College can be exhausting, expensive, and completely time consuming. It can also be the best time of your life if you take the time to slow down and enjoy it. Not everyone can afford to fly off to some exotic location every spring break, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all of the fun.
There are plenty of places in the United States that are Instagram worthy, can help you unwind, and only require a tank of gas to get to. For less than the cost of a single textbook you can buy a national park pass and see some of the most beautiful locations in the country for a full year. If you need help convincing your friends to join you, studies have proven that alleviating stress is the best thing you can do to avoid personal injury and your chances of developing heart disease later in life.
These are some of the best road trips to national parks this year for college students. I dare you to not book a trip before you finish this list!
Only a 4 hour drive from UC Berkeley, Yosemite provides a state famous for its beaches a breathtaking escape into the mountains. Over 5 million people visited the park in 2016, a new record for the park! The park was first protected in 1864 by Abraham Lincoln. A famous name in national park history, John Muir, worked to expand the park area which led to the creation of the national park system. Waterfall enthusiasts will not leave this park disappointed.
Slightly more secluded, and a 9 hour drive from Boise State University, Yellowstone was the first National Park officially signed into law in 1872 by Ulysses S. Grant. It is also recognized as the first national park in the world. Famous for geothermal features, wildlife, and the Old Faithful geyser it is worth the drive just to say you drove through a super volcano.
A short 3 hour drive for students at UCLA will provide them with more than just an escape from a city with the highest rates of car accidents in California, but one of the most surreal views in the state. The mix of dessert views and the uniquely shaped Joshua Trees help to create a paradise for both photographers and rock climbers. Joshua Tree national park is just over an hour from the Coachella music festival, if you want to make your friends even more jealous with photos from your trip.
On the East Coast weekend warriors can find themselves Shenandoah National Park for some excellent hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Close to 200,000 acres of rolling hills are just a short 2 hour drive from Virginia Tech. 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail run through the park, and over 500 miles of hiking trails make this a hikers dream.
The first designated national park on the East Coast was actually Acadia near Bar Harbor, Maine. Only a 5 hour drive from Boston's Harvard University, over 3 million visitors a year are treated to a unique mix of mountain, ocean, woodland, and lake views. Considered the Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast it is a must visit for anyone in the Northeast this year!
Located in southwestern Utah, Zion national park is only 4 hours from Brigham Young University. 229-square-miles provides some of the most famous hikes in America. Popular hiking trails the narrows and angels trail are always top contenders in the most beautiful hikes in America. Flash floods and dangerous conditions also make these some of the most dangerous. Consult local guides before heading out in the park, but a cruise through the lower rim will leave all visitors happy they made the trip.
If students at the University of Miami grow tired of the beautiful beaches in Miami, they can make it to Everglades national park in 1 hour. It is the largest subtropical wilderness in the US, and the 3rd largest national park after Death Valley and Yellowstone. Famous for 50 species of reptiles, including the notorious Florida alligator.
Would any national park list be complete without a mention of the Grand Canyon? Only 5 hours from the University of Arizona not much needs to be said about the appeal of the Grand Canyon. A bucket list trip for most people it provides amazing views from the top rim, and for the more adventurous hidden waterfalls and bragging rights can be found after hiking a mile down to the bottom.
In the Pacific Northwest, students at University of Portland can venture to Crater lake in 5 hours. There is no shortage of panoramic vistas in Oregon, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take a journey to the deepest lake in the US. The deepest point reaches 1,949 feet with no streams flowing into or out of the lake.
170 million years ago glaciers formed Glacier national park, a 6 hour drive from Montana State University. Over 16,000 square miles make up the park which is home to over 130 lakes and hundreds of species of animals. The park is far from major cities, making it the ideal location if you want to really lose yourself (or find yourself?) in the wilderness.