This is my favorite time of year to go exploring. Summer is starting to fade, and every so often, the wind shifts just enough so that you can smell autumn on the breeze. As the year’s warmest season draws to a close, days remain long, leaving cool mornings and late afternoons that are perfect for a small expedition.
A nature walk is a good starting point for inexperienced hikers, small children, or those with limited mobility. The point of a nature walk is simply to get away from the hustle and bustle of urban areas, rather than to reach a 14,000 ft. summit. Nature walks typically take place in locations that offer unique bird or animal sightings, flowers, or just a breathtaking view.
The Wilderness Society recently released its top four choices for the best nature walk sites in America. What local or regional destinations would you add to the list?
1. San Gabriel Mountains, California
Image via tomsaint/Flickr
The San Gabriel Mountains offer an urban escape near Los Angeles. They contain Southern California’s most accessible wildlands — within an hour’s drive of more than 15 million city dwellers. Families enjoy seeing the San Gabriel Mountains’ rare and endangered species, including bighorn sheep and the mountain yellow-legged frog, and swimming in its creeks. Millions of annual visitors escape to the San Gabriel’s peaks, which soar as high as 10,000 feet. Learn more…
2. Clearwater Basin, Idaho
Image via Clearwater Basin Collaborative
Idaho’s Clearwater Basin includes a 6 million-acre landscape that rises from Idaho’s Palouse prairie into a craggy, moss-draped wilderness. The area known as Clearwater Basin is the native land of the Nez Perce Native American tribe and is one of the wildlands that Lewis and Clark explored.
The Basin gets its name from the Clearwater River, which drains the majestic 1.3 million acre Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Selway-Bitterroot is the third largest wilderness area in the continental United States. Learn more…
Keep reading to see more top U.S. spots for a nature walk!
3. Gallatin Range, Montana
Image via FS – Northern Region/Flickr
Montana’s Gallatin Range is a pristine chain of mountains that begins in Yellowstone National Park and runs north to foothills outside the growing community of Bozeman. Also, the range provides the largest unprotected roadless area and wildlife habitat for elk, grizzlies, wolverine and lynx north of Yellowstone National Park. Hiking trails in Gallatin National Forest cross stunning alpine meadows full of wildflowers, especially inside the Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area. Learn more…
4. Organ Mountains, New Mexico
Image via Lane 4 Imaging/Flickr
Easily accessible wildlands exist in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area, just outside of Las Cruces, the second largest city in New Mexico. The Organ Mountains are named for the granite “needles” in the highest part of the range that resemble pipes from a pipe organ. Nearby are the wild Desert Peaks, an area of extinct volcanoes and high desert grasslands. Hiking and backpacking in the Organ Mountains allow visitors to explore a high desert oasis filled with 36 species of ferns alone. The Desert Peaks provide amazing glimpses into the region’s geological and cultural past. Learn more…
Image via Thinkstock