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Road tripping through more than 20 U.S. states last spring was one of the best experiences of my life. My boyfriend and I purchased a National Park Pass (without realizing it was the National Park Service's (NPS) 100th year anniversary, doh!) and decided to make our $80 investment worth it by visiting as many National Parks as possible - as long as it didn’t veer us off of our route too much.
I am now a huge National Parks fan and continue to share suggestions on the best experiences we’ve had since. To get started on your own National Parks journey, here are five inspiring parks that you need to be obsessed with (as well as my favorite wellness survival tips for making the most out of your treks).
1. Fern Canyon
Oh Fern Canyon, why do I love you so? Because you are breathtaking and kind of creepy, that’s why. The reason why I am obsessed with Fern Canyon (and you should be too) is because it is one of the few places in the United States that so closely resemble the Jurassic Era. So much so that Steven Spielberg used it to film parts of Jurassic Park: The Lost World.
From the moment you enter California’s Humboldt County gem (at the Redwood National and State Park), you feel eerie silence slithering its way through the echoes of singing fauna. From small birds to a distant branch snapping, sound carries within this curving canyon and you’ll find your soaked feet can’t help but eagerly continue on. Enjoy this one-minute video of my journey through the canyon:
2. Canyon de Chelly
A NPS National Monument, Canyon de Chelly is located in Chinle, Arizona and is less than a day’s drive from the more famous Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and Sedona. On Navajo tribal land and still inhabited with Navajo families, Canyon de Chelly offers an insightful view into Navajo life and history. While there are a large number of archaeological sites within and around the canyon, they are best identified with a Navajo guide. If you are a self-guided traveler like I am, you can still trek into the canyon, but only along the White House trail, allowing you to explore the indigenous ruins deep within the canyon on your own.
3. Joshua Tree National Park
Another California gem, you won’t be able to help but go gaga over the super adorable Joshua Trees at Joshua Tree National Park. Part of the agave family, Native Americans once used its leaves for baskets and sandals, and its flower buds and seeds for food. If super interesting history isn’t your thing, just fall in love with the fact that these trees look like they’ve popped out of a Dr. Seuss book.
4. Petrified Forest and Painted Desert
I had never heard of the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert and was embarrassed to admit it. But it might be my top five favorite parks of all time, now. Driving their 28-mile road to explore and trail through petrified logs, a vibrant red desert, varying hues of blue and purple across a sea of badlands, and evidence of what was once a Triassic subtropical forest in what is now Arizona: how can you not be blown away? Here’s a short video because I just can’t even deal.
5. Death Valley
Beyond an obvious need for sunscreen, Death Valley is Dante’s Inferno-level hot. As one of the consistently hottest places in the world, it will make you irritable and most definitely runs the risk of a heat stroke, but it is soooo worth it. Death Valley offers canyon trails, a beautiful overlook, and even salt flats (marking the lowest point in the western hemisphere). I recommend you bring proper sun coverage here, unless you want to be like me and get light headed and nauseous and need to quit early.
Wellness Survival Tips for Exploring National Parks:
Here are some useful hygiene, fitness, and safety tips for male and female explorers who want to get started exploring more parks.
Stay feeling fresh:
Whether in a desert or rainforest, you’ll find spraying the AO+ Mist (especially on the face and underarm region) helps keep you comfortable on adventures.
The cleanser is perfect for cleaning your face and body, using as a shaving cream, and even removing makeup. Because of its unique formula, it won't strip away the good bacteria on your body. The shampoo is great for even color treated hair and helps maintain healthy hair and scalp without using harsh chemicals. Some people won't even need conditioner afterwards -- my curly afro definitely does! It depends on your hair type.
Us yoga lovers adore taking photos of ourselves doing yoga poses with scenic backgrounds. PLEASE BE CAREFUL. If you are going to do a pose, do not do it at the edge of a cliff or canyon rim. Find an even, stable surface and have a counterpart with you to take the photo or bring a tripod. Taking photos at an angle where the cliff seems “near” is just as good - death by handstand selfie is not what you need.
Beyond that, yoga before and after a trek is awesome for your body. Give yourself a nice warm up before your hike to get your blood flowing and gift yourself a nice stretch post-adventure. You’ll likely have fewer aches the following day.
And lastly: don’t forget sun protection!
Sunscreen, a billed hat, and adequate coverage is essential for sun protection. We are all guilty of forgetting to do so but try your best to remember and preserve your skin.
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