The 10 most breathtaking US West Coast National Parks (2/2)

Picking this epic list back up for 5 more breathtaking views and hikes – check out my top 5 here.

6- Arches

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Its incredible what nature can create. More than 2,000 red sandstone arches are said to be found in this park, and although I only saw a couple dozens, these are the other bizarre geological formations make this park a natural wonderland. Two hikes that are absolute must dos: the 3-mile / 2-hour Delicate Arch hike, and the 8-mile / 4-hour Devil’s Garden hike through Landscape Arch to Double-O Arch (including a detour to get behind Partition Arch).

The Windows section was closed for road construction when I visited, but I’ve heard great things about it too. And there are a few other viewpoints that are worth stopping by: Park Avenue, Balance Rock, Fiery Furnace,… We had such a blast hiking Arches with my baby niece 🙂

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The 10 most breathtaking US West Coast National Parks (1/2)

I always say that for the highest concentration of breathtaking views and mind-blowing adventures one doesn’t need to look further than the West Coast of the US. Sometimes we travel far seeking picture-perfect landscapes and epic hikes, and forget to explore our backyards. For those lucky enough like me to live in the West Coast, our backyard happens to be packed with world wonders.

This is my list of top 10 sites – I tried to balance best views with best hikes, depending on what you’re looking for, you will want to prioritize differently. But you might not need to choose, all of the below can be tackled in a 3 week ultimate road trip! If you go for this, get the National Parks Annual Pass.

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Northern lights in Alaska – A photo essay

In March of 2016, we spent the most amazing weekend in Fairbanks, Alaska. We witnessed the unbelievable phenomenon of auroras borealis,  enjoyed like kids at the World Ice Sculpture Championship , and even had time to get trapped in a snow storm in Denali. It was one of our favorite adventures of the year, a unique experience that we didn’t think we would repeat any time soon…

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Denali in the winter: snowshoeing and other adventures

The Denali National Park is a massive preserve in interior Alaska, containing the highest peak in North America, 20,310 feet tall Denali (previously known as Mount McKinley). It might be better known in popular culture as the place where Chris McCandless ventured and eventually died, as chronicled by the book and later film ‘Into the Wild’. Most people believe Denali is a summer park, but in reality it’s open all year around, and is definitely worth a visit in the winter, if you find yourself in Alaska. For us, it was an obvious choice when deciding where to spend the last day of our Alaska weekend, after a day enjoying the amazing World Ice Art Championship in Fairbanks and a night marveling at northern lights. Denali is 120 miles from Fairbanks, mostly on highway, so it can be reached in 2 and a half hours, which makes it a long but totally viable day trip. It would be a pretty eventful one.

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Mind-blowing ice sculptures in Alaska

The main goal of our weekend trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, was to see the northern lights, and we definitely succeeded 🙂 Luckily for us, this remote town has much more to offer in March: The peak month for auroras coincides with the spectacular World Ice Art Championship… perfect timing!

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The best place and time to see the Northern Lights

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are a natural phenomenon at the top of most traveler’s bucket list; they definitely have been on mine since I can remember. These colorful light displays are caused by charged particles released from the Sun, known as solar wind, as they hit the Earth’s atmosphere. They typically occur on the band 10-20 degrees of latitude from the North Pole, making certain locations around the planet true hot spots for aurora viewing; most notably, Iceland, Norway, Canada and Alaska. In Alaska, the small town of Fairbanks prides itself in offering the best chances, as well as the easiest logistics for those who live on the West Coast of the US like me.

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3 days hiking in Banff

I’m lucky to have a group of friends that loves travelling and hiking. Every year, we do at least one epic trip to explore America’s beautiful outdoors. Mount Whitney, Zion, Bryce and Havasu Falls have been some of our previous destinations… and this year, it was Banff’s turn. About 2 hours west of Calgary, Alberta, Banff was Canada’s first national park. Its landscape includes forests, alpine mountains, glaciers and the most famous, intense blue lakes.

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Beach and more nature in Manuel Antonio

A few more hours of driving, this time on a nice road, and a quick stop at a crocodile-infested river, and we made it to our final stop: Manuel Antonio. The first nights we decided to stay close to the National Park entrance, in Manuel Antonio proper. That way we would be there before most tourists (it gets crowded in peak season), and we could enjoy the local beach. This area was much more touristy than all the other places, more expensive and “Americanized”, though we still found really good food and juices 🙂

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Ziplining through Monteverde’s clouds

After our detour to Playa Grande to observe leatherback turtles, we had driven a few hours and crashed in a crappy hotel in Juntas, close to Monteverde. We woke up a bit later than usual, and started the drive up to the mountain. The road was truly horrible and it took us good 2 hours and a lot of pain.

Monteverde is known for its Cloud Forests (Reserva de Monteverde and Reserva de Santa Elena), and for ziplining. It’s unclear if it really started here, but there is no doubt that this town has exploited the activity the most. We signed up for a group that was starting right away at Selvatura Park, one of the most famous operators. It was lots of fun! Not only the adrenaline of flying but also being surrounded by the thick forest with howler monkeys, the dense fog that wouldn’t let you see where the line was ending… we enjoyed like kids.

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