With so much room to roam and very diverse terrain, the wildlife watching is amazing too, including the chance to spot black and grizzly bears, wolves, caribou, moose and All sheep. It’s home to Hornstrandir, an uninhabited peninsula and nature reserve that serves as a haven for the Arctic fox and a wide variety of birdlife.
Hornbeam is a sheer cliff that sits adjacent to the cove of Alvin and the bay of Jökulfjörður is considered one of the nation’s greatest peafowl habitats. This vast region is spread largely within the Arctic Circle, stretching across northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and into the Kola Peninsula of Russia.
Despite its massive size, it’s very sparsely populated, offering plenty of opportunities for peace and solitude, including the chance to hike for weeks without running into another human and view the aurora borealis with little light pollution to interfere. The hotel is surrounded by breathtaking wilderness, set along the shores of Lake INRI near the Russian border, and offers an especially quiet, remote adventure.
Here, you can spend your nights in heated glass pods known as “Aurora Bubbles,” which allow guests to watch the dramatic light display in comfort. You’ll also have access to a variety of outdoor equipment like toboggans, kick sleds and skis, as well as a traditional Finnish sauna for warming up after a day’s activities.
Cutoff from the mainland, Knoydart is only accessible by foot, or by boat, including a traditional wooden ferry that delivers passengers several times a day. But this country, with the world’s lowest population density, offers the chance to experience the midnight sun, dogsled through frozen tundra and marvel at the northern lights.
Olympic National Park, Washington Olympic Rainforest While you might not think a national park in America’s Lower 48 could be home to a “true wilderness area,” 95% of Washington’s largest wilderness area is largely untouched, filled with glacier-capped peaks, temperate rainforest with old-growth trees that provide habitat to all sorts of wildlife, magnificent waterfalls, high alpine lakes and nearly 50 miles of rugged ocean coastline. With more than 600 miles of trails in the park and nearly a million acres of wilderness to explore, backpacking is the best way to get up close and personal to one of America’s last remaining wild areas.
The over 7,700-square-mile park’s aboriginal owners have spent centuries among its rock art, wetlands, gorges and striking escarpment scenery. But visitors are welcome, and you can pitch a tent and camp by a Billabong, glide down rivers alongside giant crocodiles, stroll through ancient lands, take a dip in scot-free designated waterholes, or join a tour to learn more about the local aboriginals.
Up until 2011, the Yuri airport was just a landing strip for mining companies, but now there is a terminal, an extended runway and daily flights from La Paz, making it much easier to get here. Most arrive via a multi-day 4 × 4 tour, which also brings visitors to other impressive attractions in the surrounding desert, like natural hot springs, geysers, rock formations and colorful lakes that are home to hundreds of pink flamingos.
Just a few of the options include driving across a salt lake, watching spouting geysers, discovering petroglyph and visiting Calle de la Luna, the “Valley of the Moon.” Here, the giant sand dunes and stone formations mimic the surface of the moon. It’s one of the best places in the world to watch a sunset, with low light heightening the textures and deepening the fiery red, yellow, green and even blue shades.
Spirit Bear Lodge, located in the tiny First Nations hamlet of Klimt, arranges wildlife-spotting excursions with local guides. Following the Continental Divide for 60 miles, it’s made up of more than 1.5 million acres of rocky ridges, alpine meadows and dense forest, as the third-largest wilderness area in the Lower 48.
Not only is the scenery to-die-for, but the area also contains what some believe to be the most dramatic natural feature of the Rockies: the Chinese Wall, a limestone escarpment deep in the wilderness and a part of the Continental Divide. It’s home to dramatic mountains with peaks that soar more than 10,000 feet, deep canyons, and 100 miles of hiking trails in a landscape that looks more like it belongs to the Alps than Nevada.
Those visiting Carbide with the perception that this state is dry and desolate, are shocked to discover this area with rock formations jutting all around and roaring creeks ripping through the canyon. Not surprisingly, the area is most famous for its namesake, the brightly colored state fish known as the Golden Trout, which is native only to these waters.
In addition to being a famous spot for alpine trout fishing, the North Fork River that rages through one of America’s most vast, wild landscapes, offers some of the best whitewater adventurers that challenge even the most experienced paddlers. Its more than 530,000 acres and 600 miles of trails are virtually unknown to all but locals and serious wilderness explorers, many of whom come to experience its incredible array of wildlife, including black and grizzly bears, gray wolves, lynx and the elusive wolverine, as well as an abundance of mountain goats, elk and moose.
If such companies are allowed to open mines, pollution from sulfuric acid, mercury and toxic metals could contaminate the lakes and rivers that flow into the Boundary Waters. This could have deep impacts on water quality, harming wildlife and fish in this wilderness area that, so many Americans fought so hard to preserve.
On the western slopes of the small, granite Sandra Mountain range hikers may spy numerous birds of prey like raptors, golden eagles and various hawks. Four fourteeners are in the long and narrow Sanger de Cristo Wilderness, including the most challenging Crest one Needle.
Large aspen stands visible today are a result of heavy fires purposely set in the early 1900s to clear pasture land, expose minerals, and produce charcoal. Great Sand Dunes National Preserve is offers skiing in winter, splashing in sandy creeks in spring, and dark starry skies year-round.
Six insects protected here are found nowhere else on Earth, including the beautiful Great Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle. The area held religious significance to early Spanish settlers, thus the meaning of its name: “Blood of Christ”.
To access the heart of the area, visitor must drive the highest paved road on the continent, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. Forests of fir and hemlock trees greet visitors in the rugged, glacier-carved North Cascades, less than 50 miles from Seattle.
This wilderness area boasts over 700 mountain lakes, including Enchantment, Mason, Melania, Snoqualmie and more. One of the most popular outdoor destinations in its state, Alpine Lakes contains part of the Pacific Crest Trail as well as Cashmere Crags, one of the best rock-climbing locales in the West.
The area is named for its three major volcanoes, and includes other geologic features like Rock Mesa, Collier Cone, and Japan Crater as well as lava flows and tubes. The headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Which Creek invite brook and rainbow trout for fishers and hikers can trek a section of the Pacific Crest Trail.
On the northern side of Mount Hood is an area just south of the Columbia River Gorge and near enough to Portland that it attracts many visitors. Mossy cliffs, forested plateaus and meadow ridges offer views of wildlife and majestic scenes of the Cascade Range.
Running along the crest of the Sierra Nevada's is a wilderness filled with snow-capped granite peaks and expansive meadows. The John Muir Wilderness was designated 50 years ago and is named after the revered advocate for wild lands.
It has the largest contiguous area above 10,000 feet in the continental U.S. Wildlife includes marmots, pikes, Clark's nutcrackers, Golden Trout and black bears. In the 80s it was renamed after Angel Adams, the famous photographer of the Sierra Nevada and a former council member of the Wilderness Society.
East of Angel Adams’ Ritter Range is the most visited section: the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, which contains Devils Postpile National Monument. In forests of aspen, conifers, oak and maple visitors may spy Rocky Mountain goats, mule deer, elk and moose.
Close to the greater Salt Lake City area, High Unitas is “loved to death” by hoards of avid rock climbers, fall hunters and hikers on Kings Peak. The Quinta Mountains, named for the Intact natives, are the highest peaks in the state and home to cougars, black bears, bighorn sheep, river otters and 75% of Utah's bird species.
“The Grand Canyon of North Carolina” is one of the most scenic river gorges in the eastern U.S. Its rough terrain prevented clear-cutting, so it remains one of only a few old growth forests in the Blue Ridge Mountains range. Visitors are drawn to rock climbing at Jonas Ridge, scenic viewing at Linville Falls as well as backpacking, hunting and fishing.
Those seeking more solitude are advised to explore the southern half of the wilderness or the rough northern section around Brush Ridge. Strewn with streams, its West Fork of Pigeon River runs to Cold Mountain, the namesake of a novel and film set during the Civil War.
Granite Peak, Montana's tallest, towers over the vast Bear tooth Plateau and alpine lakes are small but plentiful. The neighboring Baroda mountain range, named for what the Crow Indians called themselves, has dense forests and expansive meadows with trout-rich streams.
It extends to the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park, offering over 700 miles of trails for ultimate backpacking adventures. This makes it ideal habitat for the plentiful Seaway elk herd, as well as recently reintroduced packs of the gray wolf.