The San Francisco Gate Bay Bridge is just one of many possible places to visit in the West.
Even before Lewis and Clark made their overland journey to the Pacific Ocean, the western portion of the United States has always been filled with adventure and mystery. Now that the 21st century has arrived, travelers can still enjoy covering the vast distances that make up the sparsely populated region of the Great Plains and Great Basin or perhaps spend time traveling north and south along the busy edge of the “Blue Pacific”.
The Old Santa Fe Trail
In the early 1800’s, the Santa Fe Trail turned the small city of Santa Fe into a western hub of commerce. For a great slice of the western prairie, the Front Range of the Rockies and the still-thriving Santa Fe, follow the Old Santa Fe Trail from Franklin, Missouri west to New Mexico. The route passes through Independence, Missouri; Kansas City, Council Grove, Dodge City and Ulysses, Kansas; before finally reaching Watrous and the original Las Vegas in New Mexico. The last leg is an ascent over Glorietta Pass and arrival at modern-day Santa Fe.
Back in the heyday of the trail (1821 to 1871), there were two routes that ran between Ulysses and Watrous. Try the southern route just for its fascinating trek through the grasslands and mesa of the Oklahoma panhandle and northeastern New Mexico. Back in 1840, this southern branch was the more dangerous branch because of possible Indian attacks and lack of water. For a detailed list of historic sites along the way, visit the NPS site listed under references.
Pacific Coast Highway
The 700 miles of Pacific Coast highway (route 101) from San Francisco to the Columbia River is almost 700 miles and attracts visitors from all over the world. This famous coastal ride can be done either by automobile or bicycle. Those traveling on bikes can either tote camping gear or splurge and rent a motel room for each night on the road. Cyclists can complete the route in two weeks by covering just 50 miles a day. Automobile drivers should allow at least several days to catch the main attractions, but longer time would permit extra daytime activities along the way. Highlights include the San Francisco Bay Bridge, Point Reyes, the town of Mendocino, the Redwood National Park, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Newport Harbor, Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Ecola State Park and Fort Clatsop at the south shore of the Columbia River. Culinary travelers can sample cheese in Tillamook or dine on fresh fish in Newport.
Highway 50 in Colorado
Highway 50 runs all the way from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California. For a fun trip take Highway 50 west from Pueblo to the Utah state line. After departing Pueblo, the first obstacle will be Monarch Pass (elevation 11,312 feet), but you might want to visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park, which is located about 50 miles south of the highway. Next, the road follows the deep chasm of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, which is now a national park. This natural area could possibly keep the avid hiker occupied for weeks. After crossing miles of wild country U.S. 50 arrives in Grand Junction, which is worth a night in a motel and a short trip to the Colorado National Monument, actually a scenic state park. Genuine desert rats can continue the trip west to Sacramento.