Blue Ridge cropped

With your hiking boots tied in perfectly snug knots, pebbles brushed off your knee, and a deep breath of fresh air filling your lungs, your first step leads into the wilderness. The warm breeze reeks of dirt, nature at its finest. Leaves crunch beneath your powerful feet and stones fling off the trail, scuttling to a slow stop.  Thoughts of the office vanish from your mind and Thanksgiving stumbles in.  This round, beautiful earth where we freely trek makes being thankful easy.

Today marks National Take a Hike Day, unknowingly designed for people to bellow “take a hike” to those who deserve it, or  a venture into the wilderness for some healthy, much-needed exercise. Nonetheless, Aladdin Travel interprets it as the latter.

What better time to embrace nature than late autumn, when leaves transform from bright greens to light yellows and dark amber before they shrivel and freeze off into the bone cold winter. Also, a few months away marks the National Parks’ 100th birthday year, providing a wonderful excuse to travel to one, right before the whirling holidays swing in. Knock a few National Parks off avid hikers’ bucket lists this year with these top  suggestions:

1.) Blue Ridge Parkway

blue ridge mountain collage

This winding road stretches from the Great Smokey Mountains of North Carolina all the way up the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. As far as the eye can see, vast mountains roll along the 469 mile drive, so pull off the bending road whenever your heart pleases to grasp the wide, alpine view. Plenty of trails along the road range from a 0.1 mile hike to an elongated 13.5 mile one-way trek, each completed with secluded views of quiet American land, and a few historic sites representing different time segments of Cherokee history.   Of course, don’t miss the highest waterfall east of the Rockies, or Mount Mitchell, the tallest mountain peak in Eastern USA.

2.) Redwood National Park, California

redwood

Mystical fog sifts around thousands-of-years-old cinnamon-colored trees in California’s Redwood National Park. The subtle sun peaks through the forest, creating a gentle, serene glow. Besides the chirping birds and trickling creeks, peaceful silence stagnates the salty air. RIght near the sea shore, this marvelous chunk of land beholds the largest trees in the world – redwoods, (their diameter averages 8 to 20 feet wide – cars drive through them!) and most tower over 300 feet high. Previously, when the dinosaurs roamed, redwood trees grew EVERYWHERE in the world; recently, archaeologists discovered fossils in China! However, today these intriguing trees thrive exclusively in California. Redwood National Park’s 200 miles of hiking trails vary from half-mile loops to 22-mile long trails, with difficulty levels ranging from meandering about, absorbing the trees with your head tipped back, to strenuous – climbing up steps and along waterfalls amidst the magical foliage. If you’re up for a challenge, take the 22 mile hike that leads you all the way out to the sea!

 3.) Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier, Montana

Do not wait to experience Glacier National Park, where 25 glaciers slowly shrink. The largest glacier reaches 0.7 miles, but ecologists estimate that glaciers will completely melt by 2020. Despite these sad statistics, there is plenty to see at Glacier. Jutting mountains strike around flat plains, sprinkled with rushing waterfalls, 762 delving lakes, and peeking wildflowers. 151 hiking trails total a whopping 745 miles of must-see paths throughout the park. Don’t allow bitter temperatures scare you – no matter what time of year you head to Glacier National Park, chinooks (dry, warm breezes) burst down the mountain and take the chill out of your bones. Try to squeeze this wondrous hiking spot on a National Hike Day soon to come!

4.) Arches, Utah

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Blowing beads of water and gusts of air naturally whittle ruddy sandstone arches. The Colorado River glides near this high desert, spitting rapids and waves up the sides of darkening red rock. The sun is big, bright and low – about to settle for the night, dancing across the red rocks, creating an exquisite fiery atmosphere by enhancing the color. As the backdrop of Indiana Jones, Thelma and Louise, and many John Wayne movies, the Arches in Utah may seem familiar; you’ve definitely seen the famous Delicate Arch plopped on Utah license plates. Why not take a hike here for National Take a Hike Day, with miles of precious, picturesque hiking adept for all levels.

Can’t make it to a National Park on a Tuesday? Don’t worry. Take a walk outside, breathe in the fresh air, look up at the sky and truly appreciate wherever you are for National Take a Hike Day!