The United States is renowned for its outstanding natural diversity. There’s so much of it, few of us ever get to see all of its natural wonders, too many of us never see any. To help you appreciate just how much the US has to offer and help your family see more of it, here is a list of staggering natural wonders in 16 states. Use it as a bucket list or just inspiration.
Alaska’s Natural Wonder
The most outstanding location in a state known for its beautiful, untouched nature must be Glacier Bay National Park. Tall white peaks drift silently through the deep blue icy waters. You see can the glaciers by land (hiking), sea (kayaking) or by air (helicopter tours), depending on the ages of your kids and your level of adventurousness.
California’s Natural Wonder
Few places in the country are quite as humbling as Sequoia National Forest, which boasts the world’s oldest and largest trees. Drive through tunnels carved out of downed trees, or camp in groves where trunks are easily more than 20-feet thick. The scale and age of these frees is sure to impress tiny tots and even the most jaded teen.
Georgia’s Natural Wonder
Georgia’s barrier islands are well-known tourist destinations, but Cumberland Island National Seashore is the standout because it remains utterly wild. Its 9,800 acres are covered in forests, marshes and beaches that are home to fascinating creatures like wild horses and endangered loggerhead turtles. history and nature are both highly engaging and kids will love the way wandering and discovering. Parents will like the ranger tours.
Arizona’s Natural Wonder
The Grand Canyon may be America’s only remaining true natural world wonder, but the state boasts other stunning rock formations, such as the Wave, a magnificent sandstone formation unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It’s in northern Arizona, near the Utah border. Visiting the wave takes some planning though;. they give only 20 permits a day for the state park where it sits. The lottery opens 4 months in advance and closes out instantly. If you aren’t lucky, visit some of the slot canyons around the state, which have similar striations.
Idaho’s Natural Wonder
Parents of teenage adventure-seekers would do well to follow Snake River as it winds for 50 miles through its canyon in southern Idaho. The waters here are perfect for long rafting trips, with deep gorges, water falls, white rapids and stunning scenery. Visit the spot where Evel Knievel jumped the canyon in 1974.
Indiana’s Natural Wonder
Lake Michigan is perhaps the most tourist-friendly of the Great Lakes, offering sandy shores and clean, blue waters. However, few know that its shores cut into the Dunes. These rolling sandy hills are three miles long and suffused with flora and fauna including more native orchid species than Hawaii has. Climbing on dunes can be harder work than you expect, and hot! So bring water and hats and make sure little kids have plenty of energy.
Kansas’ Natural Wonder
Oddly enough, the most majestic natural monument in Kansas is more or less a lack of one. Most of the United States once looked like the Tallgrass Prairie National Reserve: wide open space. Now, only 4% of the prairie remains, making these empty fields precious. Little House on the Prairie fans will love the opportunity to imagine what this part of the U.S. looked like when Laura and her family were making their way across and trying to settle it.
Kentucky’s Natural Wonder
The longest cave system in the world is the appropriately named Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. Visitors can explore much of its more than 390 miles of passages, spotting noteworthy features such as “Frozen Niagara,” “Fat Man’s Misery,” and “The Rotunda.”
Maryland’s Natural Wonder
Chesapeake Bay is an outrageously fertile estuary that provides Maryland with some of the best seafood in the country. The bay is also the home of Assateague Island National Seashore, which is home to more than 300 beautiful wild horses.
Minnesota’s Natural Wonder
It isn’t surprising to learn that Minnesota was treated roughly by the last ice age, but the glaciers’ gouges have created a water-lover’s paradise. The aptly named Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness boasts 190,000 acres of lakes, rivers and streams ripe for exploration. Just be forewarned: The water is chilly!
Hawaii’s Natural Wonder
Haleakala National Park on Maui offers Hawaii’s tallest peak, a volcanic landscape rising to just over 10,000 feet out of lush rain forest. Known for centuries as the House of the Sun, the Haleakala Crater is the best place on the island to catch a sunrise. You can drive to the peak, hike and camp, either way be on the look out for unique birds you won’t find anywhere else.
Mississippi’s Natural Wonder
More than 36 million years ago, an entire forest washed down a river, deposited itself in Mississippi and slowly turned to rock. Today, you can visit that stunning, ancient Mississippi Petrified Forest.
Nebraska’s Natural Wonder
Rising straight out of the flat, featureless land of Nebraska, Chimney Rock National Historic Site stands as an austere monument to the wonder of nature. More than 300 feet tall, the landmark was a welcome, recognizable landmark to pioneers heading west to Oregon and California and has attracted visitors for longer than that.
Nevada’s Natural Wonder
If you can pull yourself away from the allure of Las Vegas, you can explore the gorgeous Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The natural rock walls jut 3,000 feet into the air, providing ample opportunities for adventure, and exploring outdoors will keep you from losing your vacation money at roulette. Red Rocks bakes in the Nevada sun, go early or late in the day, bring plenty of water, and keep an eye on kids if you plan to hike or climb around to make sure they don’t get too much sun.
New Mexico’s Natural Wonder
The landscape is so bright and clean it’s hard to believe that White Sands National Monument, another National Park, isn’t perpetually covered in snow. That cool white stuff is actually just sand. It’s made of gypsum, which remain cool to the touch, unlike other desolate sun-drenched, burning dune-scapes.
New York’s Natural Wonder
Most people believe that Niagara Falls dwells entirely across the northern border, but two of the waterfalls that make up the Niagara system are in New York and are a state park . Admittedly, the more interesting tourist activities are on the Canadian side, but you can spot Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls without a passport.