Vistas are the joy of back roads travel. Every corner, every crest of a hill, every mile offers a new vista. And this country has some spectacular and splendid vistas.
Over the years I have seen some amazing vistas. Whether they be in the deserts of the southwest, the high plains of Montana or on the oceans in the east or the west, the views are endless and inspiring. Following are some of the vistas I have enjoyed and their locations. Enjoy the ride and the views.
The United States is a vast and diverse country. From sea to shining sea there are sweeping vistas and spectacular scenes of nature.
The grandeur of this country is not seen on the interstate highways, but on the back roads and the gravel roads that have woven the fiber of this country.
I am always awestruck by the superb landscapes that one can witness on the back roads. Some of these landscapes, such as the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, are known by everybody. But there are so many more spectacles to feast your eyes upon.
When speaking of grandeur, perhaps one of my most favorite locations is Monument Valley in the northwest corner of Arizona and the southwest corner of Utah. Located within the Navajo Indian reservation, this amazing natural wonder has been the backdrop for many movies and television commercials. And one can only stand in a location or another and must turn their head from left to right to catch the full glory of this spectacular wonder of nature.
Not too far from there and also on the Navajo Reservation is a much lesser known, but in another way very spectacular sight. Called Coal Mine Canyon, it is a hidden gem off of a two lane highway east of Tuba City, AZ.
Coal Mine Canyon is filled with a variety of HooDoos…ghost like rock formations that can form eerie shadows and spooky formations at night. The view goes on for miles into Blue Canyon. In any other state, this might be a National Park or Monument. It is just one more canyon in Arizona.
Head north into Colorado and take a ride up to Mount Evans north of Denver. Nearly 13,000 feet up, it offers up an amazing view of the mountains and lakes below.
Not to be outdone in the words of grandeur, is the scenic highway that traverses the Bear Tooth Range along the Montana and Wyoming border. I have only been there once and it was in the very early spring on the first day the road was open. There were still piles of snow on both sides of the road. But the expanse of the mountains left me in awe.
But grandeur is not just mountains or spectacular geologic formations. I can drive through the plains of North Dakota or South Dakota and experience miles and miles of grasslands.
I have driven through these great plains in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. To some, the drive through these vast grasslands might be considered boring. To me, the vast expanse of grasslands is stunning.
Then there is the grandeur of the oceans. I have been blessed to have been able to see the Pacific Ocean from the northern parts of Washington and Oregon all the way to the coast in Southern California. I have also seen the Atlantic Ocean from points in Maine all the way south to Florida. The amazing sunrises and sunsets over the water provide unspeakable grandeur and a glorious feeling.
Like the oceans, the Gulf of Mexico offers similar sights. Nothing like witnessing the spectacle flocks of pelicans flying in sync overhead.
The most gratifying part of experiencing grandeur for me is that every back road and numbered highway offers a peek at splendid views. One needs only crest to the top of a hill and laid out before your eyes are wonderful scenes like that of Hells Canyon in Oregon, or in Hell’s Half Acre in the middle of Wyoming. Drive along a two Lane highway in the eastern United States in the fall and you get to the top of the hill and see nothing but spectacular fall colors as far as the eye can see.
But the grandeur is not just in nature. From a different perspective, the views of the skyline of a big city offers its own brand you were. Whether enjoying the skyline of Manhattan from across the river in Hoboken, NJ to witnessing the scene of riverine cities such as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati from the top of a hill, one gets a sense of how small they really are.
I am grateful to live in these United States and my heart is filled with joy that I have been able to travel many a back road and experience the grandeur of this country.
With each new road comes a new experience. I still have yet to personally experience the special nature of Yosemite National Park or the giant sequoia trees of Northern California. But I have seen the vast expanses filled with volcanoes in Hawaii or the old volcano cones in New Mexico and Arizona.
I have driven the long highway over Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana and over the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. These man-made spectacles still offer a sense of grandeur.
So, get out on the road and experience this country for yourself.
I love visiting all of the offbeat and quirky places when I’m out on the road. But, I must confess that I am also addicted to the beauty of nature in all its forms.
One of the more splendid beautiful objects of nature is the waterfall. Every state in the country has waterfalls, those though some are more magnificent than others.
Like millions of other tourists, I have most certainly been to Niagara Falls on the Canadian side and to American Falls on the American side. These are beyond spectacular!
Though the roar of Niagara Falls will always be in the back of my mind, there are others that I’ve drawn me closer in that I have enjoyed.
When I made my first trip to Portland Oregon in 2011, one of my main objectives besides visiting voodoo doughnut, was to visit Multnomah Falls. Of course you know that one! That’s that beautiful tall waterfall with a bridge going in front of it that shows up all over the place.
When I first saw photograph of that waterfall I had to research and find out what it’s name was and where it was and when I realized it was in Oregon it became the top of my list to get to and I didn’t make it.
The wonderful thing about going to Multnomah is that there are numerous other waterfalls along the highway before you get there. So, along the way I did drop by to see a couple of them. In their own right, these are beautiful waterfalls.
Over the years and over the miles on my road trips, I have made it a point to visit waterfalls and in some cases have just come across some.
One of those that I made a point to get to was the beautiful waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park. The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River are magnificent. Of course, this canyon in Yellowstone was forged by the river. The walls of the canyon a filled with stone that is yellow and this is where the actual name of the park comes from.
Yellowstone has numerous waterfalls, but none as glorious as this one. Indeed, this has to be one of America’s greatest waterfalls to visit. I certainly was in awe.
Another of the classic waterfalls that I have enjoyed thoroughly is right here in my own state of Kentucky. Cumberland Falls is down in Southern Kentucky near the Tennessee border. This lovely waterfall is similar to Niagara Falls, but of course, not nearly is huge. The falls themselves are beautiful, but this waterfall is also known for its famed “Moonbow”, something which I have yet to witness. Sometime….
One more waterfall of note today must include in this is in the desert of Arizona of all places. This waterfall is typically only visible in the springtime as the remainder of the year there’s typically nothing but a trickle. I am referring to the Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River. This large stairstep waterfall is located east of the Grand Canyon near Cameron, AZ. The Little Colorado River always flows red because of all of the red sandstone. When there are heavy rains in the spring, the falls can be seen in their magnificence. As a tour guide in Flagstaff in the 1980s, I was able to visit Grand Falls numerous times. And I’ve been able to pick up a couple of wonderful photos of it.
Most of the waterfalls I’ve noted above are not in the middle of towns, but on the outskirts are far removed. There are, however, some waterfalls that can be seen within towns. Perhaps one of the most interesting is the town of Chagrin Falls in Ohio. This town is south of Cleveland and actually has two waterfalls flowing right through the middle of town. You can stand on one bridge and look at one fall to your left and one to the right. The town is a little tourist attraction because of the falls and has restaurants that reside right on the edge of the falls to where you can eat and look at the beauty of the falls. On our visit in 2016 we did not have time to sit down and eat there but we still got to enjoy the waterfall.
Another set of lovely waterfalls in the middle of a town are those in Idaho Falls, Idaho. From the waterfalls you can actually view the Idaho Falls Temple of the Mormon church but also enjoy the lovely view of the falls from the pathways to go along it.
Heading east from Idaho Falls to Montana, there are the famed Great Falls of the Missouri River located in, you got it, Great Falls, MT. Back in the days when Lewis and Clark we’re traversing the Missouri River, they came across the falls and all of their glory but now the falls have been dammed up a bit. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful sight to visit.
The same Lewis and Clark start of their adventure on another river waterfall in Kentucky and Indiana as they passed by the falls of the Ohio River. Today, these falls or not so exciting to see as they probably were back in the days of Lewis and Clark.
For the real fan of waterfalls, perhaps the best thing to do is go into Hamilton, Ontario northwest of Niagara Falls. There are a number of waterfalls that feed into the Niagara River eventually. One can walk literally to the side of many of these waterfalls and look down. There is Tews Falls and a couple of others that were very nice and easily can all be seen the same day as one sees Niagara Falls.
I have yet to hit many of the huge waterfalls in California. I have missed some of the other big ones in the United States and Canada as well, but I’ve been fortunate enough to see a number of them. In the following photos you will see a few other waterfalls including one in Alaska and some from other points across the United States.
When you are on the back roads of America, always keep your eye open for a sign to a waterfall. You’ll be glad that you did.