If you love to visit or if you live in some of the United States’ largest cities but also love amazing nature outings, this article is for you! I’m going to share with you six outstanding nature detours very close to 6 large U.S. cities. Read on!
Starved Rock State Park
1 hour 40 minutes
Having grown up in IL, I have visited Starved Rock State Park many times and I love it! This beautiful 2,630 acre park, located less than 100 miles southwest of Chicago is home to the largest population of bald eagles outside of the state of Alaska! The park is named for a large outcropping of rock that juts out over the Illinois River. The butte became known as “starved rock” after a group of Native Americans, the Illiniwek (or Illini), were stranded on the butte by members of the Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes. The Illiniwek were held there until they all starved to death. In 1960, the area was designated as a National Historic Landmark.
The park has a plethora of serene hiking trails that snake through the park past waterfalls and canyons. The park is open year-round. So, in the Spring visit to see the wildflowers in bloom and the waterfalls flowing at their peak. In Fall, you are witness to a colorful display of fall foliage in hues of gold, orange and red. In winter, the waterfalls turn into one huge icicle!
2. Los Angeles, CA
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Distance: 35 miles/45 minutes
The Santa Monica Mountains are a natural escape that lie mere minutes from the droves of people and traffic congestion that Los Angeles is infamous for! The park has more than 500 miles of trails that take you through a wilderness teeming with wildlife! Witness incredible ocean vistas or, if you prefer, you can meander along Malibu’s famous beaches.
The Santa Monica Mountains boasts a near-perfect Mediterranean climate year-round. You can witness movie history at Paramount Ranch, the still-operating movie set where many movies and television shows were filmed. Or, visit a Native American Center to learn about the early history of the people and area around the second most populated city in the U.S.
3. Philadelphia, PA
Rickets Glen State Park
Distance: 138 miles/2 hours 20 minutes
Of course, Philadelphia has the wonderful Fairmount Park lying within the City of Brotherly Love. But, when you feel the pull of nature tugging at your soul and you need to escape the urban madness, Rickets Glenn State Park should be your destination. The park has 22 free-flowing waterfalls that are easily accessed by any number of hiking trails. Ice climbing on the waterfalls is a favorite past-time in the winter.
With activities available such as fishing, boating, swimming, camping, horseback riding, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, hunting and hiking, there is something to do that everyone in your family wll love!
4. New York, NY
Bear Mountain State Park
Distance: 50 miles/1 hour
Like Philadelphia, New York City has the fabulous Central Park right in the middle of the concrete jungle that is Manhattan. But, if you really want to submerge yourself in nature, a visit to Bear Mountain State Park is a must! This beautiful nature preserve rises up from the west bank of the Hudson River. The park’s Merry-Go-Round, featuring hand painted scenes of the park and 42 hand crafted seats of native animals such as deer, raccoon, skunk, fox, swan, rabbit, black bear and more, is a popular attraction.
The park also offers biking and hiking trails, fishing swimming, cross-country skiing, boating, and shady picnic areas. Stay for a long weekend at the Bear Mountain Inn, Overlook Lodge or Stone Lodge. Also visit the Trailside Museum and Wildlife Center while you’re there.
5. San Francisco, CA
Muir Woods National Monument
Distance: 17 miles/40 minutes
It’s hard to believe that mere minutes from the bustling city of San Francisco lies an old growth redwood forest. But, it’s true! Muir Woods has been a federally protected National Park since 1908. Named for nature philosopher and conservationist, John Muir, Muir Woods is a magical primeval forest sanctuary.
Enjoy a quiet, reverent hike through the ancient redwoods and allow nature to refresh your soul. Muir Woods has no lodging at the park itself and no camping is allowed. There are many nearby alternatives for both camping and lodging, however.
6. Boston, MA
Distance: 27 miles/40 minutes
Don’t let the name discourage you. This gorgeous natural landscape is neither miserable nor is it a mountain. Mt. Misery is a part of the Lincoln Land Conservation Trust and consists of fields, streams, forest and lots and lots of hiking trails! 60 miles of trails to be exact! This is the area that Henry David Thoreau used as inspiration for his many beautiful poems.
Get away from the rat race of the city and immerse yourself in the beauty of the natural wonder of Mt. Misery. As Thoreau himself said, “Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”
As always, when visiting any of these amazing natural worlds, take only pictures and leave only footprints. We all need to work together to conserve our natural areas for generations to come to love and enjoy as we do!