The U.S. is one of the most beautiful and scenic countries in the world and is home to picturesque mountains, deserts, volcanoes, lakes and coastlines.
These beautiful locations are considered some of the best places to visit in the U.S. and are popular tourist destinations.
The following is a list of some of the most beautiful places in the U.S.:
Monument Valley in Arizona/Utah:
Monument Valley is a region of the Colorado Plateau, on the Arizona/Utah border, that features beautiful sandstone buttes, the largest of which stands 1,000 feet tall, which tower over the valley.
In 2019, an article on CNN.com listed Monument Valley as one of the 25 most beautiful places in the world and director John Ford called it “the most complete, beautiful, and peaceful place on earth” after filming his movie Stagecoach there in the 1930s.
The valley and buttes were carved by meandering rivers and are composed of three layers of sedimentary rock: organ rock shale, de Chelly shale and Shinarump Conglomerate.
The colors of the rock range from a vivid red color, which comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone, to a darker, blue-gray rock, which comes from manganese oxide.
The valley has been featured in many movies and television shows, such as Easy Rider, Stagecoach, Westworld, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Lone Ranger and Mission Impossible, and as a result, has become an iconic image of the American west.
The valley is located in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and is accessible from U.S. Highway 163.
Denali National Park in Alaska:
Denali National Park is a park in Alaska that features a mountain, known as Denali, which stands at 20,310 feet above sea level, making it the highest mountain in North America and the highest point in Alaska.
An article on CNN.com listed Denali National Park as one of the 25 most beautiful places in the world, Country Living magazine named it one of the most beautiful national parks in America, Reader’s Digest listed it in its article on the most scenic nature getaways in every state and the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association named it one of the 10 beautiful places to see from the air.
The upper half of Denali is permanently covered with snow and many glaciers, some which are more than 30 miles long, making it picturesque year round.
The mountain, which is a part of the Alaska Range, is primarily made of granite, a hard rock that is resistant to erosion, which is why the mountain has retained its high peak without eroding.
The park has been a popular tourist destination since it was established in 1917.
Big Sur in California:
Big Sur is a section of rugged coastline between San Simeon and Carmel Highlands that features the Santa Lucia Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
An article in the Washington Times once called Big Sur “one of the most beautiful coastlines anywhere in the world, an isolated stretch of road, mythic in reputation,” the New York Times wrote that it is “one of the most stunning meetings of land and sea in the world” and an article on CNN.com listed it as one of 16 of the world’s best coastlines.
The area also features redwood forests, mountains, beaches, a rocky coast, the Bixby Creek bridge, the Point Sur Lightstation and numerous state parks.
Horseshoe Bend in Arizona:
The Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe-shaped incised meander of the Colorado River in Glen’s Canyon.
An article on CNN.com listed the Horseshoe Bend as one of the 25 most beautiful places in the world.
The walls of the bend are made of mudstone, calcite, limestone and Navajo sandstone. The scenic overlook at the bend has a 1,000 foot drop to the river below, which is tinged with a blue-green color.
The park has long been a popular tourist destination but the number of visitors to the site have nearly doubled in recent years due in part to increased awareness of the bend as a result of social media sites like Instagram.
Maroon Bells in Colorado:
The Maroon Bells are two peaks, known as Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak, in the Elk Mountains in Colorado.
Reader’s Digest listed the Maroon Bells in its article on the most scenic nature getaways in every state and Outside Magazine named it one of the 25 best hikes in the world.
The peaks are both about 14,000 feet tall and are a part of the Rocky Mountain Range. Unlike other mountains in the Rockies, the Maroon Bells are composed of sedimentary mudstone, which is what gives the Bells’ their distinctive maroon color.
The peaks are located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness of White River National Forest.
Na Pali Coast in Hawaii:
The Na Pali Coast is a beautiful stretch of coastline on the island of Kauai, which is the oldest inhabited Hawaiian island.
An article in the Huffington Post called the Na Pali Coast “the beautiful place you’ve never been” and also described it as “magical,” an article by Insider listed it as one of the 35 most beautiful natural wonders around the world and also listed Kauai as the most beautiful vacation spot in Hawaii, and an article on CNN.com listed it as one of 16 of the world’s best coastlines.
Na Pali (which means ‘high cliffs’) features five major valleys, numerous waterfalls, steep cliffs that rise 4,000 feet above the ocean, and remote sand beaches. Visitors can explore the area by visiting the Na Pali Coast State Park.
Due to its pristine beauty, many films and television shows have been filmed at Na Pali, such as Hawaii Five-O, the first Jurassic Park and Jurassic World.
Glacier National Park in Montana:
Glacier National Park is a park in northwestern Montana that features two mountain ranges and over 130 lakes.
In 2019, Country Living magazine named Glacier National Park one of the most beautiful national parks in America.
The park features mountains which were carved by over 150 glaciers that also created various u-shaped valleys and large lakes during the last ice age. The park also features multiple ecosystems ranging from prairies to tundras as well as forests of hemlock and redcedar as well as endangered wildlife such as grizzly bears and lynx.
Acadia National Park in Maine:
Acadia National Park is a park near Bar Harbor, Maine that features mountains with seven peaks above 1,000 feet, numerous islands, a rocky coastline, a historic lighthouse, 158 miles of hiking trails, and 45 miles of carriage roads with 16 stone bridges. Most of the park is located on Mount Desert Island, with small portions on smaller islands and the mainland.
In 2019, Country Living magazine named Acadia National Park one of the most beautiful national parks in America. Each year, more than 3.3 million people visit the park.
The park, which was established in 1916, is named after the French settlers who were expelled from Canada by the British in 18th century. According to an article by National Geographic, it is the easternmost national park and one of the first places to see the sunrise each day.
White Mountains in New Hampshire:
The White Mountains are a mountain range in New Hampshire and Maine that features Mount Washington, which is the highest peak in the Northeast, as well as 48 other peaks including one 4,000 foot peak, Old Speck Mountain, in Maine.
Reader’s Digest listed the White Mountains National Forest in its article on the most scenic nature getaways in every state.
The White Mountains are composed mainly of granite rock and were formed by magma intrusions from the New England hotspot, a volcanic region where the underlying mantle is anomalously hot.
The White Mountains are a part of the Appalachian Mountains and are known for their alpine huts for hikers that are operated by the Appalachian Mountain club. The area is also known as one of the best places to see the fall foliage.
Some great areas to explore in the White Mountains are the Flume Gorge, the White Mountain National Forest, and the summit of Mount Washington via the Mount Washington Cog Railway.
Cape Cod in Massachusetts:
Cape Cod is a 70-mile hook-shaped peninsula on the south shore of Massachusetts that features around 559 miles of coastline, numerous white sand beaches and numerous islands.
Reader’s Digest listed the Aquinnah Cliffs on Martha’s Vineyard in its article on the most scenic nature getaways in every state.
The cape itself is a terminal moraine (an accumulation of rocks and debris at the outermost edge of where a glacier or ice sheet existed), created by the Laurentide Ice Sheet between 16,000 to 20,000 years ago. As the glaciers that made up the ice sheet advanced and retreated, they scraped rock off of Earth’s surface and eventually deposited it on Cape Cod.
Cape Cod has been a popular summertime destination since the late 19th century. Some great areas to explore on the cape are the Cape Cod National Seashore which features 40 miles of sandy beaches and marshes, nearby islands like Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, and Provincetown, a historic coastal town that is a popular vacation destination for the LGTBQ community.
Niagra Falls in New York:
Niagra Falls are three waterfalls on the border of New York and Ontario, known individually as Horseshoe falls, American falls and Bridal Veil falls.
Reader’s Digest listed Niagra Falls in its article on the most scenic nature getaways in every state.
Niagara Falls was formed about 10,000 years ago when glaciers melted at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation period and the water from the Great Lakes emptied into the Niagara river and carved a path through the Niagara Escarpment, a long cliff-like ridge, en route to the Atlantic Ocean.
Due to its beauty and the romance of waterfalls, Niagara Falls has been a popular tourist destination and a favorite honeymoon spot since the early 19th century. It first earned the nickname the “Honeymoon Capital of the World” after several famous people decided to honeymoon there in the early 1800s, such as Vice President Aaron Burr’s daughter, Theodosia, in 1801 and Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, in 1804.
Crater Lake in Oregon:
Crater Lake is a lake inside the caldera of a volcano, Mount Mazama, in Klamath County, Oregon. At 1,949 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S. and is famous for its clear, deep blue water, so much so that Travel and Leisure recently named it one 13 places where you can see the bluest water in the world.
Country Living magazine named Crater Lake as one of the most beautiful nationals parks in America, Conde Nast Traveler named it one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and one of the world’s most beautiful alpine lakes, Architectural Digest listed it in its article on the most beautiful lake in every state, Reader’s Digest listed it in its article on the most scenic nature getaways in every state, Insider named it one of the 20 most beautiful lakes in the U.S., and USA Today named it one of the 10 breathtaking spots for cliff diving in the U.S.
Crater lake was formed after a massive volcanic eruption between 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. Lava eruptions later created two islands in the lake, Wizard Island and Phantom Ship.
Crater Lake has been a popular tourist destination since the Crater Lake National Park was established in 1902.
Arches National Park in Utah:
Arches National Park is a national park near Moab, Utha that features more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the famous Delicate Arch.
The park was named by Country Living magazine as one of the most beautiful national parks in America.
The park contains the highest density of natural arches in the world and also features other geological formations such as buttes as well as man-made features such as Native-Americans petroglyphs carved by the Ute and Paiute tribes.
The park lies above an underground evaporite layer or salt bed which eroded and left behind the Navajo sandstone arches.
Arches National Park has been a popular tourist destination since it was first established as a national monument in 1929 and later as a national park in 1971. In 2018, the park received more than 1.6 million visitors.
Badlands National Park in South Dakota:
Badlands National Park is a park in southwestern South Dakota that features colorful spires, pinnacles, buttes and gorges.
An article on the CNN website named Badlands one of the 25 most beautiful places in the world and Reader’s Digest listed it in its article on the most scenic nature getaways in every state.
The Badlands formed as the result of erosion revealing sedimentary layers of different colors: tan and gray (sand and gravel), purple and yellow (shale), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash). The park is also home to the world’s greatest fossil beds of animals from the Oligocene Epoch of the Age of Mammals and includes fossils from ancient camels, saber-toothed cats and three-toed horses.
The Badlands National Park has been a popular tourist destination since it was first established as a national monument in 1929 and later as a national park in 1978.
Grand Prismatic Spring in Wyoming:
The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park is the largest hot spring in the U.S. It is most famous for its striking coloration of red, orange, yellow, green and blue rings surrounding the spring.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association named the Grand Prismatic Spring one of the 10 beautiful places to see from the air, Country Living magazine named the Yellowstone National Park one of the most beautiful parks in America, Reader’s Digest listed Yellowstone in its article on the most scenic nature getaways in every state, and Travel and Leisure named the Grand Prismatic Spring one of the most colorful natural wonders around the world.
The colorful rings around the spring are actually different types of heat-loving bacteria that produce the brilliant colors due to the way temperature and light affects the bacteria.
Yellowstone National Park has been a popular tourist destination since it was established in 1872 and received more than 4 millions visitors in 2018.
Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida:
The Dry Tortugas National Park is a park located on seven small islands, known as the Dry Tortugas in the Florida Keys, that feature a historic fort surrounded by beautiful blue waters.
Country Living magazine named Dry Tortugas one of the most beautiful parks in America, Travel and Leisure named it one of the least visited yet beautiful national parks, Conde Nast Traveler named it one of the most beautiful places in Florida, and Coastal Living named it one of the 10 Florida beaches so beautiful you’ll think you’re in the Caribbean.
The Dry Tortugas National Park was established as a national monument in 1935 and as a national park in 1992 but does not receive as many visitors as the other national parks, mostly because it is located on the most isolated islands in the Florida Keys and is only accessible by ferry or seaplane, and is therefore less crowded.
White Sands National Monument in New Mexico:
The White Sands National Monument is a gypsum dune field in Otero County, New Mexico, which is the largest gypsum dune field on earth.
Insider listed the White Sands National Monument in its article on the most beautiful vacation spots in every state, Travel and Leisure named it one of the most colorful natural wonders in the world and Reader’s Digest named it one of the 12 most overlooked landmarks in America.
The dunes formed because the shallow seas that occupied the area during the Permian Period eventually dried up and tectonic activity in the area formed part of the San Andreas and Sacramento Mountains out of the gypsum seabed. Over time, rain washed the gypsum out of the mountains and into the Tularosa Basin. The water eventually evaporated and left behind the gypsum deposits.
Due to the dune’s unique beauty, a number of movies have been filmed there, including Hang ‘Em High,Young Guns II, the Man Who Fell to Earth and Transformers.
The White Sands National Monument was established in 1933 and there is currently an effort underway to establish it as a national park.
Mount Rainier National Park in Washington:
The Mount Rainier National Park is a park in Pierce County that features an active stratovolcano, Mount Rainier.
Country Living magazine named Mount Rainier National Park one of the most beautiful national parks in America.
Mount Rainier is a part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc, which is a string of volcanoes in western North America that formed due to subduction, where one tectonic plate moves under another and is forced to sink into the mantle, along the Cascade subduction zone.
Mount Rainier has been a popular tourist destination since it was established as a national park in 1899 and it received more visitors in 2018, around 1,518,491 in total, than it had in two decades.
Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming:
The Devils Tower National Monument is a laccolithic butte in the Bear Lodge Mountains in Wyoming.
The tower is made of an igneous rock called phonolite porphyry, and was formed from molten rock underground which pushed up into sedimentary rock and became solid.
Eventually the elements wore down the overlying sedimentary rock, which was made of softer sandstones and shales, and the more resistant igneous rock tower survived the erosion process.
The tower was famously featured in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977. It is also considered a sacred place to many Native American tribes and is closed to climbers each June, when Native American ceremonies are often held there around the summer solstice.
The Devils Tower became the first United States National Monument when it was established in 1906. It has been a popular tourist destination ever since and receives about 400,000 visitors a year.
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