Is there any country with a more diverse wilderness than the USA? Sure, Kenya has national parks teeming with wildlife, and Australia boasts the Outback, and New Zealand has some insanely stunning countryside – but the USA has all this, and then some.
That well-spouted statistic that only 30% of Americans have a passport may shock Europeans, but actually, when you think of the ample opportunities for exploring all that the USA has to offer, it’s not that surprising.
From soaring mountains and lush greenery to vast deserts and icy expanses, this region has enough going on to give even the most well-traveled explorer a serious case of itchy feet.
A geyser erupts in the USA's Yellowstone National Park
1. GO GRAND IN ARIZONA
The poster child for American wilderness, the Grand Canyon attracts almost five million visitors a year. You might think that sharing the site with so many other tourists would take away from the sense of wilderness somewhat, but it really doesn’t.
A very Grand Canyon indeed
The Canyon is big enough and vast enough for everyone to find their own sense of the wild. Especially if you head away from the South Rim, the most accessible part of the Canyon. A 10-mile hike (or 220 mile drive) away lies the North Rim. It’s higher, cooler and less crowded than its southern counterpart and more, well, wild. Delve properly into the wilderness and take on the rim to rim hike, which should take around 3 days and 2 nights.
2. I WOULD WALK 215 MILES…
This is the hike to end all hikes, through some of California’s most beautiful wilderness. Take on the John Muir trail and you’ll trek through Yosemite National Park, through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, King’s Canyon National Park, ending 215 miles later at the majestic Mount Whitney.
It’s a walk full of records: you’ll pass the world’s largest trees, one of the USA’s deepest canyons, before finishing at the country’s highest summit. Of course, walking 215 miles is going to take you a while. If you can’t spare the time, a trip to Yosemite is a must.
3. ON AN (ARCTIC) ROLL IN ALASKA
It’s the USA, but not as you know it. If you’ve seen the awesome movie, Into the Wild, you’ll be familiar with the beauty and remoteness of Alaska’s stunning scenery. Experience it for yourself at the state’s Denali National Park, where hiking, camping, cycling and wildlife spotting are the order of the day. Time it right and you might even see the elusive Northern Lights here. Remote and undisturbed, this is the wilderness all right.
Delve into the Alaska's icy wilderness
4. SMARTER THAN YOUR AV-ER-AGE NATIONAL PARK
Not only is Yellowstone America’s very first National Park, it also inspired Yogi Bear’s home (that’s Jellystone National Park – see what they did there?). But this sprawling site has more to offer than firsts and cartoon bears. It has lots of real bears, for a start – in fact, the park is home to one of the continent’s last, nearly intact ecosystems.
Bizarre fact of the day: the park’s website warns that more people are attacked each year by bison than grizzly bears, so keep your distance. Hundreds of geysers are sprinkled across the park, including America’s most famous, the Old Faithful, which erupts every 9 to 15 hours, shooting water up to 220 feet high.