Best Wilderness Destinations

James Lee
• Sunday, 01 November, 2020
• 9 min read

When you arrive, you’ll step into one of the most magnificent places on the planet, with crystal clear turquoise water plunging down fiery red cliffs into travertine swimming holes at the bottom. One of the best places to visit in Wyoming, it stretches from the Powder River Basin to the Bighorn Basin, following Highway 14 from outside the town of Grey bull, meandering by lush meadows, deep canyons, dense forest and waterfalls, with plenty of places to stop and enjoy the scenery and multiple points of interest.

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If you prefer to sleep inside, the town of Buffalo is its eastern gateway and offers many attractions of its own. Here, wildlife thrives amid the harsh climate, stormy seas and active volcanoes.

For wildlife watchers, it’s an ideal chance to view rarely-seen creatures among the dramatic natural backdrops, including a wealth of birds and marine mammals like gray, Mike, humpback, orca and sperm whales as well as seals, sea lions and walrus. You can still enjoy truly getting away from it all, among dense forests, secluded lakes and unique rock formations, without hiking the entire 2,180 miles.

The dense, moss-covered rainforest gets as much as 14 feet of rain per year, which definitely limits the crowds while keeping this corner of the Olympic Peninsula with its myriad of hiking trails, abundant wildlife and endless shades of green, one of the most untouched in the country. You can wander in almost any direction, paddling from one lake to the next and stepping off onto countless miles of untouched shoreline.

Made up of 22 wild, rugged islands nestled off the Bay field Peninsula in northern Wisconsin, they’re highlighted by picturesque rock formations and six historic lighthouses while offering some of the country’s best blue-water paddling. It follows the Continental Divide for 60 miles, spread across 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. There are no roads leading to this mysterious and stunning wildlife playground, access only by boat or small aircraft.

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You’ll find plenty of places to explore by paddling and salmon-filled waters that bring out the brown bears for a feast too. The main Salmon River and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River attract many whitewater enthusiasts throughout the season, but you’ll also have 2,000 miles of trails to cover along with over 1.5 million acres regions without marked trails for experienced oriented.

This is definitely a place to avoid the crowds, with 113,000 acres of wilderness that includes alpine lakes, mountain peaks, hidden waterfalls and abundant wildlife. Fishing in the Carbide or Little Salmon rivers brings the chance to land a bull trout.

While hiking the more than 100 miles trails, you’ll not only see glorious wildflowers in the summer but deer, elk, mountain lions and eagles. Hike the trails that provide overlooks of the Pacific and the coastal cliffs, surf, or just watch the surfers ride the legendary waves with consistent year-round swells washing onto the shoreline.

On the Georgia side, there are nearly 354,000 acres officially designated as federal wilderness, best accessed by kayak or canoe. With breathtaking panoramic views of the Cascade Range, its forests, meadows and subalpine lakes offer a popular destination for nearby Portland residents.

Visitors can embark upon a range of delightful adventures, including fishing, horseback riding, camping, rafting, backpacking and wildlife watching. This place is a wildlife paradise, offering opportunities to see almost every organism that lives in the Caribbean.

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The marsh water is filled with fish, bottle-nosed dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, manatees and alligators. Boaters can access Florida Bay and the remarkable Wilderness Waterway, a 99-mile marine trail that journeys through Everglades City, Ten A Thousand Islands and Flamingo.

Spelunkers would be hard-pressed to find a better place to explore than Carlsbad Caverns. Over 120 miles have been mapped to a depth of 1,600 feet, making it the deepest limestone cave in the nation.

Joshua Tree's fascinating rock formations and colorful monoliths draw climbers from around the world. There are also five fan-palm oases here, which come to life at night with tarantulas, rattlesnakes, coyotes, jackrabbits, bobcats, kangaroo rats and burrowing owls.

With 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 18 hiking trails and nearly 2,200 campsites, there’s plenty of adventure as well as solitude to be found. Unfortunately, there have been recent attempts to mine copper in sulfide-bearing ore nearby, which could contaminate Boundary Waters' lakes and rivers, harming fish and wildlife.

It contains more than 350 miles of trails for hikers, backpackers and horseback riders to savor all year long. Zion National Park is a geological masterpiece with high plateaus, towering cliffs and a labyrinth of sandstone canyons.

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Massive rock is shaped by the rare desert waters of the Virgin River, which carves a green ribbon of diverse plants and animals through the canyon oasis. As one of the continent’s hottest and driest locations, Death Valley is surprisingly also an International Biosphere Reserve.

Expansive fields of desert sand dunes and unique rock formations create stunning landscapes. Death Valley is also an International Dark Sky Park, perfect for gazing at faraway galaxies.

Narrow, serpentine slot canyons make Paris Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs an incredibly photographic landscape. “The Wave” is the most famous for its picturesque forms, but it’s only one of many breathtaking sculpted walls streaked with desert colors.

Visitors can also spy red rock amphitheaters, sandstone arches as well as hanging orchids. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has 150 miles of trails, most of which journey through its designated Wilderness areas.

The Key'u Desert Trail, for example, winds past lava fields and cinder cones in the park's southwestern section, which also includes several miles of coastline. This Wilderness area is replete with just about everything a nature lover could ask for: high peaks, deep canyons, rich meadows, serene lakes, wild rivers and, of course, enormous trees.

wilderness guide
(Source: internationalwildernessguide.com)

Green forests, blue lakes and clear streams become white with frost in winter. Iconic vistas, distinct bird populations and world-class rock-climbing opportunities attract millions to this gem in the heart of the Sierra Nevada each year.

Washington's largest wilderness area has 48 miles of beautiful Pacific Ocean coastline. The highest peak, Mount Olympus, has the third largest glacier system in the continental U.S.

Wildflowers peak in July and August, but beautiful scenery lasts all year. Horseback riding and camping are popular ways to experience this wild heaven.

With six peaks over 14,000 feet high, thousands of mountaineers seek its heights every year. Hikers are drawn to its clear, blue skies, the hot springs at Conundrum Creek and a plethora of wildflowers in midsummer.

The area was designated when the Wilderness Act passed fifty years ago, in 1964. Straddling the Continental Divide, Eton hosts the famous Two Ocean Creeks, which sends water to the Atlantic and Pacific, as well as the boat-worthy headwaters of the Snake River.

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Stretching down Alaska's Brooks Range are prime habitats for numerous Arctic animals: brown and black bears, moose, wolves, musk oxen, arctic foxes, polar bears, and caribou. Whales and seals migrate through Arctic seas and birds traveling from as far away as Antarctica fly overhead.

Hindus consider it a pilgrimage center as the area is home to some of the most revered Hindu shrines, but it also hosts rare species of plants and animals, breathtaking jagged peaks and Valley of Flowers National Park. Journey to Audi, which sits at more than 10,000 feet above sea level, and you’ll discover a hidden treasure that few other tourists venture to, with countless picture-perfect spots and opportunities for the ultimate in peace and tranquility.

During the peak of summer, you’ll have over 20 hours of sunlight to enjoy the numerous outdoor adventures available in this true wilderness, including hiking, horseback riding, fishing, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking and much more. 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.

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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.

The area provides crucial habitat for polar bears and serves as a calving ground for the Porcupine caribou herd that sustains the indigenous With’in Nation, making the coastal plain a treasure for both wildlife and native peoples. 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.

Many feel the area is most stunning during the rainy season (America’s winter, Bolivia’s summer), when it’s covered in water, resembling a massive mirror. 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.

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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. Some regions are ripe with life, like places where you’ll see those famously playful penguins and other seabirds, along with whales like humpback, sperm, blue and orca, and other marine mammals feeding in the nutrient-rich waters.

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.

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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.

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