Bucket List August 08, 2022
16 Lesser-Known Natural Wonders That Rival Our Country’s Top Destinations
The world is a wide, wonderful place, and the possibilities for adventure are limitless. There are well-known wonders, like the eponymous Seven Wonders of the World, and exotic, awe-inspiring destinations all across the globe. But you don’t have to travel to the ends of the Earth to have a bucket-list-worthy adventure; amazing places exist all across this great country of ours. We’ve covered well-known destinations fairly extensively here at OnlyInYourState, but there’s so much more to discover and delight in — and often where you’d least expect. Today we’re sharing some of America’s most incredible
lesser-known natural wonders; bucket-list places that easily rival our country’s top destinations.
Haystack Rock - Oregon
Haystack Rock, Oregon 97411, USA
Once upon a time, lava flowed through what's now known as the Pacific Northwest. The hot, molten flows eventually cooled into solid black basalt, and millions of years of erosion have resulted in the natural wonders we see dotting the Oregon Coast today.
The most iconic of all Oregon monoliths,
Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach
is a commanding, 235-foot-tall
. One of three "Haystack Rock" formations on the Oregon Coast, this is the one featured in the 1980s classic "The Goonies" and is a bucket-list must.
Shoshone Falls - Idaho
Shoshone Falls, Idaho 83341, USA
is Idaho's most iconic waterfall, boasting falls that are higher than Niagara's. The sight of this cascade is downright awe-inspiring, and a favorite among ardent waterfall chasers. The best place to view the falls is from the overlook in the eponymous Shoshone Falls Park during the spring; however, Shoshone Falls truly is a sublime sight any time of the year, and it's known for leaving spectators speechless.
Valley of Fire State Park - Nevada
Valley of Fire, Nevada 89040, USA
Nevada's man-made wonders are world-famous, as is its superlative alpine lake. But there's another wonder in Nevada that's truly in a league of its own, and that's
Valley of Fire State Park
. This 46,000-acre park is a natural wonderland of fiery red sandstone formations -- and it's hiding just beyond the bright city lights of Las Vegas. In addition to the rock formations being downright awe-inspiring, they're also of immense historic significance. It's known that prehistoric peoples inhabited Valley of Fire as far back as 300 BC; their presence on this land endures through various examples of petroglyphs that can be seen within the park, making Valley of Fire a must-visit for anyone interested in history -- especially the kind of history that's *not* in the books.
Great Sand Dunes - Colorado
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado, USA
The United States is full of various places where sand steals the show; national parks and film-famous sand dunes can be found in all corners of the country. But none quite compare to the
Great Sand Dunes
of Colorful Colorado. Located northeast of Alamosa, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is an incredible 30-square-mile oasis that features a staggering
5 billion cubic meters
of soft sand, and one of the most dramatic landscapes in the country. Created as the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in 1932 and changed in 2004 to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, there is plenty to see and do around the area, the most popular of which includes hiking, sledding, and sandboarding. The Great Sand Dunes of Colorado is one of those places that will have you checking your iPhone's GPS, because you'll swear you're in the middle of the Sahara -- or another planet altogether.
Bisti Badlands - New Mexico
Bisti Badlands, New Mexico 87499, USA
Nestled in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, there is an otherworldly expanse that's unlike any other place on Earth. The
is 60 acres of hoodoos of all shapes and sizes; formations that look like something from a Dr. Seuss fantasy. These iconoclastic monoliths were formed by erosion of the sandstone, shale, and mudstone layers over thousands of years, and the effect of these statues within the quiet wilds of the New Mexico desert is truly extraordinary -- especially come nightfall.
Jacob's Well - Texas
Jacobs Well, Texas 78676, USA
Hamilton Pool is touted as the most magical place in Texas, but we respectfully disagree. We'd like to designated this honor to
, a cerulean-blue artesian spring with a 140-foot-deep underwater cave system. While only authorized professionals are allowed to explore the caves, anyone (with a reservation) is allowed to swim in the spring. Tread water over the well for the thrill of a lifetime!
Castle Rock Badlands - Kansas
Castle Rock Badlands, Quinter, KS 67752, USA
In the middle of the Kansas prairies, there is a larger-than-life monolith that looks like a giant's sandcastle. This is
Castle Rock Badlands
, a 70-foot tall (but slowly shrinking) rock formation in the badlands of Kansas. It stands alone surrounded by open ground and more badlands raised above the dirt. Slowly but surely, this formation will completely disappear as time erodes it away, so don't pass up the opportunity to behold this natural wonder in its current glory.
Maquoketa Caves State Park - Iowa
Maquoketa Caves State Park, 9688 Caves Rd, Maquoketa, IA 52060, USA
In the heart of the Midwest, there is a captivating canyon system that rivals its
brethren in Kentucky. Iowa's 111-acre
Maquoketa Caves State Park
features 16 caves, with a combination of standalone caverns and connected systems. You'll discover them all as you hike further and further along the trails, which feature verdant foliage and scenery straight from a Tolkien tale. The most famous of the caves is Upper Dancehall Cave; you'll follow a staircase quite literally into the mouth of this enormous natural wonder. It's difficult to comprehend the sheer size of these water-carved wonders until you're standing next to them; Dancehall Cave descends more than 100 feet in a journey that's sure to stoke and satisfy your deepest wanderlust.
Garden of the Gods - Illinois
Garden of the Gods Road, Garden of the Gods Rd, Illinois, USA
Contrary to its nickname, Illinois is *not* all prairies and flat expanses. In addition to boasting some truly glorious shoreline, the state is home to an incredible, 3,318 acre-park filled with jaw-dropping canyons, caverns, and rock formations. A hike along the
Garden of the Gods Observation Trail
will lead you through some of the most otherworldly rock formations in the country, complete with jaw-dropping panoramas of this epic expanse.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - Michigan
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, N8391 Sand Point Rd, Munising, MI 49862, USA
Epitomizing the sublime splendor of #PureMichigan,
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
is an enchanting natural wonder that seems too beautiful to be real. You'll find this otherworld located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, making it a somewhat remote destination, but one that is absolutely worth the effort to reach. The area is managed by the National Park Service and became the first of the nation’s four National Lakeshores in 1996. Pictured Rocks gets its name from the uniquely colorful sandstone cliffs - some of which tower over 200 feet - along 15 miles of Lake Superior's coastline. The park, as a whole, stretches for 42 miles along the shore, but the commanding coastal cliffs are definitely the star of the show.
Rock House - Ohio
Rock House, 16350 OH-374, Laurelville, OH 43135, USA
might well be the best-kept secret in the Midwest. This 2,356-acre Ohio State Park is home to incredible natural wonders like waterfalls, caves, cliffs, and rock formations. Old Man's Cave and Ash Falls are two popular places in the park, but the more elusive Rock House is definitely worth seeking out. The Rock House is technically the only true cave in the park, and sits midway up a 150-foot-tall sandstone cliff. The corridor-like cave features cutouts that serve as natural "windows" looking out over the surrounding landscape, and the entire scene is nothing short of extraordinary.
Atchafalaya Basin - Louisiana
Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana 70517, USA
For those seeking an immersive experience in the wilds of the American South, there's no place as wholly wondrous as
. Stretching for over 140 miles from Simmesport to the Gulf of Mexico, the Atchafalaya Basin is the nation’s largest river swamp, and it's home to some of world's most amazing flora and fauna. Within this region, compromised of about 70% forested habitat and 30% marsh and open water, more than 300 bird species have been identified, including the largest population of wintering American woodcock on the continent
the largest concentration of nesting bald eagles in the region. In other words, the Atchafalaya Basin is a real-life Garden of Eden.
Three Sisters Springs - Florida
Three Sisters Springs Trail, Crystal River, FL, USA
Florida's bucket-list destinations are many, but
Three Sisters Springs
is a Sunshine State wonder that's often overlooked for bigger names (we're looking at you, Everglades!). Three Sisters Springs are located on the Crystal River and contain three different spring areas within the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. Whether you’re touring, kayaking, or canoeing the springs, you’ll be able to enjoy this natural gem in entirety. Visit during the winter months and see hundreds of manatees who prefer the consistently warm waters.
Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park - New Jersey
Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, 72 McBride Ave, Paterson, NJ 07501, USA
New York's Niagara Falls tends to take the spotlight in the Northeast, but New Jersey's
Paterson Great Falls
is certainly just as majestic. The Great Falls of the Passaic River is second only to Niagara Falls for waterfalls by volume east of the Mississippi. The 77-foot cascade is of significant historical importance, too; it was here that Alexander Hamilton founded the town of Paterson in 1792 as the first planned city built around a hydropower system.
Quechee Gorge - Vermont
Quechee Gorge State Park
is home of Vermont's deepest gorge, formed by glacial activity some 13,000 years ago. Viewing points along Route 4 let visitors gaze down at the flowing waters of the Ottauquechee River 165 feet below; the eponymous Quechee Gorge offers beautiful, birds-eye views of this natural wonder, which takes on heavenly beauty come autumn.
Waimea Canyon - Hawaii
Waimea Canyon, Hawaii 96796, USA
Hailed as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific,"
is certainly a place of immense beauty. Unlike many similar canyons, Waimea Canyon was not formed solely from steady erosion, but also by a catastrophic collapse of the volcano that created the island of Kauai. Measuring 10 miles long, a mile wide, and approximately 3,600 feet deep, Waimea Canyon is home to plants and trees of all shapes and sizes – giving it a more dynamic landscape than its more famous canyon cousin. For anyone planning to visit this natural wonder, we urge you to consider exploring the neighboring Koke’e State Park for some less interrupted views of the canyon.
When was the last time you discovered something new? These natural wonders are all sure to stoke and satiate the adventurous spirit that lives inside us all, so go forth and have a bucket-list-worthy experience!
Address: Castle Rock Badlands, Quinter, KS 67752, USA Address: Valley of Fire, Nevada 89040, USA Address: Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana 70517, USA Address: Garden of the Gods Road, Garden of the Gods Rd, Illinois, USA Address: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado, USA Address: Haystack Rock, Oregon 97411, USA Address: Jacobs Well, Texas 78676, USA Address: Maquoketa Caves State Park, 9688 Caves Rd, Maquoketa, IA 52060, USA Address: Shoshone Falls, Idaho 83341, USA Address: Three Sisters Springs Trail, Crystal River, FL, USA Address: Waimea Canyon, Hawaii 96796, USA Address: Bisti Badlands, New Mexico 87499, USA Address: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, N8391 Sand Point Rd, Munising, MI 49862, USA Address: Rock House, 16350 OH-374, Laurelville, OH 43135, USA Address: Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, 72 McBride Ave, Paterson, NJ 07501, USA