1. Cumberland Island, Georgia
> Closest city: St. Mary’s, Georgia (population: 18,256)
With 17 miles of beach and 6,800 acres of federally protected land, Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. Noted for its wildlife and history, the island is home to feral horses, loggerhead turtles, and the ruins of a mansion built by Andrew Carnegie’s brother.
2. Apostle Islands, Wisconsin
> Closest city: Duluth, Minnesota (population: 86,697)
There are 22 islands in this group, scenic and accessible for birding and enjoying nature, from bears to native plants. There are also sea caves and historic lighthouses.
3. Kennecott, Alaska
> Closest city: Anchorage, Alaska (population: 291,247)
Amidst the federally protected parks, forests, and reserves between Anchorage and Glacier National Park, Kennecot is an abandoned mining town centered around copper mines active in the early 20th century. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1986 and offers hiking opportunities today.
4. Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia-Florida
> Closest city: Jacksonville, Florida (population: 949,611)
Largely protected as a National Wildlife Refuge and designated as a National Natural Landmark, Okefenokee swamp is a 438,000 acre wetland straddling the Florida-Georgia border. Though it attracts about 600,000 visitors each year, its atmosphere is one of unspoiled solitude.
5. Rock Lake, Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado
> Closest city: Alamosa, Colorado (population: 9,806)
Surrounded by wilderness in Colorado’s San Juan National Forest, this remote lake is a hiking Mecca for the cognoscenti. The nine mile loop trail takes hikers over challenging terrain, not meant for beginners.