When the urban lifestyle overtakes you, there is nothing like nature to cleanse your mind: overwhelming landscapes and clean air can be the best therapy.
Terms like ecotourism or sustainable tourism – not even tourism! – existed when the first natural park – or national park, as they are also called – was created. It was in 1872, and the first to receive such a name was Yellowstone, in the state of Wyoming, in the United States of America. At the time, natural parks were conceived as large pieces of land protected by the state for their unique ecological qualities. With the internationalization of the term, they also became a source of national pride, a way of demonstrating – and conserving – the wealth of flora and fauna of the different countries.
Today, natural parks have become a tourist attraction for millions of people every year: in the United States, with an extensive and delicately maintained park network, over the last 5 years they have been visited by more than 330 million people. This is no surprise. People, especially in the most populated cities, need to unplug, forget the screens and regain their connection to nature, even if it's only for a few days. Although with so many visitors every day, is it really possible to disconnect, isolate and reconnect with the inner self and with the wild? Well, it's possible if you run away from the most crowded parks – Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc. – and visit one of the following not so well known but equally attractive small state parks.
Natural Bridge State Park
Located in the state of Kentucky, this natural park covers approximately 2,300 acres (about 9 km2) and takes its name from a natural marble arch that spans 78 ft (24 m) and is 65 ft (20 m) high. The arch, unique in America, was formed by the passage of water over millions of years.
But it is not the only geological attraction that can be seen in this park. Following its many hiking trails you can find unique rock formations such as the Balanced Rock, formerly known as The Sphinx. In addition, visitors can also tour an abandoned marble quarry and check out a man-made white marble dam –the only one in North America.
Although due to the large arch the flow of visitors is great, the wide expanse makes it easy to find secluded spaces where you can disconnect and experience nature at its purest.
Natural Falls State Park
Maybe the name doesn't tell you anything, but if you're familiar with the 1974 film Where the Red Fern Grows, then you already know its landscapes. Natural Falls State Park, in the Ozark Highlands region of northeastern Oklahoma, was the location chosen for this film based on a book by Wilson Rawls, thanks to its lush vegetation and impressive waterfall.
With a height of 77 feet (23 meters), this waterfall is the main attraction of this natural park, which can be seen from an observation platform and a picnic pavilion nearby. In the times of the year when the river is more abundant, when the current falls, a cloud of steam is created at the base causing a humid and fresh microclimate conducive to the development of many plant species, mainly ferns. The picture is as picturesque as it is hypnotic, and it conveys an incomparable feeling of peace.
The park, in addition to camping space for only 27 tents, has 5 yurts of its own, so the number of people is never too high: it is possible that, depending on the dates, you can be there completely alone, perfect to disconnect. And if looking at the waterfall is not enough, there is also a 3.5 mile (5.6 km) hiking route. No cell phones are required.
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
If you thought that natural parks were only found in mountainous areas or in the middle of forests, try visiting Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. Located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in the Point Loma area near the city of San Diego, it comprises 68 acres (28 ha) and is the largest undeveloped area on the south side of the area.
Among its many natural attractions is, of course, the beach – known by locals as Garbage Beach –, which can be accessed by a steep but accessible road, making it very popular with surfers. Its rock formations and caves are impressive, as are the steep cliffs. It is best to visit it at low tide to see the tide pool formation.
But if there is one thing that makes this nature park stand out – and why you should visit it – it is the sunsets that can be seen from the top of the cliffs. As evening falls, the sun slowly descends until it hovers over the horizon, creating an explosion of orange, red and yellow colours worth admiring. Some say these are the most beautiful sunsets in California. Even when there are people – which is not very common – the silence that is created is overwhelming. And with a little luck, while there is light, you can sometimes see California gray whales in the water during their annual migration.
Forests, waterfalls and beaches are great for disconnecting, but if you don't have time and need to take a short break anytime, anywhere, try our OSTRICHPILLOW Originalimmersive pillow. Another type of disconnection.
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Photo by Tommy Sadler on Unsplash