What’s on your bucket list?
If you’re anything like the millions of bucket-listers out there, you’ve surely jotted down a handful of outdoorsy to-dos. It’s probably even safe to assume at least one of those outdoorsy tasks is to visit a national park in the beautiful land we call home (hint: it needs to be).
From tree trunks the size of cars to hidden caves, these breathtaking — and perhaps undervalued — national parks should be on every nature lover’s bucket list.
“None can escape its charm. Its natural beauty cleans and warms like a fire, and you will be willing to stay forever in one place like a tree.” Yosemite and John Muir go way back. That’s right, the most famous naturalist had a love affair with the park. That alone should be enough to schedule a trip to the California jewel. Half Dome, the face of this wonderment, is wholly powerful. The 16-mile hike climbs 4,800 feet to its peak. Do not attempt the hike out of shape. Come prepared to sweat and smile, just as Mr. Muir did so long ago.
The word Yellowstone has become synonymous with national park. Being the world’s first national park, that is fitting. Your visit to Yellowstone should be jammed with historical information, larger-than-life animals (shout out to the bison and grizzlies!) and the Yellowstone Pledge if you’re feeling particularly well-behaved! The climate change issues of Yellowstone have kept scientists busy for decades as increasing changes have noticeably been detrimental. A bit of advice: Don’t wait to visit. If you do, this everchanging park might not be what it is today.
Covering nearly one million acres, you can plan to waste an afternoon or two exploring this limitless beauty boasting three different ecosystems. Olympic is home to one of the few temperate rainforests in the world. Sadly, these rainforests were once abundant throughout the base of Oregon to the early tip of Alaska. Although they are now rare, they still remain remarkable. The combination of rainforest, gigantic mountains dressed in glaciers and the admirable Pacific Coast, this destination has a little somethin’ somethin’ for everyone!
Wyoming is not just a backdrop for Lifetime movie love stories. Oh no, it is much much more. Known as the Mountains of Imagination, the park emits an indigenous energy throughout its 200 miles of property. Wildflower-galore is only one reason to take that scenic drive through the park. Hop on Jenny Lake Scenic Drive to take in the awesomeness of the peaks tapping the nearby clouds. Looking for a new Facebook backdrop? Signal Mountain Summit Road has panoramic views of Teton Range and Jackson Hole Valley. Don’t die without see this.
A sunrise in a national park is a beautiful experience. But a sunrise in Acadia during wintertime is a drop-the-mike experience. Nighttime blues meet daytime pinks and happiness is born! As the first national park on the east side of the country, the park prides itself in showing off the diversity of beauty on the left side of the U.S. Pick a season, any season and prepare to be awed. From skittle-colored autumn leaves to silk-blanketed snowfall, Acadia is begging you to journey through each distinguished time of year.
Who doesn’t like a good birthday bash? This year, Denali National Park turns a century old; and I must say a hundred looks good on you, Denali! Come celebrate with the snowcapped mountains that have housed wild wolves, grizzly bears, caribou and moose since its birth. Mountaineering is Denali’s favorite pastime but if you’re not ready to set out on a trekking expedition to the top of North America, other activities are available. Rent a bike, throw on some snowshoes or ski your way through the Alaskan countryside.
Do glaciers tickle your fancy like they do ours? If so, venture to the Big Sky to witness a park devoted to the remaining twenty-five glaciers. That is right, remaining. As in what is left. Since 1850 the melting beauties have dwindled from 150 down to a depressing twenty-five. By 2030, the glaciers are expected to be non-existent. That’s sad news for the world but good news for you. There is still time! Snap as many pics as possible to show your grandchildren.
If Canyonland doesn’t top your list, go ahead, grab a pen and scribble it down NOW. The land is so grand and so surreal, you might feel like you landed on the moon rather than the jagged plains of southeast Utah. That’s right, strap on your moon shoes and bounce around the four very different districts: Island in the Sky, The Maze, The Needles and the rivers. Color-bursting canyons, big ol’ buttes (hehe) and boundless hikes lace the 337,598 acres of vastness. Explore away!
If great is in the name, you know it’s a must-see. Beauty and mystery collide in The Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. The deep shrubbery and seemingly endless water flow paint the picture of perfection throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains. As a portion of the Appalachian Trail, expect a variety of Thru-Hikers (those tackling the 2,190-mile trek) to share the path with you and your CamelBak. Black bears and captivating ridges make this spot the country’s most visited national park. And a reason to keep coming back.
Whatever you do, don’t skip over New Mexico. The Carlsbad Caverns are stupidly unique, offering jaw-dropping sights of the underground happenings of the desert. With 119 caves lurking below, the park keeps bucket-listers busy and awe-struck while exploring caves framed with icicle-shaped rocks. However, don’t sleep on the land above. Because desert beauty is as unique as it is dry. The Chihuahuan Desert is no stranger to deep gorges, colorful cacti, distant mesas, and the occasional (and magical) desert rainbow. Our advice? Share your time between the underground world and Earth’s surface; and of course, bring your camera!
Arguably one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. and maybe even the world, Zion National Park is impossible to leave off this list. The lively sandstone scenery viewed in real life seems like a photoshopped picture. But by all means, add a filter to enhance the red rock on your Instagram post. Want to stomp around? The Narrows at Zion pave a popular hike through the Virgin River where you can expect jagged rocks several meters high and splashes of rays lighting up the route.
Ever drive north past San Francisco? Most people are unaware of the endless beauty blanketing the northern plains of California. There, in the vast tree-filled surroundings, rests the Redwood National Park. The crisp air, boundless greenery, and humongous tree trunks will cast shadows over a dream-like afternoon hike. And if you’re looking to add a cardio element to their natural surroundings, hop on one of the many covered trails leading up and over and around the land of giant trees
We’ll keep you up to date on all things health, fitness and local food in Pittsburgh.