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Tucked away in a part of Northern California that is off-the-beaten-path is a world unlike anywhere else. Lassen Volcanic National Park is the 41st most visited U.S. national park (of 58), but for those who happen upon it, it’s often a favorite.

Making it special is the landscape of volcanoes, unusual rock formations, steaming pools and postcard-quality vistas. When entering from the west, you’d think you’ve landed on another planet.

Utah’s Heber Valley is a destination for all seasons.

Heber Valley is just around the corner from mining-town-turned-ski-town Park City, and right next door to the Mayflower side of Deer Valley, with Robert Redford’s Sundance just down the road. It lies along the eastern slopes of the Wasatch Mountain range with 11,749-foot Mt. Timpanogas watching over the communities of Heber City, Midway, Charleston, Center Creek, Daniels and Wallsburg with a regal countenance you’ll not easily forget.

Thirty million years ago, this was a lush tropical paradise. Ten thousand years ago, hunters, gatherers and harvesters lived here along the shores of a huge prehistoric lake. Through the centuries, the climate changed, small lakes dried up and a hot, dry desert emerged. It became a desolate land and legend says that as settlers passed through here in 1849, one turned and said, “Good-bye Death Valley,” thus giving it its name.

Today, Death Valley is many things—a national park, a place to gaze at the stars, and a fascinating landscape to explore. It is the home of Timbisha Shoshone Indians, a historic resort, a variety of campgrounds and much more.

Bring your hat, shades, sunscreen and camera to New Mexico and prepare to be amazed by Alamagordo’s White Sands, a high-desert wonderland. Walk upon the huge dunes and try to spot the creatures that have adapted over time to the unique environment. Or marvel at how plant life survives in the constantly shifting terrain. If those things don’t float your boat, try sledding down mountains of sand. Astronauts who have viewed it from space say there is no other location on Earth quite like it.

If this strange but spectacular landscape fails to impress, visit the White Sands Missile Range, which has been operational ground zero for developing rocket and missile technology and was used to develop and test the first atomic bomb. Being able to see examples of that important history should hold the interest of most. Bring the kids and grandkids too. Everyone will find plenty to do.

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