• Image about Napa Valley
Jack Unruh

Under the deep-blue skies of the American West, you'll find a varied and unexpected Eden - and the distinct impression that anything is still possible.

The historic American West calls to mind lonesome cowboys, sun-roughened pioneers traversing inhospitable country, deadly­ poker games in seedy saloons, gunfights at sundown across dusty streets. A difficult life, to be sure. What could have drawn so many for years? "Number one is the openness of the area, that there are actually spaces that are unfettered with human population, where there is a little bit of breathing room," says Michael Duchemin, senior curator at the Autry National Center, Museum of the American West, in Los Angeles. "The second thing that's associated with the West is opportunity. Because there are wide open spaces and fewer people, there is opportunity there, and that's what historically directed migrant and immigrant populations to move to those areas." The argument could be made that these very things continue to draw legions westward even today, and that the unsurpassed scale and variety of nature's beauty here elicits the same emotions it always has: a sense of unlimited possibility and a standing invitation to test your mettle against the elements. These six states, each with more than its share of Mother Nature's gifts, invite you to sample the best of the old and new West - naturally.