The United States has some of the most diverse landscapes out of any country in the world. From beaches to deserts and mountains to swamps... you could spend a lifetime exploring everything there is to offer here. This list is solely opinions based off places I personally have been, since I cannot speak on the places I have yet to see. I hope you’re inspired to make the trip to some of these incredible destinations! Also, these are in no particular order! Enjoy!
1. Cummins Falls, Tennessee (map)
There are very few waterfalls that enable you to climb all over them (legally) and explore the grandiose they have to offer. This waterfall is one of them! It's so incredible and just might be my favorite waterfall in the United States. Don't forget to snag your permit though!
2. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado (map)
Imagine 11,000 foot tall sand dunes surrounded by 14,000 ft. peaks! It's absolutely incredible. This is a National Park that you'll want to check off your list. Don't forget to bring your sand board or rent one there during high season!
3. Enchantments, Washington (map)
Okay, I know I said this list is in no particular order but this is one of my personal favorite places in the country! It's located near Leavenworth, Washington and it's absolutely astounding. It doesn't come easy though--it's a 22 mile hike! If you're willing and able... I can't recommend this place enough! Jagged peaks, turquoise lakes, and solitude. If you don't want to do the entire thing, Colchuck Lake is on the trail and won't disappoint. There's two different trailheads for the entire Enchantments point-to-point trail but I recommend the trailhead I linked above.
4. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, Oregon (map)
I'd dreamt of going to this place for so long and when I finally made it to the Pacific Northwest, it did not disappoint. The aggressive waves crashing into the uniquely formed rock formations really is a sight to see.
5. Ruby Beach, Washington (map)
Imagine bonfires on the beach with the salty air blowing through your hair. It's so fun and has the best vibes! It's a place you must check out while you're in Olympic National Park. It's also near the town of Forks, where Twilight took place! Team Edward or Jacob??!
6. Yosemite National Park (map)
What more do I need to say? Everybody needs to go to this place in their lifetime! There's so much to do in this incredible, world renowned park. From Yosemite Valley to el Capitan... this is a rock climber's paradise. Don't worry though, from waterfalls to iconic viewpoints, there's plenty to do from the ground, too!
7. Ouray, Colorado (map)
Oftentimes referred to as "The Switzerland of America", this is one of my all time favorite small mountain towns in Colorado. I have a detailed blog post about it here. There are big huge mountains in every direction you look and the people are just sweet as can be. Even if you're just driving through, I suggest you get out and explore the area for an hour or so!
8. Moab, Utah (map)
With two national parks (Arches and Canyonlands) and one state park (Deadhorse), Moab is an adventurer's paradise! There's hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and 4x4 off roading jeep tours! The red-orange rock formations will make you feel like you've suddenly stepped onto a different planet!
9. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (map)
Jackson Hole is home to some of the most jagged and distinguishable peaks in the country! The Tetons are really something and they often get covered in low clouds, with the tops of them peeking out the top! Beware though, it'll cost you a pretty penny to stay near the park in Jackson Hole but it's absolutely worth it! Of course each traveler's budget is different!
10. Stowe, Vermont (map)
This town is absolutely adorable! Without a doubt, the best time to travel here is in the fall because the trees are popping with the brightest hues of oranges and reds! Keep an eye out for peak fall foliage because it's truly one of the most incredible things you could see in the US. It has all of the things a small New England town can give. Cute shops, little cafes, and of course the signature white steeples towering over the town.
11. Caddo Lake State Park, Texas (map)
While the swamps of the south are slightly eerie and kind of look like they're from a spooky movie, they're also one of the most unique places I've ever seen! Perhaps it's because I'm not accustomed to them since I'm not from the southern states but nonetheless I was very impressed. There are Cyprus Trees growing in water that's so still it looks like it's reflection is a mirror! If you're lucky you might even spot an alligator. Check out my detailed travel guide for this place here!!
12. Glacier National Park, Montana (map)
If you're a mountain lover like I am, this place is for you. The park has a very small window for hiking season due to the harsh winters but it's worth the trip in the summer! Filled with turquoise colored lakes, climbable mountains, and of course, glaciers!! It's also bear country so make sure to have your bear spray with you! We're in their environment after all.
13. Shoshone Falls, Idaho (map)
This is one of those places where you can pretty much drive to, which makes it a quick easy stop in Idaho. Standing at impressive 212 feet high, I was definitely impressed when I saw it for the first time. It's very kid and family friendly, which makes a great stop if you're on a roadtrip with the kiddos.
14. Mt. Rainier National Park (map)
From fire lookouts above the clouds to the majestic Mt. Rainier itself... this was one of those parks I wanted to go to from the moment I saw photos of it. People from the Pacific Northwest seem to be used to cloud inversions and moody weather but I am not. The conditions there are always so unique. If you're there during the summer you'll witness fields and fields so full of wildflowers that you'll think you're in a painting!
15. Valley of Fire, Nevada (map)
Around an hour's drive from Las Vegas, this is a perfect day trip from the city. Filled with windy roads weaving in and out of the Aztec Sandstone rock formations that quite literally look like they're on fire, makes it for a really cool spot, especially for photography. There are also some slot canyons there, too!
16. Monument Valley, Utah/Arizona border (map)
If you've seen Forest Gump you're probably familiar with this infamous scene! The unique looking buttes are located in the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and absolutely tower over the valley below. While it's out in the middle of nowhere, it's one of the greatest places to see in the American West. Be prepared to share the road with other tourists taking their photos for the obligatory Monument Valley road shot!
17. Devil’s Bathtub, Virginia (map)
What a place! This is one of the more fascinating hikes I've done, mainly due to the numerous river crossings that are necessary in order to make it there! There are flash floods often, so be careful if you go and be sure to check the forecast! There's a rope swing and some of the most crystal clear water I've seen in the U.S. Beware if you get in the water though, it is COLD! Check out my detailed blog post about it here!!
18.Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (map)
Home to the Old Faithful Geyser, which erupts to around 140 feet in the air every hour or so, is something you must see! There's also Grand Prismatic, which contains the most colorful hues I've ever seen in nature!! We actually took a scenic flight over the park enabling us to get a bird's eye view of the impressive hot spring! Be sure to check out the waterfalls here too. Yellowstone is also home to bison and bears, so keep your eyes peeled! Also, we were on a scenic flight, this was not taken on a drone (those a prohibited in national parks).
19. Acadia National Park, Maine (map)
This is also a place worth visiting in the fall because of the array of colors it presents! It's incredible because it's right on the coast, so you'll get a different landscape than a lot of the US National Parks. Be sure to check out the highest mountain in the park, Cadillac Mountain. From October-May it's the first place you can see the sunrise in the United States! I also recommend checking out The Beehive Loop trail if you're into more adventurous hikes! Thunder Hole is also another spot I recommend going to if you want to see some ginormous crashing waves!
20. North Cascades National Park, Washington (map)
Only a few hours from Seattle, this national park is somewhere that shouldn't be missed! There's bright turquoise lakes, jaw dropping mountains, and glaciers! We did one particular hike called "Sahale Arm" and it was incredible!
21. Horseshoe Bend, Arizona (map)
I'm sure you've seen photos of it, and for good reason! It's just as it sounds, a horseshoe shaped section of the Colorado River. If you visit at sunset, the sun will slowly lower behind the scene, making for some epic photographs.
22. Hoh Rainforest, Washington (map)
Another spot near the Olympic Peninsula that needs to be on your list! I've never seen so much greenery in my entire life. It gets an average of a whopping 12 feet of rain per year! It's quite a peaceful place if the crowds aren't too bad. The trees are covered in hanging moss and it really makes for a fairy-like environment!
23. Mt. Tamalpais State Park, California (map)
Okay this is hands down one of the most draw dropping scenes I've ever seen in my life! It's only a dozen or so miles from San Francisco and provides the most stunning views. It's not uncommon for there to be a sea of clouds that form beneath you, looking like you're above the earth. It's truly magical and I recommend going there for sunset! You won't believe your eyes!
24. Thor’s Well, Oregon (map)
Thor's Well is a unique hole formation in the rocks, making it seem like the water from the ocean drains into it. During high tide, the water seems to shoot back out of it and then pour back in, making for a very mesmerizing thing to watch. Be extremely careful though because of how strong the waters are. If you fall in, you will likely be out of luck...
25. Maroon Bells, Colorado (map)
Located in Aspen, these are said to be the most photographed peaks in the country. World renowned golden aspens in the fall make for a scene from a postcard. It can get overly crowded and a shuttle system is now in place, which is a hassle for planning but nice for limited capacity! Be sure to go here, you'll be in awe!
26. Potash Evaporation Ponds, Utah (map)
These bright blue pools in the middle of Utah's red desert looks like it should be fake! These photos were taken at sunrise so you can't really tell how dramatic the color is... but I can assure you it's blue! You can get a decent view of them from Deadhorse State Park, or else you can drive down to the Potash Scenic Byway. Essentially the miners pump water from underground to get the potash brine. The idea is that it crystallizes and is then formed into a fertilizer! Science is pretty cool, right?!
27.Goblin Valley State Park, Utah (map)
This place is so unique because of the mushroom shaped formations all around, resembling giant goblins everywhere! There are also little yurts in the middle of everything and are able to be rented out. You're able to climb all over and get better vantage points! It's truly a unique place and it kind of looks like you're on a different planet.
28. Zion National Park, Utah (map)
Think red-ish-orange rocks with a stark contrast of green waters below. It's astounding and there are a bunch of unique hikes there. The "Scariest Hike in America" is here, known as "Angel's Landing". Another hike we did that was particularly unique because the whole thing is walking through the river, is called "The Narrows". It's so much fun but don't forget your water shoes and use caution with your camera gear! This park gets extremely crowded and shuttle buses are required for certain things, so plan ahead!
29. Burgess Falls State Park, Tennessee (map)
This state park is home to four waterfalls but the main attraction is Burgess Falls. It's around 1.5 miles to get to the falls and you'll be surrounded by lush greenery the whole way. The tourist viewpoint is from above but we saw local kayakers down at the bottom of the falls!
30. Alabama Hills, California (map)
This is a particularly popular filming location! It sits below the infamous Mt. Whitney (14,505 ft.) and has beautiful landscapes in every direction you look. It's home to some unique arch formations, one of the most famous ones being "Mobius Arch". This is a popular camping destination as well as a picturesque place to take photos of your car, lol.
31. Baker Beach, California (map)
Located beneath the infamous Golden Gate Bridge, this place is stunning! It's the perfect place to watch the sunset as the entire landscape turns orange! This is another one of those postcard views that you won't want to miss. We saw surfers while we were there too! It was also chilly so bring layers!
32. Cannon Beach, Oregon (map)
Cannon Beach is probably the most popular beach in Oregon (I could be wrong but I don't think I am). With the infamous "Haystack Rock", there's no wonder the beach has gained so much popularity... it really is stunning. There's also the cutest little beach houses there and they give allllll of the beachy vibes!
33. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (map)
Since I'm from Colorado, this is the national park I've been to the most over the years. There's so many hikes and although the more unique ones are the furthest in terms of hiking distance, that means less crowds! I love going to this park especially because it's less than two hours from Denver!
34. New River Gorge, West Virginia (map)
When we went to this bridge it was before the "New River Gorge" had been declared a National Park! We didn't go river rafting or anything like that during our time there but we were sure to check out this incredible bridge in the clouds. When we drove over it, the visibility dropped so low that we could barely see 5 feet in front of us! It was so eerie, yet so exciting.
35. Seneca Rocks, West Virginia (map)
This is a super fun hike that will provide incredible views of the surrounding areas. It's a popular place for rock climbers but hikers will have a blast as well! There's a viewpoint where you can stop to catch you breath and then you can continue up the path but be sure to use caution... it gets very narrow and dangerous!
36. The Lost Sea, Tennessee (map)
Known as the largest underground lake in the United States, this place is pretty darn cool. I'm not going to lie... the experience is touristy. If you can get past that, the caverns are a very special thing to see and then you'll walk to the "Lost Sea", aka America's largest underground lake! You'll get to go out on a boat to explore the massive lake too!
37. Ozone Falls (map)
This is a steep little descent down to the lower falls but it's so fun! There's plenty of room to swim down at the bottom, too! If you don't want to go to the bottom, there's another option to go to the top! It's kind of scary though... you can literally walk to the very edge of where the water falls. It's cool but be careful!
38. Puget Sound, Washington (map)
There's nothing quite like seeing a whale out in the wild! We went on a whale watching tour from Edmonds and went out to the San Juan Islands where we saw numerous whales! It's an experience of a lifetime and it's definitely something to see.
39. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado (map)
This is an excellent place to go if you're looking for a quick and easy stop on your road trip. Since the canyon is so steep, there's trails that lead to viewpoints around the perimeter of the drive. For the most part, these are for all skill levels. The views are excellent and the size of the canyon is breathtaking!!
40. Royal Gorge, Colorado (map)
Located 2 hours from Denver, the train here is a classic Colorado experience! The train ride travels beneath the highest suspension bridge in the United States, The Royal Gorge Bridge! You're also able to go and actually walk on the bridge as well. It's such a fun experience and something that will provide and adventure filled day trip.
41. Death Valley National Park, California (map)
With the hottest recorded temperature EVER (134 degrees fahrenheit) , this place is so unique! If you don't want to croak, I suggest you go in the spring or fall due to the absurdly high temperatures in the summer. There's sand dunes, colorful rock formations, and mud cracks that make for such unique landscapes, especially for my fellow photographers!
42. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah (map)
With orange colored "hoodoos" everywhere, Bryce Canyon National Park is somewhere you don't want to miss. The lighting is prime during sunrise or sunset so be sure to check it out during that time if you can! From simple viewpoints to longer hikes more than 15 miles, this is great park for all skill levels!
43. Rockbridge State Nature Preserve, Ohio (map)
This place in Ohio is super unique because there's a rock formation that looks like a bridge and you can walk across it! If you take the short little hike down the bottom of it, you suddenly are in a little cove. There's even a waterfall in certain months! Be very careful if you're visiting here though because there is no railing when walking on the high, exposed bridge. P.S. can you spot Kevin?
44. Pagosa Springs, Colorado (map)
If you're into soaking in beautiful hot springs, I highly recommend you going! It's home to the deepest hot spring in the country, which heats the rest of the 24 pools on the property. It's healing minerals make for a truly relaxing experience! Check out my detailed blog post about it here!
45. Kanarra Falls, Utah (map)
This is one of the most uniquely positioned waterfalls because it's in the middle of a slot canyon! It's such a fun hike too because a good portion of it requires you to walk through the water. There's a quirky little ladder placed directly next to the waterfall and you're able to climb up it if you wish to continue further. It's a great stop on any road trip! Permits are required now, so plan in advance!
46. Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington (map)
The main reason I wanted to head out to this state park was because of the most incredible lighthouse that's here! It's so stunning and you can overlook the beach, the waves, and of course the sunset. There are a few trails but we just simply took in the view and had a relaxing evening! There are campsites also if you're looking to camp in the area.
47. Sequoia National Park, California (map)
The giant trees here are actually unbelievable! You'll feel like you're an ant! One of the only hikes we did was "Moro Rock" and it was epic. It was during the winter, which felt slightly precarious... but I'm hoping to check it out again in the summer months!
48. Mt. Evans, Colorado (map)
Want to see the views of a 14er without the effort? Take this jaw dropping drive that's less than two hours from Denver! It's absolutely beautiful and if you go around sunset there will most likely be mountain goats out! The road is only open in the summer months because of the amount of snowfall in the offseason, so be sure to check it out then! Keep and eye out for altitude sickness though!
49. Toketee Falls, Oregon (map)
Toketee Falls is one of my favorite waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest! There's sooo many to choose from up there and I've only seen a few of them... but this one is great. It's possible to go down to the bottom but we, unfortunately, didn't make it down because it was getting late. Be sure to check this out! It's an easy little hike that you'll likely enjoy.
50. Ohiopyle State Park, Pennsylvania (map)
This is a great place on the east coast if you're looking for waterfalls, swimming in the river, and natural waterslides! It's super fun and "Cucumber Falls" is a very fun waterfall to hang out at. You can walk down to the bottom of it, behind it, and even on top! Be careful though!
Well, that was my "50 Bucket List Destinations in the USA" list! As I said, I haven't seen every inch of our country (working on it!), so there's TONS of places that I hope to check off my list and then put into a different post in the future! Some of these places may have different systems in place since I've last gone (permits, Covid-19 restrictions, etc.) but they're my favorite places I have been to! Be sure to keep an eye out for part two! Let me know if you've been to any of these places or if you have any suggestions of places to go! As always, be safe when you're out there exploring!