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Scenic Splendours


ANGLE POISE Daredevil sightseers can test their nerve at one of Chicago’s latest attractions. TILT is a glass enclosure at the 360 Chicago observation deck at the John Hancock Centre. The platform tips downwards at a 30 degree angle to give visitors a stomach-churning perspective of the city from a whole 1,000 feet above the ground. But it’s outside the cities where the USA’s natural splendour is at its biggest, brightest and best. A vast network of 401 national parks protects more than 88 million acres of prime scenery that includes magnifi- cent mountains, pristine coastline, vast lakes, lush forests and dramatic deserts and canyons. The list includes world-renowned landscapes such as the Grand Canyon, the spectacular cliffs and waterfalls of Yosemite in California, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and the geysers of Yellowstone in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. There’s


also a host of lesser-known surprises


where the scenery is just as beguiling. Congaree National Park in South Carolina, for example, is a giant wilderness of cypress forest, creeks and swamp- land. Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado features giant dunes up to 750 feet tall. More than 400 remote islands in Lake Superior make up Michigan’s


Isle Royale National Park, while


Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky boasts the world’s longest cave system.


SMOKY AND ROCKY The Great Smoky Mountains, straddling the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, attract twice as many visitors as the Grand Canyon – making them the most popular national park. The biggest park is Wrangell-St Elias in Alaska.


Covering an area larger than Switzerland, it includes glaciers, volcanoes and some of the tallest moun- tains in North America. Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is celebrating its centenary in 2015, with a special events programme including ranger-led walks and art exhibitions. Fourteen areas of the USA are designated national seashores and lakeshores. The Atlantic coast includes Assateague Island, a barrier island in Maryland and Virginia that is home to wild horses, and Georgia’s Cumberland Island, which boasts salt marshes and maritime forest. The Gulf Coast has the beautiful Gulf Islands of Florida and


Mississippi and Padre Island in Texas, a nesting ground for sea turtles. The only national seashore on the West Coast is


Point Reyes in northern California, a prime area for spotting whales, elk and elephant seals. The Great Lakes claim all four national lake-


shores. Lake Michigan has Indiana Dunes in Indiana and Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan, while Lake Superior features the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin and Pictured Rocks in Michigan. Nearly 600 sites in 48 states are protected as National Natural Landmarks. Demonstrating the country’s rich variety of landscapes, they range from a spruce forest in New Hampshire and a swamp in Alabama to a lava flow in New Mexico and a flood- plain in Oregon. Hikers, cyclists and horse riders can explore some


of the best unspoilt scenery by following national scenic and historic trails. These protected routes provide maximum opportunity for outdoor


Ú ONE TICKED OFF THE BUCKET LIST


“The number one item on my bucket list has always been to experience a white-water rafting trip through the Grand Canyon from Lees Ferry to Lake Mead. Last year I eventually got round to ticking it off my list. The splendour and majesty of the Canyon that most just see from the South Rim is increased tenfold when seen it from the river with the spectacular scenery and tranquillity of this very special place.” Ruby Briggs, Managing Director, North America Travel Service


Main picture: Death Valley on the California/Nevada border Above: America's scenic splendours are both urban and rural. Left Chicago's downtown with 360 Chicago (formerly the John Hancock Tower) and Amelia Island in Florida


VISIT THE USA WITH


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