- Hiking is a wholesome way to explore nature without causing harm, as long as hikers practice zero-waste, zero-impact travel.
- National parks like Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, and Glacier offer stunning hiking trails and opportunities to contribute positively to preservation efforts.
- Travelers can make a difference by bringing reusable water bottles, using the park’s shuttle systems, and practicing sustainable travel habits in order to combat pollution and climate change.
Eco-travel is an integral part of the shift in mindset among globe trotters who want to enjoy the planet’s beauty without harming it. Hiking nature’s wonders throughout the U.S. with a green footprint can help ensure the country’s many parks and preservation areas last for future generations. Hiking is a wholesome way to explore these sites without causing harm as long as hikers engage in zero-waste, zero-impact travel. Bringing reusable water bottles, properly packaging snacks, and changing daily practices to combat climate change can positively impact the Earth without sacrificing trips into nature. These are the best places to go for a hike without having a negative impact on the planet and its ecosystems.
Yosemite National Park
Fall foliage in the autumn in Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California, USA, United States of America
Yosemite National Park is one of the most majestic parks in the United States. It sits in northern California and is best known for the mighty Sequoia trees towering over the local landscape and the Old Faithful Geyser. There are also plenty of caverns worth exploring in and around Yosemite that are well worth visiting while in the area.
This national park is a tribute to the splendor of nature, with many striving to maintain its natural glory. However, many issues face the preservation efforts for this site, including invasive species and climate change. Fortunately, travelers can make a positive impact by ensuring they travel conscientiously.
Rocky Mountain National Park
View of Rocky Mountain National Park from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, Colorado
Due to its diverse climates and massive size, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is often called the land of extremes. However, the park’s diversity is one of its major assets since it will appeal to almost anyone. The over 200,000 acres of parkland include adventurous mountain paths, lush valleys, and pristine lakes. Depending upon kill level, people can choose between hiking cliff faces or strolling along the shores of a lake.
Springtime is one of the best times to visit, but this isn’t to say there isn’t plenty to do all year. Winter is harsh, but the trip can be exhilarating and exciting for the seasoned hiker. Just be sure to check out this helpful resource before planning a trip. Guests to the park will not have to worry about their carbon footprint either since the park has implemented several green initiatives to combat climate change and pollution.
- Eco-Tips: Utilize the park’s shuttle system rather than use cars for long trips through the park.
- Best Trails: Several of the best trails in the park include Emerald Lake Trail and Lake Haiyaha.
Mammoth Lakes, California
Mammoth Lakes in California offers travelers a unique opportunity to escape the hustle of life in a tranquil location. The stunning lakes date back 100,000-52,000 years when an ancient volcano erupted in the region, forming the valleys and landscapes. The site is one of the best locations for cycling, horseback riding, and hiking, with its bike trails ranked as some of the best by Outside Magazine. With so much to choose from, newbies should be sure to check out this extensive guide when planning their trip.
With its many well-defined trails and bike paths, limiting carbon emissions is pretty easy. However, every little bit of effort helps, so travelers should strive to practice sustainable travel at Mammoth Lakes.
- Eco-Tips: Avoid polluting the waterways while fishing and boating on the lakes by throwing trash away and never overfishing the lakes.
- Best Trails: Hot Creek Geological Site and Bodie, a classic old west-style town.
Glacier National Park
Beautiful sky over Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park in Montana is just a few miles from the border of Canada in the northern parts of the state. It’s also near the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, which rests just east of the park. The native influence on the land is still celebrated by Glacier National Park, with the Native America Speaks program seeking to highlight their cultural heritage in the land. Throughout the year, visitors can participate in the many presentations given by tribe members who share their ancestors’ ancient wisdom and heritage with all who listen.
The park’s concern for the site’s history influences its focus on preserving this location for future generations. While guests can help by participating in its “leave no trace” program, Glacier Park does its fair share to minimize its carbon footprint by implementing green energy in the park.
Zion National Park
Kolob Arch in Zion National Park
Zion National Park in Utah offers some of the most unique landscapes in the entire state. While visiting, travelers can choose to hike the many trails, cycle the many bike paths, or utilize the free shuttle. The wilderness is home to a good deal of wildlife and natural beauty, which people can enjoy via backpacking for an exciting adventure.
Canyoneering is another fun experience in the park, which includes using pulleys and rope systems to scale canyon walls. Zion National Park also strives to preserve its many wildlife and plant species through its National Park Service Green Parks Plan.
- Eco-Tips: Travelers should check out the park’s comprehensive recycling agenda to better understand its dedication to combating pollution and how guests can help.
- Best Trails: While home to several splendid hikes, hiking the region around Kolob Arch is by far the most popular and thrilling.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park rests off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. The park consists of the surrounding waters and seven small, remote islands. The park became an officially recognized location in 1935; however, its history goes back much further since it’s a prominent fishing and boating location. The shipwrecks and offshore coral reefs are two of the site’s key features that attract visitors seeking an exciting time in the open water. The park’s main endeavor is to preserve the local coral reefs and the many fish and ocean species that call the seas their home.
- Eco-Tips: Travelers should try to learn all about the local ocean species and strive to apply NOAA’s advice on how to help save the oceans every day.
- Best Trails: Fort Jefferson and Loggerhead Key are the most exciting locations for a stroll or hike where guests can learn all about the site’s history.
Everglades National Park
Blue skies reflecting on the still waters of the swamps in Everglades National Park in Florida as tourists take airboat tour to see alligators in the wild
On the southern tip of Florida, about an hour south of Miami, is the gorgeous wetlands of Everglades National Park. The location is dominated by the flow of rivers out to the sea that are rich in various wildlife. This site is the only place on the planet where guests can spot alligators and crocodiles living together. It’s also the sole subtropical preserve on the North American continent and is an essential bird breeding ground.
Bird watching is a popular park activity and helps emphasize how important this location is to the Earth’s ecosystem. In fact, ten nearly extinct species and thirteen threatened species call this location home. If the site ceased to exist, many of the animals and their environments would suffer or cease to exist. Fortunately, visitors to the park can help support the park’s sustainability goals and preserve the park and its many inhabitants.
- Eco-Tips: Use motor-free water transportation when possible to help the park curb oil and fuel pollution in the waters and in the air.
- Best Trails: Fortunately, there are many exciting hiking trails in Florida’s Everglades, including the Coastal Prairie Trail, which runs for just over 12 miles, and the Eco Pond Trail, which runs for about half a mile.
Shenandoah National Park
View of Piedmont in Virginia, Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia rests a few miles from Washington, D.C., and is an ideal spot for a getaway from the city. Visitors to the park will likely enjoy the many waterfalls, streams, and massive woodlands that paint the hills in vibrant colors in the fall. It’s also one of the best places to have a sustainable hike, thanks to nearly 500 miles of trails taking guests through the forest.
Unfortunately, Shenandoah National Park is not immune from human impacts on the landscape through climate change and pollution. However, the site strives to keep the breathtaking landscape alive with diverse vegetation and animals living in the area.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Waterfall at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a stunning organic escape just outside Akron and Cleveland, Ohio. The Cuyahoga River is the site’s main attraction, with woodlands and farmland dotting the landscape, making the place colorful and full of life. Towpath Trail is an excellent path for anyone who loves nature and history since the path takes tourists right along the Ohio and Erie Canal.
Cuyahoga Park is home to many different animals, with beavers, voles, deer, and different types of amphibians dwelling in the rivers and woodlands. Through its comprehensive climate action plan, the park actively strives to ensure all these creatures remain part of the planet’s ecosystem.
- Eco-Tips: While hiking the 125-mile park trails, travelers should bring plenty of snacks to keep fueled for the trip. Although, to avoid plastic packaging, buy snacks in bulk and put them in reusable, washable containers.
- Best Trails: A few of the best trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park are Blue Hen Falls and Ledges Trail. Both trails take about 1–2 hours to complete and are a great way to experience the park’s natural beauty.
Badlands National Park
The sun setting over Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park in South Dakota is an idyllic spot for anyone who enjoys rural America. This remote location is known for its striking rock formations that formed millions of years ago, bearing witness to the Earth’s climactic past. The location is home to a vast array of prairie grasses, meaning the landscape houses a stunning array of wildlife and ecology. Sod Tables, one of the prairie’s most unique features, result from sod on top of the mix of soil and rock developing into a table-like formation. Other outstanding features of the landscape are the many animals that call it their home, including bison, bighorn sheep, and back-footed ferrets.
Guests to the park can help save these animals by combating climate change and land degradation. Conscientious eating, shopping local, and switching to more plant-based meals can make a big impact in helping limit waste production and encouraging wilderness preservation.
- Eco-Tips: Respect the habitat of bison and other animals by limiting garbage and ensuring proper disposal. Also, never approach the animals. Not only are they dangerous, but they should not be made to feel threatened in their home.
- Best Trails: Some of the best paths in the Badlands are Castle Trailhead and Fossil Exhibit Trailhead.
Hiking is one of the best ways to get a closer look at the splendor of nature. With climate change impacting the world, every little effort matters. Immersion in nature helps establish an intimate connection with it and its biodiversity. The more people are exposed to nature, the more likely they are to appreciate the planet and its diverse ecosystems.