In the age of Uber, it’s easier than ever to get around without your own set of wheels, but reaching some far-flung outdoor destinations still presents a challenge for carless adventurers. With a little research and creativity, however, you can still get out and about. Check out these options for a few regional public lands you can visit without a car.
WEST VIRGINIA | Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
It’s no coincidence that this town at the intersection of two rivers also serves as a crossroads of transportation, which makes it super simple to access. Each day, Amtrak’s Capitol Limited route stops at the Harpers Ferry station en route from Washington, D.C. and Chicago, and the train offers walk-on bike service as well as educational opportunities about the region’s natural and cultural heritage through the National Park Service’s Trails & Rails program. On weekdays, the MARC Train’s Brunswick Line stops in Harpers Ferry as it travels between D.C and Martinsburg, West Virginia. A park shuttle bus connects the Lower Town with the park’s Visitor Center. A short walk from these access points will connect you to multiple trails (including the Appalachian Trail) as well as adventure guide companies that offer rafting, tubing, kayaking, zip lining, and mountain biking.
MARYLAND | Assateague State Park and Assateague Island National Seashore
Greyhound offers bus service to Ocean City, Maryland, and a short Uber or taxi ride from there gets you to either Assateague State Park or Assateague Island National Seashore. Both sections of the island offer campsites, swimming beaches, crabbing and fishing sites, nature trails, and feral horses meander throughout. Consider renting a bike in Ocean City (they’re an expensive hassle to transport by Greyhound) so you can explore more of the island.
VIRGINIA | The Blue Ridge Parkway and Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Park and Explore Park
Roanoke’s greenways and its placement along the Blue Ridge Parkway make the city an ideal starting point for a variety of outdoor adventures, and since both Amtrak and Greyhound offer bus service to Roanoke, it’s a great option for a weekend getaway from urban centers throughout the region. Several bike shops in town offer rentals, and walkers and bikers alike can take the Mill Mountain Greenway from downtown Roanoke to Mill Mountain Park, which features the city’s iconic star. This 568-acre regional park also offers 10 miles of multiuse trails, a zoo, a wildflower garden, a playground, picnic sites, a discovery center, two overlooks that provide spectacular views of the city.
The Roanoke River Greenway hugs the river on the south side of the city and terminates before it reaches Explore Park, but by continuing along neighborhood streets in the city’s Rosewood Park neighborhood, visitors can access Explore Park’s 1,100 acres, 14 miles of trails, and Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor’s Center. The park is located at milepost 115 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which dedicated cyclists can also access from downtown Roanoke via virtually any major road heading east or south out of the city.
SOUTH CAROLINA | Sesquicentennial State Park
Amtrak serves downtown Columbia, and citybound nature seekers can then walk a few short blocks to catch the city’s Comet 55x bus toward Sesquicentennial State Park. The bus stops at Wal-Mart on Columbia’s Two Notch Road, and parkgoers can then walk or catch a taxi/Uber for the last two miles into the heart of the park. Sesquicentennial sprawls for more than 1,400 acres under the canopy of a pine forest and features 84 campsites, 12 miles of hiking trails, a six-mile bike loop, a dog park (although dogs are not permitted on Columbia city buses), a sand volleyball court, a softball field, two playgrounds, geocaches, and picnic shelters. Additionally, the park offers kayaks, canoes, fishing boats, pedal boats and stand-up paddleboards for rent.
GEORGIA | Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
The Chattahoochee River meanders just a few miles north and west of downtown Atlanta, creating plenty of access points, but watercraft rentals and shuttles take a bit more planning. Greyhound and Amtrak both have stations in downtown Atlanta, and once there, river runners can take the MARTA’s Red Line train to North Springs, then transfer to Bus 85 and get off at the first stop (Dunwoody Place). From there, a 20-minute walk will get you to Shoot the Hooch, an outfitter and guiding company that offers half- and full-day rentals and guided trips to get you rafting, tubing, kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddleboarding on the Chattahoochee.