The 9 Most Beautiful Natural Wonders in the U.S.
Nothing manmade can rival Mother Nature at her finest, and this summer is a fabulous time to visit the country's most gorgeous natural wonders. Whether you're planning a cross-country road trip or a quick weekend getaway, our home states are themselves home to some pretty breathtaking sights that are worth a visit. From Yosemite National Park in California to Hawaii's vast natural glory, these nine spots are the most beautiful natural wonders in the U.S. -- and arguably, in the world. Oh, and of course, we give you great hotel recommendations nearby for each (and many actually boast views of our top Mother Nature picks).
1. Haleakala National Park, Maui
Considered a sacred spot by many locals, Haleakala National Park is Maui's most-visited attraction, bringing in 1.3 million visitors annually. Haleakala, the world's largest dormant volcano, literally means "House of the Sun," a fitting name considering the spectacular sunrises that can be viewed from the summit.
Where to Stay: The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas
Not your typical time-share, this multifaceted Kaanapali resort features amenities that rival the area's mid- to high-end hotel chains -- fitness center, kids' club -- along with massive, stylish units and an atmosphere heavily geared to families.
2. Snoqualmie Falls; Snoqualmie Valley, WA
Like Haleakala National Park, Snoqualmie Falls attracts over a million visitors a year; in fact, with about 1.5 million making the trek to the breathtaking falls each year, it actually brings in even more visitors than its Hawaiian counterpart. The 270-foot falls are surrounded by a two-acre park, which boasts an observation deck with great views.
Where to Stay: Salish Lodge & Spa
This historic property, which originally opened with only eight rooms back in 1916, is a popular romantic getaway and wedding destination. The restaurants feature beautiful views of the falls, and the elegant spa has numerous signature treatments.
3. Teton Mountain Range, Jackson Hole
Included in Teton National Park, the Tetons are a part of the larger Rocky Mountain Range, which borders Wyoming. During the winter months, they're ideal for skiing and during the summer, visitors head to the mountains for hardcore hikes. All year round, the Tetons make for a beautiful backdrop.
Where to Stay: Spring Creek Ranch
Nestled into the mountains, the Spring Creek Ranch has arguably the most stunning views of the Tetons in the area. It has a wide array of room categories, from standard hotel rooms to immense two-bedroom condos.
4. Lake Tahoe, CA
On the border between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America, and one of the largest lakes in the world. Oh, and it's beautiful. It's particularly popular in the summer months when visitors flock to its shores to swim, kayak, and hike.
Where to Stay: Franciscan Lakeside Lodge
Located on the shores of Lake Tahoe, the mid-range Franciscan Lakeside Lodge features cozy cottages and rooms in a woodsy, lakefront setting. While some rooms are tucked across the street from the lake in a darker, tree-covered area, the lakefront cottages have excellent views and open to the sandy beach and a private pier.
5. Diamond Head; Waikiki, HI
On Waikiki's east coast, Diamond Head is considered a state monument. Spanning a massive 475 acres, the crater was formed over 300,000 during a single natural explosion. Today, visitors can hike around the area while taking in the beautiful views and learning about the natural wonder's place in the island's military history.
Where to Stay: Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki
Every one of the 541 rooms and suites at the upscale Hawaii Prince Hotel has an ocean view, overlooking the picturesque Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, and each room's large bay windows open wide to let in Pacific breezes.
6. Red Rock State Park, Sedona
The red rocks create a scenic background for many of Sedona's hotels and most popular attractions and activities. The Red Rock State Park features tons of trails, and is the site for numerous spiritual and fitness-focused retreats.
Where to Stay: L'Auberge de Sedona
L'Auberge de Sedona has one of the most stunning natural settings in not just the Southwest, but the country, with the picturesque Oak Creek running underneath shady trees, and Sedona's soaring red rocks suspended in the background.
7. Yosemite National Park, CA
Perhaps the best-known national park in the U.S., Yosemite National Park is not only an attraction unto itself, but is home to numerous natural wonders that are attractions themselves. Picturesque granite cliffs and mountains (Half Dome and El Capitan being two of the most popular), winding streams, beautiful waterfalls, and Giant Sequoias create a gorgeous backdrop to a summer vacation.
Where to Stay: The Ahwahnee
Nestled deep amongst the pine trees, cliffs, and canyons of Yosemite Valley is the 123-room Ahwahnee Hotel. The impressive stone and wood structure, built in 1927, is considered a National Historic Landmark.
8. Redwood National and State Parks, Big Sur
From camping to hiking to nature painting to kayaking, the Redwood National and State Parks are certainly not at a loss of available activities. Of course, the massive (and breathtaking) redwoods are a major attraction.
Where to Stay: Post Ranch Inn
The 39-room Post Ranch Inn is one of the most beautiful hotels in the United States -- if not the entire world -- and offers a romantic, intimate stay amid gorgeous natural surroundings. The hotel is built into the cliffs of Big Sur, and the organic architecture is breathtaking, seeming to grow out of the ground beside the hotel's surrounding redwoods.
9. Na Pali Coast, Kauai
Kauai's north shore offers the easiest access to the Na Pali Coast, Kauai's isolated crown jewel, where the highway gives way to the Kalalau Trail's 11-mile hike through valleys and secluded beaches. The coast is home to tons of wildlife, and visitors can access it either by foot, helicopter, or water (on kayaks, boats, paddle boards, you name it...).
Where to Stay: Hanalei Colony Resort
No TVs or phones; instead, you get rare oceanfront views and hiking in the breathtaking Na Pali Coast. The pool's small, housekeeping only comes every third day, and there's little for breakfast other than bagels. But the 48 two-bedroom condos with full kitchens are worth the downsized features.
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