Sometimes it’s great to skip the theme parks and cities and just enjoy the beauty of nature. The United States has a wealth of gorgeous scenery of every kind, so visit these U.S. destinations for breathtaking photos and amazing experiences – no passports required!
20 Gorgeous U.S. Destinations for a Back-to-Nature Vacation
#1 – Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Voyageurs National Park is all about the water, with 4 large lakes and 26 smaller lakes for visitors to enjoy. You can stay in a lakeside cabin, camp on a secluded island, or even rent a houseboat (complete with hot tub and waterslide). Sight-see by motorboat, canoe, or kayak. Enjoy swimming, fishing, and hiking during the summer months. In winter, enjoy ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or snowmobiling.
#2 – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The gorgeous scenery and abundant wildlife are only the beginning at Grand Teton National Park. In this park you’ll find activities for everyone – no matter what you’re looking for. Take a scenic drive, explore the park by boat, horse, or bicycle, or get more adventurous with hiking and rock-climbing.
#3 – Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley doesn’t sound like a great place to visit, but in reality it has a special kind of beauty that you must see to believe. See the amazing scenery by day, including rippling sand dunes, cracked salt flats, multicolored hills, and fields of rock-salt spires. When darkness falls, the park is a prime spot for stargazing and night photography.
#4 – Cataloochee Valley, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
The beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is undeniable, but as one of the most visited national parks, the most popular areas can get a little crowded. For a quieter experience, visit a secluded area of the park by taking the winding Cataloochee Valley road through the mountains to the Cataloochee Valley. Tour historic frame buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and spend some time viewing deer, elk, turkey, and other wildlife.
#5 – Black Hills, South Dakota
It’s hard to find an area of the Black Hills that’s not stunning. Scenic drives will take you through towering canyons of limestone palisades, the wind- and water-sculpted knolls of the badlands, thickly forested hills, and the gently waving grasslands on the prairies. The uncrowded Black Hills are perfect for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, ATVing, and snowmobiling. Go spelunking in Wind Cave and Jewel Cave where you’ll find tours for all levels of fitness and daring.
#6 – New River Gorge National River, West Virginia
This park offers breathtaking views from the rim of the gorge. For an even more breathtaking experience, take a walk 876 feet above the river on the two-foot wide steel catwalk that runs beneath the New River Gorge Bridge. From the excitement of whitewater rafting or rock climbing to places more suited for relaxation and reflection, you’re sure to enjoy a visit to New River Gorge National River.
#7 – Glacier National Park, Montana
It would be worth visiting Glacier National Park for the chance to drive the amazing Going-to-the-Sun Road alone. The incredible vistas along this road are guaranteed to take your breath away. In addition to this dramatic drive, the park has stunning blue lakes, crystal clear rivers, acres of forests, and wildlife ranging from mountain goats to grizzly bears.
#8 – Crabtree Creek Falls, Virginia
Only a few miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Crabtree Creek Falls has series of five major cascades and a number of smaller ones that fall a total distance of 1,200 feet, making it the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. An easy path to the first overlook is accessible to all ages and abilities while more ambitious hikers can take a trail to additional overlooks offering spectacular views of the Crabtree Creek Falls and lovely vistas of the river valley.
#9 – Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Bryce Canyon National Park awes visitors with spectacular geological formations and brilliant colors. The park is best known for the hoodoos that fill the canyon. These multicolored towers of stone are carved into fantastical spires by erosion and no two are the same. While the hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park is superb, those who are unable to hike can enjoy scenic drives with plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view.
#10 – Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine
With over 60 lighthouses dotting the coasts of Maine, you could easily spend your vacation road-tripping around the state to view these beautiful and historic structures and explore the magnificent Maine coastline.
#11 – Diablo Lake, Washington
Diablo Lake in the North Cascade mountains has dazzling turquoise waters surrounded by evergreen forests. This beautiful reservoir is a popular spot for kayaking, canoeing, camping, and hiking. Trails of various difficulty levels offer splendid views of the lake, surrounding peaks, and historic Diablo Dam.
#12 – Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park is world famous for hiking. Hikers of all abilities will find trails that lead to sweeping vistas, clear pools, natural arches, and narrow canyons. Several scenic drives through some of Zion’s most amazing scenery offer another way to see the wonders of the park. Canyoneering and rock climbing are popular with adventurous visitors while others enjoy more laid-back activities such as birding and wildlife-watching.