America is a country of road trips, hiking trails and great open skies, where over four million miles of highways crisscross vast deserts, mammoth mountain peaks, great valleys and plains that roll off into the horizon. And let’s not forget about the food, the beaches, the cities and Hollywood. It’s hard to imagine so much of the US is still waiting to be discovered!
The great American experience is all about discovering the unknown, the beautiful and the surreal, which is why we thought we’d put together this list of places you probably never knew existed across the US. From Alaska to Hawaii, New York to New Mexico, add these unknown wonders to your bucket list immediately.
1. Skagit Valley Tulip Fields, Washington
© RuthChoi / Shutterstock © RuthChoi / Shutterstock
© RuthChoi / Shutterstock © RuthChoi / Shutterstock
Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the tulip fields in Mount Vernon, Washington state, for a month-long festival between April 1-30. The sight of over a million brightly colored tulips, daffodils, and irises is one of WA’s most popular attractions.
2. Haiku Stairs of Oahu, Hawaii
© Cade Dickinson / Shutterstock © Cade Dickinson / Shutterstock
© Gclay / Shutterstock © Gclay / Shutterstock
The so-called Stairway to Heaven is a steep hiking trail that is, contrary to popular belief, actually closed to the public. But according to locals, experienced hikers still make the trek. A challenging climb accompanied by steep drop-offs on either side, the Stairs offer unparalleled panoramic views of the Oahu coast.
3. Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park, New York
Rainbow Falls Bridge © Eduard Moldoveanu / Shutterstock | © Eduard Moldoveanu / Shutterstock
© Mandritoiu / Shutterstock © Mandritoiu / Shutterstock
Forget Niagara Falls: nestled in the Finger Lakes region of New York State some 250 miles north-west of NYC lies a fantasy-like world called Rainbow Falls. Located about a mile west of the Watkins Glen State Park’s entrance, just follow the 1.5-mile trail through the 400-foot-deep gorge until you reach the picture-perfect waterfall.
4. Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska
Grizzly bear, Denali National Park © Troutnut / Shutterstock
The park’s Alaska Range mountains include the awesome Denali © Gail Johnson / Shutterstock
Denali National Park and Preserve encompasses a staggering six million acres of Alaska’s epic wilderness. Its crown jewel is the 20,310-foot-high (704-metre) Denali, North America’s tallest mountain peak. The park is home to all sorts of indigenous wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou and Dall sheep.
5. Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, Colorado
Lorcel / Shutterstock © Lorcel / Shutterstock
© Mavrick / Shutterstock © Mavrick / Shutterstock
This gorgeous expanse of Mother Nature is located deep in the rugged Elk Mountains of central Colorado. Home to over 100 miles of walking and hiking trails, the closest city in reach of this otherworldly wilderness is the winter resort destination of Aspen. Oh, and the entire area spans over 181,000 acres (73,248 hectares).
6. Grand Prismatic Spring, Wyoming
© Suzi Pratt / Shutterstock © Suzi Pratt / Shutterstock
© Lorcel / Shutterstock © Lorcel / Shutterstock
Behold the kaleidoscopic wonder of nature that is the Grand Prismatic Spring, America’s largest hot spring and the third-largest on the planet. The jewel inside the famous Yellowstone National Park, this natural pool owes its multihued coloration to heat-loving bacteria that produce colors ranging from green to red, and everything in between.
7. Zion National Park, Utah
© VithFoto / Shutterstock © VithFoto / Shutterstock
© Asif Islam / Shutterstock © Asif Islam / Shutterstock
Just outside Springdale, Utah, this incredible 146,000-acre (59,084-hectare) park attracts nature junkies from all over the globe. Most popular site? The majestic, 15-mile-long (24 kilometers) by a half-mile (86.4-meter) deep Zion Canyon.
8. Mendenhall Glacier Caves, Alaska
© Serhat Akin / Shutterstock © Serhat Akin / Shutterstock
© Lewis Liu / Shutterstock © Lewis Liu / Shutterstock
Juneau’s glittering Mendenhall Valley is a 12-mile (19-kilometer) glacier that hides some very surreal ice caves. Follow the West Glacier trail for a chance to see the whimsical ice clouds for yourself.
9. Thor’s Well, Oregon
© Jared Ropelato / Shutterstock © Jared Ropelato / Shutterstock
© Chris Mullins / Shutterstock © Chris Mullins / Shutterstock
Travel along Cape Perpetua along the central Oregon Coast and you’ll stumble on Thor’s Well, a saltwater fountain thing of beauty, which is driven by the power of the ocean tide. Best time to see it in action? An hour before high tide to an hour after high tide.
10. Antelope Canyon, Arizona
© Inga Locmele / Shutterstock © Inga Locmele / Shutterstock
© Edwin Verin / Shutterstock © Edwin Verin / Shutterstock
This mesmerizing slot canyon made of sandstone is split into two different sections, commonly referred to as The Crack and The Corkscrew. You will be left speechless at the sight of the wondrous contours and waves of the narrow canyon.
11. Oneonta Gorge, Oregon
© Kan Khampanya / Shutterstock © Kan Khampanya / Shutterstock
© Panpilas L / Shutterstock © Panpilas L / Shutterstock
The Oneonta Gorge is home to a very unique set of aquatic and woodland plants – some of which you won’t find anywhere else in the US. As you can see, the ferns and moss make the walls look like something straight out of a fairytale book.
12. Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
© Doug Meek / Shutterstock © Doug Meek / Shutterstock
© Galyna Andrushko / Shutterstock © Galyna Andrushko / Shutterstock
There’s a total of 119 known caves, formed entirely from limestone and sulfuric acid, awaiting discovery in this rocky New Mexico paradise. You can explore this natural wonder below the Guadalupe Mountains (an ancient reef containing fossils dating back more than 250 million years ago).
13. Bryce Canyon, Utah
© Ronnybas / Shutterstock © Ronnybas / Shutterstock
© Dibrova / Shutterstock © Dibrova / Shutterstock
This otherworldly-looking collection of large natural amphitheaters is famous for its hoodoos (tall, thin spires of rock) and geological structures formed by frosty weather and stream erosion. Absolutely spellbinding.
14. Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina-Tennessee
©Dave Allen Photography / Shutterstock © Dave Allen Photography / Shutterstock
© Dean Fikar / Shutterstock © Dean Fikar / Shutterstock
A subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, the Smokies are a massive mountain range crisscrossing the North Carolina–Tennessee border. With nine million-plus visitors per year, it’s the US’s most visited national park.
15. Nā Pali Coast State Park, Hawaii
© CSNafzger / Shutterstock © CSNafzger / Shutterstock
© Mohamed Selim / Shutterstock © Mohamed Selim / Shutterstock
The Nā Pali Coast is probably the only US national park that’s inaccessible by car. There’s good news, however, as the best way to see it is by helicopter. Known for its vertiginous pali, or sea cliffs, lined by narrow valleys, streams and waterfalls, the park – located on the north shore of Kaua’i – has served as a filming spot for movies such as “Jurassic Park”.