You don’t need to go very far to find stunning natural beauty in the United States. With approximately 3.8 million square miles in size, this country has many unique, magical places to visit, especially for nature lovers. Luckily for you, your career can take you there!
Sights like the Grand Canyon, the Mendenhall Ice Caves, and the soaring peaks of the Smoky Mountains never fail to meet even the highest expectations. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a collection of underrated destinations. If you want to explore the best of what nature has to offer, here are the top 6 places to cross off your bucket list.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Oregon is a destination full of natural wonders, and the entire state could be considered a National Park. However, the Columbia River Gorge is the largest National Scenic Area in America for a reason.
Only 30 miles east of Portland, this river canyon is 80 miles long, up to 4,000 feet deep, and offers a variety of hiking and mountain biking trails and over 90 waterfalls, including Horsetail Falls and Ponytail Falls. One iconic stop on the gorge is the Multnomah Falls, the tallest waterfall in the state and widely considered the most beautiful. You can explore several waterfalls on a half-day group tour, visit the Multnomah Falls as part of a full-day winery tour, or even take to the skies and enjoy a scenic flight over Multnomah Falls!
Shoshone Falls, Idaho
Known as the “Niagra of the West,” Shoshone Falls is one of the largest natural waterfalls in the US, at 212 feet tall and 900 feet wide. Never deemed a national park, the land was donated to the City of Twin Falls in 1932, stipulating that the land be maintained as a public park.
The falls offer a unique blend of recreational facilities, including playgrounds, hiking trails, picnic areas, a boat ramp, a swimming area, and a scenic overlook. Spring, when the snowpack begins to melt, is the best time to see Shoshone Falls, and the park is open from dawn to dusk.
The Adirondacks, New York
The Adirondack Regions span six million acres and feature over 100 welcoming communities, mountains, lakes, verdant valleys, and steep cliffs. The Adirondacks offer the highest peaks in New York State, thousands of miles of hiking trails and canoe routes, and numerous scenic highways that draw visitors each year. The Whiteface Region is the most popular for Whiteface Mountain, a former Olympic venue, and is legendary for providing an unparalleled outdoor experience.
Not only will you find opportunities for skiing and snowboarding at Whiteface Mountain in winter, but spring and summer offer hiking and boating at Saranac Lake and water rafting and tube rides at Ausable Chasm. There are also cozy indoor experiences that allow you to take in the scenery and experience the culture of the many communities in the surrounding area.
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Shaped by millions of years of water and wind erosion, Antelope Canyon was named for the herds of pronghorn antelope that once roamed the area. This natural sculpture is known for its mystical wavy rocks—and it is one of the most photographed destinations in the Southwest. During the day, the sun creates light shafts that reach the canyon floor and illuminates the pink, red, orange, and gold patterns on the canyon walls.
The Upper Antelope Canyon tour is more popular because more sunlight enters the canyon, and the walls reach up to 120 feet. The Lower Antelope Canyon tour is equally impressive, absorbing visitors in the swirling sandstone walls. This canyon is a sacred space in the heart of the Navajo Nation, a Native American territory in northeastern Arizona. As such, you will need to take a guided tour with a Navajo guide, which is offered year-round.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Located in the westernmost part of the Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas is a cluster of seven small islands and protected coral reefs. This archipelago is home to exotic fish, coral reefs, shipwrecks, and Fort Jefferson, the largest (yet unfinished) brick structure in the U.S. that was used as a prison during the Civil War. Take advantage of the area’s natural beauty by indulging in the endless opportunities to swim, snorkel, bird watch, fish, and simply lounge on the beach.
While the name does say “dry,” 99% of the park is underwater and measures 104 acres, smaller than some national parks. Since the islands can be reached by boat, seaplane, or ferry, the park only attracts around 60,000 visitors each year.
Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana
If you want a hefty dose of wildlife, there’s nowhere better to go. Even larger than Everglades National Park in Florida, the Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana is the largest swamp in the US, with over 1.4 million acres of marshland. This basin spans 150 miles from the Mississippi River Valley to the Gulf of Mexico and is home to diverse wildlife, including black bears, alligators, roseate spoonbills, and cypress trees. The Atchafalaya Basin is five times more productive than any other river basin in North America, nurtures more than 100 different fish and aquatic life species, and contains the largest nesting concentration of bald eagles in the south-central United States.
America’s diverse topography makes it a treasure trove of unique and unusual places. There are so many natural wonders to explore and appreciate. Are you excited to cross one of these locations off your bucket list?
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