountain nature retreat encompassing valleys, rivers, and falls. Breath in the fresh outdoor air and take in the scenic views while hiking, fishing, cycling, paddling, and taking scenic drives in and around this area.
- Alexandria Bay: This charming town is located in the Thousand Island Region, along the St. Lawrence River. Check out their seasonal farmers market, explore Boldt Castle and Singer Castle, and cruise along the waters to explore all of the islands.
- Cape Hatteras: Visit this National Seashore, located in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Full of long stretches of sand dunes, beaches, marshes, forests, and lighthouses—all right along the ocean—this is an ideal summertime spot.
- Wine Trails: Explore wine trails throughout the state, whether you’re looking for something in the mountain, Piedmont, or coast regions. The lush vineyards and rolling hills make for some of the most scenic drives.
- Chimney Rock State Park: Featuring trails for all levels of hikers, this park is perfect for the whole family. The views from the Chimney Rock spire are definitely not to be missed.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park: Lying in the western part of the state, this park is full of wildlife (like bison and elk), rugged badlands, backcountry to camp in, and more.
- Medora: This historic town (located in the badlands, just south of Theodore Roosevelt National Park) offers up amazing scenery, overlooks, and outdoor activities along with old-timey sights and architecture.
- International Peace Garden: Explore the grounds of these lush, colorful gardens adorned with the most beautiful flowers, and walk or bike around the 2,400 acres of nature in which you’ll pass lakes, ponds, and amazing views of the Turtle Mountain area.
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park: A short drive from urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, this park offers a nature escape full of winding rivers, rolling hills, and more. Be sure to check out the Brandywine Falls if you can!
- Marblehead: Sitting right on Lake Erie, this small town is full of quaint beaches, parks, and a lighthouse that can’t be missed.
- Waynesville: Shop, eat, and explore this charming town that is known as the “Antiques Capital of the Midwest” and is also famous for its annual sauerkraut festival.
- Broken Bow: Sitting right between the Kiamichi and Ouachita Mountains, this southeast Oklahoma town is perfect for outdoor adventurers and city fans alike. With Beavers Bend State Park right around the corner, agritourism opportunities, antiquing, and so much more, there’s something for everyone here.
- Grove: Located on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in the northeastern part of the state, this small town is full of outdoor activities, gardens to explore, and more.
- Talimena National Scenic Byway: This drive stretches 54 miles and will take you through the Ouachita National Forest. You can spend an entire day here if you stop along the various overlooks and historical attractions along the way.
- Silver Falls State Park: Walk behind waterfalls, hike trails winding through canyons and forests, and enjoy other outdoor activities at what’s considered the “crown jewel” of the Oregon State Parks system.
- Cannon Beach: This is one of the most iconic towns along the picturesque Oregon Coast. Be sure to enjoy the sandy beaches, hike the scenic trails, spot the tufted puffins, and visit Haystack Rock.
- Hood River: Enjoy outdoor activities in the town known as the “windsurfing capital of the world,” sail along the Columbia River Gorge, and travel along the Fruit Loop: a 35-mile scenic drive full of fruit orchards, farms, wineries, and more.
- Sisters: Named after its nearby trio of mountain peaks, this cute and quirky town really makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the old west, while still being able to enjoy the timelessness of nature, with its 19th-century arts and architecture juxtaposed next to its breathtaking scenery.
- Presque Isle State Park: This peninsula (stretching into Lake Erie) is full of incredible sandy coastline with all the best recreational activities.
- Jim Thorpe: Located in the Lehigh Gorge, this adorable town is full of Victorian-style architecture and plenty of history. Stroll around their walkable downtown, take an old-fashioned train ride, go whitewater rafting, and more.
- Cherry Springs State Park: The remote location of this northern Pennsylvania park makes it an excellent spot for stargazing (and even spotting the Milky Way!). It’s surrounded by the dense, 265,000-acre Susquehannock State Forest.
- Narragansett: Travel on Ocean Road through this scenic beach town, explore sights like Towers of Narragansett and Port of Galilee, and enjoy the delicious seafood.
- Middletown: This town is full of sandy beaches, nature preserves, the historic Boyd’s Mill, vineyards, and more. It makes for a perfect day trip from either Providence or Newport.
- Jones Gap State Park: With its scenic waterfalls, over 60 miles of hiking trails, trout fishing ponds, and more, this park (sitting on the northwest corner of the state) is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.
- Kiawah Island: This private island never gets crowded and is full of sandy coastline, beach and water activities, wildlife, and more. If you’re lucky, you’ll even witness the sea turtles during nesting season.
- Aiken: This small, but culturally rich southern town is perfect for enjoying nature. Walk around Boyd Pond, Hitchcock Woods, and Hopelands Gardens. The iconic canopies and oak-lined streets are a must-see.
- Mitchelville Beach Park: One of the most secluded beach areas on Hilton Head Island, this beach is perfect to get away from the crowds and offers a serene escape.
- Black Hills: The Black Hills and Badlands are full of millions of acres of mountains and forests, and are home to several monumental places. The most notable of these are Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, and the Crazy Horse Memorial.
- Custer State Park: Also located in the Black Hills, this park offers up incredible views that you can take in while swimming and paddling in the clear mountain waters, biking, hiking, and more.
- Pierre: Although this is the capital of the state, it’s actually the second-smallest capital city in the country, and boasts plenty of small-town charm. Full of outdoor activities and a quaint, historic downtown, it’s a great little getaway.
- Gatlinburg: Serving as a gateway to the Smoky Mountains, this town has 360-degree views of rolling hills, valleys, waterfalls, rapids, and more. Enjoy the outdoor recreation and explore the city’s walkable downtown (including its breweries, distilleries, and wineries).
- Auto-Touring/Loop Roads: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its scenic one-way loop drives, like the Roaring Fork and Cades Cove, which offer dramatic views of falls, valleys, and more, along with the opportunity to stop and explore them deeper.
- Rock Island State Park: Full of winding rivers and streams, this park features dramatic waterfalls as its centerpiece. It’s teeming with opportunities for kayaking, swimming, hiking, birdwatching, and more.
- Fredericksburg: Located in central Texas, this German-influenced town is a peaceful retreat to the Texas Hill Country, full of vineyards, orchards, and a historic downtown.
- Marfa: A tiny town in west Texas, Marfa is best known for its mysterious “Marfa Lights” (an unexplained, nightly light display). It also houses some incredible dining, wineries, and displays of modern art (with the Prada store replica sculpture being a top must-see).
- Caddo Lake State Park: This East Texas state park is known for its beautiful display of cypress trees with draping Spanish moss that tower over the bayous and ponds of the lake. You can fish, paddle, hike, and even spot some alligators!
- Dinosaur Valley State Park: Yes, this park is actually where dinosaurs roamed. Walk in their tracks along the Paluxy River, and you might just discover some real footprints. This park is perfect for visiting and/or camping with the whole family.
- Rockport-Fulton: This coastal area is located along the Aransas Bay in southeast Texas, and is known for its various beaches, local sights, diverse wildlife, and fresh seafood.
- Matagorda Bay: This beach town (nicknamed the “The Hidden Treasure of the Texas Gulf Coast”) has it all: beaches, nature preserves, a harbor, and more.
- Bryce Canyon National Park: Take part in your favorite outdoor activities at this park, full of endless views of red rocks, pink cliffs, and the visually captivating hoodoos, defined as “irregularly eroded spires of rocks.” It also offers clear views of the night sky, making it perfect for stargazing.
- Bonneville Salt Flats: You’ll feel like you’ve stepped foot on another planet when you visit these flats. They’re 30,000 acres of white salt crust and their vast flatness makes it seem like you can see the Earth’s curvature. Fun fact: about 90 percent of these salt flats are made up of common table salt.
- Monument Valley Tribal Park: This Navajo Nation park is full of iconic sandstone marvels at heights from 400 to 1,000 feet above the ground.
- Camel’s Hump State Park: Located in the Green Mountains, this park is a perfect day trip to hike with the family.
- Stowe: Sitting just under Mt. Mansfield, this picture-perfect town is composed of hilly views and gorgeous natural scenery. It’s also not far from the Trapp Family Lodge (yes, of the von Trapp family), which inspired the story for The Sound of Music.
- Mad River Valley: Visit quaint towns such as Waitsfield and Warren in this scenic valley, swim in Warren Falls, cruise along the Mad River Byway, explore the covered bridges, spend time at the many swimming holes, and more.
- Charlottesville: A short drive away from Shenandoah National Park, this town is home to the University of Virginia, and is full of lush gardens, incredible food and wine, and notable historic sites (like Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello). The city also has an extensive and significant African-American and Black history, which you can learn more about at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center once it reopens to the public.
- Wine Trails: Take advantage of the approximately 300 vineyards and wineries that can be accessed by many of these wine trails that are surrounded by lavish scenery and pass through adorable towns. Pick up some bottles of the finest Mid-Atlantic wine for your family and friends.
- Assateague Island National Seashore: Explore the sandy beaches, salt marshes, and bays right on the edge of the continent, and watch the wild horses and ponies roam from a distance.
- Cape Charles: Sitting on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, this little town is perfect for a relaxing escape. Enjoy the calm waters at Cape Charles Beach, and walk through the charming and historic town.
- Leavenworth: Chock full of Bavarian charm and culture, this Cascade Mountains village is perfect for taking a relaxed stroll through its downtown, or enjoying outdoor activities like whitewater rafting, tubing, and hiking.
- Cape Disappointment State Park: Though the name is misleading, it does have a fun little story behind it. It features rugged cliffs along the sea, lighthouses, and diverse landscapes to hike through.
- San Juan Islands National Monument: Comprised of over 450 named and unnamed islands and rocks (with the most accessible ones being San Juan Island/Friday Harbor, Orcas Island, and Lopez Island), this area offers outdoor recreation, incredible vistas, and scenic byways—all in a very relaxed atmosphere.
- Deception Pass State Park: This park is a perfect day trip from Seattle, and is full of rugged cliffs, coves, a thrilling high bridge, and beaches perfect for taking in some of the best sunsets you’ll ever see.
- Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park: This geologically unique park was formed by the floods from the Ice Age era over 13,000 years ago. It’s full of table-top cliffs, hills, and shimmering lakes.
- Appalachian Trail Conservancy: Although West Virginia’s portion of this trail is one of the shorter ones, it’s pretty well-known: It goes right through the center of Harper Ferry National Historical Park (known for the Civil War battles that occurred there).
- Summersville Lake: More than 28,000 acres of water and 60 miles of shoreline make this the state’s largest lake, with the pristine waters providing for all sorts of recreation opportunities (especially whitewater rafting). The city of Summersville has a lovely little downtown worth exploring as well.
- New River Gorge National River: This whitewater river flows north through the Appalachian Plateau and is surrounded by incredible hilly views. It’s perfect for rafting, tubing, kayaking, and hiking.
- Governor Dodge State Park: A great day-trip from Madison, this park is the perfect nature getaway for hiking trails, horseback riding, and enjoying the lake.
- Door County: A peninsula surrounded by Green Bay and Lake Michigan, this area is full of small towns (like Fish Creek and Sister Bay) with plenty of beaches, hiking trails, gorgeous state parks, art galleries, good food, charming shops, and more.
- Devils Lake: Whether you spend an hour or a whole day here, you’ll be left satisfied and refreshed. With its several hiking trails, beaches, scenic rocks, and more, it’s a great place to spend some time in nature.
- Grand Teton National Park: Enjoy the outdoors and take in awe-inspiring views of the alpine terrain, wildlife, and shimmering lakes here. Notable areas to visit here include the Jenny Lake District, Signal Mountain, the 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive, and Colter Bay.
- Cody: Step into the Wild West the second you enter this town, which is located a short drive away from the east and northeast entrances of Yellowstone National Park. It’s full of wildlife, natural beauty, and history.
- Sinks Canyon State Park: Located in west-central Wyoming, the Popo Agie River flows into the Wind River Mountains here, and the canyon and provides for tons of outdoor recreation.