National Parks Near Atlanta
South of the Chattahoochee River, situated among the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and only five hours west of the Carolina-Georgia coastline, Atlanta is one of the best cities in the Southeast to take advantage of the outdoors.
Appalachian TrailStretching approximately 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail is the premier hiking trail of the Eastern U.S. The trail is so popular that there is an entire subculture of books, memoirs, websites and fan clubs for passionate enthusiasts. The southern terminus of the trail is Springer Mountain approximately two hours north of Atlanta; many thru-hikers choose to start there. 960 1280
Cherokee National ForestThough not technically a national park, Cherokee National Forest is well worth nothing. A truly notable feature of Cherokee National Forest is the Ocoee River, used during the 1996 Summer Olympics; the Ocoee has some of the greatest whitewater rafting and kayaking destinations in the Southeast. 960 1280
Chattahoochee National Recreation AreaThis national park north of the city gives access to a 48-mile stretch of the Chattahoochee River. Residents of large northern suburbs like Marietta and Roswell can access the recreation area within minutes, while those living downtown or other coordinates along the cityâs perimeter can be there in less than an hour. 960 1280
The LowcountryTidal marshes, rivers, estuaries, barrier islands and the Atlantic Ocean make the Lowcountry rich with national forests, wildlife preserves, and cultural heritages sites that provide a bounty of recreation and accommodation options to visitors. One such site is Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia's largest barrier island and former Carnegie family escape. 960 1280
Paddle the Pacific
Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands National Park, just off the coast of Los Angeles, is home to some of the best kayaking on the West Coast. Rich with marine life and boasting the much-photographed Arch Rock, Anacapa is the perfect day trip or overnighter for the city dweller looking to get into some rough water. It’s a cliff island, so beware of winds, currents and fog.
Float the BorderThe mighty Rio Grande runs through Big Bend National Park in Texas, but it also represents the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Rafting down the river not only takes you through some eye-widening scenery, like 1500-foot deep canyons, but will also toss you back and forth across the border. 960 1280
Hit the Sandy Slopes
Colorado has Aspen, one of the most famous skiing destinations on the planet. It also has Sand Dunes National Park, one of the only sandboarding and sandsledding destinations on the planet. Slalom down the granular slopes like some diabolical combination of Jean-Claude Killy and Lawrence of Arabia. Hit the dunes early in the morning or late in the evening, lest you roast in the 150° midday heat. And don’t forget the lip balm.
Cold StorageThe upper regions of Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park have over 35 square miles of permanent ice and snow, providing a year-round paradise for hearty souls who consider ice camping a pleasure. If you’re going to stay the night on the mountain, securely lock your vittles to keep them from the clutches of foxes and other aggressive winter wildlife. 960 1280
Take in the LightsMinnesota's Voyageurs National Park sits just below the Canadian border and offers campers a ringside seat to the Northern Lights. Voyageurs encompasses 270 campsites only accessible by watercraft, but we recommend the remote Echo Lake Campground for best visibility. Check a variety of weather services to determine your best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. 960 1280
Yosemite GlidingIt may seem crazy, but people have been leaping off Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park for decades. Hang gliding was once sanctioned and overseen by park employees. These days the private Yosemite Hang Gliding Association coordinates it. 960 1280
The RaftersIf a weekend of seething whitewater just doesn’t cut it anymore, try an eight-day Grand Canyon raft trip down the Colorado River. There are a host of operators who will happily guide you down 200 miles of rapids. By the end of it, you’ll have seen Native-American ruins, mile-high cliff walls and countless eagles. 960 1280
Hit the Heights
Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park boasts rock formations that will set a climber’s mouth to watering. The 415-square-mile park is a full-service climbing destination, featuring opportunities for scaling rock, wall, ice and snow. Lumpy Ridge and Longs Peak are favorites of local and international climbers. Whether you are an experienced sport climber or a beginning boulderer, be safe and leave no trace of your visit.
Lost in AmericaIt makes sense that America’s largest national park is in Alaska, its largest state. Wrangell-Saint Elias stretches across 13,200,000 acres. You could fit Yellowstone, Everglades, and Death Valley inside it, and still have room for Denali, the third largest park (also in Alaska) at 6,075,030 acres. 960 1280
Take Me to the RiverIn addition to being the most popular hike in Zion National Park, the Narrows has something for every ability level over its 16 miles. The trail follows the Virgin River, which is convenient during the summer months, since you’ll be at least ankle-deep most of the time. If it starts to rain, head for high ground; flash floods are common and have a tendency to drop by without calling first. 960 1280
Extreme Adventures in our National Parks 10 Photos