The West Coast and New York are the two destinations you ask us about most often. So it’s time to finally write something more about the West Coast – in this post you will find a list of the most interesting places in our opinion with a (very!) short description and a map of all these points, and we will successively show individual places in the near future.
We are finally publishing the entry that so many people have been waiting for ;) Western states are becoming increasingly popular, as we see in the many questions we get from you. You ask both about the practical aspects of such a trip and which places are worth visiting and which are better to let go. So today we arrive with an answer to the latter question.
We spent a total of 2 months on the West Coast of the U.S. and these trips were definitely some of our most beautiful trips ever! When someone asks us what to see in the U.S. we would always be happy to answer that this is the region, but we have one problem with that. Well, after seeing at least a few national parks on the West Coast, one’s perspective definitely changes and simply other places are not as impressive ;)
And we once didn’t believe it ourselves when someone told us it was the most beautiful part of the US. Grand Canyon? Probably overrated. Monument Valley? It looks good only in movies. Of course we wanted to see for ourselves in person, but somewhere in the back of our minds there were thoughts that we might be very disappointed (how many times has that happened!).
However, as you can already guess, this was not the case at all. What’s more, the West Coast absorbed us so much that while choosing photos for this post we almost started planning our next trip :) Oj we are afraid that we will return here again soon, because even though we spent 2 months here we still have the points to see marked on the map!
Table of contents
What’s worth seeing on the U.S. West Coast?
So it’s time to start a series of posts from the U.S. West Coast – we’ll show you what we saw, and what our trip was like, all to make it easier for you to plan your trip.
We traveled in March, April and May, and one of the biggest challenges was to be prepared for any weather. Literally! We were getting ready for warm Los Angeles, rainy San Francisco, frigid and snowy Yosemite Park and Yellowstone, and hot Death Valley. There were times when one day we had unbearable temperatures (about 40 degrees Celsius) and two days later close to zero, and we wondered where to rent wheel chains. Fortunately, the big changes in temperatures did not dislodge our health and form and we only had to repack entire suitcases more often and reach for different types of clothing.
In this post, we will not write about practical aspects or issues related to traveling with children. This time we will focus only on the places we visited, describing briefly what we managed to see during our two trips around the US.
Why are the descriptions so short? Because if we were to describe each of these places more comprehensively this post could easily be an ebook with dozens of pages. Here we collect a list of places with a short word of commentary, and more will be coming soon (we are also preparing some surprises!).
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We have always traveled by rental car and have done a total of almost 12,000 kilometers on the West Coast and that with three children ;) So when planning your trip, get ready to cover long distances by car.
Then what? Ready?
Places on the US West Coast
Below is a list of places on the West Coast that we were able to visit and that we definitely recommend you include in your plans.
Importantly, these are not all the places we saw, as we saw many more of these. Nor is this a list of the TOP 10 places on the US West Coast. Think of it more as a list of places you definitely need to consider when you go to the States :)
The order of places is arranged more by state than by itinerary. At the very bottom of the post you will find a map with all these places.
1. Los Angeles, California
Our first trip started from Los Angeles (LA), where we flew directly from Poland. On the first day, we picked up a car at a nearby hotel (the rental company had really bad reviews, but also very competitive prices – we’ll definitely write about how to rent a car in the US, and what to keep in mind in a separate post).
The City of Angels did not captivate us, and at times we did not feel very safe here (especially, for example, near the famous Avenue of the Stars). Over the course of several days, we saw Venice Beach, the Santa Monica pier and the end of Route 66, Hollywood Hill, the Avenue of the Stars, the Petersen Automotive Museum, the Griffith Observatory overlooking Los Angeles.
We also visited California Disneyland (two to be exact: Disneyland Resort and Disneyland California Adventure Park) :)
2. Barstow Harvey House, California
It may not be a top attraction, we stopped here to take a break on our journey and see something interesting on occasion. We were attracted here by the museum of the famous Route 66 road, which just happened to be closed. Nevertheless, we spent an hour or so here looking at the historic building(Barstow Harvey House) and the historic, powerful locomotives (the Western America Railroad Museum is also located here).
In Barstow we came across the first such intensive markings of the historic Route 66 – there are distinctive plaques and we noticed several murals.
3. Death Valley National Park, California
Located in the Mojave Desert, Death Valley is famous for its record high temperatures, is the driest place and the largest depression in North America. The valley can be traveled by car on designated roads, and the most popular destinations are Badwater Basin Lake and Zabriskie Point and Dante’s View viewpoints.
4th Sequoia National Park, California
It is a park full of giant sequoias headed by the famous General Sherman, estimated to be 2,500-3,000 years old and 84 meters tall. Sequoia National Park is one of the older national parks in the US. Incredibly tall sequoias are hugely impressive, most of the time you walk around the park with your head facing upwards ;)
5. Yosemite National Park, California
In this park you have to hit both the right season and the right weather. We had to let go once, because the park was foggy, raining and there were required wheel chains, which we did not have. The second time we were able to admire the waterfall in its full glory. The best time to see the waterfalls is May and June (that’s when they are strongest).
Yosemite Park is also famous for bears, you have to watch out for them, but rather the chances of spotting them are quite small ;)
6 Sacramento, Calif.
In California’s capital, we mainly viewed the historic part of the city and the Railway Museum. As for the museum, it was probably the most interesting museum about railroading we’ve ever seen! Many locomotives, cars, interestingly shown history of the development of railroads in the United States (it was here that the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad began).
Walking through Old Town Sacramento, you can see what the city looked like in the mid-19th century.
7. San Francisco, California
San Francisco is worth staying in for a few days. What is worth seeing? Of course, the Golden Gate Bridge (there are several viewpoints, on both sides), the colorful, beautiful Victorian houses, Pier 39 with sea lions, the Cable Car Museum or drive the extremely winding Lombard Street.
There have been a lot of reports lately about security in San Francisco – indeed, recently burglaries, thefts are becoming a huge problem, so all the more reason to be careful where you park your car and not leave anything inside.
8 Pacific Coast Highway, California
The section between San Francisco and Los Angeles can be covered by the fast Interstate 5 or the much slower but scenically abundant California State Route 1, so-called Pacific Coast Highway – By the way, this road is famous precisely because of its location and unusual coastline.
On the way, you can stop at Año Nuevo State Park, where you can watch sea elephants lounging on the beach.
9. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas – a giant city in the middle of nowhere…. or more precisely in the middle of the desert ;) It is an amazing sensation to travel several hundred kilometers in the middle of nowhere, passing only small, isolated towns, suddenly entering a city bustling with life, full of neon lights, intense sounds and experiences.
Definitely not our climate, we treated Las Vegas as a base camp. We have been to Las Vegas twice, spending several nights here in two completely different facilities. We walked among the casinos and hotels in the evening, watched the fountain show, and were also at the Children’s Museum.
10. Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
Close to Las Vegas (less than 30 kilometers from the city center, and for the States this is a really short distance to travel) is the Red Rock Canyon protected area with interesting red rock formations. There is a loop to drive here, there are viewpoints, and there are still hiking trails leading away from them. It’s definitely worth a drive here while in Las Vegas.
11 Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Valley of Fire State Park is another place where you can admire the intense red rocks. However, here we were almost surrounded by this red. The trails lead between rocks, and you walk on brick sand…. In the Valley of Fire State Park, it is not only red hot – be sure to bring a supply of water with you.
12 Hoover Dam, Nevada
The dam, built in 1936 on the Colorado River, was regarded as one of the greatest engineering achievements of the time. It is now one of the largest dams in the world and is used for generating electricity and irrigation, among other things. The Hoover Dam can be walked, driven over, but it is best seen from the Memorial Bridge (there is a designated pedestrian path).
13 Kingman, Arizona
Another town through which Route 66 runs and where we again felt the atmosphere of the old American towns that developed thanks to the Mother Road.
There is a museum in Kingman – the Arizona Route 66 Museum (a very interesting, though inconspicuous museum), and across the street is the iconic Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, taken out of the 1950s somewhere.
14 Flagstaff, Arizona
Route 66 also passes through Flagstaff, although it is a decidedly different city than those described above. Larger, with a railroad running through it, with a renovated center, two museums, and quite a bit of accommodation. Initially we just treated it as an overnight stopover, but it is worth at least walking around the city, seeing interesting buildings and street art.
15. the Grand Canyon, Arizona
Absolutely the Grand Canyon is NOT overrated and NOT to be dismissed. In our opinion, this is a place that must be seen with your own eyes, as no photos or videos can convey its grandeur. We spent the night right next to the canyon and were able to view it during both sunset and sunrise…. These sights will stay with us forever.
16 Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
One of the most picturesque views in Arizona – a bend in the Colorado River can be seen best from a vantage point here (it takes about 15 minutes to reach it from the parking lot).
17th Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Probably all of you are familiar with photos from this narrow canyon with sheaves of light coming through the cracks…. Unfortunately, we have to disappoint you: the light falls like this only at certain times, and it’s hard to get tickets for it, and even if you manage, the chances of you taking photos or enjoying the play of lights and colors here in peace are close to zero.
Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon (yes, there are two, separately ticketed) are located on the Navajo tribe’s reservation, entry is only possible in a group with a guide, the tour is very fast, there are a lot of visitors. Nevertheless, a point worth noting :)
18 Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah
We became more and more breathtaking with each passing place! Monument Valley is sheer delight! It is located on the Navaho Indian Reservation, and here we can see rock formations perhaps familiar to everyone, 300 meters high.
It’s also worth considering accommodation in the area, although it’s not cheap, as the area is in truth beautiful.
19th Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park is full of rock arches – some of which are easily accessible and visible from a distance, and some of which you have to trek to (some trails are very short and easy). The most famous is Delicate Arch, which can be admired from vantage points (but is not that impressive) or walked up to the arch itself (the round trip is 3.2 miles, or slightly more than 5 kilometers).
20. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Initially we were supposed to let Bryce Canyon go, but fortunately we were able to change our plans so that we could come here for a few hours as well. It only takes an hour to climb to the main viewpoint (you can see the famous natural amphitheater from here), but you can also take several trekking routes and drive to more remote points.
21st Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park, is unique because it is a park where you can’t travel by car during the season. Instead, there are free buses provided to take visitors to key points.
The park has trails for both seasoned battlers (e.g. challenging approach to the famous Angel’s Landing) as well as for families with children. Very interesting is the Zion Narrows leading along the Virgin River.
22nd Canyonlands National Park, Utah
This is where the Colorado River joins the Green River. Canyonlands National Park is full of breathtaking views, even if you have seen other national parks in the US this one will not disappoint you. The famous MesaArch (Mesa Arch), didn’t knock us down personally, but the views next to it of the vast countryside did.
23rd Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
If we had to name an alternative to the beleaguered Grand Canyon, Dead Horse Point State Park would be our choice. The view from the plateau of the Colorado River winding down below, the numerous rock formations, the steep cliffs sank deeply into our memories.
24th Peekaboo Canyon, Utah
Peekaboo Canyon, on the other hand, is an alternative to the beleaguered Antelope Canyon. It may not be as spectacular, but it is less popular, and you can get here, go in on your own, and spend as much time as you want.
We recommend especially for families with children. But be warned, to get here you need a real 4×4 vehicle and the ability to drive through deep sands.
25th Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah
Located near Kanab, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is famousfor its coral sanddunes, but in our opinion they are not so coral ;) Their shade probably depends on the time of day, and we apparently missed it.
Board rides are very popular (they can be rented for a fee at the Visitor Center).
26th Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Paria, Utah
Grand Staircase-Escalante is a huge area full of multicolored, layered rocks, canyons, arches and at the same time also trails that allow you to explore the natural beauty of the area.
We observed hills that looked like layers of cake on our way to Paria, the ghost town. Getting here is not easy, but it is possible to drive the road in a car without a 4×4.
27th White Pocket, Utah
White Pocket is also called Cauliflower or Brain, due to the rocks that just resemble cauliflower. The views are absolutely like from another planet and the place is a great alternative to the famous the Wave.
28th Dinosaur National Monument, Utah
Although the name drawers, it’s not just about dinosaurs. Entering from the Utah side you actually get to the part with fossils, petroglyphs, but entering from the Colorado side more views and trekking routes await.
29th Salt Lake City, Utah
When we asked on Insta Stories what you associate Salt Lake City with, two answers prevailed: Mormons and the Olympics :)
If you would like to learn more about the Mormons, there is a Church History Museum in Salt Lake City – a place where you can learn about their history, see how they live today and, of course, learn a lot about their religion.
30th Four Corners Monument, Utah/Arizona/New Mexico/Colorado
Did you know that there is only one place in the US where four states meet? This is Four Corners Monument, a monument located on the Navajo Indian Reservation.
31st Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park is unique in one respect: here we can not only admire the wonders of nature, but also the archaeological finds of the ancient inhabitants of the area, the Pueblo Indians. What surprises most are the storied buildings built into the cliff walls (you can descend to them by a ladder with a guide).
32nd Durango and Silverton, Colorado
Two remote villages between which you can ride a vintage railroad, which is one of the biggest attractions of the region. A walk through Durango will take us back to the days of the Wild West, after all, it was a typical mining town. Silverton, too, although it is now significantly smaller than Durango.
33rd Million Dollar Highway, Colorado
A route for those who like challenges :) Driving the Million Dollar Highway means driving by cliffs on one side and steep rocks on the other, where avalanches sometimes descend. And despite the fact that it is considered a rather scenic road it is hard to focus on these sights, especially the driver ;)
The Million Dollar Highway connects the two towns of Silverton and Ouray.
34th Ouray, Colorado
The town of Ouray is called America’s Switzerland. It is picturesquely located between hills, at an altitude of more than 2,400 meters. It’s worth stopping for a while in this quiet village, because it’s really impressive, especially by American “standards.”
There are also thermal pools in Ourey, you can walk one of the many trails or visit a gold digging site,.
35th Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton remains somewhat in the shadow of Yellowstone, which is a shame! Grand Teton National Park covers the Teton range with soaring peaks, glaciers and lakes. It is a good place for animal observation – you can meet elk, bears, buffalo, foxes, beavers. We ourselves have seen quite a few of them.
36th Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
It is impossible to write 2-3 sentences about Yellowstone Park…. This place is just so special that the only thing we will write is don’t even think that one day on the site is enough :)
It’s best to plan 3 or even 4 days (if not a whole week) in order to reach different corners of the park in a leisurely way and discover its different faces and inhabitants.
And the inhabitants themselves are plentiful here, and it is not a problem to encounter buffalo, grizzly bears, brown bears or even wolves…. We don’t even mention geysers anymore ;-)
Map of attractions on the US West Coast
And that would be it, it came out quite a lot, didn’t it? And that’s still not all the points we saw, and we still have some left to visit too ;)
Below we have prepared for you a map with the marked points described above:
However, if you are looking for a more detailed map, we recommend the following product from our store, which features more than 300 map points that will make planning your trip much easier:
Our opinion of the US West Coast
The West Coast of the United States is truly a huge area with so many beautiful and unique places that it’s hard to fit it all into one trip. And we don’t even encourage you to hurry. It is better to come several times or for a longer period of time than to rush from point to point. For the national parks themselves, it’s better to plan extra days to walk the trails, not just drive the car between viewpoints.
We returned to Poland each time richer in the baggage of beautiful memories. These were journeys that were long in our memories and we are happy to share them.
The place we most regret not being able to see is the Wave in Arizona (you have to enter a raffle here and win to gain entry). We’re also still hoping for a return and even more trekking routes!
Nevertheless, what we saw is ours, and we are incredibly happy to have made it to the West Coast. Although we are still planning more returns:)
More posts coming soon!
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