Hidden Gems in Olympic National Park

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One of the most naturally beautiful parks in the country, there’s no question why Olympic National Park is also one of the most visited in America. Full of ancient forests and spectacular landscapes, this national park located in western Washington is home to a variety of off the beaten path treasures to explore.

Quinault Valley

Take the East Fork Quinault River Trail through the gorgeous wooded Quinault Valley, a less-trafficked alternative to the popular Hoh Rainforest. If you’re feeling up for it, continue on this trail 13 miles until you reach Enchanted Valley!

Ozette Archeological Site

Located on the Makah Reservation nearby Olympic National Park, this fascinating archeological site reveals the remains of a historic town from 1560. Once covered by a mudslide, this town had been completely forgotten until its excavation revealed houses, utensils, and Native American artifacts which are now on display by the Makah Tribe at the Makah Cultural and Research Center.

Tree of Life

Found along the coast of Olympic National Park’s Kalaloch Campground is this unique natural phenomenon. The Tree of Life is a giant spruce tree perched precariously between two cliffs. A stream has corroded the earth that once connected the cliff ends, leaving the tree’s roots completely exposed in the empty space, creating a “root cave”. This unusual and strikingly beautiful wonder is a hidden gem worth visiting.

Cape Johnson

Olympic National Park’s extensive wilderness coastline is vastly underrated and not widely visited. Head just north of Realto Beach to Cape Johnson to experience untouched wildlife, ancient rock formations, and boundless empty beach. Check the tides before you go as they will impact your trip to Cape Johnson significantly. 

High Steel Bridge

Visit the High Steel Bridge on your way into the Olympic Peninsula if you’re feeling brave and adventurous! This truss arch bridge offers spectacular (if nerve-inducing) views of the breathtaking waters of the South Fork Skokomish River that lies below. Be sure to keep your wits about you and proceed with caution when visiting the bridge. 

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Wiki Voyage- Olympic National Park

How to Spend a Weekend in Grand Canyon National Park

Located in northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon is one of the United States’ most iconic national parks. Carved out over millions of years by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is now one of the 7 Wonders of the World. The largest canyon on earth, people come from all over the world to experience the majesty of this fantastic monument. If you’re headed to the Grand Canyon for the weekend, you’ll want to hit the highlights to make the most of your trip.

What to Do

South Rim

The South Rim is the most popular part of the Grand Canyon as it’s easily accessible and offers magnificent views of the canyon and Colorado River. For that reason, the South Rim attractions can get a bit crowded. The Grand Canyon Visitor Center is also located here, which you can stop into to view a 20 minute informational video, and enjoy the shop and cafe. 

North Rim

Located on the other side of the Grand Canyon, the North Rim offers phenomenal views of the canyon but is more remote and therefore less visited. North Rim roads are only open during the summer, so make note of that when planning your trip. The major viewpoints here are Bright Angel Point, Cape Royal, and Point Imperial. There is a North Rim Visitor Center here as well. 

Havasupai Indian Reservation and Hualapai Indian Reservation

These two Indian reservations are located in the western and southwestern regions of the canyon and can be interesting for a visit. There are no day hikes allowed on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, but you can make a reservation to stay in one of the lodges there overnight. On a trip to the Havasu Canyon here, you will experience fantastic waterfalls. 

The Hualapai Indian Reservation offers a variety of organized tours and activities, including river rafting trips, pontoon rides on Lake Mead, and helicopter tours to various West Rim canyon viewpoints.

Hiking

There are a variety of hiking trails ranging in difficulty throughout Grand Canyon National Park. Some of the park’s most popular trails and vistas include the following: Bright Angel Trail, Rim Trail, Havasu Falls, West Rim Trail, South Kaibab Trail, and Mather Point. 

Whitewater Rafting

A popular activity in the Grand Canyon, summertime whitewater rafting trips down the Colorado River depart daily from Lee’s Ferry. The majority of these trips are multi-day but there are several tour companies providing single-day rafting tours. 

Flightseeing

A great way to experience the Grand Canyon is by flight! Airplane and helicopter tours are widely available, both from Tusayan at the Grand Canyon Airport and from Las Vegas.

Mule Rides

Mule rides are a popular way to explore the Grand Canyon from the inside. Mule trips operate from the South Rim year round, but must be booked well in advance as they tend to fill up quickly. 

Where to Stay

There are several lodges located inside Grand Canyon National Park where you can book your overnight accommodations. The South Rim offers a variety of lodges and hotels in Grand Canyon Village, and the town of Tusayan also has several accommodation options for Grand Canyon visitors. The North Rim also offers one lodge accommodation, which you should book far in advance. Phantom Ranch, which is located inside the canyon on the Colorado River, is another great lodging option and can be accessed by mule, raft, or on foot. 

Camping is another popular option for where to stay in Grand Canyon National Park. There are plenty of available campgrounds at both the North and South Rims, however reservations are necessary well in advance. 

How to Get There

The nearest airports to the Grand Canyon are in Flagstaff, AZ; Phoenix, AZ; and Las Vegas, NV. From there, it’s best to rent a car and drive yourself to whichever part of the Grand Canyon you’re planning to visit during your trip. You can also opt for a guided tour which will pick you up, drive you to the canyon, and show you the highlights. 

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Grand Canyon- Wiki Voyage

What to Pack for a Summer Day Hike

If you’re heading on a day hike this summer in any of the US national parks, you won’t want to forget any of the essentials. Check out this list of what to pack for a day on the trails!


Bug Spray: It’s absolutely essential to protect yourself from mosquitoes and bugs while on the trail! Bring plenty of bug spray with you.

Sunscreen: Sun protection is key on a day hike. Don’t forget to reapply periodically!

Sun Hat: A wide brim sun hat or even a baseball cap will protect your eyes and face from the sun, and it’ll help to keep you cool, too. 

Sweat-Wicking Clothing: Opt for sweat-wicking fabrics for your day hike that will keep you cool and will dry quickly while you’re on the trail. 

Quick Dry Towel: A microfiber travel towel is perfect for a day hike because it’s lightweight and won’t take up too much space in your daypack. Use it to dry off after an impromptu swim or wet it and use it to cool down on a hot day.

Sunglasses: Keep your eyes protected from the sun. Polarized sunglasses are preferred.

Raincoat and Umbrella: It’s smart to bring rain gear, regardless of the weather forecast. Especially if you’re hiking in mountainous terrain, weather conditions can change unexpectedly so it’s best to be prepared.

Layers: Toss a light jacket in your day pack, and even consider throwing in a hat and gloves if you’re headed to a high altitude destination where you may experience snow or cold temperatures even in summer. Easily adapt to changing weather. 

Swimsuit: Great if you plan to take a dip during your hike. 

Daypack: This one’s a no-brainer for a day hike. Make sure it’s lightweight, comfortable, and large enough to carry everything you’ll need.

Water Bottle: Bring two! It’s so important to remain hydrated during your day hike, especially under the hot summer sun. 

Snacks: Keep your energy up during your hike with some filling snacks. Trail mix and protein bars are always great options.

Packed Lunch: There’s nothing better than stopping for lunch at a scenic overlook. 

Camera or Smartphone: No matter which US national park you choose, you’ll be glad you brought a camera with you to capture the breathtaking landscapes and unique wildlife. A camera is great if you’re trying to really unplug, but bringing along your smartphone isn’t a bad idea either.

Map: It’s smart to bring both a physical map and an electronic map or GPS with you on your day hike. Be conscious of your surroundings and plan out your route ahead of time to avoid any mishaps.

Hiking Boots: Make sure your boots are well broken-in before you head out to avoid blisters and an unpleasant day on the trail!

First Aid Kit: It’s always good to be prepared in case of emergency. Bring a first aid kit with you to tend to minor scrapes and bruises or more serious injuries. 

Flashlight: Bring a flashlight or headlamp with you just in case. If the hike ends up taking longer than expected or you face unforeseen difficulties along your way, you may find yourself in need of a flashlight to make your way back in the dark.

Hand Sanitizer: An easy thing to toss in your pack, hand sanitizer will come in handy to keep your hands clean and hygienic, especially before touching your face or putting anything in your mouth.

Toilet Paper: Bring toilet paper and a garbage bag with you for proper waste disposal. It’s important to “pack it in, pack it out” and take everything you brought into the park with you when you leave.

Hiking Poles: If you’re planning to hike over rough terrain, you might consider bringing hiking poles with you to make your journey a bit more manageable. 

External Battery Charger: Especially important if you’re using your smartphone for directions, photos, music, or emergency communication, you won’t want to get stuck with a dead phone battery! Bring a small external charger you can toss in your daypack, just in case.

Staying Safe at Grand Teton National Park

Be prepared to address safety concerns before your trip to Grand Teton National Park to ensure that your visit runs as smoothly and safely as possible! There are several potential dangers to watch out for in this park, ranging from wildlife concerns to severe weather, including intense bouts of lightning. 

Wildlife

You’re likely to encounter your fair share of wildlife at Grand Teton, from bears and wolves to bison and elk. The best ways to stay safe when you come across wildlife are as follows:

  • Keep your distance. It’s important to keep a safe distance from wild animals you encounter in the park. Be especially wary of animals with offspring as they’re likely to be more protective and aggressive.
  • Don’t feed the animals. It’s also important to adhere to Leave No Trace principles when visiting the park to avoid negative environmental impact.
  • Store food safely. Keep food and all scented items (deodorant, lotions, perfumes, toothpaste, empty food wrappers, etc.) stored safely in your car or tied up in a bear bag out of reach for bears and wild animals. This will prevent animals from being attracted to your campsite. 
  • Make noise while hiking. The last thing you want to do is sneak up on a bear or wild animal on the trails. Clap your hands, sing, and make plenty of noise to alert bears to your presence as you hike.

Weather

Be prepared for rapidly changing weather in Grand Teton National Park, and take special note of lightning precautions. The mountainous terrain makes for unpredictable weather, so wear plenty of layers to be ready for anything. 

In the summer storms are common in this area, so it’s essential to take shelter before a storm hits. Avoid lightning by keeping away from mountain tops, lone trees, and staying off the water.

Other Concerns

There are several other safety concerns to make note of before heading out on your trip to Grand Teton: 

  • Altitude: Be wary of the altitude as you hike, as this mountainous region has peaks reaching up to more than 13,000 feet. Prepare for altitude sickness; make sure to bring the necessary medications with you and remain hydrated during your trip.
  • Water: Do NOT drink water from lakes or streams unless you’ve purified it first, even if it looks clean! Waterborne diseases like Giardia are common when drinking untreated water.
  • Driving: Practice safe driving while in the area. Grand Teton can get quite crowded, especially during peak season, so it’s important to drive safely to avoid accidents. Keep an eye out for animals crossing the road, be wary of road conditions, and mind the local speed limits.
  • Stay on the trails. Stay on marked trails to avoid getting lost and damaging the environment. 

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Grand Teton Safety

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U.S. Hidden Gems: Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Northern Alaska is easily one of the best kept secrets in the US. Wild rivers run through glacier-carved landscapes in this vast and untouched national park. Head to Gates of the Arctic to immerse yourself in true wilderness in the heart of Arctic Alaska.

What to Do

There are no officially designated trails or roads anywhere within the park; Gates of the Arctic is a truly untouched wilderness, changing only as nature intends. A genuinely remote destination with rugged landscapes and abundant wildlife, any trip to this national park will be nothing short of an adventure. Float down rivers in rafts or inflatable canoes, hike and wander through the wilderness as you please. Make camp alongside picturesque alpine lakes, go fishing, and observe wildlife in its natural habitat. Take in the timeworn beauty of the Brooks Range and look on from a safe distance as caribou graze. This is a popular region for migratory birds due to the endless summer sunlight, making Gates of the Arctic an ideal destination for birdwatching. 

Prepare for frigid temperatures in winter and cold but milder temperatures in summer, accompanied by 24-hour sunlight throughout the season. Here, human life has coexisted with ancient ecosystems for thousands of years. Be prepared to adhere to “Leave No Trace” principles in order to leave minimum impact on the natural environment in which you’re visiting. 

The main draw for visiting this hidden gem is experiencing rugged wilderness in its purest form. Come here to attain complete peace, serenity, and solitude. 

How to Get There

A truly off the beaten path destination, even just getting to the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve will be a journey. To access the park, you’ll need to fly from Fairbanks, Alaska to the gateway towns of either Bettles, Anaktuvuk Pass, or Coldfoot, Alaska. From there, you will  be able to catch an air taxi into the park itself.

If you plan to visit the park on your own, know that you will be veering far off the beaten path with no established services or assistance within park boundaries. You will have limited options for communication, so it is essential that visitors to Gates of the Arctic be completely self sufficient and capable of caring for themselves and their travel companions in case of emergency. This includes arriving with your own means of shelter, food, water, and anything else you may need during your journey. 

Alternatively, for those who still want to experience the backcountry but aren’t prepared to make the trip alone, there are several local air taxis that provide day trips, overnight camping trips, and flight-seeing trips to the park’s remote destinations. By air taxi, you’ll also have the option to visit the nearby Noatak Preserve and Kobuk Valley National Park to explore the sand dunes. Organizing your trip through a third party company provides a safer, stress-free option for visiting this secluded destination. 

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Gates of the Arctic- National Parks Service

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