15 Jaw-Dropping Natural Wonders You'll Only See in America
WITH SIGHTS LIKE THESE, WHO NEEDS THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD?
For most people, the Seven Wonders of the World are on top of the bucket list, but a jaunt halfway across the world is a tall order. After all, who has the budget or vacation time to just drop everything and book a flight to Cairo? Well, if you want to save on time and money yet still catch a sight so stunning you'll have to pick your jaw off the floor, there's a solution: just stay stateside.
Unlike the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, or any of the other Seven Wonders—the most breathtaking relics in America happen to be totally, 100 percent au natural. Oh, and unlike the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, they all exist without dispute. Here, as proof, are the top 15 most natural wonders in the United States.
Delicate Arch; Arches National Park, Utah
Where to fly: Salt Lake International Airport (SLC)
Just a simple drive through the orange and red rocks in the state of Utah provides some of the most magnificent views. The next time you find yourself on a road trip out west, be sure to make a pitstop at Arches National Park in Utah, where, besides compelling hikes with sweeping views of the rugged landscape, you'll score the chance to revel in one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the entire country: the Delicate Arch.
Standing at 52 feet high, the arch is made out of Entrada Sandstone and has remained a beacon of the state of Utah—from the cowboys of the 19th century declaring it a welcoming landmark to Olympic athletes taking part in the torch relay, passing under the arch. To see it for yourself, you'll need to trek three miles uphill. Though take it from us, the view is well worth the effort.
Pro tip: If you're visiting in the warmer months of the year, be sure to retain the full glory of the surrounding landscape with a stay at Under Canvas Moab, where upscale safari tents open to reveal stunning views in the middle of Moab.
Yosemite Falls; Yosemite National Park, California
Where to fly: Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT)
A trip to Yosemite isn't complete without a hike to discover Yosemite Falls, perhaps one of the grander natural wonders in the park. Be sure to go in May, when the falls are at their peak flow. To get to the cascade, considered one of the tallest in the country, you can either opt to access the lower falls with a simple one-mile hike, or you can channel your more adventurous side with a strenuous all-day hike to the top—either way, you're in for a treat.
Pro tip: To prolong your view, book a room at the Yosemite Valley Lodge. The digs are directly in front of the falls and offer chic dining experiences, a pool, and plenty of other accommodations to make your stay that much more memorable.
Crater Lake; Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Where to fly: Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (MFR)
Located in south-central Oregon, Crater Lake is truly a spectacular sight to behold. Famous for its deep blue color and water clarity, tourists from all over the globe make the trek to this remote part of the Pacific Northwest to pay a visit to this national treasure. With a depth of 1,949 feet, this lake is the deepest in the United States. But what makes it especially appealing is that visitors can actually swim in it, by following the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which is slightly over a mile long and wraps around the lake, giving hikers impressive views of the surrounding lakeshore. Visitors to the lake can also fish, hike, camp, and go on boat tours during the lake's warmer seasons.
Pro tip: Nestled on the southwestern rim of Crater Lake is the Crater Lake Lodge, built in 1915. More than a century later, the impeccable stone terrace and panoramic views of the lake make your stay incredible during any time of the year.
Antelope Canyon; Page, Arizona
Where to fly: Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) or Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
If you decide to make the trek to this remote set of caves in Arizona (and you should), it's best to do so in the summer, when the light hits the red earthen walls at just the right angle to add spectacular depth to this destination. Millions of years ago, Antelope Canyon was created by the erosion of Navajo Sandstone—mostly due to excessive flooding. To see this natural wonder for yourself, you'll need to book a guided tour. Whether said tour focuses on photography, hiking, or geology is up to you.
Pro tip: While you're in the area, be sure to pay a visit to nearby Horseshoe Bend, which promises spectacular views after hiking through only 1.25 miles of agreeable (and beautiful) desert terrain.
Denali Peak; Denali National Park, Alaska
Where to fly: Fairbanks International Airport (FAI)
With a summit elevation of 20,310 feet, Denali, located outside of Fairbanks, is the tallest mountain peak in North America. This infamous mountain peak also serves as the centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve, one of the more frequented national parks in America. Most are advised to visit Denali National Park during its summer season that runs from late May to early September, as any other season bears a risk of the winter elements affecting your travel plans. No matter where you hike in Denali National Park, you'll have stunning views of the peak—so be sure to dedicate at least a day to explore the park.
Pro tip: For those of you who may want a more relaxed retreat from the perils of the wilderness, look no further than the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, which offers a luxurious stay among the most beautiful scenery in the country. From upmarket offerings (dinner theatre, hot tub retreats, on-site dining) to outdoor excursions that are sure to test your adrenaline, this stay offers visitors the best of two worlds.
Garden of the Gods; Colorado Springs, Colorado
Where to fly: Denver International Airport (DEN)
Situated inside of Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods has been a popular tourist destination for outdoor enthusiasts for decades. Millions of years ago, these natural rock formations were caused by a geologic upheaval along a fault line—and ever since, indigenous tribes and tourists from all around the world have reveled in this impressive display of ancient rock formations. Compared to other parks of its size, Garden of the Gods is relatively easy to navigate via car and foot, with several hiking trails winding through the park.
Pro tip: While you're in Colorado Springs, it's essential that you pay a visit to one of the breweries that have changed the landscape of the city's dining culture. For a taste of the best beer brewed in the city, have a pint at the Bristol Brewing Company—an atmospheric pub that offers the public tours of their facility.
Hamilton Pool Preserve; Dripping Springs, Texas
Where to fly: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
With just a quarter-mile walk to this scenic natural pool from the visitor's center, it's incredibly easy for everyone to enjoy the Hamilton Pool Preserve in Dripping Springs, Texas. The best time to visit this natural pool and waterfall is in the warmer months from March through November, when visitors are always guaranteed a swim through the pool's clear waters. In this collapsed grotto and canyon, visitors can either take a swim and enjoy the scenic views from the water or take a hike around the park to revel in the bounty of natural elements that make this destination one of the most beautiful in the country.
Pro tip: Located only a few miles away from the Hamilton Pool Preserve in Dripping Springs, the Liney Moon resort is a hotel and venue space that brings together the charm of the south and the sophisticated architecture and accommodations desired by guests.
Mendenhall Ice Caves; Juneau, Alaska
Where to fly: Juneau International Airport (JNU)
Though the only way to pay a visit to the Mendenhall Ice Caves is through a private tour, taking in this spectacular sight is well worth the money invested. This 12-mile-long glacier features out-of-this-world blue ice caves hidden inside of its interior—and is open to guests who dare to explore its depths. The tours available often offer all-day forays into the glacier and surrounding pools, complete even with a scenic paddle across the serene glacial meltwater lake.
Pro tip: Save some time to explore the Glacier Gardens in the stunning Tongass rainforest to see an extensive array of manicured plants and native flowers.
Multnomah Falls; Multnomah County, Oregon
Where to fly: Portland International Airport (PDX)
It's possible to visit Multnomah Falls—located just outside of Portland, Oregon—without hiking miles to its epicenter. In fact, you can actually just drive into the visitor's parking lot and walk a few hundred feet to the base of the waterfall. For an even closer view of the falls, visitors can climb the 100 feet to reach Benson Bridge, which is located at the base of its first tier. For the best photos, head to the falls in autumn when the colors of the season transform the surrounding landscape.
Pro tip: Even if you haven't worn a bridal veil in years, you'll still enjoy your time spent at the Bridal Veil Lodge Bed and Breakfast, a quaint resort offering spacious patios and serene views of the forest.
White Sands National Monument; Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico
Where to fly: El Paso International Airport (ELP)
Like many other parts of the west, there's an ancient stillness to the White Sands National Monument. Existing as the world's largest gypsum dune field, the landscape extends for an impressive 275 square miles in the middle of a remote part of New Mexico. Notably, the park is also one of the most dog-friendly adventure destinations in America—meaning that you can explore the park with your canine pal.
Pro tip: Located a few miles away, Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces is a posh hotel offering Spanish Colonial-inspired decor, a spa, a nightclub, and a pool.
Saguaro National Park; Tucson, Arizona
Where to fly: Tucson International Airport (TUS)
Home to the nation's largest cactus, the giant saguaros visible in Saguaro National Park have become a symbol of the American West, beckoning a sense of rustic adventure to travelers all over the world. More than any other location in the United States, this national park represents all of the beautiful features of the American plants—complete with its native plants and animals. To view these cactuses in person, simply cruise down Cactus Forest Drive. And if you really want a killer Insta post, be sure to do so when the sun is setting and the orange light covers the desert in a magnificent, magical glow.
Pro tip: For a more luxurious retreat from your desert travels, book a room at the Omni Tucson National Resort, which offers guests a truly immersive experience with a golf course, spa, two outdoor pools, three restaurants, and a fitness room—all with panoramas of the Arizona desert.
Devils Tower National Monument; Devils Tower, Wyoming
Where to fly: Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP)
Located in the middle of a rather desolate part of Wyoming, the Devils Tower is a looming force to be reckoned with, inspiring stories by native tribes and even a starring role in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This destination, with the even parallel cracks splitting its surface, has become a popular spot for traditional rock climbing—and the view from the top makes this climb totally worth it in the end. For those afraid of heights, however, you can access the base of Devils Tower by hiking the 1.3-mile loop that surrounds the distinct geological feature.
Pro tip: With access points across numerous parts of the state, a visit to the Black Hills National Forest is an easy detour on a road trip. With 1.2 million acres of forested mountains, there are numerous hiking trails and adventurous expeditions offered for travelers of all kinds.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Where to fly: Hilo International Airport (ITO)
Adrenaline junkies: Have you ever felt the desire to be up close and personal with active volcanoes? Well, your dreams will come true when you pay a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, conveniently located on the state's Big Island. To visit the active site of the Kilauea volcano, you can either hike the Crater Rim Trail to easily access the stunning scenic vistas, desert terrain, and lush rain forests, or simply take the drive to the volcano's summit in the safety of your car.
Pro tip: To remain close to the scenic craters, book your room at the aptly named Volcano House, a hotel built in 1846 that offers a lounge, a restaurant, and sweeping views of the craters.
Grand Prismatic Spring; Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Where to fly: Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (FAT)
Located in Yosemite National Park, the Grand Prismatic Spring is just one of many natural wonders that inspire visitors every day inside of the park. The rainbow-colored hot spring is actually the largest in America (about as deep as a 10-story building) and the third largest in the entire world. Best of all, it's only a short hike to see this spectacular sight.
Pro tip: For avid wildlife fans, booking a private Yellowstone wildlife tour will prove to be incredibly rewarding—especially considering the fact that they can tailor such tours to include the wildlife that interests you the most.
Mammoth Cave; Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
Where to fly: Louisville International Airport (SDF)
Mammoth Cave National Park boasts a series of caves that are actually the longest in the world, spanning an impressive 400 miles long. Visitors can experience Mammoth Cave in a number of different ways, from tours of the "Frozen Niagara" to historic and geologic tours.
Pro tip: Find peace of mind at the Serenity Hill Bed and Breakfast, which offers a country ambiance with immense gardens and a spacious front porch. And for more majestic caves that won't require a passport, here are The 23 Most Magical Caves in the United States.