These Unique Destinations Across The U.S. Will Quickly Transport You To Another Planet
The world is a wide, wonderful place, with immense and incredible wonders everywhere you turn — even
underground. Here in the United States, we’re well aware of the untold wonders of the world, as our country is home to some places that are so immensely beautiful, they almost don’t seem real. From underground waterfalls and fairy-tale forests to remote islands, sea caves, and hidden oases, our country is home to the most marvelous hidden treasures and awe-inspiring, otherworldly places. America truly is a place for dreamers and wanderers, and the following otherworldly destinations across the country are sure to inspire your inner explorer… and fill your bucket list for many years to come.
Palouse Falls - Washington
Palouse Falls, Washington 99143, USA
The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the most wondrous waterfalls in the country, but none quite compares to Palouse Falls. The
official waterfall of Washington
, Palouse Falls is a 198-foot cascade surrounded by commanding cliffs and caverns. (Put in perspective: Niagara Falls stands at a
167 feet tall.) As the Evergreen State's headlining cascade, Palouse Falls is also one of the most accessible; this waterfall is easily reached via a well-traveled, mile-long path. This incredible spectacle truly looks like something out of a fairy tale, especially during the spring when the lush landscape of the PNW is painted in verdant emerald greens.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area - Oregon
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, 855 US-101, Reedsport, OR 97467, USA
In terms of
, Oregon Dunes wins. The area is actually part of the Siuslaw National Forest; and not only are the Oregon Dunes the largest concentration of coastal dunes in all of North America, they're one of the largest temperate coastal dunes in the entire world. The dunes were created more than 100,000 years ago, when Mother Nature conjured something marvelous out of just wind and water. Over time, grains of sand drifted down the Suislaw River and other mountain rivers, and deposits slowly accumulated, spinning into a surrealist expanse of sand. A place of immense intrigue and mystery, this national park
served as the inspiration
for Frank Herbert's "Dunes" book series, and the subsequent movie, and it's easy to see why.
Yosemite National Park - California
Yosemite National Park Road, Yosemite National Park Rd, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389, USA
Yosemite National Park is a bucket-list destination for most -- especially waterfall chasers, as the park's 1,200 acres house some of the most extraordinary falls in the country. But none are as wondrous as Horsetail Fall, a seasonal waterfall that descends into two side-by-side streams, with one dropping 1,540 feet and the other dropping 1,570 feet. It's a gorgeous sight from winter to spring, but especially during February when it makes a spectacular transformation into a
. During this time, it appears that fire -- not water -- is flowing over the side of El Capitan. Of course, it isn't actually fire, but an amazing visual phenomenon that occurs when conditions are
. To this end, the firefall appears only if the sun illuminates the waterfall from the right angle, weather conditions need to be perfect, and people need to be viewing the falls from a certain spot. However, if the stars align,
it's an awe-inspiring spectacle you won't ever forget
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve - California
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve State Natural Reserve, 15101 Lancaster Rd, Lancaster, CA 93536, USA
If you've ever dreamed of having your very own Maria Von Trapp moment, head to Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve in the spring. During this region's seasonal superbloom, the hills come alive with millions of poppies painted in bold orange and golden yellow hues. This is a magical event that happens when conditions are
, meaning it's not guaranteed each year. In super bloom years, late February is usually when the poppy fields are packed with tiny buds just about to burst open. And, when they do,
the colors are spectacular
-- and well-worth the wait.
Redwood National Park - California
Redwood National and State Parks, California, USA
While man-made attractions like the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower attract a lot of buzz, there is a place in California where Mother Nature outshines everything. Redwood National Park and the adjacent State Parks are home to the world’s tallest trees, providing sanctuary to nearly half of the world’s old-growth redwoods. Some of the trees here tower more than 370 feet tall -- five stories taller than the Statue of Liberty. Visiting the redwood forests is a bit like being in Alice in Wonderland; you’ll marvel at the tallest trees on the planet, and feel very, very small. Visiting Redwood National and State Parks is an
that will put you in the here and now, in the absolute magnificence of nature -- and immense beauty of our country.
Craters Of The Moon National Monument - Idaho
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho, USA
For those who wonder what Neil Armstrong saw during those first magical moments on the moon, there's a place in Idaho that will put you in his shoes. One of Idaho’s most unique parks, Craters of the Moon National Monument is best-known for its stark landscape and volcanic features. Consisting of lava flows, cinder cones, and endless sagebrush, the landscape of Craters of the Moon is hypnotizing in its rugged beauty. And come wintertime,
when the wilds of Idaho are covered in snow
, Craters of the Moon National Monument becomes an otherworldly expanse that's, quite frankly, more magical than any lunar lands.
Fly Geyser - Nevada
Fly Ranch Geyser, Gerlach, NV 89412, USA
Hiding out on the edge of northern Nevada's Black Rock Desert is a truly bizarre place that's worth going out of your way to see. As one of the state's most wonderful surprises, Fly Geyser is a must-see destination. Located on a 3,800-acre parcel of land that is owned by the Burning Man Project, Fly Geyser is a sight unlike anything you've seen before. The geyser itself flaunts flamboyant shades of red, yellow, and green while shooting hot water up to five feet in the air. The geyser's peculiar coloring is caused by calcium carbonate deposits that grow several inches every year; as they've been growing for several decades now, visitors can witness three large mounds that are nearly six feet tall. While
technically a man-made wonder
(the geyser was created in 1964 when a geothermal power company drilled a test well into the ground), Fly Geyser is no less magnificent than its Mother Nature-made brethren.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming
Grand Prismatic Spring, Wyoming 82190, USA
Yellowstone is truly a land of enchantment. Anyone who visits this national park will immediately understand why this landscape has long captured the hearts of wanderers and adventurer seekers. Going even further back, many indigenous tribes trace their roots – in myth and in history – to Yellowstone, and when settlers made their way West, their reports were initially written off as lies, because Yellowstone's beauty truly is otherworldly. One of the hallmarks of the park is the Midway Geyser Basin, where you’ll find beautiful thermal features and the absolutely
magical Grand Prismatic Spring
. Grand Prismatic is a stunningly beautiful hot spring that's known for its bright rainbow of colors created by bacterial mats and living organisms in the superheated water. It's a feast for the eyes, and truly one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on the planet.
Bonneville Salt Flats - Utah
Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah 84083, USA
A stretch of salt flats in the desert doesn't sound thrilling, or even particularly picturesque, but anyone who's visited Bonneville Salt Flats would disagree. This spot is one of Utah’s most unique natural features, formed over time by the evaporation of Lake Bonneville. What was left -- an epic expanse of sodium chloride -- is sublime in its simplicity, and truly looks like an alien landscape. The dazzling white appears as snow, creating an illusion that's both unsettling and unbelievably beautiful. Today, the Bonneville Salt Flats are used for everything from
movie sets to race tracks
, and are a place every adventure-seeker should visit at least once.
Maroon Bells - Colorado
Maroon Bells, Colorado 81654, USA
Maroon Bells is proof that the very best things in life take time. This
natural wonder in Colorado
is the culmination of more than 300 million years of geologic activity, including sedimentation, weathering, and erosion by wind, water, and ice. It’s one of Mother Nature’s finest masterpieces, and anyone who visits is utterly blown away. And Maroon Bells gets a lot of visitors – about 300,000 a year, all coming with cameras in hand to capture a truly spectacular sight. But while this attraction is touted as the most photographed place in Colorado, pictures simply don’t do it justice; Maroon Bells is a place of transcendent beauty you must experience for yourself.
Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness State Park - Arizona
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area, U.S. Hwy 89 A, Marble Canyon, AZ 86036, USA
Natural beauty abounds in Arizona -- and not just at its
attraction. The state is home to some of the most extraordinary places in the country, with Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness topping the list. While there are numerous formations within this park,
is an elusive beauty that shouldn't be passed up. This 190-million-year-old rock formation hails from the Jurassic Age, and it's easy to picture ancient beasts stomping through its curves and undulations; though wrapping your mind around how, exactly, such an incredible sculptural artwork was formed, is nearly impossible.
Horseshoe Bend - Arizona
Horseshoe Bend, Arizona 86040, USA
Another Arizona wonder, Horseshoe Bend is quite literally a
horse of a different color
. Similar to the Grand Canyon (and, in fact, it's referred to as the "east rim" of the Grand Canyon), Horseshoe Bend is a place that must be admired from above. A
across barren, unforgiving landscape leads to the cliffside of Horseshoe Bend, which materializes almost as a desert mirage. One of the most photographed sites in Arizona, it is truly as beautiful in person as it is in photos. The cerulean blue and emerald green horseshoe stands out like a dazzling gem against the coppery red desert landscape, making this spot one of the true gems of the West.
Carlsbad Caverns - New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Carlsbad, NM, USA
A place of immense splendor, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is unbelievably beautiful. Located 20 miles outside of the city of Carlsbad, this extraordinary natural wonder is a limestone cave that was once part of an underwater reef in an inland sea. Put in perspective, the body of water that formed the cavern was on the Earth 250 to 280 million years ago. Today, visitors can
explore this otherworldly expanse on two trails
: The Big Room and Natural Entrance. We're partial to the former; it's the largest single cave chamber in the United States and features stunning formations such as the fabled Sword of Damocles.
Hamilton Pool Preserve - Texas
Hamilton Pool, Texas 78620, USA
If you're looking for an escape that feels like
, you'll find it at Hamilton Pool. One of the most beautiful places in Texas (and the country), Hamilton Pool features a cerulean blue pool located beneath an expansive limestone grotto. A 50-foot waterfall flows into the pool, making for a completely enchanting experience that's truly too beautiful to be real. This place of pure fantasy formed thousands of years ago when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to erosion. The lesson of this fairy tale? Out of devastation and ruins, can come great, wondrous beauty.
Chimney Rock National Historic Site - Nebraska
Chimney Rock Museum, 9822 County Rd 75, Bayard, NE 69334, USA
In the endless expanse of the Nebraska prairie,
appears suddenly and seemingly out of thin air. This natural monolith is not a mirage; it's a perfectly positioned sculpture created by Mother Nature herself. During the days of Westward expansion, Chimney Rock, as it came to be known, was used by pioneers as a marker along the Oregon Trail. Capped with a long, thin spire, the volcanic ash and brule clay formation soars 480 feet above the gentle Nother Platte River Valley, a place intrepid adventurers can -- and should -- explore today.
Badlands National Park - South Dakota
Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA
South Dakota is so much more than one presidential monolith; the state is immensely beautiful, and nowhere is this more true than the Badlands. The massive
242,756 acres known as Badlands National Park
is a true show stopper; it offers varied landscaping with sharp buttes and pinnacles among its untouched prairie expanse. Home to numerous different wildlife species, it's also a favorite spot for birdwatching, photography, and stargazing. The sunsets here are surreal, and absolutely worth seeking out.
Apostle Islands - Wisconsin
Apostle Islands, Wisconsin, USA
Scattered like jewels in the icy blue waters of Lake Superior are a collection of wild islands that locals simply call "The Apostles." Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands are a dream sequence of sea caves, emerald-green pools, deserted beaches, and rugged lighthouses. For visitors, reaching this pure, remote land takes a bit of effort; but when you arrive at the islands, your hard work will be handsomely rewarded. These undisturbed beaches and pools will feel like your very own private island escape; a
real-life fantasy unfolding right before your eyes
Glory Hole - Arkansas
Glory Hole Falls Trail, Arkansas 72854, USA
Glory Hole is one of the most unique waterfalls in the United States. On paper, it doesn't sound all that special: a creek running through Ozarks National Forest forged a hole in an overhanging rocky bluff, essentially creating an underground waterfall. But in person? Glory Hole is one of the most marvelous wonders in the country. This 30-foot waterfall may not be the tallest, but its formation stands out from typical falls. Glory Hole flows
the rock instead of over, it creating a circular waterfall that's wholly unique. While this area is utterly resplendent year-round, during the winter, something truly magical happens during a rare Arkansas cold snap: this iconoclast of a waterfall
freezes into a perfectly suspended column
that will absolutely take your breath away.
Angel Oak Park - South Carolina
3688 Angel Oak Rd, Johns Island, SC 29455, USA
Angel Oak Park is proof that the most beautiful places aren't necessarily the biggest or the flashiest. This
humble park in South Carolina
is home to trees that are between 300-500 years old, and while they're not towering giants like those found on the West, they are no less resplendent. Anyone who's ever braved the elements of a tropical storm or hurricane will tell you that to survive the elements of Mother Nature this close to the ocean for so long is nothing short of magic -- or, at the very least, a miracle. And that is exactly what Angel Oak Park is: a marvelous, modern-day miracle.
Mammoth Cave National Park - Kentucky
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259, USA
Mammoth Cave is quite literally another world; this underground network of caves and caverns is the largest in the world. Mammoth Cave features over 400 miles of subterranean caverns and passageways, with more miles being added all the time. In fact, Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave recently got a little longer, following the discovery of an additional eight miles of passages by the Cave Research Foundation. Easily the most famous cave in the country, Mammoth Cave is an otherworldly underworld that
deserves top spot on your bucket list
Rainbow Bridge and Falls, Watkins Glen State Park - New York
Watkins Glen State Park, 1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891, USA
Watkins Glen State Park
is the most popular state park in the Finger Lakes region, and for good reason. The park's iconic Rainbow Bridge and Falls are absolutely breathtaking - so beautiful, in fact, they don't look real. The hikes in this state park are enchanting; the trails wind through verdant green forests that feature stone staircases, secret caves, and trickling waterfalls. Watkins Glen State Park is the closest you'll come to visiting Tolkien's Middle Earth... and it's an absolutely sublime experience.
Acadia National Park - Maine
Acadia National Park, Maine, USA
On the easternmost edge of the country, you'll find the crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast. And indeed, Acadia National Park boasts picture-perfect panoramas that will take your breath away. Adding to the park's beguiling beauty is its iconic Bass Harbor Head Light (the park's only lighthouse), which towers regally above the Atlantic, rivaling the nearby Cadillac Mountain for the spotlight. This majestic mountain is the highest point on the East Coast, and during parts of the year, it's also the
first place in the U.S. to see the sunrise
. With almost incomprehensible natural beauty, Acadia National Park really is one of the most magical places in the country.
Mendenhall Glacier - Alaska
Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, AK 99801, USA
Alaska is a place of ethereal elegance and beauty, and Mendenhall Glacier is the state's crown jewel. The ice caves located at the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska, are natural ice formations in one of the most extraordinary places on the planet. Calling the Mendenhall Glacier "caves" is a misnomer; this place is an entire frozen kingdom that is 13.6 miles long with an estimated total area of 38 square miles. A place of immense beauty and splendor, there's nowhere in the world like the ice caves at Mendenhall Glacier, and
experiencing this natural wonder in person
will be something you'll never, ever forget.
Northern Lights - Fairbanks, Alaska
The Northern Lights are Mother Nature's very own fiber optic show; a dynamic display of color and movement that everyone must see at least once. In the U.S., we can
catch this spectacular show in Alaska
, with the peak-viewing season running from mid-September to late April. As the colors dance in the dark skies above the Last Frontier, you'll feel simultaneously big and small, and also that you are exactly where you're meant to be.
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park - Hawaii
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI 96785, USA
Hawaiʻi is a
for most Americans, and even native Hawaiians love island hopping and exploring the breathtaking treasures that lie in their own backyards. If you’re visiting the Big Island, exploring Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a must. This 523-square-mile park contains some of the world’s most awe-inspiring wonders, not to mention two active volcanoes, offering visitors the once-in-a-lifetime experience to be up close and personal with these fantastic, fire-breathing wonders.
If we approach the world with a growth mindset, we open ourselves up to experience awe and wonder. Even the most well-seasoned travelers and explorers can discover something new here in America — and that truly is a beautiful, wonderful thing.
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