Celebrating the 4th of July can be so much more than fireworks, parades and plastic food contraptions. At Ecophiles, we highly recommend you ditch the usual party and get out there to experience this holiday by immersing yourself in nature. So you can embrace your patriotic side by being mindful of the land we live on.

Take a look at some of these creative ways to light up your July 4th with green travel and eco-friendly adventures.

Hike, Kayak, Meet a Manatee in Daytona Beach Area, Florida 

If it’s a relaxing beach holiday you’re after, make it a green one! Apart from the free summer concerts at the historic beachfront Daytona Beach Bandshell, there are several nature trails within easy reach. Cracker Creek, located on the western side of Spruce Creek, is a 20 acre sanctuary home to endangered animals and plants. Spruce Creek, the natural black water system, remains one of a few unspoiled streams in Florida. Hike, kayak, canoe, go birdwatching –  it’s the eco-friendly way to spend 4th of July weekend!

Drifting downstream, see dense forests, saltwater swamps, freshwater bogs and cypress marshes and you might meet alligators, raccoons, turtles, Sandhill Cranes, Yellow-Crowned Night Herons and Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers. Also, the historic Gamble Place (on the National Register of Historic Places) adjacent to Cracker Creek is surrounded by a 175-acre nature preserve.

Take a trip to Blue Spring State Park and plunge into an underwater world of native Florida fish and playful otters with a swim to the park’s spring boil. The largest spring on the St Johns River, Blue Spring is crystal clear and a designated Manatee Refuge and the winter home to a growing population of West Indian Manatees. Canoe or kayak through the spring’s scenic wilderness, swim, snorkel, scuba dive or just enjoy a lovely sunny picnic.

Finally, tank up on the Daytona Beach Ale Trail stretching from Ormond Beach to DeLand – drink like a local at the microbreweries and tap houses!

Spruce Creek. Photo: Daytona Beach Area CVB

Spruce Creek. Photo: Daytona Beach Area CVB

Celestial Fireworks, Lava Tubes and Mountain Biking at Cedar City, Utah

Cedar City Utah, an excellent base for exploring nearby Bryce and Zion National Parks and other national monuments, is also a fab destination in and of itself. Celebrate this national holiday at Brian Head Resort’s Independence Day Extravaganza. With free admission, music, beer, food, vendor booths, mountain biking – this promises to be a fun and green event.

Opt for celestial fireworks at the Star Party at Cedar Breaks National Monument, which offers some of the darkest night skies in the country for stunning cosmic gazing. Celebrate the beauty of nature with the Cedar Breaks Wildflower Festival. Participate in guided hikes and learn about the wildflowers and how to identify them. Travelers can also camp here at the Point Supreme Campground.

Spend your weekend exploring the surrounding areas including the three-mile long Parowan wind gap, home to one of the richest collections of petroglyphs in the West. Visit the Dixie National Forest – Utah’s largest national forest spanning 170 miles across Southern Utah, with unique 2,000 year old ancient lava beds surrounding the pristine Navajo Lake, Duck Creek and tunnel or lava tube at Mammoth Cave.

Other green ways to enjoy Southern Utah include mountain biking in Brain Head; nicknamed “Utopia”. Famed for its downhill single-track trails, Brain Head is a unique blend of alpine components encased in ornately eroded canyon slopes painted in rose red, sunburst orange, and coral pink.

Utah Brian Head Town- Starry Night. Photo by Mike Saemisch

Brian Head Town Starry Night. Photo by Mike Saemisch. Courtesy of Scenic Southern Utah

Hot Air Balloon Ride, White Water Rafting and Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Idaho

If you’re lucky enough to call the Gem state home, or are venturing through the Northwest, make sure some of Idaho’s most spectacular scenery and natural beauty is on top of your green celebration list this 4th of July.

From the many festivals and fairs, the Teton Valley Balloon Rally taking place July 1-4, 2016 is a must-visit attraction. The annual hot air balloon rally includes live music, kids activities, and an art walk. Art lovers should head to the Idaho Shakespeare festival in Boise. The Festival’s outdoor Amphitheater & Reserve is nestled in a unique habitat, home to an astonishing variety of plant species, water birds and affording glimpses of deer, heron, ducks, geese and the occasional fox.

Those looking to get away from it all should head for the Mesa Falls. These majestic Mesa waterfalls, tall as a 10-story building, run over what is left of an ancient volcanic super-eruption and are the last prominent waterfalls on the Snake River unaffected by man-made influences.

Other ways to celebrate in nature include floating/tubing the Boise River, or rafting the Main Payette River – whitewater range between Class II and III. The guided rafting outfitters practice the ‘leave no trace’ principle.

Or try kayaking and Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP)  in the waters of Thousand Springs State Park, enjoying its gorgeous views as thousands of gallons of water flow from below ground, cascading down the volcanic cliff faces.

Thousand Springs kayaking - Photo

Thousand Springs kayaking – Photo Courtesy of Idaho Tourism

Run Up a 3,022-ft Mountain, then run back in Alaska

Marathon runners couldn’t hope for better scenery in Seward, Alaska. Mount Marathon sees a mountain tradition that starts with fireworks at midnight and in the morning, the marathon starts downtown. You run to the top of the 3,022-foot mountain, then run back to the finish.

It is rumored the race originated as a bet between locals that the mountain could not be tackled in less than an hour. Runners face steep slopes and gravity, inertia and loose shale, and are challenged by oxygen debt and lung capacity. The winners are usually locals who practice on the mountain, or Alaska Olympians for rather obvious reasons.

South of Anchorage, the Girdwood Forest Fair is an annual event that has hand-crafted items, exotic food and performances from all over Alaska, along with the annual Forest Fair Parade on Saturday.

Girdwood Forest Fair. Photo: Alaska Channel/ Visit Anchorage Alaska

Girdwood Forest Fair. Photo: Alaska Channel/ Visit Anchorage Alaska

Celebrate the great outdoors in Colorado

With stunning backdrops for your hikes, enjoy the thrills of whitewater rafting, or soak and relax in a hot spring, boating, paddle boarding, tubing and fishing on the many lakes, reservoirs and rivers – eco-friendly activities are endless in Colorado.
If it’s festivals you’re looking for, the Cherry Creek Arts Festival (CCAF) weekend event in Denver, Colorado is a world‐class and award‐winning celebration of the visual, culinary and performing arts. With pop-up performances, quirky kinetic sculptures and interactive contraptions on display, the event enjoys an attendance of 350,000 visitors.

Celebrate in Colorado Springs with the Philharmonic – With music, bounce house, bungee trampoline, giant slide, obstacle course and mechanical bull. Pikes Peak Art & Music Festival in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs is the leading showcase for fine art, fine craft and fine music performances, and featuring stunning views of Pikes Peak.

Enjoy the weekend in Aspen, with America’s Birthday Carnival  featuring carnival games, bounce houses, face painting, snow cones, balloon animals, live music, silent auction, and concessions. Spend the afternoon at the 21st Annual 4th of July Picnic with a barbeque lunch, live music, games and a beer garden. The Aspen Music Festival’s free Fourth of July Concert is another beloved tradition.

Kayaking the Cache la Poudre River near Fort Collins. Photo by-Matt Inden. Courtesy of Colorado Tourism

Kayaking the Cache la Poudre River. Photo by-Matt Inden. Courtesy of Colorado Tourism