Nature at its best
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone’s most famous hot spring, the Grand Prismatic’s vivid blue center is surrounded by bands of rusty orange, yellow and green, making it look otherworldly. A half-mile (0.8km) boardwalk loops around the hot spring as well as the other pools in the Midway Geyser Basin. However, Grand Prismatic is so large, it’ll be hard to make out its shape. After you’ve seen it up close, head to the nearby Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook for a breathtaking view from further away.
Caddo Lake, Texas/Louisiana
This swampy lake that lies on the border of Texas and Louisiana is probably one of the moodiest natural wonders on this list. Spanish moss drips from the cypress trees, whose broad, knotted trunks are submerged in the dark, mysterious water. Alligators can sometimes be found basking on logs and the lake’s slightly spooky ambiance is perfect for slow paddling in a kayak or canoe. These are America’s most stunning lakes.
Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee/North Carolina
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
These ethereal slot canyons – divided into two sections known as The Crack and The Corkscrew – can only be explored on a guided tour with a native Navajo guide, however tours are temporarily suspended at present. It’s thought that the canyon was formed by flash flooding during monsoon season which explains the smooth, flowing shapes of the walls.
Hubbard Glacier, Alaska
Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, Maine
The highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard, Cadillac Mountain rises 1,530 feet (466m) above sea level. Within easy reach from the charming coastal resort Bar Harbor, the summit is the first place in the US that sees sunrise from 7 October through 6 March every year. The pink granite mountain slopes are clad with pine and spruce forests with the scenic Summit Road carving its way along the northern and eastern side of the mountain until it reaches the top. Take a look at stunning sunrises from around the world here.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado
Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana
Fly Geyser, Nevada
Crater Lake, Oregon
America’s deepest lake, reaching staggering depths of 1,943 feet (592m), Crater Lake in Oregon is the caldera basin of a collapsed volcano that filled with rain and snowmelt over time. It’s often shrouded in a thick fog but in summer its blindingly blue waters are on show. Take a look at more of America’s most stunning lakes here.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
This 275-square-mile (712sq km) desert in New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin is an unusual natural phenomenon. The dunes are formed by gypsum sand – a rare mineral found only in a few places on the planet. Since it dissolves in water, it’s almost a miracle such large quantities of it exist in one place but thanks to New Mexico’s dry climate, the sand thrives here, creating a magical landscape. Discover more mysterious places on Earth.
A vast area of protected wetland in southern Florida, Everglades National Park is an oasis for hundreds of plant and animal species. The park itself covers only a small section of the sprawling wetland that’s home to the endangered Florida panther and the American alligator. One of the best ways to take in this incredible ecosystem is by gliding through the mangroves on an airboat tour, but check the NPS website for reopenings and safety protocols.
Hamilton Pool Preserve, Texas
Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah
Spire Cove, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California
Famed for its beautiful vistas, cliffs and lush forests, Yosemite National Park is full of incredible attractions like Half Dome. There’s nothing quite like the Yosemite Valley though. From the Tunnel View viewpoint you can see the jaw-dropping landscape in all its splendor. Yosemite Valley is doing a phased reopening with restrictions, so check the NPS website before traveling.
Mendenhall Glacier ice caves, Alaska
Redwoods, Avenue of the Giants, California
There are several spots in California perfect for admiring the imposing redwoods. Take your pick between Redwood National and State Parks; head to Sequoia National Park (open but with restrictions) to see the largest living single-stem tree General Sherman; or walk among the giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove in Yosemite. Along the Avenue of the Giants (pictured), admire the majestic trees surrounding the road. Now take a look at more of the world’s most beautiful trees.
Star Dune, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
Niagara Falls, New York
It may not be the biggest or the tallest waterfall in the world, but it’s definitely one of the most famous. With a distinctive green color due to a mix of rock flour and salts, the three waterfalls pour across the border of the US and Canada. If you’re ready to brave the spray of the waterfall, board the Maid of the Mist for a boat tour that takes you straight to the bottom of the falls (currently open with safety measures in place) or you could trek to one of the many observation decks and watch from above. These are the world’s most impressive waterfalls.
The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah
A popular trek in Zion National Park, The Narrows is aptly named after the narrowest section of the Zion Canyon where the Virgin River carves its way through the slot canyon. It’s a rather unusual 16-mile (26km) hike as you’ll have to wade through water and maybe even swim. You can also follow a paved Riverside Walk to see this unique natural landmark. Check the NPS website for safety restrictions and current conditions before you go.
Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington
Shoshone Falls, Idaho
Found on the Snake River in southern Idaho, Shoshone Falls are often called the Niagara of the West. A must-see attraction in Twin Falls, the waterfall is 212 feet (64.6m) high and flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet (304.8m) wide. Although the falls are stunning throughout the year, they’re gorgeous in spring or early summer when the water flow is high due to snowmelt.
Grand Teton, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
With some of the most dramatic scenery in the country, the Teton mountains are a sight to behold. Grand Teton, the highest mountain in the Grand Teton National Park, is one of the top American mountaineering destinations. From the ground, there’s also Oxbow Bend, with brilliant views of the mountains and wildlife like moose, black bears, otters and the occasional grizzly. Discover the best animal encounters in every state.
Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon
Mount Rainier, Washington
Joshua trees, Joshua Tree National Park, California
Bryce Canyon, Utah
The tall rock spires, also known as hoodoos, are the most distinctive characteristic of this canyon in Utah. Creating a surreal landscape, the hoodoos shine in shades of yellow, orange and red. The best way to take in the incredible landscape is to follow hiking trails that lead through the strange rock formations, the forest and around the series of natural amphitheaters. The site is open but services are limited. Take a look at more of the world’s stunning canyons here.
Wonder Lake, Denali National Park, Alaska
Burns Basin, Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon
Luray Caverns, Virginia
These otherworldly caverns, the most extensive in the eastern United States, open out below the Shenandoah Valley’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The sand-colored stalagmites and stalactites have sprouted over millions of years and winding tunnels give way to echoing chambers. Don’t miss the Dream Lake where its 20 inches (51cm) of water look much deeper due to the reflections on its surface. Take a look at America’s underground attractions you didn’t know existed.
Alvord Desert, Oregon
This stark landscape really is part of the famously green Pacific Northwest region. A dry lakebed, the area only sees around seven inches (17.7cm) of rain a year. The cracked earth, fringed by mountains and punctured by natural springs, is situated in southeastern Oregon and you’ll get the best views by driving the Steens Loop Tour Route. Discover some of the secret wonders hidden in the world’s largest deserts.
Devils Tower, Wyoming
Devils Tower is impossible to miss – the 1,267-feet-tall (386m) rock soars high above the surrounding countryside. Made famous by Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Devils Tower is also a sacred site to more than 25 Native American tribes. There’s a path winding its way around the base of the tower, offering a chance to see it from all angles.
Kīlauea, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
One of the most active volcanoes in the world, Kīlauea is located in Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park that also encompasses the world’s biggest shield volcano, Mauna Loa. In addition to the incredible volcanic scenery of black lava rock and molten lava flowing through it and into the ocean, the park is also a refuge for some of the rarest flora and fauna in the world. One of the most popular routes to see the top sights within the park, including Kīlauea, is the 11-mile (17.7km) Crater Rim Drive route.
Turnip Rock, Lake Huron, Michigan
Palouse Falls, Washington
Located in southeastern Washington, Palouse Falls drop for about 200 feet (61m), puncturing the course of the Palouse River. The cascade, formed by floods during the Ice Age, steals the show but visitors will also be in awe of the neat circular pool and rugged canyon walls. A trio of scenic viewpoints offer fabulous vistas of the falls. Before you go, check the park’s COVID-19-related changes.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Opening up into an 18-mile-wide (29km) gorge through which the Colorado River carves its way, the Grand Canyon’s red rust landscape is incredibly atmospheric. The canyon’s South Rim is the most popular place to explore. The North Rim is quieter, while Grand Canyon West is home to the Skywalk. The park is open but with restrictions in place and limited services.
Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah
With the highest density of natural arches in the world, the Arches National Park boasts more than 2,000 natural red sandstone structures, the most famous being the Delicate Arch. The 52-foot (16m) freestanding arch is among the park’s most popular attractions and there’s a 1.5-mile (2.4km) hiking trail leading up to the famous formation.
Crater Lake, Elk Mountains, Colorado
The Elk Mountains in Colorado are littered with scenic viewpoints and gorgeous landscapes, yet nothing beats Maroon Bells – two of the highest peaks in the Elk Mountains – reflecting in Crater Lake. It’s a truly spectacular sight to behold. Now take a look at these stunning lakes you won’t believe are man-made.
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