When it comes to natural places where we can escape on vacation, we all know about the big boys. National Parks get the attention of glossy magazines, while state parks are generally for locals “in the know.”
Even then, most state parks can become crowded with family cookouts and RVs during most weekends.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but what about those of us looking for a day or two of true respite, completely removed from the buzz of modern life?
Depending on where you live, it can be hard to find solitude without taking several days to hoist a pack and hike deep into the woods, usually at a National Park.
Fortunately, there’s a network of preserves and natural, beautiful places that’s quietly maintained by the non-profit group The Nature Conservancy. I discovered the group’s preserves with a friend on a morning walk just outside of Washington, D.C. along the Potomac River.
It’s the first of five amazing natural preserves listed here that are well worth a visit, each within 30 minutes of a major east coast metropolitan area.
Mather Gorge, Washington, D.C. (Virginia)
Jointly operated by the Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service, this preserve includes the two-mile-long Billy Goat Trail along Bear Island. Whitewater kayakers love this stretch of the river for its challenging rapids, minutes from D.C., but it’s equally popular as an escape into the woods for hikers just outside our nation’s capital.
Black Pond Bog, Massachusetts
Just south of Boston, Black Pond Bog is an intact 100-acre wetland bog and upland forest. There’s a swamp full of white cedar trees, a meadow, and the amazing bog full of beautiful carnivorous plants and thick sphagnum moss.
High Mountain Park, New Jersey
New Yorkers would be hard-pressed to find another place that’s as accessible to the public and so serene, yet an easy afternoon trip from the city. Look out for over 380 plant species as you traverse to the top of High Mountain, where visitors enjoy a panoramic view of the Big Apple and soak in some rare quiet time.
Blowing Rocks Preserve, Florida
Minutes from West Palm Beach, Blowing Rocks Preserve offers a natural beach experience that’s hard to find in south Florida. An education center includes interactive demonstrations of the state’s unique natural history, or set out on one of three hiking trails across the rugged, tropical barrier island. To experience ‘the real Florida,’ this is the spot.
Cumberland Marsh, Virginia
If you’ve ever eaten a blue crab, you’ve probably enjoyed the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay. At Virginia’s Vandell Preserve at Cumberland Marsh, just a quick drive from Richmond, this thousand-acre preserve includes a boardwalk and an observation deck where visitors can soak in the serenity of a healthy, working salt marsh, the nursery-like ecosystem that keeps the east coast’s seafood stock viable.
Although many of these preserves are not heavily advertised or marked on maps, they offer a genuine getaway for locals in the know, and a chance to experience the real character of a region’s natural history for travelers.
[photo: Jan Kronsell, via wikimedia CC]
About this guest author: John Egan is managing editor of the website Insurance Quotes, which provides online car insurance news and services to consumers in all 50 states. John’s goal is to deliver high-quality content and Car Insurance Resources to drivers so they can make informed decisions about choices that affect their pocketbooks and their driving experience.