When you take a minute to flee the city, America is a jaw-droppingly beautiful place to explore—a feast of mountains and rivers and beaches and forests and birds and trees that have inspired writers, artists and free-thinkers for centuries. This summer, we’re encouraging you to join them. In partnership with acclaimed new film Captain Fantastic, starring Viggo Mortensen —which centers on a family that lives in the forests of the Pacific and is forced to re-enter the “real world”—we’ve scoured the country to find America’s most inspiring places. Looking to escape that real world for an invigorating encounter with nature? These destinations are calling. And for an invigorating encounter with nature closer to home, catch Captain Fantastic in select theaters July 8.
Let America inspire you...
Near the Canadian border, this icy wilderness is crowned by an active volcano, the 10,781-foot-tall Mount Baker. The road to Artist Point (where Captain Fantastic was shot) is closed most of the year, but when the snow melts it's a breathtaking destination with cairns, blueberry meadows and panoramic views of Mounts Shuksan and Baker.
Pass through old-growth forest and wetlands in this 4,300-acre park and environmental laboratory, which is managed by the University of Washington and accessible year-round. Mossy trails meander by Douglas fir, hemlock, wildflowers and waterfalls; toads and woodpeckers provide the soundtrack.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flicker/Mount Rainier National Park
Aspens and ponderosa pines shade this relaxed site on the quiet north side of the canyon, 8,200 feet above sea level. A short walk takes you to the Transept Trail, where you can watch the sandstone peaks blaze at sunset.
When explorer William Clarke reached Tillamook Head, in Ecola State Park, he saw "the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed." You'll agree with that sentiment as you take in the dramatic view south over Cannon Beach, where giant boulders stand misted in sea spray.
This pocket beach is covered in polished volcanic pebbles, not sand, which look like crumbles from the surrounding bluffs. Located on a remote peninsula in Downeast Maine, it’s a cherished spot for residents of the nearby fishing villages.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Kim Carpenter
Though technically a desert, Zion Canyon is lush with vegetation and waterfalls—you'll get a taste of that at these three pools on this scenic trail. The middle pool is particularly striking toward dusk, when it’s shaded and the sun hits the cliffs on the opposite side of the Virgin River.
In the summer, northern Connecticut's Enders State Forest offers cool respite, with a stream coursing through dense woodland. A short trail ends at a group of waterfalls and swimming holes shaded by maple, birch and oak trees.
A historic lighthouse marks this sandy spit at the tip of Cape Cod, a short boat ride (or long walk) from bustling Provincetown. Surrounded by the lapping bay, you’ll gaze on sailboats, seagulls and maybe even a school of dolphins.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Lori L. Stalteri
You’ll need to scramble up boulders and tackle a steep climb to get to this spectacular Hudson Highlands viewing point. Though it’s a short train ride from New York City, the overlook feels remote, spanning the lush banks of the Hudson River and Storm King Mountain.
On a hot day, it’s hard to beat kayaking down this serene stretch of the Delaware River, with forests along the shore and bald eagles overhead. The whitewater at Walpack Bend is just enough to make this accessible park—near both Philadelphia and New York—feel like an adventure.
This swampy 22,000-acre tract became a national park in 2003, so tourists are only now discovering its expansive old-growth bottomland hardwood forest and fields of butterweed. Walk along Weston Lake to experience the park's variety, such as otters, wading birds and cypress knees poking up from a dried-up riverbed.
Once a Gilded Age estate, this 1,400-acre property is a working sustainable farm, with woodlands, pastures and gardens. Its cheddar is delicious, but the real reason to come is the majestic view over Lake Champlain to the Adirondacks.
Those looking for inner peace should find it at dawn on <a href="https://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Jordan Pond</a>, when the pines are fragrant and mist rises off the water. Stand on the east side to see the sun hit the sculpted granite peaks behind the pond.
This turnoff offers a sweeping view of the Bryce Canyon amphitheater and its army of limestone hoodoos. The fanciful rock formations, eroded over millennia, are especially enchanting in the orange glow of sunset.
One of the best places to see many of Grand Tetons' 300 species of birds is at this crook of the Snake River, which is filled with prey like suckers and trout. Look for white pelicans in the spring, bald eagles in the summer and trumpeter swans year-round.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flicker/Dave Bezaire
Rugged cliffs, 180-feet tall, separate Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands at Deception Pass in Puget Sound. The cliffs (which serve as a dramatic backdrop for a scene in Captain Fantastic) are part of a popular 4,134-acre marine and camping park with 15 miles of saltwater shoreline, sandy beaches and old-growth forest.
Montana has long been a magnet for fly fishermen, thanks to the diversity of its trout-filled waterways. Originating in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, the 60-mile Boulder River is framed by mountains as it courses through pools and rapids, making it an especially scenic place to cast a line.
At the end of the 11-mile Kalalau trail, this stretch of sand is an otherworldly destination for serious hikers. The secluded beach, on the Napali Coast, is cupped by fluted volcanic ridges that plunge into the turquoise Pacific.
The Redwoods on this creek-side flat are hundreds of years old and staggeringly immense, some reaching higher than 350 feet. Visitors need to get a free permit before driving the narrow unpaved road to the trailhead, then hike 1.3 miles to the site.
In the southeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park, Wild Basin is a forested area dotted with streams, lakes and abundant wildflowers. Thundering 40 feet, the impressive Ouzel Falls is one of several waterfalls in the vicinity and a great destination for a day hike.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Christine Warner Hawks
Only one road passes through Denali National Park's 6 million acres of rugged wilderness, so you're guaranteed to find solitude here. To keep your bearings, hike along the wide Teklanika River, which braids through the tundra below Cathedral and Double Mountains.
Waves wash over billion-year-old cobblestones at this tranquil spot on Lake Superior’s north shore. Its unique coastal forest is home to species that thrive in the cool summers, like white cedars, tall bluebells and hawthorn shrubs.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/wsilver
This magnificent perch offers views of the north side of Isle Royale and over Lake Superior to the Ontario mainland. The trip there is part of the fun: From Rock Harbor, paddle or water taxi to the Lookout Louise trailhead, then hike through boreal forest to the overlook.Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Joe Ross
The walls of this west Texas canyon protect a beautiful desert oasis, home to a diverse array of plants and animals including bobcats and rattlesnakes. Visit in late October to see the spectacular fall colors of the walnut, juniper, ash and maple trees.