Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which can make creating your travel bucket list a daunting task. However, some places simply have an undeniable beauty and deserve a place on your agenda.
Across the United States, you'll find quite a bit of grandeur, and each state has at least one spot most everyone will agree is simply stunning. Whether they're amazing beaches, parks, historic city centers, or gorgeous valleys, each of these 50 spots offers an awe-inspiring experience and a top-notch photo op.
Alabama: Lake Guntersville
Lake Guntersville is one of the best destinations for kayaking and fishing. There are more than 900 miles of shoreline and several parks and recreation facilities. The Appalachian foothills make the scenery absolutely stunning. This spot may just be the ideal combination of flat water paddling, nature watching and fishing.
Alaska: Kenai Fjords
The spectacular glaciers and icebergs in the Kenai Fjords are majestic all year round. Spring is the time to visit if you want to witness gray whales coming back to Alaska. Spring is the time to see how black bears live in their natural environment.
Arizona: Horseshoe Bend
The trailhead to this easy hike is located just outside of Page. It overlooks one of the most spectacular views on the Colorado River, 4 miles south of the Glen Canyon Dam, and 7 miles north of Mile Zero of the Grand Canyon.
Arkansas: Whitaker Point
This is one of the most underrated spots in the state. The gorgeous trail is about 3 miles long round trip. It crosses over streams to take you to a crag, which is a rock formation that overhangs from the bluffs. Several waterfalls are located around the path. The moderate trail is accessible all year round.
California: Big Sur
Big Sur is a wonderful weekend getaway destination, the rocky stretch of California's Central Coast between Carmel and San Simeon is a stunning place to visit. Make it a part of a once-in-a-lifetime road trip if you have an extra day or two.
Colorado: Maroon Bells
The iconic image of the Maroon Bells in Colorado's Elk Mountains is more than just a scenic overlook. It is one of the most photographed peaks in the country. The setting sun transforms the aspen trees and Maroon Bells into an absolutely magical place. But the hike can be dangerous if you're not careful.
This is a dream town, and not just because of its New England charm. Many artists have been drawn to this gorgeous small town over the last few years. Madison has a laid-back, beachy vibe that makes visitors feel like they've discovered a hidden gem.
Delaware: New Castle Historic District
Founded by Dutch settlers in the 1650s, New Castle's historic district was finally recognized in 1967 for its historical significance and was designated as a national landmark. The most popular attractions include the Old New Castle Courthouse (which is part of First State National Historical Park), the Delaware Historical Society's Read House and Gardens, and the three museums.
Flickr / Ron Cogswell / CC BY 4.0
Florida: Morikami Gardens
This garden's mission is to educate and inspire through Japanese cultural experiences. It is probably not difficult to achieve this goal considering how gorgeous and Instagrammable the several different gardens are. The exhibits are constantly changing; no two visits are ever the same.
Georgia: Wormsloe Historic Site in Savannah
Also known as Wormsloe Plantation, a walk through the oak avenue of this historic site is part of what makes Savannah so romantic. The live oaks and Spanish moss, typical of Savannah streets, will eventually lead visitors to the ruins of Wormsloe, the 18th-century estate of Noble Jones and the oldest standing structure in the city.
Hawaii: Tunnels Beach
This gorgeous beach, surrounded by stunning palms and ironwood trees, is heaven for snorkelers, scuba divers and surfers. The crescent-shaped bay and the golden sand beach is hidden by a lavish jungle and green mountains.
Idaho: The Palouse
Located in north central Idaho, the Palouse region also extends into southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. A serene and pastoral natural wonder, it is characterized by gentle rolling hills covered with wheat fields. The hills were formed over tens of thousands of years from wind-blown dust and silt, known as "loess." Seen from the esummit of the 3,612-foot-high Steptoe Butte, they look like giant sand dunes.
Illinois: Starved Rock State Park
The best hikes in Illinois are in Starved Rock State Park. It is composed of 13 miles of well marked hiking trails. You can pick your trail based on your skill level. Pass waterfalls, canyons, incredible wildlife and tons of wildflowers and plants. Bonus: Guided hikes are offered year-round.
Indiana: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
A perfect trip to take this summer, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is pictureseque. From the southern tip of Lake Michigan, you'll get an incredible view of the Chicago skyline from the peaceful shores. Miles of beaches, sand dunes, bog, wetlands, woodland forests, an 1830s French Canadian homestead, and a working 1900-era farm combine to make the national lakeshore a unique setting.
One of the most beautiful lake towns in America, the biggest attractions of the Okoboji area are the glacier-carved lakes. The gorgeous chain of lakes ranges from the Minnesota border southwest for several miles and covers approximately 15,000 acres. In addition to enjoying all kinds of water sports, you can go hiking, fishing, sailing and even hunting.
Kansas: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve protects the remaining 10,894 acres of an ecosystem that once covered over 400,000 square miles. It includes, in addition to the prairie lands, an 1881 historic ranch house, limestone barn and outbuildings, and a one-room schoolhouse. The preserve offers many opportunities to experience the rich natural and cultural heritage that exists in the highly underrated Flint Hills.
Kentucky: Daniel Boone National Forest
People go to Daniel Boone National Forest in northeastern Kentucky to hike, camp, picnic, rock climb, boat, hunt, fish, ride, target shoot and simply relax. A popular attraction is Cave Run Lake, an 8,270-acre lake that provides flood protection and a clean water supply to area communities.
Louisiana: Atchafalaya Basin
The largest river swamp in the United States, the Atchafalaya Basin is often referred to as "America's wetland." It is even larger than the Everglades in Florida. It contains almost a million acres of the country's most significant bottomland hardwoods, swamps, bayous and blackwater lakes. The basin stretches 140 miles southward to the Gulf of Mexico.
A lot of people visit Kennebunkport in the summer, but the fall is even more beautiful, some argue. The town has a classic New England fare anywhere you turn with its antique shops, quiet restaurants overlooking the beach and fishing spots. The town has 3 miles of pristine coastline and secluded beaches.
Maryland: Assateague Island
Assateague Islamd is an island ruled by animals. Wild ponies travel the beaches of this 37-mile uninhabited island near Chincoteague. One legend says the ponies survived a shipwreck. The "wild" horses are actually feral animals, meaning that they are descendants of domestic animals that have reverted to a wild state, according to NPS.
Massachusetts: The Berkshires
Go to the Berkshires in the fall for the awesome festivals, notable art and thriving culture - not to mention that the hues of the surrounding woods make for a spectacular scenic backdrop. Make sure you find time to hike Mount Greylock, the highest natural point in Massachusetts at 3,489 feet.
Michigan: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
By kayak is the best way to explore this national lakeshore, which highlights not just Lake Superior but also the nearby streams, waterfalls and smaler lakes. You won't get closer to the area's natural beauty any other way. This usually popular spot is practically empty in the winter, which makes it ideal for snow camping. Pictured Rocks runs for about 40 miles along Lake Superior.
Minnesota: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is part of the Superior National Forest. Over 1 million acres in size, it has over 1,200 miles of canoe routes. Because this area was set to preserve its primitive character, it allows visitors to canoe, portage and camp in the spirit of the French Voyageurs of 200 years ago, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Mississippi: Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile drive through exceptional scenery and 10,000 years of North American history. Visitors can enjoy not only a picturesque drive but also hiking, biking, horseback riding and camping.
Missouri: Lake of the Ozarks
The fall may be the best time to visit Lake of the Ozarks if what you want to see is nature at its best - hillsides covered in bright, intense colors. You will still see green all year round - even amid the fall colors and after the leaves have fallen in winter - because there are thousands of pine trees sprinkled in with the hardwoods.
Montana: Swiftcurrent Lake
Swiftcurrent Lake is known for its majestic pink sunsets. The Nature Trail loop hike is a wonderful way to experience nature there. It's the preferred option for families exploring the Glacier National Park because it's completely flat.
Nebraska: Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Chimney Rock is perhaps the most famous and recognizable landmark in Nebraska. It's situated about 4 miles south of Bayard. It is a natural geologic formation that rises 325 feet. The impressive formation is composed of layers of volcanic ash and clay dating back millions of years.
Nevada: Lake Tahoe
There are so many reasons to visit Lake Tahoe, but perhaps the most simple is the chance to witness its sheer beauty. The largest alpine lake in North America is admired for many incredible features, but especially the surrounding mountain panoramas and its stunningly crystal clear waters, which are said to be 99.9 percent pure.
New Hampshire: Portsmouth
Portsmouth prides itself on being one of the nation's oldest cities - it's existed since 1623. The history, the harbor and the food are just a few reasons why people love it. The city is near the mouth of the Piscataqua River, between New Hampshire and Maine.
New Jersey: Atlantic City's Boardwalk
After gambling, Atlantic City is most associated with its amazing boardwalk. An American icon since the 1870s, its old-school vibe will take you back in time with guide-led old-fashioned rolling chairs and all sorts of rides and games.
Flickr / wjWalrus / CC BY 4.0
New Mexico: White Sands National Monument
It is composed of white, wave-like dunes that make up 275 square miles of desert. The largest gypsum dune field on the planet, it's also considered by some to be the most haunted spot in the state. Go backcountry camping, biking, hiking and sledding or participate in a ranger program.
New York: Adirondack Mountains
The state park is known for skiing and snowboarding at Whiteface Mountain and whitewater rafting in the fall, but the warmer months offer an adventurous experience like none other. The entire mountain range in the northeast of upstate New York is filled with scenic roads where you can bike along wine trails. They will also take you to lavish forests, bike festivals, paddling contests and golf courses.
North Carolina: The Blue Ridge Parkway
The 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, provides one of the world's most diverse displays of flora and fauna, making for an amazing car ride. Palatial parks, cozy campsites and other roadside entertainment provide plenty of excuses for picturesque stops along the way.
North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the most underrated national parks in the U.S. Visit for a chance to see a combination of flamboyant badlands terrain, riparian habitat along the Little Missouri River, and wildlife both native and not (wild horses and longhorn cattle).
Ohio: Corkscrew Falls in Hocking Hills
This beautiful waterfall was not accessible until a few years ago because it happened to be on private land. Thankfully that has changed - it is now part of the 607-acre Boch Hollow Nature Preserve - so people can now enjoy its beauty, but you do have to get a permit.
Oklahoma: Talimena National Scenic Byway
Views of the golden valleys of Oklahoma don't get much better than from the majestic Talimena National Scenic Byway. There are more than 50 miles of stunning panoramas. Turn your trip into an adventure by stopping at the several historic towns along the way.
Oregon: Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge
Drive along Columbia River Highway and you'll see the incredible Multnomah Falls, the tallest along the way. You have to see the magnificent 611-foot-tall attraction at least once in your life. It is just about half an hour away from Portland, and the stream is fed by snow melt and an underground spring, meaning that it doesn't run dry in the summer like many other West Coast waterfalls.
Pennsylvania: Pocono Mountains
Visit the Poconos any time of the year and adventure is guaranteed. You can stay at nice resort, at a small B&B, or on the area's amazing RV campgrounds, and you'll still have loads of fun. The Pocono Mountains are known all over the country for their natural scenic beauty, spectacular lakes and quaint, historic towns.
Rhode Island: Roger Williams Park
Ask any locals and they will tell you that Roger Williams Park is one of their favorite playgrounds in Rhode Island for recreational activity. The entire park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 435 acres include more than 100 acres of ponds.
South Carolina: Rainbow Row in Charleston
One of many reasons to visit Charleston, Rainbow Row is one of the most famous streets in America. The unique coloring and style of the buildings make this street a gorgeous place for a drive - or better yet, for a stroll and a very Instagrammable photo shoot.
South Dakota: Badlands National Park
October is the best time to visit the Badlands for the outstanding panoramas of mixed grass lowland and the splendor of the eroded waterbeds. From the park's herds of bison roaming grasslands to its rugged and severe hillsides, the 244,000-acre park is a living representation of classic Old West history and culture.
A wonderful American weekend getaway, Nashville has plenty to offer and much going on. There is plenty of free music, and the city hosts many cultural attractions that will entertain you.
Texas: Hill Country
Texas Hill Country is a region filled with natural beauty. The Bluebonnet Trail, one of the best places in the world to see spring flowers, is ideal for a driving tour. Scenic drives around Horseshoe Bay, Granite Shoals, Kingsland, Inks Lake and Buchanan Dam are a photographer's dream.
Utah: The Red Cliffs Conservation Area
You're going to need to take your time if you want to truly enjoy the panoramic views of the Red Cliffs Conservation Area. If you are a little more adventurous, you can try rock climbing at Chuckwalla. Go in the winter when days can be magic, sunny and warm.
Vermont: Lake Willoughby in Westmore
Lovers of the great outdoors adore this charming lake situated just between Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor. It is reminiscent of fjords in New Zealand or Norway. The thousand-foot cliffs that drop down to the lake amaze visitors and make a breathtaking backdrop for photos.
Virginia: Shenandoah National Park
The more than 500 miles of trails in Shenandoah National Park offer numerous opportunities for photography, from close-ups of lush flora to wide shots taken from mountaintop overlooks. Even if the roads are closed, many trails are open. Visitors can enter on foot for backcountry camping or expansive hiking trails.
Washington: Skagit Valley
A visit to the Skagit Valley is absolutely stunning in the spring. The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is among the best seasonal events in the Pacific Northwest, held in April. There are endless fields of millions of tulips bursting into bloom.
Washington, D.C.: Jefferson Memorial
The spectacular architecture of the Jefferson Memorial makes it worth a visit any time of year. During the spring, however, come cherry blossoms and a cherry blossom festival worthy of your Instagram feed.
West Virginia: New River Gorge Bridge
New River Gorge Bridge, which is 876 feet tall, briefly becomes the most popular and insane BASE jumping spot in the country every year in October. Since 1980, there has been one day designated each year when daredevils are allowed to leap off the bridge. Rappelling, skydiving, and more adventures abound.
Wisconsin: Apostle Islands
The Apostle Islands are an underrated adventure destination in North America. Go in the winter to see amazing ice caves. The lake surface is usually a frozen white expanse, which is a stunning view in itself. A dreamland of needlelike ice columns forms inside, and they change every day.
Wyoming: Grand Prismatic Spring
Behold the Grand Prismatic Spring-the largest hot spring in the country and third largest in the world, measuring 250 by 300 feet wide and 160 feet deep. The color of the water is due to pigmented bacteria and microbial mats that grow along the edges of the water, making this one of the most surreal-looking spots in the world.
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