10 Natural Wonders Of The USA
North America is truly blessed when it comes to natural wonders and geographical marvels. A trip across this mammoth, diverse and beautiful country offers magnificent opportunities to explore rivers, lakes, mountain ranges, canyons, valleys and volcanoes. For those preparing for an adventure-laden America tour, here’s a guide to the spectacular natural wonders of the USA.
Natural Wonders of the USA
Of all the things to do in America, there are few that rival exploring national parks and feats of Mother Nature’s engineering expertise. It may not be possible to discover every jewel in the crown but any one of these 10 incredible natural wonders is guaranteed to impress you.
1. Death Valley
Nestled in the glistening golden sands of the desert that blankets the Arizona-Nevada border, Death Valley is one of the most extreme but beautiful places in the whole of the US.
Comprising 1.3 million hectares of dusty landscapes that are speared by yucca plants and craggy, rocky outcrops, this wild gem offers a very different take on the traditional perception of America’s national parks. More than a million people visit Death Valley every year and it’s often combined with trips to Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave Desert. Although the terrain and the weather conditions can be challenging, there’s an array of activities on offer here for those ready to test their mettle. Examples include hiking, climbing, abseiling, horseback riding and cycling. Movie buffs may also want to check out the filming locations of the epic Star Wars Episode IV film.
Include Death Valley in an epic American self drive holiday.
2. Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is one of the most remarkable natural treasures on the planet. Attracting more than 5 million visitors every year, this enormous national park, which is characterised by its jaw-dropping, plunging canyon, covers an expanse of rugged terrain stretching almost 5,000 square kilometres.
Visitors are routinely blown away by the scale of the park and the tranquil beauty of its setting. This is one of those tourist attractions that never disappoints.
Most people make for either the South, the West or the North Rim. The South Rim is open all year, while the North Rim closes during the winter months. The West Rim is particularly popular with tourists, as it offers the chance to enjoy the views from the famous Skywalk: a platform with transparent sides which protrudes into the canyon and offers spectacular panoramic vistas. The South Rim tends to be slightly quieter and those who wait for sunset can enjoy unrivaled views of the canyon basking in a golden, pink-hued sky.
A trip to the Grand Canyon can be combined with a city break in San Diego, Las Vegas or Los Angeles or a national park tour, which also includes Zion National Park and Yosemite. At its deepest point, the canyon drops 6,000 feet, and at its widest, it spans 18 miles.
3. Florida Everglades
A watery wilderness that covers thousands of square kilometres, the Florida Everglades are a breathtaking beauty spot, offering an array of activities. A fascinating network of wetlands, waterways and subtropical forests, this is a unique wonder that offers all kinds of action-packed adventures and wildlife spotting opportunities.
Perhaps the most famous resident of the Florida Everglades is the alligator. It is estimated that there are more than 200,000 of these fascinating reptiles in the Everglades and taking an air boat ride to catch a glimpse of these menacing, prehistoric creatures comes highly recommended. The Everglades is thought to be the only place on the planet where alligators and crocodiles co-exist.
A boat trip offers incredible opportunities not only to spot the subtle movements and beady eyes of crocs and gators, but also to appreciate the sheer size of the wetlands and to cast an eye upon the numerous bird species that call the Everglades home. There may even be the chance to catch sight of marine mammals such as bottlenose dolphins and manatees that sometimes come into the area. The elusive Florida panther is another high-profile native.
4. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Comprising a cluster of stunning tropical islands, Hawaii is an awe-inspiring holiday destination. Offering everything from glimmering white sand beaches and crystal clear waters to cosmopolitan cities and one of the most intriguing national parks in the US, Hawaii has something for everyone.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to Mauna Loa, traditionally considered the world’s largest volcano. One of five volcanoes located on Hawaii’s Big Island, this imposing conical structure stands more than 13,000 feet above sea level. An active volcano, Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984. Guided tours of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park provides an insight into the fascinating geographical makeup of the park and its vibrant history and guests will be able to marvel at black sand beaches, lava-carved rock faces and giant, gaping calderas.
5. Great Lakes
A collection of vast bodies of water that stretch towards the border between the US and Canada, the Great Lakes comprise Lakes Erie, Ontario, Michigan, Huron and Superior. Covering a combined area of almost 95,000 square miles, this is officially the largest fresh water surface on Earth. Lake Superior alone has a surface area of over 31,000 square miles. Visitors hoping to explore the Great Lakes can combine self-drive tours with guided boat trips.
In addition to providing a stunning base for hiking and boating, the Great Lakes also offer pristine, unspoiled habitats for a host of mammals, including black bears and moose. Many people choose to explore the lakes as part of a voyage of discovery that also includes sightseeing in towns and cities. The lakes cover eight states and popular stop-offs include Chicago, Detroit and Toronto.
6. Monument Valley
Located on the Utah/Arizona border, Monument Valley is a burning terracotta plain decorated by yucca trees, canyons and dramatic rock formations. A baked, arid landscape that has barely changed over the course of thousands of years, this rural, remote area offers a unique opportunity to take a step back in time, embrace total peace and appreciate the wonders of nature. The skies here are impossibly clear and blue, and they provide a stunning contrast to the scorched golden and red rocks that create a scene worthy of a movie backdrop. A tour of Monument Valley includes several geographical highlights, including The Mittens, John Ford’s Point and the Three Sisters. There’s also scope to learn more about the history of Navajo tribes, which populated the area from the 1500’s.
Discover Monument Valley on an exciting small group tour.
7. Niagara Falls
Perched on the border between the US and Canada, Niagara Falls is a bona fide natural marvel. Comprising three waterfalls, which come together to catapult raging torrents over the rocky precipice, the falls process a volume of 150,000 gallons of water per second. Standing 176 metres tall, this natural wonder was carved by the movement of ice during the Ice Age and is as stunning a sight as it sounds.
The best way to experience Niagara is to take a boat trip. This provides an incredible insight into the scale of the falls and the chance to experience the force, power and noise of the water up close. Niagara Falls day trips are widely available from Toronto and it’s also possible to book a hotel in the local area for those keen to explore the entirety Niagara Falls State Park in more detail.
Witness Niagara Falls from the American side with our Eastern Charms self drive.
8. Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park
The focal point of one of the USA’s most iconic national parks, Old Faithful Geyser attracts crowds from all over the globe. A cone geyser, which was named in 1870, this famous geothermal wonder erupts every 35-120 minutes, shooting vapour up to 180-feet in the air.
Each eruption lasts for 1.5-5 minutes. Old Faithful Geyser is by no means the only geyser in Yellowstone National Park but it attracts attention due to its predictability and size. There are bigger geysers and also geysers that erupt more regularly but Old Faithful is the largest frequently-erupting geyser. Having taken in the views and captured those all-important photos, it’s well worth taking in Yellowstone’s many other charms. Highlights include Yellowstone Caldera, Grand Prismatic Spring and Yellowstone Lake.
9. Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is one of the world’s longest. Spanning no fewer than 10 states, this incredible body of water flows from Lake Itasca in Minnesota – close to the Canadian border – to the Gulf of Mexico at the other extreme of the country.
The best way to explore the area and to enjoy the views at a sedate and leisurely pace is to take a Mississippi cruise along its famous waters. Traditional style steamboats glide across the river, providing visitors with a host of itinerary options, as well as the chance to enjoy perks like live music and delicious meals while scanning the scenery.
A popular option is to board the boat at New Orleans and follow a loop, which takes in sights such as Houmas House, Baton Rouge’s Old and New State Capitols, the Louisiana State Museum and Oak Alley Plantation. Cruising is a relaxing way to travel but there are also opportunities to socialise with other travellers and really get a feel for this wonderful part of the US.
One of the first stops along the Miss, if you’re traveling from South to North, is New Orleans – an iconic city that’s well worth a visit. Plan some time to meander through the historic streets before joining the cruise. The French Quarter is a highlight for most and there’s nothing like catching a live jazz band in action.
10. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Officially America’s most visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains welcomes more than 11 million people every year. This park is a treasure trove of hiking trails, iridescent meadows, rumbling rivers and tumbling falls; a fabulous place to enjoy the great outdoors.
Visitors can hike, cycle and even go white water rafting and there’s also scope to indulge in wildlife spotting. Local residents include black bears, deer, bobcats and coyotes. Spring is a brilliant time to visit, as the fields burst into life as wildflowers blossom and bloom.
Explore the Great Smoky Mountains on a 2-week self drive itinerary.
America is home to a scintillating collection of natural wonders. From hills and valleys to streams, lakes and volcanoes, there’s something magical awaiting every intrepid traveller here. So when you plan your next America holiday, be sure to include as many of these natural wonders of the USA as you can.