Must-do trips in the western United States for 2019

Crater Lake's Wizard Island juts up from the flooded volcanic crater.

Landscape Arch, with author and spouse Susan, spans over 300 feet in Arches National Park. It is one of 2,000 arches throughout the park!
Cedar Breaks National Monument offers views of its eerie hoodoos without the crowds that jam nearby national parks.
Grand Coulee Dam (with our Scotty trailer) was the world’s largest concrete project when built in the 1930s.
Seattle’s Space Needle stands watch over Elliott Bay (view from Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill).

Bucket list for travels: Must-do trips in the western United States for 2019

We are pursuing the on-going theme, “Travel far. Travel wide. Travel close to home. Life is not meant to be lived in one place”. Last week we offered ideas on bucket list destinations within California; this week we expand our horizons to the western United States. Here are suggestions on different ways to think about your travels and expanding your travel bucket list to the states surrounding California:

Take road trips on iconic historic highways: Three fine candidates include the old Lincoln Highway (beginning it New York, it ran right through Lodi, Stockton and Tracy), Hwy. 50, the “Loneliest road in America” (which terminates in Old Sacramento with the Pony Express, transcontinental telegraph and trans-continental railroad) and Rt. 66, the “Mother Road” which ends at the Santa Monica Pier after a 2,448 mile route from Chicago. Interesting stops in California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico make researching these old highways interesting and visiting some of the historic highlights on each road a fun family endeavor. One can tour these old highways a short stretch, or a full state, at a time, then add additional pieces at a later date. As example, we’re going to explore old Route 66 through New Mexico this month, which will complete all of our exploration of the old highway (except for Illinois, which we’ll save for a future trip). Americana is on full display in the old towns and museums along these routes.

Seek spectacular lesser-known destinations in neighboring states: Great Basin National Park on the eastern side of Nevada features the state’s second-loftiest peak, Wheeler Peak, and Lehman’s Caves winding almost a half mile into the huge mountain. Or couple a Las Vegas trip with a visit to Arizona’s north rim of the Grand Canyon, which hosts only 10% of the visitors who jam the South rim, and yields equally jaw-dropping views into the mile-deep canyon. The north rim also features a herd of almost 400 Bison, which are not found on the south rim. Or, head north tracking volcanoes like Lassen Peak in Lassen National Park, past Mt. Shasta into Oregon to find Crater Lake National Park and other wonders of Southern Oregon like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival at Ashland. The first view of Crater Lake’s cobalt-blue waters, like one’s first gaze into the Grand Canyon, will last a lifetime.

Take an extended road trip linking spectacular places: Piece together a week’s vacation, a long holiday weekend and several extra vacation days to get 16 days on the road and visit places like Montana and Wyoming, where Tetons National Park, Yellowstone and Glacier Parks all reside, and head north into British Columbia and Alberta for big mountain tours of Banff and Jasper National Parks. Or chose Utah, with five national parks and lovely towns along the route such as St. George, Park City and Moab. Plot a trip with Denver as your base, with Colorado’s four national parks and mountain resort gems like Vail, Aspen, Steamboat Springs all within a day’s drive.

Do a circuit centered on both iconic towns and great scenery: Choose Seattle as a starting/end point for a tour that would include the Olympic Peninsula, Victoria B. C. and Mt. Rainier. Look east and include Grand Coulee Dam (when built in the 1930s, the world’s largest concrete construction project), Dry Falls State Park (a falls once five times the size of Niagara Falls), and North Cascades National Park. End your tour with a visit to Seattle’s Space Needle and toast a glorious sunset over Elliott Bay. Make Portland the center part for a tour of Mount St. Helens (which erupted violently in 1980), Mt. Hood and the Columbia Gorge to the east, and the lovely Oregon coast to the south.

Explore seaside scenery: Don’t overlook the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington for wonderful travel holidays. California Hwy. 1 packs ocean shore, state parks, early California history and marvelous resorts and delectable restaurants into its 600-plus mile scenic route.  Oregon’s Hwy. 101 explores more of the same, with easy public access to all of Oregon’s rocky coast. Washington’s Hwy. 101 offers the delights of the Olympic Peninsula and easy access to Victoria, B.C. or Seattle.

Don’t miss gems near iconic destinations: Do a good map search and talk to locals at your destination. Just west of Yellowstone Park you’ll find the eerie Earthquake Area, named for the 1959 temblor that collapsed a huge mountain, burying 28 campers and creating Earthquake Lake. Or, if circling Utah’s national parks, don’t miss other special stops like Cedar Breaks National Monument or Snow Canyon State Park, north of St. George, offering monster scenery but far smaller crowds.. Hovenweep National Monument near Bluff and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument near Kanab are additional special places, often overlooked.

Resources: Unique guidebooks like Atlas Obscura (by Fuer, Thuras, Morton) or state-specific guides like Weird  Washington (Davis, Eufrasio) or Weird Colorado (Getz) profile scores of interesting places; for state travel, use resources like Arizona’s, or Nevada’s,; for national parks and monuments,

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at Happy travels in your world!

This entry was posted in Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Teardrop and tiny travel trailers and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

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