Chipper the Dog Sets a High Bar for Recycling

MARY JO DILONARDO | MNN |

Not long after Katie Pollak adopted Chipper in Mesa, Arizona, the puppy showed an interest in bettering the environment. Actually, he just liked playing with plastic bottles when he found them on walks.

“He was always eager to pick them up!” Pollack tells MNN. “Because of his interest, I began encouraging and rewarding his ability to pick up and carry water bottles. I would celebrate and give him treats each time he would offer to pick up a bottle. Then it stuck, and became our thing!”

Chipper the recycling dog with backpack of trash

Quinci joins Chipper on all his adventures. (Photo: Katie Pollak)

Now 8 years old, Chipper has developed a passion for the outdoors and for picking up trash. He, Pollak and her other pup, Quinci, are often found in nature.

“We go out a few times a week. Sometimes we go out with the intention of cleaning up an area,” she says. “Other times we’re just out for a hike or paddle, but always carrying bags with us to clean up any trash we come across.”

If the trash is in the water, Chipper will swim out to get it. (Photo: Katie Pollak)

Pollak and her dogs often meet up with friends to do organized cleanups in the area.

Chipper has become a bit of a celebrity for his recycling efforts. He’s well known in the community, and more than 31,000 people follow Pollak on Instagram to keep track of his adventures. The pair recently even made an appearance on the “Today” show.

Sometimes Chipper finds other interesting castoffs. (Photo: Katie Pollak)

Chipper doesn’t limit himself to plastic bottles. He picks up whatever trash he finds, including cans, discarded clothes and the occasional old shoe.

Chipper has helped Pollak spread the word about protecting the environment. (Photo: Katie Pollak)

Pollak says Chipper’s interest has sparked her own.

“I am very passionate about the environment and wildlife. I believe it is our responsibility to protect it, to keep it safe and preserved for future generations,” she says. “I love that Chipper has inspired me, to put even more of a focus on this issue. We do our best to spread the word and encourage others to at least take notice of the problem, so we can all work together to overcome it.”

Chipper swims back with a bottle he found. (Photo: Katie Pollak)

Chipper — who Pollak describes as “a mixed breed with a pure heart” — always has his buddy Quinci along for moral support.

The recycling pup seems to enjoy the spotlight.

“Chipper is handling fame much better than I am!” Pollak says. “He loves the attention that comes with it.”

Chipper always does his part to contribute to community cleanups, bringing his contributions to the pile. (Photo: Katie Pollak)

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.


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10 REASONS WHY SPRING IN SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA IS AN EXCEPTIONAL TIME TO VISIT

If you crave small-town friendliness and adventures in the great outdoors, there’s no better time to explore the town of Abingdon, located a particularly beautiful corner of Virginia. We’ve found the top 10 ways to enjoy a trip to Southwest Virginia this spring.

1. Bike the Virginia Creeper Trail!

The Virginia Creeper Trail is a 34-mile, rails-to-trails bicycle path that travels from Abingdon to Whitetop Station, Virginia. Start at either end of the trail and enjoy a breezy, downhill ride with a convenient shuttle pick up at the bottom.

2. Explore South Holston Lake

Mountain ridges and thick forest make up the undeveloped shoreline of South Holston Lake. It’s a popular place to rent a pontoon or kayak and spend the day enjoying pristine scenery.

3. Scale the rocky heights of Backbone Rock Recreation Area

Backbone Rock Recreation Area is part of the Cherokee National Forest that straddles the border of Virginia and Tennessee. The most notable feature is Backbone Rock, which features a 20-foot long hole that was blasted through it to make way for the railroad back in the early 1900s.

4. Visit the Wild Ponies at Grayson Highlands State Park

The biggest attraction at Grayson Highlands State Park is its wild ponies, which were first introduced to the park in 1974 to graze on the grassy balds. During the spring you’re most likely to see foals taking their first steps while the mares look on protectively.

Photo by Bob Diller

5. Enjoy Springtime Blooms

Roads through this neck of the woods are winding, but you’ll be glad for the slower pace thanks to the eruption of color on either side. White and pink laurel and magenta rhododendron grow to enormous heights here, while the flowering dogwoods have white and pink flowers growing on their delicate branches.

Photo by Bob Diller

6. Day Hike the Appalachian Trail!

The storied Appalachian Trail covers a 167-mile stretch of Southwest Virginia. Abingdon is an official AT Community partner, and some hikers on the AT take the 12-mile detour to visit the town where they’re welcomed with a variety of lodging options, access to outfitters, and lots of friendly restaurants.

7. Paddle the North Fork of the Holston River

The Class I/II rapids make for a relaxing ride along a remote section of this scenic river flanked by rocky bluffs. It’s the perfect setting to learn kayaking techniques—kids as young as eight can navigate the river on their own. Pack your water shoes and book a trip with Adventure Mendota.

8. Mingle with Locals at the Abingdon Farmers Market

Open from the April until Thanksgiving, the Abingdon Farmers Market sells local produce, meats, cheeses, and wine directly to the consumer. Some vendors have sold their wares here since the Great Depression.

9. Music and Festivals

Southwest Virginia is filled with places to listen to live music. Wolf Hills Brewing features musicians performing on Friday and Saturday nights, in addition to various events during the week. Spring is also the start of festival seasons. The Virginia Creeper Fest at the end of April features a wide variety of outdoor activities surrounding the area’s most famous trail.

10. Eat at a Farm-to-Table Restaurant

Avid readers know Barbara Kingsolver for her many bestselling books, but she and her husband Steven Hopp are also advocates for the local food movement, and co-owners of The Harvest Table restaurant in Meadowview. At Abingdon Vineyards, order a flight of wines and a plate of cheese, crackers, salami, nuts, preserves, chocolates and other artisan snacks for a riverside picnic. Dogs, kids and kayaks welcome!

 

8 things every hiker can do to address (or avoid) overcrowded trails

Bothered by busy trails and poor trail etiquette? Here’s how every hiker can address the issue of overcrowded trails.

When I started as the travel and outdoors reporter at The Seattle Times, among the first advice I received was to be careful when writing about hiking, because people feel strongly about “over-loved trails” in Seattle. Based on reader comments and emails, this has proved to be true.

When I ventured out to my first popular local trail — Poo Poo Point in the Issaquah Alps — I went midday on a gray, rainy weekday, and was surprised to find it pretty much empty.  It was only when I went back the next week in drier weather that I saw what people were talking about. The trail was packed, and I had to navigate around faster and slower hikers here and there. Still, it wasn’t as bad as some had made it sound. But while increased engagement with the outdoors is a good thing, poor trail etiquette and  unethical practices can have a harmful impact.

The good news is  hikers are not powerless in the face of heavily-trafficked trails and unsustainable outdoors practices. I spoke with Kindra Ramos, avid hiker and director of communications and outreach at the Washington Trails Association (WTA), and together we came up with some actions every hiker can take to confront the issue of “over-loved” trails.

1. Seek solitude on lesser-known trails

 

There are more than 3,000 trails on the Washington Trails Association’s Hike Finder Map, and more are added regularly. The WTA database doesn’t even account for all the trails in Washington state. So if it’s solitude you seek, look beyond the popular trails like Poo Poo Point and Rattlesnake Ledge.

Ramos suggests taking a chance on a new trail by randomly selecting a hike from the Hike Finder Map, or filter your results based on specific criteria. Also good to know? New trails are created every year. You can check with your local city council or parks department to find out where they are.

2. Know before you go

Don’t feel like taking the risk on a new-to-you trail only to find it crowded? The WTA and AllTrails websites have trip reports and reviews written by fellow hikers. Check them out before you go.

If you’re heading to a state or national park  with a visitor center, call ahead and ask when the trails are busiest. If all else fails, ask a local. Avid hikers can tell you where the busiest trails are. (If you ask nicely, they might even tell you what trails they seek out when they need a little solitude.)

3. Consider a rainy-day hike

Not afraid of a little rain, are you? Despite Pacific Northwest locals’ notorious tolerance for gray skies and wet weather, trails are likely to be less busy on rainy days. So pack your rain gear and get out there.

Ramos herself dons a headlamp and hits the trail in the early morning to avoid crowds. “It’s an opportunity to see a trail in a different way,” she says. She recommends hiking at off-peak hours — like early mornings or weekdays.

4. Volunteer

Trail maintenance requires a lot of work and willing volunteers. If you’re concernedabout the impact  on your favorite trails, join a local work party or stewardship program to help combat trail erosion and assist with trail maintenance. The Pacific Crest Trail Association, the Washington Nature Conservancy and Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Trails Program offer plenty of opportunities. For both new and seasoned hikers, volunteering can be a great way to learn more about trail maintenance and emergency preparedness.

5. Make some noise

Can’t get your hands dirty maintaining trails — or just don’t want to? Use your voice instead. “As you saw during the closure, volunteers can’t do it all, so in addition to giving back via volunteering, I really encourage hikers to talk to their representatives about why investing in these infrastructures is so important,” says Ramos.

WTA is scheduled to host a Hiker Rally Day in Olympia, when concerned hikers can meet with legislators, engage in outdoors training and network with others, on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Registration information is available at wta.org/get-involved/events.

6. Teach and learn

Bothered by the poor trail etiquette of others? They might just be unaware of best practices for keeping our trails safe and minimizing our impact on them. That doesn’t mean angrily confronting people on the trail. There are more effective ways to share your knowledge. Direct people to resources on sustainable practices. You can also share tips on social media or volunteer as a group hike guide.

Still learning yourself? Seek out a friend or experienced hiker you know and ask for pointers, join a Meetup group for hikers, or subscribe to an outdoors magazine. (Many offer tips for hiking safety and best practices.) There are also outdoors workshops and courses available through organizations like REIthe Washington Trails Association, the Mountaineers and other local outdoors groups.

7. Embrace some of the change

It’s not for everybody, but if you embrace some of the positive aspects of a busy trail, you might like it. “Often, trails, when they’re built right, can hold folks sticking to the path,” says Ramos. She also emphasizes the importance of annual maintenance and the volunteers and land managers who help maintain Washington’s trails.

As long as users are engaging with an eye to sustainability, a busier trail experience is just a different trail experience — not necessarily a bad one. In fact, there are even some positive aspects. For new hikers, busier trails can offer a sense of community and safety. And there are always other trails.

8. Hitch a ride

Parking is a major issue at several popular trailheads. When lots are full, hikers often resort to parking on the sides of the road, creating a traffic hazard. Consider alternatives like Trailhead Direct. The trail might still be crowded, but seeking alternatives to driving will at least reduce your carbon footprint and spare you parking woes.

 

 
 

8 PERFECT WEEKEND TRAILS

Thru-hiking for months on end is out of reach for most of us. But a weekend backpacking trip? Most of us can carve that time into our schedules. Luckily, the Southern Appalachians are chock full of sub-100 mile trails that offer a thru-hiking experience in just a few days.

Wild Oak Trail, VA

This 25-mile National Recreation Trail forms a perfect weekend loop moving from easily accessible front country to some very remote corners of the George Washington National Forest. The loop begins along the headwaters of the North River, but quickly climbs to the ridges and stays there, which means water is scarce.

“A lot of the trail follows ridgelines that provide some very panoramic vistas,” says Dennis Herr, who organizes fun ultra runs on the Wild Oak Trail.

Total Mileage: 25.6
Highlights: Ridgeline views, solitude, mountain laurel and oak species
More Info: Wilderness Adventures

Day One

Begin your 7-mile day at the parking area near North River Gap (the low point along the trail) and start your counter-clockwise hike by climbing Grindstone Mountain and Chestnut Ridge. Prepare for the views along the ridge leading to Little Bald Knob, the highpoint of the trail at mile 7. Look for small, flat clearings near Little Bald Knob to pitch your tent for the night. Take a walk out the gated FS 427 for excellent views from the ridgeline.

Day Two

Save enough water for the  8.5 mile hike, including the three-mile, 2,000-foot drop to the North River. The next climb to Big Bald Knob is steep and rocky, but this perch has arguably the best views along the trail. You’ll hike along the border of the Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness before taking a hard left to descend Dividing Ridge. Look for campsites along the trail before you reach FS 96.

Day Three

At 10.2 miles, the last day is your longest. Climb up Hankey Mountain to the gated forest road for several miles. Then the trail gets technical again, with the last few miles highlighted by steep, rocky climbs leading to dramatic overlooks before dropping back down to the parking area.

Iron Mountain Trail, VA

The Iron Mountain Trail can seem a bit disjointed at times: a 19-mile stretch between Cross Mountain and Damascus that ends with a road walk into town, then another 14-mile section near the Little Dry Run Wilderness. But the best section parallels the Appalachian Trail inside the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area running for 23 miles between Damascus and Highway 16.

“This is the old route of the A.T. and it’s had a lot of rest,” says Jeff Patrick, who leads hikes all over the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. “The rest of the High Country gets so much use, but Iron Mountain, even though it’s close to town, doesn’t see a fraction of the boots.”

Total Mileage: 23
Highlights: Rocky terrain, shelters, solitude (everyone’s busy hiking the A.T.)
More Info: Mount Rogers Outfitters

Day One

Pick up the trail just outside of downtown Damascus and begin a rocky climb up to Feathercamp Ridge. Camp at the Sandy Flats Shelter for the night. It’s a short 6.2-mile day, but this will give you time to take an optional side trip down Feathercamp Trail, which drops into a cover offering a series of wading pools and small cascades.

Day Two

Continue heading east on the Iron Mountain as it crosses a forest road and rolls and dips over small knobs along the Iron Mountain ridgeline.  Eventually, you’ll start passing some older growth trees and pass the Straight Branch Trail shelter, 4.5 miles into your day. Keep on trekking another four miles to the Cherry Tree shelter. There’s some road walking as you skirt the edge of Round Top and Double Top.

Day Three

The Iron Mountain Trail, which shares the path with the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail for less than two miles. You’ll cross paths with the A.T., then drop and rise in and out of seasonal creek gorges. Between the A.T. and the intersection of 4022, locals know of a pasture with incredible views called Comers Meadow. It’s off trail, but if you’re looking for adventure, it’s worth seeking out. The big finale of this portion of the Iron Mountain is Comers Falls. Take the Comers Creek Trail 0.2 miles to a series of drops and pools inside a tight, rocky gorge.

The North Fork Mountain Trail offers stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley. Photo by Michael McCumber.

North Fork Mountain Trail, WV

The North Fork Mountain Trail is a 24-mile long ridgeline trail running along the entire crest of the North Fork Mountain near the Virginia-West Virginia border.  Along the way you’ll get incredibly dramatic views of Shenandoah Mountain, Seneca Rocks, two forks of the Potomac, and Dolly Sods. The mountain has long been highlighted by the Nature Conservancy for its surprising biodiversity. The rocky crest supports ancient, twisted oaks, white pines, beds of ferns, even virgin red spruce. The trail is the centerpiece of a recent effort to create a federally designated Wilderness area.

Total Mileage: 24
Highlights: Views, rocky outcroppings, more views, virgin
More Info: Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides

Day One

Start at the southern terminus and roll along the ridgeline, where you’ll get your first big view of Germany Valley and Spruce Knob to the west. Eventually you’ll reach High Knob, which has campsites and a view of Seneca Rocks. If you’re fit, push forward and turn this into a two-day, one-night trip, where you stash a car with water and food at FS 79, halfway into the trail. There are campsites within a short walk of either side of the road.

Day Two

Continue hiking north and enjoy the views of Dolly Sods and the South Branch of the Potomac. The trail arrives at Chimney Top Rocks, a massive sandstone cliff band with arguably the best views along the trail. Shortly after the cliffs, you’ve got an 1,800 foot descent over 2.5 miles to Route 28, near Smoke Hole Caverns.

The Laurel Highlands Trail meanders through some of Pennsylvania’s most scenic river valleys. Photo by Michelle Adams.

Laurel Highlands Trail, PA

The 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking trail serves as the backbone of a 218-square-mile forested area that ’s called the Laurel Highlands.  The area has 600 miles of hiking trail. The Laurel Highlands Trail runs from Ohiopyle State Park and the Youghiogheny River to the Conemaugh River, connecting a variety of maintained forests along the way.

“You hike from park to park, running along the ridge, occasionally dropping into stream valleys, and popping back up for great views from cliffs,” says Bruce Sundquist, who wrote a guide to the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail for the Sierra Club.

The trail is blazed at regular intervals, has concrete mile markers, and offers shelter systems with reliable water, making this the most beginner-friendly long trail in the region. Note: the hiker’s bridge over Interstate 76 has been removed and an 8-mile road walk detour is in place.

Total Mileage: 70+
Highlights: Shelter system, cliffs, expansive views and roaring rivers
More Info: Wilderness Voyageurs

Day One

Start at Ohiopyle State Park and hike along the river before climbing to the top of the ridge for views of a bend in the mighty Yough below. You’ll drop off the ridge into a stream valley, cross a forest road and arrive at the first trail shelter after six miles.

Day Two

Start your day with a two-mile climb to a level ridge at 2,500 feet. You’ll skirt a pond below Cranberry Glade Lake before mile 14, then pick up your next shelter at mile 18.5.

Day Three

Keep rolling along the ridge at 2,700 feet through a state park, then drop off Grindle Ridge, cross a few creeks, and arrive at next shelter at mile 24.

Day Four

Enjoy the scenery near Seven Springs Resort, as well as some brief lake-side hiking. After the eight-mile detour, continue hiking north to the highlight of the trip, Beam Rocks, offering sweeping views to the east. Your shelter for the night sits at mile marker 46.5.

Day Five

This 11-mile day rolls through Laurel Ridge State Park where you’ll spend the night at a shelter at mile 57.

Day Six

You’ve got 13 miles to the northern terminus through some of the most scenic terrain along the trail, especially as you skirt the rim of the Conemaugh Gorge. Views of the river below are almost continuous for the last few miles of this thru-hike.

John Muir Trail, TN

The 20-mile John Muir National Recreation Trail in Eastern Tennessee (lovingly referred to as “the other JMT”) follows a tiny piece of the 1,000-mile journey that John Muir took from Kentucky to Florida in 1867. The trail predominantly follows the Hiwassee River, except when it rises via switchbacks to ridgelines and cliff bands to offer gorgeous views of the broad, green canyon.

“Trillium, jack in the pulpit, bloodroot, and other wildflowers line the trail in April and May,” says Harold Webb, a native to the area who owns the Webb Brothers General Store.

Total Mileage: 19 (not including a side trip)
Highlights: wild flowers, swimming holes, gorge views
More Info: The Webb Brothers General Store

Day One

Begin at the Childers Creek Parking area and start hiking upstream. The first three miles are flat and easy, passing through wildflower meadows. You’ll do a little road walking but also get up onto some high bluffs with great views of the river and its green gorge. The gorge gets thin at “the Narrows” and the trail rises to a serious cliff line high above water level. Find primitive campsites along Coker Creek.

Day Two

You have seven miles from Coker Creek to TN 68, most of which is hiked along the Hiwassee River. Optional Side trip: Before you break camp, hike 2.5 miles up the Coker Creek Falls Trail to the falls of the same name, which is a series of ledges and pools (the biggest drop is 40 feet).

Before the hike is over, you’ll leave the river to climb a ridge to an overlook 600 feet above the riverbed that offers a view of the Hiwassee Gorge and beyond.  The trail continues for a mile past TN 68, but it’s typically overgrown and strenuous.

A hiker pauses at an outcropping along the Tanawha Trail near Grandfather Mountain, N.C. Photo by Todd Bush.

Tanawha Trail, N.C.

13.5 miles may not sound like a long trail, but the technical terrain and panoramic side trips make the Tanawha a mini-epic adventure.  The Tanawha (Cherokee for eagle) parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway along the edge of Grandfather Mountain, running from Beacon Heights to Julian Price Park.

“You’re either walking through rolling meadows or extremely rocky boulder fields,” says Jason Berry, a hiker who chooses the Tanawha for short overnight excursions.

Sections of the Tanawha are so biologically diverse that massive boardwalks were helicoptered into place to keep our feet off of precious plants. Accessing the trail is easy, thanks to the Parkway. The tread is schizophrenic, oscilating between smooth singletrack to rocky steps to boulder hopping.

Total Mileage: 13.5 (not including sidetrips)
Highlights: Boulders, stargazing, boardwalks, and big views
More Info: Footsloggers in Boone and Blowing Rock

Day One

Start this 9-mile day at Beacon Heights and head north. Pass under the Lynn Cove Viaduct (an engineering marvel that attracts visitors all on its own), and gets even more technical as you make your way up to Rough Ridge, an expansive rock outcropping with beautiful views. Along the ridge, you’ll climb rock stairs, squeeze through chutes, and climb boulders. ”It’s like a jungle gym for big people,” Berry says.

After the ridge, the terrain mellows. Stop at the Hi-Balsam Shelter near Flat Rock, an amazing stargazing site.

Day Two

You’re roughly six miles from the northern end of the Tanawha. Optional Side Trip: The Cragway Trail offers views of the Boone Fork Bowl. After a mile, hang a left on the Nuwati for a short hike to Storyteller’s Rock for an even better view of a valley. Take the Nuwati downslope to its junction with the Tanawha in 1.2 miles, then continue your journey north.

The terrain gets progressively easier as you near the terminus at Julian Price Lake, with meadows blanketed in spring wildflowers.

Fires Creek Rim Trail, N.C.

Backpackers come to this 25-mile loop for one thing: solitude. The Rim Trail hugs the ridgeline around the 21,000-acre Fires Creek Wildlife Management Area, in a remote corner of the Nantahala National Forest. Blowdowns and briars also cover this rugged, remote trail, and water is scarce, so be prepared to work for your solitude.

Total Mileage: 25
Highlights: Solitude, rugged terrain, high elevation balds, expansive views
More Info: Appalachian Outfitters: 828-837-4165.

Day One

Start at the trailhead at the Fires Creek Picnic Area soaking in the 25-foot Leatherwood Falls before heading northwest on the Rim Trail. Travel 8 miles on your 3,000-foot climb to Big Stamp. The Phillips Ridge Trail junction is one of the few reliable sources of water, so stock up for the journey ahead.

Day Two

Pack up camp and continue your trek along the Rim toward Tusquitee Bald, 7.3 miles away. You’ll cross Weatherman Bald, which sits just under 5,000 feet and offers partial views of the surrounding peaks, and the headwaters of Fires Creek. When you reach the edge of Tusquitee Bald, scramble up the Chunky Gal Trail a short distance to the grassy, 5,200-foot summit.

Day Three

The last nine miles are a predominantly downhill hike as you make your way back to the Fires Creek Picnic Area. Along the way, you’ll pass Potrock Bald, which many backpackers say is the best view along the trail.

Side trips along the Tanawha Trail lead to swimming holes and cascades. Photo by Todd Bush.

Art Loeb Trail, N.C.

This 30-mile-long footpath traverses balds, rocky knobs, Wilderness areas, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“If you take the A.T. and mash it up into 32 miles, you get the Art Loeb,” says Marcus Webb, a Brevard-based hiker and climber.

With rhodo tunnels, waterfall sidetrips, 360-degree views, and ridgeline traverses, the Art Loeb is a highlight reel of the Southern Appalachians. There are even a few shelters stashed along its route.

Total Miles: 30
Highlights: Bald knobs, expansive views, shelters, side trips
More Info: Pura Vida Adventures 

Day One

From Daniel Boone Camp, tackle the beastly 2,000-foot climb to Deep Gap in under four miles. Optional side trip: a three-mile out and back to the summit of 6,030-foot Cold Mountain. From Deep Gap, head south through the heart of Shining Rock Wilderness, traversing the Narrows, a mile-long ridgeline crest. Eventually you’ll pass Shining Rock, a massive collection of quartz rock. In 8.2 miles, reach Ivester Gap and set up camp for the night.

Day Two

From Ivestor Gap, keep heading south on the Loeb, crossing 6,000-foot  Tennent Mountain and Black Balsam Knob, a rocky dome with 360-degree views. Cross over the Parkway and hike Shuck Ridge. You’ll reach another Deep Gap at 7.6 miles. Set up camp, or pick a spot in the shelter for the night.

Day Three

After leaving Deep Gap, you’ll summit Pilot Mountain, with great views of Looking Glass Rock. Butter Gap Shelter is only 6.1 miles down trail. If you’re looking for another side trip, check out Butter Gap Trail, which offers a dramatic waterfall just 1.5-miles from the Loeb.

Day Four

It’s 8.2 miles to the southern terminus at Davidson River Campground. Skirt Cedar Rock Mountain shortly after leaving the shelter, and at Cat Gap, consider a side trip to John Rock, a granite cliff that drops 200 feet. After the gap, it’s a steady drop and smooth sailing into the campground.

Daniel Boone National Forest

 Emily Duty | Jan 18, 2019 | National & State Parks

Daniel Boone National Forest

 

In Winchester, Kentucky, you can visit the Daniel Boone National Forest. It spans hundreds of acres, several counties and is filled with great history, stunning rock formations, endangered animals, and more. 

Inside this post, you will learn how it got its name and what there is to see and do when during your visit. 

Who was Daniel Boone?

In case you don’t know, here’s a quick history lesson. In short: Daniel Boone was an American Pioneer and explorer who spearheaded the exploration into what is now known as the state of Kentucky.

After the Revolution, he became one of the leading citizens there, helping to establish roads and rules, and survey the land. So, it’s fitting then that in 1966 the Cumberland National Forest, which originally opened in 1937, changed it’s named to honor Boone. 

The Forest

Millions of visitors head to the Daniel Boone National Forest each year to soak up its beauty and abundant wildlife. And also to enjoy the outdoor recreational activities.

Popular attractions are Cave Run Lake, Laurel River, and the Red River Gorge. The Red River Gorge Geological Area is known for sandstone cliff, natural stone arches, and unusual rock formations. One formation, in particular, is the Natural Arch. It was formed throughout many years, thanks to wind erosion, water, and ice. It’s now considered a sacred sight to the Cherokee Indians. 

Animals and Plants

In addition to interesting rock formations, the forest is also home to an incredible amount of biodiversity. The naturally eroded sandstone that helped to form waterfalls, cliffs, gorges, bridges, arches, and pathways provide an alluring habitat for the plants an animals within the forest. There are 18 different species of endangered or threatened animals, like bats, fish, and mussels. 

Get Outside 

green pathway inside of Daniel Boone National Park in Kentucky

The Forest is a popular destination for outdoor adventure and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. It’s nearly 600 different trails, winding rivers and streams make it an excellent place for a quiet escape and peaceful hike. 

It’s also the perfect place for fishing, climbing, horseback riding, and camping. Or if water sports are more your thing: kayaking, canoeing, and rafting. 

Are you looking to stay the night? There are four different camping locations within the park. Some have cabins available for rent, and others with RV accommodations. 

Enjoy 

Enjoy your visit. Nothing is better than the great outdoors.


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BEST PLACE TO ESCAPE TO IN EVERY STATE

Lily Rogers | January 9, 2019 |

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes |

Looking for reprieve in beautiful spaces?

The hustle of everyday life can wear you down in the best of times, but lately things have been…shall we say…unpredictable, and stress levels have spiked. From political unrest to natural disasters, the world is facing some trying things, and we’re right there with you in craving a peaceful retreat and a good place to relax.

When burdens begin to feel particularly heavy, it’s time to take a real break. You may need to go, not where everybody knows your name, but somewhere to soak up nature’s wonders and revel in serene solitude. Turn off your phone, take a breather from the latest news cycle, and let your worries fade for a while. When you take time to recharge, you’re better equipped to handle all that life throws at you and then some.

From quaint small towns to quiet nature preserves, this country is full of places to escape to, and we’ve chosen our favorite in each state, highlighting the perfectly restful things to do there. So, sit back, relax, and start dreaming of better times ahead—these calm places are calling your name.

 

Alabama

 

Fort Payne

Despite its name, there is nothing but bliss on a trip to this secluded spot. Spend time in Little River Canyon National Preserve hiking through the gorgeous foliage and listening to the sounds of nature undisturbed. Nearby Lookout Mountain and Manitou Cave are perfect places to gain some peace of mind. Step back in time for a fine dinner at Vintage 1889, a romantic restaurant set in a former mill. Sit in the courtyard area for an enchanted evening.

 

Alaska

Talk about a great place to get away from it all—Tok is located on the border of the remote Canadian Yukon territory. A seriously secluded getaway within sight of Denali, it’s home to hiking trails for summer travelers and snowy sights in the winter. September through April is prime aurora borealis viewing season, and Tok has almost no light pollution to muddy your view. Relish the daylight hours at Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge located approximately 56 miles southeast in Northway. There you can channel your inner calm communing with the area’s wildlife population, from elegant caribou to darling waterfowl.

 

Arizona

 

Monument Valley

Located within the Navajo Nation, Monument Valley is exactly what you picture when the Southwestern landscape is mentioned. Beautiful buttes stand tall along the red-earth desert. Take a tour with a local Navajo guide to places that are otherwise not accessible to visitors, like the unique Ear of the Wind formation. You’ll hear stories of the valley’s mystical origins as you explore. If you find yourself wanting to take the feeling home with you, we can relate. At least you can bring home a reminder; the View Hotel has a trading post outfitted with handmade Native art, jewelry, and housewares. Local artists can be found selling and crafting their work around town as well.

 

Arkansas

 

Hot Springs

Let healing waters surround you in Hot Springs, where Bathhouse Row presents top soaking spots like Buckstaff Bathhouse and Quapaw Baths and Spa. Tour the historic Fordyce Bathhouse and other historical spas to learn all about the city’s natural wonder and the ways people have benefited from healing mineral waters throughout history. After a warm dip, take a relaxing hike along one of the many winding walking trails.

 

California

 

Palm Springs

Via Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism

There is an undeniable healing presence in the still mountains surrounding Southern California’s desert, and when the warm winds start blowing, you can almost hear your mind relax and your body uncoil. Really, Palm Springs is full of things to do for every traveler. For casual vacationers, this is a place to unwind by the pool and in the spa, like the Palm Mountain Resort and Spa or Palm Springs Yacht Club. For mystics, this is a place to get away from the distractions of urban life and encounter the metaphysical. Experience a spiritual tune-up at the Integratron in nearby Landers. The stunning domed building, built on the site of a geomagnetic vortex, is used for rejuvenating sound baths that will leave you with a sense of peace.For health and wellness travelers, California is one of the best states to visit.

 

Colorado

 

Salida

Located among the state’s tallest mountains—more than a dozen over 14,000 feet, known as the 14ers—Salida is magnificent. Hike or ski at the famous Monarch Mountain to feel the wind in your hair and the world at your back. A lively art community with more than a dozen galleries and studios, the quaint downtown area puts on the annual Salida Art Walk each summer. Take a heated hiatus in the Salida Hot Springs, the largest indoor natural springs pool in the U.S. Sate your appetite while you relax in the casual atmosphere of Boathouse Cantina, located right on the sparkling downtown waterfront. The eats are serious business, so let hunger take a recess for a while.

 

Connecticut

 

Litchfield

The seat of Litchfield County and home to the region’s historic district, this borough is brimming with historical buildings and a contemplative atmosphere. Let Charym enchant with a meditation or yoga workshop —this wellness center looks like it leapt from the pages of a storybook. Winvian Farm, about a mile away in Morris, is a spa, dining, and nature destination where lucky guests refresh with a yoga session and bask in the stories this old house can tell. Horticulturists rejoice! White Flower Farm blooms in full color each spring and summer. When the display gardens are open, wander among plants from all over the world

 

Delaware

 

Dover

Though it’s the capital city, Dover (and its surrounds) offers plenty of opportunities to leave your worries behind. Little Creek Wildlife Area is located directly east of Dover, hugging the coast. Here you can find quiet moments to birdwatch and catch a glimpse of the graceful waterfowl. Silver Lake Park is also peaceful, lush, and a great place to take a meditative walk along the trails, or to cast a fishing line into the still water. Pickering Beach is another great place to stroll and reflect. Stop for a spot of tea or a full tea service at Tea for Two, a lovely English tea house set in one of Dover’s historical painted lady houses, where menu options are whimsically named after “Gone with the Wind” characters.

 

Florida

 

Pompano Beach

A strong argument can be made that the best places to get away from it all are warm, inviting beaches. Pompano Beach has a secluded vibe while boasting sparkling beaches that are close to the small city center. It’s exceedingly vacation-ready, but free from major crowds. See how chill this community can be when you join the sangha of Broward Zen Group for meditation. For personal quiet contemplation, walk to the Hillsboro Inlet Light at sunset while the bright colors reflect in the lighthouse glass. The area also comprises 50 parks, so there is no shortage of greenspace to claim as yours for an afternoon.

 

Georgia

 

Blue Ridge

Named after the Blue Ridge Mountains, this area is incredibly scenic, and the natural beauty is well preserved and accessible. Take a ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, built in 1905, which starts at the downtown station and tours the region in relaxed, vintage style. Walk across or canoe under the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge—it’s 270 feet long and the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River. Join an event, class, or workshop at Yoga and Wellness of Blue Ridge. The team there offers massage therapy as well, trained in Thai techniques. Don’t bother bringing your worries along, they won’t last long here. 

Hawaii

 

Kula
An upcountry town on the island of Maui with sweeping views of both the island and the Pacific Ocean, Kula is a prime spot to help erase stress. Indulge in a tour, then taste the freshness of a farm-to-table organic lunch at O’o Farm. Breathe in soothing lavender aromas at Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm, then gaze upon the world from atop Haleakala volcano a short drive away. Stroll through 8 acres of bliss at Kula Botanical Garden, taking in the array of colorful plants, rock formations, trees, and waterfalls.

 

Idaho

 

Salmon
Salmon is a tiny city of just over 3,000 folks in the mountains of Idaho, and its River of No Return might come to embody your reluctance to go back to daily life once you’ve enjoyed its treasures. Sail down the Salmon River on a guided excursion with Solitude River Trips or stroll the picturesque grounds at the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural, and Educational Center. Cruise the Salmon River Scenic Byway and opt out of being the driver if you can—you won’t be able to keep your eyes on the road and off the foliage. Soak your cares away at the Goldbug Hot Springs, or get your om on at Peaceful Mountain Yoga.

 

Illinois

 

Makanda
Known as the gateway to the Shawnee National Forest, the Makanda area is the right spot to lose yourself in nature. Explore over 4,000 acres of forest, bluffs, ponds, and streams at Giant City State Park. Then wind down with some wine along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, which boasts 11 award-winning wineries along a scenic highway. Art is a great healer, so bring some home with you from the Makanda Boardwalk, where local artists showcase their wares. Book a private cabin for the ultimate getaway, with jetted soaking tub and sweeping views.

 

Indiana

 

Chesterton

Via Indiana Dunes Tourism

Camp out at Indiana Dunes State Park, where you can stretch out on the white-sand beach, hike the dunes, stroll through the black oak forest, and explore the button-bush marsh. If you’re more of an indoor lover, drink in nature’s beauty by booking a stay at At Home in the Woods Bed and Breakfast. Fawn over adorable native fauna as you relax in the outdoor hot tub, or snuggle up to your own wildlife in the dog-friendly room, the Denali Tree House. If there’s any hint of tension left, take the edge off with a glass of wine at Butler Winery, then transport to northern Italy by treating yourself to a quiet, authentic Italian dinner at Lucrezia Cafe. For something entirely different, try to escape, literally…from an escape room. Mission: Escape challenges your deductive abilities in a fun escape challenge.

 

Iowa

 

Fairfield

Seek transcendence at the Vedic Observatory, or treat yourself to a unique spa experience at The Raj, an ayurveda health spa that combines natural therapies, yoga, and other customized treatments to address myriad maladies. Unwind at the Seven Roses Inn, a historic main house and guest house with various types of rooms to suit your needs (our pick is The Lavender Attic Suite, with a spa-like bathroom and claw-foot tub). Escape to simpler times by visiting Maasdam Barns to learn about local draft horse history. Cook an outdoor meal and eat al fresco by the lake at Waterworks Park.

 

Kansas

 

El Dorado
El Dorado State Park, the largest state park in Kansas, is at your fingertips. The horse trails include hitching posts on the shoreline and campsites with corrals and other equestrian amenities. Explore the surrounding Flint Hills, the continent’s largest remaining tract of tallgrass, and let blankets of wildflowers envelope your senses. Rent a boat from Shady Creek to paddle away your stress in El Dorado, then toast to the simple life at the Walnut River Brewing Company. Escape into a sweeter world at The Sweet Mercantile chocolate shop.

 

Kentucky

 

Elizabethtown
If you’ve felt like retreating to a dark cave recently, the Mammoth Cave Network, less than an hour outside of Elizabethtown, is your new happy place. It’s the largest known cave system in the world, and the best place to lose sight of reality for a little while. If you prefer to stay in the sunlight, explore the many GreenSpace Trails, or watch the ducks at Freeman Lake Park. Pack a picnic and enjoy the bench swing overlooking the lake at the Lincoln Heritage House, or escape to Country Girl at Heart Farm, just 30 minutes outside of town, where some rooms feature jetted tubs. Sip your blues away on the famed Kentucky Bourbon Trail; it’s an area rite of passage.

 

Louisiana

 

Mandeville
Mandeville was made for slowing life down to a drawl. Located on the placid shores of Lake Pontchartrain, the town is the right setting for sailing off into the sunset, and Delaune Sailing Charters can help. Book a room overlooking the water at De La Bleau Bed and Breakfast, then pack a lunch and head to Northlake Nature Center. Find the pavilion overlooking the cypress swamp, and your only worry will be which beautiful view to take in first. Lazily lap along in a canoe, or join a guided kayak swamp tour with Canoe and Trail Adventures. Indulge in a rejuvenating massage or energy session at Aviva Massage & Well-Being and slip into a state that’s more comfortable.

 

Maine

 

Greenville
Known to be a peaceful place to rest and relax, Maine is full of idyllic and easygoing charm. Greenville is no exception. Between Moosehead Lake and Burnt Jacket Mountain, the area is full of places to plan a secret away or simply enjoy some quietude. If you want nature to awe you, head out on a moose-sighting journey with Special T Adventures, then retire to the comfort of a room at Greenville Inn of Moosehead Lake. The charming 1890 property has only 14 rooms, and the on-site library is where you can cozy up with a book and let the day fade away.

 

Maryland

 

Chestertown

Kent County is known for its beauty, and the people of Chestertown appreciate what it means to need some one-on-one time with nature. You’ll be welcomed with warmth at the Inn at Mitchell House, but you’ll also find yourself with plenty of Zen moments as you quietly explore the 12 acres of landscaped gardens, meadows and trees that surround this restored manor house. Escape to the high seas on the Schooner Sultana for a 2-hour tour. For a quiet afternoon, spend time appreciating the art at Carla Massoni Gallery. Pleasant days and serene evenings are a Chestertown guarantee. 

Massachusetts

 

Lenox
The word respite takes on new meaning at Blantyre in Lenox, where you can hike the 110 acres, swim in the outdoor heated pool, ice skate in the winter, or indulge in a half-day package at the Potting Shed Spa. Lose track of time at the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can snowshoe in winter and enjoy the meadows and brooks in warmer months. If you’ve ever lost yourself in a book, escape to the world of Edith Wharton (the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize) at her estate, The Mount, and imagine writing your own novel, with the beautiful house and grounds to inspire you. Detox and enjoy the farm-fresh food from the local Berkshire Grown movement, and settle into a vacation that’s blissfully detached from stress or strain.

 

Michigan

 

Mackinac Island
You may feel like a time traveler on Mackinac Island. As there are no automobiles (other than service trucks) on the island, the transportation of choice is a horse-drawn carriage. Or, you can take the reins and ride your own horse from Cindy’s Riding Stable, or take a bike and explore Mackinac Island State Park. Leave your diet a distant memory and indulge in some famous local fudge at Ryba’s. A peaceful afternoon among the butterflies at the Butterfly House will boost your spirits in summer, while cross country skiing is perfection in winter—the entire east half of the island is dedicated to the sport.

 

Minnesota

 

Lake Shore
Lakeshore claims the title of Minnesota’s Year Around Playground, and for outdoor enthusiasts especially, watch your worries melt away in this tranquil town. Meditate and explore at Fritz Loven Park, an 80-acre park with a playground, brook, wildlife, and trails for hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. Stay at Lost Lake Lodge, an all-inclusive cabin resort with lake views and woodsy surroundings. Rent one of the resort’s paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, rowboats, or bicycles to explore Gull Lake and its shores. Make yourself at home at local favorite, Cowboy’s Restaurant, where you’ll find friendly staff and tasty meals. In fact, you’ll feel so welcome, you may be reluctant to leave.

 

Mississippi

 

Clarksdale
Relax your blues away in the place where blues music began. Visit the Delta Blues Museum, catch live music at Red’s, pay homage at the Muddy Waters’ Cabin, and check out the markers along the Mississippi Blues Trail. Take to the water in a kayak or canoe on the Lower Mississippi with Quapaw Canoe Company. Then take a literary journey and escape to Tennessee William’s world in the Clarksdale Historic District, which was the inspiration for his plays. For a unique experience that will introduce you to the local flavors and vibes, take a customized Delta Bohemian Tour, which is tailored to your specific interests. Try as you might, no visitor leaves Clarksdale still singin’ the blues.

 

Missouri

 

Shell Knob

Life does not move fast in Shell Knob, and that is just what the doctor ordered. This is a place that encourages visitors to relax, slow down, and enjoy the pleasures of taking it easy. Admire the sweeping views of Table Rock Lake and cast a line at one of the best fishing spots in the U.S. Continue to breathe nature in on a hike through the woods of Pilot Knob Conservation Area—there’s a good chance you’ll have the trails all to yourself. Ease sore muscles with a massage in a treehouse at Stonewater Cove’s Treehouse Spa, where there’s also a meditation room. After these euphoria-inducing activities, a day on the town may seem downright bustling. Hunt for antique treasures at Red Barn and treat yourself to some sweets at Cup Cakes and Cream.

 

Montana

 

Red Lodge

This Old West town at the foot of the Beartooth Mountains is the perfect gateway to Yellowstone National Park, and one of the best places for adventure travel. From Red Lodge, you can take the scenic Beartooth Highway, which is often considered one of the most beautiful stretches of road in America. What better place for a solo road trip to escape your daily woes? At the summit, you’ll see alpine lakes, glacial cirques, and snow, even in summer. For a warmer weather quest, explore the local waterways with Adventure Whitewater. If winter sports are your ideal getaway activity, you’ll want to head to Red Lodge Mountain for skiing and snowboarding.

 

Nebraska

 

Red Cloud
Slow down in this small, quaint town, where you won’t deal with noise, traffic, or crowds. Take a walking tour with Walk Red Cloud to learn about the town’s history, and don’t leave without visiting the Willa Cather Foundation to learn about the important author. Unwind and practice your swing on the greens at the Red Cloud Golf Course, and forget about chain stores and coffee shops when you stop into Lizzy’s Boutique and Coffeehouse to shop and eat local.

 

Nevada

 

Sparks
Located in the Truckee Meadows, Sparks is a wonderful spot for recreation and temporary retirement. Start your stay off right with a Stress Fix Body Massage or a Chakra Balancing Massage at Shine Aveda Concept Salon Spa. Join a meditation circle, retreat, or yoga class at The Yoga Pearl to achieve a tuned-in but blissed-out state of mind. Take your newfound sunny outlook out for a whirl at Revision Brewing Company or Seven Troughs Distillery. In the morning, unplug further and venture around Sparks Marina Park , where a lake, beaches, trees, and walking paths await.

 

New Hampshire

 

Jefferson
Spoil yourself with a pampering trip to Jefferson. Start it off by becoming one with nature at the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge, where ponds, wetlands, and forests are primed for exploration. Challenge yourself to a hike on Caps Ridge Trail and be rewarded with sweeping views in every direction. If you like things more manicured, practice golf at the state’s oldest golf course, Waumbek Country Club or spoil yourself with a scrub or wrap at the Spa and Wellness Center at Carlisle Place. No matter your activities, start your days off right and warm with a stack of pancakes and real maple syrup at Water Wheel Breakfast.

 

New Jersey

 

Lambertville

If perusing the treasures of the past is your idea of perfect escapism, get thee to Lambertville. An artsy Victorian community with galleries and antique shops, it’s sometimes called the Antiques Capital of New Jersey. You’re sure to find some treasures at the Golden Nugget Antique Flea Market, and you may score something more contemporary at one of the many galleries like Highland Arts Gallery. To rejuvenate your mind and body, indulge in a spa treatment at Zanya Spa Salon and find your flow at a RiverFlow Yoga session. Ease into evenings at Lambertville Station while sipping a glass of wine and looking out over the Delaware River.

 

New Mexico

 

Cloudcroft
This small mountain community takes its name from a term meaning “covered in clouds,” and you’ll be on cloud nine with a much-needed break here. With a quaint downtown, Cloudcroft (and the surrounding area) are greener than most places in the state, and organizations like Rails to Trails are helping optimize the beauty of the intricate abandoned rail lines that disappear into lush green forests. Repurposed as running and activity trails, they are serene spaces to hike and run. Collect your own bowl of cherries in the u-pick summer fields at Cadwallader Mountain Farms and Orchard, or cozy up at the Lodge Resort and Spa at Cloudcroft any time of year. Stretch, breathe, and release at Instant Karma with a yoga session with a holistic approach.

 

New York

 

Wilmington
Sixty-two percent of the town is state forest preserve, so nature stretches out before you around almost every turn. The slopes of Whiteface Mountain are exhilarating year-round, from downhill skiing to scenic drives. Welcoming and woodsy, Adirondack Spruce Lodge at the base of Whiteface sets the scene for a real mountain retreat. The goal of a successful escape is return feeling renewed, and River Stone Wellness Center is there to help with services ranging from art classes to acupuncture to massage.

 

North Carolina

 

Tryon
Historic, artsy, and rural enough to offer sanctuary from the pressures of everyday life, Tryonwas the first village located on the rise to the Blue Mountains. Don’t forget to say “hi” to town mascot Morris the Horse when you arrive. Fans of all things equestrian will relish a tranquil moonlight ride with FENCE Equestrian Center. Views, vines, and vintages, the three V’s of a good vacation, are on yours at Mountain Brook Vineyards. They welcome walk-ins, so be spontaneous or plan ahead; either way, don’t skip it. Nearby Pearson’s Falls is a misty wonderland of greenery, where 268 acres of mosses, trees, granite, and spring-fed streams provide both a backdrop and soundtrack to a burden-free day.

 

North Dakota

 

McKenzie County
Bordered by the Yellowstone River, Lake Sakakawea, the Missouri River, and the Little Missouri River, this area in the far west of the state is good for getting away from it all. Badlands, grasslands, and rolling fields beg exploration. Home to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, full of Great Plains wildlife and historical attractions such as the Maltese Cross Cabin, it’s also a prime spot for back country hiking, horseback riding, and stargazing (including opportunities to spot the aurora borealis).

 

Ohio

 

Amish Country

In Amish Country, many quaint villages dot the landscape and outdoor activities are abundant. Take a living history tour and a boat ride on the canal in Historic Roscoe Village, where charming festivals fill the calendar throughout the year. In autumn, experience the Annual Apple Butter Stirrin’ Festival or stroll the paths of the gardens of Roscoe in spring or summer. Enjoy life’s simpler pleasures and splurge on handmade goods such as Walnut Creek Cheese and Schrock’s Heritage Furniture. Slow-cooked meals made from scratch are a way of life here, and you can savor the real deal at Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen. No matter how good the food, Amish Country will feed your love of the little things more, and may reset your clock in ways you didn’t expect.

 

Oklahoma

 

Sand Springs

Sand Springs is a charming town that serves as a wonderful home base for travelers in search of wildlife. In the nearby Keystone Ancient Forest, you can spy many species, including deer, bobcats, eagles, mountain lions, and more than 80 kinds of butterfly. Plus, if you want to know just which animal you’ve spotted in the distance, trail guides are often on-site to answer questions or lead hikes. Its 1,360 acres are well worth exploring, and the Nature Conservancy lists it as one of the last great places on earth. After your forest excursion, take to the waters on Keystone Lake or Shell Lake, both of which provide great fishing and boating.

 

Oregon

 

Yachats
Between the Pacific Ocean and the Siuslaw National Forest, this small village is full of wonderful things to do. From forest paths to tide pools, nature beckons with a bounty of beauty. River meets ocean at Yachats State Recreation Area, and the scenic overlook offers impressive views. The Overleaf Lodge and Spa will welcome you with ocean view rooms, an on-site wine cove, spa services with stress-fix massages, and hand-packed “picnics by the sea.” Yachats Brewing + Farmstore is the perfect stop for delicious local foods and brews, where you can also find treasures to take home (our pick is a bottle of the Salal Sour).

 

Pennsylvania

 

Clearfield County (Clearfield and DuBois)

You’ll find some of the prettiest country in Clearfield County, and plenty of places to escape. Forests, rocks, lakes, and rolling hills surround two cozy towns perfect for settling in after outdoor exploring. Climb the passageways and nooks of Bilger’s Rocks then head 11 miles east to Clearfield, where you can reward yourself with sips at Wapiti Ridge Wine Cellars and a good night’s rest at a local inn. Or, hike in the massive Quehanna Wild Area, and don’t forget your camera. Waterfalls, rivers, scenic byways, and tree-lined trails beg to be photographed. Take some personal space among the trees and wildlife at Moshannon State Forest or splash in the waters of Treasure Lake.

 

Rhode Island

 

Portsmouth
This region encompasses four islands, including remote and beautiful Prudence Island, which is mainly reached only by ferry. If you’re looking to leave it all behind, Prudence is for you. Aquidneck is where you will find the most activity, though don’t fear—the pace is nice and chill. Spend a lovely, thoughtful day amongst towering yet playful figures in the Green Animals Topiary Garden. Don’t spend all your time on dry land, however. Portsmouth is the home of the National Women’s Sailing Association, and water sports like fishing and sailing are tailor-made ways to relax here.

 

South Carolina

 

Clemson 

Clemson is a lovely town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Many area parks, including the Chau Ram County Park offer ample opportunities to commune with nature. The 40-foot falls alone are worth a trek to this lush space. History and nature meet here; you can tour historical homes like the Ballinger house, museums like the Bob Campbell Geology Museum, forests, farms, parks, and arts centers. Not only will you not run out of things to do, but everything moves at a pace to suit a leisurely lifestyle.

 

South Dakota

 

Garretson
When it comes to leaving the chaotic life behind, some places are undeniably the right place to be. The people of Garretson know the joys of exploring nature to its fullest, but know when to put their feet up and enjoy peace and quiet, too. On the nature front, Split Rock Park features quartzite rock formations and fishing, boating, and hiking possibilities. The impressive Devil’s Gulch has a colorful history, and Palisades State Park is a visual delight. For a night you will treasure in memory, take to the skies at nearby Strawbale Winery for their Twilight Flights in December and February. The evening starts with wine and hor d’oeuvres, and ends with a helicopter tour over downtown Sioux Falls.

 

Tennessee

 

Sewanee
A quintessential small college town, the campus is beautiful and the grounds and Hogwarts-like library are perfect places to get lost in thought. Hike the Natural Bridge Trail and admire the natural sandstone arch as you breathe in fresh forest air. A lovely walk in Sewanee Village will take you past shops like the Lemon Fair and favorite community meeting spots like the Blue Chair Café and Tavern. Stay at the Sewanee Inn, where the impressive lobby and inviting rooms provide another layer of respite to this already serene getaway.

 

Texas

 

Big Bend area
Known for super dark, starry skies (the darkest in the lower 48 states, to be precise), the Big Bend area is equally appealing during the day. Big Bend National Park is the stand-out attraction, where you can lose yourself, your worries, and your desire to ever leave among the rivers and trees. Speaking of never wanting to leave, the Gage Hotel Spa offers so many relaxing treatments, including a full day service, they may have to drag you away when it comes time to go home. Before the inevitable departure, make the most of your time and stock up on delicious bites at the French Grocer for a private picnic or in-room meal.

 

Utah

 

St. George
Boasting some of the best spas in the state, St. George is an ideal place for some serious R&R. Try Amira Resort & Spa for the height of luxury pampering and St. George Day Spa for packages that are vacations in themselves. That being said, serious outdoor adventurers will find endless opportunity to explore, discover, and connect to nature. A canyoneering excursion with Paragon Adventures offers one of the best ways to experience the still seclusion of slot canyons. If possible, plan for a long stay in St. George; the surrounding nature will keep you engaged, and the spas will keep you well at ease.

 

Vermont

 

Brandon

A relaxed getaway through all four seasons, this charming town is also the gateway to the Green Mountains. Moosalamoo National Recreation Area has provided solitude and inspiration to the likes of Robert Frost, who had a home on the northern side that you can still visit. Forests, waterfalls, lakes, and streams—what’s not to love about this inviting, secluded, and serene haven? The walkable downtown of Brandon takes life at its own pace. Case in point, the charming Woods Market Garden, which carries over 50 delicious kinds of fresh produce during the season.

 

Virginia

 

McLean
Wooded parks, scenic trails, residential quiet, and historical activities lend McLean its appeal, especially for those looking to escape the D.C. hustle. Let the white noise of the rushing Potomac River lull you into carefree contentment in Great Falls Park. Prefer a little adventure? Hiking, climbing, and kayaking are great ways to explore these great falls. Step back in time at Claude Moore Colonial Farm, which gives visitors a unique insight into pre-Revolutionary War farm life. Stay in the present, but let your senses be transported, at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner Spa with its nature-inspired treatments.

 

Washington

 

Goldendale
Forget the wet west; this eastern Washington town is the perfect spot to dry off, cozy up, and take a load off. Space out at Goldendale Observatory, one of the few official Dark Sky Parks on the planet. A one- to three-hour show includes on-hand experts and the rare opportunity to view the stars through one of the biggest public telescopes in the world. For a spirited cultural excursion with stunning views, visit Maryhill Winery. It’s remote enough to be low-traffic while offering the height of what wine tasting should be: relaxed, delicious, informative, unforgettable.

 

West Virginia

 

Moundsville
On the banks of the Ohio River, this town is surrounded by ancient mysteries and mystical energies. The burial mound, which the town is built around and takes its name for, was a ceremonial site for the Native Adena culture around 250 to 150 BC. Today, pilgrims of the Hare Krishna Movement as well as curious visitors make their way to the New Vrindaban temple to meditate in the serene atmosphere and tour breathtaking structures like the Palace of Gold. Every year, the Mystic Valley Festival is a place for event-goers to unwind, soak in good vibes, and listen to right-on jams.

 

Wisconsin

 

Superior

Superior takes its name from more than the Great Lake; it truly is one of the most beautiful spots in the state. Of course, the lake has a little something thing to do with that. Its sheer size—Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake by surface area in the world—makes it easy to find some alone time to boat, fish, or enjoy the scenery. Pattison State Park is a serene spot nearby to view waterfalls and immerse yourself in nature. Walk along Wisconsin Point for views of the lighthouse and bird watching, and visit in the colder months for the ultimate winter wonderland.

 

Wyoming

 

Dubois

Via HTurner

An Old West town where you may feel like you’ve stepped out of the real world and into Westworld, Dubois will cure your frontier fever and fulfill your Wild West daydreams. First things first, you’ll need a trusty steed, and establishments like Bitterroot Ranch can deliver rugged and unforgettable experiences through expert-guided pack trips. For the softer side of camp life, come for their annual summer yoga and horseback riding retreat. In winter, Dubois is primed for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing, while hiking and kayaking are the perfect ways to while away the warmer months.

Tell us your favorite places to escape to!

Lily Rogers

 
Lily is a Southern California-based writer, editor, and traveler. She aspires to never be too far away from her next adventure, whether it be exploring the deserts of SoCal or the mossy forests of her native Pacific Northwest. She also loves international travel and always looks forward to crossing another destination off her bucket list.

20 things that are better in the fall

 

vermont fall
Fall is more than just stunning colors. – Shutterstock/ Jay Yuan

Sure, the summer has sun and beach vacays, the winter has snow and sports, but fall is an especially magical season that’s often overlooked.

With its stunning foliagemild weather, and pumpkin-spiced treats, what’s not to love?

Keep scrolling to see all the things that are better in the fall.

 

Travel is cheaper

Travel is cheaper
The streets of Barcelona in the fall.
 LALS STOCK/Shutterstock

Fall is one of the best times of the year to travel. Not only is it cheaper than traveling during the summer or holidays, but there are fewer crowds, beautiful foliage, and milder weather that’s perfect for exploring.

 

Pumpkin flavored everything hits shelves

Pumpkin flavored everything hits shelves
Starbucks’ PSL.
 @starbucks / Instagram

Fall is known for pumpkin-spiced drinks and treats, like the famous pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks, which has a huge fanbase. But once fall hits, the shelves are filled with delicious pumpkin-flavored products, from pumpkin M&Ms to pumpkin ice cream, which we eagerly await all year.

 

The weather is milder

The weather is milder
Fall climate is the perfect weather for exploring.
 Shutterstock/ Monkey Business Images

Not too hot, yet not too cold either, fall weather is perfect for exploring, snuggling under the covers, or bringing out the fall scented candles.

 

Your wardrobe is cozier

Your wardrobe is cozier
Sweater weather.
 Allef Vinicius/Unsplash

Two words: sweater weather. Falls marks the time of the year where you can snuggle up in a cozy sweater without having to worry about a bulky jacket just yet. Even better, between boots, hats, scarves and light coats the number of outfits to mix and match seems infinite.

 

It’s prime partner-finding time

It's prime partner-finding time
Fall is the start of cuffing season.
 Flickr/deveion acker

So many people get into a relationship during the fall that there’s a name for the phenomenon: cuffing season. Studies have found that people are more likely to start coupling up in the fall and winter than during any other season.

 

It’s tailgating season

It's tailgating season
Every football game deserves a good tailgate.
 slgckgc/ Flickr

Fall marks the start of football season! So put on your favorite jersey and head to the nearest tailgate.

 

TV is great

TV is great
Grey’s Anatomy’s 14th season premieres this fall.
 ABC

With iconic shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” airing on TV during the fall, it is one of the best seasons for television. Even better, you can binge watch shows and stay indoors for hours without feeling guilty.

 

The foliage is stunning

The foliage is stunning
Fall scenery in Quebec, Canada.
 Shutterstock/ David Boutin

The stunning hues of fiery red, yellow, and orange that take over trees every autumn are truly breathtaking.

 

The holidays are around the corner

The holidays are around the corner
New Years, Christmas, Hanukkah, and more are almost here! 
Reuters/Michaela Rehle

Fall brings you one step closer to the holiday season.

 

It’s back-to-school time

It's back-to-school time
Wake Forest University in the fall.
 Shutterstock/ Bryan Pollard

Parents can rejoice in the fact that their kids once again have someplace to be every day, and students can get excited to see all their friends again. A true win-win.

 

There’s apple picking

There's apple picking
These apples didn’t pick themselves.
 Flickr/jenniferboyer

Pick your own apples and make some homemade apple pie, cider doughnuts, and other fall treats.

 

There’s Thanksgiving

There's Thanksgiving
Turkey time!
 Getty Images

Thanksgiving means quality time with family, great shopping deals, football, and, of course, a belly full of turkey.

 

The seasonal food is amazing

The seasonal food is amazing
Fall is the beat season for apples, pears, squash, and sweet potatoes.
 Getty Images

Fall cuisine is a category all its own. Peak season for apples, pears, squash, and sweet potatoes, fall might be the best time of the year for food. Whether you’re getting outdoorsy and going apple picking, or noshing on seasonal dishes at a restaurant, your taste buds are sure to love fall.

 

Hot chocolate becomes a totally acceptable order

Hot chocolate becomes a totally acceptable order
The perfect fall treat.
 Facebook/Hot Chocolate Chicago

Although hot chocolate is delicious year-round, the chilly fall weather makes it that much better.

 

It’s a season of great festivals around the world

It's a season of great festivals around the world
Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.
 REUTERS

Fall sees a lot of epic festivals around the world, like Oktoberfest, Diwali, London Fashion Week, Halloween, and Dia de los Muertos.

It’s prime shopping time

It's prime shopping time
Save your big purchases for fall.
 Facebook/Kitchenaid

There’s both Black Friday and Cyber Monday to look forward to for some great sales and deals.

It’s campfire season

It's campfire season
Don’t forget the s’mores!
 Autumn Mott/Unsplash

Fall is the perfect time to go camping, and with camping obviously comes a cozy campfire and delicious s’mores.

Outdoor decorations become a thing

Outdoor decorations become a thing
Bring your reefs out.
 Shutterstock/ V J Matthew

It seems like every street gets a little more festive during the falls months as people put pumpkins on their porches or hang wreaths on their doors. Of course, holiday decorations also start popping up to get you into the spirit.

There are piles of leaves to jump in

There are piles of leaves to jump in
Fun for all ages.
 Shuttertock/ Bull’s-Eye Arts

The stunning foliage is not only beautiful, but also fun to play in.

There are pumpkin patches to visit

There are pumpkin patches to visit
A pumpkin patch.
 Flickr/lizwest

Nothing screams fall like pumpkin picking. It’s the perfect fall date activity or trip with the kids.

Here’s the story behind that weird, rectangular iceberg

Tabular icebergs like this are uncommon, but they do happen.

When we picture icebergs, what comes to mind is a jagged mountain of ice floating in the ocean, ready to collide with the Titanic — or simply melt.

What we don’t picture is an iceberg that’s as flat and cleanly cut as a playing card, and yet that’s exactly what NASA’s IceBridge mission tweeted a picture of on Oct. 17.

NASA ICE

@NASA_ICE

 
 
 

“I thought it was pretty interesting; I often see icebergs with relatively straight edges, but I’ve not really seen one before with two corners at such right angles like this one had,” said Jeremy Harbeck, IceBridge senior support scientist and photographer of the iceberg, in a NASA statement.

This sheet cake of an iceberg is formally known as a tabular iceberg for obvious reasons. Tabular icebergs occur as a mass breaks off an ice shelf, themselves large floating sheets of ice connected to a land mass of some kind. The icebergs that we’re used to seeing break off from ice shelves, glaciers or even icebergs in large chunks.

A panoramic view of a tabular iceberg

This composite of two photographs shows the full length of the tabular iceberg. It’s probably more than a mile across. (Photo: Jeremy Harbeck/NASA/Flickr)

Speaking to Live Science, Kelly Brunt, an ice scientist with NASA and the University of Maryland, likened tabular icebergs to fingernails growing too longer and breaking off at the end. The result is a rectangular shape. Still, Brunt conceded that the near-perfect rectangular shape of this one is “a bit unusual.”

October 24, 2018
 

Related on MNN: Runaway iceberg that’s bigger than Delaware is on the move again

 

10 photos that will make you appreciate the stunning diversity of nature

Natural History Museum unveils the top Wildlife Photographer of the Year images.

A flying fish captured at night

This ‘innerspace’ look at a flying fish captures its speed, movement and beauty. (Photo: Michael Patrick O’Neill/Natural History Museum)
 

For 54 years, London’s Natural History Museum has sought out the best in nature photography with its Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, and 2018 was no exception. More then 45,000 entries from 95 countries were submitted, and the winners were announced Oct. 16.

One of those entries, and the winner in the competition’s underwater category, is pictured above. Taken by Michael Patrick O’Neill in Florida, the image shows a flying fish in various stages of motion at night.

This photo and 99 others will be on lightbox display in at the museum before going on tour to countries around the world, including Germany, Canada, the United States, Spain and Australia.

‘The Golden Couple’

A male Qinling golden snub-nosed monkey (left) sits next to a smaller female in the temperate forest of China’s Qinling Mountains. (Photo: Marsel van Oosten/Natural History Museum)

The Grand Title Winner of 2018 was Marsel van Oosten. The Dutch photographer captured this image of two Qinling golden snub-nosed monkeys in the Qingling Mountains. The two monkeys are observing an altercation between two males from different groups in a valley below. Van Oosten worked hard to capture the image, studying the group’s dynamics for quite some time before getting the winning shot.

‘Lounging Leopard’

Mathoja the leopard lounges in a nyala tree in Botswana’s Mashatu Game Reserve. (Photo: Skye Meaker/Natural History Museum)

People of all ages are allowed to enter the competition, and there are specific categories for certain age groups. In the case of this photo of a sleepy leopard, it was the title winner in the 15- to 17-year-old category. Taken by 16-year-old Skye Meaker of South Africa, the photograph is of Mathoja, a calm 8-year-old leopard. Like many of the photographers in the competition, Meaker had to wait until conditions were just right — in this case when Mathoja opens her eyes and the wind rustled the leaves to let in just enough sunlight — to snap the winning shot.

‘Pipe Owls’

These two owls in Kapurthala, India, have adapted to urban life. (Photo: Arshdeep Singh/Natural History Museum)

And when we say “all ages,” we really do mean all ages. This photo of two owlets nesting in a pipe, taken by Arshdeep Singh, won the 10-year-old and under category. Singh had to beg his father to allow him to use his telephoto lens-equipped camera to take the picture. Singh balanced the camera using the rolled down window of the car and a shallow depth of field to bring the two birds into focus.

‘Crossing Paths’

A Marsican brown bear explores a village in Italy’s Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park. (Photo: Marco Colombo/Natural History Museum)

Those owlets aren’t the only critters that have adapted to urban life. Winning the urban wildlife category, Marco Colombo snapped this photo of a Marsican brown bear, a critically endangered subspecies of around 50 individuals, looking for food in an Italian village. Colombo had only moments to turn off his car’s lights and change lenses to capture this intersection of wilderness and urban living before the bear ventured deeper into the shadows.

‘Mud-rolling mud-dauber’

Mud-dauber wasps hard at work making egg chambers in Australia’s Walyormouring Nature Reserve. (Photo: Georgina Steytler/Natural History Museum)

Sometimes you have to get dirty to get the winning shot, and that’s exactly what Georgina Steytler of Australia did to snag this image of two mud-dauber wasps near a waterhole. Steytler laid in the mud to take this shot, clicking away any time a wasp entered the frame. It took hundreds of attempts to get this winning shot for the “Behavior: Invertebrates” category.

‘The Ice Pool’

Crabeater seals circle an iceberg near the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. (Photo: Cristobal Serrano/Natural History Museum London)

From the mud to the skies, photographers did what was necessary to capture nature at its most compelling. This shot of an iceberg located along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula was taken by Cristobal Serrano using a low-noise drone. The iceberg was about 130 feet (40 meters) long and 46 feet tall. Warm air had carved out the heart-shaped pool, giving the crabeater seals a place to swim and rest as they looked for food.

‘Mother Defender’

A large Alchisme treehopper guards her young while they feed on a nightshade plant. (Photo: Javier Aznar González de Rueda/Natural History Museum London)

Nature can be dangerous for all its inhabitants, so some parents are extra vigilant, like this Alchisme treehopper. Mothers of the species will look after their young, pictured here feasting on a nightshade plant, until they become adults themselves. Javier Aznar González de Rueda snapped this photo in Ecuador’s El Jardín de los Sueños reserve. It was part of a winning portfolio that de Rueda assembled for the competition.

‘Hellbent’

A hellbender takes a northern water snake as a snack in Tennessee’s Tellico River. (Photo: David Herasimtschuk/Natural History Museum London)

Of course, vigilance sometimes doesn’t pay off, and the circle of life rears its ugly head. David Herasimtschuk caught one such moment while on Tennessee’s Tellico River, as a hellbender struggles to make a meal out of a northern water snake. The hellbender is North America’s largest aquatic salamander, often growing to 29 inches (75 centimeters) long. This image, the winner in the “Behavior: Amphibians and Reptiles” category, is just a moment of the struggle. According to Herasimtschuk, the snake managed to free itself and live another day.

‘Signature Tree’

A jaguar sharpens its claws on a tree in Mexico, a clear warning to others not to trespass on its territory. (Photo: Alejandro Prieto/Natural History Museum)

Like humans, other animals like to leave a mark of some kind on the world. This jaguar in the Mexican state of Nayarit is doing just that. While the tree is sturdy enough to sharpen its claws, it’s also soft enough to allow for deep, visible gashes. These gashes, plus a pungent scent, tell other animals to stay clear. The image was taken by a camera trap set up by Alejandro Prieto for part of a photojournalism story titled “Gunning for the Jaguar” and was part of the winning portfolio for photojournalism.

If you have a particularly vivid image of nature at its most captivating, you can enter it for the 2019 competition. Entries will be accepted from Oct. 22 to Dec. 18, 2018 and can be submitted via the competition’s website.

Noel Kirkpatrick

October 19, 2018, 10:13 a.m.
 

28 Best Places to Visit in the USA in 2018

28 Favorite Places to Visit in the USA

san francisco, california
Updated: 10/8/2018 | October 8th, 2018

From sea to shining sea, the United States is home to a diverse landscape — both culturally and physically. Spending months traveling across its vast landscape gave me a deep appreciation for all my country has to offer.

After traveling across the continental United States through multiple cross country road trips (you never really realize how big Texas is until you drive through. Damn that state is big!), I wanted to share some of my favorite places in the United States with you. I’ve already talked about my favorite restaurants and lessons learned, so it only seems proper to give you a list of the best places to visit in the USA when you come and travel here!

(Note: This list is based only on where I myself have been. There are a lot more incredibly breathtaking places — like Yosemite or Hawaii — I haven’t explored yet, which is why you don’t see them on this list!)

Memphis

the restaurants of memphis at night
Gritty, industrial, and a bit run down, Memphis appears like its best days are behind it, but don’t let the rough exterior fool you — the city is still home to some killer food and a vibrant blues music scene. Additionally, there’s Graceland (Elvis’s home) for fans of the King, a big waterfront for walking, and the phenomenal, detailed, and moving Museum of Civil Rights (it’s huge, so don’t rush it!). I enjoyed the city more than I expected and was disappointed when I had to leave. To use a cliché, it’s a hidden gem!

Austin

austin skyline at dusk
My new home (surprise! I moved to Austin!), and every visit here makes me love it more and more. The warm weather, the lively honky-tonks and live music, funky house bars on Rainey Street, amazing hiking and biking trails, and tons of outdoor activities… Austin has it all. Thanks to everything from the growing food truck population to the flagship Whole Foods store with the incredible salad bar (grilled pineapple!), I eat — and eat well — nonstop. The Austin campus of the University of Texas provides a youthful vigor to the city, and its liberal attitude attracts a diverse and eclectic population. In short, you can’t skip Austin, because if you do, I’ll find you and drag you there.

For more travel tips on Austin, check out these posts:

(I also have a hostel in Austin!)

New Orleans

beautiful new orleans
New Orleans is a city with soul. It’s seen some hard times, but it lives on with a zest for life unmatched by most places. It has a rich and long history and is filled with scrumptious French-inspired Creole and Cajun food, live jazz music, street performers, and an appreciation for all the temptations of life. Life is lived well here in the Big Easy. You don’t come here to relax – you come here to indulge! In my opinion, New Orleans one of the most eclectic and vibrant cities in the United States.

For more travel tips on New Orleans, check out this post on how to spend 4 days there.

Asheville

downton abbey mansion in asheville
Asheville is Portland in the North Carolina mountains: full of tasty craft beer, food, and hipsters. I liked the area a lot, including its proximity to some wonderful and scenic mountain hikes such as the Carolina Mountain Trail. Moreover, the town has a lot of parks for those wanting something closer — and be sure to check out the Ashville Botanical Gardens near the university campus. The beautiful Smoky Mountains are a short drive away, and the gigantic Biltmore estate, the largest privately owned home in the US and once home to George Vanderbilt, is on the outskirts of the city. If you’ve ever seen Downton Abbey, that’s what the house is like! (And, if you haven’t, you should! The show is addicting!)

The Pacific Coastal Drive

a view of the pacific from the pacific coastal drive
The drive up the Pacific Coast is considered one of the most scenic in the world. I have to agree. I didn’t travel the whole coast, but the portion I drove (San Francisco to Portland) was incredible: sheer cliffs, forests descending to the shoreline, miles of beaches, and giant redwoods. It’s jaw-dropping all the way. Be prepared to make slow progress, as you’ll be pulling over frequently to stop, hike, and admire the view. I especially liked Bandon and Coos Bay, Oregon and Mendocino, California.

Redwood National Park

beautiful redwood trees in the redwood national park
Along the Pacific Coast is Redwood National Park, a large expanse of giant redwood trees filled with picnic areas, places to camp, and miles upon miles of hiking trails. Trails range from easy to strenuous, and there are many loops that head out to nearby beaches. It’s utterly beautiful, awe-inspiring, and humbling in every way.

Glacier National Park

awe-inspiring views at the glacir national park
Even though I visited when most of the park was still closed (it was too early in the year and there was still snow around), I was still stunned by the area: gorgeous snow-topped mountains rising high into the sky; a beautiful, still lake in which to admire those mountains and large glaciers; and hiking trails galore. It was the most mind-blowing place I saw on my trip, and I can understand why everyone raves about it. I can’t recommend a visit there enough.

Denver

the denver skyline at night
The mile-high city (not least because marijuana is legal there), Denver has a mix of outdoor ruggedness and big-city living. It has a huge craft beer scene, excellent restaurants (including, Sushi Sasa, one of my favorite sushi restaurants in the world), a large international airport with lots of connections, and proximity to the mountains (and the Republic of Boulder). It’s clean, and the locals are incredibly friendly. There are few cities in the US I want to live in, but I love Denver enough to say that it’s one of them.

Chicago

the bean sculpture in Chicago
When the weather is nice, I don’t think there’s a better city in the United States. Set on the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago has world-class food (try the deep dish, sushi, and hot dogs), the fun and kitschy Navy Pier, Millennium Park with its famous bean-shaped statue, a kick-ass aquarium, and iconic architecture (be sure to take an architecture tour). And once the winter deep freeze is over, Chicagoans burst out of their homes to enjoy the summer weather, so there’s positive, happy vibe emanating through the city. Take advantage of it.

For more travel tips on Chicago, check out this detailed planning guide.

New York City

the impressive new york city skyline
The city that never sleeps. ‘Nuff said. You can’t go wrong here.

For more travel tips on New York City, check out these posts:

Natchez

sunset over the mississippi on the natchez outskirts
I was most surprised by this Mississippi city. I didn’t know anything about it, but Natchez was recommended as a place to see historic 19th-century homes, built by isolated plantation owners wanting to get away in the summer and interact and socialize with each other. As cotton became king, the houses became ever larger and more elaborate. Now, they are historic monuments, and you can tour them while enjoying a view of the Mississippi River. It’s far off the beaten path — and my favorite discovery from my last road trip.

For more travel tips on Natchez, check out this post on my explorations there.

Savannah

an antebellum mansion in savannah
Sitting on Georgia’s coast, Savannah escaped the wrath of the Civil War, allegedly because Sherman thought it was too pretty to be destroyed. With streets lined with Spanish moss–covered trees, large and inviting parks, and a bustling waterfront, Savannah is wonderful place to experience the slow pace of the Old South. I had visited this city many, many years ago, but its beauty, Southern comfort food, and tranquility stuck with me over the years.

Grand Canyon

an amazing view from the top of the grand canyon
Words can’t accurately describe how incredible the Grand Canyon is. It’s breathtaking in so many ways —its sheer size, fantastic depth, red hues, and striking vistas. Most people simply stand at the edge of the canyon and look out across it, but its true size and beauty are best appreciated with a hike down to the bottom. Make the time to hike down to the Colorado River, hike the less visited trails, spend the night, and hike back up for sunset.

For more travel tips on the Grand Canyon, check out this post on hiking it.

Nashville

a street of music bars in nashville
A little bit country, a little bit tech, Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the US and rightly so. It’s got a wonderful music scene (duh), a growing cocktail bar scene, and some down-home Southern restaurants. There’s not a lot of “touristy stuff” to do here, but what make this city one of my favorites are the music, the food, the wildly friendly and happy people, and the positive energy the city seems to exude. When you’re here, plan to spend a few hours at the Tennessee State Museum. It goes into great (though sometimes very one-sided) detail about the state’s history, but it’s more exciting than you might think.

San Francisco

the golden gate bridge from san francisco beach
Food of every nature, hipsters, high tech, and a diverse population make San Francisco one of my favorite places to visit. Additionally, it’s close to some wonderful national parks, like Muir Woods, where you can escape the city and go hiking amid giant trees. This city is changing fast (for good or ill) and I’m always looking forward to my next visit. San Francisco has so much to do that you need at least four days to really appreciate it. The city is one of the cultural centers of the United States and not to be missed.

For more travel tips on San Francisco, check out these posts:

Miami

miami beach
White sand beaches, Cuban food, wild nightlife, gorgeous people, and amazing warm weather — what’s not to love about Miami! I don’t think I could ever live here, but for a weekend of fun in the sun, Miami is perfect.

For more travel tips on Miami, check out this detailed planning guide.

San Diego

a pier on the san diego beach
Forever warm and sunny, San Diego’s weather creates a permanently happy population that’s friendly and outgoing and that loves the outdoors – from hiking, days at the beach, or running….and they are always happy to show people their city. The downtown Gaslamp area — as well as the famous Pacific Beach — is full of trendy seafood restaurants, bustling bars, and some seriously life-changing taco stalls. I love San Diego.

California Wine Country

a selection of wines from Napa valley
California is home to some of the best wine in the world, and a visit to the Sonoma and Napa Valley regions will reward you with some fine dining in addition to the wine. Take the short trip from San Francisco and learn to appreciate wine! Tip: Sonoma is cheaper than Napa.

For more travel tips on California Wine Country, check out this post on how to visit Napa Valley on a budget.

Lake Tahoe

the beautiful forests around lake tahoe
Though the water level of the lake, as well as the flora and fauna around it, is sadly depleted due to the California drought, Lake Tahoe is still nonetheless impressive and beautiful. Ringed by tiny mountain communities, this is a terrific place for hiking and boating in the summer and skiing in the winter.

Anywhere in Montana

the majestic rolling plains of montana
A lot has been written about how stunning Montana is, but it’s all wrong. It’s even better than words can describe. It’s the most crazy beautiful state I’ve ever been to, filled with wondrous mountains and hills as far as the eye can see. The people are super cool, welcoming, and outdoorsy, too. If I had to pick a favorite state, it would be Montana. I just love Montana.

Washington D.C.

the white house in washington d.c.
The capital of the United States is a vibrant, international city, and that’s what I love about it. It’s second only to NYC in diversity of people and food (which is to be expected with so many people from international aid organizations and embassies). You hear a million accents in this town! Throw in the free Smithsonian museums, lots of parks, a riverfront for strolling or running, and some historic government buildings and monuments, and D.C. becomes one phenomenal place to visit, relax, eat, and drink!

For more travel tips on Washington D.C., check out these posts:

Cape Cod

a sunny cape cod beach
I spent a lot of summers on the Cape since it’s where New Englanders escape for the summer. You’ll find plenty of small beach towns along the coast (Provincetown and Hyannis being the most famous but I also love Chatham, Falmouth, Wellfleet, and Brewster). If you’re looking for seafood, beaches, boardwalks, and hat perfect family vacation, visit the Cape!

Boston

a historic statue surrounded by flowers in boston
I may be biased because I grew up here, but I love Boston and cherish my visits home. Boston rocks (Go Red Sox!). It’s historic (founded in 1630), smallish, easy to get around, and filled with awesome and loyal people. It’s home to a ton of activities, like the Freedom Trail and Faneuil Hall, the JFK Museum, and the Boston Commons and Public Garden, as well as some of the best Italian and seafood restaurants in the country. Be sure to eat at Zaftigs for the best brunch in the city! It’s wicked!

For more travel tips on Boston, check out these posts:

Las Vegas

the glamorous hotels and casinos of the las vegas strip
Vegas, baby, Vegas! A lot of people are turned off by the bright lights and gambling, but Vegas is much more than the casinos, expensive clubs, and hotels on the famous Strip. There’s incredible hiking nearby at Red Rocks National Park, a growing art scene, a booming tech scene thanks to Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project, and lots of concerts and shows. Get off the Strip, explore the real Vegas (because technically the Strip is located in Paradise, NV, not Las Vegas), and see why people decide to live here.

For more travel tips on Las Vegas, check out these posts:

Portland

a sunny public plaza in portland, oregon
Portland is incredible. I would move there if it had a bigger airport with better connections. Here you’ll find an impressive food truck scene, cool bespoke bars and cocktail lounges, a craft beer scene that’s religion to residents, relaxing parks (including a peaceful Japanese garden), a vibrant art scene, and hiking in the nearby mountains. Portland is just an awesome city, especially in the summer when the weather is perfect and there are festivals and events galore, like the World Domination Summit and the Portland International Beerfest.

For more travel tips on Portland, check out this post on the city.

Seattle

neon lit farmer's market in seattle
Home to a little business called Starbucks, it also boasts an exciting downtown, fresh fish, authentic Asian food, art museums, and funky nightlife. In historic Pioneer Square, you can go on an underground tour of the city’s ruins (a hella cool experience). Moreover, you’re right on the water and, weather permitting, can head out onto Elliott Bay to explore some little islands. Seattle is just a cool city. There’s always something to do there, it’s techy, and everyone is relaxed. Plus, there’s craft beer and coffee — what’s not to love about that!

For more travel tips on Seattle, check out this detailed planning guide.

Deadwood

the snowy main street in deadwood
Tucked away in western South Dakota, this town was famous during the Old West days, noteworthy enough to be the focus of an HBO series. Sort of kitschy and re-created, it’s nonetheless a very cool place where you can experience a taste of the old frontier days. It’s also conveniently located near the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore.

Kansas City

Joe's BBQ in kansas city
I really loved this city, which features some of the world’s best BBQ, a lively downtown, and cutting-edge technology like Google Fiber. There’s also a detailed and enlightening jazz museum here, as well as the eye-opening Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (that was the actual name; I’m not being racist). I wish I could have spent more time, but that’s just more reason to come back.

***
The United States is filled with too many “must sees” places to visit to list in a single blog post. After all, the country is home to over 350 million people and covers 3.8 million square miles. But for those looking for a starting point for where to go, what to see, and the places to visit, this list should point you in the right direction and fill your time!

Just be sure to turn off the highways, head to the small towns, and discover some favorites of your own. The best of the USA is always away from the major highways in the little no name towns with little diners, quirky shops, and friendly people!

Nomadic Matt | October 8th, 2018