Google recently released its list of its most popular searches during 2022, and when it comes to scenic spots in the United States there are some surprises. For starters, “scenic spots” in Google’s definition does not include iconic places like Vermont’s Technicolor White Mountains in fall or the yawning Grand Canyon in Arizona (and by the waym more about canyons later). Instead, Google users were primarily interested in where to see and photograph some of Mother Nature’s magnificent scenic locations, along with several monuments to man’s ingenuity. Here’s the list of the chosen ten and, for those who might wish to visit over the course of this year, a few additional surprises.
Clear across the country, another span also ranks high on the list. The Golden Gate View Point in Mill Valley, a half hour north of San Francisco, is where many visitors assemble to gaze at the orange-colored overpass that connects San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean. Frommer’s travel guides have described it as “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world.” In addition to carrying vehicles and pedestrians, the Golden Gate is designated as part of U.S. Bicycle Route 95, which runs through California, Washington State, and Alaska
For third on this ist, I’ll place a bet you wouldn’t guess the spectacular splashing Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas (above) project jets of water up to 460 feet skyward as lights flash and music plays. The installation has been featured onscreen aplenty, including in popular movies like Ocean’s Eleven and Jason Bourne. In 2019 Celine Dion and James Corden performed from a boat in the lake created by the fountain, reenacting a scene from the film Titanic.
Hopping back east, it's no surprise that the Statue of Liberty, one of the nation’s most recognized landmarks, is included in this list. Popular places for viewing and photographing the robed Roman goddess of liberty include the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan’s Battery Park. (Another fun fact: Lady Liberty acquired her present greenish hue years after she was dedicated in 1886; government officials felt that a sea-green tone would appear softer than the original copper finish and they allowed natural chemical reactions to alter her color).
Next on the list is Arizona's aptly named Horseshoe Bend (above), a meandering stretch of the Colorado River that resembles what its moniker suggests; it’s best viewed from the east rim of the Grand Canyon. Geologists predict that the river eventually will bisect the neck of the bend, producing a natural stone bridge and eliminating the curve. Don’t worry, though - this will take eons, so there's plenty of time to catch this dramatic sight!
Moving right along, a train ride rather than a turn in a river thrills passengers in North Carolina, where Great Smoky Mountains Railroad chugs through the Nantahala National Forest, an expanse of dense old-growth woodlands and plunging waterfalls. Among actors who have appeared in movies in which the railroad also starred are Harrison Ford, Jack Lemmon, and Sandra Bullock. If you go along for the ride, check out the Smoky Mountains Trains Museum adjacent to the depot, featuring more than 7,000 Lionel model engines and cars and a large miniature track layout.
Then up across the state line in Tennessee, the Gatlinburg SkyBridge offers a different kind of thrill. The longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America stretches 680 feet over a deep valley, providing panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Its 30-foot-long stretch of see-through glass isn’t for the faint of heart, but rest assured that the thick multi-layered panels are safe for those willing to take the “pass the glass” test.
A Grand Canyon also makes the list, but not the world-famous one in Arizona. Pine Creek Gorge is a 45-mile-long slash with depths up to 1,500 feet that’s grandiosely known as "the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania" for its steep walls and plummeting waterfalls. The Pine Creek Rail Trail, a converted railroad bed that follows the canyon floor, is perfect for hiking and biking; USA Today ranks it among the 10 best places in the world for a bike tour.
Another surprise: coming in ninth is a Los Angeles sign but not the famous one that spells HOLLYWOOD. This landmark identifies Beverly Hills (above), the affluent Los Angeles neighborhood that’s associated with lavish estates owned by celebrities; the 40-foot emblem we see today in the linear Beverly Gardens Park is actually a replica of one built in 1907. During spring and summer, a beautiful pond in front of the letters comes alive with blooming lilies, making for the perfect photo backdrop.
Last on the list - though certainly not in the hearts of its many fans - is the Glacier Point overlook in Yosemite National Park. Perched at an elevation of 7,214 feet, it offers superb views of several of the park’s best-known landmarks. In winter, cross-country skiers may experience the view after a 10½-mile slosh through snow. The Glacier Point Road usually is open from late May through October or November, but recently was closed for repairs.