Lesser-Known Gems of the Western U.S.

The western U.S. is a vast region that can be overwhelming to vacationers trying to decide where to go. Of course everyone wants to go to the big-name sightseeing destinations such as Yellowstone, the Seattle needle, Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco and the Grand Canyon. There are many more destinations equally interesting and slightly less popular (and therefore less crowded) than these big names however, which may interest the traveler who’s willing to go off the beaten path to see the beautiful, wilder West.

Are you thinking of visiting the West Coast? Though not as popular as the warm waters of cities like San Diego, the more northern Oregon Coast offers gorgeous views, vibrant wildlife and quaint little towns, as well as water that’s just warm enough to swim in in the summer, and comfortable enough to surf in with a wet suit. Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach is one popular attraction that is gorgeous when seen during the sunset. Many people also rent out their vacation homes while not on the coast, which makes staying on a beach at the coast very comfortable indeed.

If you’d like to visit the Rocky Mountains, I would suggest Glacier National Park. Although famous in its own right, Glacier often gets passed over for its wildly popular southern neighbor, Yellowstone. Though Yellowstone has geographical oddities a-plenty, for sheer spectacular views and a raw, terrible beauty, Montana’s Glacier National Park wins hands-down. For instance, if you can keep your heart from jumping out of your mouth, the “Going to the Sun Road” in Glacier can be thrilling and beautiful, seeming to go straight up at times. Many hiking trails in Glacier also offer thrilling views of valleys a thousand feet below as they cling to sides of looming peaks, and beautiful lakes and waterfalls abound in the wake of ancient glaciers. As for wildlife, mountain goats seem almost a ubiquitous presence on the trails, and wolves and grizzlies can be spotted for those who venture into the back country.

If you’re thinking of going to the Grand Canyon, I would also suggest visiting the unique rock structures of Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. If you come at the right time of the season, hiking the winding stream canyons of Zion (“The Narrows”) is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, while paths up to free standing rock towers, such as “Angel’s Landing,” are open most of the season. Although not as challenging or perhaps as breathtaking as Zion, the strange, other-worldly rock structures of Bryce Canyon are a must-see for anyone passing through Utah.

Are you planning to go skiing in the West in the winter? There are of course the word-famous resorts such as Jackson Hole in Wyoming that you can visit, but there are lesser-known ski resorts that might still offer great skiing but at more affordable prices. Colorado is home to numerous resorts, including Arapahoe Basin, an affordable family option, while Idaho has a few hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems, such as Brundage and Sun Valley.

Whether you’re going to the West in the summer or winter, there are numerous ways to escape the crowds but still fully experience its beauty and uniqueness — the above are only a few among a thousand possible options. Just don’t stop looking for destinations with the most wildly popular or visited spots – there is enough beauty in the West to fill up a lifetime of sightseeing.

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