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The Wild List: A Guide To The Best Outdoor Spots

A definitive guide to the hottest, sweetest, looniest, and most colorful spots in the great outdoors.

Best Stargazing

Davis Mountains State Park, TX

When you’re in the mood to go to a really dark place, spend a stunningly starry night in this west Texas park. In fact, light pollution research from the International Dark Sky Association identifies this empty country as one of the darkest places in North America. Throw in the park’s mile-high elevation, southern latitude (think big sky), low humidity, and wide-open landscape, and you have yourself a Texas-size star-watching party.

Wildest Spot For July 4 Fireworks

First Flatiron, near Boulder, CO

It’s the ultimate skybox for the big show: the summit of the First Flatiron, a 1,000-foot-high slab of red-rock leaning up against the Colorado Front Range. Where else can you watch the rockets’ red glare from above? Just be sure to pick a route that matches your climbing ability and keep an eye out for afternoon thunderstorms; there are some July fireworks worth missing.

Best Spot To Lose Your Therm-a-Rest

Glacier Bay National Park, AK

Sure, the banks of Glacier Bay are relentlessly rocky, the weather consistently dank, the summertime night notoriously short. All the more reason to rejoice when you find a thick bed of dried sphagnum moss to call home for the evening. When the sunrise wakes you at 3 a.m., sit up, take in the stunning view of Mt. Fairweather, and then head back to dreamy paradise on the world’s cushiest mattress.

Perfect Place To Donate Blood

Everglades National Park, FL

More than 60 mosquito species call Florida home. If you want a chance to meet and greet them all, slather on the deet and head to the Everglades. Better still, come after a June rainstorm and paddle a canoe into the mangrove swamps and sawgrass marshes in the park’s southwest corner.

Best Skinny-Dipping

Grapevine Creek, AZ

To hike the Grand Canyon at midday in late summer is to step into the world’s largest food dehydrator. A few more hours, and you’d feel like fruit leather. But not on this day. You’ve found cool comfort pouring through perfect sandstone bathtubs. This is refreshment you can taste and feel. There’ll be no more hiking today.

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