America's wilderness is vast and beautiful, offering travelers nearly endless opportunity to explore the wonders of the outdoors. Whether it’s a two-mile day trip or a month-long endeavor, here are some of the best destinations in the country for packing up, heading out, and making friends with Mother Nature.
Jay is one of the northernmost towns in Vermont, right across the Canadian border. The town itself is incredibly tiny and quaint, but it’s the starting (or ending) point of one of the oldest and most majestic trails in the country: Vermont’s Long Trail. It runs the entire length of the state (270 miles), but it’s just as easy to hop on the trail for a few miles. If you’re in Jay, try your hand at Jay Peak during the summer. During the winter, it becomes the hot spot for local skiers.
Closest International Airport: Burlington International (BTV)
Nebo is home to the greater Pisgah National Forest. Over 500,000 acres of heavily forested slopes, complete with waterfalls, whitewater rivers, and hiking trails. You can imagine that Pisgah is a national treasure. Next time you’re in Charlotte and itching for some nature, it’s worth the 90-mile drive.
Closest International Airport: Charlotte Douglas International (CLT)
This 16-mile trail runs through the rugged and remote Cohutta wilderness in northern Georgia. If you want something a little more manageable, opt for the 9.3-mile out-and-back hike that will take you through multiple creeks and river crossings, eventually ending at the parking lot near Dally Gap. The beauty is unparalleled, and it’s the perfect way to spend a weekend.
Closest International Airport: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL)
This 7.5-mile round-trip hike isn’t for the faint of heart. It is mostly uphill and pretty difficult. But your hard work will be rewarded halfway through when you finally reach Blanca Lake, a beautiful, emerald-colored lake in a valley of some of Washington’s most beautiful mountains. There’s absolutely nothing like it.
Closest international airport: Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA)
There are a million different hikes one can take while at the Grand Canyon, and they’re all worth it. But if you’re willing to put in a lot of work for a lot of reward, nothing beats the trek down to Havasupai Falls. From the Hualapai Hilltop down to Supai, it’s 8 miles, and another 2 miles to the campground. It can be dusty, dry, and hot. But once you reach the Havasupai oasis, it will be totally worth it. A 100-foot waterfall cascades into a blue spring that stays at 70 degrees year-round. You’ll need reservations and a permit to hike down, but be mindful that reservations fill up almost one year in advance.
Closest international airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX)
The Highline Trail is a near 12-mile hike that takes you along the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park in Montana. The trail follows some near-sheer cliffs and rocky landscapes to green peaks and fields of wildflowers. Eventually, you’ll reach the chalet, where you can buy some drinks and snacks and recoup with fellow hikers before finishing the hike. John Muir said to dedicate at least a month to Glacier National Park, but if you can’t do a month, a long weekend will be just as grand.
Closest International Airport: Great Falls International (GTF)