If you want to worry less and feel good, take a hike
Studies have proven that simply taking a walk in nature produces brain waves similar to those that occur in meditation and significantly reduces stress, boosts immune function and improves memory and mental ability.
There are many places to lace up your boots, but to celebrate America’s National Parks’ 100th birthday, I’d like to share with you a couple of phenomenal hikes I recently had the pleasure of doing at two of the United States’ most iconic natural wonders – The Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.
South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon (South Rim)
I have to admit that my first impression of the famous canyon wasn’t as grand as I thought it would be. Walking along the rim on the evening we arrived, there were so many people. Yes, it was gorgeous, dramatic and certainly a sight, but it didn’t take my breath away. I wasn’t filled with the awe I thought I would be. Perhaps it was just too vast, the multi-colored rocks too faded from the distance. Or maybe my expectations were just too high. Luckily, my first impression wasn’t my last.
Early the next morning, taking the shuttle bus from the visitors’ center, we set off on a hike on the South Kaibab Trail. As we descended into the canyon, the awe that had been missing the evening before began to fill me. After an hour’s hike, we reached Cedar Ridge Point, and ventured onto the pick rock that jetted out into the canyon. For a while, we sat completely alone, just us and the canyon that grew more magnificent by the second. The colors of the layered rock formations changed continuously, sparkling in the sun, revealing a glimpse of its millions of years of geological history. Here the Grand Canyon exceeded all of my highest expectations.
Back at the top of the South Kaibab Trailhead, we walked part of the Rim Trail, a 12-mile accessible path that runs from this trailhead to Hermits Rest. This section of the trail was also virtually empty; and once again I was filled with wonder and glad we took time to explore a bit instead of just passing through.
If you go: We stayed at the Best Western Premier Grand Squire Inn in the Grand anyon Village, approximately 7.5 miles from the park’s entrance. Helpful staff and ultra-comfortable beds made it an ideal base for our hiking trip. We also loved the vintage photos of early tourists exploring the canyon in the rooms and hallways.
Accommodations inside the park include the historic El Tovar and Bright Angel Lodges. For the true adventurer, there is Phantom Lodge that lies at the bottom of the canyon. Reservations are necessary and can be made up to 13 months in advance.