12 Great American Destinations
Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountains
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon plunges 6,000 feet at its deepest point. From above, the view into the madness of geologic wonder is a sight most people never forget. It accomplishes every feat nature was intended for -- to inspire, to provoke thought, and, in some cases, to bring man to tears.
Yet looking down into the canyon is only one way to experience one of the world's most fascinating geologic formations. Hiking down to meet the Colorado River is another part of the adventure. But unlike most national parks, there are no roads cutting through Grand Canyon. Most of what lies in the 277-mile gorge has to be experienced on foot. Mule rides and helicopter tours are much pricier alternatives.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
With the signing of a law by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, Yellowstone became America's first national park. It continues to be one of the most popular parks today, having the largest concentration of geysers in the world.
The landscape to Yellowstone was formed about 640,000 years ago by a volcanic explosion that created a crater 30 miles wide and 45 miles long. Geysers like Old Faithful and Giantess serve as reminders of one of the world's largest volcanoes. You can witness Old Faithful's eruption about every 90 minutes.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Much has been written, said, and sung about the great Rocky Mountains of the West. Here peaks climb higher than 14,000 feet above sea level. The easiest way to reach them is through Trail Ridge Road. At 12,183 feet, it's the highest continuous, paved road in the country. Those with aged hiking boots might prefer to challenge one of the 60 summits rising 12,000 feet. Along the way, watch for sighting of bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, or perhaps even a friendly moose.
At the end of the day, gather your friends and family around a campfire and watch the stars. It'll probably be the closest you'll ever get to them.