The United States is a country full of awe-inspiring natural wonders, and come April, we take to the road to experience them all (well, those situated on West Coast anyway)! Offering travelers an incredible variety of diverse and inspiring landscapes, breathtaking locations, and powerful panoramas, America truly is the land of dreams.
A land offering “a thousand shades of something new”, America’s true beauty lies beyond the famed city skyscrapers, landmarks, and monuments, and outside of the city limits.
And while we will be taking in iconic cities like San Fransisco, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver along our way, we’re excited to experience North America’s true beauty – the beauty which lies in it’s abundance of National Parks, preserves and protected wildlife sanctuaries.
As such, here are 10 spectacular west coast destinations to visit before you die. Add them to your bucket list, test your US trivia, and why not combine them all into one amazing US road trip itinerary in a drive from the bottom to the top just like us?!
North America: 10 Spectacular West Coast Destinations to Visit Before You Die
La Jolla Cove, San Diego
La Jolla Cove is San Diego’s most desirable spot for kayaking, snorkeling and diving, and has become home to California’s largest seal and sea lion population! La Jolla Cove is free and completely open to public access – no trip to California will be complete without visiting, and I guarantee you will never see a seal and sea lion colony anywhere like this in the world!
Visually, the cove is breathtakingly. Somewhat hidden with alluring curves and caves, it is often cited as the most photographed beach in San Diego.
La Jolla Sunset by Joel Olives via Flickr
Redwood Forest, California
California’s redwood forest is home to the tallest trees on Earth. And while the redwoods rule the forest, also protected by the National Parks Service are the vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild rivers, and nearly 40 miles of wild, rugged Pacific Ocean coastline.
The redwoods have been known to reach heights of over 370 feet (113 m), and average a lifespan of 500 to 700 years. The location of the tallest, a 379-foot Hyperion, is a secret very few are privy to in an attempt to keep tourists away.
Channel Islands, California
Close to the California mainland, yet world’s apart, Channel Islands National Park encompasses five remarkable islands in the Pacific Ocean, completely isolated from the congestion and clamor of urban life.
With a wide variety of recreational opportunities on offer, visitors can enjoy kayaking, hiking, wilderness camping and wildlife encounters. Preserved over thousands of years due to their isolation from the mainland, a visit to the park is a great way to experience coastal southern California as it once was.
Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands are the most accessible from the coast, and these are the more popular tourist spots.
Yosemite Valley, California
With glaciers reaching back over 30 million years, ten waterfalls over 500 feet, yellow pine and oak forests and open meadows on the valley floor, Yosemite Valley is one of the most beautiful, and most photographed places on earth.
Enchanting and majestic, this magnificent panorama includes El Capitan, “the world’s largest monolith of exposed granite, the distinctive Half Dome granite formation, and Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America, measuring 2,425 feet from top to bottom.” Scenic trails for hikers abound.
Sequoia National Park, California
The land of giants, Sequoia National Park is known for its giant sequoia trees, including the General Sherman Tree, one of the largest in the world. Reaching 275 feet into the sky, this iconic natural attraction is believed to be roughly 2,500 years old.
Though the park is known for so much more than just being home to the world’s largest trees. Huge mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, and vast caverns spanning over 404,064 acres, this is one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the United States.
Pacific Coast Highway, California
Easily one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world, this is “an exhilarating driving experience, this twisting, cliff-hugging, 123-mile (198-kilometer) route along the central California coast takes about five hours to complete at a leisurely pace.”
Stops along the highway include both the Big Sur Coast Highway and the San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway. Take in spectacular destinations like Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Point Lobos State Reserve, Big Sur, Garrapata State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Cambria and Morro Bay.
This is the drive of a lifetime.
Crater Lake, Oregon
Like no place else on earth, Crater Lake has inspired visitors for thousands of years. “No place else on earth combines a deep, pure lake, so blue in color; sheer surrounding cliffs, almost two thousand feet high; two picturesque islands; and a violent volcanic past.”
Immeasurably beautiful this is the definition of a spectacular west coast destination you should visit before you die. If you want to stay, check out this review of Crater Lake Lodge.
Photo (CC BY 2.0) by Cyril Fluck via Flickr
Thor’s Well, Oregon
Cape Perpetua’s Thor’s Well is a saltwater fountain driven by the power of the Pacific Ocean tide.
A natural spectacle which is most beautiful to watch at high tide or during winter storms, visitors should proceed with caution as it is highly dangerous at these times due to sharp rocks, and the danger of a strong surge which could sweep you out to sea.
Mendenhall Glacier Caves, Alaska
Those who travel to Juneau are in for a treat, as underneath the ground in Mendenhall Valley stands a 12-mile glacier that is home to an amazing network of glacier caves.
Follow the West Glacier trail to arrive at the entrance and trek through these caves yourself.
“Denali is six million acres of wild land in the heart of central Alaska, bisected by one ribbon of road that takes visitors into the Denali National Park and Preserve.
Travelers along it see the relatively low-elevation taiga forest give way to high alpine tundra and snowy mountains, culminating in North America’s tallest peak, 20,320 foot-high Mount McKinley. Wild animals large and small roam unfenced lands, living as they have for ages. Solitude, tranquility and wilderness abound.” (Source: National Park Service)
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Previous Pinterest image credits: Thors Well by Bill Young.