Europeans often scoff when North Americans (people from the US mainly) proudly talk about some old building in their hometown.
In a country that has buildings thousands of years old, we aren’t usually impressed with the age of any man-made item in the US.
In the UK there are some pubs that are older than the modern-day USA.
But while our buildings and history are much older, North America’s natural beauty is more vast and interesting.
I’ve just spent the last couple of weeks hiking around the national parks of Canada and the US.
They truly are a thing of natural beauty and wonder.
Formed over hundreds of millions of years, they are diverse ecosystems of wilderness.
This is where I went.
Whistler in British Colombia, Canada is about a two-hour drive north of Vancouver.
Known more as a ski resort, Whistler is equally beautiful in the summer sans snow.
The only snow you’ll find in Whistler is at the peak of a mountain.
Coincidentally, this is where we hiked up to.
A round trip of 7.5 miles and an elevation gain of 1,200 meters, the hike to Wedgemount Lake is one of the most difficult in the area.
I can’t lie, the hike was hard and by the end of it, my legs were shot.
The steep incline, the rock climbing and the general distance of the thing made it tiring.
But the views at the top made it all worth it.
The lake was a beautiful emerald green colour and it seemed surreal to be up there.
The sun shines bright, the oxygen level is low but there is snow all around you.
Next up was Banff in the Canadian Rockies near Calgary, Alberta.
Like Whistler, Banff is more known as a ski resort but is equally good in the summer.
Lake Louise, a beautiful lake named after Victoria Queen of England’s fourth daughter, Princess Louise.
The hike wasn’t anything like Whistler but the views were equally good.
Banff reminds me of Switzerland which is probably to do with Swiss mountaineers providing guiding tours around the mountains in the 1800s.
It’s also similar to Switzerland when it comes to price. Banff is not a cheap place to spend a lot of time but you can do it cheaply if you’re willing to camp out and cook barbecue.
And let’s be honest, food always tasted better when cooked from the barbecue.
Despite it being summer, the nights were still fairly cold (even to a northern Englander like myself) so it pays to get wrapped up.
I wasn’t initially intending on camping before planning my trip so I spent the first couple of nights without a sleeping bag.
Glacier National Park, USA
After some heavy questioning at the Canadian/USA border, we made our way to Glacier National Park in the state of Montana.
We only stayed here for one night as we were keen to get to Yellowstone so we didn’t see much of it.
The views driving through the park were something else.
The Going-to-the-Sun road is a 50-mile scenic mountain road leading out of the park which provides some amazing views.
Travelling through in the summer daytime is quite the experience as you wind around the tight roads of the mountain.
In the wintertime, it will be a different story and there’s no chance I’d drive the same route in the snow and ice.
That said, both Glacier National Park and the Going-to-the-Sun road are a must-do if you’re in the area.
Yellowstone National Park, USA
I first heard about Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming from Joe Rogan and wanted to visit ever since.
Yellowstone is famous for its geysers which are hot springs of water caused by volcanic activity that shoot into the air.
The park boasts the highest concentration of geysers in the world as well as having the largest.
These things are pretty phenomenal to see and at the same time a little unnerving to know that Yellowstone has a supervolcano underneath it.
Hopefully, it won’t erupt for the next half a million years when humans (hopefully) will be more capable of dealing with it.
Bonneville Salt Flats, USA
From Wyoming, a drive to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
The area is forty square miles of salt and many inches thick.
The Bonneville Salt Flats are famous for motor racing and world record land speed events.
Here you can drive or take a walk around the flats or run up to the hills and mountains.
The picture above looks like it was cold but it’s actually very hot there.
Hot but windy.
Arches National Park, USA
Staying in Utah, it was on to Arches National Park.
Famous for its sandstone arches, the park has over 2,000 of them.
Arches are formed over many years by the weather which is namely the wind and rain.
The result is a hiking trail where you can spot many of them en route.
We visited Arches in the summer so the temperature was over 30 degrees C.
Staying hydrated is advised.
Arches is bordered by the Colorado River with its most famous arch being aptly named the Delicate Arch, due to the 60 ft tall landmark potential to collapse soon.
Grand Canyon, USA
The final stop of the trip was at perhaps the most well-known.
Arizona’s Grand Canyon, the 277 miles long and 18 miles wide canyon which has been featured in countless movies and TV shows.
Looking out into the canyon from its numerous vantage points, it’s difficult to comprehend that it has been created over millions of years by the elements.
It makes you realise how small and inconsequential we are and how our concept of time is minuscule.
We only stayed the day at the Grand Canyon and didn’t stay the night but we started at 5 am which gave us enough time to see as much as possible.
North America’s natural beauty
Europeans, and especially us Brits, tend to go to the major cities when we visit the US.
Growing up our media consumption was of Hollywood movies and US TV shows set in places like New York and L.A so we tend to go to these destinations.
Although I’ve been to the US quite a few times (first time in Canada), this was my first time visiting North America’s great outdoors.
I highly recommend it.