For the past month I've been immersed every day in excitedly planning my 31-day road trip out West from Asheville, North Carolina in September 2012. With all the researching I've done and videos/photos I've seen, I keep pondering this question: What will be the top five most spectacular, dramatic, awe-inspiring, unforgettable individual sites I'll encounter? Since most of you have been to some, many, or all of these places and I've never seen any of them, I was curious what your answer would be, as hard a question as this is.
Here are the major stops on my trip, and, since there are obviously countless jaw-dropping sites at each of these places, I've included the major attractions I plan to see, and not see:
*St. Louis (Gateway Arch)
*Grand Teton National Park (Jenny Lake Trail/Hidden Falls/Inspiration Point, Schwabacher Landing. No big long hikes into the back country)
*Yellowstone National Park (Canyon/Lower Falls/Uncle Tom Trail, Tower Falls, Yellowstone Lake, Old Faithful and surrounding geyser basins, Madison area)
*The drive from Yellowstone to Hood River, OR
*Columbia River Gorge/Portland area (Multnemah Falls, Scenic Drive/surrounding waterfalls, Silver Falls State Park, Punchbowl Falls)
*The redwoods (Avenue of the Giants)
*California coast drive from Fort Bragg to San Fran
*San Fran (Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods and exploring the city)
*Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, CA (The Holy Land of American craft brewing)
*The drive from Chico, CA to Springdale, UT
*Zion National Park (The Narrows hike - weather pending - as well as some of the other shorter hikes and some sightseeing. Won't be doing Angel's Landing).
*Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge (will venture a little ways into the canyon and do a couple other short hikes on the rim. Note: I'll be here in late September for fall colors)
*The drive from Grand Canyon to Bryce
*Bryce Canyon (Navajo/Queens Garden Loop and driving the canyon rim)
*The drive from Bryce to Moab
*Arches National Park (Delicate Arch and a few other shorter hikes)
*The drive from Moab to Boulder, CO
*Boulder, CO (Some running/hiking in Chautauqua Park, day trip to Estes Park/Bear Lake trails. Note: This will be first week of October).
For what it's worth, based on my research and interests/passions, here is my own top five of what I'm looking forward to most:
1. Lower Falls at Yellowstone (both from afar and up close via Artist Point view and Uncle Tom trail)
2. Grand Canyon view from the rim (with a beer in hand at the Lodge)
3. The Narrows at Zion
4. The Avenue of the Giants
5. Delicate Arch
It's a tough call. What are your picks?