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Hidden Gems in Yosemite National Park

One of the most famous national parks in the United States, Yosemite is located in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. From granite cliffs to giant sequoia trees, it’s no question why this national park is so popular. If you’re looking to escape the crowds, you’ll want to visit some of Yosemite’s off the beaten path destinations.

Tuolumne Grove

A quieter alternative to popular Mariposa Grove, Tuolumne Grove offers a peaceful place to wander among giant sequoias undisturbed. Experience these ancient redwoods firsthand with a visit to this unique grove, and walk through the tunnel formed inside the base of one of these massive trees.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Created by the Tuolumne River’s O’Shaughnessy Dam, the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is a stunning body of water framed by breathtaking granite rock faces. The dam famously provides some of the cleanest water in the United States. This beautiful reservoir is a hidden gem certainly worth visiting!

May Lake

Scenic May Lake is located in the heart of Yosemite and is often overlooked by park visitors. A steep but quick hike, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views and a picnic lunch if you decide to make the trek.

Olmsted Point

A short and picturesque quarter-mile hike, Olmsted Point provides magnificent views over Tenaya Canyon and Yosemite Valley. This low-effort trek is well worth it to see unique glacial erratics and dramatic panoramic views. 

Rancheria Falls

These lesser-known waterfalls are absolutely stunning, and can be reached via a hike beginning along the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. These impressive falls are a string of cascades instead of a single vertical drop, making their power overwhelmingly beautiful. 

Soda Springs

Located in Tuolumne Meadows, you’ll find these rare mineral springs enclosed by a wooden structure. The carbonated waters will bubble before your eyes in the heart of Yosemite’s lush green meadows. Soda Springs are an interesting and worthwhile hidden gem to explore.

Hidden Gems in Shenandoah National Park

Located in Virginia, Shenandoah National Park is characterized by the lush Blue Ridge Mountains and 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds and experience some off the beaten path destinations, you’re in luck; this park is full of unique vistas and hidden hikes to try!

Strickler Knob

The hike to the summit of Strickler Knob is one of the most scenic in the Eastern United States. The trek is challenging, but it’ll be worth it for spectacular panoramic views over the Shenandoah Valley once you reach the summit!

Shenandoah Caverns

A less-trafficked alternative to Grand Caverns, Shenandoah Caverns offer a less crowded, more private experience in the park with caverns that are equally as gorgeous. You can expect knowledgeable guides and stunning rock formations here, and there’s even an elevator to take you up and down.

Jones Run Falls

If you want to visit some of Shenandoah National Park’s incredible waterfalls but want to avoid the crowds, head to Jones Run Falls. The hike begins just off of Skyline Drive and brings you to these beautiful 40-foot waterfalls situated against a scenic forested backdrop.

Double Bear Rocks

If you’re up for a challenge with major payoffs, set out on the Pass Mountain Trail, one of the least-trafficked hikes in Shenandoah. The hike culminates at Double Bear Rocks and offers a breathtaking vista covering Lurray Valley, New Market Gap, Strickler Knob, Kennedy Peak, and Massanutten Range.

Veach Gap

An easy and lesser-known hike in Shenandoah, the Veach Gap Trail is about 7 miles long and is scenic the entire time. At the end of the hike, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views over the Shenandoah River.

Hidden Gems in Olympic National Park

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.