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America’s Wild Spaces - Part 1 - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Travelling

This is my view on some of the best and quieter wild spaces that America has to offer. I hesitated a bit over the title because everyone has their own view on what’s best. However, I have been travel to and taking holidays around America for the last 40 years so I have seen a lot of what it has to offer. I think the important word that I used at the start of this article is ‘quieter’. There are plenty of parks that offer spectacular views but have equally spectacular numbers of visitors. All these popular major parks are ‘must sees’ but are often very crowded. So what I have tried to do here is point you in the direction of crowd-free national parks that offer travellers scenery and often wildlife.

LASSEN VOLCANIC State Park in California, it has an area of 430 sq km and was created in 1916. You go here for volcanic action, scenic drives, snowshoeing.

Lassen is the laidback Golden State at its most inhospitable. All four types of volcano are found here: shield, cinder cone, composite and plug dome. The 3, 187m active Lassen Peak is one of the largest plugs in the world. When you add sizzling fumaroles and burping mudpots this becomes weirdly wonderfully lively terrain. Most of the main geothermal features can be seen from the main park road. However, if you want a closer look then hit the 240km hiking network, which includes the 5km Bumpass Hell path, this is usually only open mid-July to October. This heads into a basin filled with mudpots and steaming pools. Winter comes very hard at Lassen and 15m of snow is not at all unusual. The roads close, so cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are the only ways to go. The novice can use the ranger-guided snow-hikes are run for them. The park is open year-round, however, the winter and spring access is limited. Also, mosquitoes will be a problem in June and July. The park is 265km north of Sacramento. So you can plan a northern California road trip looping from San Francisco, through the Napa Valley’s wineries, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite.

LAKE CLARK State park in Alaska with an area of about 16, 300 sq km. It was created in 1980 and is known for classic scenery, remote lodges and rafting.

Though it’s just 160km from Anchorage the park gets less than 15, 000 visitors a year. Indeed if you plan an adventure in this land of glaciers, rugged mountains, salmon rivers and active volcanoes, and you won’t see many other people. Longer hikes such as the 80km Telaquana Trail are best attempted only by experienced backpackers; shorter trips using the trail system from Port Alsworth, are however less daunting. Paddle trips are possible as well with both lake kayaking or rafting on the Grade III-IV rapids. This can be arranged with local operators in Anchorage. If you want the trip of a lifetime then fly into one of the park’s remote, and expensive, lodges by floatplane, for a more comfortable wilderness experience. The park is open year-round but most people visit from June to September for the best weather. Lake Clark is a one to two-hour flight from Anchorage, Kenai or Homer; charter boats on the Kenai Peninsula run tours to parts of the park. If you do get to this part of the world Lake Clark should be a stop on your itinerary but make sure you include bear watching in Katmai National Park as well.

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