Some natural splendors are too big for one state. Take the Great Smoky Mountains (pictured), which straddle both North Carolina and Tennessee. Thanks in part to being located on the more crowded East Coast, 11 million people visit these rolling mountains each year—double the number of Grand Canyon, the second most-visited national park.
Granted, most of the defined great outdoors usually fall within a single state or country. But there are several other notable exceptions. And as an interesting bonus, the visitor experience can sometimes change depending on which side of the line you’re standing on.
Tucked away in the northwest corner of the Great Plains, there is a small, isolated mountain range called the Black Hills. It doesn’t sound like much, until you read the included headlining attractions. On the Wyoming side, you’ll find Devil’s Tower, a rock-climbing and geological favorite. On the South Dakota side, you’ll encounter Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, two national caves, and Badlands a little to the east. Combined, it’s one of my all-time favorite road trips.
Glacier National Park
In 1932, Glacier National Park in Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta combined at the U.S.-Canadian border to form the world’s first “international peace park.” Feel-good unity aside, the combined park is one of the most well-received wonders in either country. Highlights include hanging glaciers, photogenic Hidden Lake, free-range mountain goats and grizzly bears, alpine valleys, and the epic Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Big Bend National Park
Roughly three hours from any major airport or city, there is a beautiful national park on the border of southwest Texas and northern Mexico. On the U.S. side, it’s called Big Bend National Park. On the Mexican side, there are two protected areas: Parque Nacional Cañon de Santa Elena to the west and Maderas del Carmen to the east. As there is only a border crossing in Boquillas, getting to the former is difficult. But either way, the greater Chihuahuan Desert is as off the grid as it is wide open.
Speaking of Texas, here is a place that is twice as large, equally barren, but a lot more icy and mountainous. Shared by both Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is home to three of the most imposing natural sights I’ve ever visited: Torres del Paine, Perito Moreno Glacier, and Fitz Roy. It’s at the end of the world—not far from Antarctica—and it’s absolutely stunning.
Located mostly in Brazil and partially in Peru, Columbia, and others, The Amazon is the wildest, largest and most exotic ecosystem on planet. Half of the world’s rainforests stand here. Twenty percent of the atmosphere’s total oxygen is exhaled from here on a daily basis. Crisscrossed by thousands of rivers, it is home to millions of plant, fish, predator, bird, and insect life, many of which will kill you. To top it off, there are still undiscovered indigenous tribes living here—in 2017 even! Talk about a bucket list item.
Extra Credit Fun Fact
Two of the world’s greatest waterfalls also split borders—Brazil and Argentina share Iguazu Falls, while Canada and the U.S. share Niagra Falls.
Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Follow him @blakesnow