Whether you are visiting one state, or driving across the country, here are the best sites to see in each state. From mushroom rocks to volcanoes, each state features a unique or pristine geological wonder that is worth exploring.
Alabama’s Gulf Coast is breathtaking. Enjoy stunning sunrises and succulent seafood dinners at Orange beach. The white sand beach and crystal blue waters allow travelers to have fun in the sun with swimming, jet-skiing and fishing. April through October is the season for migratory birds to fly throughout the sky.
Alaska is grand, serene and beautiful. If you can only visit one place in Alaska, visit Denali National Park. This 6 million acre park features the highest mountain in North America, Mount McKinley. Local wildlife such as moose and bears enhance the majestic qualities of this national park.
Hands down the Grand Canyon National Park is one of the best places to visit in Arizona. The canyon is 277 river miles long and one mile deep. Geological colors glisten the sky with warm hues of gold and orange. Beat the heat and hike or camp during the spring and fall months to avoid overwhelming heat waves.
If driving through Arkansas, stop at Hot Springs National Park. This park was declared a reservation in 1832, and visitors are welcomed to miles of hiking trails, camping grounds and bathing in hot springs. Take a scenic drive along North and West Mountain Drive for spectacular views.
California features many scenic and beautiful landscapes. However, it is the only state with the largest trees in the states. Visit Sequoia National Forest to explore more than giant trees. Explore gorges, mountain meadows and limestone caverns throughout various areas of the national forest.
Colorado is one of America’s fittest states. Known for luxurious ski resorts, take a trip to a different Colorado spot, Ouray. Explore the Rocky mountains and Victorian architecture in this small mountain town. Hike the Box Canyon Waterfall and Park and relax in the sulfer-free hot springs for a complete day of activity and relaxation.
Ocean beach is more than a beach, it’s part of a 50-acre fun park. This recreational facility, located amongst the white-sand shore, features an Olympic size pool, 18-hole miniature gold and various other attractions. This is a perfect family destination.
Dewey Beach is Delaware’s hot spot for water sports, golf and nightlife. Enjoy magnificent sunrises as well as kayak, parasail or swim the Atlantic coastline. Enjoy sun by day and the Starboard Bar by night, voted in Men’s Journal Top 25 Bars in America.
If shelling is your favorite past-time or outdoor pursuit, then head to Sanibel Island, Florida. Named one of the best shelling beaches in the world, the coastline is covered in various shells, including sand dollars. Bring a bucket, as you will collect thousands of treasures from the sea.
Amicola Falls State Park is home to the tallest waterfall in the southeast. Amicola Falls cascades at 729 feet and is visible from walking paths or climb the stair trail. Accessible nearby the falls is the 8.5 mile trail to Springer Mountain.
Hawaii is amazing from mountain to coastline. With so many places to see, not many places on earth have active volcanoes. Visit Volcanoes National Park, which is located on the Big Island. Activities include hiking, lava viewing, biking or attending specialized programs are found throughout the 333,000 acre park.
Idaho is sure known for potatoes, and sand dunes? Yes sand dunes. Bruneau Dunes State Park is located 18 miles southwest of Mountain Home. The tallest sand dune is 470 feet in height, and the park feature additional desert, prairie, lake and marsh landscapes. Swim, hike, camp or star gaze at Bruneau for a sandy good time.
Enjoy nature trails, cascading waterfalls and colorful flowers at Starved Rock State Park. The park is most famous for rock formations, which are 425 million years old. During the spring, waterfalls are found at all 18 canyons to produce a geological array of colors and beauty. Adjacent to the Illinois river, fishing and boating opportunities exist seasonally.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Park lays amongst 15 miles of southern shoreline on Lake Michigan. With 15,000 acres of park, visitors enjoy over 45 miles of trails across dunes, rivers and forests. Hike Mt Baldy in the morning and relax at the beach in the afternoon to view the best sites in the park.
Known to be sacred by many Americans, visit the mounds at Effigy Mounds National Monument. There are over 200 native American Mounds, many created in animal shapes, remain a symbol of the Effigy Mounds Culture. From the bear on the Mississippi River to the turtle on Lake Michigan, these landmarks are special spiritually. Some archaeologists believe these mounds were created for celestial events or seasonal observations.
Like rocks? If so, visit the truly one-of-a-kind Mushroom Rock State Park. Part of the Smoky Hill Region, the Dakota formations are the remain of sediment from the Cretaceous Period. These mushroom shaped rocks are up to 144 million years old and the largest rock is 27 feet in diameter. The sandstone and sedimentary rock is bounded together naturally by calcium carbonate.
Mammoth Cave National Park is must-visit Kentucky delight. As the world’s largest caving system, there are over 400 miles explored by man. The national park service features tours and reservations are recommended. Tall people beware: don’t bump your head on the stalactites.
Poverty Point National Monument is an archaeological site known to be an “engineering marvel.” The 500 acres of earth works and mounds were created by Native Americans, and Poverty Point is the product of five million hours of labor.
Acadia National Park was the first established park east of the Mississippi River. Hike the park’s tallest mountain, Cadillac Mountain, or visit the famous Bass harbor Lighthouse for stunning views of nature. Drive through the 27 mile, Park Loop Road, for a glimpse at coastlines and fertile forests.
Ocean City, Maryland is home to the wonderful Ocean Beach. If you get tired of swimming, walk the boardwalk, eat in town or para-sail the ocean without getting wet. This is a great destination for families, or for those who want to combine nature, entertainment and adventure.
Love nature and history? Get the best of both worlds at Adams National Historical Park. This park is home to two American presidents and their descendants from 1720-1927. Explore the birthplace of John Adams and John Quincy Adams and other historic sites that founded America to unite as one nation.
Traverse City, located on the northeast part of Michigan’s mitten shape, is home to beautiful beaches and an abundance of outdoor activities. Walk the coastal board walk, scuba dive ship wrecks or hangout at the Sleeping Bear sand dunes. If you love golf, bring your clubs to swing at one of the best golf clubs in the region.
Visit the dramatic landscape at Voyageurs National Park. From steep coastal peaks to picturesque sunsets to mountain peaks, this park is located on the Canadian Shield and contains one to three billion year old rock formations. Bring your binoculars for a chance to spot bald eagles.
Tishomingo State Park is located at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The park is named after Chief Tishomongo, leader of the Chickasaw Nation. Archaeological excavations, dated up to 5000 BC, prove that the area was once populated with Paleo Indians. The park consists of a 13-mile nature trail system, fern-filled canyons and the meandering waters of Bear Creek. This is the only site in Mississippi that contains fern-filled crevices and wildflower-bordered trails where the Paleos once walked.
Elephant Rocks State Park unfortunately does not contain elephants, but giant elephant-like boulders. Hike or rock climb these granite boulders, especially during fall foliage. The park features a walking trail through the boulders, which also serves as an interpretive, braille trail for those who are visually impaired.
Glacier National Park is a must-see before the glaciers become ‘extinct.’ With over 700 miles of trails, hikers are limitless in their hiking pursuits and scenery options. For an adventure, backpack deep into Glaciers’ interior, or for a more low-key experience drive the scenic “Going-to-the-Sun-Road.”
Scotts Bluff National Monument is a 3,000 acre geological and paleontological paradise. The Scott Bluff towers 800 feet over the North Platte River. This landmark was once served by Native Americans and emigrants to the Oregon, Californian and Mormon Trails. Hike the 1.6 mile Saddle Rock Trail to the peak of Scotts Bluff or drive the historic Summit Road for a chance to view the old-school covered wagons.
One of the best areas in Nevada by far is Lake Tahoe. Although it borders California and Nevada, visitors are treated to seasonal mountain views and a stunning blue lake. This is another outdoor paradise as visitors hike or hot air balloon in the summer and ski in the winter.
Franconia State Park is located in White Mountain National Forest. Explore a bird’s eye view of the park via a gondola ride, or walk to the Old Man of the Mountain Historical Site to view the natural, geologic rock formations in the shape of a man’s face, from chin to forehead. The Old Man is 40 feet in height and 25 feet wide.
Hacklebarney State Park features magnificent sites of what remains after the glacial moraine era. The park’s name is derived from Native Americans, and was noted as one of the most beautiful parks in New Jersey. For glimpses of mini-waterfalls, follow the Black River as you hike amongst the 465-acre region.
White Sands National Monument is a must-visit while in New Mexico. Explore the miles of glistening white sand, something that will make you feel like you are on another planet. Star gazing, backpacking and camping are just some of the adventurous pursuits. Bring your camera, for one of the best, pristine, shots you may ever capture.
Adirondack region encompasses one-third of New York land. The vast landscape features pristine views and photo opportunities of wildflowers. There are over 2,000 miles of foot trails, and you may be lucky enough to spot history in nature with old forts and museums.
Ashville, North Carolina is an urban-outdoor enthusiast’s dream town. Play in nature by day, wine and dine by night. Skiing, hot air ballooning and biking in the nearby mountains are some of the recreational possibilities. Try something different through gem mining at Elijah Mountain Gem Mine or hiking Grandfather or Humpback Mountain.
In honor of a president, visitors should explore Theodore Roosevelt National Park to explore the vast landscape and watch the bison roam-free. Canoe, kayak, back country hike or ski throughout the park with seasonal activities.
If taking time to explore Ohio, do so on the Buckeye Trail. This 1,447 mile trail reaches every corner of the state. From the beachfront in Cleveland to a hilltop in Cincinnati, the 1950 vision is now a reality. Follow the “blue blazes” located on the trees to stay on course. For a shorter trip, this trail connects in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and completes a trip to Lake Erie.
The Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees is a 64 mile lake with 1,300 miles of shoreline to enjoy. Explore various land and water recreational activities such as swimming, boating, camping or biking. Enjoy the sun and stay cool in one of Oklahoma’s largest lakes.
Crater Lake National Park stuns visitors with the massive 1,943 foot deep lake, which is the deepest lake in America. Visitors have an array of hiking, fishing or swimming during the warmer months. Summers are short, and snow falls in September.
Presque Isle State Park is a 3,112 acre park located on a sandy peninsula on Lake Erie. Only four miles east of Erie, PA, Presque contains 13 beaches and 13 miles of recreational trails. From hiking to biking to swimming, visitors enjoy recreational activities and observing special landmarks such as the Perry Monument and lighthouses.
Beavertail State Park, located near Jamestown, offers some of Rhode Island’s best shoreline views. Visitors can experience salt water fishing or interpretive programs that are held on-site at the marine education center. If you had enough with swimming, check out the aquarium for an educational experience.
There is nothing evil about Devils Fork State Park. Lake Jocassee is a fed by Jocassee Gorge springs. The falls are only visible via boat, and the lake has the best trout fishing in the state. Not into fishing? Try scuba diving or swimming instead.
Badlands National Park is not as bad as it sounds. Located 75 miles east of Rapid City, this park features 244,000 acres of landscape and recreational fun. Walk amongst the ancient lands where sabor-tooth tigers and rhinos once lived.
Smokey Mountain National Park is one of the most visited parks in America. Spot magnificent sunrises and sunsets as you drive along Highway US-441, or take part in boundless opportunities of recreation. Early October exposes the colorful fall leaves, which is a seasonal “must-see” during the fall season.
In far west is Big Bend National Park where visitors can spot cactus hanging out in million-year old limestone. The park contains over 200 miles of hiking trails for those who want to explore Big Bend via foot.
Utah is an adventure enthusiast’s playground. However, the majestic Arches National Park astonishes visitors with the world’s largest natural stone arches. There are over 2,000 arches located in the 73,000 acre park. The arches come in various shapes and sizes such as spires, pinnacles, fins or balanced rock.
Boulder Beach State Park is Vermont’s aqua paradise. Kayak, swim or rent boats on the Lake Grafton for a water-filled day of activity. The park received it’s name from the large rocks left by glaciers. This used to be hunting grounds for Native Americans and early settlers traveled along this region since 1704.
Babcock State Park features over 4,000 acres of pristine landscape. Enjoy canyon, mountain and views adjacent to the New River Gorge National River. From camping to horseback riding, visitors enjoy various recreational opportunities. The fall presents a magnificent display of fall foliage.
Mount Rainier is one of the most majestic volcano-mountains in Washington. Soaring at over 14,000 feet, visit during late July – early September for a chance to view the wildflowers. Got strong legs? If so, hike the 10 day loop trail to walk the base of Rainier, with the opportunity to capture images of the mountain in all directions.
New River Gorge National River offers boundless opportunities for photographing water falls or river rafting. There are 53 miles of free-flowing river to catch Class III to Class V rapids. Several tour operators feature rafting trips for various skill levels.
There is more to Wisconsin than delicious cheese. Explore Natural Bridge State Park for a chance to cross natural bridges made of stone. The natural sandstone arch took millions of years to form. Visitors enjoy hiking, camping or playing around the park.
Grand Teton National Park stretches over 200 miles across Wyoming. Bring your camera to capture some of the most dramatic mountain views in America. Activities are year-round with opportunities to hike, snowshoe or ski amongst the landscape. There are six campgrounds located throughout the park, which are open May through September.