I have been really blessed to have traveled back and forth and around this country multiple times. It’s a beautiful country.
In recent years I’ve been much more conscious of taking the time to explore the places that have more spiritual energy–both the famous sites and the more obscure. It is so much better for our spirits to slow down and enjoy the journey. Too often we are destination-oriented and with finite and constrictive timelines. This does not serve our soul.
So, in an effort to inspire you to consider maybe soaking in the energy of one or two of these special places, I thought I’d make a list of my top fifteen. (It’s too hard to choose only ten.)
15. Olowalu Petroglyphys, Maui, HI and Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, NM
Petroglyphs are such a powerful reminder of the ancient ones, the indigenous people who lived long ago. I love trying to imagine the meaning behind the symbols and to feel the energy of the people who once communed with the land and the spirits.
14. Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO
I love this powerful place: great giant red rocks reaching into the air, creating a sense of awe; contrasted with juniper trees, some ancient and gnarled; against a backdrop of majestic Pike’s Peak and the Front Range. My strong suggestion, however, is that you go early to avoid the mob of tourists. Energetic places start to lose their appeal when subjected to throngs of humans. But if you arrive early and find a pocket to settle into, you can enter sacred stillness and feel the power of these huge ancient rocks and the spirits of this ancestral land.
13. Great Sand Dunes National Park, near Mosca, CO
These are the largest sand dunes in the nation–the tallest are 750′. Unlike most dunes, these are not near any sea, which makes them particularly interesting. The setting is spectacular, with the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east, including sacred Blanca Peak, and the great San Luis Valley to the west. The dunes are also known as a hotbed for UFO activity, including “bizarre lights, often more than 9 or 10 in the sky at a time.” (1) (A close friend of mine reported once seeing a large UFO there.) As for me, I loved wading through the clear Medano Creek at the base of the dunes, which generally flows only in the springtime. It was one of the most sensuous, delightful, and grounding experiences I had ever experienced. I felt so deliciously peaceful and happy afterwards.
12. Cahokia Mounds, Collinsville, IL and Etowah Mounds, Cartersville, GA
There are earth mounds and pyramid mounds scattered throughout the Mississippi valley and toward the east–something somehow none of us seemed to have learned about in school. They are a fascinating glimpse of cultures which thrived long before the first Europeans settled on the continent. The population of Cahokia was apparently “larger than any subsequent city in the United States until the 1780’s, when Philadelphia’s population grew beyond 40,000.” (2) Ancient statuary found at both sites indicates a possible connection with Maya people to the south.
11. Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, NM
This whole area is so evocative of a different time and place and the ancestors of the Pueblo people who still populate New Mexico. The ancient rock-hewn dwellings are hidden within beautiful forested lands of the Jemez Mountains. I found it hard to take it all in. There was so much to experience; I felt like I needed several days to really appreciate it all. If you go, allow lots of time not just for exploring, but for sitting and feeling the ancient energies. I am so grateful that this powerful place has been so beautifully preserved and protected.
10. Mission Mountains, east of Flathead Lake and south toward Arlee, MT
This strikingly beautiful mountain range, part of the Rocky Mountains, is located in northwestern Montana. Unlike most mountains in this country, the local tribal people fought to retain jurisdiction of these wild lands. I have the utmost respect for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes for their oversight and stewardship of these mountains and the animals that live there. When I was in the area I bought a permit to go camp in the mountains and I was subsequently blessed with a great mystical encounter followed by a beautiful sacred dream. The spirits were clearly present.
9. Pacific coastline–California, Oregon, and Washington
I couldn’t select just one place; the whole coastline is so magnificent. As one goes farther north, majestic redwoods and great pine forests stand sentinel at the edge of the continent. The beaches and waters often have great monolithic rocks strewn all about, some of which are filled with colorful semi-precious stones or veins of white quartz. My favorite thing to do is to find a rock to lean upon and simply gaze at the endless waves rolling in and the beautiful interplay of earth, sea, and sky. Life is so rich and full–the salty fishy fresh smell of the air, the flying and crying of gulls, the brilliant sparkling of sun on water, and, if one is lucky, the barking of seals or the distant spout of whales. Visiting the waters of the most vast ocean on the planet brings a sense of wonder as well as gratitude for all the abundance we’ve been given.
8. Glacier National Park, MT
This park was ever so much more magnificent than I was expecting. I can’t think of adequate superlatives to describe the scale and power of this enormous, incredible place. If ever there were a home for the gods, this would be it.
7. Chimayo, NM
Chimayo is known for its photogenic old adobe mission church and the many miracles that have apparently happened there over the years. Sometimes called the Lourdes of America, this place was known for its great healing energy long before the Spanish missionaries and priests arrived on the scene. Besides the room in the chapel filled with the crutches of the healed, the hundreds of photos of those for whom prayers have been asked, the beautiful retablos in the nave, and the evocative statue of Christ in the narthex, I have been in awe of the thousands of pilgrims who journey to Chimayo, on foot, during Holy Week. Not only the picturesque back-country roads, but the very busy Highway 84, become filled with long lines of people of all ages, a few carrying heavy crosses on their backs. Once they arrive at El Santuario (Spanish for “sanctuary”), many of the devout tie crosses upon the fences or place them on the roots and in the notches of trees; all are filled with their heartfelt prayers. Most of these crosses are humbly made with twigs. When I first came to Chimayo about 20 years ago, my friend Robin, who is Jewish, was deeply moved by this profound display of devotion and faith.
6. Joshua Tree, CA
Joshua Tree is not obvious or showy. The landscape is that of an arid desert and not everyone can appreciate that stark kind of beauty. However, Joshua trees emit an unmistakable presence and they look especially beautiful silhouetted against a gentle dawn or dusk sky. Three years ago, I was blessed to have attended a workshop at the lovely retreat center there. On that land I had two powerful mystical kinds of experiences. Most of my spiritual experiences tend to be of the more subtle variety, so I find it quite significant that I was blessed with two to hold in my heart.
5. Crestone, CO
If you are a spiritual seeker or a lover of beauty, you must go to Crestone. As you drive the twelve miles down T-road toward the magnificent Sangre de Cristo range, if you are like me, you will be absolutely riveted by the two mountains at road’s end. The mountains are simply stunning. And once you are ensconced within them, turn around and face west for an equally gorgeous view of the vast San Luis Valley with the San Juan Mountains at the horizon. This valley is the largest alpine valley in the world, and the skies above it are often magnificent. But the natural beauty and wilderness are only the beginning, for this place is also steeped in some powerful spiritual energy. Though the tiny town and its surrounds host only about 1500 residents (depending on the season), there are an astounding 24 or so spiritual centers. A true interfaith haven, Crestone boasts several Buddhist stupas and retreat centers, an ashram, a Catholic hermitage, a couple Zen centers, a tiny Episcopal chapel, a Baptist church, an Aurobindo center, and Native American sweatlodges and ceremonies, to name a few. This town is filled with wise old hippies, young families, yoginis, nature lovers, back-to-the-landers, and spiritual seekers. It is a one-of-a-kind place.
4. The Redwoods, CA
If you haven’t yet seen the redwoods, please go. There is something immensely powerful about standing beneath these ancient beings, some of which are thousands of years old. It is truly humbling and glorious all at once. I think my favorite experience was having the opportunity to camp beneath them and then, at night, looking up through the branches at sparkling stars above. I felt nestled in between the vast but loving energies of heaven and earth.
3. Mount Shasta, CA
Mount Shasta is world renowned as a planetary center and spiritual vortex. It is considered sacred to many Native American tribes, was the place where Guy Ballard encountered St. Germain, is the supposed home of a remnant of the ancient race of Lemurians, and seems to precipitate encounters of the extra-terrestrial and metaphysical variety. Many spiritually gifted and evolved folks make their home in the Mount Shasta area. That said, I never particularly warmed to the town of Mt. Shasta (sometimes called the City of Mt. Shasta in order to differentiate it from the mountain.) However, the mountain (and its sister cone, Mount Shastina) is thoroughly captivating. It is not part of a mountain range but is a volcano which rises up above the landscape which surrounds it and is encircled by undulating hills called The Eddies. It can be both seen and felt a hundred miles away. It is omnipresent and frequently quite breathtaking, especially when topped with a new layer of snow.
2. Devil’s Tower (Bear Lodge), WY and Bear Butte, SD A Cheyenne man introduced me to Bear Butte in South Dakota and Bear Lodge in Wyoming. (Devil’s Tower is the white man’s name for Bear Lodge, an extremely sacred place to several native tribes.) I don’t know exactly what it is about this unusual rock formation that so moves me. Towering 5000′ above the surrounding countryside, it is so unlike anything anywhere else. We arrived at dusk on the night of a full moon. The energy as we walked alongside the great boulders at its base was palpable. I felt like both wild animals and unseen spirits were all around. Like many sacred places, the energy grows as countless generations of people come to say prayers, make offerings, and engage in ceremony. It is one place I intend to return to so I can linger longer in its powerful presence.
1. Canyon de Chelly, Chinle, AZ About eighteen years ago, having been captivated by the stories of my friend and her husband as they traveled around the Southwest on their honeymoon, I went on a solo trip through the area myself. One of my favorite places was Canyon de Chelly, in the northeast quadrant of Arizona. Though smaller than the Grand Canyon, it is nevertheless quite large (roughly 131 square miles) but at a scale that is easier for the human heart to access. I love the contrast of the great cathedral like cliff walls and the pastoral verdant green valley below. One can drive along the upper rim and gaze at the beauty unfolding all around. When I first traversed this road and got out to make my second stop, the view was so stunning, the cliffs so dramatic yet the green valley so serene, that my eyes filled with tears. I was greatly moved–perhaps not only by the great beauty but by some forgotten soul memory. Canyon de Chelly’s original inhabitants were the ancient Puebloan people and their relatives, the Hopi, but they left at one point for unknown reasons and now the land is owned and operated by the Navajo nation. In fact, about forty Dineh (Navajo) families still reside in the valley, along with their flocks of sheep. Other highlights of this national monument include the gorgeous cliff dwellings first inhabited thousands of years ago and the iconic Spider Rock (two spires about 750′ tall), legendary home of Grandmother Spider, who is sacred to many indigenous tribes.
Some extremely worthy runners-up: Ross Ancient Cedars State Park, Garden of 1000 Buddhas, the Everglades, Mt. Tamalpais, and on and on and on.
This continent is filled with sacred places. The above are only some of the ones I’ve been thus far privileged to experience. I have a bucket list for others I want to see: the Serpent Mound, the Badlands, Chaco Canyon (I got lost trying to find it the first time around), Shiprock, the “mysterious stone structures” of New England (3), southeast Utah, Kauai, Big Horn Medicine Wheel, and Saguaro National Park.
I hope the above tickled your fancy and inspired your spirit.
Meanwhile, please take the time to convey your love and respect to Mother Earth. All of her is sacred ground. She gives us so very much. May we be both grateful and kind.