By: Editors | The Outside
Due to the changing nature of state-to-state travel advisories, check both state and individual websites for safety protocols and potential closures before you hit the road.
As we navigate the new travel normal, making decisions about where to go—or whether to go at all—during a pandemic requires flexibility and informed planning. By the time this issue reaches you, the COVID-19 news will likely have shifted again. We hope it’s for the better. As some Americans have decided to venture out, a road trip close to home is one of the safest and most popular options. That’s why we put together our favorite in-state itineraries in every region of the country, to make it easy for you to explore your own backyard—think uncrowded spaces, camping, and lots of fresh air. We also gathered expert advice and resources on how to plan effectively, stay up-to-date about changing conditions, and ensure your safety and that of the communities you travel through. Whether your state has reopened and you can go now, or you save these itineraries for more opportune times, you’ll be amazed at the adventures right outside your door.
Circuit Train: Harpers Ferry to Pipestem Resort State Park, West Virginia
Pack up your bike, hiking boots, and swimsuit for this spin through the state’s rugged Appalachian Mountains. Start in historic Harpers Ferry, at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, where hikes include the 4.5-mile Maryland Heights, with its bird’s-eye view of the peak-cradled town. Then drive about an hour up Route 9 to Berkeley Springs; 16 miles east, a scenic offshoot of the 250-mile Tuscarora Trail wanders up to Devil’s Nose, a large rock surrounded by splendid autumn plumage. From here, head about 110 miles southwest to Blackwater Falls State Park, at the Canaan Valley’s northern tip, where a boardwalk descends to a front-row view of the falls and backwoods trails wind through towering hardwoods. Mountain biking has long reigned supreme in the valley, with popular rides like the technical, nine-mile Plantation Trail and the 3.8-mile legendary Moon HooDoo Rocks Trail. Hiking, fishing, and cross-country-skiing options are abundant in the park as well. The tiny nearby towns of Davis and Thomas serve as hubs for outfitters and eateries, and both Canaan Valley Resort (from $18) and Blackwater Falls State Park (from $27) have cabins and campsites. Then head south through Monongahela National Forest, one of the nation’s most biologically diverse landscapes. You’ll pass by Spruce Knob–Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, famous for hardcore hiking and epic vistas. Check out the mountain-biking trails around Slatyfork, or explore Cranberry Glades Botanical Area farther south, where boardwalks hover above bogs that are similar to those found in the Arctic tundra. Campsites and cabins abound in the national forest, including along the Williams River (from $8). Wind up your trip about 95 miles south at Pipestem Resort State Park, where the adventure smorgasbord includes hiking, mountain biking, trout fishing, kayaking, tubing, and rock climbing. 403 miles one-way—Barbara Noe Kennedy
Escape Bourbon Street: Fontainebleau State Park to New Orleans, Louisiana
This three-day circuit offers everything from hiking to history. From the city, head 40 miles north along the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway to Fontainebleau State Park, on the northern edge of the lake, where you’ll find sandy beaches and miles of hiking trails. Take a free guided tour from the visitor center to learn about the park, a former sugar plantation, and its ignominious slavery-era past. A converted railroad track, part of the 31-mile Tammany Trace trail that runs from downtown Covington to Slidell through five communities, offers cycling and hiking and stops along historical sites and breweries. Spend the night at one of the park’s more than 140 campsites (from $18) and lakefront cabins (from $150). The next day, drive 50 minutes north to Bogue Chitto State Park and hike the 5.7-mile loop trail, which offers prime birdwatching. In the afternoon, rent a kayak to paddle the namesake river, then stay at one of the park’s cabins ($150) or campgrounds (from $25). On day three, head back to New Orleans, and embark on the guided African Life in the French Quarter walking itinerary (from $17) with Hidden History Tours. 140 miles one-way—Dodie Arnold