Las Vegas -
Los Angeles -
New Orleans -
New York -
San Francisco -
Area: 3,618,000 sq miles (9,370,000 sq km)
Capital city: Washington, DC (pop: 570,000)
Languages: English, plus many secondary languages, chiefly Spanish
The continental US stretches across North America 'from sea to shining sea.' It
borders Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. Alaska juts out from
northwestern Canada; Hawaii lies 2500 miles (4000km) off the country's western
coast, in the middle of the Pacific. There are three major mountain ranges: the
Appalachians in the east, the titanic Rocky Mountains in the west and the Sierra
Nevada along the border of Nevada and California. The country has abundant
natural resources and vast swaths of fertile soil.
While the Hawaiians may not have invented surfing, Oahu is surfing's
spiritual home, and the legendary winter swells at Waimea, Sunset Beach and the
Banzai Pipeline are the most beautiful and awesome waves. Not to be outdone,
California also has a few surfable breaks itself - Malibu, Rincon, Trestles and
Mavericks among them. There are a hundred other perfect breaks along the US
coastline - but if we told you where they were, we'd have to kill you! Other
popular watersports include sailing, windsurfing and sea
Back on land, the Rocky Mountain states (and Colorado in particular) are home
to the country's most popular downhill skiing and snowboarding
destinations. Along with flash places like Aspen, Vail, Jackson Hole and Big Sky
are smaller operations with a handful of lifts, cheaper ticket prices and
terrain that is often as challenging as their glitzier neighbors. Lake Tahoe is
the major ski destination in the Sierra Nevada, doubling as a summertime
water-sports playground. Elsewhere in the US, you'll also find great
The US may be the most industrialized nation on earth, but it's also the land
of opportunity when it comes to hiking - from the alpine meadows of the
High Sierra to the forested byways of the Appalachian Trail. Walking trails are
generally well kept, well marked and well patronized. But it's also possible to
lose yourself in the 'backwoods,' where there's just you, the rattlers and the
huge night sky.
Rock climbing and mountaineering are popular pursuits,
especially in the Sierra Nevada and Rockies. El Capitan and Half Dome are both
legendary climbs up the face of sheer granite walls in Yosemite National Park.
Mt Whitney, in California's Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, is the
highest in the contiguous 48 states at 14,500ft (4350m).
Many cities are relatively cycle-friendly, and hardy souls cycle
across and around the country on picturesque backroads, while those stuck in tin
cans fume on the freeways. It's easy to hire machines and gear throughout the
country. Mountain biking is a huge pastime, particularly in California
(where it was invented), and there are plenty of places to hit the gravel and
graze the knees.
If you still have energy left, you can go horse riding in New York's
Central Park, river rafting on Idaho's Snake River or caving in
New Mexico's beautiful Carlsbad Caverns.