Yellowstone National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the United States, and rightfully so. The beautiful mountains, pristine rivers, herds of wild buffalo, blazing hot springs and Geysers and so much more make this place a truly one of a kind environment.
It can be frustrating, however, to head to Yellowstone in hopes of getting a taste of the natural wilderness only to find that everywhere you go, you are surrounded by thousands of talkative tourists whose radios, picture taking and the like kind of takes the magic out of the moment.
While Yellowstone is known for drawing a crowd, there are also some fantastic places you can go to get away from the crowds and experience the essence of the wildness of one of America´s most iconic national parks. Below you´ll find information on five fantastic overnight hikes in Yellowstone National Park.
If you are looking for a hike that will take you away from the crowds as quickly as possible, this is the option for you. While it is only a 1.4 mile hike to this backcountry campground, that is more than enough distance to separate you from the majority of tourists who frown upon carrying their bed in a backpack.
They call this trail the chain of lakes because the trail follows a number of mountain lakes that form in descending fashion throughout the mountain. Ice Lake is the closest one, and you can choose how far you plan to go. Wolf Lake is about a 4 mile hike making it a bit more secluded than Ice Lake.
For experienced backcountry backpackers who like the thrill of trying to blaze their own trail, the Howard Eaton Trail offers a unique challenge. This trail hasn’t been maintained in a number of years. While there are still parts of it where a trail is recognizable, other parts have been lost to vegetation.
Trying to find your way along a lost trail offers a healthy dose of adrenaline to anyone. Throw in the fact that this is prime grizzly bear country and you´ll find yourself instantly on your toes during the entirety of the hike. The old Howard Eaton Trail is the best place in the park for people wanting to explore on their own.
If you want a little longer hike, the Bighorn Pass backpacking trip will take you close to 9 miles into the wilderness. This hike takes you along the Gallatin River and is one of the best places to find black bears, grizzly bears, and herds of elk.
There are a number of backpacker only campsites along the way and you might even be able to find a campsite near a marmot colony. Their friendly chirping will keep you entertained throughout the night.
The best place in the whole park to see the Lamar Valley and offers perhaps the best scenic, panoramic views. Furthermore, along the Lamar River you will most likely find bison footprints, and if you know how to recognize, the iconic gray wolf.
This area is known as the American Serengeti because of the huge amount of wildlife including bear, elk, antelope, wolves, and much more.
To get away from the crowds at Yellowstone, you can´t simply take a tent and sleeping bag and head into the wilderness. All backcountry travelers and campers need a permit to camp outside of the regular campgrounds.
You will need to apply at least 48 hours ahead of your planned trip. If you are planning to hike during peak summer season, you might also find that many of the backcountry campsites that you wanted to reserve have already been reserved, so plan accordingly.
If you have seen Old Faithful and done some of the more common day hikes at Yellowstone but want to get away from the crowds, the backcountry of Yellowstone offers a glimpse into a whole different side of this classic National Park. Do your planning ahead of time and pick any of these five fantastic backpacking trips to get a taste of the unspoiled wilderness of Yellowstone.
Washington State isn’t often considered to be one of the most ecologically diverse states of our country. Nestled into the top northwestern corner of the United States, it often gets passed up on for other supposedly more exotic locations for hiking.
The difference between eastern and western Washington are so striking, however, that it might feel like you´ve travelled across the world after a short 5 hour car drive. From the lush Cascade Mountains and the Hoh Rainforests in the western part of the state to the dry, wheat fields and prairies of the eastern part of the state, Washington offers a number of uniquely different ecosystems and environments.
A fantastic vacation idea would be to start in the Spokane area of eastern Washington and drive all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way be sure to check out some of these awe-inspiring day hikes.
The Blue Mountains in the south-eastern part of Washington aren’t as famous as their western counterparts, but they still have plenty to offer. The ridgeline trail that goes through the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness will take you to a beautiful overlook. On a clear day you will be able to see down into the valley of wheat fields and open spaces.
There is something undeniably magical about mountain lakes, and the Tolmie Peak Lookout stairs down into the pristine Eunice Lake which shines like a sapphire amidst an emerald green softwood forest.
Located near Mount Rainier National Park, this simple day hike will offer you beautiful views of one of the most iconic peaks in the state of Washington while also taking you up to almost 6,000 feet elevation.
Mount Saint Helen´s might not be as active as it was a couple of decades ago, but this trail in the South Cascades region offers you a pretty unique experience. You will be able to take in pretty cool views of the old volcano itself while also appreciating the roaming herds of elk.
The South Coldwater Trail rambles through treeless valleys which still give testament to the power of destruction that Mount Saint Helens caused. At the same time, the renewed landscape filled with wild flowers speaks to the power and resiliency of the natural world.
In the northern part of the Olympic Mountains you can find a unique trail in Sunrise Ridge. This trail which is within Olympic National Park is a wildflower-lover´s delight. If you time it right you will find field upon field of every type of wildflower including lupine, larkspur and everything in between. This is also a great trail to come upon all sorts of wildlife.
Really? A rainforest in the United States. While many of us might think that rainforests only exist in Brazil or Indonesia, the United States does have its own swath of untouched, virgin rainforest in the Hoh National Park.
Walking through the lush greenness of the Hoh Rainforest Trail is an experience unlike any other. Monstrous trees hung with thick moss and the unending song of hidden birds will make you feel like you´re in another country. The relatively open understory allows you to truly take in the beauty of America´s only rainforest.
While many people might think of the beach as a place to relax on the sand, the Pacific Coast of Washington is a perfect place to explore sea side cliffs and forests. The Rialto Beach and Hole-in-the-Wall offers a short 4 mile loop trail that is coastal hiking at its best. If you´re lucky, you might even find some tide pools filled with starfish and other unique sea creatures
In the Central Cascades, Larch Lake trail offers one of the most secluded places you can get to in a day. This hike isn´t easy as you´ll gain over 2,500 feet of elevation in 12 round trip miles, but if you make it to the lake you´ll be greeted by one of the Cascades best kept secrets.
Hiking this trail in early fall is by far the best time as the azure glow of Larch Lake will contrast beautifully with the golden leaves of fall time.
If you are in the Cascades Region, you will also want to check out Spider Meadow. A 13 mile round trip hike will take you through meadows and alpine highlands while giving you glimpse into the unique ecosystem of Glacier Peak Wilderness area.
Chances are that during your cross-state excursion throughout the state of Washington you´ll also come across dozens of other beautiful areas beckoning for you to stop and explore. You might not even be able to drive more than a couple miles without feeling the itch to see what´s over the hill. Exploring Washington State through these day hikes will offer you a glimpse into the natural beauty this state has to offer.
Let´s face it: not everyone is built for enduring the elements during a five day, strenuous backpacking trip up some 14,000 foot mountain. That´s what makes the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee so great. Even a few steps off the road and you´ll feel like you´re enveloped in a beautiful, pristine wilderness.
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park at 6,643 feet. You can take the leisurely drive through the forest to the top of the dome where you will be greeted by outstanding panoramic views of the hazy, surrounding mountains. There is simply no better place to catch a sunset here in the park.
If you are not in the best shape or don´t enjoy hiking up steep mountains, the Laurel Falls Trail offers a nice stroll through the woods. The 2.6 mile loop trail is mostly flat with a few small hills. But don´t let the ease of the hike fool you into thinking you won´t get to see much.
The culmination of the hike is a view of a gorgeous 80 foot high waterfall splashing into a small pool at its base. If you plan it at the right time of the year, you can also enjoy the flowering rhododendrons. This is a great hike to do with young children as it will open up to them the wonders of the natural world without not being too strenuous for their young legs.
While the Laurel Falls are pretty accessible to anyone, the Ramsey Cascades Trail is a pretty strenuous trail. This 8-mile hike increases close to 2,000 feet in elevation which means that you probably won´t run in too many other people.
The trail takes you through beautiful forest and follows the gushing waters of a stream. If you make it to the end of the trail, you´ll be greeted to the park´s tallest waterfall with over 100 feet of fall. In the small pool at the bottom of the fall you should be able to find uniquely colored salamanders.
One of the most unique places in the park to see the autumn foliage is Campbell Overlook. It is the best place in the park to see towering Mount LeConte and other forests. You can get there by car, or, if you prefer, through numerous hiking trails.
The Alum Cave Bluff Trail will take you up to the top of Mount LeConte, the most iconic peak in the Smoky Mountains National Park. While there are several different trails to help you get up Mount LeConte, this trail is the steepest, less-frequented, and offers several unique sights along its way.
From a spot called Inspiration Point you can hike through an arch and get a view of the “Eye of the Needle” a hole in a rock in a nearby ridge.
The Applachian Trail goes from Georgia all the way to Maine. If you´re not up for spending 6 months crossing the entire country by foot, you should at least hike a part of the trail that crosses through the Smoky Mountains. Standing Indian Mountain is our pick for the best place to get on the AT and can easily be done as a simple overnight backpacking trip.
If hiking isn’t your thing, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail takes you into the heart of the Smokies. You will pass by old homesteads and also have the option to walk to the Rainbow and Grotto Waterfalls, both of which should not be passed on.
There are hundreds of things to see in the Smoky Mountains, but one thing that you absolutely can´t miss is Cades Cove. This beautiful rolling meadow offers a loop tour that you can hike, drive or bike and offers a glimpse into centuries past.
Cades Cove used to be an agrarian settlement and you can still see beautiful constructions of old log cabins hidden in the thick woods. It´s also a great spot to catch a glimpse of a black bear, if you´re lucky. Like most places in the park, the best time of year to visit is in the fall time to enjoy the beautiful colors on the trees.
Any of these travel ideas throughout the Smoky Mountains will offer you a truly unique experience. From backwoods hiking to comfortable and accessible wilderness, the Smokies offer a little bit of everything for families, independent adventure seekers, and everyone in between.
Imagine visiting a national park where over 95% of the close to 750,000 acres were designated as pure wilderness. Now imagine the fact that the vast majority of the four million people each year who visit only spend their time in the seven square miles that make up Yosemite Valley.
Despite being one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States, much of Yosemite still remains an unexplored wilderness.
Yosemite National Park is filled with breathtaking mountain ranges, waterfalls, mountain lakes, glaciers, and towering redwood forests. There is truly something for everyone in this impressively picturesque World Heritage Site, and we´ll take you through seven of the most amazing things to see in Yosemite.
Yosemite Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in the United States dropping close to 2,500 feet from the top fall to the lower fall. For the more adventurous of people, you can take a strenuous several mile hike up to the top of waterfall enjoying gorgeous views along the way.
Spring is by far the best time to visit when the snow melt and extra rains bring the waterfall to a crashing roar. If you do hike to the top, you can even wade in the river only feet from where it eventually crashes over 1,000 feet downwards to the second fall.
Half Dome is another daunting adventure for backpackers and hikers alike. The granite dome that juts up into the sky is rounded on three sides but a sheer granite face on one side, thus giving it its name.
An incredibly strenuous 8.5 mile hike will take you to the top of Half Dome via hundreds of stairs carved into the granite rock. Alternatively, for the truly adventurous, you can choose to mountain climb the sheer granite face on Half Dome´s northwest face.
California used to offer the promise of striking it rich during the hay days of the California Gold Rush. Today you can still find a number of rivers where gold can be found if you bring the right patience and skills.
The Main Fork of the Merced River is one of the best places in the park to search for gold. You will need to bring your own panning equipment, though there are several nearby stores that will sell you what you needed to try and strike it rich.
For adrenaline junkies, what could be better than trying to climb up a 7,500-foot granite monolith that offers more than 3,000 feet of free fall to the valley floor below? El Capitan is a massive rock formation located in the northern part of Yosemite Valley.
Even experienced mountain climbers often need a minimum of five days to complete the climb, so make sure you plan accordingly.
For people who aren’t up for climbing up steep mountain faces, Yosemite still offers access to beautiful, breathtaking panoramic views. The Tioga Pass is a mountain pass through the Sierra Nevada mountains that approaches 10,000 feet.
Route 120 drives right through the pass and is the eastern entrance way into the park. Leave early in the day to get the best views.
The Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias will help you put your size in perspective. During a leisurely walk through the old growth forest you can even walk through a massive tunnel carved out of a dead sequoia.
For a more secluded experience the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias is just up the road.
One of the best places to watch a sunset in Yosemite National Park is at Olmsted Point which is an overlook off of the Tioga Road that offers a wonderful view into the canyon with views of Half Dome and other lakes. Olmsted Point offers some of the best views of the park for those who aren’t willing or able to scale mountain faces.
Yosemite National Park is without a doubt one of the most beautiful national areas of the United States. Whether you are looking for the adrenaline of free climbing El Capitan or want to drive to Tioga Pass to enjoy the views, Yosemite has adventures waiting for everyone.