10. Moki Dugway
Constructed in 1958 by the Texas Zinc Mining Co., this three-mile-long gravel road is located on Utah Route 261 in southeastern Utah. Consisting of a series of sharp switchbacks originally used to transport uranium ore from the “Happy Jack” mine in Fry Canyon, it descends 1,100 feet at a 10-percent grade from the top of Cedar Mesa. Thrill-seekers can access the road for an exhilarating ride down but according to the State of Utah, recommended vehicles should be no more than 28 feet in length with a maximum weight of 10,000 pounds due to the narrow and precarious turns.
9. Very Large Array
Located 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico, the “Very Large Array” (VLA) is one of the top astronomical radio observatories in the world. It consists of 27 radio antennas that each weighs 230 tons with a diameter of 82 feet. Placed in a Y-shaped formation, the combined efforts of the antennas provide a resolution of an antenna 22 miles across. They have been faithfully scanning the stars since 1980. Guided tours are generally offered twice a year with additional tours on selected weekends during the summers. Visitors can also take the self-guided walking tour that includes a climb to the observation deck of one of the antennas.
8. Rio Grande Bridge
Built in 1965, this 500-foot long bridge is located approximately 10 miles northwest of Taos, New Mexico, and spans the gorge carved by the Rio Grande River 650 feet below. The second-highest cantilever-truss bridge in the United States, it includes pedestrian sidewalks where visitors can take in the spectacular view and possibly spot the numbers of resident ghosts who locals claim haunt the bridge. This unusual setting has also appeared in several films such as Natural Born Killers, Twins, and Terminator Salvation.
7. Four Corners Monument
This monument is the only point in the United States where the borders of four states (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado) come together in one location. The original cement marker was first built in 1912 but was replaced with a fancier bronze disk embedded in granite in 1992. The landmark is managed by the Navajo Nation and includes a visitor center, which offers handmade jewelry and crafts created by Native-American artists. Visitors can actually stand on the marker for the short-lived satisfaction of “conquering” four states at one time.
6. Biosphere 2
Located approximately 40 miles north of Tucson, this 3.14-acre structure was originally built to be a man-made and self-sustaining ecological system complete with human living and working spaces as well as an Amazon Rain Forest, Florida-style mangroves and a southwestern desert. The $200 million project used to be airtight with the Biosphere scientists locked inside for two separate missions between 1991 and 1994. Today, the complex is exposed to air and offers daily tours for visitors interested in how the biospheres explored the possibility of closed ecosystems in space colonization.
5. London Bridge
In 1962, this famous bridge could not handle the increasing flow of traffic across the Thames River in London and much like the nursery rhyme, it began falling down. After Lake Havasu, Arizona, founder Robert McCulloch purchased the bridge from the British government for $2.46 million, it was dismantled one stone at a time and sent to Lake Havasu where it was reconstructed and re-dedicated in 1971. Today, the bridge crosses the one-mile Bridgewater Channel that was dredged to connect Lake Havasu with Thompson Bay. Although it is one of the more popular tourist attractions in the Southwest, it still seems unusually out of place.
4. Grand Canyon Skywalk
Known as the “Skywalk,” this strange architectural masterpiece is located on the Grand Canyon’s western rim within the Hualapai Indian Reservation. Built in 2007 by developer David Jin, this U-shaped, glass-bottom observation deck hangs 70 feet out over the rim, which is approximately 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. It offers visitors an amazing “bird’s-eye-view” through its glass floor 365 days a year. The adjacent outdoor amphitheater also provides live performances of Native-American song and dance.
3. Jerome, Arizona
Clinging to Cleopatra Hill, Jerome was once the fifth-largest town in the region. In the late 1800s, the dynamite blasts from its thriving mines shook the land with such force that some of the buildings actually fell off the mountainside. Today, the mines are long gone and what remains is one of the steepest towns in the state. So steep are the town’s switch-backing streets that a Phoenix newspaper once stated, “Your neighbor in Jerome can’t look into your back windows, although he can look down your kitchen chimney from his front porch.” The former residents apparently do not want to leave since Jerome is also known as one of the most haunted towns in the state.
2. Roswell, New Mexico
In 1947, a mysterious object crashed at a nearby ranch near Roswell, New Mexico. After the United States military created a sensation by covering up the details, this former sleepy town was transformed into one of the “hot spots” where aliens had once landed. Today, the city, complete with glowing alien-head streetlights, is the home of the annual Roswell UFO Festival and the International UFO Museum and Research Center, which is open to the public every day of the year except major holidays. Whether you are a true believer or just curious, this city offers plenty to see and much to talk about before returning to your “mothership.”
1. Salvation Mountain, California
Located in the Southern California desert just east of the Salton Sea, this “mountain” began in 1967 as one man’s failed attempt to spread the simple message of “God is Love” with his hot-air balloon. After Leonard Knight’s balloon refused to fly, he decided to leave the area. But before he left, Knight decided to stay one more week to make his statement. With only a small bag of cement, he created a small monument from the balloon’s remains. Year after year it grew by piling everything from old junk to sand held together by cement and paint. Today, this “statement” has grown into a 50-foot mountain built out of adobe clay and more than 100,000 buckets of paint, and he is still going at it. According to Knight, “I was just going to stay one week. It’s been a very good week.”