Oh beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties,
Above the fruited plain.
In these lyrics, poet Katharine Bates describes a trip through some of America's natural wonders. Many Americans are taking similar trips this year and realizing that from sea to shining sea and throughout the fly-over states, America is full of natural wonders worth visiting.
No matter where you live, you don't need to go far from home to find hiking and nature. However, if you're up for venturing out, there are plenty of destination-worthy natural wonders to explore. So far, Summer 2021 is all about leisure travel and outdoor destinations. Join the trend by exploring these sites of natural beauty.
FOREST CANYON OVERLOOK—COLORADO
It's hard to pick just one sight to see in Colorado. However, the Forest Canyon Overlook off Trail Ridge Road in the Rocky Mountain National Park is a worthy contender. It's two hours from Denver's airport, and you can drive all the way to the top. Once here, you'll be above the tree line at 11,700 feet. You'll have expansive views of snow-capped mountains and the canyons below.
Don't rush on the journey up here. En route, you'll have opportunities to see bighorn sheep and elk and pull off at several designated viewing points to take in your surroundings.
This southern park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. It's a World Heritage Site and a Wetland of International Importance. It's a must-visit during any Florida vacation and easily accessible as it's less than an hour from Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
The Everglades cover a vast territory. Depending on where you visit, you can kayak, take a popular airboat ride, or climb to the top of Shark Valley's 65-foot observation tower in the southern portion of the park.
You likely know that Yosemite National Park has the most extensive collection of redwood trees. But you don't have to go there to see them. Redwoods are clustered all along the California coast.
If you are in San Francisco, you can find redwood trees less than an hour away at Muir Woods. This park provides easy access for everyone with paved and relatively short trails. Hikes range from under a mile to 10 miles and also showcase Redwood Creek.
Further up the coast is the Avenue of the Giants. Make the postcards you've seen come alive as you drive this 32-mile road through 50,000 acres of redwoods. There are stop-offs and hikes along the way.
SANTA ELENA CANYON—TEXAS
On the eastern border with Mexico is Big Bend National Park, also known as Texas' Gift to the Nation. There are paved scenic routes within the park, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, and the Rio Grande River that welcomes paddle sports.
The highlight in this park is Santa Elena Canyon, where you can paddle between canyon walls rising 1,500 feet above the water. As an added bonus, with a passport, you can cross the Rio Grande into Boquillas, Mexico.
Mount Rainier is easily seen from afar from airplane windows and downtown Seattle on a clear day. But its beauty is more impressive if you venture closer.
Whether summer or winter, over 100 hiking trails, through meadows filled with wildflowers, beckon in the foothills of the mountain. A popular hike involves the Reflection Lakes, named for the mirror image of Mount Rainier it makes possible. Accessible by car in the summer, visitors in the winter season will have to snowshoe in for the view. To get even closer, take a gondola ride to the top of nearby Crystal Mountain.