Sometimes, after a long day of driving, all you wanna do is throw the car in park and just relax. Before you set off on a hike, or start setting up your campsite, or driving to your next location, take a moment to just breathe and soak up the view. Oh, I forgot to mention… in this scenario, you’re stopped at one of America’s coolest parking spots. Here are a few of our favorites to help you set the scene.
Tunnel View in California’s Yosemite National Park is one of the all-time most famous views in one of the all-time most famously stunning parks. But if you were to turn the camera on any of the pictures around, you’d see that behind the scenes is a parking lot that just happens to offer an iconic view.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods Campground
If you’ve ever wanted to camp on the forest moon of Endor, then this one is for you (and also you’re a total geek)! The sites at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground in Crescent City, CA, are tucked among the redwoods, so if you get a chance to park here, consider yourself a very lucky camper.
Hurricane Ridge is the most easily-accessed mountain area in Washington State’s Olympic National Park. The visitor center is perfectly positioned to offer sweeping views of pine tree covered mountains, often poking out from oceans of mist. There is a great visitor center, and you’ll find stellar trails here as well, but the beauty of Hurricane Ridge is that you don’t have to do anything to appreciate the views.
The drive up to the top of the massive Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, CO, may only be 19 miles long, but it’s an intense 19 miles. There are plenty of pull-offs where you can take a breather from the switchbacks and enjoy the view, and the parking area at Mile 16 offers some pretty stellar scenery. We suggest taking a bus to the summit house for coffee and one of their magic donuts once you’re done taking in the views.
With countless pull-offs where you can put it in park, Cades Cove in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a scenic drive that’s worth cruising. Sure, it can get a bit crowded (seriously, use the pull-offs), but the fields, mountains, historic log buildings, wildlife, and waterfall hiking trails mean each bend brings new views… that you should use a pull-off to enjoy.
There aren’t too many places where you can park right on the sand, but Florida’s Daytona Beach is one of them. In fact, the long-standing tradition of racing in Daytona started on the hard-packed white sand, back in 1902. A pass to drive on the beach costs $20, provided you follow a few rules (stay in designated areas, headlights on, windows down, follow the 10 MPH speed limits, etc.) The great part about bringing your car to park on the beach? No need to lug supplies from the parking lot!
Schooner Head Overlook
Schooner Head Overlook has everything you could want from an Acadia National Park view: ocean, rocky coastline, forests, that lighthouse thing over there… and it’s just off the stunning Park Loop Road! It’s as classic a Maine coast view as they come.