Moro Rock, in Sequoia National Park, Calif., offers stunning views of the Great Western Divide.
“Stunning views of the UC campus and Bay Area,” says Ronald Ongtoaboc of Sacramento. “The experience never gets old.” (510) 642-5215, visitors.berkeley.edu/camp/index.shtml.
Castle Rock State Park
Los Gatos, Calif.
“The deck here is just a short walk from the parking area,” says Larry Smith of Palo Alto, Calif. “You get a beautiful view of the redwood-covered slopes stretching down toward Santa Cruz. On a clear day you can see across to the Monterey Peninsula.” (408) 867-2952, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=538.
De Young Museum
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
“The free observation tower here is a secret that must be shared,” says Tere Charney of Napa, Calif. “My family took the elevator to the top and had a view of the city skyline as if we were birds perched on the top of a eucalyptus tree. My kids had a blast finding points of interest—towers of the Golden Gate Bridge and views of the bay.” (415) 750-3600, deyoung.famsf.org.
Sequoia National Park, Calif.
“One of the best-kept secrets of our parks,” writes Ken Koenig of San Francisco. “It’s 408 steps up, at 6,725 feet, but at the top is an awe-inspiring view of the Great Western Divide.” (559) 565-3341, nps.gov/seki.
Big Sur, Calif.
“Worth adding to your list of must-sees in life,” writes Susan Pearson of Santa Cruz, Calif. “On a clear day, especially at sunset, the view from this restaurant’s veranda will take your breath away.” (831) 667-2345, nepenthebigsur.com.
Sierra City, Calif.
“A lookout tower stands on the spectacular, craggy, 8,587-foot Sierra Buttes,” says Mike Demers of Cotati, Calif. (530) 994-3401, summitpost.org/sierra-buttes/150520.
Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Kuna, Idaho
“A short trail leads to a spectacular overlook,” says Diane Brown of Boise. “You’ll more than likely see hawks and eagles soaring over the Snake River Canyon.” (208) 384-3300, blm.gov/id/st/en/prog/blm_special_areas/birds_of_prey_nca.html.
Bear Creek Overlook
West of Victor, Mont.
“Hard to beat the view here,” says Jennifer Cowardin of Corvallis, Mont. “You can hear the roar of Bear Creek as it flows down into the Bitterroot Valley, and the view west to the Selway-BitterrootWilderness takes your breath away. Most of the trail to the overlook is shaded by pines.” (406) 777-5461.
From above St. Ignatius, Mont.
“I’ll never forget my first sight of these mountains,” writes Marjorie Heyman of Missoula, Mont. “We rounded a corner and crested a hill on Highway 93 and rising before us were the snow-capped peaks of the Missions against a bright blue sky. I’ve been many places, but this remains one of my favorite views.” (406) 758-5200, www.fs.fed.us/r1/flathead/wilderness/Wilderness.htm.
From Highway 87, near Fort Benton, Mont.
“I often stop here and never tire of the spectacular view,” writes Janis Schmier of Havre, Mont. “At this overlook just south of the Fort Benton intersection, you can imagine Lewis and Clark camping by the river, or Thomas Meagher, around the time he became the acting governor of the Montana Territory, doing business with Missouri River steamboat merchants.” blm.gov/mt/st/en/fo/lewistown_field_office/umrbnm.html.
From north of Helena, Mont.
“Truly spectacular,” promises Clint Pullman of East Helena, Mont. “On Interstate 15, stop at the Gates of the Mountains exit (milepost 209) and directly in front of you is an amazing natural formation known as the Sleeping Giant. It really does look like a giant lying on his side. While you’re there, take the Gates of the Mountains boat ride on the Missouri River—majestic.” (406) 458-5241, gatesofthemountains.com.
“If viewing the Strip from the Air Bar on the 108th floor isn’t exciting enough,” says Sharon Wong of San Mateo, Calif., “there are four thrill rides to add to the experience.” (800) 998-6937, stratospherehotel.com/tower.
Buena Vista Overlook
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Princeton, Ore.
“The scene here changes with the wetland vegetation and migrating waterfowl,” says Lucile Housley of Talent, Ore. “However, snowy Steens Mountain, rising to 9,733 feet on the horizon, is constant and tantalizing.” (541) 493-2612, fws.gov/malheur.
Hat Point Lookout
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, Imnaha, Ore.
“Beautiful views of the Seven Devils Mountains, the Wallowa Mountains, and the Snake River Canyon,” says Steve Watkins of Nampa, Idaho. “You may even see a mountain goat.” (541) 426-5546, tinyurl.com/hellscanyon-hatpoint.
“The best view in all of Oregon,” writes Sherry Swiggart of Sandy. “Pull over here for a breathtaking sight of Mount Hood, with the Sandy River valley at your feet.” byways.org/explore/byways/61400/places.
Neahkahnie Mountain Trail
“This short hike is well worth your time,” says Nancy Wilcox of Warrenton, Ore. “Upon reaching the top, you see the Nehalem River, and to the west, breaking waves.” mdvaden.com/neahkahnie_mountain.shtml.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
“This park offers not one but two 360-degree views,” says Lynne Schaefer of Sunriver, Ore. “The overlook from Lava Butte includes a massive lava flow. And from Paulina Peak there’s a panorama of the Cascades, the high desert, Paulina and East lakes, and Big Obsidian Flow.” (541) 383-5300, www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon/newberrynvm.
Oregon City Municipal Elevator
Oregon City, Ore.
“Ride up to see Willamette Falls in all their glory,” says Alice Duff of Portland. “You can also view the falls from a bluff nearby.” (503) 657-0891, orcity.org/publicworks/municipal-elevator.
Multnomah County, Ore.
“Amazing!” says Julia Peters of Portland. “Drive 14 miles up Larch Mountain Road from near the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint—with its own Columbia River Gorge view—then walk to the top. On a clear day you can see Mounts Adams, Hood, Jefferson, Rainier, and St. Helens.” (503) 823-4000, crgva.org.
“A renovated site on a high precipice that takes in three amazing geographical areas: Moab, Canyonlands National Park, and the La Sal Mountains,” says Diane Wilson of Tigard, Ore. “On the way there we followed a running herd of pronghorn antelope.” go-utah.com/Needles-Anticline-Overlook-Road.
Harpers Corner Trail
Dinosaur National Monument, Utah
“A 1.5-mile hike to a point here gets you to spectacular views,” says Boneta Brown of Jensen, Utah. “Railings protect you as you look toward the Gates of Lodore in Colorado and Split Mountain in Utah.” (970) 374-3000, nps.gov/dino/planyourvisit/harperscornertrail.htm.
Devil Canyon Overlook
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area near Lovell, Wyo.
“A cliff 1,000 feet above Bighorn Lake offers a spectacular view of the winding limestone walls of two canyons,” says Margaret Staab of Worland, Wyo. “You might even see bighorn sheep.” (307) 548-5406, nps.gov/bica.
Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, Wyo.
“The state’s highest bridge is awesome,” says Pamela Kresky of Powell, Wyo. “You can walk out on it and look into the canyon and to beautiful Sunlight Creek below.” (307) 777-7777, wyomingtourism.org/overview/chief-joseph-scenic-byway/2721.
Photography by Sunpix Travel/Alamy
This article was first published in May 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.