In the past, people have lived on this earth as just a part of a large system of flora and fauna, constantly alert and always keeping themselves busy with both mental and physical tasks to help ensure their survival. This required us to be in tune with nature, which meant shaping our body’s biochemical makeup a certain way and made us develop a particular set of basic instincts and emotional responses.
However, we are now far removed from the harsh conditions that molded us into who we are today, and quite simply put, these bodies were not made for sitting around in chairs all day, breathing stale air and pulling all-nighters with nothing but a coffee jug, salty or sugary snacks and a dim artificial light to keep us company. It is time for us to start reconnecting with nature, and a good old hike is a fun and simple way to do this.
The great outdoors has plenty to offer
When I say that we need to reconnect with nature, I don’t mean it in the cliché hippie or new age sense, because using tons of drugs and hugging trees in the park is not quite what these bodies were made for either. I simply mean that spending time outdoors, engaged in a physical activity that taxes the body, can be highly beneficial to our mental and physical health. It is best to find decent lightweight hiking equipment and get a bit of training before heading off into the wild — you don’t want your backpack weighing you down too much, so you’ll want to pack only the essentials and build up stamina with some light running first. With this in mind, let’s look at some US cities that you can visit if you want a break from your everyday life and are looking for a place with great hiking opportunities. Each of these cities will allow for a comfortable stay, so you can explore the beautiful nature around them during the day, and have warm bed to sleep in at night.
1. Salt Lake City, Utah
A big city with plenty to see, Salt Lake also offers a lot in terms of scenery in the surrounding area. The 4-mile Bell Canyon to First Waterfall trail lets you take in the beautiful waterfall and two different reservoirs, the last one requiring a bit more stamina to reach. For more experienced hikers or those with a good level of fitness, the 7-mile Mill Fork Trail leading up to Deseret Peak is a great option.
The trail takes you to the 11,031 foot summit, with a breathtaking view of the surrounding area for miles on end, ensuring that you’ll get a new appreciation for the natural beauties that the US has to offer. It’s fairly easy to find a decent place to stay without breaking the bank, and there is a lot to see.
2. Fort Collins, Colorado
Home to Colorado State University, this lovely town has a number of hiking trails rated as moderate close by, and some cost-effective places to kick back and relax after a long day of exploring. The 6.2-mile Horsetooth Rock trail reveals an astonishing rock formation resembling a series of, you guessed it, giant horse teeth, with the Horsetooth Falls gurgling nearby.
The short 1.8 mile Gem Lake hike reveals some fairly unusual and stunning rock formations, while some of the Hall Ranch trails can be an arduous undertaking, but are good for those who have some experience with mountain biking.
3. Blacksburg, Virginia
Home to Virginia Tech and a stone’s throw away from the Jefferson National Forest, Blacksburg is a lovely little town with plenty of great hiking trails nearby. You’ll find acres upon acres of old-growth forests a majestic sight. Threading down trails like the 5-mile Cascades National Recreation Trail that takes you by a lovely 66 ft. waterfall, the moderately difficult 7.9-mile Mcafee’s Knob or the demanding 4.6-mile Dragon Tooth Trail with a stunning panoramic view from the top.
There are some good affordable accommodations to be found with all the modern commodities one would expect from one of the South’s best college towns, making Blacksburg an excellent place from which to begin exploring the exciting trails of the Jefferson National Forest.
4. Sedona, Arizona
A small town nestled between truly amazing red sandstone formations, the kind you see in old westerns and cartoons, Sedona will inspire you and take your breath away. Although it has a small population, it is an incredibly popular tourist destination and has many motels, hotels and cozy cabins in the wilderness, which make finding a room relatively easy.
As for the trails, you can try the Huckaby Trail and the Soldiers Pass Trail, which are relatively easy and take you through plenty of gorgeous terrain that look like they were painted by a skilled artist. More hardcore hikers or climbers will enjoy the Cathedral Rock Trail, which is more of a steep climb than a hike, but the view is unparalleled.
5. Portland, Oregon
Portland is the largest city in Oregon and not what you would consider a rural getaway, but it is located on good land with tons of hiking opportunities and untamed nature. There are a number of good hotels catering to those on a budget. The Columbia River Gorge features lovely waterfalls, while the Oregon coastline, a little over an hour away, offers exceptional hiking trails and a combination of rocky terrain and beaches.
During winter, go down to Mount Hood National Forest where you’ll find the 4-mile Twin Lakes Snowshoe Hike and the 4-mile Salmon River Meadows Snowshoe Hike, both challenging but exciting and fun experiences. There is even a fun 50 Hikes Challenge for the biggest outdoors enthusiasts.
6. Jackson, Wyoming
Jackson lies on the southern end of Jackson Hole, a wonderful area featuring some astonishing sights. There are inns and lodges that allow you to get a more rural experience. The area is great for backpacking and both long and short hikes.
The 22-mile Dunanda Falls trail takes you through absolutely mesmerizing terrain and is not too difficult to manage, while the 19-mile Paintbrush to Cascade, another all day hike, takes a bit more effort. But the resulting view is jaw dropping and leaves you in awe. There are even lama hikes and treks available for all the animal lovers out there.
7. Asheville, North Carolina
The city of Asheville is home to the largest weather data archive in the world, the United States National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), and features exciting mountain trails that offer wide panoramic views. From fairly easy hikes, like Hooker, Triple and High Falls, to moderate trails of Great Craggy Mountains with romantic lookouts like the Craggy Pinnacle, and even some fairly difficult hikes like the 10 mile Cold Mountain summit trail in the Pisgah National Forest, the area surrounding Asheville has something for everyone.
There are tons of lovely bed and breakfasts that are ideal for couples, and a fair share of hotels. Whether going in a group or with a significant other, this is the perfect location to experience nature and give yourself a welcome break.
8. Fairbanks, Alaska
Alaska is a wonderful state to explore, with pristine areas of nature unspoiled by human hands, and Fairbanks definitely won’t disappoint. Traditional log houses are perfect for anyone looking for an authentic nature experience. Although they are fitted with all pf the modern commodities, they still provide a specific ambiance that you won’t find anywhere else.
Some of the better trails include the 3.4-mile Angel Rocks trail rated as moderate and with plenty of lush greenery and wildlife, the 15-mile Granite Tors Trail that goes through magnificent terrain with plenty of colorful wildflowers, and the easy 2-mile Savage River Trail that is a good choice for beginners. Since there are a lot of bears and moose in the surrounding area, it is best to bring a large caliber firearm for safety, but actual animal attacks are very rare.
Even if you haven’t had much experience with hiking before, it is a good idea to head out to one of these cities and go into the majestic wilderness surrounding them. There are plenty of health benefits to be had, including increased stamina, improved heart health, weight loss and stress relief. But you will also get a sense of what really lies beyond the concrete jungle that we live in. The experience of reconnecting with nature will change you for the better, and it is something everyone should try out.
Featured photo credit: Brent Pace via unsplash.com