6 Drop Dead Gorgeous States

How do you pick, after all, between desert vs. mountains? Mountains and lakes? Lakes and forests? Forests and seashore? Seashore and glacier? Glacier and orchards?

There was no right answer… until Vogel Talks RVing decided there was.

Texas

Big Bend is famous for its natural resources and spectacular geology. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Big Bend is famous for its natural resources and spectacular geology. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The place is so damn big it can’t help but have some standout sights along the way: Big Bend, Hill Country, the open lap of the American West stretching off to the horizon. What it doesn’t have is anything that is, in fact, the best in its category.

There’s better Western scenery as you go farther west, better forests anywhere east, better beaches in any direction ‘cept straight north. But give Texas its due. Anything you’d want to take in, save snow-capped mountains, really is all here, and if you break free of the cities, the open roads here feel as open, and as freeing, as anywhere.

Kentucky

Are you looking to connect with nature? Bernheim is the place to do it. With 15,625 acres of land, there is an adventure waiting for everyone. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are you looking to connect with nature? Bernheim is the place to do it. With 15,625 acres of land, there is an adventure waiting for everyone. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Culturally this state can never decide whether it’s part of the Midwest, the South, or Appalachia. Geographically it doesn’t care, because it rocks the highlights of all those regions: the pocky hollers and mountain views in the east, 400-mile-long Mammoth Cave, and an abundance of rolling, grassy hills.

You can still find family tobacco farms on the back roads, but the most distinct part of the landscape is the relationship between horses and bluegrass pastures. People here swear they can see the grass glint blue, hence the name. Green or blue, it all makes you want to stop and marvel.

New Mexico

Scattered across Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge are more than 70 natural sinkholes of different shapes and sizes. Located 10 miles northeast of Roswell. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Scattered across Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge are more than 70 natural sinkholes of different shapes and sizes. Located 10 miles northeast of Roswell. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The desert scenery here is absolutely breathtaking. The red rock cliffs and sprawling mesas make a drive through New Mexico seem a lot shorter than the 375 miles I-40 travels through the state. Northern New Mexico also boasts the mountains of Taos, and gives that part of the state a look more Colorado than Arizona. And White Sands National Monument is one of the most distinct—and arresting—pieces of earth in the lower 48.

Arizona

Red Rock Crossing is a former ranch site spread along fertile bottomland at the base of Cathedral Rock. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock Crossing is a former ranch site spread along fertile bottomland at the base of Cathedral Rock. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona is among the truly elite, the best-of-the-best  Its baseline is a riot of desert oranges and fuchsias that only build to perhaps the most-ogled feature on the continent: the Grand Canyon, the climax of a million American road trips.

Monument Valley has been scientifically proven to be where cowboys’ souls go when they die. Elsewhere, on Arizona’s B-sides—the Superstition Mountains, the Petrified Forest, Lake Powell, the areas around Flagstaff and Sedona.

Utah

Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To rate this high with exactly zero miles of coastline, you’ve gotta have some superlative sights. Utah brings some superlative sights like no other landlocked state. It’s one of the few where someone can look at a picture and say, “Oh, yeah, that’s Utah,” whether it’s the famous sandstone arches or the canyons at Moab, or the bizarre formations in Goblin Valley.

And that’s just the southern half. Utah is home to powder-covered mountains as good as any in the west. The Bonneville Salt Flats are one of the great geological sights in America. If outdoor recreation is your top vacation priority, you might not find a better place.

California

Related to the yucca bush, the Joshua tree was named by Mormon pioneers heading west. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Related to the yucca bush, the Joshua tree was named by Mormon pioneers heading west. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yes, it has issues. Lots of ’em. Let’s drop the talk of droughts, bankruptcy, air quality. and traffic, and talk for a minute about how this state has every single kind of scenic beauty you could possibly want. Start in the south with the expansive, natural beaches set against towering cliffs. Then move inland to the moon-like desertcapes in the Mojave. There’s the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway and Big Sur, leading in the wine country of the Central Coast and up into San Francisco, a city that owes its aesthetic to cliffside views and curls of fog.

Oh, and lest we forget Yosemite National Park. Or Redwood. Or Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Or Joshua Tree. Or Death Valley. Or Anza Borrego.

California’s not for everybody, but for sheer hotness, nothing else comes close. You can see why, when settling the West, the pioneers crossed expansive grasslands and steep mountains and punishing deserts only to arrive and say to themselves, the trip was worth it after all.

Worth Pondering…

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

—Rachel Carson

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