Saddle up for an epic journey through the untamed landscapes and fascinating history of the American West. Home to sweeping deserts, majestic mountains and storied towns, this region offers a bounty of experiences for adventurers, history buffs and nature lovers alike. So, grab your Stetson hat and cowboy boots for some of the most thrilling things to do in the American West.
- Explore the crown of the continent
- Gaze at the grandeur of the Grand Canyon
- Go wild in Yellowstone National Park
- Admire the iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial
- Explore the natural beauty of the Yosemite
- Enjoy a valley sunset
- Wonder at Bryce Canyon
- Experience a Western rodeo in Wyoming
- Soak up the magic of Twin Falls
Located on the border of Canada and Montana, Glacier National Park is often called the ‘Crown of the Continent’ because of its dizzying array of natural beauty. A favourite spot among hikers, the park features a variety of trails for all skill levels, ranging from the easy Trail of the Cedars (home to towering and beautiful cedars) to the challenging Grinnell Glacier and its sweeping views. What's more, the park boasts more than 700 lakes, numerous waterfalls and two mountain ranges spread across more than one million acres. So there’s plenty to keep you busy.
Behold one of the world's greatest natural wonders – the Grand Canyon. When you stand amidst the towering pinnacles and within the deep, river-sculpted gorges of this natural marvel, it's impossible not to feel dwarfed by its sheer magnitude. Whether you're peering over the rim, hiking its trails or rafting down the Colorado River, this colossal chasm is a humbling reminder of the Earth's majesty.
One of the most-visited attractions in the USA, a trip to Yellowstone National Park is a must on any list of things to do in the American West. Across this juggernaut of a park, you’ll be completely spoiled with its geological wonders and other-worldly sights. Drop by the Old Faithful geyser to watch one of its regularly scheduled eruptions, witness the sheer force of Yellowstone Falls or watch the vivid, rainbow colouring of the Grand Prismatic Spring – the third largest hot spring in the world.
Friends’ Joey may not have known what it was but we do. An iconic landmark known across the world, it comes as no surprise that an ogle at Mount Rushmore National Memorial is one of the best things to do in the American West. You won't have any trouble spotting it either. Looming roughly 60 feet above ground are the faces of four of the USA’s presidents – Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln – carved into the granite rock face. After snapping some photographs, take to one of the easy-to-navigate walking trails, or if you’re feeling brave, embark on a thrilling helicopter tour to soak up 360-degree views from dizzying heights.
In the heart of the Sierra Nevada is Yosemite National Park, which draws visitors from all around the region and country. And it's no surprise, given the awe-inspiring beauty that awaits, from thundering waterfalls and wildflower meadows to giant sequoias and spectacular granite domes. Lakes, rivers, and a diverse range of wildlife, including the brown bear, make Yosemite a must-visit destination in the American West.
On the border of Utah and Arizona, in the middle of Navajo territory, Monument Valley has played a starring role in many iconic Western films. With its distinctive red sandstone peaks that soar to heights of up to 984 feet, you'll be surrounded by the same stunning vistas that once served as the backdrop for John Wayne's legendary horseback rides and Lucky Luke's daring showdowns. While its splendour is undeniable throughout the day, it reveals its most enchanting and mesmerising hues as the sun gracefully descends below the horizon. To witness this natural wonder at its finest, head to the Monument Valley Visitor Center in the early evening. From this vantage point, you'll be treated to a front-row seat to one of the most alluring sunsets in the American West.
Bryce Canyon is one of Utah's five natural wonders and is a real favourite among travellers, who flock to see its labyrinthine hoodoo rock formations, which look like giant red chimneys erupting from the arid ground below. The most impressive section of the park is Bryce Amphitheater, just after the entrance. The amphitheatre is filled with hundreds of irregularly eroded rocky spires and pillars topped by a rock ‘cap,’ called Hoodoos. These strange sandstone formations are magnificent at any time of day but are especially spectacular at sunrise as the morning’s sun basks the landscape in crimson orange hues. Sunrise Point is a good place to enjoy this spectacle of nature.
It doesn’t get any more Western than Wyoming, where cowboy culture is still alive and well. Stay at a Wyoming ranch for the full experience, complete with trail rides, cattle drives and delightful chuckwagon suppers served under a star-studded sky. Explore the historic town of Cody, known as the ‘Rodeo Capital of the World,’ for a night of heart-pounding bronc and bull riding as well as roping and delve into the life of Buffalo Bill Cody at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
Travel to Twin Falls in the spring to experience the power of Shoshone Falls, one of the largest natural waterfalls in the USA. Taller than Niagara Falls, it is often called the ‘Niagara of the West’ for its dramatic 212 feet cascade into the rugged Snake River Canyon, nestled in the heart of Idaho. But Twin Falls is more than just chasing waterfalls, it's a gateway to outdoor adventures. Deeper in the canyon you can try your hand at thrilling activities such as BASE jumping, scenic hikes along the rim, rafting and kayaking.
Header image by Jérôme Galland.