As I’m hanging out in the States while waiting for my passport and visas mailed back to me, all of my friends are going on their own summer adventures. From Spain to Iceland to Australia, the FOMO is real for me and for a lot of us that are stuck at home.
Summers can be even more miserable when you’re working or taking summer classes while your friends gallivant across the globe. Even if you did have a few days off, you couldn’t possibly go across the world and spend a weekend in Italy. It wouldn’t make any sense, and it probably won’t be worth the money you spend.
I think back to my adventures last summer while I was taking online summer classes to finish up my graduation requirements. Bored out of my mind, and deciding that I could work on my online classes anywhere that I had Internet, I spontaneously took off out west. I had never really appreciated the diversity of the United States, from the towering cities to stunning untouched nature, until my road trip.
I always felt like you weren’t really traveling unless you left the country, which was an awful mindset that I had, and admittedly a lot of my peers shared. I couldn’t have been more wrong as I never felt as wild and free (America, am I right) as when I was trekking through the Rockies or slithering my way through the Narrows of Zion.
Clear out four or five days off your schedule, grab a friend or two, and fill up your gas tank. Make sure you’ve got everything on your National Park packing list. You’re going on a road trip.
5. Zion National Park: Angel’s Landing
Let’s start off with my favorite. Surprisingly, Zion was not really on my list or even on my radar when I took off on my road trip. I honestly thought Utah was probably going to be pretty lame, so if it weren’t for a friend who had a cabin in the area, I probably would not have made it to Zion.
Two of my favorite hikes in the world are at Zion, the first of which is Angel’s Landing. Angel’s Landing takes you above, giving you otherworldly views of the incredible mountains and valleys, views so amazing that it made people question whether or not Zion National Park was a real place when an explorer attempted to describe them. It is a challenging hike, almost entirely uphill, but it is well worth the reward. It’s far from your ordinary hike, as there are parts where the path is only a couple of feet wide, with sheer thousand foot drops on either side of you. Here’s five things you’ll need to know before you decide whether or not to take on Angel’s Landing.
4. Zion National Park: The Narrows
The Narrows, on the other hand, take you seemingly below the surface. With towering cliffs on both sides of you, you’ll never feel smaller in your life than when you’re trudging upriver between those gorges. I took on the Narrows the day after Angel’s Landing, and although it isn’t uphill, I found it more challenging. Thankfully, you’re never too far from a relaxing swim.
While you take on Angel’s Landing for the views, you take on the Narrows for the unique, almost eerie, experience you get while you’re surrounded by the slot canyons of Zion that have been eroded slowly by the river for thousands of years.
3. Antelope Canyon
Speaking of Slot Canyons, the world’s most famous are just a few hours away from Zion National Park. You’ve probably seen pictures of Antelope Canyon, whose canyon walls look like they’ve been carved and painted by a skilled artist. It makes for an unforgettable side detour if you’re road tripping through the Southwest. Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon are all relatively close to Antelope Canyon.
Be warned though, it is such a popular attraction that you usually will have to book a few weeks in advance to go with one of the tours. Slot canyons are notorious for flash floods that can wipe out entire tour groups of people, so it is impossible to go without a guide.
2. Yellowstone National Park
I can’t think of a place that made me question reality as much as Yellowstone. I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff around the world that made me scratch my head before thinking, “meh, nature is weird I guess.” Yellowstone took that to an entirely new level. Everywhere I went, there was something that was so strange that it even made me slightly uncomfortable. From bubbling geysers to smoke coming out of rocks to unrealistically colored lagoons, there was just too much weird stuff to keep track of.
There were holes in the ground that would occasionally just yell really loud. There was a gooey pit of pink mud that just bubbled constantly. Grand Prismatic Spring was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, but once you break it down to what it really was, it just made you even more confused. Old Faithful was the least memorable part of my trip to Yellowstone and it is unfortunately the most famous.
1.Yosemite National Park
If I could spend a year wandering the vast expanses of Yosemite, I would never get tired of it. I would probably get pretty cold and die of hypothermia at some point, but I would die happy. There’s a reason why Yosemite is arguably the United States’ most recognizable and renowned national park. Actually, there are quite a few reasons.
For thrill-seekers, casual hikers, and camera-happy tourists alike, Yosemite is undoubtedly one of the top destinations you can find in the continental United States. There are so many breathtaking hikes that you can take on, each offering an amazing view of the vast untouched wilderness and mountains of Yosemite. From huge waterfalls to giant granite rocks that people like to climb on, Yosemite truly has something for everybody.
The national parks are America’s best idea, and I recommend you take advantage of them now. Let them inspire a love of nature and the outdoors that inside you that you will share with your children and future generations.