The Natural Wonders of America
Experiencing theme park thrills, learning about the past at a historical site or partaking in foodie delights are great reasons we travel, but nothing can compare to the wonder that comes from seeing America’s natural wonders. Every corner of the country holds some form of impressive natural attraction, and each state has one that is particularly fascinating.
Alabama: Wetumpka Meteor Crater
There are only a handful of above-ground meteor impact craters in the world and this “star wound” in Wetumpka is one of them. Uniquely, despite millions of years of weathering and exposure to the elements, the crater walls are still plainly visible.
Alaska: Glacier Bay
While Alaska is essentially one big natural wonder, Glacier Bay offers a microcosm of its northern beauty. From glacier-lined fjords to snow-capped peaks, natural inspiration is around every corner in this national park.
Arizona: Havasu Falls
You can’t discuss natural wonders of Arizona without mentioning the Grand Canyon, but the haunting beauty of Havasu Falls might just be the most fascinating feature of the park. The juxtaposition of this waterfall emptying into a pool of blue water against the backdrop of the orange rocks is truly special, making all the effort to get there well worth it.
Arkansas: Hawksbill Crag
Even before the age of social media, people flocked from far-and-wide to be photographed standing on this unique Natural State rock formation. In addition to being one of the symbols of Arkansas, Hawksbill Crag rewards hikers with a striking view of the surrounding hills—and yes, you’re going to want to Instagram it.
California: The Giant Forest
This section of Sequoia & Kings National Park is home to the most impressive group of gargantuan trees, including the largest living tree in the world: General Sherman.
Colorado: Garden of the Gods
The name pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? This park located outside of Colorado Springs is home to spindly and chunky rock formations that will leave you breathless, especially when you catch a view of the rocks with Pikes Peak in the background.
Connecticut: Kent Falls
The Litchfield Hills offer some of Connecticut’s most lovely scenery and Kent Falls are the region’s crown jewel. Water dramatically tumbles over 250 feet here, finishing its journey in a picturesque reflecting pool.
Delaware: Cape Henlopen
This cape is lined with soft beaches and dramatic dunes, offering the quintessential First State coastal experience. Especially fascinating is Great Dune, which towers over the sea and used to be the home of a beloved local lighthouse.
Florida: The Everglades
A landscape like nothing else, this captivating “river of grass” in South Florida is home to flora and fauna found nowhere else in America. The wetlands slowly flow from north to south, creating a range of different habitats (everything from mangroves and sawgrass prairies to hardwood hammocks) along the way.
Georgia: Tallulah Gorge
At around two miles long and approximately 1000 feet deep, Tallulah Gorge is one of the most impressive canyons east of the Mississippi. The star attraction is the famous suspension bridge, which provides birds-eye views of the rushing water and waterfalls below.
Hawaii: Napali Coast
There’s magic where the mountains meet the sea on the island of Kauai. Lush, otherworldly cliffs plunge towards the Pacific, revealing secret beaches and dreamy waterfalls.
Idaho: Craters of the Moon
Step foot on a lunar landscape without ever leaving the Lower 48 at this truly unique national monument. Lava that oozed to the surface ages ago has left a modern-day terrain covered by dried up lava rivers and striking cinder cones that will transport you far, far away.
Illinois: Garden of the Gods
It might not be quite as divine as its cousin in Colorado, but the Land of Lincoln’s rock garden is still enchanting. These unique formations are found in the Shawnee National Forest and are a playground for hikers and photographers alike.
Indiana: Indiana Dunes
The beaches, dunes and wetlands of Indiana Dunes were shaped by wind, water and time, painting a fascinating geological picture of northern Indiana.
Iowa: Maquoketa Caves
A wonderland of caves surrounded by dramatic bluffs and formations made of limestone, Maquoketa Caves will challenge all you thought you knew about the landscape of the Iowa.
Kansas: Monument Rocks
A “Stonehenge” of sedimentary rock formations in western Kansas, Monument Rocks (also known as Cathedral Rocks) is a sight to behold. These giant rock formations are forever being changed by Mother Nature, so much so that regular visitors often notice small changes in the stones.
Kentucky: Mammoth Cave
The world’s longest known cave system, Mammoth Cave offers a glimpse of a bewitching underground world. In addition to the fascinating geological formations, the cave also offers the chance to appreciate what total darkness (and the sweet relief of natural light) truly feels like.
Louisiana: Barataria Preserve
Swamps, marshes, bayous and forests fill this wild nature preserve, showing off the beauty of Louisiana’s wild wetlands. The preserve is home to hundreds of animals and plants, most famously alligators and wildflowers.
Maine: Gulf Hagas
One of the many contenders for the “Grand Canyon of the East” title, this gorge also features a series of spectacular waterfalls. Arguably the best views of its splendor come from the path that follows the top of the gorge.
Maryland: Calvert Cliffs
The Calvert Cliffs cover 20 miles of sweeping Chesapeake Bay coastline and hold millions of years of earth’s history within their walls. The rocky crags are loaded with fossils of prehistoric sea creatures and (most famously) scores of shark teeth.
Massachusetts: Cape Cod National Seashore
This 40-mile stretch of shoreline is a microcosm of all that is special about Cape Cod. Immaculate light brown sand, marshes, cranberry bogs and ponds all feature in this romantic landscape.
Michigan: Pictured Rocks
These fantastical, weather-worn sandstone cliffs tower over the waters of Lake Superior. Streaked with a kaleidoscopic range of colors due to water reacting with the rock, the rocks stretch for over 15 miles and feature numerous sea caves, stone spires and rock arches.
Minnesota: Gooseberry Falls
Ancient lava flows that morphed into basalt rock are the backdrop for cascades of water like nothing else in the state. Gooseberry Falls is the anchor of a gorgeous state park full of trails and lots of scenic views of Lake Superior.
Mississippi: Tishomingo State Park
At the base of the Appalachians in northeast Mississippi, this state park offers a diverse range of landscapes and natural features. Paramount on the list are a peaceful lake, giant rocks, lush ferns & wildflowers and sections of the Natchez Trace Parkway, one of America’s most scenic road trips.
Missouri: Elephant Rocks
Gargantuan granite boulders are the star of the show at this Show-Me State wonder. The massive rocks look as though they have been whimsically scattered by a giant, and like clouds, the formations seem to resemble different things to different people.
Montana: The Glaciers of Glacier National Park
The numbers of glaciers in GNP are slowly dwindling, but those that remain still have the power to inspire. Jackson Glacier can be viewed from the famous Going-to-the-Sun road, while others like Sperry Glacier and the Grinnell Glacier reward those who hike into the depths of the park.
Nebraska: Chimney Rock
Standing nearly 500 feet above the valley below, this spire made of weathered volcanic ash and clay was one of the recognizable natural landmarks for pioneers. It has grown into a Nebraska state symbol and now has a museum at its base that pays tribute to those brave souls who headed west.
Nevada: Valley of Fire
Home to 40,000 acres of bright red sandstone strikingly juxtaposed against a backdrop of tan and gray sandstone, Valley of Fire is a fantastical world of geologic wonders. The area is also home to ancient rock art, which offers an insight into the people who once called the area home.
New Hampshire: Franconia Notch
This majestic mountain pass in the White Mountains that serves as the gateway to a wonderland of gorges, waterfalls, lakes and unique features like the picturesque pothole pictured above called the Basin.
New Jersey: Delaware Water Gap
While it shares this wonder with Pennsylvania, even half of “the Gap” is enough to make it the star natural attraction of the Garden State. It took millions of years for the Delaware River to carve its way through the surrounding mountains and the rewards were well worth the wait.
New Mexico: Shiprock
This otherwordly volcanic plug is said to resemble a ship on the high seas or a “rock with wings” and there is nothing else quite like it in the state. The rock is considered sacred by the Navajo, and so it should only be photographed and admired from a distance.
New York: Niagara Falls
Born out of the Ice Age, the most famous waterfalls in North America are a miracle of geology. Retreating and re-advancing ice along with violent encounters of water and rock are just two of the factors that have led to just a thunderous cascade.
North Carolina: Mount Mitchell
The highest point east of the Mississippi, Mount Mitchell is a wonder to behold. It’s not just the sweeping views from the summit that will impress you, the flora and fauna found on this mountain— more reminiscent of northern locales—will surely surprise.
North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
From painted canyons and prairie dog towns to lunar-like, cannonball-shaped rock formations and scenic drives galore, this national park shows off the natural side of North Dakota.
Ohio: Brandywine Falls
Cuyahoga Valley National Park may be one of the most underrated national parks in the country, and one of its stars is stunning Brandywine Falls. The falls dramatically tumble down 60-feet of rock and look stunning in all seasons.
Oklahoma: Turner Falls
Things can feel downright tropical at Turner Falls, as the state’s largest waterfall is surrounded by crystal clear pools perfect for summertime swimming. Hiking, fishing and cave exploring are also popular ways to appreciate this beautiful section of the Arbuckle Mountains.
Oregon: Crater Lake
The deepest lake in the United States, Crater Lake was born out of a dramatic volcano collapse. The empty caldera then filled with water, resulting in a one-of-a-kind feature, which is best appreciated on the breathtaking drive around the rim.
Pennsylvania: Ringing Rocks
One of the more peculiar attractions on the list, the stones in Ringing Rocks State Park may not be all that impressive at first glance, but if you strike one of the stones with a hammer, you’ll hear something truly special. The sound is melodic, bell-like and truly unique.
Rhode Island: Mohegan Bluffs
Towering over the Atlantic Ocean and a small stretch of beach below, Mohegan Bluffs is Rhody at its most beautiful. Simply put: no trip to Block Island is complete without seeing the bluffs.
South Carolina: Angel Oak
This unique tree on Johns Island near Charleston is estimated to be over 400 years old. Even more impressive than its age is its size (it owns a circumference of approximately 25 feet) and the fact the oak’s spindly arms stretch out in all directions.
South Dakota: The Badlands
Lunar. Martian. Otherworldly. All adjectives apply to this famous stretch of weather-worn rock. These badlands are the result of layers upon layers of rock being lashed by the elements, and remarkably, they are still eroding at the pace of an inch per year.
Tennessee: Clingmans Dome
This peak is the highest point in the state and the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The top of the mountain is crowned with an observation deck, which offers 360-degree views of surrounding Smoky Mountain splendor.
Texas: Palo Duro Canyon
Only in a country as rich with natural beauty as the USA could a place as stunning as this fly under the radar. The country’s second-biggest canyon, Palo Duro comes in at around 120 miles long, averages around six miles wide and is a sight to behold.
Utah: Bryce Amphitheater
The entirety of Bryce Canyon National Park is inspiring, but this section (pictured above) is home to the park’s signature collection of cliffs, rock castles and hoodoos. Sunrise and sunset are the times to see the amphitheater light up in a range of vibrant colors.
Vermont: Quechee Gorge
Cut by receding glaciers (like many of our finest attractions), Quechee Gorge is the biggest canyon in the Green Mountain State. The area is crisscrossed by trails that offer views of the gorge from a myriad of angles.
Virginia: Natural Bridge
People have been drawn to this geological oddity since the 1700s, so much so that the county where Natural Bridge is located was called Rockbridge. The formation is now a national historic landmark and looks as majestic as it did during its heyday when it was worshiped by Monacan Indians, visited by presidents and regularly painted by artists.
Washington: Columbia River Gorge
Washington may share this natural wonder with Oregon, but its slice is impressive enough to be its most fascinating natural landmark. Ironically, some of the best views of the Washington side of the gorge are from Oregon, where you can see the river carve its path through the mountains in all its majesty.
West Virginia: Blackwater Falls
Falling conifer tree needles give this waterfall its sinister name, but up close, it’s as pretty as can be. The water cascades 50-feet to the Blackwater River, where it continues its journey through a series of scenic canyons.
Wisconsin: Apostle Islands
An archipelago of offshore islands in Lake Superior, the Apostles are as intriguing as they are idyllic. A kayak is the best way to get close-up views of the rocks and their caves, or you can wait until the lake freezes in winter and explore by foot.
Wyoming: Devil’s Tower
Composed of rare volcanic rock, Devil’s Tower still puzzles scientists. While they still cannot fully agree on how it was formed, what is certain is that its immense columns of igneous rock that line the tower are the most impressive in the world.
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