Top 5 North American EcoDestinations

Top 5 North American EcoDestinations


"At the farthest reaches of the world often occurs new marvels and wonders, as though Nature plays with greater freedom secretly at the edges of the world than she does openly and nearer us in the middle of it."- Ranulf Higden, 14th century


Higden was onto something when he wrote that famous line almost a millennium ago; the capacity to be curious is what drives human exploration. Without it, you and I wouldn’t be communicating right now; in fact we might have never made it out of Africa. But what if the wanderlust that keeps us thirsty for adventure could be found right in our own backyard, or at the very least on the same continent?


The Earth is a large and magnificent place, and on it exists microcosms of baffling proportion. In the United States alone exists deserts, rainforests, wetlands, glaciers, and mountains as high as the ones you’ll find in Switzerland, and just as beautiful too. So why do we dream of far away lands when the thrill we seek can be found just a road trip away?


Here you’ll find a curated list of TIES’ favorite EcoDestinations, eco-tour operators in North America and the bewildering beauty of the environment that surrounds them. We hope you use this list to your advantage and make some groundbreaking explorations of your own.



        Part of the Goat Trail hike, the view down Chitistone Canyon, in

              Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.


1. Alaska. Alaska is home to the top four largest national parks in the entire country, and is also the resting place of Denali, North America’s tallest mountain peak and one of the Seven Summits. Beyond Denali, Alaska has the next ten tallest peaks in the country. It’s home to the largest range of untouched wilderness in the entire country and lacks large cities that cause urban pollution and smog, leaving it one of North America’s top pristine wonders.


Expeditions Alaska, a longtime member of TIES, is home to a group of expert eco-tour guides that will show you firsthand just how magical Alaska can be. If rugged, backcountry wilderness is the fuel to your primordial fire, owner and guide Carl Donahue, will take you on the expedition of your life. He’s curated each trek with a personalized touch, all of which you can tell he’s done with intent and purpose each time. Donahue offers a wide range of opportunities no matter what your skill level, you can take day trips to the most scenic areas in the state for top-notch photography and leave the environment intact, or you can take a rugged 12-day backpacking trip through the backcountry. The choice is yours, but no matter what you choose you’ll be surrounded by some of the best sights in the continental U.S.


                                      Half Moon Bay Coastline


2. Half Moon Bay, Northern California. Half Moon Bay is a unique town in Northern California because it’s dedicated to ecotourism, which can be seen in its culture, its local economy, and its picture perfect coastline. Residents and guests of Half Moon Bay enjoy a town rich with activities in hiking, birding, whale watching, sustainable fishing, and even local farm visits. The Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Board has procured a list of ecotourism operators that must meet a specific criteria to be placed on a list of approved green businesses, making their city one of the first American cities to follow this protocol. Should you ever find yourself aching for a relaxing trip to the Pacific Northwest, we strongly urge you to check out Half Moon Bay.


3. Hike Inn, Amicalola State Park, Georgia. Whether you’ve hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail or the entire thing, there’s no denying there is a certain pull one has to those foothills. The base of the AT is a melting pot of explorers, thru-hikers, day hikers, and waterfall enthusiasts, which is why we’ve chosen the Hike Inn as our #3 EcoDestination. A moderate five-mile hike from the top of Georgia’s tallest waterfall, Amicalola Falls, will bring you to sustainably built and family owned Hike Inn. Nestled in the pure wilderness, you’ll experience Appalachia the way it should be experienced: with peace and quiet from a bustling city and sweet seclusion one can only find in the woods.


(Bonus Tip: Be sure to stop by Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi on your way up to the falls to grab any extra food or gear you might need for your expedition north. This is a special find for those wanting to get the thru-hiker experience without the commitment as all the employees are veteran thru-hikers and can share the extensive knowledge they’ve all gained on the trail. They also offer a hiker’s hostel if you find yourself craving more land coverage after your stay at Hike Inn!)



                    The Grand Canyon, part of The Wayfarers guided trips


4. The Wayfarers, an eco-tour operator from Rhode Island. If your brand of exploration is slow and steady, The Wayfarers are the guides that’ll show you the way. Established over 30 years ago, The Wayfarers guide adventurers on slow walks through pristine wilderness. Their stops in the U.S. include Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. Those three states alone boast some of the tallest mountains in the country, the lowest valleys to be seen, and deserts you’d otherwise have to cross oceans for. If you’ve ever traveled cross-country you know that train travel is the absolute best way to see the most of where you are; The Wayfarers take it one (literal) step farther and give you the chance to hike through untouched landscapes you might not otherwise get to see.


5. Montfair Resort Farm, Crozet, Virginia. A member of TIES since 2005, Montfair Resort Farm offers over 120 acres of dedicated hiking trails, 8 eco-friendly cottages, and close proximity to the Shenandoah National Park nestled in the middle of Virginia’s share of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Take the time to visit this rustic resort and you’ll find their use of hydro and wind powered energy sources to give light to the cottages. Montfair is also an active advocate of organic farmers and local businesses. If you want a dedicated green experience, Montfair is dripping in sustainable efforts. --Lauren Melde


About TIES

As the world's oldest and largest international ecotourism association, TIES seeks to be the global source of knowledge and advocacy uniting communities, conservation, sustainable travel..




> The International Ecotourism Society 



The Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference will highlight global challenges and local opportunities, supporting sustainable development of tourism and promoting solutions that balance conservation, communities and sustainable travel.

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