Off the Beaten Path
with E.J. Snyder

I am well known for my travels as an Extreme Survivalist and Adventurer for the Discovery Channel. Always the type to look for those moments that will educate you, surprise you, or flat out take your breath away, I have been blessed to see some amazing places and things. I get asked all the time, “Hey where is the best place to go hiking?” or “Can you suggest a really cool thing I can take my kids to see?” or “Where is that hidden water hole near a waterfall?”

With my background, they assume I must know the best places. Well, they are right.

When you are planning your summer outings this year, think outside the box or do the total opposite of what you normally would do. It's okay to plan but being spontaneous and not having a plan can be just as exciting—sometimes even more so.

Maybe you decide to take a road trip along historic Route 66. Just drive it for four days and turn around, stopping at things that grab your eye along the way. I was always the kid who yelled at his dad to stop at the giant sombrero that marked the famous South of the Border tourist rest area on the border of North and South Carolina. Sure, my parents were like “really,” but as a 6-year-old boy, it was a magical experience. That’s what’s important. And you don’t have to travel to far off places like me to find that experience. So, here they are. My four hidden gems for this summer that are Off the Beaten Path. Get out there and explore them!

About the Author

EJ and Dog

E.J. Snyder, an honorary TKE Frater, is a retired 25-year Army Combat Vet, Survivalist, Adventurer, Trekking Guide, and Professional Survival/Team Building Instructor. He is also a highly sought after motivational speaker, writer, and author. He is most recently known for his three appearances on the Discovery Channel’s Survival Series “Naked & Afraid,” host of “Dual Survival” Season 9, and “First Man Out” amongst other TV/film projects in front of the camera and as a Military/Survival/Security Technical Adviser & Consultant behind the camera. He regularly tests knives, gear, and equipment for their effective use in real world situations. To find out more about E.J., go to and to link in to all of his Social Media platforms.

Garden of the Gods

The Garden of the Gods' red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. The 300-foot orange sandstone rocks were once sand dunes. Evidence of past ages can be read in the rocks: ancient seas, eroded remains of ancestral mountain ranges, alluvial fans, sandy beaches and great sand dune fields.

Garden of the Gods Stats

Near Colorado Springs, Colorado, the Garden of the Gods is a paradise in one magical stop. The park is the most striking contrast between plains and mountains in North America with respect to biology, geology, climate and scenery. With its 300-foot towering red rock formations, endless blue skies and snow-capped Pikes Peak as a backdrop, Garden of the Gods is a memory-card-sapping delight. Photographers flock here to capture Pikes Peak framed by the rock formations, especially on the Siamese Twins trail. Begin your day at the Visitor and Nature Center and learn about the geology, ecology, wildlife and history of the area. There are miles of scenic trails to explore on foot, mountain bike or horseback. Rock climbing, Jeep and Segway tours are all available, along with the Pikes Peak Cog Railway up the mountain.

The geological history of the Garden of the Gods reveals one of the most extensive pictures of earth history found anywhere in the United States.


You will want plenty of space on your camera for this trip because there are lots of great selfie opportunities. Admission, daily presentations and naturalist-led walks – all free. The Visitor Center is open daily so take advantage of it to get the most from your trip.

Rock City

Rock City Stats

Those who are looking to step just a little off the beaten path should check out Rock City, located at Lookout Mountain, Georgia—just six miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee. You will definitely want to have your best walking shoes on for Rock City! This 200-million-year-old rock formation holds plenty of exciting adventures, including a 90-foot waterfall, gardens, Fairyland Caverns for the kids, and a 1,000-ton balanced rock. Once you’ve finished exploring the trails that wind through these attractions and the more than 400 species of plants and trees, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views at the top of Lookout Mountain, where you can see seven different states! Depending on when you visit, there are plenty of special events to add even more excitement to your trip, including the Enchanted Garden of Lights during the holiday season, the Southern Blooms Festival and Summer Music Weekends. I am a big coffee drinker so I also like the fact that there is a Starbucks on site, an indication of the site’s popularity.

Some of Rock City’s other features include the climbing wall at Lover’s Leap, the famous Swing-A-Long suspension bridge that stands nearly 200 feet and provides an amazing view of the Chattanooga Valley, the birds of prey shows, Cafe 7 Dining on the terraces, and the Hall of the Mountain King, a twisting series of caverns.

Blowing Springs Farms in Flintstone, Georgia, is Rock City’s fall attraction in the valley below Lover’s Leap. Each year there is a new cornfield maze design to navigate, hayrides or cow train rides, and animals to pet at the Critter Corral. This event was selected as a Top 20 event for 2017 by Southeast Tourism Society.


While you’re in the area, you should also visit Ruby Falls. Located 1,120 feet below Lookout Mountain, it’s the world’s tallest and deepest waterfall. Use Fodor’s Georgia Travel Guide to help plan your trip.

The Wave

According to "Atlas Obscura," The Wave is comprised of Navajo Sandstone dunes that have calcified vertically and horizontally, turning into hardened, compacted rocks over time. The peculiar and unique fluctuating stratum was created by slow wind and rain erosion. The Wave remained basically unknown until the 1990s when it was largely advertised in German travel brochures and shown in the 1996 movie "Faszination Natur."

Garden of the Gods Stats

Located in the North Coyote Buttes in Arizona, I promise you that this one is worth the effort and will surely take your breath away. The Wave is a stunning sandstone formation in the Paria Canyon Wilderness, near the Arizona and Utah border. While it’s difficult to obtain a permit to visit the structure (apply online through a reservation and lottery system), once you do, it’ll be well worth the trouble. Visitors can hike along the six- to eight-mile beautifully colored trails on The Wave, which dates back 160 to 180 million years.

Despite the limited access to protect the landscape, hikers must remain careful as The Wave has edges that will break easily if stepped upon.

Rain storms can make the road to The Wave impassable. They bring numerous pools which form for several days, containing hundreds of tadpoles and fairy shrimp.


The route through The Wave can be confusing. Once you’re granted a permit, look into guided tour options, so you can enjoy the view without worrying about getting lost. Use Fodor’s Arizona Travel Guide to help plan your trip.

Nahanni National Park Reserve

Garden of the Gods Stats

If you hear the call of the wild this summer, look no further than the Nahanni National Park Reserve located in Dehcho Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada. There are no public roads in Nahanni National Park Reserve; visitors must access the park via air or hike in. Day visitors typically travel to the park by chartered floatplane departing from Fort Simpson, but to do it justice, you should plan for 7–21 days. Centered around the beautiful South Nahanni River, this reserve has no shortage of ways for you to get off the beaten path. An adventure in this region is not for the novice hiker. The park is more than seven million acres of mountains, tundra and forest. If hiking isn’t your speed, I recommend taking to the Nahanni River. This is a truly wild experience and booking a trip with a guide is a given. Features with names like “Vampire Peaks,” “Hell’s Gate,” and the “Cirque of the Unclimbables” will make this an exciting adventure. The park is also home to animals of the boreal forest, such as wolves, grizzly bears and caribou. Dall’s sheep and mountain goats are found in the park’s alpine environment.

Within the park are examples of almost every distinct category of river or stream that is known along with one of North America’s huge waterfalls, Virginia Falls.


When you visit the wilds of the world, be adventurous but never over estimate your abilities. Even survival experts like me will do extensive research and talk to locals whenever possible. A quick visit to is in order for you to get started. This is not a trip to take lightly.