Life is short. Too short not to travel and see all the amazing things this beautiful planet has to offer. Whether it be by car, or bike, or even on foot. The views and expansive beauty offered by this place we call Earth will bring the hardiest of souls to their knees and fill their eyes with tears. What follows is seven places every person must see before turning back to dust. All of this comes from my personal experiences. It is by no means complete and my opinions are liable to change with upcoming trips. That being said, let’s get started.
7 – The Grand Canyon
Of course The Grand Canyon makes this list. For many years I was told about better places and better views. But, the first time I laid eyes on the grandest of canyons I was for lack of a better term, left utterly speechless. The views were spectacular in their massiveness and expanse. I remember muttering, “They should have sent a poet.”
The Grand Canyon with its artist’s pallete of colors and steep jutting rock faces is quite the sight. Pictures do not even come close to the impressive nature. When standing there you can lose yourself and truly understand why it is one of the most popular tourist destinations.
6 – Blue Ridge Parkway
Okay, let’s head back east now. To the tall lumbering forests of great oaks and majestic maples. Let’s take a ride through Appalachia down the Blue Ridge Parkway. Extending from Virginia on down to North Carolina and ending in the Great Smoky Mountains. The Blue Ridge is 470 miles of some of most enormous swathes of emerald green left on the east coast.
The rolling hills and mountains roll off into the distance with a serenity. Smooth and inviting, and covered with tall trees. In autumn, this place is ridiculous, the myriad of colors is mind blowing. It would give any stoner a run for their money.
Be sure to visit Mount Mitchell when you take this journey. At 6,684 feet it is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Truthfully the closest you will come to a Rocky Mountain experience in the east. Be sure to stop in Asheville, NC as well, nice little mountain city with some great places to eat.
5 – Palo Duro Canyon
We were headed through Texas, trekking down route 40. I saw a billboard and it read, “Grand Canyon of Texas, next exit.” I exclaimed, “Let’s go there!”
My travel companions and I agreed. We exited the highway together and made our way to Palo Duro. Just a few miles off the main highway the flatness of midwest suddenly transformed before us. Grand Canyon of Texas, for once the billboard was not wrong. Palo Duro is another shocking moment in my life.
The red dust, the redness of the desert is hard to convey. Until you have your boots covered with it, you will not understand. The hike to Castle Rock is unreal. On our way back we almost got rained on, but the storm stayed east of us. The rainbow against the red and white cliff faces before us was enough to make a lumberjack cry.
4 – Hanging Lake
Between Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. Situated on interstate 70 along the Colorado River is a little known place. Little known but unbelievable. We parked in an unassuming rest stop, first marveling at the long train chugging along the canyon on the other side of the river. Crossing the road we found a hiking trail.
At the beginning, nothing spectacular, just a walk in the woods. But, soon the trail meanders up boulder fields eventually becoming a set of rickety stairs. Nervously you head up them, and at the top treated to a view you have never seen before. Hanging Lake, a pristine alpine lake complete with a waterfall, the turquoise color of the water is magical. On top of that the true bonus to your efforts is Sprouting Rock. Only a short climb from the lake itself a waterfall exudes out of the rock face feeding the lake and everything else below. Magical is an understatement, this place should not be missed.
3 – Yellowstone
Now we get into further indescribable territory. Yellowstone is one of the first places I had the pleasure of seeing with my own eyes. It destroyed me. The beauty there is unreal. The geysers and mud pots remind me so much of an alien world. The colors are ethereal.
Watching Old Faithful go off, just as predicted. My teenage, science oriented brain was enamored. Truthfully Yellowstone is so awesome! Not a single person should miss this experience.
2 – Bryce Canyon
Be forewarned. The next two places take place in Utah. It being one of the most amazing and diverse states I have ever seen. I could have easily filled this list with seven places in Utah. Some honorable mentions first. Antelope Island, The Great Salt Lake, The Uintas, Bonneville Salt Flats, The Wasatch Range. But, as always I digress.
Bryce Canyon is one of the most profound places in all of the world. Upon exiting the van I was joking with my travel companions. Walking up to the rim of the canyon I lost my voice. The hoodoos. The red. The beauty. Got lost in it.
Bryce Canyon will shape your soul. If my family wasn’t around it would have brought me to my knees. In a lot of respects Bryce is grander than the Grand Canyon. Be sure not to miss it along your journey’s.
1 – Zion
I’ve been saving all my energy for number one. After talking about the rest it almost seems insignificant. But, fear not! Zion is the number one place you should visit given the chance.
The Grand Canyon on steroids is an accurate analogy. Zion in its impressiveness and striking beauty of color, is for lack of a more striking description, is Zion. The holy land.
The Narrows is the most impressive hike I had ever seen. So much so, my camera could not pick up the virtue. Dipping your feet in the river whilst hiking steep canyon walls will transform you. The narrows are the single greatest experience a human can.
There’s never an end. Keep on walking. Keep on discovering. What are some of your favorite places? What do you think belongs on this list? Let us know in the comments below. And may the grass grow in your footprints. Onward fellow traveler.