15 Unbelievable Destinations In The U.S. That Look Like Something From Middle Earth
There’s something so captivating about the world J. R. R. Tolkien created in “The Lord of the Rings.” Middle Earth, a place of lush forests and romantic fantasy, is a realm that’s undeniably beautiful and beguiling. But here in the U.S., we don’t have to pick up one of Tolkien’s novels to visit Middle Earth; there are unbelievable destinations all across the country that rival anything found in the pages of such fantasies. And unlike Middle Earth, these destinations are wholly, wildly, wondrously
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park - California
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Crescent City, CA 95531, USA
Redwood National and State Parks are 139,000 acres of lush, old-growth forest in Northern California. This spacious park is one of our country's most precious and protected treasures -- and success stories. During western expansion in the 1800s, the redwoods were under siege. The massive trees offered early settlers a seemingly endless lumber supply; however, within 100 years, the vast forests had dwindled to a shadow of their former glory. By the early 1900s, it was apparent that the future of the old-growth redwood forests was in jeopardy. But thanks to the actions of California's Save-the-Redwoods League, these glorious giants received the protection they needed. Today,
Redwood National and State Parks
is one of the most wondrous National Parks, and its expansive size means this treasure is generally not very crowded. If you want to lose yourself in the forest à la John Muir, visit these awe-inspiring, ancient forests.
Hoh Rain Forest - Washington
Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, 18113 Upper Hoh Rd, Forks, WA 98331, USA
Located in Washington's wondrous Olympic National Park,
Hoh Rain Forest
is an enthralling emerald oasis. One of the only temperate rainforests in the world, wandering through Hoh Rain Forest feels like stepping into another world altogether. The rainforest gets a staggering 12-14 feet of rain annually, which gives this thriving ecosystem its verdant canopy of mosses, ferns, and trees. The "Green Giant" is one of Hoh's most extraordinary trees; a towering presence keeping watch over the forest. Filled with untamed mosses and hanging ferns, old-growth trees, and an abundance of wildlife, Hoh Rain Forest is a lush wonderland within the Washington wilds, and hiking in this park truly belongs on every adventurer's bucket list.
Silver Falls State Park - Oregon
Silver Falls State Park, Oregon, USA
Of all the beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest,
Silver Falls State Park truly is on another level
. This park is breathtakingly beautiful; it possesses many of the PNW’s unique features and wonders; and with an abundance of stellar trails and campsites, Silver Falls stands out as Oregon’s single best state park. At 9,000 glorious acres, Silver Falls is the largest and most popular state park in Oregon, and it's easy to see why once you see all this wondrous place has to offer. Silver Falls State Park is home to a lush temperate rain forest of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, Oregon grape, and a plethora of other native trees and plants. Of course, this Oregon State Park is best-known for its waterfalls, with South Falls the most spectacular, and the smaller North Falls and Middle Falls also to be admired. Add it all up, and Silver Falls State Park is a pristine #pnwonderland that's more beautiful than anything even Tolkien could have conjured up.
Yaak Valley - Montana
Yaak Valley Ranch Road, Yaak Valley Ranch Rd, Montana 59935, USA
If you’ve ever been to the Yaak Valley in the northwest corner of Montana, you’ve seen with your own eyes how otherworldly it is. The Yaak is a rugged and remote landscape in northwestern Montana, deep in the heart of the Kootenai National Forest. And the further you venture into this untamed wilderness,
Montana's only rainforest, in fact
, the more you’ll realize just how much it resembles Middle Earth. The deeper you go, the more vividly verdant your surroundings become, until you're quite literally immersed in lush green forest. There's truly no place in the world quite like Yaak Valley, and it's the kind of hidden gem that's earned Montana its Treasure State title.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park - Arizona
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Nf-583A, Pine, AZ 85544, USA
While Arizona is best-known for its desertscapes, there are some wondrous landscapes here that will completely take you by surprise. In fact, there are some places in Arizona that could give New Zealand a run for its money, and the epitome of this also happens to be the home to the world’s largest travertine bridge:
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
. Massive and surrounded by lush forest, this location in central Arizona is a sublime place that will make you feel like a tiny Hobbit wandering Middle Earth. Pine Creek runs along a portion of the park and right over the arch itself, creating a beautiful waterfall that not only makes this area look absolutely beautiful, but also contributed to the formation of the arch.
Looking at all the water and moss within this wonderland, you'll have to check your GPS to make sure you're still, in fact, in Arizona. You are; you're at one of its most unforgettable and unexpected treasures.
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
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; a real-life fantasy unfolding right before your eyes.
Hamilton Pool Preserve - Texas
Hamilton Pool, Texas 78620, USA
If you're looking for an escape that feels like Middle Earth -- or perhaps Neverland -- you'll find it at
. 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 and breathtakingly beautiful experience. 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 fairytale? Out of devastation and ruins, can come great, wondrous beauty.
White Rock Mountain - Arkansas
White Rock Mountain, 214 Bowles Gap Rd, Winslow, AR 72959, USA
Tucked deep in the heart of the Arkansas Ozarks, there is a place that's straight out of a Tolkien dream. This is
White Rock Mountain
, and it’s full of all the wonder you thought only Middle Earth could hold. This ancient forest is vividly verdant in the spring and summer; in the fall, the autumn views from White Rock will remind you of Lothlorien, the Land of Gold and home of Galadriel, the Lady of Light. But that's not all; the overlook on White Rock Mountain offers sweeping vistas perfect for an intrepid hobbit and his companions to rest and reflect post-hike. All together, White Rock Mountain is magical and marvelous; a place sure to sweep you away in a flight of fancy.
Dismals Canyon - Alabama
Dismals Canyon, 901 County Rd 8, Phil Campbell, AL 35581, USA
Tucked away in Alabama’s northwest corner lies a lush sandstone gorge known as Dismals Canyon. This 85-acre oasis is not exactly a hidden gem, but there are plenty of unspoiled groves and grottos to enjoy some peace and quiet. This tranquil treasure was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1975, and it’s a desired destination for both locals and visitors from across the country. Despite its landmark status, Dismals Canyon is not a state park. In fact, it's privately owned and operated -- but luckily, this wondrous place is open to the public. One of the first things you'll notice is that Dismals Canyon appears more like Middle Earth than the Deep South. Alabama is actually the fourth most biologically diverse state in the nation, and Dismals Canyon is surrounded by one of the few remaining old-growth forests in the state. It's absolutely magical to explore and sure to provoke a sense of
awe and wonder
in all who visit.
Alleghany Highlands - Virginia
Part of the Appalachian Range, the Alleghany Mountains are spread across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. Within Virginia, the eponymous Alleghany Highlands boast some of the most lush and lovely landscapes in the country. This beauty is on full display at
Falling Spring Falls
, an incredible 80-foot cascade nestled within the Alleghenies that rivals Tolkien's Rauros Falls found in "The Lord of the Rings." Visible from both U.S. Route 220 and a scenic overlook, this is one amazing and accessible place that's sure to inspire.
Everglades National Park - Florida
Everglades National Park
is an entire world of wonder that's truly extraordinary in every way. The park encompasses 1.5 million acres of tropical and subtropical habitats with one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. Within the Everglades, there are five unique habitats, 750 different varieties of native plants, over 300 types of birds, and hundreds of animal species — 60 of which are endangered. In order to protect and preserve this idyllic region, Congress established the Everglades as a National Park in 1934. The park has since been designated as an International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a World Heritage Site. Everglades National Park is a real-life Garden of Eden; a pristine oasis that offers an authentic, up-close experience with nature that’s simply unparalleled.
Angel Oak Park - South Carolina
Angel Oak Road, Angel Oak Rd, Johns Island, SC 29455, USA
Angel Oak Park
is like stepping into a real-life fairy tale. 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 magical -- or, at the very least, miraculous. And that is exactly what Angel Oak Park is: a marvelous, modern-day miracle.
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 New York's Finger Lakes region, and for good reason. The park's iconic
Rainbow Bridge and Falls
are absolutely breathtaking; the kind of otherworldly beauty that we thought only existed in fairy tales and fantasies. Luckily for us, Watkins Glen is wholly, wonderfully
, and the hikes in this state park are absolutely enchanting. The trails wind through verdant green forests that feature stone staircases, secret caves, and trickling waterfalls, and it's all so enchanting, you'll be spellbound. Watkins Glen State Park is the closest you'll come to experiencing Tolkien's Middle Earth... and it's an absolutely sublime experience worth seeking out.
Baxter State Park - Maine
Baxter State Park Road, Baxter State Park Rd, Maine, USA
It's not difficult to find great beauty in Maine, a place flush with lush forests and wondrous woodlands. And within the immensely beautiful Pine Tree State,
Baxter State Park
offers 2,000 beautiful acres of pristine land on which to explore, unwind, and let go. Governor Percival P. Baxter gifted the park to the state of Maine in 1931; his only stipulation was that it remain "forever wild." Today, if you visit, you'll see that the mandate has been taken to heart, as this is one of the most wild and wondrous places in all of New England. Between the grand mountains and lush valleys, the landscape of Baxter State Park is unlike any other in America; more similar, in fact, to the far-away lands that so inspired Tolkien.
Akaka Falls State Park - Hawaii
Akaka Falls State Park, 875 Akaka Falls Rd, Honomu, HI 96728, USA
The whole of Hawaii -- all 137 isles -- is pretty much a Middle Earth fantasy, but nowhere is this more fully realized than
Akaka Falls State Park
. The park's headlining cascade, the 422-foot-tall Akaka Falls, is a spectacular scene that's as theatrical and cinematic as it gets. Accessing this wonder requires just a half-mile hike through some of the most verdant forest and colorful flora in the Aloha State. You'll hear the falls before you see them -- and your mind will have trouble comprehending the immense beauty appearing before your eyes. Legend has it, Akaka Falls was named after a Hawaiian god; after leaving his mistresses' houses, Akaka heard his wife called his name and fled. Unfortunately, he wasn't looking where he was going and fell off the cliff, transmuting into the waterfall itself. It's a romantic tale that's befitting of such a dramatic site.
When was the last time you escaped into a place more beautiful than fantasy? It’s the kind of magic we could all use a bit more of in our lives — and it’s waiting for you at these unbelievable U.S. destinations.
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