THE BEST WILDERNESSES OUTSIDE MAJOR CITIES Hiking by Day, City Life by Night
Arranging travel plans can be hard. Gathering your friends, working with everyone’s schedules, figuring out exactly what everyone wants to do. You’ve got your urban, big cities lovers and your outdoorsy, nomadic adventurers. It’s hard to please everyone. That is, unless you visit these five fantastic cities situated right up next to some spectacular wilderness.
Joshua Tree outside Los Angeles, CA
Joshua Tree sits just about two and a half hours outside of Los Angeles and is a common getaway for Angelenos in search of peace, restoration and spiritual rejuvenation. The park sprawls over 800,000 acres and features the coalescence of three unique ecosystems: the Mojave Desert, The Colorado Desert, and The Little San Bernardino Mountains. First set aside by FDR in 1936, this national park takes its name from the “Yucca brevifolia”, or Joshua trees that grow throughout the Mojave section of the park. Be sure to stop by Pioneertown (the last civilization before the park), an old western ghost town set built by movie studios in the 1940s. It’s hippie central meets old west americana.
The Blue Ridge Mountains outside Asheville, NC
With a beautiful downtown, a lively arts scene, and known as one of the most vegetarian-friendly cities in America, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that this little town is beloved in the south. The town is situated right in the middle of a bunch of stunning nature reserves making it the perfect destination for hikers and campers. Besides being the namesake of a heartbreaking folk song, the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the most gorgeous vistas along the Appalachian Trail. The mountains get their bluish hue from the isoprene that the thick trees running across the mountaintops release into the air, and the whole region is even more breathtaking in autumn.
The Boundary Waters outside Minneapolis, MN
Come to Minneapolis for the culture…and you might not leave. With the best regional theater, the best parks system in America, and the friendliest bike city, you’ll understand why the Washington Post recently voted Minnesota the best state to grow up in in America. About four hours to the north of the Twin Cities lies one of America’s great wilderness: a series of over 1,000 interconnected lakes and bodies of water spread over 1.1 million acres separating the American North and Canada known as the Boundary Waters. Pack yourself a kayak or canoe (and don’t forget to bring some of the acclaimed local brews) and prepare yourself for a simple day trip or a multi-week excursion.
Muir Woods outside San Francisco, CA
San Francisco has about as much as you can hope for from a vacation spot: cutting edge culture, riveting history, beautiful architecture, national landmarks, and temperate weather. However, outside all of this and just across the Golden Gate Bridge lies one of the most beautiful forests I’ve ever seen: the Muir Woods National Monument. This sprawling forest is made of awe-inspiring 200+ foot tall redwood trees—the average age of which is 700 years old! Among numerous famous stories associated with the forest, Muir Woods was the initial gathering place of all the world delegates who came to draft and eventually sign the Charter of the United Nations. What’s better than a forest that inspires international peace? (A forest that looks like the Forest Moon of Endor?...nah we’ll go with international peace)
Olympic National Park outside Seattle, WA
In addition to hosting the Space Needle, the birth of grunge music, and frankly too many game-changing musicians to count, Seattle is also surrounded by some of the most spectacular wilderness in the pacific northwest. Less than 90 miles to the southeast lies Mt. Rainier National Park, featuring picturesque valleys, waterfalls, glaciers, meadows full of wildflowers, and of course the 14,000-feet tall Mt. Rainier. Summit if you dare and don’t forget about the nearby Puget Sound or Olympic National Park.