Where to see wilderness in the eastern U.S.

Most of the best-known wilderness areas are out west, but states east of the Mississippi River still contain millions of acres of stunning land protected under the 50-year-old Wilderness Act.

Befitting a pioneer nation, many of our most revered natural landscapes, from the Grand Canyon to Yosemite, are in the west. However, the roots of American conservation lie firmly in the eastern half of the country, as do many pieces of extraordinary designated wilderness.

The Wilderness Act of 1964, was authored by Howard Zahniser, an easterner whose love of nature was formed partly in upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains. And amid icons like Bob Marshall Wilderness (Montana) and Glacier Peak Wilderness (Washington), the first batch of irreplaceable public land protected that year included three eastern wilderness areas: New Hampshire’s Great Gulf Wilderness, and North Carolina’s Linville Gorge and Shining Rock Wildernesses.

In the east, you can find soaring mountain ranges, lush autumn foliage, exotic coastal wetlands and much more, protecting a wide range of wildlife habitat and offering ample recreation opportunities for hikers, campers, hunters, fishers and sightseers. The close proximity of many of these wildlands to major metropolitan areas makes them all the more delicate, but it also lends them much of their power, as a primal salve to smoggy, fast-paced city life.

Here are just a few notable wilderness areas east of the Mississippi River…


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