They may not be on your adventure bucket list and they’re easy to take for granted but local outdoor places like parks, wildlife preserves and bird sanctuaries deserve our respect. That said, I’m willing to bet that there are some local outdoor places in your community that you’ve driven by a thousand times but never gotten around to visiting. We have plenty of excuses–we’re busy, we’ll do it next weekend, it’s for tourists.  Because these outdoor gems are so close to home, we may even wonder how good could they be?

The Chesterfield Gorge is located on the westbound side of Route 9 in Chesterfield, NH–less than 7 miles from my house.

Since moving to Keene, NH in 2007, the local outdoor place I’ve most wanted to visit but always found an excuse not to check out is Chesterfield Gorge. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my wife “we should go there someday” as we whizzed by on our way to or from the Brattleboro Farmers’ Market. It wasn’t until earlier this summer when we finally pulled in, with nothing but the clothes on our back and seven years’ worth of curiosity.

That’s the beauty of most local outdoor places–you don’t need a lot of gear and the toughest decision you have to make in your trip planning is where to go for ice cream or beers afterward.

Another great quality of most local outdoor places is you don’t have to be a serious or experienced outdoor enthusiast to enjoy them. In the case of Chesterfield Gorge, the  trail is well-marked and quite easy to access for hikers of all ages and abilities. If you’re bringing little ones, you’ll be happy to know there are fences to block them from the 20′ drop to the gorge below.

I can’t guarantee that every local outdoor place you visit will be an unforgettable experience but going someplace you’ve never been before is the surest way to position yourself for a pleasant surprise. Less than 10 minutes after leaving the Chesterfield Gorge trailhead, my wife and I found ourselves gazing at a fascinating waterfall that we never would have expected to find such a short distance from downtown Keene.

Relaxation is another hallmark of local outdoor places. Whether you’re picnicking with your family in an urban oasis like Central Park or exploring the trails of an Audubon Society nature preserve, you’re blood pressure and stress level are sure to benefit.

If you’re lucky, you’ll even find a place to kick off your shoes and dip your feet into water so cold, it makes you forget how hot you are, what time it is and why you never got around to visiting this local outdoor place sooner. For my wife and me, our spontaneous trip to Chesterfield Gorge has been one of the highlights of our summer and we can’t wait to go back when air is crisp, the mosquitos are gone and the fall colors are exploding. It’s less than 15 minutes from our house so really, we have no excuse.

What’s your favorite local outdoor place? Leave a comment and tell me about it!