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Hi! My name is Chris, and I'm writing this blog to share my passion...nature!
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Find a natural space in your area!

There are so many beautiful parks, forests and scenic drives that it’s hard to know where to begin.  Today’s post will give you nine web resources for finding parks and other natural spaces in your area.

Try starting close to where you live. There is so much you can explore in your own backyard and throughout your neighborhood. There are also local parks, historic sites and walking trails. These are the types of places you are more likely to visit often for walks and bike rides with the family.

Then, venture out a little further…into your state or a neighboring one. Our family has found what we call a “gem” that we visit each year. Below is a picture of beautiful Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in upper Michigan.

Finally, there are those once-in-a-lifetime type trips…places that are farther away but with some planning you are lucky enough to find them and visit. For our family this was our South Dakota trip. By far one of the most beautiful and memorable trips we have ever taken. Below is a picture I took when we were in the Badlands National Park in South Dakota (see below for another image from that trip).

Start looking for one of the many beautiful spaces that are near you!

  • Local parks. Check your county web site, or do a web search for County Parks, Nature Centers and Botanical Gardens.
    • Search with the terms “your county name” county parks
    • Search with the terms “your county name” roadside parks
  • Trails for walking, hiking or biking. Check out Trail Link, and search by state. This site is part of the Rails-to-Trails conservancy, which creates networks of trails using former rail lines.
  • Want to go somewhere you can take the family dog? Many of the state parks now allow pets into campgrounds and on trails. Just check the park web site or call to be sure.  For everyday walks and dog park fun you can also search Dog Park USA.
  • State Parks. Check out this site to find a state park in your area. You can also…
    • Search with the terms “your state” state parks.  (Often you can order a recreation guide through these sites free of charge.)
    • Search with the terms “your state” Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  The DNR site for each state varies in how they present their information, but most should have state parks, state forests, lake information and state trails (for biking and walking).
  • National Wildlife Refuges are another great resource for finding public lands and waters. These areas are set aside to conserve wildlife, plants and fish.
  • National Park Service. This site lists almost 400 National Parks, and Scenic and Historic Trails. Search by park name, location, type of activity or even by topic of interest (glaciers, wildflowers etc).
Below is an image of North Bar Lake in Michigan (it's part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore). We took this picture from an overlook on Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. It is unique in that it is attached to Lake Michigan via a small outlet (which happens to be a great place for kids to play). We could check out Lake Michigan with it’s big waves and cool water and follow the outlet between the dunes to swim in the smaller and warmer Bar Lake (which is almost hidden in the picture), all in our few hour stop.

  • National Forests. The U.S. Forest service lists National Forests and Grasslands by state.
  • Scenic Byways. These are selected roads throughout the US that are recognized and preserved for historic, natural, scenic (and other) qualities.
The image below was taken from Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway where the trees frame Mount Rushmore. Just amazing! 

  • Want to go camping? Many of the State Parks and National Forests use Reserve America to list their campsites (private sites are listed as well). Here in Wisconsin we can also go through our state DNR site to find a park, and be automatically linked with the Reserve America system (so you may be able to as well). Search the state you want to go to, and they’ll show you a campground map, the services & amenities offered there, and often will even have pictures of the individual campsites.

I hope you find this list useful. It probably doesn’t cover all the natural areas you may find where you live, but it’s a great start. I apologize for any followers living outside the US as the information in this post covers mostly US locations (since that’s where I am and what I’m familiar with).

Remember...before heading out to a new-found park or lake, check their months of operation and hours.
You should also watch for specific information regarding usage.  For example, some trails may be strictly for walking, while others are set up for hiking, biking skiing, snowshoe walking and snowmobiles. When looking for a lake, some may be better for swimming, while others are best for fishing.
      • Have a great idea that I didn't include?
      • Suggestions for future post topics?
      • Just let me know in the “comments” section.  Thanks!

For information on how to make the most out of your time in nature, see the post Let’s Connect With Nature.

To reference this post directly, use this link.


  1. Following you from FFF on MBC!

  2. Oh,Your photos are so beautiful. Following you from FFF on MBC. I also need to share your blog with my neighbor who is always teaching my children awesome facts about our world. Thank You for following my blog. I am 1 week old in blogging world today. Have a wonderful day.

  3. Wow. Great photos & info.
    Following from FFF on MBC :)

  4. Nice blog you have here. This is Blessing following you from MBC/FFF.

    You can also follow my blog at

  5. Hi, just stopping by to check out the blog, I've been following quietly for a while. Stop by my blog when you have a chance, I have something for you! Have a great day!


  6. Wow! These pics are amazing. And thanks for all the detailed info. We've been thinking of a badlands trip and I'm bookmarking your site for reference. :) We're hoping to catch the northern lights while we're there.

    I noticed that you had 50 google friends, so I made myself 51. :)

  7. Thank you, Thank you for the award. I have finished all the requirement now I am just letting the 10 bloggers know about their award. Have a great day.

  8. Great resources!! Another thing I like to do is.. use I look in the forums and in the "things to do" category.

    A lot of time I find things I find beautiful areas right next to where I live or nearby.

    Found you on MBC. Let's get to 100!! :)


  9. Thank you to everyone for the great comments and for following. I really appreciate it!!

    Angela...the badlands and surrounding area are just amazing. We spent just over a week there and I'd love to go back.

    Francine...Thanks for the additional resource!! What a good idea!

  10. following you via mbc

  11. another fun resource for finding local naturey spots is lovelovelove your blog :)

  12. Oh, I love Nature Rocks. Great site! Thank you for the compliment!

  13. Beautiful Pictures!

    I am now following you from MBC!

  14. Hi Chris,

    I love your site and find it very informational for people like me who live to travel!

    Your photos just plant the bug in me even more.

    So glad to have you be a part of our aspiring writers club over at MBC!