Imagine a place that offers exhilarating adventures like mountain climbing and scuba diving, while simultaneously instilling a sense of serenity and freedom. As it turns out, a place like this exists, and it might be a lot closer to home than you think.

National parks offer some of the world’s greatest treasures, yet they are often underappreciated. The new film National Parks Adventure—produced by MacGillivray Freeman in association with Brand USA—set out to capture the beauty and wildness of these parks in celebration of the U.S. National Park Service’s centennial year.

Canadian Geographic caught up with Rachel Pohl, one of the film’s stars, to learn more about the film and how national parks in the United States have something for everyone.

What was the goal when making this film?

This is a documentary style film that highlights around 30 National Parks in the U.S. — with fast paced adventures like rock climbing as well as really beautiful scenery — and we hope it will inspire people to visit parks and get excited about exploring them. I think National Parks are often underappreciated because of this stigma around them that they’re just a crowded tourist trap, but in my opinion you can make a choice about how to interact with any park. I encourage people to wander off the path a little bit, even drive down a park road that no other cars seem to be on.

There’s actually a campaign going on right now called Find Your Park — motivating people to find a park that really resonates with who they are and what they love to do — and we hope this film does the same.

What is your favourite National Park?

One of my favourite parks which I’d never been to before was Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah. I loved it because it was so accessible — whether you are young or old, mobile or not—this park has something for everyone.

I also loved Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Park in Michigan because it really cements how diverse parks are throughout the seasons. We went in February and I got to experience the most amazing ice caves I’d ever seen. But I also know in the summer it looks more like the Mediterranean, with crisp clear water, which goes to show you can have a different experience at the same park depending on the season.

What do you think is so special about National Parks in the United States that warrants the making of an entire film about them?

I think National Parks are so special because there’s something for absolutely everyone — there are beaches, deserts, forests, and you can scuba dive, rock climb, or just lay in silence. It’s up to you how you choose to experience a park, and the opportunities they offer to any one person in the world are endless. This film is meant to bring international awareness and recognition of everything the National Parks in the United States have to offer.

What is it specifically about National Parks that resonate with you?

For me, it’s anytime I get away from the noise of the city and away from my phone — I love not having cell service! When I’m in a park I can really appreciate my surroundings and fill my soul with the feeling of a place. Parks are also significant to me because I’m a painter, so I actually use environments that I visit in my work and hope that people who see my paintings will be inspired to seek outdoor activities.

What would you say is the biggest lesson you learned while making this film?

I learned how important it is to really take the time to just be somewhere. On a day to day basis we try to get as much done as possible — we never give ourselves a chance to just breathe. Even for me, as someone who has grown up being outside, I feel like I’m always rushing — I even hike quickly!

But during the making of this film it would sometimes take hours to set up a shot, so I was able to sit and paint and just be in the moment. I encourage people to go somewhere quiet in a park and not say anything or do anything and just sit there … because how often do we actually do that in our daily life?