8 Short American Nature Getaways
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Big Bear Lake, California
Want to get out of the city or suburban scene on a day or weekend trip, so you can relax and recharge before heading back to the grind? Here are eight places for that quick getaway, close to some of America's urban centers. You can visit one if you live near it, or factor it in if you're planning a bigger city trip and would like a little "vacation from your vacation." Many southern Californians may head towards the surf on the weekend, but there's plenty of turf to enjoy away from the beaches. Just a few hours east of Los Angeles (depending on L.A. traffic) is Big Bear Lake, a mountain lake escape in the San Bernardino National Forest. There's kayaking, hiking, camping, biking, water sports, and plenty of other outdoor activities you can do -- even snowboarding in the winter.
Erik R. Trinidad
The Finger Lakes, New York
For those who need a nice getaway in the northeast, check out the Finger Lakes, a group of 11 glacially formed lakes that almost form the shapes of fingers when you look on them on a map. Just about four hours from NYC or Philly, or six from Boston, lies the entryway to the Finger Lakes region, where you can hike, bike, swim, waterski, or ride a boat. There are also many local wineries and microbreweries to visit when you've had too much fun in the sun.
Dustin Larimer via Flickr under a Creative Co
Guadalupe River, Texas
The state of Texas is so big that not everyone can easily get to the Gulf Coast to cool down from the Texas heat. Fortunately, there are plenty of rivers in the Lone Star State to keep everyone cool, particularly when floating down the river in inner tubes -- a popular outdoor activity in these parts. There's the Comal River, Frio River, San Marcos River, Brazos River, and -- just one hour from Austin -- the Guadalupe River, which snakes down from the equally refreshing Canyon Lake.
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Big Sur, California
Many people know Big Sur as that beautiful stretch of scenic road when doing the classic road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway -- or that day trip from San Francisco -- but you should get out of the car and stay a while, if you can. Just a walk away from the coastal viewpoints are state parks and forest reserves, offering camping and hiking in the great California outdoors. Hiking within this dramatic part of Pacific coastline can be more inspiring than merely driving it.
READ MORE: 6 Different Ways to Do the Classic American Road Trip
Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado
Colorado is already known by its residents as the place to be if you're an outdoorsy type. There are plenty of places to get away year-round, including Rocky Mountains National Park, just 1 or 2 hours from Boulder or Denver. There are 415 square miles of mountain wilderness, with over 300 miles of hiking trails, and plenty of opportunities to play on the rocks or navigate its 156 lakes.
SEE MORE: 10 Reasons To Visit A National Park Right Now
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Everglades National Park, Florida
Most tourists heading to Florida go to either Orlando or Miami, but if you want to get off the beaten tourist path, head for the swamp. Everglades National Park is just an hour away from central Miami, or a 4-hour drive from Orlando, and it's not just America's swampland. It's known around the world as a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance. Don't worry about alligators, you can rent or join an airboat tour to see them from above the surface of the water in safety.
Brenden Riley via Flickr under a Creative Com
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
You don't need to go all the way to Switzerland to visit Lake Geneva because there's one right here in America, in the state of Wisconsin. Just a couple hours away from Chicago is this popular lakeside retreat, offering fishing, swimming, horseback riding, hiking, biking, and even ziplining -- amongst other activities in water or on land.
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Cannon Beach, Oregon
The Pacific Northwest has always been a place for nature enthusiasts, and one of the spots of such enthusiasm is Cannon Beach, a couple hours drive from Portland. In addition to swimming and kayaking, there's walks along the shore in a dramatic, yet peaceful setting -- one so inspirational that its iconic Haystack Rock, just off the shoreline, played a pivotal inanimate role in the classic adventure fantasy movie, The Goonies.