Looking for the latest wellness trend to boost your health and fitness? Forget expensive spa treatments and extreme juice diets — the best thing you can do for your health today is to get out into nature and onto the trail!
In recent years, hiking has received a great deal of attention as a result of its holistic health benefits. In addition to being a full body, challenging workout, hiking has been shown to have fantastic benefits for mental health, physical health, and general wellbeing. Heading for the hills can boost your mood, reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels, help you get a good night’s sleep, and leave you feeling reinvigorated and re-energized. And many hikes can be accomplished while “social distancing” from other hikers.
Hiking is a highly accessible physical activity that can be taken up by most people, whatever your fitness level. As well as improving your physical and mental health, hiking is an excellent way to reconnect with nature, allowing you to immerse yourself in the natural environment and become more self-aware and present in the moment. It’s the perfect antidote to our busy, stressful, urban lives.
What’s more, the United States is known for its incredible hiking destinations, packed with epic landscapes and views that will make your heart soar! Here are some of the most amazing hiking destinations in the U.S., together with tips on how a visit here could seriously boost your health.
Be sure to check with parks before visiting, and some parks are completely or partially closed at the time of this writing due to the coronavirus.
Glacier National Park
Looking for a way to combine a wilderness escape with a wellness retreat? Head for Glacier National Park, where you’ll find plenty of yoga and relaxation retreats combined with epic hiking opportunities in one of North America’s greatest wildernesses. This majestic corner of the Rocky Mountains is the ideal place to come to gain a little perspective — the sight of these colossal, craggy mountains will make all your problems feel very small indeed.
Glacier National Park covers nearly 1,600 square miles of stunning terrain. You’re sure to see plenty of the eponymous glaciers, which have shaped the region over the millennia and which can be heard creaking as they slide inch by inch down the mountainsides. Hiking in Glacier National Park is pure paradise for adventure seekers, with thrilling ridge walks, expansive wildflower meadows, and glittering alpine lakes. Expect jaw-dropping views around every corner.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Glacier National Park has emerged as a hub for wellness retreats, as more and more people discover the benefits of spending time in natural spaces. If you’d like to try your hand at yoga or meditation, these activities can easily be combined with a hiking trip if you head for Whitefish, a lively town that operates as the gateway to the park.
Whatever you choose, a hiking trip in Glacier National Park is the ideal way to shake off the cobwebs, stretch your legs, and clear your mind. To give you a little inspiration, here are some tips on all the best hikes in Glacier National Park.
Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
The southeastern corner of Utah might seem like a strange destination for a wellness escape, but the area around Moab has recently emerged as a hub for fitness enthusiasts. The Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are just a stone’s throw from Moab and both offer fantastic possibilities for hiking, mountain biking, trail running and climbing.
Visiting this region can feel like a journey to another planet. Gravity-defying sandstone arches tower over the trails, glowing deep red under the strong desert sun. In some places, the ground gives way to plunging canyons, carved over centuries by the relentless passage of the Colorado and Green Rivers. You’ll find otherworldly rock formations, endless forests of sandstone pinnacles, and unusual desert flora everywhere you go.
If you’re looking for a good destination for an active vacation, a chance to try a new sport, or a fun fitness challenge, Moab is the ideal choice. You’ll find plenty of fun activities here, with excellent tour guides and local companies that will help make your trip a memorable one. What’s more, the trails in Moab are easily accessible and suitable whatever your age or fitness level. Whether you’re seeking a strenuous challenge to help you hit those fitness goals, or simply want to take a stroll in some remarkable landscapes, there’s a trail here for you.
Check out this guide for details of all the and start planning your next activity holiday today!
The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park
Recent studies have shown that hiking in natural spaces, and forested or wooded environments in particular, can have fantastic effects on our mental health and general wellbeing. In fact, several cultures have a long history of forest immersion as a way to promote relaxation. Most notably, the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, has recently come into vogue in North American wellness circles, but this is a tradition that has a long history in different parts of the world.
If you’re looking for a truly special forest that will stimulate your senses, reconnect you with nature, and help you to unwind, head for the Hoh Rainforest. This lush, temperate rainforest can be found in Washington State’s Olympic National Park, and walking through it will transport you to a land of myth and mystery. The ancient trees are clothed in thick, fragrant lichen, and a wide variety of mosses and ferns hang from the forest canopy. This unique forest sustains a rich ecosystem, and if you linger beneath the trees you’re likely to see a wide range of plants, birds, mammals and insects.
Hiking through the Hoh Rainforest is a deeply meditative, peaceful experience. This is a wonderful way to experience the diverse wildlife of the Olympic National Park, from the smallest tree frog to the imposing elk that come to nibble at the lettuce lichen growing on the ancient trees. See this guide to the Hoh River Trail for more information, and don’t forget to factor in a night camping at the popular Five Mile Campground, where you’ll be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the forest.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Formed in the crucible of volcanic activity, the dramatic landscapes of Lassen Volcanic National Park form the perfect backdrop for an epic hiking trip. This strange terrain, shaped over millennia by fiery volcanic eruptions, is littered with accessible hiking trails, perfect for hikers of any ability and fitness level.
Lassen is a land of fire, and wherever you go in the park, you’ll come across steaming fumaroles, vents, mud pots, and hot springs. For millions of years, volcanic activity has shaped this landscape, creating towering peaks and lava beds, such as those around Cinder Cone. However, you may be surprised at how green and lush some parts of the Lassen wilderness are — this is a region of gushing waterfalls, crystal clear lakes and rushing streams, all fed by the annual snow melt from the higher peaks.
Lassen is one of California’s great wilderness areas, which means it’s one of the best places in the world for stargazing. No artificial light will interrupt your view of the night sky, and this is a fantastic place to come to learn more about astronomy. Every year in August, scientists, astronomers and enthusiasts flock to Lassen for the Dark Sky Festival, making it a wonderful time to visit on a hiking trip. Enjoy the hiking trails and volcanic features by day, and at night you can sit back and contemplate all the mysteries of the universe.
North Cascades National Park
Want to really get away from it all? The United States is home to some vast areas of wilderness, but arguably none are so beautiful as the North Cascades National Park. With over 400 miles of trails set in 1000 square miles of uninterrupted backcountry, this is the place to come if you want to leave the daily grind behind and head out into the wild.
The North Cascades range boasts thrilling peaks, ridges and valleys, with opportunities for some seriously spectacular views. You’ll be hiking through meadows strewn with wild flowers, scaling craggy ridges, and relaxing by the side of glittering alpine lakes. You might be accompanied on the trail by a few bighorn sheep or curious deer, and if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive gray wolf, wolverine or black bear.
The North Cascades is a wonderful place for a truly immersive hiking trip. Getting out on the trail here could give your health a serious boost, allowing you to improve your fitness, boost your mood and sense of wellbeing, and reconnect with the majesty of nature. For a little inspiration, check out some of the best hikes in the North Cascades National Park, and start planning your next hiking trip today!
Featured image: North Cascades National Park (Shutterstock)
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