Updating your Western States travel plans for 2020

Plot and calendar your Western States travel plans for new year…

It’s the start of a new year, and time to consider where your western states travels might take you in 2020. Last week, we offered ideas for California; this week, let’s look at travel targets in the west from several vantage points. We’ll consider trips designed for outdoors enthusiasts, those seeking city chic, journeys focused upon cultural or historic gems, trips that can be done in segments and reserve a place for spontaneous travel.

How about travels for outdoors enthusiasts? In addition to top-of-mind national parks like Yellowstone, Glacier and Utah’s big five, consider lesser-visited gems like Crater Lake National Park in Oregon (part of the “Rim of Fire”, including Lassen, Shasta, Mount St. Helens, Mt. Rainier), arguably laying claim to most memorable views, or Great Basin National Park, home to the state’s second tallest peak, Mt. Wheeler, with the stunning Lehman’s Cave winding deep into the peak, in eastern Nevada. Check out Petrified Forest National Park, about four hours north of Tucson (the only national park bisected by a portion of old Route 66) or Saguaros National Park, wrapping around east and west Tucson, AZ.

Wizard Island rises from the azure waters of Oregon’s Crater Lake.

Take a look at old favorites from a new vantage point, such as visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, with only 5 percent the visitation of the South Rim, as well as 400 bison, or visiting Yellowstone in the winter, when the park is eerily quiet and wolves can be found in the Lamar Valley. Don’t discount the grandeur of Canyon de Chelly National Monument, where ancient Native Americans lived for 5,000 years, or Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah, which will remind you of Bryce Canyon National Park. Search out state parks like Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park, just below Grand Coulee Dam, WN, carved by Ice Age floods more than 13,000 years ago – the former waterfall was once four times the size of Niagara Falls. Or Anza Borrego State Park in Southern California, a huge desert park complete with other-worldly fauna and flora and a true, hikable oasis.

Some of the 400 bison that populate the area around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon view from the North Rim’s Bright Angel Point.

Your western travels won’t be complete until you visit British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. Plan a drive trip along the TransCanada Highway, starting in Vancouver and heading east, linking to Mt. Revelstoke, Glacier, Yoho and Banff National Parks. If visiting Montana and Glacier Park, head north up the Rockies, touring Waterton Glacier National Park to Banff and Lake Louise, where the scenery is jaw-dropping for hundreds of miles. You’ll find stunning views around every bend and a wealth of small Canadian towns full of friendly locals happy to extol the virtues of their part of the world.

Author’s spouse Susan stands front of the ice castle on frozen Lake Louise, Canada.

The west is full of large to midsize cities brimming with city chic. They include Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, Vancouver, BC and smaller towns like Spokane, WA, Boise, ID, or St. George, UT. As an example, Seattle offers the lovely Elliot Bay waterfront, outstanding restaurants with scenery and fine food, close proximity to Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks, as well as plenty of kids activities, family attractions and cultural and historic treasures.

In Seattle, don’t miss Chihuly Garden and Glass, where the artistic glass works of Dale Chihuly wow world-wide visitors, the Museum of Flight, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center, the Museum of Pop Culture, the Seattle Art Museum or the Museum of History and Industry. For more specialized interests, the National Nordic Museum, the Center for Wooden Boats or the Science Fiction Museum will intrigue.

Chihuly Glass “Outdoor Sun” art installation is right at the base of the Seattle Space Needle.
Seattle’s Space Needle, taken from Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill.

Along the way, don’t miss the chance to wander through Seattle’s Pike Place Market, take the elevator to top of the Space Needle and tour the busy Chittenden Locks in Ballard on the Lake Washington Ship Canal where pleasure boats and huge yachts, as well as fish ladder, make for fun viewing. Cities like those mentioned offer deep opportunities for cultural and historic exploration. With airlines battling with low fares, and VRBO and AirB&B offering inexpensive lodging options, a three day or week-long vacation in these exciting destinations beckons.

How about a road trip that can be done in segments? Tour historic Route 66 starting in Santa Monica and heading east along the old highway that traversed eight states from Chicago, IL to California. Cruise this historic highway, or, similarly, the Lincoln Highway or US Highway 50 (the Loneliest Road in America), in bite-sized chunks, returning in the future to do another portion.

The old Aztec Hotel in Monrovia, CA, is one of many unique attractions along the stretch of Route 66 than runs across California, from Arizona to its end in Santa Monica.

Finally, save room for spontaneity. Whether it’s trekking to a favorite region for annual festivals like the Lilac Festival in Spokane, the Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, or Hot August Nights in Reno, NV, don’t hesitate to hop in your car or book a cheap flight for fun on short notice. Don’t discount road trips going in search of historic covered bridges, Native American history or any number of creative pursuits.

Recommendation: Make a short list of your most desired travel destinations, share with your significant other and family, and calendar plans for your 2020 travel.

A huge red wagon is part of Spokane’s lovely Riverfront Park, which sparkles during
the City’s annual Lilac Festival, or during huge events like the Bloomsday Run, the largest
12 K community fun run in the USA, held each May.

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

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com or follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

This entry was posted in Canada, Western, Central California, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas) and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

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