The great American West is a vast space of country: from California to Wyoming, from Washington State to Texas, you’ll find a place known for its cowboys and its rugged way of living. It’s a really popular holiday destination, because there’s so much to see and do there – well, clearly, because it’s such a big place! There’s a massive variety of geography there, because it contains America’s biggest mountain range, the Rockies, but ever so close to that are huge expanses of desert flats that go on for hundreds of miles. Then, you’ll reach forests with pretty little streams and meadows – all fit for loads of different types of animals and plant to live and thrive.
One of the most famous places in the West is the Grand Canyon, an absolutely massive gorge with the Colorado River running through it at the bottom. In some places, the gorge is over a mile high. It’s known worldwide for its red rocks and impressive drops to the bottom. It’s a day’s drive away from Las Vegas, but you can get helicopter tours from there if you don’t have the time to drive all the way there and back again.
In California, there’s the equally impressive Yosemite National Park. This is really different from the Grand Canyon, as it’s greener, but it still has vast cliff faces and waterfalls that’ll make your eyes bulge out of your skull! There’s a lot of beautiful wildlife around there, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a bear in its natural habitat.
Then there’s Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, both in Utah. Bryce Canyon is a collection of weird shaped rocks, all looking rather symmetrical and sticking up from the ground. It’s a really Wild West sight! Zion is close to Bryce, an even more Western view, which contains some of America’s oldest Native settlements. They’re particularly interesting, because they are set into the side of cliffs – and these were inhabited by Anasazi in about 300AD.
Route 66, the famous road from Chicago to LA, also runs through parts of the West. One of the most famous junctions is in Flagstaff, Arizona. The bright neon lights and 1950’s feel of the road is enchanting, much like how it’s shown in Disney movie Cars as an era that time forgot, but shouldn’t have.
In the West, you’ll also find many Native American Reservations. One of these contains the rock formation commonly known as Monument Valley, which you’ll definitely have seen in cowboy movies. It’s on the Navajo reservation, one of the biggest tribes in the US, a day’s drive away from Las Vegas or Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a little bit out of the way, so you’d have to make a specific trip to go and see it, and be willing to take a couple of days away from major cities (or even just towns)!
The West has a huge impact on the American mind. The whole “cowboys vs Indians” thing is really big over there, and the spirit of adventure is encouraged by scenes of the Wild West. In more popular culture, the band the Killers are from there, and their music talks about the difficulties of life there. Have a listen to the song “The Cowboy’s Christmas Ball” this festive season, and in the music video you can see dramatic Western skylines.
So, if you’re thinking about an adventurous holiday this year, be your very own cowboy in the land of the Wild American West.
Photo credit: Alice Barnes-Brown