City Dwellers Don’t Have to Travel Far for These Seven Urban National Parks

Todd Neikirk
Photo Credit: Erik Drost / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0
Photo Credit: Erik Drost / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0

The concept of national parks usually brings to mind wide open spaces and views that go on for miles – but what about those who live in cities? They must have to drive for hours just to get to these locations, right? Not necessarily. Below is a list of prominent national parks located in or around major American cities.

National Mall – Washington, DC

Close-up of cherry blossoms in bloom
Every March and April, cherry blossoms bloom at Washington, DC’s National Mall. (Photo Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

The National Mall in Washington, DC packs more of a punch than can be imagined. While there, visitors can see the multiple memorials that line the two-mile promenade, and each March and April, the cherry blossom trees look spectacular.

If you’re looking to do a bit more than sightseeing, there are also physical activities available, including golf and tennis. You can even take a paddleboat out on the Tidal Basin!

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area – Los Angeles, California

Woman sitting at the edge of a mountain, looking at the view
The views are incredible at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. (Photo Credit: Education Images / Citizens of the Planet / Universal Images Group / Getty Images)

Los Angeles is one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world. As such, those who live there can’t be blamed for wanting to get away from it all sometimes. Luckily, they have the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area right in their backyard.

The massive park offers visitors the opportunity to hike or hit the beach. They can also spend time watching the amazing wildlife that lives in the area. While they may not want to encounter one, hikers may even see a mountain lion!

Independence National Historical Park – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

US President Jimmy Carter with his hand on the Liberty Bell
The famed Liberty Bell is located in Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park. (Photo Credit: Mikki Ansin / Getty Images)

For the first years of its existence, Philadelphia was the capital of the United States. As a result, much of the country’s early history happened there. People can visit multiple early American sites at the city’s famed Independence National Historical Park.

The 55-acre area includes the City Tavern, where the Founding Fathers drank; Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed; and the Liberty Bell. There is also ample park ground, where visitors can sit and have a nice picnic.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park – Cleveland, Ohio

View of Brandywine Falls in autumn
Brandywine Falls is a particularly stunning feature of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. (Photo Credit: Erik Drost / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)

When people think of Cleveland, nature isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. However, right outside the city lies the stunning Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The area features impressive wildlife, including beavers and eagles. Brandywine Falls is one of the most impressive attractions of the park, and there are also a number of hiking and paddling trails.

Gateway National Recreation Area – Queens, New York

View of the water in the Gateway National Recreation Area at sunset
Gateway National Recreation Area is a slice of heaven in Queens, New York. (Photo Credit: GK Tramrunner / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

While the best-known park in New York City is certainly Central Park, it’s not designated as a national one. That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t a recreational park in the Big Apple.

Those in Queens and the surrounding area are familiar with the Gateway National Recreation Area. The main calling card of this nature site is its wildlife. Visitors can look for rare species of birds, along with diamondback terrapins and horseshoe crabs.

Saguaro National Park – Tucson, Arizona

Man standing beside a large cactus
In addition to traversing along its 165 miles of trails, visitors to Saguaro National Park can view giant cacti. (Photo Credit: Matthew T Rader / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Arizona is dotted with national parks, and the people of Tucson don’t have to go far for their shot at serenity, as right outside the city is Saguaro National Park. The location is huge, offering visitors 165 miles of hiking land. It also features traditional desert fauna, such as the giant cactus it’s named for, and animals like desert cottontails, cougars and bobcats.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area – Las Vegas, Nevada

Mountains overlooking a desert road
There are a number of beautiful sights in Las Vegas’ Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. (Photo Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

When tourists visit Las Vegas, they’re most likely to focus on gambling, eating or seeing a show. However, if one was to get bored of the excitement the city has to offer, they could check out the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

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The location features plenty of activities, such as hiking, biking and rock climbing. Of course, you don’t have to be overly active, as there are a number of beautiful rock formations to check out.


Todd Neikirk is a New Jersey-based politics, entertainment and history writer. His work has been featured in,, and He enjoys sports, politics, comic books, and anything that has to do with history.

When he is not sitting in front of a laptop, Todd enjoys soaking up everything the Jersey Shore has to offer with his wife, two sons and American Foxhound, Wally.