After more than a year of primarily recreating close to home, everybody is excited to travel this summer—from local adventure hotspots like the Whites, Greens, and Adirondacks to more far-flung destinations such as the Cascades, Moab, and even Alaska. The overwhelming desire to explore comes in the wake of last year’s dreams of climbing Mount Shasta, biking the White Rim, and exploring the great north largely being supplanted with wiring routes at Crow Hill, logging mileage at Bear Brook, and rediscovering our backyard playgrounds and parks.

But while plotting the next far-off adventure, it’s important to not forget the local parks, trail systems, and crags that sustained your need to play outside during this unprecedented time. It’s also important to recognize that the same qualities that made them invaluable over the past 12+ months still make them worthy destinations as travel restrictions are relaxed.

Credit: Tim Peck

1. Parks are Places to Build Skills

Many of us harbor mountain-town dreams—a place with world-class skiing, climbing, biking, and hiking just out our backdoor, and a killer brewpub to end the day in—but jobs, families, and personal situations often demand other geographic arrangements. For those of us living closer to concrete jungles than majestic mountains, our local spots provide us with a place to practice the skills we need to tackle our outdoor dreams. They are the places where techniques are refined, fitness is forged, and, at the end of the day, plans are plotted over parking-lot beers.

2. There’s Less Time Commitment

Local parks also provide a valuable escape without all the time-consuming travel. For some, this means simply more time to pursue their passion, applying the time it takes to day-trip to their destination du jour to bike, hike, climb at their local area—racking up mileage outdoors rather than on the road. For others, this time is devoted to other undertakings and commitments ranging from other sports or different interests to families.

Credit: Tim Peck

3. They’re Accessible to Everybody

It’s easy to overlook how fortunate many of us who frequent the Northeast’s mountains are—even after a pandemic. Expensive gear, lack of experience, costly travel, and user fees are just some of the barriers facing many people hoping to experience the outdoors. Local parks don’t eliminate all of the hurdles facing less-privileged outdoor lovers, but they do improve accessibility to the outdoors for more urban users and expose them to endeavors they might otherwise miss out on. For many, local parks are a gateway to the greater ranges of the region and the world.

4. Build Your Community

Even the most ardent visitors of the Whites, Greens, and ‘Daks will struggle to experience the same feeling of community there as they get from their local park. The smaller size of local parks and the tighter-knit user groups frequenting them—along with other factors like visiting at the same time every day (your weekly after-work ride on Wednesdays, for example)—make it easier to meet like-minded users. These encounters help build connections that sustain your local areas and might identify partners for your next big adventure.

5. Achieve Local Dreams

For many of us, local parks are training grounds and convenient destinations when we can’t escape to bigger adventures. But for many others, these places are their adventure—chasing PRs on the Skyline Trail, pushing grades at Lincoln Woods, or simply clearing their heads in nature after a long day at work.

Credit: Tim Peck

Just like other “destination” locations, these local spaces are stressed from long-time use as well as now a year-plus of increased popularity. Given all they’ve given us, it’s critical to protect local parks and ensure they are getting the resources they need in the years ahead. Do you have a local park that’s sustained you during the last year? If so, tell us about it in the comments.