Picking the most impressive panoramas in the United States is no easy feat – from mountains to desert, forest to streams, the country's abundance of showstopping views could make even the most jaded traveler weak at the knees. Here are nine of the finest vistas from coast to coast.
Golden Gate Bridge – California
An iconic landmark indelibly associated with the City by the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge stretches 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate Strait, connecting San Francisco to Marin County. Whether it’s shrouded in fog or standing tall on a crystal-clear day, the 1930s-era art deco marvel one of the country’s can’t-miss sights, and the best perspective is from the Marin Headlands, with the city’s skyline as a backdrop. Bonus: from there it’s an easy jaunt to the Pacific Coast Highway, a legendarily scenic route with jaw-dropping views of its own.
Grand Canyon – Arizona
The Grand Canyon has to be one of the most photographed sites in the world, but there’s no way pictures can do it justice – as impressive as they may be. Located in northwest Arizona, the mile-deep, 18-mile-wide geological stunner is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and for good reason: between its immense scale and its colorful layers of rock, it’s unlike anything else in the US.
Overseas Highway – Florida
The Overseas Highway covers 113 miles from Miami to the Florida Keys, weaving its way from island to island and town to town between the azure waters of the North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Some sections of the road are nondescript, but views from the famous Seven Mile Bridge are positively postcard-esque, especially if you’re riding shotgun – or cycling, jogging, or strolling along the old bridge, which runs parallel to its modern, vehicles-only counterpart.
Rocky Mountains – Colorado
It’s near impossible to hear the words “Rocky Mountains” without humming a little John Denver, and when you set eyes on the peaks that inspired the tune, it’s not hard to see why they provoked such an homage. A massive collection of individual ranges spanning some 3,000 miles from Canada to New Mexico, the Rockies are truly a sight to behold. Although they’re well-represented in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park is perhaps the best-known place to check them out.
North Cascades National Park – Washington
A wilderness park near the Canadian border, Washington State’s North Cascades National Park is a hiker’s paradise, offering almost 400 miles of trails, from accessible paths to expert-level treks. With more than 300 glaciers, 125-plus alpine lakes, and plenty of deep verdant valleys in between, this “mountainous ecosystem,” as the official site describes it, boasts some of the most pristine landscapes in the Pacific Northwest.
Glacier Bay – Alaska
Alaska’s remote Glacier Bay is at once an internationally protected biosphere reserve and a Unesco World Heritage site, with fjords, forests, glaciers, mountains, and a rich marine environment that fosters an ecologically diverse array of wildlife. In the national park, which comprises 3.3 million acres, black and brown bears thrive on shore, harbor seals sun themselves on the floating ice, humpbacks arrive to feed in the summer, and hundreds of species of birds nest in the vicinity. Explore by boat to take it all in.
Blue Ridge Parkway – Virginia and North Carolina
Covering nearly 500 miles of ground, the Blue Ridge Parkway winds through Appalachia, past farmland, historic heritage sites, and lush spreads of forest on its way from Virginia to North Carolina. It’s a drive bookended by beauty: on the northern end, there are breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive, and the southern end stops just short of the Great Smokies, where dazzling mountain vistas abound.
Arches National Park – Utah
Located in eastern Utah, just north of Moab near the Colorado River, Arches National Park has very distinctive look, with thousands of red sandstone arches, millions of years old and naturally occurring – the highest density of such formations in the world. The park is open 24 hours a day year-round, and the rocks glisten at sunrise, so get there early if you can.
Niagara Falls – New York
Straddling the border between the US and Canada, Niagara Falls is composed of three sets of falls: Horseshoe, American, and Bridal Veil, all of which combine to send over more than 1,000 metric tonnes of water per second. From the Ontario side, the vistas are panoramic in scope, with all three sets of falls – and rainbows galore – in view. But from the American side, you feel the mighty power of the water rushing by – so much so that you might want to grab hold of the railing, just in case.
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