By Lynn O’Rourke Hayes
Explore some new country destinations during your next vacation. Here are five places to consider.
American Prairie, Montana
Using an innovative model, American Prairie, a Montana-based nonprofit, is in the midst of stitching together a 3-million-acre nature and wildlife reserve on the great plains of Montana.
Once completed, the reserve will provide a continuous land area, collaboratively managed for wildlife and recreation. It will be the largest of its kind in the lower 48 states. Herds of elk, deer, pronghorn, and bison once roamed these grasslands in great numbers. American Prairie’s goal is to create and protect a functioning ecosystem within this iconic landscape. Unlike developed national parks, the privately created American Prairie offers a sense of uninterrupted nature.
The current habitat base of more than 450,000 acres stretches north and south of the Missouri River in northeastern Montana. Camping and a hut system provide access to hiking, mountain biking, fishing, wildlife watching, and night-sky viewing far from city lights.
For more: AmericanPrairie.org; VisitMT.org
With plenty of wide-open space at the ready, this central Wyoming town is a vibrant hub for outdoor adventure. Home to the North Platte River, which provides year-round fly-fishing opportunities, Casper has become a bucket-list destination for avid and aspiring anglers. The river sits below five reservoirs, enabling consistent water flows and temperature, thus manifesting a stable fishing habitat. You’ll hear enthusiastic talk and big fish stories that originate on specific stretches of the river, including the Miracle Mile and Grey Reef. But for family travelers, it’s good to know there is also blue ribbon water flowing right through the heart of town, with plenty of public access points available. Appreciate the legendary waterway in a different way via the Platte River Trail system, which threads through the community for 11 miles. The paved paths provide access to wildlife watching, mountain views, and public art.
Amish Country, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Turn back the clock and wander through the towns and villages of Lancaster County, where Amish carpenters and woodworkers are busy creating beautiful handcrafted furniture, birdhouses, bowls, and children’s toys. Stop to admire potters at work or the extraordinary hand-stitched quilts, designed and created by Amish women. Go for a hike or a horseback ride, or explore winding country roads.
For more: VisitAmishCountry.com
For long views, sunny days, and unique land formations, consider a trek into the history-rich Canyonlands. It’s a photographer’s dream landscape, so keep your camera handy as you choose among short strolls, longer day hikes, or more strenuous outings.
The 2-mile Grand View Point trail offers panoramic views of the Island in the Sky Mesa. To learn about how the Anasazi lived in the area, consider the Aztec Butte Trail, where some of their rock structures are still visible.
For more: www.UtahsCanyonCountry.com
Bar Harbor, Maine
Explore 45 miles of Acadia National Park via the rustic roads made possible by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. The historic, 16-foot-wide pathways were designed to enable the Rockefeller family to navigate the area on horseback or in horse-drawn carriages. Thus, none of the roads are too curvy or steep, making them ideal for today’s family cyclists. History laden, stone-faced bridges cross streams, waterfalls, and roads. Bike or walk them, or take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.
For more: NPS.gov/acad/index.htm
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