The most beautiful natural wonder in every state
What makes America truly great are its stunning landscapes and natural beauty. Every state has its own special attractions, from the biodiversity of Florida’s “River of Grass” to Alaska’s massive, shifting Hubbard Glacier, and from the deepest canyons to the highest mountains. Here are 50 of the United States’ most mind-blowing natural wonders.
America’s Natural Wonders: Cheaha Mountain, Alabama
Called “Chaha” by the Creek Indians, meaning “high place,” this mountain in Cheaha Resort State Park lives up to its name, as the highest point in Alabama, 2,407 feet above sea level. Hikers can enjoy the tranquility of views on high, of waterfalls and other natural scenery in the Talladega National Forest and the Cheaha Trailhead of the Pinhoti Trail.
America’s Natural Wonders: Hubbard Glacier, Alaska
Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier on the North American continent, constantly thickening and moving towards the Gulf of Alaska. Off the coast of Yakutat, Hubbard is more than six miles wide where it meets the ocean. With a face up to 400 feet tall and icebergs three or four stories high, it may be what Game of Thrones fans envision when they say, “Winter is coming!”
America’s Natural Wonders: Grand Canyon, Arizona
A mile deep, up to 18 miles wide and 275 miles long, the Grand Canyon is the largest, most impressive hole in the ground anywhere. One of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders, it boasts some of the oldest rock on the planet (two billion years old, give or take), exposed by the Colorado River, which winds all the way through the rocky wonder.
America’s Natural Wonders: Yellow Rock Overlook, Arkansas
Hiking the Yellow Rock Trail in Devil’s Den State Park, with the spectacular view of Lee Creek Valley from the Yellow Rock Overlook, is a great way to experience the Ozark Mountains and especially its fall colors. The view might also include birds of prey. You can also stay a while in the park, in one of 17 fully equipped cabins.
America’s Natural Wonders: Death Valley, California
The name gives you fair warning: Death Valley is the hottest and driest place in America, with summer temperatures soaring up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, the 3.3 million acres of the enormous national park are worth a visit, with their sky-high sand dunes, below-sea-level salt flats, singing rocks, and colorful sandstone canyons. Bring lots of water.
America’s Natural Wonders: Maroon Bells, Colorado
The Maroon Bells are said to be the most photographed attraction in Colorado. The visitor pictures usually include the reflective lake and two soaring, snow-banded mountaintops, called Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak. The scene can be enjoyed via hiking trails, with amazing fields of wildflowers and fly-fishing opportunities on the way.
America’s Natural Wonders: Fall colors, Connecticut
Amazing fall colors are one reason to take a drive through Connecticut in October. The best places to visit in the state, of course, are its lovely wooded areas, including Litchfield, and the eastern Mystic region. Quaint small towns and winery visits are wonderful additions to the scenic drives.
America’s Natural Wonders: Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware
Cape Henlopen State Park features some of the largest sand dunes on the east coast. It’s made all the more picturesque by lighthouses and World War II towers and a quarter-mile fishing pier sticking out into Delaware Bay, which the cape protects.
America’s Natural Wonders: Everglades, Florida
Only an hour’s drive from Miami, Everglades National Park offers 1.5 million acres of tropical and subtropical habitat with one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. The park is designated as an International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance and a World Heritage Site. View or cruise the “River of Grass” to experience its hammock, mangrove, pineland, saw grass and slough habitats, home to animal species ranging from tree frogs to panthers.
America’s Natural Wonders: Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia
Located in the southeastern corner of Georgia, Okefenokee is the largest swamp in North America, covering about 700 square miles. Its natural cornucopia includes cypress swamps, winding waterways, floating peat mats, wet and dry prairies, and more than 400 species of vertebrates, including 200-plus kinds of birds and more than 60 varieties of reptiles.
America’s Natural Wonders: Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii
For 35 years, the Kilauea Volcano has been gushing hot lava, making it one of the world’s longest ongoing volcano eruptions. Visit the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park to see Kilauea and sister volcano Mauna Loa in action, learning how 70 million years of volcanism have raised a bare land up from the sea and covered it with unique ecosystems.
America’s Natural Wonders: Bruneau Dunes State Park, Idaho
The park is home to the tallest freestanding sand dunes in North America, reaching as high as 470 feet. While other dunes in the Western Hemisphere form at the edge of a natural basin, the unique Bruneau dunes form near the center. About 15,000 years ago, the dunes may have got their start with sands kicked up by the Bonneville Flood.
America’s Natural Wonders: Garden of the Gods, Illinois
Part of the Shawnee National Forest, the Garden of the Gods offers tremendous views and breathtaking hikes, with dramatic rock formations unlike anything else found in the Midwest. More than 3,300 acres of forest include plenty of trails for backpacking, horseback riding and wildlife viewing.
America’s Natural Wonders: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore meanders 15 miles along the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Its 15,000 acres include 50 miles of trails over sand dunes, wetlands, prairies, past meandering rivers and through forests. Hiking, bird watching and kite flying are popular pastimes here. Its beaches rank among the top five family beaches in the country.
America’s Natural Wonders: Maquoketa Caves, Iowa
Maquoketa Caves State Park’s limestone formations, rugged bluffs and caves, of course, give visitors a chance to go back thousands of years in geological time. Caves are found in all shapes and sizes, and include the 1,100-foot Dancehall Cave, with walkways and lighting system. Some caves can be explored on foot while others have to be crawled.
America’s Natural Wonders: Various cliffs, Kansas
Western Kansas has some unexpected moonlike landscapes, with dramatic cliffs and other rock formations. There are the rugged badlands and yucca-studded cliffs of Arikaree Breaks, the sculpted chalk turret, spires and other shapes in stone of Monument Rocks, and, pictured here, Castle Rock, with its network of cuts and canyons etched into cropland.
America’s Natural Wonders: Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
With almost 400 miles of underground tunnels, Mammoth Cave is the planet’s largest cave system. Enjoy some part of it on a guided tour by lantern, marveling at how the limestone karst cave labyrinth has been shaped by subterranean rivers, with impressive stalactites, stalagmites and other speleothem formations.
America’s Natural Wonders: Barataria, Louisiana
In the storied bayous near New Orleans, you’ll find the base for famous pirate, smuggler and war hero Jean Lafitte, who led his roving band of scoundrels more than 200 years ago. Barataria is one of the six distinct locations that make up the larger Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, filled with bottomland hardwood forests, swamps and marshes.
America’s Natural Wonders: Acadia National Park, Maine
Comprising 47,000 acres of land on Mount Desert Island, Isle au Haut and the Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia is Maine’s only national park. But it does the state proud, showcasing its rocky coastline, mountains, forests, ponds, marshlands and fields, as well as its diverse native species, ranging from mollusks and mammals to raptors and reptiles.
America’s Natural Wonders: Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary (where fresh and saltwater mix) in the United States, and the heart of the region, with its boating, fishing and swimming opportunities. The bay and its rivers, wetlands and forests are a complex ecosystem, providing shelter, food and protection for countless animals and plants.
America’s Natural Wonders: Aquinnah Cliffs, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
These multicolored clay cliffs—with iconic lighthouse perched on top—are geological marvels that glow with each sunset as they cascade into the water. Also worth a stroll is Aquinnah Beach, a half-mile stretch of lovely coastline, named one of the Best Walking Beaches in America by the Travel Channel.
America’s Natural Wonders: Turnip Rock, Michigan
Not far off the shore of Lake Michigan, a short drive from Port Austin, stands the top-heavy Turnip Rock. The giant geological stack developed its unique look after centuries of being worn away by the lake’s waves. Since all the land on shore is privately owned, visitors need to bring or rent a kayak to view the phenomenon. But it’s always worth the paddle.
America’s Natural Wonders: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
Named one of National Geographic Traveler magazine‘s “50 Places of a Lifetime,” the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is the biggest wilderness east of the Rockies. The paddle-worthy Minnesota destination boasts 1.3 million acres and a network of 1,200 lakes and 1,500 miles of canoe routes connected by streams and portages.
America’s Natural Wonders: Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi
This is a 444-mile-long scenic road, and federal park, that follows the path of the Old Natchez Trace from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. With no commercial buildings allowed, the parkway reveals Mother Nature in all her glory, including huge old oak trees, remote waterfalls, pines hung with Spanish moss, and cypress swamps.
America’s Natural Wonders: Mississippi River, Missouri
Flowing 2,350 miles from Lake Itasca through the center of the continental United States to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi is the second-longest river in North America. Its tributary, the Missouri River, is about 100 miles longer. The two rivers meet in Missouri and its fur trader heritage can be felt in river towns like St. Charles, founded as Les Petites Cotes (The Little Hills) by French-Canadian voyageurs.
America’s Natural Wonders: The Chinese Wall, Montana
The Chinese Wall is a limestone escarpment that is, on average, more than 1,000 feet high and stretches 22 miles from the Bob Marshall Wilderness into the Scapegoat Wilderness along the Continental Divide. Allowing no motorized or mechanical vehicles, Bob Marshall Wilderness is one of the best-preserved mountain ecosystems remaining on the planet.
America’s Natural Wonders: Chimney Rock, Nebraska
Towering on the south edge of the North Platte River Valley, Chimney Rock was one of the most recognized landmarks by pioneer travelers who were part of the great western migration. Designated as a National Historic Site, its slender spire rises 325 feet from a conical base. The impressive formation is made of layers of volcanic ash and Brule clay dating back millions of years.
America’s Natural Wonders: Valley of Fire, Nevada
The Valley of Fire lives up to its name—its red sandstone formations seem to catch on fire as the sun’s setting rays strike them. Roadrunners, coyotes, jackrabbits, desert tortoises and rock carving art dating back to circa AD 300 can also be seen. The valley has been a hot attraction for a very long time.
America’s Natural Wonders: White Mountains, New Hampshire
The White Mountains are home to dramatic waterfalls, inviting swimming holes, and a wide range of wildlife, including moose, black bears, loons, foxes, turkeys and rainbow trout. It also features the highest mountain in northeastern North America: 6,288-foot-high Mount Washington. Native Americans refused to climb the mountain, believing its summit was home to the Great Spirit.
America’s Natural Wonders: Pine Barrens, New Jersey
The Pine Barrens is part of the 1.1 million acres of the Pinelands National Reserve—a stretch of pristine wilderness that helps to recharge the 17-trillion-gallon Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, containing some of the purest water in the country. Thirty years ago, the United Nations designated the area as an International Biosphere Reserve.
America’s Natural Wonders: Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
Hidden underground and carved from limestone deposited in an ancient sea, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is an underground fantasy-scape comprising almost 120 caves. You can do a self-guided audio tour, or one led by a park ranger, as well as visiting specific caves, looking at otherworldly geological formations and bats.
America’s Natural Wonders: Niagara Falls, New York
Straddling the border between New York and Ontario, the cascading waters of Niagara Falls actually combine three different falls: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. While they aren’t the world’s highest falls, they boast the greatest volume of plunging water. The best way to view them is from below, getting soaked in the Maid of the Mist.
America’s Natural Wonders: Chimney Rock, North Carolina
Chimney Rock is a 535-million-year-old monolith that is one of the most recognized sites in the state. From the top of the 315-foot granite outcropping on the very edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll be 2,280 feet above sea level, with 75-mile panoramic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure.
America’s Natural Wonders: Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
As the most popular destination in the state, the president namesake park contains the natural wonders of the Badlands, including the striking rock formations created by a combination of sandstone and clay. Evidence of the glaciers that once covered the area still remain. Grasslands, prairies, forests and natural springs round out the offerings here.
America’s Natural Wonders: Brandywine Falls, Ohio
The 65-foot Brandywine Falls were carved from Berea Sandstone 350 to 400 million years ago. Reached by a combination of boardwalk and wooden steps, the falls have a bridal veil appearance as they cascade down the Cuyahoga Valley. A 19th-century sawmill used to sit at the top of the falls and today a settler’s home serves as a bed and breakfast, built by the sawmill founder’s sons.
America’s Natural Wonders: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma
With more than 59,000 acres of mountains on a prairie, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is home to free-range American bison herds, prairie dogs, Texas Longhorn cattle, bobcats and coyotes. From the top of Mount Scott, you can take in the panorama of lakes, fantastic rock formations and endless hiking trails.
America’s Natural Wonders: Crater Lake, Oregon
With its deep blue waters, Crater Lake is one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon, formed by the collapse of an ancient volcano, Mt. Mazama. There are many ways to appreciate the lake, including biking or driving the 33-mile rim drive, hiking up to the top of a fire lookout tower or down to the water itself, doing a boat tour in summer, or skiing or snowshoeing around it in the winter.
America’s Natural Wonders: Pine Creek Gorge, Pennsylvania
Stretching 47 miles long and reaching depths of 1,450 feet, this gorge near Wellsboro is known unofficially as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. Two state parks—Leonard Harrison State Park and Colton Point State Park—offer visitors plenty of scenic overlooks and hiking opportunities. Kayaking, fishing and camping are other popular activities.
America’s Natural Wonders: Newport Cliff Walk, Rhode Island
The famous 3.5-mile Newport Cliff Walk offers sights ranging from rocky Rhode Island shores to many of Newport’s famous gilded mansions. Designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1975, it runs from Bailey’s Beach to First Beach, providing walkers with striking vistas, impressive tunnels and winding pathways.
America’s Natural Wonders: Angel Oak, South Carolina
The Angel Oak, on a remote part of St. Johns Island, is said to be the oldest living thing east of the Rocky Mountains. While some believe it to be as much as 1,500 years old, the tree is more likely 400 or 500 years. The magnificent oak stands approximately 65 feet tall and its canopy provides approximately 17,000 square feet of shade.
America’s Natural Wonders: Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota
The timbered mountains of the Black Hills National Forest extend 125 miles right into Wyoming. Rugged rock formations, canyons, grasslands, streams, lakes, unique caves and 450 miles of hiking trails are part of its attraction. Rising from adjacent grasslands into Ponderosa pine forests, the Black Hills are also great for camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing and wildlife viewing.
America’s Natural Wonders: Tennessee River Gorge, Tennessee
One of the unique natural treasures of the Southeast, the Tennessee River Gorge is 27,000 acres of land carved through the Cumberland Mountains by 26 miles of the Tennessee River. Whether biking, hiking, paddling or climbing the gorge, you can enjoy magnificent views and a terrific variety of plants, grasses, wildflowers and wildlife.
America’s Natural Wonders: Hamilton Pool Preserve, Texas
Texas Hill Country features this natural pool, formed thousands of years ago when the roof of earth above an underground river collapsed. What resulted is a camera-friendly grotto that attracts admirers from all over the globe. And given Texas’s summer heat, the cool shade of the cave and bald cypress trees by the water make the Hamilton Pool Preserve a popular swimming spot.
America’s Natural Wonders: Arches National Park, Utah
With an amazing diversity of shapes, forms, textures and contrasts, the Arches National Park offers an impressive collection of more than 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to teetering balanced rocks, huge fins and soaring pinnacles. Hikers, bikers, drivers and rafters will be awed by this “Holey Land.”
America’s Natural Wonders: Quechee Gorge, Vermont
Known as “Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon,” Quechee Gorge was carved from bedrock by glaciers during the Ice Age. Enjoy beautiful vistas 168 feet above the Ottaquechee River, hike trails along the mile-long chasm or take in a view overlooking the waterfalls while enjoying a picnic lunch—the choice is yours.
America’s Natural Wonders: Natural Bridge, Virginia
Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, the Natural Bridge was formed when a cavern collapsed. Local Monacan Indian folklore claims that during a battle it appeared as an escape route. And legend holds that a young George Washington surveyed the Natural Bridge site for Lord Fairfax, in 1750.
America’s Natural Wonders: Mount Rainier, Washington
Majestic Mount Rainier lives up to its original Native American name, “Tahoma,” which translates as “God’s Home.” Clad in 26 major glaciers and soaring 14,411 feet, it is one of the most massive mountains on Earth. Mount Rainier National Park also offers temperate rainforests, alpine meadows, rocky tundra, forested valleys, glaciers, hot springs, rivers, lakes and wildflowers.
America’s Natural Wonders: Cranberry Glades, West Virginia
In the southern Allegheny Mountains near Hillsboro, the Cranberry Glades include some 750 acres of peat bog and meadows that support plants common to northerly latitudes, such as cranberries, sphagnum mosses, skunk cabbages, and two carnivorous plants—sundews and pitcher plants. The glades are part of the headwaters of a popular trout stream, the Cranberry River.
America’s Natural Wonders: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
Named as a top place to visit by National Geographic Explorer magazine, this national park is an archipelago of 21 wilderness islands in the frigid waters of Lake Superior and more than a dozen miles of shoreline and pristine sandscapes. Explore old-growth forests, windswept beaches, cliffs and sea caves carved out over time by the lake surf.
America’s Natural Wonders: Old Faithful Geyser, Wyoming
Spanning parts of Wyoming and Montana, Yellowstone is the country’s oldest national park, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, with the world’s largest collection of geysers and hydrothermal features. Its most famous is the Old Faithful Geyser, whose regular eruptions last 1.5 to five minutes, and spout as high as 180 feet in the air.
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