by Keith langston

From coast to coast in the USA, the amazing natural wonderings awaiting visitors is truly astounding.

Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park (Photo by Pierre Leclerc)

Discovering the most beautiful destination in each state has been one of our favorite endeavors this year. From coast to coast in the USA, the amazing natural wonderings awaiting visitors is truly astounding. Now, let’s travel from South Dakota to Wyoming to complete our epic saga. This time around we will visit picture-perfect mountains, canyons galore, and some very unique islands.



The Black Hills

The Black Hills, South Dakota (Photo: Benjamin F Sullivan)

In the southwest corner of the otherwise flat state lies the Black Hills. This isolated mountain range is dominated by spirelike rocks, boulders, and of course, the famous carvings of Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Aside from the beauty of the mountains, they’re also steeped with history. It was here that a massive gold rush happened in the 1800s and the boomtown of Deadwood became notorious for its lawlessness. Gambling, prostitution, and murder were all common, and infamous gunslingers like Wild Bill and Calamity Jane caused Deadwood to make national headlines.



Great Smokey Mountains

The Great Smokey Mountains (Photo: Eduard Moldoveanu)

The Great Smokey Mountains (often called “The Smokies”) gets its name from the morning fog that lingers through the hills. The mountains are also a designated Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ecosystem is extremely important, being a one-of-a-kind habitat for many plant and animal species; it even has the largest black bear population east of the Mississippi, as well as one of the most diverse salamander populations in the whole world. Not only are the mountains important for the planet, but they’re also jaw-droppingly beautiful.



Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park (Photo: Stanley Ford)

Located on the US/Mexico border, running along the Rio Grande River, is Big Bend. Many travelers canoe the Rio Grande, mesmerized by the splendor of the American Southwest. The park is also dominated by canyons, cliffs, and gorges. It’s even a prime spot for archaeologists to find dinosaur bones, fossils, and artifacts from early settlers. And, being Texas, another big attraction at the park is the legendary horseback rides… After all, how could you visit Texas and not hop on a horse? Visitors who stay for the night will also be rewarded with stunning views of the Milky Way.



Zion National Park

Zion National Park (Photo: Asif Islam)

In Hebrew, Zion meant refuge or sanctuary. And after one look at the heavenly Zion Canyon, you’ll see why early settlers decided to call this place a sanctuary. Large, red stone canyons rise more than 2,600 feet above a green, fertile valley below. It truly is paradise on Earth. All visitors are encouraged to view the “Zion Pledge” before visiting, which asks all travelers to respect the land’s history, nature’s wonder, and Zion’s ecological importance. It’s a destination so beautiful it’s worth protecting for generations to come.



Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain (Photo: Igal Shkolnik)

The massive Lake Champlain separates the US from Canada and creates a captivating panorama of scenic beauty. The lake itself is popular for all boating and paddling activities, as well as swimming. You can even visit the Hero Islands in the middle of the lake for a quaint escape. Tour vineyards, pick fresh fruit at orchards, or head over to Grand Isle State Park where you can hike along the island’s shoreline. The famous town of Burlington also sits on Lake Champlain, so if you get hungry, you can always drop by their historic downtown for famous local treats like Ben & Jerry’s and Lake Champlain Chocolates.




Shenandoah in Autumn (Photo: Anton Foltin)

The Shenandoah region is largely protected by the Shenandoah National Park. The park is famous for its rambling waterfalls, forested rivers, and historical importance, but it’s probably even more famous for being one of the most popular road trip excursions for leaf-peepers around the world. The region glows not only with colorful trees, but also fantastic fall activities, like pumpkin patches, roadside cider stands, corn mazes, apple orchards, and more.



Olympic Peninsula

Olympic National Park (Photo: f11photo)

The Olympic Peninsula is one of the weirdest and wildest places on the entire planet. The northern tip is protected by Olympic National Park which contains four distinct ecosystems – coastal, lowland forest, temperate rainforest, and mountain – all living side-by-side. This rarity comes from the geography of the peninsula along with the way the Olympic mountains influence climate. The peninsula is also home to the small town of Sequim, which is known as Washington’s “banana belt” because, unlike the rest of the Seattle region, Sequim is almost always sunny. Again, this is thanks to the way the mountains impact climate. In fact, locals call the town the “blue hole”.



Babcock State Park

Babcock State Park (Photo: Sean Pavone)

Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains is the rustic Babcock State Park. The area is filled with outdoor adventures like hiking and biking, as well as something West Virginia is famous for…Whitewater rafting. After your adventure, a visit to the park’s Glade Creek Grist Mill is a must. It’s a fully functioning mill that’s open for tours so visitors can learn about what life was once like in the Appalachian Mountains. The mill is also popular with photographers and artists because it’s, simply put, absolutely gorgeous.



Apostle Islands

Apostle Islands (Photo: mattckaiser)

Directly off Wisconsin’s coast in Lake Superior sits the Apostle Islands. This archipelago of 22 islands appears to be standing on stilts because of thousands of years of erosion. The bottom of the islands are filled with sea caves and are popular attractions for kayakers and canoers. But the real treat comes in the dead of winter. When the lake freezes, tours will guide you as you walk across the frozen lake and explore the icy caves on foot. It’s a destination that offers two very different experiences depending on which season you visit.



Grand Teton Mountains

Grand Tetons (Photo: KENNY TONG)

Some have claimed that the mountains featured in the Paramount Studios logo are the Grand Tetons, and for good reason, these mountains are easily some of the most visually striking mountains anywhere. Every angle is a photo opportunity. The grasslands of Wyoming suddenly jolt upwards into steep rocky spires. It’s the kind of beauty that can only be found in the American West. The mountains, which are largely part of Grand Teton National Park, are also home to a diverse array of wildlife like bears and moose. After all, it was Teddy Roosevelt himself who said, “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, and the Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever…”

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