Natural wonders in the United States

By Kateryna Kirian

Pandemic restrictions have significantly limited our travel horizons. The borders are closed, international flights are scarce, and the virus is lurking around every corner. But every cloud has a silver lining. Why not focus on what’s at hand? Did you know how many must-see locations you can visit without leaving the U.S. borders? In fact, you don’t need to travel far from home to find awe-inspiring wonders. To spark your imagination and maybe even take your breath away, let us present you just 10 of the most inspiring natural wonders in the United States.

Have you ever dreamed of
📌 sandboarding on one of the highest sand dunes in the world
📌 soaring over the cliffs of the Grand Canyon on a zip line
📌 enjoying the Northern Lights through a glass roof
📌 glacier hiking to enter the astounding Ice Caves
📌 exploring Niagara Falls from different angles (and different countries)
📌 hugging the highest and the oldest trees in the world
📌 climbing up to the very top of the highest waterfall in North America
📌 visiting a red-rock wonderland which closely resembles a trip-to-the-Mars experience
📌 swimming in the actual Crater Lake
📌 discovering one of the oldest underground caverns around the globe?

Let’s get right to it!


#1 Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado

As the name suggests, the Great Sand Dunes park is absolutely worth visiting because of the dunes. They happen to be the highest in North America! However, it is not only the dunes that make this place utterly stunning. A unique combination of sandy desserts, snow-capped peaks, fairy alpine lakes, wondrous conifer and aspen forests… All for you to enjoy and contemplate at the same moment.

In Sand Dunes Park, the ways to get unforgettable memories are legion. Apart from good old hiking and camping, and not to mention stargazing (if the weather allows it), the must-do activities are definitely sand sledging, skiing and sandboarding. If it doesn’t ring a bell, check out the best tips and routes where you can test skills. Just remember that none of these is available for rent in the National Park. You’ll have to rent your sand sledges or sandboards elsewhere beforehand.


Sand Dunes are one of the natural wonders in the United States
Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado
Photo credit: National Park Service


Wait, there’s more. Have you been to the Garden of the Gods?

In about a 3-hour drive from Great Sand Dunes National Park, there’s another place with breathtaking sceneries. Right in the heart of Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods gives you an opportunity to walk where dinosaur trails used to be. Furthermore, the park offers plenty of activities which you can do alone or with friends and family. There are more than 15 miles of hiking, cycling, and horseback riding trails.

Other popular activities include technical rock climbing, taking Segway or Jeep tours. You can also live through the history of the park at the interactive exhibits in the visitor  & nature centre. The good thing here is that the park is open to visitors free of charge. However, hours of operation vary depending on the season. While hiking, you may catch a glimpse of the wildlife and see mule deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes and even bobcats.


Check local travel restrictions and park opening times before booking a trip, and always follow official medical advice.

➡ Tips from Airwander


#2 The Grand Canyon in Arizona

If you dreamed about escaping the hustle and bustle of the city, there’s no better place than the Grand Canyon. Undoubtedly, this place is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States. It’s stretching 277 miles across the Arizona desert. The Canyon has three areas: the South Rim, the North Rim, and the West Rim. In each area, there are plenty of recreational activities, which you should add to your travel bucket list.

The South Rim is famous for its historically significant Grand Canyon Village, stunning Hermit Road and mesmerizing desert views. It is similarly fabulous for incredible lodging areas and restaurants. In fact, the Grand Canyon is a dream destination! It has something to offer to those hoping to marvel at nature in comfort and those yearning to get lost in the middle of nowhere. The North Rim is your chance to get away from the crowds and take some rest in the open country. Keep in mind that while the South Rim is open all year, the North Rim closes during the winter months.

If you head out to the West Rim, you may enjoy the Skywalk. It is a bridge platform with transparent sides coming through the canyon and enabling spectacular panoramic views. For truly adventurous spirits, there’s a rafting tour and a zip line experience available. Just imagine soaring over the cliffs of the Grand Canyon!


The Grand Canyon is the most famous natural wonder in the U.S.
The Grand Canyon
Photo by Alan Carrillo on Unsplash


Natural wonders in the United States don’t end with the Grand Canyon.

A pleasant bonus to visiting the Grand Canyon is that on your way you can make a stop in Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles. Actually, if you want to really get carried away with the fascinating nature experience, and you aren’t on a budget, try taking an all-inclusive park tour. This one also includes Zion National Park and Yosemite National Park. Also, it’s worth spending a few nights in the Canyon – the view of the stars is utterly mesmerizing. Yet if you are looking for more opportunities to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way, check out these 10 best stargazing sites in the U.S.


#3 The Northern Lights in Alaska

The northern lights are not just one of the natural wonders in the United States. You can witness them from just a few places on the Earth – Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada and the U.S. Alaska really is the perfect place to witness the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis. The phenomenon caused by the collision of the solar wind with particles in our atmosphere can turn into a spectacular natural light show.


If you’ve never slept in the house with a glass roof, Alaska is exactly a place to give it a try. It’s a 100%-guarantee you won’t ever regret this decision. In Glass Igloos, you’ll enjoy green, white, purple or magenta light swirls across the sky lying in a comfortable bed with a cup of hot chocolate.

➡ Tips from Airwander


The Northern Lights in Alaska will inspire you to visit even more natural wonders in the United States
The Northern Lights in Alaska
Photo by Vincent Ledvina on Unsplash


#4 Mendenhall Ice Caves in Alaska

Still, Alaska’s wonders do not exhaust themselves with just the northern lights. The Mendenhall Glacier, not far from Juneau, is a place offering a one-of-a-kind experience. Just imagine, the Mendenhall Ice Caves are formed by the meltwater and an ice river coursing through the glacier formation. Thus, the bright blue caves are constantly changing and reshaping. As the glacier recedes, the caves are gradually melting, changing their shapes and collapsing. You must keep in mind that a visit there is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

However, the hiking tour is quite strenuous and requires physical training, certain balancing skills and confidence. You’ll have to hike 800 feet up on the steep, slippery, mountainous terrain of the Mendenhall Glacier. Still, to make things clear –  the view is undeniably impressive. Visitors are allowed to visit the caves on their own. Still, inexperienced travelers are advised to take one of the guided hiking tours. A round-trip visit typically takes at least 8 hours, and proper safety equipment is essential.


Mendenhall Ice Caves in Alaska are on the list of jaw-dropping natural marvels in the United States
Mendenhall Ice Caves in Alaska
Photo credit: Arctic Council Secretariat / Linnea Nordström


#5 Niagara Falls in New York

You must have heard and maybe even visited Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, but did you know that you can witness this natural marvel in the United States, too? Standing 176 metres tall, this natural wonder was carved by the movement of ice during the Ice Age. The best way to discover Niagara is to take a boat trip. It provides an incredible view of the falls and a chance to experience the beauty and power of the water up close (don’t forget to take a raincoat with you!).

Visitors can get right underneath the falls by taking the famous Maid of the Mist boat tour or by hiking to the Cave of the Winds underneath Bridal Veil Falls. But if you’d like to view the impressive falls from an entirely different angle, you can walk or drive across the border and view the falls from the Canadian side as well. It’s also possible to book a hotel in the local area for those keen to explore the whole Niagara Falls State Park in greater detail.


A popular destination among the natural wonders in the U.S. is Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls
Photo by Sergey Pesterev on Unsplash


#6 Sequoia National Park in California

Did you use to dream as a child to hug and smell the highest and the oldest trees in the world, just like those you saw just in an encyclopedia next to the dinosaurs? Here’s your chance to do it in reality. Go to the Sequoia National Park and draw energy and a sense of astonishment from the tallest trees on the Earth. Apart from giant sequoias, you can find there other species of redwood trees which are hundreds of years old, growing over 300 feet high (taller than the Statue of Liberty!), and living for up to two millennia. If you head out to the old U.S. Highway 101 about 300 miles north of San Francisco, you’ll be surrounded with more than 50,000 acres of redwood trees, which will astound you with their greatness.


You'll be astounded by the intact beauty of Sequoia National Park in California
Sequoia National Park in California
Photo by Vitto Sommella on Unsplash


#7 Yosemite National Park in California

Another place where you can find ancient sequoia trees is Yosemite National Park, one of the oldest national parks in the United States. It has a variety of rare wildlife species which inhabit California’s craggy mountain range. The park includes a staggering array of natural beauty, presented by jewel-like subalpine lakes, eye-catching waterfalls, and sky-scraping granite tops. Exploring the whole park can take quite a long time, but its highlights are believed to be the sequoia trees in Mariposa Grove and the 2,425-feet Yosemite Falls, which is the highest waterfall in North America and one of the most magnificent natural wonders in the United States.

The best time to enjoy the fall is May, which is a combination of nice weather and well-flowing watercourse that feeds the waterfall. There’re two trails leading to Yosemite Falls, a staggering bucket-list destination indeed. The easier trail is a simple one-mile hike, but if the adventurous spirit encourages you to take a more challenging pass, you should choose a demanding but immensely pleasing all-day hike to the top – either way you won’t regret it.


Yosemite Fall in its majestic beauty
Yosemite National Park in California
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash


#8 Arches National Park in Utah

The park is home to more than 2,000 natural stone arches, which is more than anywhere else in the world. The red-rock wonderland is situated right next to the Colorado River in eastern Utah. The next time you find yourself thinking about a new destination to add to your travel bucket list, consider one of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the United States – Delicate Arch. Standing at 52 feet high, the arch is made out of Entrada Sandstone and is one of the Utah’s visual symbols.

Back in 2002, when Utah hosted the Winter Olympic Games, Delicate Arch was the first place within the state to enter the torch relay. You can spend your time in the park driving or cycling along the picturesque 18-mile road. Hiking lovers will also be over the moon with a diversity of hiking routes that range from 15 minutes up to 5 hours and are open during the spring, summer, and fall.


Visiting Arches National Park in Utah equals a trip-to-the-Mars experience
Arches National Park in Utah
Photo by Josh Soriano on Unsplash


#9 Crater Lake in Oregon

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America that fascinates visitors with its intense blue colour. The lake was formed by the fall of a volcano which erupted and collapsed approximately 7,700 years ago. At 1,943 feet deep, the lake takes its water directly from snow or rain, so there are no inlets from other water sources. It’s actually one of the purest lakes on the Earth! What’s more, the location is a perfect place for skiing and snowshoeing in winter, and hiking in summer. You can even swim in particular areas, but brace yourself for quite low water temperature.

Apart from skiing and swimming, Crater Lake is a great place to test your cycling skills as well. The hilly landscape requires high endurance and plenty of training. After enjoying the astonishing views during the day, you have a chance to see the satellites, planets and the ‘arms’ of the Milky Way on a clear, moonless night as Crater Lake’s skies turn into some of the darkest in America, which makes it a perfect place for stargazing.


Crater Lake in Oregon must be on your list of must-see destinations in the U.S.
Crater Lake in Oregon
Photo by Jeff Hopper on Unsplash


#10 Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico

Sometimes we can’t even imagine what beauty may be hidden just below our feet. The Carlsbad Caverns National Park has more than 119 caves underneath the ground, which have several huge underground chambers, up to 250 feet high, filled with bright formations of many colours and shapes. As a result, you can take a self-guided tour into one of the oldest and most famous cave systems in the world or explore the caverns with a ranger who can reveal a lot of underground secrets. One of the caverns, called the Big Room, also happens to be the largest-volume cave chamber in America. Keep in mind that the caverns are an all-day drive from any other major attractions in the Southwest, but without any doubts, they are well worth the long journey.


Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico are one-of-a-kind in the United States
Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico
Photo credit: NPS Photo/Peter Jones

Mind you, all of these natural wonders are actually in the United States! Astonishing views, exciting terrains, and unique wildlife are all within your reach. So pack the essentials and don’t miss an opportunity to escape your daily routine and visit the superb places to unwind. If you feel inspired to explore the jaw-dropping destinations outside the U.S., check out our article about the absolutely best places around the world off-the-beaten-path. And once you’ve found an astonishing place you’d love to visit, don’t forget to book the flights 🙂