America’s most iconic outdoor spots can be experienced in different ways, whether by hiking and scenic drives or flightseeing and scuba diving. From the tallest peak in North America to unique undersea worlds, we’ve got the greatest U.S. outdoor attractions, in alphabetical order. What are your favorite natural wonders from this list?
1.Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia doesn’t have quite the jaw-dropping grandeur of the national parks of the West, but it holds many of the greatest pleasures to be experienced on a visit to the Maine coast: expansive views from the top of Cadillac Mountain, miles of paths for hiking and biking, a craggy coastline with an iconic lighthouse, inland ponds perfect for swimming, and remote outer islands.
2.Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina
The barrier islands along the coast of North Carolina are one of the best places in America for a classic laid-back beach vacation, with miles of pristine sand, great surfing, and unparalleled shelling. The protected status of Cape Hatteras National Seashore keeps the influences of commercial development in check.
3.Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah
The red-rock landscape of Arches National Park feels like another world, with rocks balanced precariously on pedestals and some 2,500 sandstone arches framing the sky. The most famous, Delicate Arch, stands as tall as a four-story building and has become Utah’s state icon, depicted on license plates and postage stamps.
4.Denali (Mount McKinley), Alaska
Peaking at 20,320 feet, Denali (the High One in Athabascan), is North America’s tallest mountain. It’s also part of one of Alaska’s most accessible parks that’s a popular excursion from cruise ships. Most visitors enjoy the view from afar, that almost 1,000 climbers summit the peak every year.
5.The Grand Canyon, Arizona
When it comes to the Grand Canyon, there are statistics, and there are sensations. While the numbers are impressive—the canyon measures in at an average width of 10 mi, length of 277 mi, and depth of a mile—they don’t truly prepare you for that first impression. Seeing the canyon for the first time is an astounding experience.
6.Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii
Hawaii’s volcanic landscape isn’t just a product of the past, but also of the present. Kilauea’s current eruption started in 1983, and visitors can see the drama unfold at the Pu’u ‘O’o Vent. Elsewhere in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, exploring the crater-filled landscape is like visiting the moon.
7.John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Florida
The pleasures of John Pennekamp Park are found out on the water, and under it. Offshore you’ll find Florida’s best diving and snorkeling, through coral reefs, sea-grass beds, and mangrove swamps. The adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary contains 40 species of coral and nearly 600 varieties of fish.
8.Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
The highest continuous paved roadway in North America, Trail Ridge Road, provides views around each bend—of moraines and glaciers and craggy hills framing emerald meadows carpeted with columbine and Indian paintbrush—that are truly awesome. Numerous turnouts throughout Rocky Mountain National Park give you the opportunity to stop and take in the lush valleys and glacier-etched granite peaks.
9.Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
America’s first national park is still its most spectacular. The concentration of geological phenomena—geysers, mudpots, fumaroles, hot springs—is unequaled anywhere else in the world, and the abundant wildlife and the gorgeous terrain make Yellowstone a nature-lover’s paradise. Even in the height of the summer season, a well-planned hike can leave you alone with the great outdoors.
10.Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California
The highest waterfall in North America (the fifth-highest in the world) is arguably the highlight of Yosemite, but it has lots of competition: Half Dome, El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, Sentinel Dome, and the Merced River are all musts for a visit to the park.