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Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Photograph: Shutterstock

10 seriously stunning natural wonders of the USA

From Niagara Falls to the redwood forests, these stunning natural wonders in the US will leave you speechless

By Howard Halle and Rosie Hewitson
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The world might be gradually opening up again, but with new Covid variants circulating and travel restrictions still prone to regular change, there are plenty of good reasons to opt for a staycation rather than an international trip this summer. After all, there’s no shortage of exciting and pandemic-friendly vacation options right here in the Unifted States, from road trips taking in tourist hotspots and unusual landmarks, to hiking expeditions, camping excursions and adrenaline-pumping outdoorsy adventures

Whatever you’re up to this summer, make sure to stop off at one of these incredible natural wonders in the US. From ancient, towering redwoods to vast, magnificent deserts, there's nothing like experiencing these seriously awesome phenomena in person.

RECOMMENDED: The best national parks in the USA

Natural wonders in the US

Wildflowers at Mount Rainier National Park
Wildflowers at Mount Rainier National Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Wildflowers at Mount Rainier National Park

This 236,381 acre park in Washington state happens to encompass an active volcano, but since it last erupted in the 19th-century, chances are nothing will happen if you go—nothing, that is, except experiencing breathtaking views of Mt Rainier itself, along with glaciers, waterfalls and meadows filled with wildflowers.

Best time to visit: July through August, when wildflowers transform the park's subalpine meadows and the dry, warm weather provides optimal hiking conditions.

Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Gypsum dunes at White Sands National Monument

This sand is white alright, owing to the fact that it’s made of gypsum, the same material that comprises plaster, blackboard chalk and drywall. There’s 4.5 billion tons of the stuff covering 145,762 acres near Alamogordo, New Mexico. In some places, the dunes can reach up to 60 feet high.

Best time to visit: The many yuccas in White Sands bloom in April, but watch out for windy days. Otherwise, try October to early November when cottonwoods are in bloom. 

Discover the best things to do in New Mexico 

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Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Snowcapped mountains above Glacier Bay National Park

Youll think you’re in Norway when you see the magnificent fjord and majestic mountains at Glacier Bay National Park. There are 1,045 glaciers in the 3,226,800 acre park, which also houses a 57,700-acre wildlife preserve. Ten miles of trials, plus 700 miles of shoreline, offer ample opportunities for kayaking, camping and hiking.

Best time to visit: The high in Alaska is 70 degrees during June and July, making it the perfect time to go.

Discover the best things to do in Alaska

Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Star-filled night at Arches National Park

Located north of Moab Utah, Arches National Park is so named for the 2,000 wind-sculpted sandstone arches gracing the area—the largest such concentration in the world. The most famous of these is the iconic 52-foot-tall Delicate Arch, whose image can be seen on Utah license plates.

Best time to visit: April through May and September through October, when daytime temperatures average about 60 to 80 degrees.

Discover the best things to do in Utah

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Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Walking amongst giants in Redwood National and State Parks

This protected string of old-growth forests represents what’s left of the massive redwood trees that once covered Northern California and served as home to the Indigenous populations. Trees can reach up to 379 feet in height and nearly 29 feet in diameter and can live 1,800 years or more, making them among the oldest living things on earth.

Best time to visit: July marks peak tourist time, so to avoid the crowds, consider going anytime during the spring or fall.

Discover the best things to do in California

Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Evening mist at Niagara Falls

Straddling the border between New York state and Ontario, Canada, Niagara Falls is actually three waterfalls named Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil, respectively. Combined, they send six million cubic feet of water a minute plunging 160 feet into the Niagara gorge below.

Best time to visit: Highs in the low 80s, and cooling sprays from the falls make June to August a great time to visit.

Discover the best things to do in Niagra Falls

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Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Sunset behind Old Faithful

The world's most famous geyser, Old Faithful in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, lives up to its name, erupting more than 1 million times since its discovery in 1870, at an average of 20 times a day. Each blast spews some 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of water to heights of 100 to 180 feet.

Best time to visit: Early morning or in the evening from April to May and between September and October.

Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Dusk along the Grand Canyon

Arizonas Grand Canyon needs no introduction, except to say that it took the Colorado River two billion years to carve its impressive dimensions (277 miles long, by 18 miles wide by 1 mile deep). The sedimentary layers exposed by erosion vividly change color with the light. 

Best time to visit: March through May and September through November when daytime temperatures are cool and the crowds are thin.

Discover the best things to do in Arizona

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Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Red skies over Monument Valley's Mitten Buttes

Even if you’ve never heard of Monument Valley, you’d recognize it thanks to how Hollywood has used it as a backdrop for countless westerns. Located on the Arizona–Utah state line, the site is known for its striking sandstone buttes, the largest of which reaches 1,000 feet high. 

Best time to visit: Anytime between April and October; Temps remain relatively cooler, even during the summer months, because of Monument Valley's 5200-foot elevation.

NOTE: Masks are currently mandatory in all Navajo Nation Tribal Parks.  

Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Old Faithful, Niagara Falls, Arches National Park, White Sands National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glacier Bay National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Devils Tower National Monument
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Rainbow over Devils Tower National Monument

Besides playing a role in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Devil’s Tower in Wyoming was dedicated as the first national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. Rising 867 feet into the air, this butte made of volcanic rock is a sacred site to several First Nation people, including the Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa.

Best time to visit: May to June and September to October are best.

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