The United States is an enormous country full of some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the world. As one of its national songs says, “from the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam,” the natural beauty of the United States of America is a huge point of pride to Americans, and deservedly so. Every single one of America’s states contains a natural attraction worth visiting; but as that might months or years to accomplish, here are six of the best:
1. The Grand Canyon
Located in northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon is one of the world’s most inspiring and spectacular landscapes. The immense canyon is one mile deep, 18 miles wide, and approximately 277 miles in length, with 2 billion years of earth’s history displayed on its jagged walls. Every year, the majesty and beauty of the canyon changes the way many visitors understand and relate to the natural world. Don’t miss it!
How to see it: Take a drive through the park with a Grand Canyon tour guide, stopping at overlook points on the way, or walk over the canyon’s walls on the skywalk—a walkway 4,000 feet above the canyon’s floor. For real adventurers, ride a mule or hike down the canyon’s narrow trails to the base.
Yosemite National Park in Southern California is nothing less than jaw dropping. It’s possible to see a greater variety of nature than what many people will see in an entire year simply by observing a small area of this park. Yosemite Valley holds ten waterfalls (each over 500 feet high), the most famous of which is the incredible Yosemite Falls, which is 2,425 feet high. The dozens of hiking trails through the park’s pine and oak forests, along with the diverse wildlife, which includes bears, birds, and mountain lions, never fail to enchant and excite visitors.
How to see it: Whether camping inside the park or staying in one of the many hotels nearby, to really experience Yosemite, spending a few days in the area is a must. Possible ways to explore the park include on foot, by bike, or on horseback! If you get tired of roaming, just find a place to sit back and watch professional rock climbers scale the valley’s towering granite walls that the park is so famous for.
If it’s only possible to visit one national park in the United States, make it Yellowstone National Park, which sits atop an ancient super volcano and stretches all the way across Wyoming and bits of Montana and Idaho. The oldest national park in the world, Yellowstone features some of the country’s mightiest mountains and canyons, two rivers, and both living and petrified forests. It is also literally crawling with wildlife native to the region, including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. It’s most famous for being the home of the world’s largest geysers—hot water springs which erupt out of the ground—‘Old Faithful’ being the most famous of these for its regular eruptions.
How to see it: For a one-day visit, take the park’s main Grand Loop drive, a 140-mile scenic route past some of Yellowstone's most famous sites. On a longer stay, take some time to explore some of the parks many hiking trails—the trails in the park’s central Hayden Valley offer the best chances of seeing the park’s largest animals (elk, moose, and bison). As Yellowstone is popular and can get crowded, be sure to get started on your hikes and sightseeing as early in the day as possible.
4. Niagara Falls
Considered by many to be one of the top natural wonders in the world, visiting Niagara Falls in upstate New York unfailingly leaves visitors in awe. Although not the tallest in the country, the power, rush, speed, and roar of this mammoth of a waterfall, which can transport 168,000 m3 of water every minute, is impossible to grasp without experiencing it firsthand. Much like the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls inspires a rare appreciation of the raw, uncontrollable sway of nature in many of its visitors. This site is not to be skipped!
How to See It: Walk along nearby the top of the falls, or take a half-hour tour beneath them on the famous Maid of the Mist ferry—ponchos are provided. While there, visit one of the area’s museums to learn about the history of the falls, or to keep with the nature theme, stop by the Aquarium of Niagara.
5. Arches National Park, Utah
One of America’s most dramatic landscapes is that of Arches National Park in Utah, which contains more naturally formed arches than anywhere else in the world. The mysterious arch formations showcased in the park are actually made of red sandstone, and are thought to have accumulated 150 million years ago. The park is also extraordinary for its landscape’s dramatic extremes and contrasts of color, temperature, and texture.
How to See It:
Due to its size and extremely hot temperatures in the summer, Arches National Park is best seen by car and by taking short hikes. Visit the main sites and trails, including Park Avenue, Double Arch, Delicate Arch, and Fiery furnace, with an Arches National Park Tour Guide.
6. Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii
Known to locals as the home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, 4,091-foot high Kilauea volcano is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Kilauea has been continuously erupting since 1983—one of the longest eruptions on earth—producing stunning but problematic lava flows in the area.
How to See It: The easiest ways to see Kilauea and its dormant neighbor Mauna Kea volcano are by car or by foot. By car, take Crater Rim Drive, an 11-mile road around the peak of Kilauea, for dramatic views of the volcanic landscape. Before visiting, be sure to research if there’s been any recent volcanic activity, as roads will close in dangerous conditions. There are also numerous hikes one can take in the park. Although the views on foot are not as striking as the ones from Crater Rim Drive, hikes offer the chance to investigate the many cragged volcanic rocks that dot the volcano’s slopes. For the best, up-close look at the volcano, try a helicopter tour on Big Island.