West Quoddy Head, Maine, is the logical place to start if you dream of visiting the extreme geographical points of the United States east, south, north and west.
In fact, it is the easiest extreme to reach.
>Lower 48 extremes:
West Quoddy Head is the nation's most eastern point. It is just two hours by car from a major airport (Bangor) and has decent, if humble, roads, restaurants, hotels and shopping. Contrast that with these points:
>West: Cape Alava, Wash.
The most western point in the continental U.S., it is in Olympic National Park, 160 miles and 4 1/2 hours west of Seattle. Past Port Angeles, keep going until you get to the teensy burg of Ozette.
Park, then hike a boardwalk 3 miles more until you get to the windswept, rocky beach of Cape Alava on the Pacific Ocean. www.experiencewa.com.
>North: Northwest Angle, Minn.
Most northern point in the Lower 48, it's a tiny piece of land jutting out from Manitoba, Canada, into Lake of the Woods. It's a part of Minnesota only due to a boundary description error in the 1700s. You must drive through Canada to get there and take a boat.
From Minneapolis, it's 9 hours and 412 miles of driving, so fly into Winnipeg, Manitoba, which is just four hours away. www.exploreminnesota.com.
>South: Ballast Key, Fla.
Southwest of Key West, there are still more keys -- but they are either wildlife refuges or private islands. Ballast Key is the southernmost point of the continental U.S., but it's privately owned.
Many people instead visit a marker in Key West proclaiming it the southernmost city in the U.S. www.fla-keys.com.
If you include Alaska and Hawaii, West Quoddy Head is still the nation's most eastern point -- and still, by far, the easiest to reach.
>West: Cape Wrangell, Alaska
On the far-west edge of Attu Island at the far west end of the Aleutians, remote Cape Wrangell is nearly impossible to visit.
Now a lonely Coast Guard outpost and part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, Attu Island was captured by the Japanese in 1942 and won back in 1943.
With no commercial air service, it is more than 1,500 miles west of Anchorage and 500 miles from Russia. (A rare trip to Attu Island is planned for May 2011 with birder John Puschock; see www.zbirdtours.com.)
>North: Point Barrow, Alaska
Point Barrow is nine miles from the town of Barrow, which is 500 miles north of Fairbanks, in the Arctic Circle. A mostly Eskimo-Inuit town, it has regularly scheduled flights from Fairbanks. www.travelalaska.com.
>South: Ka Lae (South Point), Hawaii
On the southern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, Ka Lae is easy to reach. It is the southernmost point of all 50 states. Drive south on the Mamalahoa Highway from Hilo about two hours and down South Point Road. www.gohawaii.com.