The Most Incredible Outdoor Spots in the U.S. That Shouldn’t be Missed in 2020
America is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. From the towering redwood trees of Northern California to the Rocky Mountains, one can find amazing outdoor spots that rival any in the world. And there are dozens of them, from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans, and much in between. There are a few, however, that top the list. Below are several of the most incredible outdoor spots that shouldn’t be missed in 2020.
California: The Mother Lode of Natural Beautiful
Among the 50 states that constitute the U.S.A, California has the greatest number of strikingly beautiful outdoor spots in the entire nation. One reason for this is that it is a very large state. Another is that it possesses a large number of eco-systems, from the scorching dessert at Death Valley, to the snow bound peaks of the Sierra Mountains. Here are three outdoor spots that are a “must see” in California.
Muir Woods, Redwood Forest – California
Just a short ride north from San Francisco lays Muir Woods. It is a beautiful redwood grove with towering sequoia trees that are among the tallest living things on the planet. Many grow to heights of 367 feet (112m). That’s equivalent to a 35-story building. Some are 22 feet (7m) wide. In several redwood groves further north, tunnels have been carved into the trees so cars can drive through them.
The average life span of a redwood is 500 to 700 years with some living over 2,000 years. One reason they live so long is that they can withstand raging forest fires which periodically sweep through the state.
But what really makes redwoods trees so interesting is their stunning beauty. You won’t want to miss Muir Woods on your trip to the U.S.
Big Sur, Pacific Coast Highway – California
Many believe the coastal road that goes through Big Sur, California is the most strikingly beautiful piece of real estate in the world. Big Sur is just south of San Francisco and begins in Carmel, a quaint beach town that shouldn’t be missed either. It ends in the town of San Simeon where the newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst built an authentic castle from dismantled estates shipped to the U.S. from Europe.
While Highway 1 goes from Washington State to the border of Mexico, Big Sur’s portion is about 71-miles long. You will see stunning views, amazing beaches, and a rugged, weaving coastline as the coastal road hangs precariously above the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.
Driving down Highway 1 in Big Sur can also feel like a death defying experience. There is much between you and the crashing waves hundreds of feet below. Take your eyes of the road for a second and you could easily find yourself airborne, heading for the sea below That said, it is an experience of a lifetime.
Yosemite – California
If Yosemite doesn’t awe you, then nothing will. Famous for its towering granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome, its majestic redwood groves and massive waterfalls, Yosemite is a must see for anyone visiting California. Some call it the most magnificent national park in America, and for good reason.
It’s not just the natural beauty that draws millions of people a year. A number of the accommodations inside the park rank among the best in the world. You’ll have to book way ahead of time if you want to stay at the nicest hotels, however, there are plenty of reasonably priced hotels and motels outside the park. And you can always go camping under the redwoods.
One thing you may want to do on your drive from San Francisco to Yosemite is take route 49 through California’s “Gold Country.” There are many well preserved mining towns from the mid-1800’s in existence today. You’ll see a bit of America’s “Old West” in these towns where the “49ers” (named after the year gold was discovered in 1949) lived, gambled, shot each other and generally lived a wild and rugged life. One of the infamous mining towns was named “Hang Town” because of street justice dispensed by locals (city fathers got wise and changed the name to Placerville).
Both Yosemite and the Gold Country are a memorable trip that the entire family will enjoy.
Elsewhere in the U.S.
There are, of course, many beautiful spots outside of California. Here are a few that shouldn’t be missed in 2020.
The Grand Canyon – Arizona
One of the seven natural wonders of the world is the Grand Canyon. The canyon is 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles wide (29km) and 1 mile deep (1.5km). It is, without a doubt, one of the most amazing sights on earth. Astronauts can see it from space.
Grand Canyon National Park is in Arizona’s dessert country. You can hike, horseback ride and raft down the Colorado River that snakes through the canyon. Guided tours by park rangers or knowledgeable private guides are also available. But what’s really fun is to take a helicopter ride into the canyon. You can bob in and out of the canyon, popping up from beneath its steep walls, only to plunge down to the river below.
There are plenty of hotels, motels and campgrounds around the canyon. It is wise to book well ahead of time because this is one of America’s most popular vacation destinations.
Yellow Stone Park – Montana
Yellowstone was America’s first national park founded in 1872. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its unique hydrothermal wonders. Visitors love to watch the geyser “Old Faithful” erupt, spewing steam skyward from deep underground.
The park is 3,468 square miles (8,983km) and is comprised of mountain ranges, rivers, canyons, forests, lakes and wildlife. Buffalos, which once roamed the plains in the millions before their near extinction, can be found in small herds throughout Yellowstone.
Unfortunately, unlike the outdoor wonders in California, Yellowstone is harder to get to. It is in the sparsely populated state of Montana. Many American tourists hop in their cars and drive, but for those without wheels, there at two airport, the Jackson Hole Airport in Jackson and the Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody. Both are near the park.
If you want a taste of the real wild west, Yellowstone is the place to visit.
The New England Coast During the Fall Season – Upper New York to Maine
New England is where the first English settlers arrived and started what was to become the United States of America. It’s beautiful coastal fishing villages feature quaint colonial style homes, many dating back to the 1700’s or before. Fishing boats still dump their catch on the docks. Salty, weather-beaten fishermen still ply the rocky coves, their boats filled with lobsters and east coast cod.
Viewing New England’s fall foliage is a ritual for many Americans who live in the north east. You’ll see a kaleidoscope of colors when the leaves turn yellow, orange, bright red and brown. The turning of the leaves creeps downwards from the northern New England states to New York. Each season is different so the key is to go online and see when the season starts and where “turning of the leaves” will be when you want to view it.
By driving the New England coast, you get two experiences in one. Not only do you see an explosion of color, but you get to visit the historic seaport towns that dot the New England coast.
Accommodations are easy to find. There are plenty B&B’s, hotels, and Airbnb rentals up and down the coast.
Tourist Waivers and Visas for Entry to the U.S.
Getting a B-2 visa
In order to see these outdoor wonders, you may need to apply for a B-2 tourist visa. Getting a visa is a depends on where you are coming from. Citizens from some countries have a difficult time get them due to the government’s fear that you will overstay your visa and work in the U.S. If you are from a country that does not have good relations with the U.S., you may find it hard to enter the country.
To get a B-2 visa, a person must first apply online through the Online Visa Application (DS-160) in order to set up a personal interview at an American consulate or embassy. You can go to the U.S. government website to see what documents are required and what the wait time is to get your tourist visa. Wait times vary from country to country.
There are about 40 countries that don’t have to apply in-person for this visa. Most of these countries are in Europe but also includes South Korea, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand and others. People from these countries can travel under what is called the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and therefore don’t have to acquire a B-2 entry visa. However, they must apply online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a flight to the U.S. You can check your ESTA application status by going online.
2020 is a great year to experience the outdoor wonders of America.