Traveling to major cities is one way to ensure a great vacation. After all, cities often come with well-worn tourist paths that guide visitors to great locations, restaurants, and events. Cities are close to major airports, and also include amenities like public transportation and free public WiFi.
However, visiting a city often separates a traveler from the surrounding natural wonders. It’s normal to schedule a camping trip or a trip to the Big Apple, but finding a way to work both into an itinerary doesn’t often happen because of practical considerations like equipment and transportation—unless, of course, a quality travel firm is involved.
That doesn’t mean traveling to a major city has to eliminate the possibility of seeing some of Mother Nature’s most beautiful wonders. Continue reading to see some of the nearest natural must-sees located just outside major hubs like Las Vegas, New York City, Houston, and San Francisco.
Las Vegas is one of the most memorable places in the world for its flashy ‘Vegas Strip’, which consists of a single road filled with top Las Vegas hotels and sportsbooks, more than a few memorable performances from mega-stars, and a sea of stunned tourists. While the Vegas Strip is the perfect location to have fun for a night (or two), the desert canyons surrounding the metropolis are a natural spectacle on par with the City of Lights.
While the Hoover Dam provides a mix between man-made feats and natural beauty, the surrounding Mojave Desert makes the experience more than just a dam visit. On the way, consider stopping off at the rock tower formation Seven Magic Mountains, or the famous Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
For those interested in longer hikes or even an overnight camping stay, check out the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument for a peak into a legion of Ice Age fossils, or the Valley of Fire State Park for a front-row view of stunning Aztec sandstone structures.
New York City
Depending on how comfortable a visitor feels being surrounded by nine million strangers and buried in the shadows of towering skyscrapers, New York City may be a bit exhausting. However, the tri-city area (comprised of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey metropolitan areas), won’t be easy to escape—just ask the locals.
Renting a car or taking the Metro North trains out of New York City is the best way to reach locations like New Paltz, Hunter Mountain, or Beacon. Unlike the areas surrounding Las Vegas, the season and weather should be considered when leaving the Big Apple.
Pro tip: visit New England during autumn. Not only do the trees put on a show of color as they drop their leaves, but local activities, like pumpkin patches and harvest festivals, and seasonal foods, like caramel apples, all offer a (delicious) peak into local culture.
For those heading to the Lone Star state, missing out on natural wonders isn’t likely to be a problem. Given the rural layout of the massive state, traveling between cities like Houston, Austin, and Dallas requires more than a quick jaunt.
To the surprise of many, East Texas tends to be wetter and more forested than the rest of the state. In fact, areas like Caddo Lake are sanctuaries of bayou that have leached over from nearby Louisiana. Fan boat tours are just as common as crocodiles here.
Meanwhile, Gorman Falls (located in central Texas about three hours from Houston) is a hidden wonder. While visitors will need to hike some 1.5 miles to reach the top of the falls, the view is spectacular. And for those uninterested in the long hike, the fern-covered grotto that the falls empty into is also a worthwhile venture.
While San Francisco’s city parks, like Golden Gate Park and Mission Dolores Park, could be considered natural wonders given the unique flora and fauna of the Bay Area, a trip north of the city will change any nature-lovers life.
The Californian Redwood forests are renowned the world over for their beauty. Not only are the trees massive enough to feel otherworldly, but the seemingly endless swaths of land that protect these old-forest growths make a trip to areas like the Redwood National Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park unforgettable. Campers will need to follow strict guidelines in order to help preserve the forest, but the pickings aren’t slim. There are upward of twenty areas (three listed above) that will allow campers to stay the night north of San Francisco.