Looking for a Labor Day Weekend with a view? Say hello to some of the country’s most gorgeous national parks. Just a quick jaunt away from some of the major business cities in the US, these dreamy outdoor destinations are the perfect locales to kiss summer goodbye before diving into fall. Here’s where to enjoy a fantastic long weekend.
White Sands National Monument, 3.5 hrs from Albuquerque
With its hundreds of miles of white gypsum sand, White Sands National Monument almost looks like a scene out of Antarctica - except it’s many, many degrees hotter than any glacier. Hike along White Sands’ expansive dunes or sled through the sand (yep, really!). The best way to enjoy your time there is to treat yourself to a picnic at one of the many shaded tables and barbecue spots along the monument. Just don’t forget your sunglasses - all that sand reflects the bright rays right back up into your eyes!
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, 4.5 hrs from Phoenix
The colorful, curvy rock formations of Vermilion Cliffs are unlike any other place in the world. Explore the rainbow colors of Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon, Paria Plateau, and - of course - the monument’s namesake, Vermilion Cliffs. You can take epic Instagram-ready photos, hike among the best that nature has to offer, and marvel at the magic of the local wildlife. With 294,000 acres to explore, you’ll be anything but bored.
Channel Islands National Park, 1.5 hrs from LA
This gorgeous archipelago is a perfect way to get out on the ocean without the massive crowds of your average LA beach. Each of the park’s five islands have their own unique adventures to offer. Get up close and personal with the park’s unique marine life by snorkeling or kayaking. Head out on a waterfront hike to break a sweat. Or, if a low-key weekend is more your style (we hear you), just kick back among the sunshine and feel the ocean breeze.
Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, 4 hrs from Seattle
Every corner of Olympic National Park is well worth exploring, but no other corner of the park stirs the soul quite like the Hoh Rainforest. This lush, green paradise is rife with moss, ferns, and greenery that look like they’re straight out of a storybook. Wander along the forest’s serene trails and try to keep your jaw off the floor as you gawk at the otherworldly beauty.
Bryce Canyon National Park, 4 hrs from Salt Lake City
Bryce Canyon is one of the country’s most famous national parks, and it’s easy to see why. The park’s natural bowls are filled with rocky spikes known as hoodoos, and they’re totally mesmerizing. Bryce Canyon’s most popular viewpoints can get crowded, but if you’re willing to wander farther along the park’s main road, you’ll find peaceful, crowd-free lookouts. Hikes, walks, mountain biking adventures, and horseback rides all make for a dreamy way to experience the park up close. Bryce Canyon is at its most beautiful at sunrise, so make sure you catch it in the early hours at least once!
Indiana Dunes National Park, 1 hr from Chicago
Indiana Dunes is on the bright blue shore of Lake Michigan, and if you’re going to visit, there’s one thing you need to know first: Lake Michigan is not your average lake. Much like the other four Great Lakes, Lake Michigan looks a lot more like a saltwater ocean from the shore than a local swimming hole. Now that we’ve got that squared away, picture this: 15 miles of peaceful shoreline; dotted with dunes, hiking trails, and fields of wildflowers beyond the water. Wander Dune Ridge Trail or hike to the top of Mount Baldy, the park’s most famous dune, for expansive views of the lake. Then, kick back on the beach with a cold drink to soak in the sunshine.
Shenandoah National Park, 1.5 hrs from Washington, D.C.
At Shenandoah, you’ll find heaps of fresh air, rolling hills, and breathtaking views. The park is famous for its extensive 500-mile network of hiking trails, gorgeous canyons, and epic waterfalls. Cruise along the park’s famously scenic Skyline Drive. If you’re in the mood to wander even farther, you can drive to the southern end of the park and head onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, where you’ll enjoy mountain views stretching through from Virginia and North Carolina.