Daily Escape

sunset over canyon rocks in national park

Photo by National Park Service/Kait Thomas

The Maze District

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park in Utah is one of the oldest wonders in America. Years of flowing rivers and tributaries have carved amazing canyons and high buttes to make this one of the country’s most visually stunning parks.


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dawn, lake, trees with colored leaves, mountains in distance
Adirondack Park

Adirondack Park

With seemingly bottomless lakes and a diverse mountain landscape, the Adirondack Park covers roughly 6 million acres of New York’s lush countryside. Filled with pristine camping grounds, the state-owned Adirondack Forest Preserve within the park is an ideal location to spot wildlife, from large, dangerous animals such as moose and black bears to smaller species including muskrats and foxes. 960 1280

Chris Murray / Aurora / Getty Images  

Redwood National and State Parks

Redwood National and State Parks

Home to some of the world’s oldest living organisms and the tallest trees on Earth — including Hyperion, which stands close to 380 feet — Redwood National and State Parks welcome an average of more than 400,000 visitors per year. They’re located in Humboldt County along the coast of California. 960 1280

William Fawcett, fotoVoyager, Getty Images  

Mount Hood National Forest

Mount Hood National Forest

One trip to majestic Mount Hood, and it’s easy to see why so many Americans are infatuated with the Pacific Northwest. Known as the crown jewel of the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, the highest point in Oregon, is also considered an active volcano, although it hasn’t erupted in about 150 years. 960 1280

deebrowning / iStock / Getty Images  

Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park

You may technically be in Southern California when you travel to Channel Islands National Park, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Encompassing about 250,000 acres, the park consists of 5 islands, including Anacapa (pictured), and the ocean surrounding them. 960 1280

Edwin H. Beckenbach, Getty Images  

Coconino National Forest

Coconino National Forest

Covering nearly 2 million acres in northern Arizona, Coconino National Forest is divided into 3 different districts, each with its own attractions, including a group of volcanic summits known as the San Francisco Peaks; the largest natural lake in the state, Mormon Lake; the scenic Mogollon Rim; and the expansive red-rock canyons in Sedona (pictured). 960 1280

William Fawcett, fotoVoyager, Getty Images  

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake in southern Oregon has azure waters that make up the deepest lake in the country. Surrounded by sheer cliffs, the fifth-oldest national park also boasts some of the United States’ cleanest air, allowing hikers to see clearly into the distance along more than 90 miles of trails. 960 1280

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Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument

Deep within the Black Hills of Crook County, WY, lies an impressive geologic laccolith known as Devils Tower National Monument. Protruding from the ground to an astounding 1,200-plus feet above the Belle Fourche River, Devils Tower was formed by igneous rock intruding between the layers of surrounding sedimentary rocks. 960 1280

Kennan Harvey, Getty Images  

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Filled with amazing natural features, from Old Faithful to the Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park is primarily in Wyoming but spreads into parts of Montana and Idaho as well. Established in 1872, America’s first national park also provides incredible picturesque landscapes, including the Lower Falls (pictured). 960 1280

Gary Cook, FotoWare ColorFactory, Getty Images  

Hurricane Hole

Hurricane Hole

Located on St. John in the US Virgin Islands, Hurricane Hole consists of 3 separate bays — Otter Creek, Water Creek and Princess Bay — and provides pristine blue waters and once-in-a-lifetime snorkeling adventures. 960 1280

Christian Wheatley, Getty Images  

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

Moab, UT, is home to some of the most glorious rock formations in the US, and the same can be said for nearby Arches National Park. With more than 2,000 natural stone arches, this red-rock wonderland also includes an unbelievable number of hiking trails, spires and monoliths unlike any others you’ll find in the world. 960 1280

Mark Brodkin Photography, Getty Images  

Mosquito Bay

Mosquito Bay

Truly a sight to see, Mosquito Bay — located on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques — offers one of the most unusual water experiences you can have. Also known as Bioluminescent Bay, it gets its name from microscopic organisms that reside in the water and generate a phosphorus blue glow when agitated. 960 1280

Puerto Rico Tourism Company  

Tonto National Forest

Tonto National Forest

Encompassing nearly 3 million acres of beautiful desert countryside, Tonto National Forest is the fifth-largest forest of its kind in the United States. It’s most impressive feature, the Salt River (pictured), measures almost 200 miles long. It’s the perfect place to go tubing, as it acts as a lazy river for locals trying to escape Arizona’s sweltering summer heat. 960 1280

Sean Foster / Moment / Getty Images  

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Nestled deep within the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the country, let alone California. With plenty of scenic overlooks, countless breathtaking waterfalls and stunning, ancient sequoias, Yosemite is paradise for even the most novice of outdoorsmen. 960 1280

Sapna Reddy Photography, Getty Images  

Gem Hunter's Paradise
Gem Hunter's Paradise

Gem Hunter's Paradise

Covering over 275 square miles, White Sands National Monument is the world’s largest gypsum dune field. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is a paradise for stargazers. The park is so remote that light pollution is among the lowest in the entire US. Here, you can clearly see the Milky Way and a shooting star! Visit photographer Nick Parisse’s website to see more of his photos. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Chisos Mountains

Chisos Mountains

High in the Chisos Mountains, a hiker surveys the land as he decides which trail to take. Big Bend is often referred to as “3 parks in one” because of its size and diverse environments -- mountains, desert and river. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Chihuahuan Desert

Chihuahuan Desert

The Chihuahuan Desert, one of the wettest in North America, has dense shrubbery that blankets the Chisos Basin. Here, the sun begins to set behind the mountains as a cold front moves in. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Backcountry Critter

Backcountry Critter

A tarantula makes its way across a backcountry trail in Big Bend National Park, TX. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Pinnacles Trail

Pinnacles Trail

Cacti cover a meadow along the Pinnacles trail in Big Bend National Park. Fall temperatures are mild, and colorful flora is still blooming in the winter. 960 1280

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Rio Grande

Rio Grande

A narrow stretch of the Rio Grande acts as a natural border between the US and Mexico. This view from Santa Elena Canyon, located in the southern region of the park, shows the US on the left and Mexico on the right. The Chisos Mountains are also visible in the distance. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

Even on an overcast day, the sun still finds a way to illuminate the mountains. This photo was taken on Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

The Big Room

The Big Room

A cluster of stalactites hang from the ceiling of “The Big Room” in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. 960 1280

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Cozy Home for Bats

Cozy Home for Bats

With a little natural light, this is a view from inside Carlsbad Caverns. In the summer months the caverns are home to thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Stunning Stalagmites

Stunning Stalagmites

Light shines on the cavern floor and ceiling, providing visitors with a view of huge stalagmites that can take thousands of years to form. 960 1280

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Scenic Walkway

Scenic Walkway

Visitors get an amazing view of this scenery along a walkway that turns into the entrance of the deepest part of Carlsbad Caverns -- nearly 750 feet deep. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Mineral Deposits

Mineral Deposits

Massive mineral deposits mushroom up from the floor of the caverns. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Natural Cavern Entrance

Natural Cavern Entrance

The natural entrance to the caverns is a paved switchback trail leading visitors underground to discover numerous geological wonders. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Stargazer's Heaven

Stargazer's Heaven

Even the light from a full moon and a few passing clouds couldn’t diminish the clarity of the stars in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, in Salt Flat, TX. Stargazers should add this park to their must-see list. 960 1280

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Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of America’s least-visited parks. It’s hard to understand why with unobstructed views like this. 960 1280

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Tejas Trail

Tejas Trail

Visible on the left, the sun lights up the switchbacks along the mountainside on Tejas Trail. The strenuous 10-mile, round-trip hike offers visitors some of the most beautiful views in the park. 960 1280

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Devil's Hall Hike

Devil's Hall Hike

The spectacular hike into “Devil’s Hall” brings visitors around mountains and through a dry river channel. In an effort not to unnecessarily detract from the natural views, rock cairns act as trail markers. 960 1280

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Devil's Hall

Devil's Hall

Here’s a view from “Devil’s Hall” as the path narrows. “Hiker’s Staircase” is visible in the foreground. 960 1280

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Epic Mountain View

Epic Mountain View

This is one of many mountain views visitors will encounter while on a backcountry hike through Guadalupe Mountains National Park. 960 1280

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White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument offers visitors several recreational activities, including picnicking, hiking, camping, scenic drives and sledding. 960 1280

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Morning at Monument

Morning at Monument

The sun breaks through the clouds on an early morning in White Sands National Monument. 960 1280

Nick Parisse  

Capoeira on a Dune

Capoeira on a Dune

A well-traversed dune is the perfect place for this traveler to occupy his time and practice the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. 960 1280

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National Park Camping

National Park Camping

It’s time to pack up camp and move along as the sun rises. White Sands offers backcountry camping for guests who want to sleep under the stars. Visit Nick Parisse’s website to see more of his photos. 960 1280

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Pacific Northwest Trail
Pacific Northwest Trail

Pacific Northwest Trail

The Pacific Northwest Trail spans 1,200 miles -- including 3 national parks and 7 national forests. To tackle this route, which runs through Montana, Idaho and Washington, you'll have to keep a pace of 20 miles per day. That'll get you to the trail's end in about 60 days.

Best times to hike:Year-round at lower elevations, summer and fall at higher elevations.
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Andy Porter, flickr   

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

The famed Appalachian Trail spans more than 2,180 miles. A thru-hike usually takes between 5 and 7 months, cutting through 14 states between Georgia and Maine. Along the way, enjoy views of pink rhododendrons along the trail’s Tennessee-North Carolina state line and in southwest Virginia, from late spring to early summer.

Best times to hike: Spring to fall.
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John Muir Trail

John Muir Trail

Naturalist John Muir loved this area of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. Today, the trail named in his honor runs 211 miles, from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney (the highest point on America’s mainland). Most hikers start their trek at Yosemite’s Happy Isles or Tuolumne Meadows.

Best times to hike: Generally July to September.
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Hayduke Trail

Hayduke Trail

Uber-hiker Andrew Skurka calls Hayduke Trail “one of the finest ways to discover the Colorado Plateau … and get away from it all.” No wonder. The 800-mile trail running through Utah and Arizona covers the area’s big national parks: Zion, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches.

Best times to hike: Spring and fall.
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Thinkstock  

Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

The massive Pacific Crest Trail covers more than 2,600 miles, from California, Oregon and Washington to British Columbia. The trail is among the “Big 3”: If you hike the Pacific Trail, as well as the Continental Divide Trail and the Appalachian Trail, you’ll get the American Long Distance Hiking Association’s Triple Crown Award.

Best times to hike: Late April to late September.
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Marshmallow, flickr  

Sierra High Route

Sierra High Route

The Sierra High Route is one of pro hiker Andrew Skurka’s favorite trails. The 195-mile trail in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains offers amazing views of meadowlands, lake basins and mountain peaks. Keep a pace of roughly 20 miles per day, and you’ll complete the trail in a little over a week. Also, keep in mind logistical considerations.

Best time to hike: Depends on skill level.
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Getty Images  

Arizona Trail

Arizona Trail

The 800-mile Arizona Trail runs north and south through the state, and showcases some of the region's most unspoiled terrain: ridges, mountains and wilderness areas that have remained untouched since Arizona became a territory in 1863. That remoteness also means hikers must stay current on Arizona Trail conditions.

Best times to hike: Year-round at lower elevations, summer and fall at higher elevations.
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Rick Hall, flickr  

Long Trail

Long Trail

Known simply as the Long Trail, this route runs 273 miles through Vermont -- the whole length of the state. The trail also happens to be America’s first long-distance hiking trail. Construction began in 1912 and continued for nearly 20 years. Today, hikers can enjoy short day hikes and extended treks (including to Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest mountain).

Best times to hike: Late spring through late fall.
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dvs, flickr  

Continental Divide Trail

Continental Divide Trail

At 3,100 miles, the Continental Divide Trail is not for the faint of heart: Only about 25 people a year attempt to hike the entire trail, which runs between Mexico and Canada. Some areas can only be traveled by bushwacking, aka make-your-own-trails, and roadwalking.

Best times to hike: April to October.
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Getty Images  

Superior Hiking Trail

Superior Hiking Trail

Everyone loves Superior: Hiker Andrew Skurka ranks the trail among his 10 favorite US hikes, Readers Digest ranks it among its top 5. The 275-mile footpath showcases scenic views -- boreal forests, rushing waterfalls and the 30-mile-long Sawtooth Mountains are among the attractions -- as well as 81 campsites for a little R&R.

Best times to hike: Late spring to early fall.
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Thinkstock  

Florida Trail

Florida Trail

Alligators are among the wild critters that hikers can encounter along the Florida Trail. The 1,400-mile trail starts at Big Cypress National Preserve (about 45 miles west of Miami) and ends in the Pensacola, FL, area. And if you see a gator along the way? Give it space, circling around its tail end so it doesn’t feel threatened.

Best times to hike: Year-round.
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B A Bowen Photography, flickr  

Colorado Trail

Colorado Trail

Hikers, horse riders and bicyclists, the Colorado Trail is calling your name. The 486-mile trail runs from the Denver area to Durango, CO, with some of Colorado’s most beautiful scenery in between: wildlife (marmots, deer, sheep and more), as well as wildflowers, forests, lakes and streams ideal for fishing. A thru-hike generally takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete -- a feat accomplished by roughly 150 people per year.

Best times to hike: Primarily July and August.
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