USA Pictures Guides

Spectacles at Arches National Park, USA Pictures

North and South Windows – aka Spectacles – in Arches National Park, Utah, part of the Grand Circle, USA Pictures.

What to see in the US?

The massive lands of the USA offer unbelievable variety, so much so that 40% of Americans do not own a passport as all their diverse travel needs are met at home. Landscapes are not always spectacular of course, ranging from endlessly, terminally dull to totally incredible, while outdoor activities run from the simple to extreme in thousands of well-supported recreation areas.

The Grand Circle

South West America’s Grand Circle makes an awesome starting point for an American exploration as it encompasses many of US high points in one journey. Included are the country’s most magnificent natural attractions such as the Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon, Bryce and Death Valley as well as that most ridiculous yet fascinating and American of all cities, Las Vegas. Just to go completely over the top we also attended the Burning Man Festival in Nevada, hiked in Yosemite National Park and drove the insane routes of Moab Sand Flat RA.

Grand Circle is a commercially-coined term, but a useful one nevertheless, tying together southwest USA’s most spectacular national parks, monuments and roads into a huge circle encompassing much of Utah, part of Arizona and smaller sections of Colorado and New Mexico. This area is geologically known as the Colorado Plateau and 300 million years ago used to be seas and dunes that dried and solidified into wild coloured sandstone that was then eroded into weird shapes – buttes, spires, arches, canyons and cliffs – by rivers and rains.

Geologically speaking the Plateau’s youngest rocks can be seen at Bryce, the middle-aged at Zion and the positively geriatric at the base of the Grand Canyon.

The Plateau’s first residents, known as the Anasazi (aka Ancient Pueblo Peoples) arrived around 2, 000 years ago, building into caves and alcoves of canyon walls. Examples of their structures and art can be seen in Canyon de Chelly pictures.

Here is a suggested two week SW US National Parks self-drive tour, preferably in an RV.

The USA’s iconic chasm. Try to do a walk along one of the rims or even down towards the river and not just a glance at the panorama!

Mother Nature at her most artistic, peaky Bryce is a stunner with stunning walks inside the bowl and around the rim!

Zion offers a huge variety of well-managed, incredible hikes along with odd views.

Another natural wonder, but Arches is all about arches and odd shaped rocks, and lots of them!

If you’re passing by, OK, but Canyonlands is less inspiring than other national parks.

Drop in en route for somewhere else but otherwise no biggie, except for this face/cave!

Sand Flats is a sensational spot for walking, cycling and off-road rock climbing via Hummer tours out of Moab.

Great scenery and tribal experiences but you really need to take a paid tour around the Navajo lands.

Surprisingly interesting and scenic but don’t underestimate distances and heat! It’s a lot bigger than most would imagine and can get scary when darkness falls.

These amazing roads are easy to navigate and offers brilliant views.

Route 12, running conveniently from Bryce Canyon north to Capitol Reef is one of the most striking roads in the USA. Its main competitor is  busy PCH, Pacific Coast Highway, 90 miles of wild seas and cliffs part way between LA and San Francisco.

Route 12 is overshadowed by Route 24, a stretch of asphalt lined with extraordinary rocks that would be major attractions in any other country but are simply more roadside relics in USA’s Utah.

This calm and pretty park is in California, 140 miles (230 kms) east of Los Angeles and a favourite retreat for Angelinos, though the fast road there (I-10) is unpleasantly busy with brutal, unforgiving traffic.

The park’s north Joshua Tree town entrance – in other words the LA route – takes you immediately into the attractive Joshua Tree zone in the Mojave Desert, whereas the south Cottonwood entrance is in the lower Colorado Desert and very dull for at least an hour of drive time.

Yosemite rocks but it’s crowded in season or very cold out of season.

This has been a hiking destination since the 1, 200 sq mile park was created in 1864, with 800 miles of trails going up to 13, 000 ft altitude. Mountain biking is easy in the seven mile long, one mile wide valley, but hard work elsewhere.

The Valley offers a free shuttle bus service, various shops, art centres, galleries, bike and raft rentals and ice rink in winter.

The USA‘s Sunshine State encompasses hundreds of beaches on 1, 100 miles of three coasts – if you count the Florida Keys as the south coast. Florida’s popular beaches range from spring break city beaches such as glamorous Miami South Beach and long, flat, car-friendly Daytona beach, to diminutive tropical beaches in the Florida Keys.
Compared to America’s Pacific coast, Florida’s beaches – especially those on the west or south side – are swimmer-friendly, with soft, fine white sand and warm, calm and clean waters – in season.

California’s southern beaches are wide, warm, sunny and sandy while those on the northern coast tend to be windy and rocky but curvaceous, tree-hugged and more scenically attractive.

The Pacific Ocean water is nothing like clear Caribbean blue, more of a dark green while sand quality is not as fine as that on the east coast, usually beige or golden colour with coarse grains, and often unmanicured so if you’re looking for isolation then seaweed, flotsam and jetsam is part of the deal, especially on state park shores.

A dramatic and sparsely populated land with superb mountain vistas and plenty of wildlife, a glimpse of how USA used to be.

If you enjoy the unspoilt outdoors and are looking for big, bleak mountains, crystal lakes, massed trees and more wild things than people, then Alaska offers the bear necessities.  But don’t ignore winter time, when the pristine whiteness becomes a huge snowy playground with even fewer tourists, lower prices but lots of activities.

New York City, Brooklyn Bridge, USA Pictures

Brooklyn Bridge photo by Chris Schoenbaum.

Photos and visitor information on this outstanding city’s main attractions. New York offers more restaurants, bars, museums and iconic sights than almost anywhere else in the world and certainly the most in the US. Manhattan is safe, locals are friendly and it’s very walkable due to the simple grid system that’s easy to navigate.

Bellagio dancing fountains, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA Pictures

Sin City’s casinos and nightlife have no limits in time, style, imagination or extravagance. Even during the last USA economic recession action at casino tables didn’t miss a beat. But it’s not just about gambling or bizarre light shows, Las Vegas also offers top chefs serving exquisite cusine, ultra-fashion shops and superb art galleries. It’s all so artificial but buzzing with action and color, a true American dream!