From the snow covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast, the Western United States offers a wide range of experiences and spectacular views. The most stunning destinations are characteristically located in or around National Parks, National Monuments or National Forest lands which helps ensure they will be preserved for future generations. Here are the top places to visit in the West.
Originally a silver mining town in the 1800s, Aspen is an idyllic location surrounded by beauty. Best known for its winter activities, Aspen offers four world-class ski mountains including Snowmass, Aspen Mountain and Buttermilk which is home to the Aspen X Games. Other winter activities include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The town itself offers boutique shops, top notch restaurants and plenty of après ski. In the summer, Aspen offers an abundance of outdoor activities such as hiking the Maroon Bells Mountains, fishing in the Roaring Fork Valley, biking, rock-climbing, rafting, golfing, horseback riding and more.
Mt. Hood and Columbia Gorge, Oregon
Oregon is one of the few areas of the US where you can be on the top of a mountain in the morning and on the beach in the afternoon. The diversity of terrain provides ample outdoor activities. Multnomah Falls is an iconic 611 foot tall waterfall located in the Columbia Gorge and is merely a 30 minute drive from Portland. Mt. Hood offers skiing in the winter and excellent hiking trails in the summer. Fishing for salmon in the Columbia River is an unforgettable experience as well. The Mt. Hood and Columbia Gorge areas offer breathtaking views and iconic scenes that should not be missed by any outdoor enthusiast.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Grand Canyon is an obvious choice for top places to visit in the West. Many casual tourists stop at the canyon rim and proceed onto their next “adventure.” Grand Canyon National Park is an extraordinary area with a multitude of possible experiences. You can hike to remarkable waterfalls, go rafting in the Colorado River and take a trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on a mule. If you have the time, enjoying a helicopter ride allows you to see the full splendor of this amazing natural monument.
Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada
Like most places on this list, Lake Tahoe offers nearly every type of recreational activity you can enjoy. The lake itself is one of the clearest lakes in the World with clarity up to 70 feet deep. Water sports dominate in the summer, but there are plenty of biking and hiking trails around the lake as well. There are numerous resorts in the area including Squaw Valley, Heavenly, Sugar Bowl for winter skiing. If you want to take a break from all of the outdoor activities you can try your hand at gambling in one of the casinos in nearby Reno.
No list of top places would be complete without including Yellowstone National Park. It is the World’s first National Park and hosts millions of visitors each year. There are thousands of miles of hiking trails, excellent fishing and abundant wildlife such as buffalo, moose and elk. The park is most widely known for its hot springs and no trip to Yellowstone is complete without a trip to Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful.
Park City and the Wasatch Mountain Range, Utah
Home to the annual Sundance Film Festival and the 2002 Winter Olympics, Park City is nestled in the Wasatch Mountains. In winter, Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort offer world-class skiing and snowboarding. Utah Olympic Park is an active training center and you can even take a Comet bobsled ride and bring home the Gold. In summer, the area has endless outdoor recreation activities such as mountain biking, hiking, golfing, fly-fishing and water sports.
This National Park was favored by the famous photographer Ansel Adams who captured many of Yosemite’s attractions. Hiking, backpacking and cross-country skiing provide year-round activities at Yosemite National Park. Rock formations and cliffs such as El Capitan and Half Dome are awe inspiring and must be seen in person to appreciate. There are also spectacular waterfalls and giant Sequoia trees unlike anywhere else in the World.
Navajo National Monument, Arizona
The Anasazi dwellings built by prehistoric Pueblo Native Americans are remarkable in their engineering and detail. The Keet Seel and Betatakin cliff dwellings are the most well preserved ruins and the majority of the buildings are fully intact. The decedents of this civilization became the Hopi, Zuni and Paiute tribes. This monument provides a deeper glimpse into American history that cannot be missed.
South Central Alaska
Alaska is the last frontier and with so many amazing places to see it is difficult to pick just one. Denali National Park is a favorite destination where you will see wildlife such as elk, moose and bear in greater number than at any other location in the West. There are amazing flight tours around Mount McKinley and even glacier landings. From King salmon fishing, hunting, hiking to sight-seeing, South Central Alaska offers the best in outdoor adventures.
Napa Valley, California
If you enjoy food and wine, then your life isn’t complete without a trip to Napa Valley. A wine tour through the beautiful vineyards is truly a memorable experience. Stop in at Dean & Deluca to grab some sundries and enjoy a picnic at one of the wineries. While in Napa, take a trip north to Calistoga and experience a hot mud bath to detoxify after your indulgences. There is no other place like Napa Valley in the rest of the US.
Be sure to visit these top places in the West and you will be richly rewarded with scenic views, plentiful adventures and wonderful memories.