The western United States includes the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. The region can be further broken down to include the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, the Rocky Mountains, and California.
The region covers a vast area and the western states in the US are much larger than their east coast counterparts. Do not underestimate the travel distance between locations. If you hope to do a highlight tour of the entire region, flights or a significant amount of time are required.
Because of the region's vast area, the climate, landscape and culture are quite diverse. The area offers travelers a lot to see and experience. This diversity often catches visitors by surprise, so make sure you check out this list of things you should know before visiting the U.S.
The elevations range from the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains to the low elevations of the flatlands. In the southwest you'll find plenty of desert, while in the Pacific Northwest the area is very lush and green.
Likewise, the climate of the region is quite diverse. The northwest is prone to rain, the southwest is much dryer, and the Rocky Mountains can get quite cold and snowy in the winter months.
Many people visit the western United States specifically to see the national parks
. Some of the most interesting and impressive national parks are located in this region. Popular parks include Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, but there are many others that are just as impressive and unique. Despite the vast amounts of open space in the western US, there are also some of the country's largest and most cosmopolitan cities. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Las Vegas
are all located within the region.
There is no shortage of sights in the western United States. National parks, cities and recreation areas are all plentiful. Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Arches National Park are just a few of the parks in the area. Cities include San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, Seattle, Portland and Reno.
The western United States can be further broken down into the regions of the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, the Rocky Mountains and California. The Pacific Northwest includes the states of Washington and Oregon. The Southwest includes the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. The Rocky Mountains includes the states of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
The diversity of the area means there is a wide range of activities for visitors. In larger cities you'll find plenty of cultural experiences. These include festivals, theater shows, music venues, concerts and ballet. In the national parks there are plenty of outdoor opportunities include hiking, rock climbing, photography and wildlife viewing. There are also many opportunities to enjoy whitewater rafting, skiing, or even scuba diving within the region.
Food and Dining
Food in the western United States is generally good and cheap. Restaurants in cities are more expensive than smaller towns, but still, budget options are plentiful. Along the west coast, seafood is the regional specialty. Salmon, crab, and oysters are among the favorites. Mexican cuisine is also a favorite throughout the southwest. It is usually cheap and delicious.
In most cities you'll find a large number of local restaurants that offer local specialties. In smaller towns or remote areas along the interstate you'll find a very limited selection of local eateries. Chain restaurants and fast food options are much more commonplace. The quality can be quite poor, but predictable and prices are cheap.
Grocery stores are easy to find throughout the area. It's possible to pick up food at supermarkets and prepare your own meals while you're on the road. This is particularly recommended if you're planning to visit national parks where food options are limited, prices are high, and the quality is low.
Traveling around the western United States can be difficult if you have limited funds. The region covers a significant area and travel times are much longer than you might expect. To realistically see the entire area, you will have to take several flights or have several months to drive around. Renting a car is an option, but this can become quite expensive if you need it for more than a week or two (see prices here
). Some people choose to buy a car when they arrive, but the logistics of this can be difficult. Plan ahead and do plenty of research into the legal requirements if this is an option that you are considering. It is also possible to rent an RV, which is convenient if you're hoping to visit the area's many national parks.
Roads in the United States are of excellent quality and driving is quite safe. Gas stations are common in many areas, but as you reach the more rural and remote roads, it is best to keep your tank at least half full.
If you're short on time, flying may be your only option. Flights in the United States can be quite expensive, even for regional flights. Booking well in advance is the best way to ensure that you get the best price. If you just want to visit the cities, then buses such as Greyhound or trains operated by Amtrak may also be an option.
Alternatively, if you do not have a lot of time or money, it is best to choose a smaller region within the western United States to visit. This will allow you to more efficiently spend your time and see that area in much more depth.
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