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11 Stunning National Parks on East Coast for Spring Break

11 Stunning National Parks on East Coast for Spring Break

Whenever thinking of a weekend getaway trip to a national park, your mind might probably deviate towards The Grand Canyon or any other adventure-worthy park on the west coast. We know these grandeur parks have so much to offer to adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts but there are some hidden terrains and wilderness on the east coast too. National parks on the East coast of the USA have loads of mountains, marshy wetlands, historical sights, national seashores, caves, and lots more. So, if you are planning for a spring break, we recommend picking your destination from some of the most incredible East Coast national parks listed below. 

  1. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Located about 75 miles from Washington, D.C., this unraveling nature’s beauty is not just a land of black bears but also wildflowers, caves, waterfalls, and songbirds. Shenandoah National Park has some of the most spectacular vistas of the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains that both nature lovers and adventure seekers would love to embrace. The park has about 500 miles of trails including the iconic Appalachian Trail. Hikers can hike to Blackrock Summit or Old Rag Hike and even take a dip in swimming holes along the way. Those who want to enjoy the picturesque setting from their car can opt for a 105-mile drive on Skyline Drive. Don’t forget to have a glimpse of wildlife on your way to make the most of your 1 or 2-day trip!

When to Visit: May-June or Sep-Dec

Days Required: 2-3 days

Things to Do: camping, hiking, wildlife sighting, wildflowers viewing, skyline driving, waterfalls, birdwatching, visiting caves and award-winning wineries.

How to Reach: Skyline Drive is the main road to reach Shenandoah National Park. If you are traveling by plane, some of the nearby airports to rely on are Washington Dulles International (IAD) and Reagan National (DCA) which are 56 miles and 70 miles away from the park’s Front Royal Entrance Station respectively.

Image Credit: steelestavern

  1. Congaree National Park, South Carolina

If you are a novice hiker, the largest intact expanse of old-growth hardwood forest ‘Congaree National Park’ in South Carolina is a perfect getaway for you. This spectacular ancient forest has plenty of walking trails with easy to moderate difficulty levels. Beginners can hike 4 miles at The Weston Lake Loop Trail or opt for the challenging 12-mile long Kingsnake Trail. Wildlife lovers can indulge in wildlife spotting and witness an abundance of deer, alligators, bobcats, owls, and woodpeckers on the way. Plus, you will find plenty of “champion” trees in this 26,276-acre national park, making it a perfect hub for those who love ‘big’ trees. Watersports lovers can explore the Congaree wilderness via a canoe or kayak.

When to Visit: late spring or fall season

Days Required: 1-2 days

Things to Do: walking down the boardwalk trail, kayaking, canoeing, lake dips, hiking, fishing, viewing champion trees, and wildlife spotting.

How to Reach: Congaree National Park is 18 miles southeast of Columbia. The nearest airport is Columbia Metropolitan Airport which is a half-hour drive away from the park. 

Image Credit: localadventurer

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most sought-after and biodiverse national parks in the USA. Known for its smoky fog-covered mountains, the park has incredible greenery and several hiking trails, making it ideal to embrace some solitary bliss. Drive through the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail or the Cades Cove Loop and spot black bears and elks along the way. There are scenic views along the Blue Ridge Parkway that both motorcyclists, hikers, and those traveling in a car can cherish. Hikers can pave their way toward the  Rainbow Falls, the tallest cascading waterfall in the park. If you want to challenge your hiking potential, opt for the more diverse Alum Cave hike. 

When to Visit: Summer and fall 

Days Required: 1-2 days

Things to Do: Nature sightseeing, a glimpse of waterfalls, hiking, bicycling, wildlife viewing, camping, fishing, picnicking, horseback riding, and participating in ranger-led programs.

How to Reach: Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina and McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville are the closest airports to the Great Smokies.

Image Credit: oyster.com

  1. Acadia National Park, Maine

Hailed as the jewel of the North Atlantic Coast, Maine’s only and most dramatic national park has a rich cultural heritage and abundance of wilderness. Residing along the USA’s Atlantic coastline, this park is ideal for coastal highs. The nature’s playground offers a unique retreat for water lovers, avid hikers, and nature fanatics. Hike up to Cadillac Mountain, the park’s highest point receiving the first rays of the rising sun, kayak with bald eagles, and drench in the waters of Sand Beach. Drive through the 27 mile Park Loop Road to indulge in some serious sightseeing. You can also hit the main town of Bar Harbor to catch a glimpse of whales swimming in the ocean and hear the ocean waves. 

When to Visit: Early spring or September-October

Days Required: 2-3 days

Things to Do: Cadillac mountain hike, visit Sand Beach, Otter Cliff, and Thunder Hole, witness lighthouses, indulge in watersports and walk through the trails.

How to Reach: Fly into Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and reach Hancock County–Bar Harbor Airport (BHB) which is a nearly 10-minute drive from Acadia National Park. People coming from or going to Portland can rely on Portland International Jetport (PWM).

Image Credit: worldatlas

  1. Biscayne National Park, Florida

If you are an underwater explorer more than a hiker, Florida’s Biscayne National Park with its large swath of water and coral reefs is sure to delight you. Although difficult to access due to the unavailability of roads and public ferries, the park offers you a spectacular experience of exploring it on your feet. But you can always charter a boat or opt for a ranger-led canoe trip to cherish this treasure and its ecosystems. If you are traveling with kids, you can take a short nature walk close to the visitors center and then head towards a  bird sanctuary. Watersport lovers can make the most of their trip by indulging in snorkeling, diving, canoeing, paddleboarding, and kayaking.

When to Visit: December-April

Days Required: 2-3 days

Things to Do: Walk the Convoy Point jetty trail, visit Boca Chita Key, Florida Key, & Adams Key, explore the Biscayne Bay, see mangrove trees, and indulge in watersports.

How to Reach: Miami is just a 50-minute drive away from the park. If you are coming by plane, Miami international airport is an ideal option. Also, Homestead is just 10 miles away from here. 

Image Credit: national-park.com

  1. Everglades National Park, Florida

The Everglades National Park located in Florida is the USA’s largest subtropical wilderness encompassing 1.5 million acres of wetlands. This nature’s treasure is rich in biodiversity and has an abundance of habitats for birds, panthers, manatees, crocodiles, and alligators. Since this park is mostly surrounded by water, the ideal way to explore it is via kayak or boat. However, you can also ride a bike or walk along the short trails through this World Heritage Site and spot crocodiles and alligators on the way.

When to Visit: December-April

Days Required: 2-3 days

Things to Do: Walking through the Anhinga Trail, wildlife spotting, kayaking, canoeing, boating, fishing, hiking, camping, and participating in ranger-led programs.

How to Reach: Everglades National Park has non-connected entrances in 3 cities including Homestead Entrance in Florida. Rent a car or drive your own to reach the Everglades.

Image Credit: nps.gov

  1. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, West Virginia

The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia boasts the New River, one of the oldest rivers on the continent. Besides the mystical river flowing from south to north, the park is also a hotspot for recreational activities and even a preservational area. The area encompassing over 70,000 acres is also filled with plenty of scenic opportunities natural lovers can cherish all year around. The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve which has been given National Park status of late also has got a lot for watersports lovers and hikers. Hikers can walk through the 2.4-mile Endless Wall Trail or the Glade Creek Hike boasting many swimming holes. Want to spend the day near the water? Take a rafting tour in the upper Gorge. Rock climbing, biking,  fishing, bird watching, hunting, camping, picnicking, and learning about animals and the park’s rich history are other activities to partake in. 

When to Visit: Spring and fall

Days Required: 1-2 days

Things to Do: Hiking, whitewater rafting, paddleboarding, rock climbing, biking,  fishing, bird watching, hunting, camping, and picnicking.

How to Reach: Charleston WV is the major airport near the park. If you are driving, you can access the highway from Route 19 which falls between Beckley and Hico. 

Image Credit: vogue

  1. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park, the home to the world’s longest cave system, is a UNESCO world heritage site. Hailed from its grandeur caves and canyons, the Mammoth Cave can never fail to satiate those looking for some offbeat adventure. Opt for a guided tour to explore the cave and learn about its rich history. Hikers can hike through miles of hiking trails scattered through this diverse habitat. Adventure seekers can also go horseback riding or indulge in kayaking

When to Visit: Spring or November-February

Days Required: 1-2 days

Things to Do: Attending a ranger-led program, guided cave tours, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, kayaking, and undertaking junior ranger activities.

How to Reach: Drive by car to come to Mammoth Cave National Park which is very close to the Interstate Highway, Interstate-65. The nearest airport is in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Image Credit: avianreport

  1. Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

The Cape Cod National Seashore bustling with 40 miles of pristine beaches in Massachusetts is a perfect weekend getaway destination for beach lovers. Apart from sandy beaches, the area protects ponds, marshes, and uplands that are home to diverse species. If you want to spend a day by the beach, hit Coast Guard Beach, Nauset Light Beach, Marconi Beach, Head of the Meadow Beach, Race Point Beach, or Herring Cove Beach. For hikers, there are eleven open hiking trails that can be explored. Biking trails, walking trails, cultural landscapes, and historic lighthouses are other highlights of the national seashore. 

When to Visit: April-May

Days Required: 3-4 days

Things to Do: Beach exploration, over sand beach driving, hiking, biking, hunting, scuba diving, parasailing, and visiting lighthouses, museums, and pubs. 

How to Reach: You can reach Cape Cod National Seashore via plane, car, bus, train, or ferry depending on your region.

Image Credit: capecodchamber

  1. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park which is home to five kinds of turtles is made up of 7 small islands. One of the world’s most popular eco-attractions, the park is known for its iconic 1800s Fort Jefferson. Apart from taking a guided tour to learn about the fort’s history, there is a cornucopia of other leisure activities to indulge in. Spend some time near the shore by hitting the scheduled beaches. You can kayak, swim, or dive to make the most of your beach holiday. The park that’s located just 70 miles west of Key West also offers some of the best snorkeling sessions in the northern US. Book the Yankee Freedom Ferry for a high-speed catamaran trip or hire a seaplane charter to explore the park.

When to Visit: June-September 

Days Required: 2-3 days

Things to Do: Beach exploration, fishing, birding, diving, camping, snorkeling, wildlife viewing, swimming, charter touring, and paddlesports

How to Reach: The remote island is not accessible via car. You can reach the island only via seaplane, ferry, or boat.

Image Credit: tripsavvy

  1. Appalachian National Scenic Trail, West Virginia

If you are fond of long hikes, the 2,190-mile long Appalachian Trail traversing the wild and wooded lands of the Appalachian Mountains is a good option. The trail extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine traverses 14 states including Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, NY, NJ, and Tennessee. Plan your day hike by hiking the 14-mile Mau-Har Loop or climb Anthony’s Nose if you reside in New York. Along the way, you will cherish scenic views, blissful swimming holes, and gigantic waterfalls. 

When to Visit: Late spring and early fall

Days Required: 1-2 days

Things to Do: Hiking and witnessing scenic views including waterfalls.

How to Reach: The Appalachian Trail boats over 500 public road crossings. Direct access via train service is available at Pawling, NY, and Harpers Ferry, WV. Some of the airports near the trail are Bangor International Airport, Portland International Jetport, and Manchester Airport.

Image Credit: appalachiantrail.org

Choose from these national parks and make the most of your Spring break by planning a trip right today!

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