I did not have a lot of experience with mountains before living in the US. In Australia, our mountains are more like big hills. Being spoiled by miles and miles of gorgeous coastline, the mountains tend to get ignored, except for the odd bushwalk here and there.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
The Great Smoky Mountains are situated along the Appalachian trail in North Carolina and Tennessee and are named for the smoky haze given by the mist swirling above the mountains.
If you can find a place, away from the tacky town of Gatlinberg to stay, then you will fall in love with this natural wonder. The Smoky Mountains embraces you with her dense deciduous forest thick foliage covering the mountains. We camped by the river and spent days hiking the trails to the top of many mountains and viewing points.
Cycling the Cades Cove loop road is an enjoyable day and gives you the opportunity to see the remnants of historic log cabins, school homes, and town buildings in the old village.
Horse riding the back trails is an adventurous and enjoyable way to see the park. There are many waterfalls, rivers, and streams in the Great Smoky Mountains and in some areas you can hire tubes to float down the river – a perfect way to end a strenuous hiking day.
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite was America’s first designated national park and with its towering granite mountains, deep valleys, and flowering meadows makes it a beautiful park to visit.
The best time to come obviously is during the warmer months of the year, however, this means that the rest of America is there with you. The traffic during peak season in Yosemite is worse than Times Square. This left quite a bad taste in my mouth and distracted somewhat from the dramatic mountain scenery that all the tourists were fighting to take photos of.
One thing we discovered on our hiking road trip through the mountain region of the USA was that Americans don’t like to get up early, nor do many of them like to hike the trails. So to beat the crowds and really appreciate Yosemite, get up just before the sun, and start hiking.
We hiked up to the top of Yosemite waterfall, and to the beautiful waterfall Vernal Falls. This waterfall gushed and sprayed water in many directions, creating a semi rain forest environment on the trail leading up to it.
To get to the top involved a 600 step walk but it was a cool and quiet place to hang out for awhile. If you like rock climbing than El Capitan, the largest monolith in North America, is the rock all the climbers come to conquer.
Zion National Park, Utah
Zion is another National Park which adds to the unique beauty of the state of Utah. Where Bryce Canyon shows more of the oranges of Utah, Zion displays it’s vibrant pinks and reds.
Tourism is controlled somewhat by the removal of cars, replaced with electric buses to transport you around to the various spots. Amongst the many trails to hike, two of the most popular are Angel Landing and the Narrows.
Angels Landing is one of the parks most strenuous and scary and it’s not until the last half mile that you start walking along narrow cliff faces holding on to chains for balance and security. The final ascent is up a thin tall cliff on 3 foot wide paths with sheer drops down the side.
The Narrows is Zion’s most famous walk through the river where the canyon walls grow narrower and narrower to about 20 feet apart. It is an adventurous hike, but one you do really need to be careful with.
Should a sudden downpour occur, flash floods happen very quickly and with steep canyon walls on either side of you, you have no where to go but under.
Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado
Ahhh, Rocky Mountain high. The memories. We spent about 2 weeks camping in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. We spent every day hiking trails that took us to glacier lakes, through snow, pine forests, and bare mountain tops during electrical storms. Not only did we enjoy hiking, but bike riding, exploring by vehicle, and swimming in natural spring waters.
The evenings were freezing cold, even in the heat of summer time. Despite the cold, we had a lot of fun together around the campfire at night, curled up in our tent together trying to keep warm, and devising a way to go to the toilet without been seen by the marauding beer outside our tent.
Monument Valley, Utah and Arizona
I wasn’t really sure about my categorization for this one. It’s an area known for its buttes, mesas, canyons and free standing rock formations that protrude from the flat desert valley floors. I guess you could say that it is connected to mountains.
Whatever the case may be, Monument Valley is a sacred and powerful place to visit and truly worthy for a mention. The Navajo Indian Nation live amongst the unique sandstone formations.
Apart from the opportunity to take stunning photographs, there are plenty of hikes you can take, or historic and cultural sites you can visit driving around. You can also go horseriding and camp within the park.
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What is your favourite mountain wonder?