7 Best Road Trips from Most Any Large City

Storybook towns, lakeside villages, nature preserves, and more await just a short drive from Metro-America

Cities can sometimes feel like endless stretches of concrete—especially in the hot summer months—and your city is likely no exception.

Fortunately, there’s a whole world out there beyond the city limits. While it doesn’t always feel like it, there are so, so, so many worthy escapes within a few hours’ drive of Metro-America. Storybook small towns with a down-home feel, lakeside villages with entirely different way of life, and even places where you can connect with nature among meandering creeks and lush trees.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What’s really important for people is their comfort level in traveling, so we have something at each end of the spectrum. If you’re still concerned about getting out there, go on a road trip or go camping and still have that seclusion and privacy.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pack your car or RV with some picnic accessories and some hiking gear and head out. You’re within driving distance of some truly great, out-of-the-ordinary places that make for wonderful road trips. Here are seven of them.

Wolfsboro, New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

Nestled on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipesaukee and surrounded by the pristine beauty of forests and mountains, Wolfeboro is a quintessential New England community with a rich heritage. A visit to Wolfeboro can be whatever you want it to be: a fun-fi­lled family weekend or a quiet respite from hectic city life. You can explore, hike, boat, fish, golf, picnic, or dream. You can do everything or nothing at all in Wolfeboro—“The Oldest Summer Resort in America”.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

For nearly 5,000 years, people have lived in these canyons—longer than anyone has lived uninterrupted anywhere on the Colorado Plateau. In the place called Tsegi, their homes and images tell us their stories. Today, Navajo families make their homes, raise livestock, and farm the lands in the canyons.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Grand Staircase-Escalante spans many acres of America’s public lands and contains three distinct units, Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyon. From its spectacular Grand Staircase of cliffs and terraces, across the rugged Kaiparowits Plateau, to the wonders of the Escalante River Canyons, the Monument is a diverse geologic treasure speckled with monoliths, slot canyons, natural bridges, and arches. 

Medora, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Medora, North Dakota

Interested in American presidential history? Then visit tiny Medora, located in the dramatic wilderness of the state’s Badlands region. The town is the gateway to walks and camping in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Don’t miss a hike to the Badlands Overlook for views of North Dakota’s famed natural landscape.

Bernheim Arboretum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Kentucky

Are you looking to connect with nature? Bernheim is the place to do it. With over 15,000 acres of land, there is an adventure waiting for everyone, no matter what your interest. At 15,625 acres, Bernheim boasts the largest protected natural area in Kentucky. Bernheim contains a 600-acre arboretum with over 8,000 unique varieties of trees. Take a scenic drive through the forest on paved roads, or bicycle around the Arboretum. Over 40 miles of trails weave their way through the forest at Bernheim.

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve, South Carolina

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve on Edisto Island. The 4,600-acre preserve includes three miles of undeveloped beachfront. This wildlife management area exhibits many characteristics common to sea islands along the southeast coast: pine hardwood forests, agricultural fields, coastal wetlands, and a barrier island with a beachfront. Only this tract has been left undisturbed.

General Sherman, world’s largest tree, Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California

Aside from being home to the world’s largest tree (by volume) and protecting vast areas of towering inland redwoods, a big part of Sequoia’s appeal is that it isn’t all that crowded. Take a stroll under the big trees in the Giant Forest, view wildlife in Crescent Meadows, climb to the top of Moro Rock.

Eleven Mile Range, Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

—Helen Keller