So many of the most stunning places on earth are right here in America. You don’t have to travel the world to see some truly magnificent natural and man-made wonders. Check out these incredible spots from around the country.
1. Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia
This vastly underrated natural wonder looks like something out of a fantasy film. The shallow, peat-filled swamp spans 438,000 acres and straddles the Georgia–Florida border. It is a protected wildlife refuge, and home to hundreds of different types of species, all in their natural habitat. This unspoiled wilderness is a true hidden gem.
2. Garden of the Gods, Colorado
The striking crimson spears of this rock formation soar towards the clear Colorado sky. The area was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971, and is now a public park. Visitors are encouraged to visit these jagged peaks at sunrise or sunset.
3. Smith Rock State Park, Oregon
Located in central Oregon's High Desert, Smith Rock State Park is a place of staggering beauty. Its sheer cliffs of tuff and basalt are ideal for rock climbing of all difficulty levels, and the area is generally considered the birthplace of the modern American sport of climbing. The park's day-use area has a visitor center, picnic facilities, and restrooms. It is open from dawn to dusk year-round, and there is also a tent-only campground for overnight visitors.
4. Sequoia National Park
Walk among giants at this famed national park. These massive trees are some of the largest living organisms on earth, and their majesty is absolutely soul-moving. The park includes over 200,000 acres of old-growth forests and preserves a landscape that still resembles the southern Sierra Nevada before Euro-American settlement.
5. Laguna Beach, California
This famed area doesn't need an introduction, but Laguna Beach is more than just pristine sand and sunbathers. The seaside beauty of this region can be mystical and moving. Pictured is a mysterious 60-foot tower overlooking the sand along Victoria Beach in a particularly lovely pocket of coastline.
6. The Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina
Lush green wilderness, dramatic mountain peaks, and a magical blue tint defines this area of North Carolina. Trees actually put the "blue" in Blue Ridge, as they release isoprene into the atmosphere. The sunlight reflects off of this chemical haze, thus creating the mountain range's distinctive azure hue.
7. Valley Of Fire State Park, Nevada
With an area of nearly 42,000 acres, Valley of Fire is Nevada's largest state park. The swirling patterns of orange, scarlet and white give these rocks a molten appearance. The Valley of Fire is also the state's oldest state park, having been officially dedicated in 1935.
8. Arapahoe Basin, Colorado
There's plenty to do off the beaten path in this gorgeous park, but if you don't feel like trekking through the wilderness, a car ride to Arapahoe Basin will be one of the most scenic drives you will ever take. Check out the Keystone area for particularly gorgeous views.
9. Katmai Crater Lake, Alaska
This other-worldly body of water was actually formed when the peak of Mount Katmai, an active volcano, collapsed into itself and created this watery depression. A subsequent eruption caused a small lava dome to form in the lake's waters, which is known as Horseshoe Island. Only the bravest of explorers have dared to climb to the lake's shores.
10. Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
This picturesque spot is where the Colorado River dramatically changes course. Located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area near Page, it can be reached by a lengthy but scenic hike, or by a quick trip down an access road.
12. Lake Powell, Arizona
This lake looks like something out of a science fiction movie, which is probably why it was featured in the blockbuster film, "Gravity." Located on the border of Arizona and Utah, Lake Powell was created by the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam and the subsequent flooding of Glen Canyon.
13. Spiral Jerry, Utah
Located in Great Salt Lake, this mesmerizing stone structure has an alien-like yet elegant beauty. Sculptor Robert Smithson created this 1,500-foot long spiral in 1970. Though it was submerged for many years beneath the salty water of the lake, the spiral is now exposed once again.
14. Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
In addition to jaw-dropping beauty, these salt flats can provide jaw-dropping speed. The area is a popular site for speed-testing vehicles and filming car commercials – the flats stretch on for miles with nothing to slow you down. The area is a remnant of the Pleistocene Lake Bonneville and is the largest of many salt flats located west of the Great Salt Lake. Access is free and visitors can drive on the flats.
15. Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana
This magnificent example of Greek Revival architecture is located on the banks of the Mississippi River in Vacherie. The mansion sits at the end of a quarter-mile alley of live oaks that were planted around 1711. No one knows who planted the 28 trees that match the 28 tuscan columns surrounding the mansion.
16. Luray Caverns, Virginia
The Luray Caverns are the largest cavern series in the East. This magical underworld has been a popular tourist destination since its discovery in 1878. The caverns are perhaps best known for the Great Stalacpipe Organ, a "lithophone" musical instrument that taps stalactites of various sizes to produce haunting musical tones. Many visitors cast a coin into the glowing green pond within the caverns, in the hopes of having their wishes granted.
17. Mount Rainier, Washington
Mount Rainier above a layer of clouds.
This 14,410-foot stratovolcano is the highest peak in the state, and certainly the most famous. Atop Sunrise peak, the highest point in the park reachable by car, visitors can admire Rainier and other nearby volcanoes, including Mount Adams. This area also offers sweeping mountain views, summertime wildflower meadows, and many hiking trailheads.
18. Duke Farms, New Jersey
Sometimes, the most beautiful sights of all are waiting for us just down the road. Duke Farms in Hillsborough specializes in sunflowers, and their fields of gently bobbing yellow blossoms are absolutely breathtaking at sunset.
What do you think is the most jaw-dropping place in the nation? Have you visited any of these spots? Let us know!