March 01, 2021

When one thinks of epic outdoor scenery, Ohio may not be the first place that directly comes to mind. It turns out however, that this would actually be incorrect, both when it comes to scenery and also for outdoor adventures in fact. In compiling our list of best locations for outdoorsmen in the United States, one of our pics at the top, “is Hocking Hills National Park,” and it just so happens to be in one of the last places you may expect – Ohio.

The broader term “Hocking Hills” refers to both the Hocking Hills State Park and Hocking Hills State Forest taken together as a whole, and it’s the hiking trails, waterfalls, and caves that make it so outstanding, but there are also other attractions available such as campgrounds, horse camps, cabins, and lodges that one may enjoy.

There are six main hiking areas, and the most popular hiking destination is Ash Cave. While that trail itself is only half a mile long, the reason it’s so popular is because of its waterfall that’s along the route, and also Ash Cave itself which is about 90 feet high and 700 feet wide. There are plenty of other waterfalls to see besides that one however, and both the Old Man’s Cave and Cedar falls trails also feature them. That makes this location stand out somewhat compared to the others we’ve reviewed on this site in the past, in that there are such a high number of waterfalls to see. Other trails in the area include Cantwell Cliffs and Moonville Tunnel, the later of which has an abandoned railway tunnel running directly through it.

What makes all the hiking trails, caves, waterfalls, campground, and pretty much everything else at “Hocking Hills” look so amazing is the majestic rock formations which nature has carved out of Black Hand Sandstone, and most photographs showing off the magnificent views of the area show off these features of the area, like the one we have posted below.

Since most of the outdoor locations we’ve reviewed thus far have also been out in the west, including the mighty Colorado River which runs directly through the Grand Canyon, one may think that “Hocking Hills” in southern Ohio simply may not be able to compete with those for any outdoor vacation, but the reality is – it does, and it can. That’s why we recommend it to everyone as a place that should be high on anyone’s list, for the absolute best outdoor adventures in the United States.

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December 13, 2020

Review by Bryan Fitzmartin

The Blue Ridge Parkway is an area run by the National Park Service, but it’s unique insofar as it’s not your typical national park.
It’s a 469-stretch of highway that runs along the Blue Ridge Mountains and connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. The road is so scenic and has become such an excellent tourist attraction that over the years it has come to be known by a second name: “America’s Favorite Drive.” Along the way you can find any number of attractions and outstanding things to do – in fact the whole area is an outdoorsman’s dream.

If it’s hiking you’re after, the area has an amazing 369 miles of trails, some of which boast waterfalls, such as Linville Falls, Log Hollow Falls, and Graveyard Fields. Cold Mountain Overlook and Mills River Valley Overlook are also popular hiking favorites, plus many more. For camping, the parkway hosts a total of eight designated campsites, many of which are conveniently located along well-known hiking routes and six of which have fishing available. Fishing in general is allowed in many places on the parkway besides just the campgrounds, in fact the National Park Service is charged with protecting over a hundred miles of streams in the area, and most of which for just that purpose. Biking is also allowed (except for on hiking trails), although bikers must stay on the main road of the parkway and on other paved roads, and are asked to follow safety rules.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a unique area. It is set apart from other locations we have reviewed thus far in that it is not one single outdoor attraction – in fact, it is a group of many outdoor attractions connected by a highway over a long distance. This certainly makes it the ideal vacation spot and worthy to be on our list of best places for outdoor adventures in the USA.


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September 03, 2020

Review by Bryan Fitzmartin

This second list in our series of best outdoor locations in the United States, has been somewhat delayed, however, we’re very proud to present it – the second
of our series. During our search for the best places to feature on our list, we were somewhat saddened to find that some of the most recommended places for outdoor adventures in the United States, such as the Oneonta Gorge in Oregon, and the Bearskin Lake (off of the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway) in Minnesota, had closed, but one shouldn’t worry too much, all of the best are still open. So without further ado, let’s get right to our next list of best locations for outdoor adventures in America.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California

This location happens to be unique in some ways compared to many of the locations we’ve reviewed thus far in part one (which is listed below) – don’t get us wrong however, it has many good things in common with them as well. For starters, like many of the other locations from part one, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park offers some of the best and most scenic views in North America, an example is Mount Whitney, coming in at 14,494 feet which is the tallest mountain in the entire lower 48 states. The park also boasts many impressive deep canyons and gorges, and roaring rivers; one can climb all the 390 stairs to the top of Moro Rock and see the entire Great Western Divide capped with its many sawtoothed peaks and impressive skyline. Also, just like many of the locations in our previous article (again which is listed below), the area boasts very impressive camping, and impressive wildlife (315 kinds in total actually) such as gray foxes, bobcats, western and mountain bluebirds, falcons, and most importantly perhaps -- black bears. Visitors should be aware however that because of the bears the park has very specific rules regarding camping, all food (and trash as well) must be stored in bear boxes, which all campsites always come equipped with; we’re told the bears are very interested in human food so this is important. When it comes to hiking, there are 800 miles of trails available, the most well known of which is the John Muir Trail, which is 221 miles long and stretches from Yosemite Valley all the way to Mount Whitney.

As we said before however, there are two very big things that set this location apart and make it very unique, and the first one of them does not have anything to do with what happens above ground, but below it; specifically we’re talking about the 200 marble caverns of Crystal Cave, with its entire subterranean wonder, which is open to visitors during the summer. Also, perhaps equally importantly is what the Sequoia National Park national park was originally created for in the first place -- to protect it’s trees, but it’s key to point out that they’re not just any trees. The park has the largest tree in the world (which has been named “General Sherman”) and an extremely extensive collection of trees that literally grow to over 26 stories high (yes, that’s right, 26 stories); so when one visits, it’s important not to forget what Sequoia Nation Park was all about in the first place, it might be one of the very first things you notice, and perhaps the most impressive thing there.


Thor's Well, Oregon

This attraction is located at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, three miles to the south of Yachats (which is part of Lincoln County in Oregon) and it has a very unique name. However, the first step to understanding the outdoor adventure that is Thor’s Well, is understanding what Thor’s Well actually is – looking at a picture of it may seem misleading, as it looks like a place where the pacific ocean falls into a massive sinkhole of some kind or another. It’s actually even been called “the gate to hell” but this name is actually rather misleading as there is no nefarious intent of any kind when it comes to Thor’s Well, nor does the water that falls into it get lost in any way. In reality, Thor’s Well was probably formed when the basalt ocean rock ceiling of a sea cave collapsed in on itself. We know this because that’s exactly where the water falls into – an ocean cave that’s about 20 feet deep, so the water doesn’t have a very long way to fall before it reaches the bottom of the cave below (the entrance at that end leads out to sea). In that sense, though it may look strange all Thor’s Well really is a unique geological feature for travelers and outdoor adventurers to enjoy. It should also be noted that there are other places like this in Oregon (which is strange, since one may guess this place is completely unique but it turns out not at all), there are two others actually, located in the general area within the distance of a single mile, known as “Devil’s Churn” and “Spouting Horn” which are similar, but also breathtaking geological phenomenon in their own right.

When visiting Thor’s Well, one should also be on the lookout for “Sneaker Waves,” which are powerful waves that show up randomly on the Pacific Coast line in places like Oregon and Washington State. These waves are dangerous because they can pull someone out to sea, so one must be slightly careful and not get extremely close to Thor’s Well. Low tide is generally thought to be the safest time to visit.

Thor’s Well is just short drive from the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center – less than half a mile actually. The Visitor Center is located off of the Oregon Coast Highway which is situated about 4 miles south of Yachats, Oregon (one should park at the Cook’s Chasm pull-out). Upon arriving, look for signs for the “Sprouting Horn” trail. If you look down towards the ocean water, you should also see a set of stairs descending towards the shore. You can find Thor’s well there. When one arrives, they can also check out the Heceta Head Lighthouse and the Sea Lion Caves which are both located only 15 min away, and there are also the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport and Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site – these two are both located about 35 minutes away.


Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness, Arizona

Upon arrival at this amazing outdoor location, certainly and truly one of the most breathtaking in America, be ready to see the vibrant red color amongst all the magnificent rock formations you’ll immediately see all around you. The Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness area boasts 43,950 acres of amazing panorama’s, impressive canyon walls, rock outcroppings, high cliffs, rock art (made by the area’s ancient native inhabitants), and impressive trails (exactly 58 miles of trails, in fact), the most interesting of which is the aptly named Secret Mountain trail which is also the longest at 4.4 miles (Secret Mountain itself that the trail is named for is 6,600 feet tall, for those who like trivia). Other major trails include Long Canyon, Sterling Canyon (the Vultee Arch Trail), Boynton Canyon, and Devil's Bridge Trail. It is actually recommended that hikers plan several trails into their itinerary, and not just one, since many of them actually have “dead-ends” that end in canyons, and may not be as long as one would like for a full day of hiking, but are still extremely magnificent.

The area is just minutes away from downtown Sedona, 25 miles south of Flagstaff, and 110 miles north of Phoenix. It can be found off of Dry Creek Road also known as Forest Service Road 152 (FR 152) -- located off of US 89 in Sedona.


Uncompahgre National Forest, Oregon

The Uncompahgre National Forest is somewhat unique insofar as its size -- it covers a whopping 1 million acres across western Colorado, but that’s just the start of the story. Uncompahgre National Forest (which happens to also contain parts of the San Juan Mountains) is actually part of a network of three forests. Along with the Grand Mesa, and Gunnison National Forests, all of them together comprise a staggering 3,161,912 acres and contain some of the most spectacular scenery in the entire Rocky Mountains. Uncompahgre just so happens to be the smallest of the three – but that fact does not make its scenery or its mountains any less amazing.

Want to go camping during your trip? No problem – all three forests contain ten designated “Wilderness areas” comprising a total of nineteen percent of their acreage. Camping, fishing, and hiking, are all welcome in these areas. If it’s skiing you’re after one can try Telluride Ski Area for family skiing or Silverton Mountain – however, that second option is not for the faint of heart. Silverton Mountain has trails so pristine, and snow so deep and untouched, that every skier is required to have avalanche gear on hand. Want to know about specific hiking trails on hand? Check out Bear Creek National Recreation Trail, Blue Lakes Trail, and Handies Peak. The first of which was built by miners along a deep gorge; amazingly it was done without single power tool on hand to help them.

Some of the most spectacular sites at these National Parks include the Alpine Tunnel, which at one time stood as the highest railroad tunnel all of North America; the Grand Mesa, which is one of the world's largest flat top mountains, interestingly enough that mountain has more more than 300 lakes, and there is also the Bridal Veil falls, coming in at 355 feet high. Other activities in the area include Snowmobiling, Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing, Boating, Biking, and Hunting, which makes Uncompahgre National Forest worth checking out for sure.


The Lost Coast, CA

When trying to understand the “Lost Coast,” one must first understand exactly what the “Lost Coast” is. The Lost Coast is a section of North California that was too rugged because of the steep cliffs of the King Range Moutains for highway construction – it was simply too costly to do that. Plus, there were other problems, in the early 20th century, severe rains would wash away any roads in the area, leading to a mass exodus in terms of the local population. What still exists of the population of the Lost Coast are concentrated in a small number of communities such as Westport, Shelter Cove, and Whitehorn. In fact the entire Lost Coast has only one restaurant and bar, which is the “The Yellow Rose.” It can be found along 28-mile long stretch of road called “The Wildcat.” Since the time that everyone left, the Lost Coast has become a haven for adventurers and those who love the great outdoors.

If it’s hiking you’re after the Lost Coast has 463 acres available. Many people come to backpack through the Lost Coast Trail-North, which is 25-miles long (along the beach), and usually takes about three days. This trail is the only one our entire list that requires a permit (which has a $6 reservation fee). Hikers should also be aware that this trail is sometimes plagued by tides that make some portions impassable. However, day hikers are not required to get a permit.

Beyond excellent hiking, the most unique attraction this area has to offer though, might very well be its wildlife – especially on the beaches. Whether it’s marine mammals, seabirds, Pacific harbor seals, sea lions, or whale watching, the Lost Coast has plenty to see when it comes to animal life on the waterfront in this Northern California’s coastal wilderness. While the scenery and wildlife are breathtaking, people should also be on the lookout for “Sneaker Waves” which are powerful waves that can appear from time to time that can pull beach-goers out to sea, these are known to plague that area around the Amerircan Pacific Coast, and they were also discussed above in the section on “Thor’s Well.”


So there you have it, better late than never, those are our picks for this second list of best outdoor locations in the United States. We had a lot of fun compiling this list, and hope everyone had a lot of fun reading it. For our next series of posts, instead of a lists that feature many locations such as this one, we will focus on singular posts about the best places in America for outdoor adventures, showcasing just one location at a time, since those can be written and posted much faster. The first will take us to the east coast and will focus on the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia – which is considered to be America's Most Beautiful Highway. Until then, happy trail hunting.





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February 08, 2020

Review by Bryan Fitzmartin

There’s a lot to be excited about below. This list contains some of the absolute best locations for outdoor adventures in the United States to consider for your next dream vacation. This is part one of a series, and part two is coming soon, with even more places for everyone will love to visit. For this list, we’ve compiled six of our favorites, and it’s explained in their respective reviews what sets them apart and makes them some of the very best vacations spots. Our picks cover locations across a wide range of geographic areas -- from the Pacific Northwest, to the American South, the Southwest, and Northeast. So all regions and all areas of the USA are represented here, and a very fine selection has been created. So let’s get right to the list:


Multnomah Falls, Oregon


Supposedly there’s no place quite like Multnomah Falls, and what’s especially nice is it’s located just 30 miles from Portland Oregon (just take I-84 eastbound to exit 31, and follow along the path to reach the viewing area). The falls themselves (pictured below) are an astounding 620 feet tall. One may immediately notice, the iconic bridge in the photo – that structure is known as Benson Bridge, and its name is no accident. The name refers to Simon Benson, who was a local businessman who used to own the area in the early 1900s and gifted it to the city of Portland before his death. But that doesn’t tell the entire story of the falls, according to Native American legend, the location was created to win the love of a princess who needed a hidden place to bathe. In reality, the waterfall itself is created from several things – the underground springs of Larch Mountain, but also rain and melting snow contribute to it and its grandeur. When you’re there stop by the Multnomah Falls Lodge (constructed in 1923) -- inside can be found a restaurant which offers authentic northwest cuisine, a US Forest Service Information Center, and a giftshop. The location is an outdoorsman’s dream and offers excellent hiking and amazing views of the Columbia River Gorge. It is recommended that visitors bring outerwear, a waterbottle, and check conditions of the trails with rangers ahead of time.



Cades Cove, Tennessee


Out in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies Cades Cove. The cove is the most popular area in the park and hosts a total of 2 million visitors every year. It’s clearly a fantastic stop on our tour of the best areas for outdoor adventures in the United States. Cades Cove is known as one of the most serene areas in the Great Smokies – which is interesting because it also used to serve as hunting grounds for Cherokee Indians (for hundreds of years, in fact). However, it is often noted that no Cherokee settlements in that location have ever been found, and it is thought by archaeologists that it is not the case that Cherokee ever actually lived there. During that time, it went by the name “Tsiya’hi” (which means “Otter Place”). Since no Cherokee resided in the area (and only hunted in the cove), the first people known to settle the location were actually Europeans, which occurred between 1818 and 1821. They gave the land a new name, which was “Kate’s Cove.” One may wonder, who exactly the “Kate” it was named after was – in fact, it the Kate in question was actually the wife of Chief Abraham (of the Chilhowee tribe). One of the attractions of this incredible outdoor gem are buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries -- including log houses, barns, a grist mill, and churches. Cades Cove is second to none when it comes to hiking, camping and biking. For hiking, there are many trails including some to Thunderhead Mountain, Abrams Falls, and Rocky Top. For camping, it hosts a campground that is open year round and has 159 sites; it allows for tents and for RVs up to 35 feet. Biking is also a major attraction at Cades Cove. The Cove comes recommended by many as one of the most scenic and best outdoor locations in the USA – so on your next trip, consider giving Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cades Cove at try.


Skagit Valley, Washington


The Skagit Valley in Washington State is best known for not only its tulips, but its tulip festival which is held every year for the entire month of April. The area also hosts many attractions such as a casino, theaters, museums, and even a distillery, but its also known as one of the best outdoor locations in the United States, and even better – it’s only an hour away from Seattle. Some of the area’s excellent hiking sites include the Guemes Channel Trail (running from Ship Harbor Boulevard to Ferry Terminal Road) which, built along old rail corridors, is 1.2 miles long. Another longer trail is Padilla Bay which is an eight mile long estuary, however, the actual hiking trail, is only four miles long, but it is an excellent place for bird watching and it is also possible to see marine wildlife there. There is also the Port of Skagit Trails – located near Higgins Airport, the area is 10 miles long and configured in a loop, which allows for excellent hiking. Then there is the Cascade Trail which is much longer than all the others, twenty two and a half miles in fact, and like Guemes Channel also follows an abandoned railway. Finally, the Skagit River Loop trail (1.8 miles long) offers some extremely scenic viewing along the edge of the river it is named for. In all these trails, the possibility of seeing some impressive wildlife exists as this is one of the draws of Skagit Valley so be sure to be on watch for that as well.


Colorado River, Arizona


If you love whitewater rafting then this is certainly the ultimate destination for your next outdoor vacation. It was the great Colorado River that originally carved out the Grand Canyon and today one can still visit that mighty river. Fishing, Boating, Rafting, Camping, Hiking – all that is possible on the Colorado River and more. Five towns dot the landscape along the Colorado: Bullhead City, Lake Havasu City, Parker, Yuma, and Laughlin (which, interestingly enough is in Nevada unlike the other four towns). The area boasts an impressive four total state parks. When it comes to hiking, Buckskin Mountain State Park (located near the town of Parker) is second to none; while the park has many trails to explore, it’s the River View trail that is particularly exciting. From that trail someone can gaze upon a grand view of California on one side, and Arizona on the other; there are also some abandoned mines along the path as well. Other than hiking, there is also camping, boating, and fishing available there. A mile away from Buckskin Mountain lies River Island State Park. Since it’s located such a short distance away, River Island’s hiking trails connect with Buckskin’s, so it’s possible to hike directly from one park to the other. This park offers all the attractions of Buckskin, and the only major difference lies in it’s size – River Island is much smaller than Buckskin, but even though it’s not as large, there’s no doubt the views and outdoor experiences it offers are still second to none. Another state park that helps reveal all the outdoor adventures the Colorado River has to offer is Lake Havasu park, which offers amazing swimming, boating, kayaking, rafting, and of course fishing. However, hiking and camping are also available at this great location. The last (and certainly not least) area state park is Cattail Cove which, like River Island, is in practice, just a smaller version of Havasu State Park with many of the same attractions. However, when it comes to Cattail Cove its fishing and wildlife are very amazing and offers fishermen and women catfish, crappie, and bass – all a great catch. When hiking through this outdoor gem, be on the lookout for bighorn sheep and the many different species of birds passing through the area. There’s no doubt that when it comes to outdoor adventures, the Colorado River is second to none, and it spans not just one location, but many, and there’s so many different ones to explore. For you next outdoor trip, it may just be the Colorado River that you’re after.


Arlington Green Covered Bridge, Vermont


Located on the Battenkill River lies one of the most scenic places in the United States and an excellent location for outdoor tours or excursions. Constructed in 1852 the Arlington Green Covered Bridge boasts some impressive 19th century architecture and uses a “Towne Truss” design. The local Arlington Inn is right nearby, there is also a parking lot near a local fishing hole which gives outdoor adventurers some opportunity to enjoy what the location has to offer. One can also find the former home of Norman Rockwell located not far away (in fact just up the road). In 2011, the bridge (which has stood proudly over the river since the mid-1800s) was damaged by Hurricane Irene when it was sadly impacted directly by a falling tree causing the location to be temporarily closed. Fortunately for everyone, the bridge has been fully repaired and is now once again open to outdoors adventurers.


Watkins Glen, New York


Want to visit a place where you can see a total of nineteen waterfalls within two miles? If so, then Watkins Glen in upstate New York would be the perfect spot for your next dream vacation. Unlike some of the other locations on our list, this one offers horseback riding which makes it a great choice. For outdoor adventures, one absolutely wants to visit Watkins Glen State Park which is considered one of the prime spots in the area – in fact it’s been awarded a special distinction. In 2015 USA today allowed its readers to make their choice for best state park in America from among a total of 6000 parks, and Watkins Glen won the award for 3rd place, an amazing achievement to be sure. Clearly this a state park worth visiting, and not just for its nineteen waterfalls (although that is a great reason in and of itself), but also because the site boasts a campground, an Olympic sized swimming pool, picnic facilities, world-class fishing in nearby Seneca Lake and Catherine Creek (featuring rainbow trout in the spring), and also several different hiking trails. Indeed, they have available some of the most scenic and amazing hiking trails in the entire United States – who knew they could be found in the heart of upstate New York? While clearly one of the best outdoor locations in the America, the larger Watkins Glen area also offers many excellent wineries, distilleries, breweries, and excellent dining locations such as the Nickel’s Pit BBQ.

Hopefully, everyone loved the selections above and some excitement has been generated about some fantastic places to visit. From the Grand Canyon in Arizona to Watkins Glen in Upstate New York to Skagit Valley an hour outside of Seattle and beyond – these destinations set themselves apart from the pack. Hopefully, there has been something for everyone here. But part two of this list is coming soon, and it will feature a similar number of selections for best places to experience the great outdoors in America. Check back here soon to find what’s new.

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September 28, 2015
Some of Bryan Fitzmartin's favorite Nature Photos:

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September 28, 2015
From Bryan Fitzmartin, awesome photos:

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September 28, 2015
From Bryan Fitzmartin, some favorite stock photos:

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September 28, 2015
From Bryan Fitzmartin, cool stock photos:

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September 28, 2015
Bryan Fitzmartin's favorite nature photos:

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