America’s Best Tattoo Studios

pink neon tattoo sign against a brick wall

As tattoo culture grows, its artists, specializations, and processes grow with it. Like any art form, body art is always evolving technically, as well as visually—so if you’re the type to pick whichever studio is closest, and whichever artist can seat you right away, you might be missing out on the true quality and artistry you want. 


The following U.S. tattoo studios—organized by region—were selected based not only on creative merit, dedication to craft, and strong portfolios, but also because of their ability to either uphold longstanding tattoo tradition, or bring in new and fresh perspectives. 


Tattoos may be impulsive by nature, but the satisfaction of planning ahead and getting the most for your money will last as long as your new ink. Here are some of the best tattoo studios in America for your next piece. 




Hudson Valley Tattoo Company

Interior of Hudson Valley Tattoo company in Wappinger, NY
Photo Credit: From the business owner via Yelp.

With eleven artists on staff—as well as a rotating cast of guest artists—Hudson Valley Tattoo Company is guaranteed to match you with the right pair of hands.


Located right on Route 9 in Wappingers Falls, the studio is hard to miss. Walk-ins are welcome, and even preferred, to make sure your final result is exactly as you imagined (or even a little bit better). 


There’s an artist for every style, including portraiture, Irezumi inspired work, and geometric. Scale isn’t an issue—the artists’ portfolios feature full torso and back pieces, along with smaller, more contained work. 


Consistent service, accurate estimates, and true versatility should push this shop to the top of your list if you’re in upstate New York or nearby. Day-trippers from the five boroughs might even want to consider stopping at Hudson Valley Tattoo Company, instead of waiting for an appointment at the city’s top shops. 


Fleur Noire Tattoo Parlour

exterior of fleur noire tattoo in Brooklyn
Photo credit: Fleur N. via Yelp.

Having opened just five years ago, Fleur Noire Tattoo Parlour has become a mainstay both in its original Brooklyn location and across the country, gracing Los Angeles. Sophisticated yet casual, the studio feels like a professional creative space, and its artists uphold the standard. 


The studio’s international cast of tattooers from all walks of life brings their own angles to the medium, ranging from highly illustrative to simple line work. 


Fleur Noire is a great choice if you have an idea floating around your head but just need to get inspired by a professional to flesh it out. Along with the Los Angeles location, there is a third Fleur Noire outpost that recently joined the original studio in Brooklyn.


Three Kings Tattoo

exterior of 3 Kings Tattoo in Brooklyn. A graffiti art style is painted onto a metal roll-up security door. The store's name "Three Kings Tattoo" is in gold lettering on a black awning.
Photo credit. From the business owner via Yelp.

Over twenty years ago, Matthew Marcus and Alex McWatt’s friendship began with a single tattoo, from one artist to another. In 2008, the pair opened the first Three Kings Tattoo Parlour in Brooklyn. 


Since then, Three Kings has expanded to Manhattan, Long Island, Los Angeles, North Carolina, and London. Attracting top artists from both sides of the Atlantic along the way, the original shop has grown into a household name, with new co-owners bringing their personal goals to the business model. Despite its huge success, the original vision behind Three Kings is still going strong, putting creative integrity and great customer service at the forefront.


The Three Kings story continues to evolve, with fresh perspectives making their way into the mix and new artists joining the team to push fine tattooing to new levels. Getting a piece done at any of the three locations in New York brings you back to the studio’s roots in the Tri-State area; with no shortage of talent to choose from, you’re guaranteed to walk out with ink that exceeds expectations. 



Sacred Lotus Tattoo

exterior of sacred lotus tattoo in Asheville, NC
Photo credit: From the business owner via Yelp.

Owned and run by artist Kimi Leger, Asheville’s Sacred Lotus Tattoo prides itself on being an inclusive space in a vibrant creative hub. The shop’s five artists, including the owner, specialize in a variety of styles, approaching each with patience and precision. 


The staff also includes a professionally trained microblading artist for your aesthetic needs. Browse the shop and you’ll find an array of original body jewelry and earrings, hand-selected from independent brands to make sure you look and feel your best. 


An appointment is required, so make sure you reach out to the shop and book in advance. 


Arte Tattoo Studios

Interior of Arte Tattoo in Gainesville, GA
Photo credit: From the business owner via Yelp.

Just over three years old, Arte Tattoo Studios has honed a reputation that reaches beyond the shop’s hometown of Gainesville, Georgia. 


Well-known in and around Atlanta, Arte Studios is all about the vibe. Its artists pride themselves on connecting with their clients before picking up the needle. The result is an experience that is less about a transaction, and more about the conversation. 


A well-paced and relaxed tattoo process will help you let go of any doubts while refining your design to make sure it’s exactly what you imagined. 


Keeping the Southeast on the map, the team at Arte is bringing the young shop up to its full potential with diverse portfolios, dedicated service, and a steadily growing following in the Atlanta area and beyond. 


Hart and Huntington Tattoo Company

Exterior of Hart and Huntington Tattoo in Orlando, FL
Photo credit: From the business owner via Yelp.

Orlando’s Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company is a must-stop in a city that is more famous for its rides than its creative circle. 


The studio represents the side of Orlando that is built by locals, for locals. Twelve versatile artists call Hart & Huntington home, which was founded in the name of passion almost fifteen years ago. 


Catering to tourists and regulars alike, the artists work with a focus on narrative, detail, and innovation. No challenge is too demanding, and you can see the results for yourself in the portfolio portion of the H&H website. 



Electric Ladyland

Storefront of Electric Ladyland Tattoo in New Orleans, LA
Photo credit: Mia P. via Yelp.

An ode to perseverance, New Orleans’ Electric Ladyland first opened about seventeen years ago, having moved three times since. The studio’s current location on Frenchmen Street is a local fixture, making top lists year after year. 


If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air from the general hubbub surrounding the Frenchmen Street studio, Electric Ladyland Bywater should be your next stop. This second location focuses on appointment-based, custom work by resident and rotating artists


At either address, Electric Ladyland is a local legend, merging the natural revelry of New Orleans with the precision and detail that goes into quality ink. Throw a long-standing reputation and baby blue walls covered in flash art into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a NOLA classic. 



Northern Tide Tattoo

Interior of Northern Tide Tattoo in De Pere, WI
Photo credit: Northern Tide Tattoo

Owned and operated by artist Micah Gunderson, Wisconsin’s Northern Tide Tattoo is a testament to the universality of the medium. 


The small shop just outside of Green Bay, Wisconsin, features Micah’s work alongside that of Samuel Fisher. Both are motivated by a lifelong interest in art, action, and music. The duo works largely in American Traditional and black and gray work, but no style is off-limits. 


Gunderson coins the term “Midwest Aloha” as his shop slogan, melding American iconography with a vintage Southern Pacific aesthetic that thrives on the bright and the bold. Both artists are heavily inspired by their Midwestern roots, which translate to not only their stylistic choices but the ethos and work ethic of the shop as a whole. 


If you’re not local to the Green Bay area, a trip from Milwaukee or even Chicago is well worth the effort. A custom piece from Northern Tide is about the search for the perfect tattoo, as much as it is about the look. 


Ragtime Tattoo

Exterior of Ragtime Tattoo in St. Louis, MO

With a unique setup in the heart of St. Louis, Ragtime Tattoo is your go-to for custom designs—with the added bonus of supporting a diverse group of independent artists. 


Getting to know you is a priority, as is listening to your request. Ragtime Tattoo is divided into three studios, which operate privately under one address. The Oasis and Desert Rose studios both have two artists each, while the Prickly Pear studio is run by three tattooers. A look through each studio’s portfolio of past work will clue you in to whose style suits your needs best. 


Separate entrances, professional health and safety protocol, and a special focus on the client as an individual—as opposed to the consumer—make Ragtime one of your best bets when in the St. Louis area. 


You can find each artist’s bio and current contact information under their studio page on Ragtime Tattoo’s website. 



The Nova Expansion Tattoo

Exterior of The Nova Expansion in Seattle, WA
Photo Credit: From the business owner via Yelp.

Located in Uptown Seattle, The Nova Expansion is a tattoo studio and art gallery owned by artist Justin Coppolino. The studio, only two years old, features five artists (including the owner) and has been built on years of collective creative experience among the team. 


Passion and a powerful visual language are principles, as is the importance of a platform for all creative expression. The Nova Expansion’s gallery is just around the corner from the shop, showcasing the work of rotating artists from the area. 


The artwork is visible to passersby, redefining a traditional gallery space. Custom framing is also available to participating artists. 


While The Nova Expansion is primarily a high-quality tattoo studio, the venue also promotes local arts and is quickly becoming a mainstay at its Second Avenue location. 


If you’re looking for professional service, emphasis on process, and a stress-free experience in the greater Seattle area, start with The Nova Expansion. Appointments and free consultations can be booked online


Flatiron Tattoo

Client receiving a tattoo on lower left hip from Flatiron Tattoo in Portland, OR
Photo credit: From the business owner via Yelp.

Though there’s no shortage of tattoo studios in a place like Portland, a select few still manage to stand out among the competition. 


Perched on the top floor of a historic building in Rose City Park, Flatiron Tattoo is a two-year-old shop operating under the expertise of Jason Bradbury. With years of experience in the industry, Jason’s goal is to bring a variety of approaches under one roof, taking cues from working in different environments. 


In the mood for something spontaneous? Special offers include Flatiron Flash, where you can choose a watercolor design from the shop’s collection and take home not only a new tattoo but also the original framed watercolor. 


If you’re feeling lucky, buy a spin on the shop’s roulette wheel and let fate choose from the flash book. The pace is key, so expect your artist to take their time perfecting your tattoo. 


Flatiron is currently open for appointments as well as walk-ins. 



Love Always Tattoo

Interior of Love Always Tattoo in Yucca Valley, CA
Photo credit: From the business owner via Yelp.

Hand-poked tattoos are all the rage nowadays, and Yucca Valley’s Love Always tattoo studio is at the forefront as the trend sweeps across the professional tattoo world. 


The studio describes the customer experience is rooted in luxury and ritual. As you sit back and relax, your artist will treat your design as a personal masterpiece, working it through entirely by hand. Instead of the traditional drone of a tattoo machine, your experience will be defined by the rhythmic pace of your artist’s needle. 


The image takes shape millimeter by millimeter, and the result is one of a kind—starting with the intimacy of the process. Hand-poked tattoo work is an ode to the timelessness of the medium, and its growing popularity only cements the importance of handiwork in today’s culture of detachment. 


A small staff of three artists makes Love Always a business bent on working with clients in-depth. The studio is open by appointment only, so make sure you secure your spot with one of the artists in advance. 


Terry Ribera’s Remington Tattoo Parlor & Gallery

Exterior of Remington Tattoo Parlor in San Diego, CA
Photo credit: Sara-Marie F. via Yelp.

Named after a vintage typewriter, San Diego’s Remington Tattoo Parlor is well known throughout the city and beyond. With high regard for body art as one of the purest mediums, the Remington team is all about taking the craft to the next level, with hours spent at the needle and in the illustration phase. 


While Remington is, by all means, a contemporary shop, the space is a nod to the glory and history of tattoo culture and aesthetics. After reading about the artists and why they chose to pursue tattooing, head behind the scenes to the “Latest Work” page on the shop’s website to see what they’re currently working on. 


Just as novels once came to be, letter by letter via the keys of a typewriter, your Remington tattoo will be a labor of love. 


Raventhorn Manor Tattoo

Exterior of Raventhorn Manor Tattoo in Salt Lake City, UT
Photo credit: From the business owner via Yelp.

A tattoo is only as good as the environment in which you receive it. Why not take it up a notch and get inked in a historic manor? 


Salt Lake City’s uncanny Raventhorn Manor Tattoo treats you to the early twentieth-century grandeur of an architectural relic. Built in 1901, the building now houses resident and guest artists bent on furthering their craft. 


Book your consultation online, or walk right up to the front desk after viewing each artist’s work on the shop’s portfolio page. If you weren’t feeling inspired before your consultation, just walking in and absorbing the manor’s original touches might strike a creative chord. 


Sentient Tattoo Collective

Interior of Sentient Tattoo Collective in Tempe, AZ
Photo credit: From the business owner via Yelp.

When it comes to Tempe, Arizona’s Sentient Tattoo Collective, it’s all in the name. The studio and gallery doubles as a community force and cooperative creative space. 


Working with Tempe’s Free Arts For Abused Children, the shop helps bring art education to local kids, making self-expression accessible to those who need it most. 


Other than being mentors and volunteers, the shop’s six artists hail from across the United States, each bringing their own specialization to the table. Whether you’re looking for watercolor work, pop culture imagery, or a fauna-and-flora-inspired design, there’s an artist waiting for you at Sentient. 


Though the Sentient Collective story dates back to long before the Smith Road location opened in October 2019, the shop brought a strong following to its new home near Arizona State University. In it for the long haul, Sentient remains one of the Tempe and Phoenix area’s top studios. 


Call ahead to book an appointment or consultation with one of the Collective’s artists. 


The Painted Lady

The Painted Lady logo in Tucson, AZ
Photo credit: The Painted Lady logo via The Painted Lady.

If the Painted Lady’s classic aesthetic and glowing local reputation isn’t enough to get you into this Tucson mainstay, the artist portfolio should seal the deal. 


Each artist’s bio clues you into their stylistic focus, as well as their relationship to tattooing. The shop’s booking process will lead you to your chosen artist’s direct email to set up your appointment in advance. 


Special attention to aftercare procedures is a high priority at the shop, so expect to leave with expert advice on how to make sure your piece lasts a lifetime. 


With a presence on Speedway Boulevard since 2008, The Painted Lady is tried and true, keeping the Southwest inked and adorned for over thirteen years. 


Whether your design is already fully fleshed out, or you only have an inkling of what you want tattooed, go for quality over convenience. The best artists walk you through the process, from conception to end result, to ensure you’re in good hands every step of the way. 



As fast as the tattoo industry has grown, it’s still crucial to find the shops and artists that pride themselves on pace, quality handcraft, and establishing a relationship with their clients that goes beyond the transaction. So the next time you’re out taking a day trip from NYC, or just exploring some of the best parks in California or Oregon, and you’re looking to get a permanent souvenir, be sure to check out these amazing tattoo shops. 

Where To Find the Best Coffee in NYC

Where To Find the Best Coffee in NYC

New York is home to a vibrant coffee culture that includes independent shops, small scale roasters, and knowledgeable baristas, all bent on delivering the finest cup of joe from bean to brew. If you’re looking to up your coffee game, the answer might already be in your neighborhood—or a short subway ride away. 


Whether you live in the city or are just visiting, take some time to explore the independent businesses that keep New York caffeinated.  You never know when you’ll find your next perfect cup. 



What is Third Wave Coffee?


Much of New York’s current coffee culture is considered “Third Wave,” which broadly encompasses the artisanship of roasting and brewing. Third Wave coffee shops are businesses opened in the past two decades that put emphasis on sourcing, processing, and preparing coffee in different ways. 


Most third wave coffee shop owners and baristas have a true passion for all aspects of preparing a quality cup.  You might call them connoisseurs. The subtle flavor, strength, and even texture of the drink depends on the region in which its beans were grown, how they were dried and roasted, and the method used to brew the ground coffee. 


It might seem abstract, but the more different coffees you try, the more sensitive you’ll become to their unique flavor profiles. 


Talking to the barista during your first visit to a new shop is a great way to learn about what you’ll be drinking. An expert recommendation will help you find the exact bean, roast, and process for your taste buds. 


The following businesses offer an impressive variety, exceptional dedication to quality coffee, and awesome atmospheres (because vibes are just as important as the latte art)!


Uro Cafe

uro cafe storefront in NYC
Image credit: Veronica R. on Yelp

Located steps from McCarren Park and the G Train, Greenpoint’s Uro Cafe is a neighborhood fixture where simplicity meets specialty. 


Blink and you might just miss it—the shop serves nuanced flavors in a small, no-frills setting, making it the perfect spot to pop into on your way to the farmer’s market or to do some vintage shopping in the area. 


Expect friendly service, strong espresso, and a lack of long lines, as Uro is a bit of a local secret hidden out in the open. It’s the kind of place you come upon—and keep coming back to. 


Stop by and try the iced americano, hot mocha, or chai latte with oat milk for chillier North Brooklyn mornings. 


Brooklyn Roasting Company       

brooklyn roasting company interior. Large wooden hutch and wood countertop with patrons sitting drinking a cup of coffee or working on the computer
Image Credit: Shun Y. on Yelp

High on any list of New York’s top roasteries, Brooklyn Roasting Company has been around since 2009, bringing out the flavors of the borough while supporting community institutions. 


While the company’s original location at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge is no longer operating, new locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan are set to open within the next few months.

In the meantime, visit the Brooklyn Roasting Company shop at 200 Flushing Ave., located just across the street from the Brooklyn Navy Yard.


A focus on fair trade coffee and rotating releases make this location a go-to. Grab a travel mug with the company’s signature block-letter logo on your way out and enjoy that latte on the go. 


Maglia Rosa NYC – Industry City Cafe

A corner of a building painted in pink and white stripes sits a coffee shop names Maglia Rosa
Image Credit: Randall M. on Yelp

As a high-end custom bike shop that fuses Italian and American cycling culture, Maglia Rosa’s expansion to a café location in Industry City seems only natural. 


Serving Industry City visitors, shoppers, and employees, the café embodies its founder’s Milanese roots, serving a house blend titled “Milano.” Chocolatey and decadent, the coffee matches the seasonal small plate menu in personality and vigor. 


Most meals are made with ingredients from local farmers markets, and even the tea selection is made up of customized blends. 


The shop also offers a small grocery collection featuring imported dry goods, pasta ingredients, and more. 


Maglia Rosa’s decor makes it clear that cycling and espresso go hand in hand, especially in a Milanese-inspired café in the heart of Sunset Park. Choose a fresh pastry delivered daily from Ceci Cela (a Manhattan patisserie), and relax at the outdoor tables or in one of Industry City’s spacious public courtyards. 


As an added bonus, the café will soon introduce an after-hours wine bar. 


Bond St. Coffee and Goods

Brick exterior of Bond Street Coffee and Goods. Patrons sit on a bench in front of a wrought iron fence placed in front of the entrance
Image Credit: FredRock A. on Yelp

Bordering the Gowanus Canal, Bond Street Coffee and Goods serves locally roasted D’amico Coffee, along with an extensive breakfast, salad, and sandwich menu. 


The D’amico coffee legacy goes back over half a century in Brooklyn history. Stopping at Bond St. gets you seventy years’ worth of expert roasting in a single cup of black coffee. 

Perched on the edge of Carroll Gardens, Bond Street is the kind of shop you seek out to spice up your morning buzz—it doesn’t get overly crowded like Brooklyn’s better-known coffee destinations. 


Ample outdoor seating, fresh-cooked plates, and roasted beans that honor the neighborhood’s Italian heritage put Bond Street Coffee & Goods on the map as one of the area’s best casual stops for brunch or a get-together. 




Exterior on Konditori coffee shop with a small cup of coffee being held in the foreground of the photo. A sign in front of the shop reads "Be AMAZING today. But first...COFFEE."
Image Credit: Taylor C. on Yelp

With three locations open in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan, Konditori has become a household name in third wave coffee—thanks in part to its unique roots and telltale Swedish flag logo. 


The vision of a Swedish-American duo, the shop’s handcrafted, homey aesthetic goes well with a large coffee selection focused on Central American beans. That means nutty, chocolatey flavor to complement fresh pastries. There are plenty of gluten-free options to choose from, as well. 


Breakfast sandwiches and bagels add a savory twist to the assortment of baked goods behind the counter. Stop by any of the locations in Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Cobble Hill, or the Financial District for a hot matcha and a Scandinavian take on what makes a coffee spot truly local. 




Exterior of Gumption Coffee with highlighted orange steel bars as people walk by the storefront
Image Credit: Gumption Coffee on Yelp

Another Industry City favorite with a newly opened location in Midtown, Gumption Coffee brings Aussie panache, a strong reputation, and freshly roasted beans to the five boroughs. 


Both the roastery and Brooklyn café are located on Industry City’s 39th Street. The Gumption team is involved in every step of a bean’s journey to the roastery, from the hands of a coffee farmer to its arrival in New York. 


For those who prefer to brew their coffee at home, Gumption offers a monthly subscription, making sure you’re the first to try the latest blend. 

The selection of bagged beans is global, with various South American and African options. Try the Costa Rica Yellow Honey (peach, pineapple, honey), the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe (Apricot, Honeysuckle, Black Tea), or something in between. 


If you’re in the city, the Midtown location offers the perfect coffee break from the general rush of the area. Gumption interiors match the coffee—color, geometry, and minimal accents set the scene for a burst of flavor. 




Cuisine by Claudette

Exterior of Cuisine by Claudette. A planter of lavender sits in the foreground of the photo as well as the front of the shop.
Image Credit: Tania G. on Yelp

Tucked into a storefront right off the Rockaway Beach boardwalk, Cuisine by Claudette is as charming as it sounds. 


The family-owned café and eatery, opened in 2012 just before Hurricane Sandy, persevered to become the fixture it is today. Take a look at the business’ Core Values for insight on what goes into running a community-driven gathering spot, other than fresh ingredients. 


Serving homemade pastries, vegan entrees, nutritious bowls, and a whole pita menu, chef Claudette takes an innovative, healthy approach to cooking with a hint of Mediterranean inspiration. 


From espresso to drip, the coffee pairs well with the all-day breakfast—try the Monkey Bowl alongside an Almond Latte! 


If you’ve hit your caffeine limit for the day, Claudette’s juice and smoothie bar deserves a special mention.  The Halva smoothie is like brunch and dessert in a cup. 


Take advantage of the café’s outdoor seating area, or enjoy a five-minute walk and picnic on the sand. 



Astoria Coffee

Exterior of Astoria Coffee. A sign outside reads "Let us BRIGHTEN your day"
Image Credit: Jesseca T. on Yelp

Well-known and lauded in this pocket of Northern Queens, Astoria Coffee stays true to its beginnings as a bean delivery service. 


Making sure their neighborhood had easy access to a variety of beans was the owners’ priority. Since then, the business has evolved into a mainstay on 30th Street, serving a rotating collection of beans sourced from roasters throughout the United States—so be sure to ask your barista what’s on the menu. 


Run by residents and frequented by locals and visitors alike, Astoria Coffee supports independent roasters, varying up your palette with every new featured blend. Fast service, history in the neighborhood, and a passion for discovering hidden talent in the coffee world make this Astoria destination a staple.



Baruir’s Coffee

Exterior of Baruir's Coffee Shop. A family in heavy coats gathers outside the storefront.
Image Credit: Theresa X. on Yelp

For a house blend built on almost six decades of coffee roasting experience, look no further than Baruir’s, a coffee and grocery shop on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside where you can grab beans by the pound along with your cup-to-go. 


Baruir’s roasts on site, just as they have been since 1966. The vintage roaster in the front window is where your beans begin their journey to your morning coffee—they quite literally couldn’t be any fresher. 


Along with a daily Latin American blend, other specialities include Turkish and cold brew, complete with ice cubes made of frozen coffee so that your drink doesn’t become watered-down. 


Balkan and Turkish groceries including condiments, dried fruit, and nuts round out the selection. 


If you’re looking for artisanship that’s been thriving long before the specialty coffee craze took over New York’s hippest neighborhoods, you can’t go wrong with Baruir’s.



Prince Coffee House 

Exterior storefront of Prince Coffee House, NYC
Image Credit: Denise R. on Yelp

Located just off Arthur Avenue in the Bronx’s Little Italy, Prince Coffee House brings specialty coffee to a corner of the borough steeped in tradition. 


With origins in Kosovo, Prince caters to the neighborhood’s diverse immigrant population, which includes large Balkan and Latino populations, as well as a rich history of Italian influence. 


A cozy corner space, the coffee house is worth the journey. If you’re only in the area to visit attractions like the Bronx Zoo or Bronx Botanical Gardens, take some time to explore the neighborhood as well. 


Plenty of seating, spanning two rooms and an outdoor section of sidewalk, will convince you to stay a while. Hot espresso drinks, pastries, and table service make this a great casual meeting spot, or a place to have some much needed “you” time. 


Don’t leave without seeing the café’s high-flying cup collection (just look straight up)!



Cafe Amrita

Exterior table sit out in front of the entrance to Cafe Amrita. A green awning provides some shelter and shade relief to the entrance of the coffee shop.
Image Credit: Roberts R. on Yelp

Counting nearly twenty years on West 110th Street, Café Amrita lights up the block with breakfast, brunch, and entrees in an inviting atmosphere. 


If you’re craving nothing more than a smooth cup of coffee, Cafe Amrita won’t disappoint. Start your day outside at one of the wooden tables or head to Central Park, only a block away. Come back for an evening cocktail—the café is open daily until 11:00pm. 


While many drinking and dining spots around Central Park can be overcrowded and overwhelming on any given day, Cafe Amrita manages to slip under the radar and preserve its intimate vibe. 


If you’re planning to spend a day in Central Park, make your way Uptown to unwind at Amrita. 


For soccer fans, call ahead to find out when the café is showing televised international games. 



Pasticceria Rocco

The exterior storefront of Pasticceria Rocco sits in the lower left corner of this photo. A crowded sidewalk of people are walking by
Image Credit: Wicky R. on Yelp

Pasticceria Rocco (or Rocco’s, as it’s known), is an example of the quintessential New York business. This classic Italian eatery and coffee shop has been around since 1974, standing its ground as Bleecker Street changed through the decades. 


Today, you’ll find pistachio cannolis, giant cookies, an all-day breakfast and sandwich menu, and more. 


If you’re spending a day in Lower Manhattan, walk over to the West Village and expect a warm welcome at Rocco’s. The Pasticceria holds a special spot in the hearts of countless locals, from longtime residents to first-timers. 


Nostalgic and approachable, it’ll feel familiar as soon as you step in. If you’re in a hurry, grab a cappuccino to go with your biscotti cookie, and take a moment to savor the timelessness of it all. 




Porto Rico Importing Co. 

Upward shot of Porto Rico Importing Co Coffe Shop
Image Credit: James A. on Yelp

If you’re familiar with New York City or know anyone who has called the city home, you might have heard of Porto Rico


Established over a century ago, the shop is hands-down one of the best-known “by the pound” coffee shops in the city. Both the East and West Village locations are bound to have a devoted regular sipping a piping hot drip coffee on the bench outside. 


If you’re just looking for a cup to go, expect options—the baristas will point you in the right direction. 


The menu is rotating, and you can also order a fresh pour-over made from any of the varieties that are for sale by the pound. 


Flavored beans, multiple blends in every roast, organically grown products, and a global approach to sourcing only the best make Porto Rico your one-stop shop for coffee to brew at home—and an expertly prepared cup to start your morning off right. 


Check out the café’s gift sets for the caffeine lover in your life, or grab a souvenir for yourself. Even a bag of freshly ground French Vanilla roast makes a great present. 


Always painted just the right shade of red, each Porto Rico storefront is a precious slice of New York history. You can find additional Porto Rico outposts at the Essex Market and on Grand St. in Williamsburg. 


Just visiting? The company ships everywhere, so you won’t have to wait too long for your next dose of fresh roasted Porto Rico goodness, no matter where you’re located.


B Cup Cafe

Exterior of coffee shop B Cup Cafe. Above the store front entrance there is a graffiti style art with the words "east village cafe"
Image Credit: Ruwan J. on Yelp

Wander all the way down 13th Street to the corner of Avenue B, and you’ll come across B Cup Cafe


You can’t miss it—the painted storefront beckons to a quaint and just-as-colorful interior. Look out for a mural of the café’s adorable “B in a cup” logo. 


Hot espresso drinks served in mugs, cold brew, and unique tea blends complete the drink menu, while the food menu serves up sandwiches, hot soup, salad, and pastries. Sink into a comfy couch inside, or relax in the outdoor seating area. 


B Cup was founded on a love for the neighborhood, and the feeling is mutual. Local art adorns the wall, and mornings are full of regulars from down the block or the other side of the East Village.


Try the Israeli breakfast paired with tahini cookies for dessert and foamy latte on the side.


Bloom Cafe

Storefront of Bloom Cafe painted black with flowers and greenery hanging over the windows of the strorefront.
Image Credit: Mallak T. on Yelp

While Staten Island’s various businesses sometimes get the short end of the stick when it comes to New York-based features, the borough has plenty to offer whether you’re coming from New Jersey, Brooklyn, or beyond. 


Separated from the rest of the city by the New York Harbor, the island thrives on its own terms. Bloom Café, located on Rosebank’s Bay Street, rivals any of Manhattan’s specialty coffee shops. What’s more, it’s within walking distance of the Staten Island waterfront. 


The café serves Think Coffee, a local roaster known for its dedication to improvement projects within the farming communities that source its beans. 


A full coffee selection, including bonuses like the Superfood Latte and Chaga-ccino, accompanies a line-up of health-conscious breakfasts, including many vegan options. 


Finish up brunch, take your drink to go, and head over to Alice Austen Park for views of Downtown Manhattan and the Verrazano Bridge. 


The sheer amount of NYC coffee aficionados bringing their passion to the public means that every shop has something to add to the table, whether it be creative brewing methods, experimental blends, or a one-of-a-kind business model that goes beyond counter service. 


Loved and frequented by generation after generation, they’re the true purveyors of third wave coffee culture. Don’t hesitate to visit the experts while also stopping by independent cafés in every borough, whether they opened less than a month ago, or two decades ago. 


If you’re new to the city or just visiting, seeking out different cafés can be a way to discover entire neighborhoods that aren’t in the tourist handbook. There is a lot more to NYC than amazing restaurants, sightseeing and shopping. If you live in the city, show your support by becoming a regular at your favorite spots, but also make an effort to visit new ones—even if they’re a train ride (or three) away. A quick stop on your day trip from the city before you leave would be a perfect way to support these businesses. Plus, you get to have a delicious cup of coffee on the way!


Ultimate Guide to Camping in the Adirondacks

Crystal-clear, still lake in the Adirondack Mountains in New York, US.

Naturally and culturally intriguing, New York State’s Adirondack Park is worth every moment, especially if you choose to rough it under the stars.

The region’s towns will introduce you to local lore, craft, and spirit. Meanwhile, 46 peaks, 3,000 lakes, and 6 million acres of wild woods will keep you blissfully disconnected. Though it’s impossible to discover all the secrets of the largest park in the continental United States during a single trip, you have to start somewhere.

A short drive through any part of the Adirondacks will bring spontaneous discoveries and unexpected detours. In this guide, learn about the best sites to camp and explore—and get inspired to create your ideal itinerary.



Why the Adirondacks?


Great Camping Year-Round

Hiking couple standing on cliff edge admiring view of Adirondack Mountains in New York.

The Adirondacks are a four-season destination, so you can expect plenty to see and do any time of year.

Though experienced campers venture into the wild during colder seasons for the solitude and challenge of it, summer and early fall are prime camping seasons. Visitors often head to the mountains for the refreshing summer temperatures, and stay for a glimpse of incredible fall foliage.

There’s also nothing like sipping on a hot cup of local cider on a crisp morning. Autumn makes it to the mountains long before it reaches the city.


Plenty of Campsite Options

There are hundreds of established and primitive campsites within the park, and where you spend the night should depend on your favorite activities.

For alpine adventurers, staying near the bases of some of the park’s highest peaks promises access to summit trails, hidden ponds, and hours of uninterrupted hiking. Much of the park is divided into designated wilderness and wild forest areas, with miles of maintained trails through mostly untouched land.

If you see yourself relaxing on a sandy shore and dipping your toes in cool waters instead, camp lakeside and wake up to the fog rolling in over a picturesque, still surface.

Looking for natural attractions within reach of locally roasted coffee (and a mean breakfast sandwich)? You’ll be happiest at one of many campgrounds around the area’s larger towns.

Whenever you visit, plan ahead. New York State campgrounds are generally open from early summer to mid-October, and many require reservations. Some fill up months in advance, so it’s not crazy to reserve a summer site as early as January.

Amenities vary, but you can usually expect running water, bathroom facilities, and showers. Also, lakeside campgrounds often offer canoe or kayak rentals to help get you out on the water.


A Range of Camping Experiences

Canoe on a serene lake attached to a dock, underneath a pink, orange, and purple sunset.

Primitive and backcountry camping is allowed on public land in the Adirondacks, and high-use sites are usually marked with a yellow disk.

Generally, backcountry camping is allowed in a large portion of the Adirondack Forest Preserve with a few exceptions, such as wildlife management within the preserve. It is prohibited within 150 feet of a road, trail, or body of water, including streams (check out these regulations before wandering into the woods).

Carry out what you carry in, dispose of your waste properly, and pay attention to fire warnings. There are pockets of private land within the forest preserve, so don’t assume that you can set up camp anywhere. Be aware of signs or structures indicating private property.

Keep an eye out for lean tos, which are strategically located at some of the Adirondacks’ most trafficked primitive spots. Though you can’t exactly set your tent up in it, a lean-to can provide cozy shelter thanks to sturdy log walls—and the occasional fellow hiker to share it with.


Where to Camp

The list below includes both reservation-based state campgrounds and primitive spots for those looking to plan their trip on the fly.


Saranac/Lake Placid

Aerial view of Lake Placid, NY during sunrise,with the mountains in silhouette and the sky reflected on the water's surface.

Known for hosting two Winter Olympics ceremonies, Lake Placid and the neighboring village of Saranac are just as much of a summer destination as they are a snow sports paradise.

The town of Lake Placid wraps around Mirror Lake, the smaller counterpart to actual Lake Placid. You can find wineries, dining, and a number of sports shops along Main Street, along with plenty of local advice on where to go and what to do in the area.

Easy access to one of the state’s top five highest summits means you can experience the views and hang out in town all in one day, with enough time left over to grab a beer at a local brewery. Whiteface Mountain is only thirty minutes from Lake Placid, and allows you to drive five miles to the summit via its Veterans’ Memorial Highway. Views are said to span from Vermont to the east, to the Canadian border to the north.

The drive up Highway 86 towards the mountain will also bring you by High Falls Gorge, which has a hiking network and a wooden bridge that winds above gushing waterfalls.

Wilmington Notch Campground lies just past High Falls Gorge, right in between Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain. This state-run campground is all about location; if you’re tired of driving after an entire day of touring nearby attractions, the small forest oasis of Wilmington Notch Falls is just across the street. The campground runs along the bank of the Ausable River, and the sound of rushing rapids is never far.

Trout fishing is popular here, and the campground has all the basic amenities to act as your home base. Wilmington Notch requires reservations and is open until October 11th, making it a great choice once the weather cools down.

For those looking for a slightly more remote stay in the Lake Placid vicinity, Eastern Shore Campground on Copperas Pond is a High Peaks favorite. It features secluded access to the mountain pond, a lean-to, and several primitive camping sites.

Getting there requires an approximately 1-mile hike to the pond shore, where campsites are first-come, first-serve. The hike is slightly steep, but by no means strenuous—and the first thing to do when you get to the end is take a relaxing dip in Copperas Pond.

Bring all your essentials, including a supply of water, bear bags, and firewood if you plan to use the on-site fire pits. Don’t forget to sign the lean-to visitor’s journal on your way out!

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a boat, kayak, or canoe (and know how to use it!), the Adirondack waterways are famous for island camping. Like in the old days, you can only reach these serene sites via water vessel, and staying at one requires advance planning and stocking up on supplies.


Star-filled sky in the Adirondack Mountains, with starlight reflected in the still surface of the lake.


You’ll be rewarded with utmost peace and quiet, as you might just get an entire tiny island to yourself for the night. Saranac Islands Campground, located right outside of the stroll-friendly village of Saranac, is one of the region’s most extensive island campgrounds. Eighty-seven campsites on Lower and Middle Saranac Lake will be waiting for you to claim them—just make advance reservations to secure your dream setting.

Park at State Bridge Boat Launch or parking lots within the village of Saranac if you’re planning to get out on the water overnight. When in town, make a pit stop at the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation for unique gifts, or Donnelly’s for some Saranac soft serve.

Other notably awesome island campgrounds include Blue Mountain Lake and Indian Lake Islands.


Schroon Lake

Two figures on a boat in silhouette, fishing on Lake Schroon in the Adirondacks before sunrise.

Venturing farther south through the park, you’ll find the town of Schroon Lake, located on the western border of the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area.

Long and narrow, the lake itself has a few campgrounds scattered along its shoreline: Eagle Point, perched right on the water, is a favorite.

There’s a natural attraction in every direction out of Schroon Lake, starting with Pharaoh Lake to the east. The hike to the lake is a favorite, as is the trek to the summit of Pharaoh Mountain.

A few miles south of town lies the Natural Stone Bridge & Caves area, a small hiking area perfect for all levels. Expect illuminated cave entryways, intriguing stone formations, and even an on-site rock-themed gift shop.

When you’re ready to step back into civilization, the Schroon Lake-Paradox area has enough going on to keep you fed, busy, and even tipsy. Don’t miss Paradox Brewery, which prides itself on using pure Adirondack-origin water in their brewing process. Try a Beaver Bite on tap and sit back, knowing you’re supporting a cornerstone of Adirondack craft beer.

For a spot a little farther from town but right at the gateway to the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness, consider Paradox Lake Campground, located on Schroon Lake’s much smaller counterpart. This campground has all the benefits of shorefront tenting, with easier access to hiking and a more secluded forest feel—despite still being a short drive from Schroon Lake and Ticonderoga.



Lush green hillside of Newcomb, Adirondacks.

Built in the 19th century, Camp Santanoni in Newcomb is one of the Adirondacks’ best preserved “great camps,” private retreats meant to provide a refuge from city life.

Rustic architecture that defined the log cabin aesthetic of upstate New York makes this complex a historic artifact, and a pleasure to look at. Formerly owned by a banker from Albany, the camp is now open to the public and home to a trail system.

Santanoni allows primitive camping, and has eight designated tent sites along Newcomb Lake Road Traill, as well as along the bank of Newcomb Lake. There are also two lean-tos available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

If you’re driving west into Newcomb on Route 28, stop and take in the Hudson River, which crosses Route 28 before taking a sharp turn to the right. This far north, the Hudson looks like nothing more than a garbling stream, and it’ll be hard to believe you’re looking at the same mighty river that runs under New York City’s George Washington Bridge.


Long Lake, Inlet, Old Forge

Buttermilk Falls in Old Forge, Adirondacks.

Known as the central Adirondacks, the area nestled below the High Peaks Wilderness is not as elevated, but just as wild.

Between Long Lake and Blue Mountain, hike into Forked Lake Campground for convenient access to the Sargent Pond Wild Forest, Buttermilk Falls, and the Adirondack Experience, a museum devoted to the cultural and natural history of Adirondack Park.

Spend your day lake hopping, watching the falls tumble into rocky pools, or exploring the fire tower at the summit of Goodnow Mountain. Stop for lunch at the old-fashioned Adirondack Hotel in Long Lake, and top it off with a drink and a slice (or eight) of pesto pizza pie at Inlet’s Screamen Eagle.

Eighth Lake Campground spoils with spacious campsites overlooking the shore of (you guessed it) Eighth Lake, minutes from the village of Inlet.

Shaded by towering pines and featuring a trail system right next door, Eighth Lake has all the amenities you need for no-frills tenting, within driving distance of several towns.

If you’re visiting in late spring or early summer, keep your ears open for the distinct calls of loons as dusk falls over the lake. Closer to a coyote howl than a bird call, the sound of these seasonal residents brings Adirondack nights to life. Soon enough, it’ll be putting you to sleep.

As the Southwestern gateway to the Adirondacks, Old Forge is always ready for visitors, with restaurants, outdoor-focused businesses, and a public beach at Old Forge Pond.

Though the town has more than enough indoor lodging options, consider nearby Nicks Lake Campground your home away from home on your next visit. Just outside of town, the campground sits on pristine Nicks Lake on the edge of the Black River Wild Forest. The lake is shallow and closed to motor boats, so expect an uninterrupted morning swim.

One of the southern Adirondacks’ best-kept secrets is the Moose River Plains wilderness, which has over 100 primitive campsites along its main thoroughfare, Limekiln Lake Road. Once you pass the state campground at Limekiln Lake out of the town of Inlet, you’ll be following Limekiln Lake Road until it meets Indian Lake Road. There, you’ll come across Red River Campsite, the first of many along the road.

As desirable as the riverside spot is, if you find it taken, just keep driving. Primitive campsites line the road, so you’re bound to come across an unoccupied space complete with a table, a fire pit, and a privy.


Lake Champlain

Vibrant sunset from a dock on Lake Champlain.

If you suddenly find yourself missing the coast, head to Ausable Point Campground on Lake Champlain, from which you can see Vermont on the other side. It’s no Atlantic, but the sandy shore and blue expanse stretching out before you will definitely put you in a beach mood.

Some of the campsites are right on the water, meaning they fill up fast, but the rest are only a short walk away from the sand. The campground even has a windsurfing area, along with swimming and boat launch access.

Ausable Point is only a twenty-minute drive from the town of Plattsburgh, and thirty minutes to Essex. From there, you can catch a ferry ride to Charlotte, Vermont.

It’s also minutes away from storied Ausable Chasm, a gorge carved out by the Ausable River over hundreds of years. The chasm is full of history and attractions. Go rafting through the chasm walls, strap on a harness and learn how to climb, or drive down at dusk for a guided tour by lantern light.

Crown Point Campground, on Lake Champlain’s southern narrow stretch, is another option. It places you closer to historic attractions in the Ticonderoga area. You can still see traces of 18th century forts on the campground property, as well as a lighthouse built shortly before the Civil War.

The campground itself was built in 1915, strategically overlooking the lake and the Vermont border. You’ll be right next to the Lake Champlain bridge, which promises easy access to Vermont’s rolling pastures and day trip destinations like the town of Vergennes.

Ticonderoga, the restored site of New York’s most famous French and Indian War fort, also played a major role in the American Revolution, and is open to the public.

When you’ve had your fill of history, Giant Mountain is less than an hour to the west. Top off your summit challenge with a late lunch at Noonmark Diner in Keene Valley, or take one of their freshly baked pies back to the lake with you.


Paddling Through

POV shot from inside a canoe on a clear lake in the mountains.Driving in is often the only way to get to most of the Adirondacks’ best camping destinations, and some sites won’t be accessible without four-wheel drive.

With that said, it’s possible to make your Adirondack getaway at least partially car-free—as long as you’re willing to put in the effort and some extra planning.

Combining your drive with other forms of transportation, like boat or canoe, gains you access to less-frequented areas with the comfort of knowing you won’t have to paddle all the way home.

The Nine Carries in the very north of Adirondack Park is a well-known route that can take up to three days if you’re not in a rush (beginning canoe travelers can do a much shorter portion of the trail, if necessary).

The route is part of the St. Regis Canoe Area, which has 50 ponds open to kayaks, canoes, and shoreline camping. For easy roadside access, choose from multiple primitive sites available along Floodwood Road.


Final Tips for Camping in the Adirondacks

View from Mount Darcy in the Adirondacks with range visible in background, vanishing into rolling fog.

Most newcomers to the Adirondacks are bent on conquering the park’s highest peaks, like exceedingly popular Mount Marcy. Some plan to relax in tourist hotspots like Lake George Village, in the south of the park.

If you can, visit those classic destinations in early spring or fall, before and after the crowds at the height of the summer. During the busier months, do some research and hit the road (or trail) less traveled.

This might mean staying away from summits and popular beaches, but having just a small part of the Adirondack wilderness to yourself will be worth it. Many wilderness areas go unnoticed because they don’t play host to a famous peak. The Sentinel Range Wilderness near Lake Placid is one example that often gets overshadowed by Mount Marcy to the south. If you’re in the area on a summer weekend, it might be best to forgo Marcy or Whiteface and give Sentinel’s Pitchoff Mountain a chance instead.

Adirondack Park is bear country—and should be kept that way. The park’s population of black bears are known for their foraging, as opposed to aggression, so follow good bear practice to avoid interaction altogether. Bring odorless bear bags and string to hang them from, or keep your food and scented products sealed in your car.

Temperatures can drop quickly at higher elevations, so keep layers handy, especially in the High Peaks area. A detail that’s easy to overlook when shopping for gear is the temperature rating on not only your sleeping bag, but your sleeping pad as well.

Sleeping pads have their own rating system called “R-value,” which corresponds to temperatures. The general rule is that higher R-values lose less heat, therefore keeping you warmer. Your sleeping bag could be the softest, plushiest cocoon ever, but if your sleeping pad is not fully insulating your back from the ground, you’re in for a rough mountain night.

June in the Adirondacks means tons of black flies in your personal space. Arriving around the same time every year, these bugs live to bite. It’s painful, irritating, and often draws blood, so be prepared before venturing out. Carry insect repellent, cover arms and legs when temperatures allow it, and consider wearing a hat with a bug net.

Lastly, make sure you don’t leave the park without a bottle of local maple syrup—and that dream Adirondack chair!



For more camping and travel guides, check out these buyers’ guides for tents or camping packs, the best national parks bicycle trails and loops, or the coolest places to travel this year.

Best Bicycle Trails and Loops in America’s National Parks

Silhouette of a bicycle against a pink and gray sunset atop a mountain.

If you’ve visited any of the United States’ sixty three national parks, chances are you either drove through or parked your car and set off on foot. Though a hike or slow drive are both great ways to take in the scenery, cycling lets you get up close and personal to national parks’ stunning landscapes, breathtaking views, and memorable details.

Many park roads are open to cyclists, and you can ride the same loops and sightseeing routes as any vehicle. Some destinations, like Montana’s Glacier National Park, offer seasonal cyclist-only access, leaving you to own the road without fear of traffic.

Drive in with your bike, or—if you’re lucky enough to live near a national park—ride in and camp for an extended getaway. If you have some cycling experience, a geared bike, and a curiosity about the nation’s most celebrated natural wonders, redesign your next national park visit and see firsthand what you and your wheels are capable of.


Glacier National Park

Grinnell Lake at Glacier National Park depicting a tree-lined hill with soaring mountains behind the lake

Montana’s Glacier National Park is a dream destination thanks to its peaks, pines, and incredible geological history. The park’s distinct formations were created by the movement of Ice-Age glaciers tens of thousands of years ago.

It’s easy to imagine massive glaciers carving their way through the land once you’re in the park—valleys, rugged slopes, and lakes greet you immediately, and can be enjoyed up-close or at a distance.

Going-to-the-Sun Road is the main road that cuts horizontally through the park. Said to be named after a spirit sacred to the local Blackfeet tribe, the 50-mile road connects the East and West entrances of the park. Its highest point, Logan Pass, features a large visitor center and staggering views from an elevation of 6,646 feet.

Cycling this road is a feat that requires patience, stamina, and dedication. The climb is not easy, but manageable for experienced riders.

The eastern section of the road, starting at St. Mary, features Saint Mary Lake. Meanwhile, the western portion follows the shore of Lake McDonald. Expect a steep but exhilarating downhill after you reach Logan Pass from either direction.

Additionally, keep in mind that the climb from west to east is longer. You’ll want a bike with a wide range of gears to keep your ascent steady and well-paced.

If you’re looking for a shorter and easier foray to get your adrenaline going, consider biking only the shore of Lake McDonald. And don’t miss the swimming areas along the way!

In the spring, Going-to-the-Sun Road is officially closed to cars and filled with cyclists enjoying the rare space and smooth surface without the drone of engines. Spring is hands-down the best time of year to bike Glacier, since summer brings balmy temperatures but more traffic.

If you do plan to get on the road in the summer, choose a weekday to avoid congestion, and start early to avoid the heat.

There are some cycling restrictions in place between June 15th and Labor Day, so plan accordingly! Highlights along the way include Bird Woman Falls, ice-topped Heaven’s Peak, and the crystal-clear Sprague Creek.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Bison headbutting in a field at Theodor Roosevelt National Park.

Often overshadowed by the South Dakota Badlands, North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a worthy counterpart. Painted buttes, rolling terrain, and a winding 36 miles of paved road are open to drivers and cyclists alike.

Starting and ending in quaint Medora, the South Unit Loop follows the rims of rock walls, carved to perfection by ancient river flow. The road is curvy but not excessively steep, and includes fun pit stops like the prairie dog village and Scoria Point Overlook.

Watch for heavy summer traffic, wildlife, and occasional cattle grates—you’ll have to carefully walk your bike over them.

Bison sightings are not uncommon, and prairie dogs dot the roadside. These badlands will vary from a deep red to a subtler ochre, and turn bright green during a wet summer, while sunset and sunrise highlight the unearthly palette.

The park’s rugged North Unit is also open to cyclists, but is known to be more isolated and distanced from services.

Medora itself is a tourist hub with enough history, shops, and dining to keep you busy all day. Dakota Cyclery is located steps from the park entrance for your pre-ride tune-up, and campgrounds and lodging are readily available.

For more experienced mountain bikers, the southwestern corner of the state is also home to the Maah Daah Hey Trail network, featuring 144 miles of off-road adventure running through the badlands. Pick a segment and shred, surrounded by the country’s wildest hills.


Saguaro National Park

A cloudy sunrise over desert in Saguaro National Park with desert greenery and hills in the background

A favorite among southern Arizona’s local cycling community, Saguaro National Park combines one-of-a-kind vistas, easy access, and perfect winter weather.

Divided into two sections that hug Tucson from both sides, the park has several roads open to cyclists that are easy to reach from the heart of the city.

In the Eastern district, Cactus Forest Loop Road is one of the quickest and most popular introductions to the park. This 9.5-mile loop has enough climbs and descents to keep your heart pumping, multiple overlooks, and lively native fauna and flora in all seasons.

On the western side of the park, the 6-mile, mostly-gravel Bajada Loop Drive is a great option for those looking to try their hand at gravel biking. You’ll want to have a gravel or mountain bike with wide tires for maximum comfort and accessibility.

Tucson’s roads are famous for their summertime abundance of Goathead thorns, tiny but vicious burs that love to stick to anything with air in it. Be prepared for flats—try buffing up your tires with tube sealant and carry a repair kit containing a spare tube, tire levers, and a hand pump.

It goes without saying that the Sonoran Desert gets pretty warm, so avoid riding in the middle of the day during hotter months. Be sure to carry an all-day supply of water, as well.

If you’re a summertime visitor, be aware of road flooding caused by the sporadic monsoons that keep the desert vibrant.

Acadia National Park

Bright blue waters of Jordan Pond at Acadia National Park with tree-lined hills surrounding the body of water.

There’s no better remedy for the heat than coastal Maine’s rocky shore, fir forests, and shady, tree-lined paths.

Located on Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park is open to cyclists of all levels and features one of the area’s best-kept riding secrets—nearly 50 miles of gravel carriage roads, spearheaded by John D. Rockefeller as horse trails and repurposed to accommodate bikes.

Acadia’s most famous road is, without a doubt, 22-mile Park Loop Road, which follows the eastern shore of the park. Gorgeous but congested, this road is open to cyclists—but be warned: it gets crowded and narrow, and features plenty of blind spots.

The park’s carriage road network, open in summer and fall, does not allow vehicles and provides a safer alternative. This system connects multiple trails, so you can customize your trip based on where they intersect.

Concentrated in the east, the roads ferry you through the interior of the island, crossing original stone bridges along the way. Consider Hulls Cove as an entry point—use this map to orient yourself! Keep an eye on storm and wildlife closures while planning your trip, as well. Early spring rains tend to get the paths muddy, and mud closures are not uncommon.

Make Bar Harbor your home base for exploring Acadia. The seaside town will take care of all your bike needs, and Main Street is lined with shops, restaurants, and diverse local businesses.

Acadia is your taste of New England, and biking the carriage roads is the best way to get to know a less-traveled part of Mount Desert Island throughout your visit.


Mount Rainier National Park

Lone hiker watching moonrise against a starry sky over a snowy peak at Mount Rainier.

If you’re looking for an alpine challenge, Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park checks all the boxes. Steady elevation gain, majestic views, and Northwestern woodland makes the park an outdoor enthusiast’s playground. Make the climbs by bike, and you’ll feel at the top of your game as you reach heights well over 3,000 feet.

Two hours from Downtown Seattle, the park’s Nisqually Entrance launches you onto Paradise Road, a 19-mile climb ending at the historic Paradise Inn and an adjacent visitor’s center—and yes, there are burgers!

Ringed by mountaintops and sitting at 5,400 feet, the Paradise meadows are often blanketed with wildflowers, and it’s easy to spend a few hours’ rest in the area after your ride. Beautiful but popular, this road tends to have high traffic, so consider avoiding weekends and peak hours.

Right behind Paradise Road, Sunrise is the next best-known option for those entering the park from the White River entrance. Totaling 14 miles one way out of the north east, the stretch leading to Sunrise Point is part of the state’s highest paved road.

Ending in the foothills of Emmons Glacier, the ride opens up to all-around views of not only looming Mt. Rainier, but surrounding peaks as well.

Start early, break a personal record, and get to know the Cascades personally on your next Northwest expedition.


Shenandoah National Park/Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sunset at Shenandoah National Park over the mountain range with orange sky.

The Appalachians are no Rockies in terms of elevation, but the Eastern range boasts some of its own unmatched characteristics.

Cycle the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to see the land of gaps and hollows, as made popular in folk legend and lore. Skyline Drive, which cuts diagonally through the park and is open to cyclists, starts in Front Royal and ends at Rockfish Gap, where it turns into the famous Blue Ridge Parkway.

Skyline Drive itself totals 105 miles one way, making it a good option for a multi-day excursion or a section ride. For overnighters, Big Meadows is a conveniently located halfway point, featuring a campground and a resort.

The drive is definitely steep, and you’ll be sharing the road with traffic—and the occasional black bear. Elevation dips, rolls, and climbs frequently, as you’ll virtually be following the crest of the range and reaching heights well over 3,000 feet.

Mileposts line the west side of the drive, keeping you updated on progress, and there are a total of 75 overlooks for those moments of doubt, reflection, and snacking. Views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Piedmont are abundant, and the road is categorized as a National Scenic Byway.

This ride is best suited for experienced cyclists who can sustain long climbs. Devoting a few days to the experience would be a great introduction to bike touring, for those who have only done day trips in the past.

If you’re feeling ambitious, start at Front Royal, head 105 miles southwest on Skyline Drive, and don’t stop in Rockfish Gap! Continue on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which can take you anywhere from Roanoke, Virginia, to the gateway to the Smokies in Cherokee, North Carolina. Take the plunge in autumn to witness the area’s incredible foliage and take advantage of the cooler climate!

Speaking of which, Great Smoky Mountains National Park rivals Shenandoah in its rocky ridges, native forests, and Appalachian history. The park’s Cades Cove Loop is a significantly milder ride for those looking to spend only a few hours on the bike.

This 11-mile loop is closed to vehicles on Wednesdays during the summer season, and there’s even a bike rental service available right at the Cades Cove Campground. All you have to do is pick your cruiser, get on the road, and admire the sights.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Whitewater cascades over rock ledges of beautiful Bridal Veil Falls, a waterfall photographed in the colorful autumn landscape of Cuyahoga Valley National Park of northeast Ohio.

Sitting between the urban centers of Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a rare oasis in suburbia, easily accessible from both metro areas.

Waterfalls, streams, and greenery fill the park, which offers 125 miles of hiking trails to let off that city steam. For a slightly hilly but not exceedingly challenging day ride, hop on the park’s Towpath Trail, which runs along the former route of the Ohio & Erie Canalway.

Lock 39, Station Road Bridge, Ira and Lock 29 Trailheads all offer access to the trail, as do the villages of Boston and Botzum.

If you choose to only ride the trail one way, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad—one of the park’s main draws—accepts bikes onboard and can bring you back to your starting point in minutes.

If the Towpath alone doesn’t satisfy, take your trip a step further by joining up with the Ohio & Erie Canalway Trail in Cuyahoga County.

The trail totals over 80 miles one way, and links Cleveland’s Lake Erie shoreline to Portsmouth, Ohio. There are campsites available along the way, and some portions are crushed stone, so strap on your widest tires before tackling the historic towpath.


New River Gorge National Park

Mountain biker traversing dirt trail through sunny forest.

One of the most recent additions to the National Park System, New River Gorge National Park had a reputation as a mountain biking destination even before its new title.

Perched along the banks of West Virginia’s New River, the park is ideal for beginner mountain bikers, with miles of maintained trails ranging from easy to intermediate.

Totaling 12.8 miles between them, the park’s four Arrowhead Trails are the place to start if you’re looking for a basic introduction to mountain biking. All four are loops, and range from 1 to a little over 6 miles.

A rock bridge, gorge views, forested bends, and a rhododendron garden are only a few of the natural highlights this trail system is hiding.


Indiana Dunes National Park

The shoreline of Lake Michigan near Indiana Dunes on a bright, clear day.

Another one of the country’s youngest parks, Indiana Dunes National Park makes for a perfect ride out of Chicago and its suburbs.

Nearly 40 miles of connected trails span the park’s 15,000 acres, guiding you through a unique lakeside habitat filled with shorebirds, wetland waterfowl, and prairie plants. Coastal and wooded at the same time, the Indiana Dunes are a freshwater rival to any seaside destination.

The gravel-based Calumet Bike Trail and the paved Prairie Duneland are the two longest rides at 19 and 22 miles long, respectively. Shorter jaunts include the Porter Brickyard and Marquette trails, both paved and under 10 miles.


Big Bend National Park

Hiker smiling in a valley at Big Bend National Park.

For a truly remote cycling experience, Big Bend National Park promises a tranquil desert with less crowding than you might see at other national parks.

The closest town with lodging and services is the tiny community of Terlingua, a little over 30 miles from the park. If you’re venturing out to Big Bend, you’re in it for the long haul—so why not make the best of your visit with a cycling challenge?

There are various roads, paved and unpaved, which are open to cyclists year-round. Your choice might depend on whether or not you can arrange for someone to drop you off and pick you up, since many are one-way rides.

The road between Panther Junction and Rio Grande Village offers 20 miles of medium difficulty, as a large portion of it is downhill. While you coast, keep an eye out for the Rio Grande in the distance! Rio Grande Village is equipped with a Visitor’s Center and reservation-based campground, in case you want to stay to see the unbelievably starry skies that illuminate the region by night.

For a longer and tougher ride, follow the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive from Panther Junction that runs adjacent to the park’s rugged Chisos Mountains. Steep hills abound, and the 35-mile ride is best for experienced riders used to climbing and navigating desert terrain.

The rides out of Panther Junction will require you to be picked up at your endpoint. Don’t risk attempting to do a round-trip once temperatures soar and daylight dwindles.

For a flatter and arguably easier unpaved route, try the 18-mile Dagger Flat Auto Trail. Follow the sandy trail from the paved main road and admire the wild garden surrounding you on all sides. This is not a loop, so you’ll be returning the way you entered.

Big Bend is an ecosystem and landscape that operates on its own terms, so don’t underestimate the power and solitude of the West Texas desert. Carry food and water, invest in park maps, and avoid midday heat.


Planning Tips for Biking National Parks

Cyclist overlooking mountain views atop a cliff.


  • Keep an eye out for construction, road maintenance and weather closures. Most recent announcements can be found on your park’s homepage.


  • Wear a helmet! Most national parks require cyclists to don a helmet while riding.


  • Be ready to pay an entry fee. While costs are usually reduced if you’re entering a park by bike, the entry fee still applies to everyone. Some park entrances, like the entrance to Glacier National Park at St. Mary don’t accept cash. so bring your card just in case.


  • Be aware of and do not disturb wildlife. Some western parks are grizzly bear territory, so bring bear spray and proper food storage bags if you’re planning on staying overnight.


Cyclists biking on paved road through lush green forest with dappled sunlight.

  • For those embarking on a multi-day bike tour, note that some national parks offer special campsites for those hiking and cycling. These sites give travelers dirt-cheap rates, are usually first-come, first-serve, and don’t require reservations. Be prepared to share your site with fellow travelers!


  • Find out ahead of time if it’s a loop or one-way trail. Loops are especially helpful to cyclists, since starting and ending at the same point makes it easier to park your car or be picked up. If you choose a straight road that starts and ends on two different sides of a park, make sure you arrange pick-up or are able to cycle back. Some parks also offer shuttle services via buses equipped with bike racks.


  • Remember basic safety precautions. Stay to the right, remain aware of vehicles and RV’s, and ride safe!



Whether you’re staying local or traveling across the country, incorporating cycling into your national parks experience is a game changer. Stray from the beaten path and put yourself out there as you travel the landscape, feeling less like a tourist and more like an athlete. Pick a route that fits your experience, pack your best padded shorts, and pedal America’s natural sanctuaries one breath at a time. When you’ve finished your trail for the day and are ready to hit the showers, be sure to check out your next cycling adventure in one of these parks.

Planning is essential when it comes to exploring these parks. Even though you may not be ready for extreme adventure, planning your first tour is a step in that direction. If you’re taking a longer bike tour, be sure that you’ll be giving your body the right fuel it needs by seeing how to eat healthy on these trips. But most of all, be sure to have fun!


Best National Parks to Visit in Every Season

Rocky Mountain, one of America's most popular national parks, during the winter with ice visible in the water and snow on the distance mountaintops.

The National Park Service protects and manages 63 diverse national parks in the United States through every season, all of which immerse visitors into the richest, most vibrant ecological and historic sites in the country.

While some national parks see far more annual visits than others, all 63 play a special part in telling the story of America’s natural wonders.

These days, it is entirely common for an individual to strive to visit every park the National Park Service protects. But when is the best time for you to visit these national parks?

Although most are open year-round, there is an ideal time to visit each. Here are the best national parks to visit during every season.



Best National Parks to Visit During Spring

The spring season brings with it blooming wildflowers and active wildlife populations. Honestly, you can’t really go wrong with visiting any of the nation’s 63 national parks during this season, but there are a few that stand out as prime springtime destinations.


Shenandoah National Park

Mountainous landscape of Shenandoah National Park, with a mostly cloudless bright blue sky.

State: Virginia

There’s no better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than by taking in the breathtaking views of Shenandoah National Park.

Skyline Drive, the park’s premier road, offers views of the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains. For a truly special Shenandoah experience, get up early and head to Skyline Drive to take in the sunrise.

Elsewhere throughout Shenandoah National, you’ll spot fields and meadows blooming with abundant wildflowers, waterfalls roaring over river rocks, and wildlife enjoying the warm temps.

Black bears, white-tailed deer, and songbirds aren’t unusual sights, either.

Recreation in Shenandoah National Park includes an elaborate array of hiking trails, the most popular of which is Dark Hollows Falls Trail. It leads hikers to a 70-foot cascading waterfall.

In addition to hiking, you can also camp throughout the park’s backcountry, or go fishing in one of its ~90 mountain streams.


Arches National Park

Sunset casting a deep red orange hue over rock formations at Arches National Park.

State: Utah

During the summer, Arches National Park is extremely popular. Visitors flock to this national park from all over.

However, during the spring, visitation is much slower and can provide a better experience for your trip.

Take in views of Delicate Arch, Navajo Arch, and Landscape Arch. For those wanting to hit the trail, you should hike along the Devil’s Garden.

During your hike, not only will you see almost all the park’s picturesque arches, but you’ll also find other unique geographical features as you meander up and down in elevation.


Redwood National Park

A bridge crossing through a hiking trail at Redwood National Park with lush green vegetation around.

State: California

The spring season is the best time to visit Redwood National Park, when temperatures hover around the sixties.

Standout locations include Gold Bluffs Beach, Trillium Falls, and the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway.

Hiking is the most popular activity, due to a variety of unique trails including the Coastal Trail and Tall Trees Grove.

The Coastal Trail takes you around the western border of Redwood National Park, through redwood groves, and along the Pacific coastline.

Tall Trees Grove is one of the more isolated parts of Redwood National Park, but it is worth the effort if you are able to make it there.

In order to walk among the tall trees, you will first need to receive a permit from the park visitor center. Keep in mind that these permits are limited, so you might want to arrive early.


Grand Canyon National Park

A tree with breached roots and twisted limbs from the elements in a desert portion of Grand Canyon National Park during the summer season.

State: Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. However, a large percentage of its traffic arrives in the summer.

In the spring, Grand Canyon National Park is a little quieter—and perfect for biking, white-water rafting, or just enjoying the picturesque views of the canyon. For a special trip, visit the Rim trails or the Angel Falls Trail to find a campsite for the night.

While temperatures in the canyon get a bit chilly come nightfall, sleeping under the stars will prove well worth a few shivers.

If backcountry camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of front country campgrounds, as well. Grand Canyon Village also features several other lodging facilities, including hotels.

Hiking into the canyon can be easier during spring because temperatures are not as extreme, but visitors should still use caution and bring ample supplies of water on their expedition.


Joshua Tree National Park

Stunning sunset over a field of Joshua Trees and desert plants in Joshua Tree National Park.

State: California

Temps in Joshua Tree National Park retreat from their summer highs to averages in the low eighties during springtime.

Explore low and high desert ecosystems, hike, camp, mountain bike—or simply see the sights.

For a challenge, tackle the Ryan Mountain Trail. It offers dramatic views of the surrounding landscape.



The Best National Parks to Visit During Summer

Summer is the most popular time to visit a national park by far. Kids are off from school, and visitors want to put that two weeks’ vacation from work to good use.

True, any park you choose will be more crowded during this season—but with good reason. High temps mean even nightfall can be mild, which is ideal for camping.

What’s more, if you plan your trip for late August, you’ll be right on time for the National Park Service’s birthday celebration. Every year on the 25th, access to any of the 63 national parks is free.


Crater Lake National Park

Sunrise over Crater Lake, a caldera in the national parks system, during the spring or summer season.

State: Oregon

The lake that sits in the middle of Crater Lake National Park holds the cleanest and clearest water in the world.

This lake sits in the middle of a caldera—a volcanic crater—so summertime, when temperatures and conditions in the park are most idyllic, is the best time to visit. During the rest of the year, swimming in Crater Lake is largely impossible, because the water temperature is well below enjoyable.

However, for about two weeks in the summer, the water in Crater Lake warms up enough to offer a very enjoyable swim.

While visiting, you can camp in one of three campgrounds, or grab a reservation at the park’s lodge.

Other recreation opportunities include various hiking trails, fishing, and interpretive ranger programs. Furthermore, fishing in the park’s lake does not require a state fishing license.


Acadia National Park

Rocky coastline and churning waters at Acadia National Park on an overcast day.

State: Maine

Due to its smaller size, Acadia National Park occasionally gets forgotten. However, during the summer this can be used to your advantage. While crowds are flocking to Rocky Mountain, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone National Park, you can be enjoying some of the most picturesque views in the United States.

Sitting on Maine’s eastern coast, Acadia National Park protects a diverse environment that includes rocky coastlines, intertidal zones, and acres of inland forest.

The Beehive and Precipice hiking trails are the most popular trails in the park. These trails are interactive trails, which require visitors to climb a series of ladders and other obstacles to complete the hike.

Beehive is a good warm-up for the more difficult precipice trail. Anyone exploring either of these two trails should use caution and be careful as they ascend.

After you finish in the park for the day, you can visit Bar Harbor, a nearby coastal town boasting some of the best food in the New England region.


Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park with bright blue sky and some clouds in springtime or summer.

State: Alaska

Most recreational pursuits in Alaska run through the city of Anchorage. Kenai Fjords National Park is located about 2.5 hours from Anchorage along the Kenai Peninsula, and is the perfect summer destination.

Within the confines of the national park, visitors will be able to hike alongside glacier icebergs, kayak in immaculate waters, and try their hand at stand-up paddleboarding.

Temperatures in the summer frequently reach highs of 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. During the middle of summer, daylight in this region of Alaska lasts for about 19 hours, providing visitors with ample time to explore.

Most of Kenai Fjords is not accessible by road. However, visitors can hire various outfitters in the area to take them around.

Additionally, you can hire a pilot to take you on a “flightseeing” trip of Kenai Fjords—an experience you’ll never forget.


Grand Teton National Park

Calm, scenic water in foreground with snowy mountains in background at Grand Teton National Park.

State: Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park is an outdoorsman’s paradise.

Not only does Grand Teton, the highest peak of the Teton Range, rise an impressive 13,775 feet in the air, but the surrounding landscape also includes several small glaciers, mountain streams, alpine lakes, and the Snake River. Waters are tranquil during the summer, when temperatures approach seasonal highs.

While only located about thirty minutes away from neighboring Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park remains significantly less crowded.

Recreation in Grand Teton includes hiking, fishing, biking, and camping—the latter of which can be practiced in several front country campgrounds, or in the backcountry where permitted.


Mammoth Cave National Park

Interior of a cave with stone formations and peaks in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, United States.

State: Kentucky

When the summer heat becomes unbearable, it might be time to start exploring underground. The various passageways of Mammoth Cave National Park help comprise one of the largest caves in the world.

In total, the Mammoth Cave system exceeds 400 miles. Tours are available to take visitors into various rooms, discuss the formation of the cave, and highlight unique formations found throughout.

Feeling extra adventurous? Join the Wild Cave Tour, which takes you on a challenging route of crawling, climbing, and squeezing.

Above ground, you can hike through hardwood forest, fish in the Green River, or camp in one of the many campsites the park manages and maintains.



The Best National Parks to Visit During Fall

National parks in the fall are revered for their elaborate foliage. The five national parks listed below are some of the best destinations to take in views of the changing colors of autumn.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fog over the mountains of Great Smoke Mountains National.

State: Tennessee/ North Carolina

Foliage enthusiasts will undoubtedly love the wonders of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Every year, thousands of visitors arrive at the park and the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway to take in the changing hues of autumn.

While the leaves are the true showstoppers of the season, there’s plenty else to leave visitors awe-inspired. Throughout the park, you can explore a vast system of hiking trails, drive along several auto-loops, fish for brook trout in mountain streams, share stories around the campfire, and much more.

Some of Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s most revered attractions are Cades Cove, Clingmans Dome, and Deep Creek.

Cades Cove, in particular, draws huge crowds hoping to spot wildlife and learn more about the park’s rich cultural history.

This vibrant valley can be explored by vehicle, via the Cades Cove Auto Loop. The loop is 11 miles long, running only one way.


Yosemite National Park

Snow-covered rocks in a valley or creek at Yosemite National Park.

State: California

Yosemite National Park is a popular travel destination during all four seasons.

However, deciding to visit the park during the fall will offer visitors a rare glimpse into Yosemite Valley that truly displays the location’s beauty. What’s more, the cooler temperatures make outdoor recreation activities like rock climbing, hiking, and backpacking far more enjoyable.

Bicyclists will experience less traffic on the various park roadways, and fisherman will find more trout biting than in other seasons: trout season runs from September to December. The Merced River, Hetch-Hetchy Reservoir, and Tenaya Lake all offer anglers the opportunity to try their luck.

The color-changing dogwoods and maples of Yosemite are certainly enough to attract visitors, but by no means are they the only aspect worth exploring during your trip.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Whitewater cascades over rock ledges of beautiful Bridal Veil Falls, a waterfall photographed in the colorful autumn landscape of Cuyahoga Valley National Park of northeast Ohio.

State: Ohio

It’s safe to say Ohio isn’t exactly considered an outdoor paradise. However, a quick visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park during the fall will likely persuade you to believe otherwise.

Centered in northeast Ohio along the Cuyahoga River, Cuyahoga Valley National Park looks to preserve the remaining acres of undeveloped wilderness remaining in the state.

Unlike most other national parks in the country, the confines of Cuyahoga Valley also include two large urban areas, small towns, reservations, and a network of developed roadways.

Visiting Cuyahoga during the fall is a special experience, since you will have a front-row seat to the season’s greatest show. Take in breathtaking foliage from the Brandywine Gorge Trail, the Ledges Trail, or the Octagon Shelter access road.


Glacier National Park

Gentle waters in foreground and mountain range in background at Glacier National Park.

State: Montana

Visiting Glacier National Park during the fall requires self-reliance, since some park amenities close as soon as peak tourist season wraps up.

However, this will also bring heightened solitude, quieter mornings, and elevated wildlife activity—all three of which make visiting Glacier National Park in the autumn a can’t-miss trip.

Trees and vegetation in Glacier National change during mid- to late September. Enjoy cool nights and sunny days as temps hover between 40 and 70 degrees.

Later in the fall, occasional snow is common, though this weather is not nearly as severe as it is in winter. Biking down Going-to-the-Sun Road, or taking a boat tour of one of the many lakes in Glacier National Park, are two great ways to spend an autumn day in the park.


Rocky Mountain National Park

A person plays in the snow in a clearing among pine trees at Rocky Mountain National Park.

State: Colorado

During only four weeks in the summer, Rocky Mountain National Park experiences upwards of one million visitors. While the park is still well-visited during the fall, visitation numbers hardly compare.

One of the more popular fall attractions located within Rocky Mountain National Park is Old Fall River Road. This mountain road climbs throughout the park and offers unparalleled looks at the breathtaking landscape.

In autumn, Old Fall River Road is decorated with hues of burnt orange, yellow, and deep brown. Fall visitors can also take advantage of the decreased visitation and idyllic seasonal conditions by exploring the various hiking trails.

Additionally, you can visit in the winter for a winter wonderland and views that simply can’t be beaten.



The Best National Parks to Visit During the Winter

The winter season offers new opportunities and unrivaled recreation, even if the temps are less than ideal. You can explore the crowded popular parks you’d avoid during peak seasons, or revisit old favorites to see the landscape in an entirely new light.


Mount Rainier National Park

Snowy peaks in the distance over the forest in Mount Rainier National Park.

State: Washington

If you are looking for snow, then there is no better place than Mount Rainier National Park in the winter.

Throughout the year, the Paradise portion of the park receives about 54 feet of snow—yes, you read that right: 54 feet—and much of this snowfall occurs during the months of November through February.

In addition to being the perfect winter wonderland, Mount Rainier is also well equipped for recreation. Enjoy downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing.

You can also embark on a backpacking trip. However, anyone venturing into the backcountry during winter should be extremely prepared and ready for anything nature might throw your way.


Bryce Canyon National Park

An individual stands between two canyon walls in Bryce Canyon National Park.

State: Utah

“Otherworldly” is the best way to describe Bryce Canyon National Park during the winter.

The sandstone spires that dominate the park’s landscape are reminiscent of sci-fi movies, but during the winter these spires offer even more unique photographs and sightseeing opportunities.

In recent years, Bryce Canyon National Park began hosting an annual Winter Festival. Held on President’s Day Weekend, the festival is filled with astronomy programs, moon-shoeing adventures, and special winter programs.

If you decide to embark on a hike in Bryce Canyon during the winter, you should follow all park regulations and be cautious. Besides a sturdy pair of hiking boots, you’ll need vast quantities of water and clothing designed to repel severe weather and temperatures.


Death Valley National Park

Sweeping views of the dunes at Death Valley during sunset, with a pale purple and pink sky.

State: California/ Nevada

Winter might just be the perfect time to visit the hottest place on earth. Snow-capped mountains, penetrating sunshine, and clear skies make Death Valley a must-visit destination.

The park is quietest between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but you can also plan your trip to coincide with several astronomical events. These include full moon watch parties, star festivals, and a whole celebration centered around the planet Mars.

While uncommon year-round, a few rain showers normally move into Death Valley National Park every winter. Be prepared for all types of weather if you choose to visit the park late in the year.

Several lodges are available for your stay, the most popular of which are the Panamint Springs Resort and Stovepipe Wells Village.


National Park of American Samoa

Pago Pago Hill view over the island, known as the gateway to American Samoa.

Location: American Samoa

Sometimes winter weather calls for a tropical vacation. The National Park of American Samoa is the only unit managed by the National Park Service that is located below the equator. This characteristic makes the park the perfect place to go in order to escape the throes of winter.

Visitors traveling to the National Park of American Samoa will not find snow, sleet, or ice. However, they will find plenty of sunshine, crystal clear waters, and a plethora of opportunities to explore.

The park’s primary mission is to protect the coral reefs, tropical rainforests, and other unique biological features of American Samoa. Coinciding with this mission, popular activities completed in the park include snorkeling, bird watching, free diving, and hiking.

Additionally, a diverse array of wildlife—including bats, lizards, tropical birds, and tropical fish—populate the waters and rainforests protected by the park.



Channel Islands National Park

View of deep blue waters and rock formations on cliffs of the Channel Islands in spring, with flowers in foreground.

State: California

Like the National Park of American Samoa, Channel Islands National Park offers visitors the opportunity to pretend winter no longer exists. Temperatures in November through January reach highs of 65 degrees and up.

In total, Channel Islands National Park covers five of the eight islands located off the Pacific coast of California.

The largest of these islands is Santa Cruz Island. Dominated by acres of lush rainforest and Elysian beaches, the island offers visitors the opportunity to hike, bike, fish, sightsee, swim, snorkel, and kayak.

Other islands populated by Channel Islands National Park include Santa Rosa Island, Santa Barbara Island, and San Miguel Island. Recreation opportunities are similar amongst them all, but you’ll soon find each island offers unique features, as well.


A National Park for Every Season

Snowy mountain behind a green meadow of wildflowers in the spring season in Mount Rainier, one of the country's lesser-visited national parks.
Whether you opt for warm weather or snowy locales, planning a national park excursion at any point during the year can create lifelong memories and unforgettable experiences.

“America the beautiful” isn’t just a saying. These vast parks with what seem like endless lands litter states such as California, Oregon and Alaska, as well as many others.

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you might try to hit one or more every season. Ski in winter, fish in the fall, bike ride in spring, and swim in summer–there’s no wrong way to explore the incredible array of ecosystems and natural wonders of the U.S. National Park Service.


Best Restaurants in San Diego

Two women enjoy Taco Tuesday at one of San Diego CA's Mexican restaurants, smiling at a table full of food and drinks.

Southern California, and in particular San Diego, is full of some amazing restaurants, and likely is one of the coolest places to travel to. Next time you’re in the San Diego area, satisfy your inner foodie with these incredible restaurants offering everything from classic cuisines to daring new delicacies.



The Grass Skirt (Best Vibes / Atmosphere)

Top Dish: Grass Skirt Poke Bowl, Thai Crispy Rice Salad
Top Drink: Boozin’ Susan’s World Famous Chi Chi

The Grass Skirt has some of the best vibes in all of San Diego, serving up Southeast Asian cuisine and tiki-style cocktails.

Just walking into this place takes the edge off. While you may struggle to find the entrance, the folks at Good Time Poke next door will gladly help you out.


El Paisa (Best Mexican Food)

Image result for el paisa san diego

Top Dish: Street tacos
Top Drink: Horchata

El Paisa serves some fairly authentic Mexican dishes, including street-style tacos with lengua and cabeza. Si no comprende, look it up!

They also have fuller tacos, burritos, tostadas, tortas, and much more. Furthermore, they honor Taco Tuesday featuring discounted tacos, which scores massive points.

El Paisa is highly recommended if you want casual Mexican food in San Diego, and there are even more great restaurants within walking distance—just in case you don’t get your fill.


Crack Shack (Best Chicken)

Logo for The Crack Shack restaurant in San Diego with illustration of a chicken breaking out of an eggshell.

Top Dish: Fried chicken meals (various sizes); deviled eggs
Top Drink: Figueroa Mountain Lager, Jack Rosen Crack Shack Whiskey Sour

As soon as the dishes at Crack Shack hit your table, you won’t care if the chicken or egg came first—this SoCal fare is too good to resist diving right in. What’s more, family-sized flock meals and gluten-free options ensure everyone in your group gets to chow down.

Craft beers and a laid-back atmosphere—complete with lawn games—make Crack Shack one of the top restaurants in San Diego for group dining.

Fried chicken lovers can snack on nuggets, bone-in jidori fried platters, or sandwiches, while those looking to fuel up with something healthier will love the bowl options.


Pizza Port (Best Pizza Joint)

Black and white logo for Pizza Port Brewing Company featuring draft beer illustration, restaurant locations, and tagline "Tasty Grub & Grog."

Top Dish: Beer Buddies, Pizza San Francisco
Top Drink: Pizza Port Solana Beach Riggity Wrecked IPA

When cravings for classics hit, nothing beats pizza—but Pizza Port offers plenty for those in a more daring mood, from their signature wholegrain beer crust to unique and traditional topping combos. While pizza port may be for the more adventurous pizza lovers, those willing to travel to New York may find a more traditional style pie.

Bar food rounds out the menu with choices like mac & cheese bites or baked chicken wings. Additionally, you can order their popular beer crust all on its own, brushed with a generous coating of garlic or cajun spices.


Slater’s 50/50 (Best Burger)

Black and white logo for Slaters 50 50 in San Diego with tagline Bacon, Burgers, Beer.

Top Dish: Sriracha Burger, Best Damn Bacon Cheeseburger
Top Drink: Rotating Beer Selection

While plenty of restaurants in San Diego sling great burgers, you won’t find any better than Slater’s 50/50.  Every burger comes with fries and Slater’s very own Bacon Ketchup, and those steering clear of meat can now sub out traditional patties for an Impossible Burger.

The Best Damn Bacon Cheeseburger earns its title and then some in Slater’s upgraded classic. Alternatively, you can go rogue with the Peanut Butter and Jellousy, a savory-sweet combo of bacon, natural PB, and strawberry jelly.

Slater’s drink menu is just as creative, serving up everything from housemade lemonade or draft root beer to fully-loaded milkshakes.  On draft, you’ll find over 1,000 beers in rotation throughout any given year. That selection rivals some of the best out there like Portland!




Top Five National Parks in Alaska

Snowy mountains in the distance behind vast forest landscape in Denali National Park, Alaska.

Isolated in more ways than one, Alaska puts its unique geographical location to excellent use with 16 national wildlife refuges, as well as 17 parks, 8 of which are NPS-designated national parks.

All of these showcase the state’s undeveloped wilderness and preserve it beautifully, making Alaska an outdoor paradise unmatched in North America.

Since it’s not exactly realistic to visit every worthy site in one trip—tempting as it may be—here are the five best national parks in Alaska, so you can get as much out of your next trip to the last frontier as possible.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Root Glacier aerial view in Wrangell St. Elias in Alaska, the largest of the state's national parks.

Nearest City: Cooper Center, Alaska

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the largest in the United States. In total, it exceeds the acreage of Switzerland, Yellowstone National Park, and Yosemite National Park combined.

The premier attraction of the park is Mount St. Elias, which stands at a staggering height of over 18,000 feet.

However, the park also contains a variety of opportunities for visitors to experience the great outdoors of Alaska.

Supporting a diverse set of hiking trails, backcountry campsites, roaring rivers, and historic mining sites, Wrangell-St. Elias is far from a one-and-done destination. You could camp out for years and still see but a fraction of everything this park has to offer.

The best time to visit Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is during the months of May through September, when all of the park’s facilities are open to the public. During the winter, some areas of the park close and become troubling to navigate.


Denali National Park

Mountain range in Denali, one of the most visited national parks in Alaska, United States.

Nearest City: Healy, Alaska

Previously Mount McKinley National Park, Denali is home to the tallest mountain in North America. Its towering peaks provide an intense backdrop to any visit.

Additionally, varying elevation levels provide visitors a range of ecosystems to explore.

At the lowest elevation levels, Denali National supports a dense forest referred to as the taiga.

As elevation in the park increases, the landscape becomes more barren. In fact, evidence of glaciers isn’t uncommon in these areas.

Wintertime activities practiced in Denali National Park include skiing, snowmobiling, and even dog sledding.


Katmai National Park

A mother bear and her cub standing on an offshoot at a lake in Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Nearest City: King Salmon, Alaska

If you’ve heard of Katmai National Park, chances are good you also know about its large population of brown bears.

The park is located across from Kodiak Island. Besides its staggering population of brown bears, the park is best known for the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

This valley was formed by the 1912 eruptions of Novarupta and Mount Katmai, and still features plenty of volcanic ash as a result.

In total, Katmai National Park covers around four million acres, which places it in between New Jersey and Connecticut in terms of size.

A large portion of Katmai’s recreation opportunities center around wildlife viewing. If you make the trip to Katmai National Park, you’ll definitely want to visit the Brooks Falls viewing platform. There, you can observe brown bears catching sockeye salmon from the falls.

Additionally, various coastal areas of the park—including Hallo Bay—normally host impressive gatherings of brown bears year-round.


Glacier Bay National Park

A cruise ship navigating the waters of Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, alongside a glacier and snowy mountain.

Nearest City: Juneau, Alaska

Located in an even more isolated area of southeastern Alaska, Glacier Bay National Park receives the majority of its visitation by cruise ship.

Through a partnership with the National Park Service, these cruise ships are normally the site of several interpretive programs once docked in Glacier Bay.

Park accommodations include the Glacier Bay Lodge. What’s more, trails throughout the park prove ideal for hiking, mountaineering, kayaking, and birdwatching.

Glacier Bay National Park provides undisturbed habitats to a variety of wildlife species, including a diverse array of birds, wolves, wolverines, and various other mammals.


Gates of the Arctic National Park

Fog rolling across a mountain valley in Gates of the Arctic Pass, Alaska.

Nearest City: Beetles, Alaska

Gates of the Arctic National Park is the northernmost park in the United States.

Seated above the Arctic Circle, Gates is famous for its protection of the Brooks Mountain Range.

While the national park is the second largest national park in the country, visitation here is normally quite low compared to other parks, due to its location.

However, the few visitors who do make the journey to Gates of the Arctic National Park are in for an unforgettable experience. Recreation in Gates includes hiking, backcountry camping, mountaineering, fishing, and hunting.

The best time to visit the national park is during the summer. Travel is easier, since there are no established roads that travel through Gates of the Arctic National Park.


An Unspoiled Paradise

Glaciers and snowy mountain caps in Alaska under a slightly cloudy blue sky.
In the outdoor world, Alaska has an impressive reputation stemming from the state’s commitment to preserve its unique landscape, as well as numerous wilderness habitats.

At times, Alaska can seem a bit daunting to explore as a tourist, due to its sheer size. Travelers might fare better using Anchorage as a starting point, since it contains the state’s largest airport.

What’s more, you can plan your trip beyond the national parks of Alaska by starting in Anchorage. The city features a vibrant scene of restaurants, bars, and historic locations.

“America the beautiful” is more than just a saying – it’s truly a reality. With gorgeous acres of land running through states like, Texas, Florida, Oregon, and many others, one could spend a lifetime visiting them all. Of course, while that’s possible, you’d definitely need to be prepared with tents, backpacks, water filters, and a solid plan.


Best National Parks in the United States

Mountains in Yosemite National Park, United States, during sunset and with a purple-pink filter applied.

A common bucket list item is to visit all 63 national parks in the United States, and that’s no easy feat.

If money, time, health, or other travel restrictions keep you from your goal, don’t worry. When it comes to nature, quality beats quantity any day of the week.

These five national parks are the best in the United States—and much easier to check off your list, with the right planning.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National, one of the most visited parks in the United States depicting a still lake reflecting the background of large cliffs and a waterfall.

Location: California

Made famous by the writings and advocacy of John Muir, Yosemite National Park is the most visited national park in the state of California.

It’s located among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and preserves a unique wilderness area. This park contains groves of giant sequoias, waterfalls, granite cliffs, impressive rock faces, and an important biological diversity.

Recreation in Yosemite National Park is led by 800 miles of hiking trails. One of the most popular trails leads to the summit of Half Dome.

Other recreational activities include backpacking and rock climbing. In the winter, you can participate in downhill skiing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

While Yosemite National Park and the surrounding valley have always been a mecca of rock climbing, recent events—including the release of Free Solo, a documentary which features the free climbing efforts of climber Alex Honnold—have promoted the sport even more.

However, the park urges every rock climber to practice safe climbing practices, and only participate in climbs within their comfort and experience levels.


Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park in United States with stunning view of mountains and crystal blue water with a tree-line shore.

Location: Montana

While the likes of Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon often overshadow Glacier National Park, it has much to offer its visitors.

Located in northwestern Montana, Glacier National Park is situated upon the Canadian border. In total, it encompasses more than one million acres. Additionally, it stretches across two different mountain ranges.

Visitors who plan a trip to Glacier National Park will find stunning views of glaciers. You can also hike along the highline trail, experience some of the best fly fishing in the world, and potentially catch a glimpse of several elusive and rare wildlife species.

The vast ecosystem of Glacier National Park is supported by several geological features. These include over 130 named lakes.

The flora species of Glacier National Park exceed 1,000, while more than several hundred species of wildlife call the area home.


Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park at sunset with reflections on water.

Location: Colorado

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado are unlike anywhere else in the continental United States.

These mountains are equal parts treacherous and inviting. Rocky Mountain National Park in particular, manages a diverse acreage that includes lush meadows, staggering peaks, calm creek beds, and roaring rivers.

It’s also one of the most visited national parks in the United States. While yearly visitation totals over four million, about a quarter of that comes from just a single three-week span during the summer.

Summertime visitors flock to Rocky Mountain National Park to hike, backpack, camp, and fish.

The most famous trail is the keyhole route, which gives visitors the opportunity to climb to the top of Longs Peak.


Yellowstone National Park

Golden colored rock and mineral deposits at Yellowstone National Park, with water and mountains in background.

Location: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho

Yellowstone was designated a national park in 1872—the first one established by the federal government.

The success, importance, and reputation of Yellowstone quickly led to further development of the National Park Service, as well as other national parks around the United States.

Yellowstone preserves a variety of mountains, lakes, rivers, and open meadows. Here, visitors may hike, kayak, fish, and view wildlife.

The wildlife of Yellowstone is very diverse. It includes large mammals such as bison, elk, wolves, and bighorn sheep.

Additionally, Yellowstone National Park maintains nine visitor centers, where you can learn more about the park, plan your trip, or chat with park rangers.


Zion National Park

Zion National Park, United States, with star-filled night sky and views of sandstone formation and desert plants.

Location: Utah

Some of the most unique parks in the United States are located in the state of Utah, and Zion National is the premier destination.

Famous for its reddish-orange layers of Navajo Sandstone, Zion Canyon attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every month.

Popular recreation activities of Zion National Park include hiking and rock climbing. The Narrows allows visitors to traverse through tight sections of Zion Canyon.

Use caution, however.  Altogether, this hike is about 12 hours from start to finish.  It also requires you to traverse more than 16 miles of uneven terrain.


An Endless Adventure

Rocky Mountains at overcast sunset with snow and greenery visible.

The top national parks of the United States are all breathtaking, each possessing unique geographical features, wildlife, and recreational opportunities.

That said, they’re far from the only parks worth visiting! “America the beautiful” isn’t just a saying. These vast parks with what seem like endless lands litter states such as California, Utah, Arizona, Florida, as well as many others.


National Parks in Colorado

Overcast late sunset at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

The state of Colorado holds four national parks within its borders—Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Together, they form a diverse playground that continually attracts visitors to The Centennial State.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Person in the distance walking along sand dunes at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

Nearest City: Alamosa, Colorado

True to its name, Great Sand Dunes National Park preserves a number of sand dunes—the largest in the United States, in fact.

The park is located on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley, and is a unique natural and cultural area.

Throughout Great Sand Dunes National Park, you’ll find evidence of human settlement which dates back over 10,000 years. The largest tribes to settle in the area include the Southern Ute, Apache, and Navajo Native Americans.

Recreation in Great Sand Dunes National Park includes dune exploration, hiking, sandboarding, and camping.

In order to access the dunes, visitors must cross Modano Creek. Most days out of the year, this creek is shallow and wide.  Therefore, you’ll probably only need to traverse a few inches of water.

Once across, you’ll then be able to hike across the sand dunes as much as you like. However, keep in mind that these dunes reach extreme temperatures in summertime—and can therefore become fairly dangerous to explore.

As for sandboarding, you can rent boards and sand sleds from an outfitter located just outside the park, such as Oasis or SpinDrift.


Rocky Mountain National Park

Bright blue sky and white clouds over the Ship's Prow of Long's Peak at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Nearest City: Estes Park and Grand Lake, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park is the most popular national park in Colorado, and one of the United States’ most frequently visited parks overall. On average, its yearly visitation totals more than 4.5 million people.

Even more impressive is that most of this visitation occurs during just four weeks.  Peak season runs through June, July, and August.

With that in mind, you’ll probably want to plan your trip in a less crowded season, to get the most out of the experience.

The landscape maintained and protected by Rocky Mountain National Park includes several peaks, mountain lakes, and bountiful meadows. While hiking and backpacking are the most popular activities there, admiring its diverse population of wildlife is another big draw.

The most notable animal species living in Rocky Mountain National Park include moose, elk, black bears, bighorn sheep, and coyotes.

In addition to these large mammals, Rocky Mountain also provides a home to many songbirds, and a few amphibians and reptiles.


Mesa Verde National Park

Cliff Palace, ancient homes carved into rock wall at Mesa Verde, one of four national parks in Colorado.

Nearest City: Cortez, Colorado

Sitting just north of the New Mexico border, Mesa Verde National Park preserves one of the most unique cultural settlements in the United States.

Inside the park’s borders, visitors will find the largest collection of ancestral puebloan artifacts, as well as several ancient cave dwellings. These sites are open to tours, under the supervision of a park guide.

The most popular cave dwelling is the Cliff Palace, which is thought to be the largest cliff dwelling on the entire continent.

Besides transporting visitors back in time, Mesa Verde also provides ample opportunities to hike and explore the landscape of southern Colorado.

The name, Mesa Verde, translates directly to “Green Table.”

Springtime visitors will quickly see why. Flora species there thrive among woodlands, shrublands, open meadows, and grasslands.

Additionally, nature lovers will find ten hiking trails throughout the Morefield, Chapin Mesa, and Wetherill Mesa areas of the park.


Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Deep blue river running through steep cliffsides in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado, United States.

Nearest City: Montrose, Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located in western Colorado.  It’s frequently overshadowed by Great Sand Dunes and Rocky Mountain, which are more popular.

However, visitors to Black Canyon will find this journey well worth it.

The park contains some of the best hiking in the state, including three steep descents down into the Black Canyon Wilderness Area.

Once at the bottom, you’ll be able to take in the sights and sounds of the basin. This is one of the least explored areas, and thus provides the perfect amount of solitude.

In addition to being a hiker’s paradise, the park maintains several backcountry and frontcountry campsites where visitors can rest for the night.

Wildlife species frequently spotted in Black Canyon of the Gunnison include mule deer, black bears, and coyotes.

Visitors wishing to hike into the Black Canyon Wilderness Area will need a wilderness permit.  These are free, and obtained from the park’s visitor center.


Colorado: An Outdoor Playground

Landscape portrait of Great Sand Dunes, one of the most popular national parks in Colorado.

When it comes to outdoor recreation, stunning wildlife, and a diverse landscape, the state of Colorado has much to offer.

While Rocky Mountain and Great Sand Dunes are larger and more popular than the other two national parks in Colorado, you can’t go wrong with any option—or, even better, all four.

For more travel recommendations, check out the state and national parks in California, Oregon, or Utah, or these buyers’ guides to the best water filters and packs for hiking and camping.

Comparison of the Best Camping and Backpacking Packs

A camper backpacking long a beautiful mountain lake on an overcast day.

It would be quite challenging to go backpacking or camping without reliable and sturdy packs to carry and protect your supplies.

After all, it doesn’t help to be prepared for anything and everything if a sudden storm soaks your gear, or your straps break in the middle of a trail.

One of the most important features of the pack is reliability. And – if you can’t rely on the pack to protect and haul your favorite tent, water filters, and cooking supplies and food then you likely won’t enjoy your experience.

Below, you’ll find the five best camping and backpacking packs on the market, which excel in terms of weight, performance, and overall durability.


Best Overall Backpacking Backpack

Granite Gear Blaze 60

Price: $269.95

A design marvel, the Granite Gear Blaze 60 scores high on durability, weight, and comfort.

What’s more, it’s highly functional: there isn’t much the Granite Gear Blaze 60 can’t do. Despite weighing just slightly over three pounds, this pack can haul over fifty pounds of gear without sacrificing the wearer’s comfort.

Additionally, the Granite Gear can withstand more than several trips’ worth of snags and drops.

When it comes to flaws, the pack’s small buckles might be annoying during cold excursions, when gloves are involved.

Other than that, though, the Granite Gear Blaze 60 is a phenomenal option almost any hiker or backpacker should have in their arsenal.



Best Value Backpack


REI Co-op Flash 55

Price: $199.00

At the end of the day, no matter how great a pack is, it needs to be affordable. While budget-friendly options abound, far too many cut costs at the expense of function.

The REI Co-op Flash 55, however, sacrifices neither. With a price tag under $200, it’s the ideal blend of value and performance.

Several external pockets and straps support a variety of gear, including two side pockets sized for water bottles.

The Flash 55 maintains a footprint of less than three pounds, and offers decent durability. Quite likely, it won’t hold up to extreme terrain or weather conditions, but it can handle more standard outings with ease.

Simply put, if you look after the Flash 55, it will continue to look after you.



Most Comfortable Backpack


Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50

Price: $240.00

Comfort is a huge factor when comparing packs for camping and backpacking. For many outdoor enthusiasts, in fact, it’s the most important determinant.

Ultimately, how long you can stand to wear your pack might dictate the length of a hike, and how much ground you cover per day.

In terms of comfort, no pack performs better than the Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50.

At a capacity of 50 ounces, the Gear Gorilla is able to carry upwards of 30 pounds of gear while maintaining its promise of superior comfortability on the wearer.

With a combination of custom Robic ripstop nylon, air mesh fabric, power mesh fabric, and several pockets, the Gear Gorilla is well-designed for cushioning and breathability.

What’s more, the Gear Gorilla is offered in several colors, so every member of your party can travel in comfort and style.



Best Backpack for Long Distance


Ultralight Adventure Equipment Catalyst

Price: $280.00

Are you on the trail every weekend for miles and miles at a time? If so, then you need a pack specifically geared towards an enthusiast with your activity level.

The Ultralight Adventure Equipment Catalyst is designed to live on the trail. It’s super light, comfortable, and ready for just about anything Mother Nature can dish out.

Ultralight Adventure (ULA) is not as well-known or mainstream as brands like The North Face, Patagonia, or even Osprey. Among hiking enthusiasts, however, ULA camping packs are revered for their performance, and the Catalyst is a prime example of why.



Best Ultralight Backpack

HMG 2400 Southwest ultralight pack. Black mesh over light grey backpack


HMG 2400 Southwest

Price: $310.00

Hyperlite Mountain Gear created the 2400 Southwest to offer an ultralight backpack that can be used on even the narrowest of trails.

Composed of three external Dyneema pockets, a Dyneema high density hip belt, and a foam back panel pad, the 2400’s total weight is under two pounds.

It’s also equipped with an ice axe loop, a hydro port, and optional accessory straps.

The obvious flaw to the 2400 Southwest? Its price tag. At over three hundred dollars, it’s one of the most expensive camping packs on the market.

However, if you can afford the pack and are looking for an ultralight product, your money can’t be better spent.


A Hiker’s Best Friend

As any outdoor enthusiast knows, a poorly performing pack can ruin an otherwise perfect excursion.  Likewise, quality packs can make even the roughest camping or hiking trip incredible.

A reliable backpack soon becomes more than a piece of equipment: it becomes a best friend. Choose wisely, and don’t let price dictate your decision alone.

Instead, choose a pack that suits your activity level, weather conditions, capacity requirements, and comfort needs.