When planning your much-needed, post-COVID getaway, you have a long list of potential locales to consider. The U.S. is full of beautiful, sweeping vistas, breathtaking mountains and picturesque shorelines. It may be difficult to choose. Fortunately, we’ve taken some of the top U.S. destinations for nature lovers and divided them up into four categories.
Destinations for Nature Lovers
Here are a few places for nature enthusiasts who like kayaking, hiking, hunting or camping.
Do you adore the water? Strap your kayak atop your car and head to one of these destinations.
1. Colorado River, Arizona
You’ve seen the stunning photographs of Horseshoe Bend — now, bring those images to life as you drift along in your kayak. You’ll find no shortage of adventure on the Colorado River!
The rock formations of the Grand Canyon are like no other on Earth. Depending on the water level, you can find dangerous rapids or stick to calmer waters.
2. Tampa Bay, Florida
If you thought that fun on the water in Florida meant renting a sailboat or lying on the beach with an umbrella drink, think again. There’s plenty for kayak enthusiasts to enjoy.
If you want a relaxing day filled with manatee sightings, head to Tarpon Springs. If you wish to wander the mangroves, a Weedon Island Preserve adventure will thrill you.
3. Prince William Sound, Alaska
The landscapes in Alaska are like no other, and you can explore them by kayak. Photograph the glaciers around Harriman’s Fjord, gradually making your way to Hobo Bay. If you are more of a beginner, Blackstone Bay and Culross Passage offer incredible camera opportunities and calmer waters.
4. San Juan River, Utah
Do you want to witness 1,000-year-old rock structures, many with fingerprints still showing on the surfaces? Head to the San Juan River in Utah for some of the most stunning red rock formations you’ll find anywhere. Most of the route is family-friendly, but you will encounter some Class III rapids at Government Rapids in the lower canyon.
Could your legs use a serious stretch after a year indoors? Head to one of these hiking destinations to get it done.
1. Redwood National Park, California
You can’t imagine the size of the massive redwoods until you see them. Head to Redwood Creek Trail if you plan to camp along with your hike and make a weekend of your trip. Enjoy the best of both the seashore and wilderness on the Last Chance California Coastal Trail.
2. South Lake Tahoe, California
Did you think Tahoe was only for skiing? Please think again! In the summertime, this region comes alive with some of the most jaw-dropping scenery anywhere, and the moderate temperatures will let you enjoy a pleasant outing without getting sweaty.
3. Grand Canyon, Arizona
Few places on Earth rival the Grand Canyon’s majesty. If you decide to head here for hiking, make it a long weekend trip. The National Forest Service strongly dissuades tourists from hiking from the south rim to the river in one day, as high desert temperatures in the afternoon can make the ascent problematic — it’s nearly impossible to carry enough water.
4. Longs Peak, Colorado
If you are an advanced athlete who wants to test your skills, head to Longs Peak, CO. If you do the Keyhole Route, you will need climbing equipment to avoid a potentially fatal fall. However, you can make it up to Boulder Field with no ropes and carabiners at all.
Hunting gives you a sense of self-sufficiency like no other. Bagging the big game lets you know that you could feed yourself and your family if need be. Consider these four destinations where you can do so freely.
1. Santa Teresa Wilderness, Arizona
Is it ever too early to bag a wild turkey for your Thanksgiving feast? Recently, the Bureau of Land Management acquired the 600-acre ET Ranch, adding to the 26,800-acre Santa Teresa wilderness.
You can also look for elk if you’re lucky enough to win the lotto for a pass. Plus, you’re less than an hour from the Mexico border. Authentic margaritas after your hunt — yes, please.
2. Pineywoods, Texas
Texas has miles and miles of hunting, and you can take your weapon of choice without breaking the rules. Outside of California and Washington, many western states allow hunting with AR-15s, although Colorado and other states have some restrictions.
If you thought Texas was nothing but desert, think again. You’ll find tall hardwoods and high humidity — ensure you have a place to wash off the sweat at days’ end.
3. Bradford County, Pennsylvania
Could you imagine bagging a 20-point buck? Chris Radney of Bradford County, PA, brought home such a monster during archery season in 2017.
You’ll find acres of forest in Pennsylvania. The temperate climate keeps extreme temperatures from ruining your excursion, although you might have to deal with rain and the occasional freak spring snowstorm.
4. The Bison Ranch, North Dakota
Have you always wanted to bag a bison? You have no idea how hefty these massive animals are until you get up close and personal.
Although you can’t go out hunting wild bison, private ranches such as The Bison Ranch allow you to bag enough meat to last you an entire cold season or longer. They also offer on-site taxidermy services if you want to get a showpiece made from the skin. Bison meat is a lean and tasty alternative for the keto diet, too.
Are you so sick of being in your house that you don’t care if you see four solid walls again? Grab your tent and head to one of these destinations.
1. Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park features three campgrounds — South, Watchman, and Lava Point. The first two are in the canyon proper, while the second is an hour’s drive away. Reservations are recommended if you want to claim your spot, and with everyone traveling now, you’ll do well to call early.
2. Acadia National Park, Maine
If you want to beat the worst of the summer’s heat, head north to Maine. You’ll have plenty of humidity to contend with, but you can wash off the sweat in the harbor. You’ll find multiple camping and glamping locations, including treehouses — to celebrate your inner child.
3. Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho
You’ll find no shortage of campgrounds in Sawtooth National Forest, ID. Nor will you want for activities. The wilderness spans 756,000 acres along the Salmon River and Stanley Basin. You’ll find over 700 miles of trails and several high-elevation alpine lakes.
4. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Campgrounds in Grand Teton run on a reservation system, and you’ll need to call early with all the travel urge in the air. Pitch your tent among the sagebrush and spruce and marvel at the stars at night. Several locations are tent-only, but places like Signal Mountain Campground also allow smaller RVs.
Try One of These Top U.S. Destinations for Nature Lovers
If you’re itching to get back out there, you’re not alone. Travel to one of these top destinations for nature lovers and feed your wanderlust!
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-Photos as credited. Cover photo by Nancy Zaffaro.