The Most Scenic Spot in Every State Gallery
May 2, 2018
America, the beautiful
The Most Scenic Spot in Every State
One of the best parts of traveling is appreciating the beauty of your destination, and in America, there’s no shortage of stunning vistas, beautiful trails, and pretty towns in every state. While we may not have centuries worth of iconic landmarks like Europe does, our nation is known for its outstanding outdoor sights, particularly thanks to its many well-preserved national parks and reserves.
As you’ll go through the country, however, you’ll find there’s more to American scenery than just national parks for picnicking and hiking. Lakes, farms, gardens, forests, and even some islands make for some of the most stunning scenery you can find. Whether you’re looking for an exciting destination, a spot for some much-needed meditation, or even some romance, beautiful scenery is always a good idea to put on your travel bucket list. Luckily for us Americans, we have enough for a fantastic road trip through the most scenic spots in every state.
Alabama: Little River Canyon National Preserve
Located at the top of Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama, Little River Canyon National Preserve was created to protect Little River, a body of water said to be the longest mountaintop river in America. The river flows down the middle of the mountain ridge and has three big waterfalls, including DeSoto Falls and Grace’s High Falls, a seasonal waterfall that is Alabama’s highest at 133 feet.
Alaska: Denali National Park and Preserve
Over 6 million acres make up Denali National Park and Preserve, a popular destination in interior Alaska for skiing, dog-sledding, hiking, and other outdoor activities. It’s home to Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley), the tallest mountain North America, as well as tons of beautiful parkland and forests perfect for your Instagram feed.
The town of Sedona itself is a must-see in Arizona. Sitting among gorgeous rock formations of red sandstone, Sedona is a picturesque town perfect for outdoor recreation, as well as for appreciating arts and culture thanks to its many events and galleries. Visitors to the Grand Canyon popularly stay here to enjoy the city’s views, as well as its great dining options and some of the best B&Bs in America.
Arkansas: Hawksbill Crag/Whitaker Point Trail
The Whitaker Point Trail, also known as Hawksbill Crag, runs along the northern edge of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness, part of the Ozarks of Arkansas. A popular hiking destination, the hike to Whitaker Point is just three miles round trip, and its amazing views of waterfalls, rock formations, and wildflowers have made it one of the most photographed spots in the state.
California: Napa Valley
Napa Valley’s biggest claim to fame is its wine, encompassing more than 400 wineries. While it is the most important wine-growing region in the United States, visitors also visit Napa Valley for its scenic views, as well as its gourmet food and spas. Rest and relaxation abound at this California destination, and a dip in the hot springs or a mud bath is a must. Golfers can also wind down at one of the 10 golf courses present throughout the valley.
Colorado: Maroon Bells
The Maroon Bells are actually two mountain peaks in the Colorado Elks, Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak. Hike up the Crater Lake Trail near Aspen to this gorgeous spot, where the peaks lie just a third of a mile apart from each other.
Connecticut: Wadsworth Falls State Park
Wadsworth Falls is a state park in Connecticut with 285 acres of beautiful landscapes, trails, picnic areas, and opportunities to fish and swim, as well as enjoy its two main waterfalls. You can easily hike to them via the park’s trails for a great photo-op.
Delaware: Nemours Mansion and Gardens
John Greim/Getty Images/The Daily Meal
A country estate made up of 300 acres and a classical French mansion that has 105 rooms, Nemours Mansion and Gardens is a stunning sight in the Delaware capital of Wilmington and the most Instagrammable spot in the state. Built by the Du Pont family, one of the richest in America, its gardens were inspired by the gardens of Versailles and remain the biggest jardin à la française, or French formal garden, in North America, complete with a gorgeous layout of greenery, fountains, pools, and stunning structures.
Florida: Bok Tower Gardens
There's plenty to do in Florida that isn’t Disney-related, and Bok Tower Gardens is one of the most stunning sights in the state. It’s marked by its Bok Tower, or Singing Tower, which stands 205 feet high and has 60 bells, and also includes a 250-acre garden, walking trail, estate, and visitor center. Also known as Bok Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower, Bok Tower Gardens is also a bird sanctuary, home to over a hundred different species.
Georgia: Cumberland Island
One of the Sea Islands off the coast of the southeastern United States, Cumberland Island is a small isle that can be reached by ferry from St. Marys, Georgia. Here you’ll find salt marshes and oak trees, as well as 17 miles of beach. Famous for the wild horses that call the island home, it’s also the habitat of white-tailed deer, armadillos, raccoons, squirrels, alligators, and wild boars.
Hawaii: Hulopoe Bay
Hawaii is known for its scenic beauty, so it’s hard to pick just one place to go. Hulopoe Bay in Lanai, however, is a gorgeous location that also has managed to avoid being overrun by tourists (so far). Its pristine white sand beach looks amazing against the clear blue waters, and spinner dolphins have also been seen visiting swimmers at shore.
Idaho: Thousand Springs
Located in southern Idaho, Thousand Springs State Park is home to the most stunning site in the state — multiple waterfalls bursting out from the walls of a canyon. Grass on the canyon during the warmer months makes the scene even more beautiful, and the pure water that comes out creates lovely springs and pools bellow.
Illinois: Chicago Botanic Garden
Located just outside Chicago in the village of Glencoe, the Chicago Botanic Garden covers 385 acres, including a lake with nine small islands, and features 27 gardens full of breathtaking plant life. A must-see Illinois destination, the garden also has several examples of fantastic architecture in its buildings and structures.
Indiana: Kesling Wetland and Farmstead
Courtesy of Elena Fischer / Merry Lea
One may not immediately think of wetlands when picturing a scenic locale, but the Kesling Wetland and Farmstead in Indiana is truly impressive. A 10-acre slough wetland and marsh, it’s located within Goshen College’s Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center. While it plays an important role in the sustainability and environmental education department at Goshen College, Kesling Wetland is also a simply beautiful spot to visit.
Iowa: High Trestle Trail Bridge
The High Trestle Trail is a recreational trail in Iowa that runs along what used to be a railway track, perfect for hiking biking, and horse riding. Its bridge — which is almost half a mile long and stands 13 stories high, not only gives you a great view of the Des Moines River Valley, but is a great sight itself. The structures built over the bridge are meant to emulate the view one would have looking through a mine shaft (as the area has many mining shafts that were historically worked on by immigrants), and their lighting makes for a stunning scene at night.
Kansas: Haskell-Baker Wetlands
The Haskell-Baker Wetlands in Kansas is an artificially sustained wetland and nature preserve located just south of the town of Lawrence. Its 640 acres are home to at least 413 species of plants, 265 species of birds, and 61 species of other animals. Trails surround the area for visitors to enjoy the view without getting wet.
Kentucky: Cumberland Falls
Sometimes referred to as “Little Niagara” or “the Niagara of the South,” Cumberland Falls is a crystal-clear waterfall located on the Cumberland River. It’s the main attraction at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in southeastern Kentucky, and if you visit on or near a full moon on a clear night, you might even catch a moonbow.
Louisiana: Avery Island
You may recognize the name Avery Island, although from an unlikely source — a bottle of Tabasco sauce. The island (which is actually a salt dome) is home to the famous condiment, and you’ll still find a factory there, although that’s not the only reason to visit. Located three miles inland from Louisiana’s Vermilion Bay, it’s also home to a bird sanctuary and numerous exotic plants, thanks to the Avery family it was named after (and whom you have to thank for the Tabasco).
Maine: Cadillac Mountain
Located on Mount Desert Island right off the coast of Maine, Cadillac Mountain is the crown jewel of Acadia National Park, which as a whole is a picture-perfect place. Not only do you get a stunning view of the surrounding mountains, waters, and greenery by driving or hiking to the top, but if you go early enough in the fall or winter, you’ll also be at the spot in the U.S where the sun rises earliest in the day.
Maryland: Clear Meadow Farm
Clear Meadow Farm is a family-owned farm in White Hall, Maryland, that has gained notoriety for its amazing sunflower fields. Visit at the end of summer — late August through mid-September — to see the sunflowers bloom into a sea of yellow and green. Once they’ve dried down, the sunflower seeds are harvested at the end of November to be used for bird seed.
Massachusetts: Aquinnah Cliffs
If you ever take an amazing getaway to Martha’s Vineyard, you have to make sure to stop by its outermost town, Aquinnah (formerly known as Gay Head). The Massachusetts town, which has a population of around just 600, is known for its colorful clay cliffs. While you can’t climb the cliffs or touch any of the clay — the area is ecologically protected — you can enjoy their beauty as well as that of the surrounding waters. And if you go below the cliffs, you may catch quite another sight: Jungle Beach, one of the few nude beaches in America.
Michigan: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
This Michigan destination looks like a Caribbean island right off our bucket list. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, however, is located along the south shore of Lake Superior, with 42 miles of coastline, hundreds of miles of trails, and secluded beaches. You’ll find forests of pine trees here, as well as colorful 200-foot cliffs that have been carved out into caves, archways, and other amazing structures.
Minnesota: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
One of the most visited wildernesses in the country, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is made up of over a million acres of forests, lakes, streams, and rivers. Part of northeastern Minnesota’s Superior National Forest, it’s a very popular place to go hiking, fishing, and of course, canoeing.
Mississippi: Windsor Ruins
One can often find beauty in something broken. The Windsor Ruins are what remains of the largest antebellum Greek Revival mansion ever built in Mississippi; destroyed by a fire in 1890, the mansion is no more, but 23 Corinthian columns are still standing against a beautiful green backdrop of trees and fields.
Missouri: Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
Located on the East Fork Black River that runs through southeastern Missouri, Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is different from other state parks in that it’s a natural water park. A “shut-in” is when a river gets closed into a narrow channel by hard rock that doesn’t easily erode, making for a beautiful sight as the water runs over smooth rocks and creates mini pools and waterfalls. Visitors can go swimming, rock climbing, camping, or hiking here, and there’s also a quarter-mile walkway and observation deck for those who want to enjoy the view without getting wet.
Montana: Glacier National Park
Right on the Canadian border, Glacier National Park is stunning in both its beauty and size. It has over a million acres and contains over 130 lakes, over 1,000 species of plants, and hundreds of species of animals, as well as parts of two different mountain ranges. A visit to this Montana spot sooner rather than later is advisable, as its famous glaciers are fast disappearing thanks to climate change; whereas there were about 150 in the mid-nineteenth century, only 25 were left by 2010 — and scientists estimate they may all be gone by 2030.
Nebraska: Toadstool Geologic Park
Far up in northwestern Nebraska, Toadstool Geologic Park is named for the interesting toadstool-like rock formations that characterize its landscape. Often referred to as the “badlands of Nebraska,” it’s open 24 hours a day and has a mile-long loop trail for you to walk through and enjoy the scenery and the area’s fossils, which lie along the trail.
Nevada: Bonsai Rock
Lake Tahoe is already one of the best getaways in America, thanks in part to its natural beauty. On the Nevada side of it, you’ll find a particularly magical spot: Bonsai Rock. It’s a large boulder located on the lake, with four small trees growing at the top that look like bonsai trees, hence the name.
New Hampshire: Franconia Notch State Park
Franconia Notch State Park is a park located in the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire and centered around Franconia Notch, a mountain pass between the Kinsman Range and Franconia Range. With miles of biking, hiking, and ski trails, it’s a great place to enjoy the New England outdoors, as well as go fishing in its lakes.
New Jersey: Grounds for Sculpture
Known as the Garden State, New Jersey has quite a bit of scenery, but the most scenic spot is probably Grounds for Sculpture. This sculpture park and museum in Central Jersey takes up 42 acres of land with a beautiful, and constantly changing, collection of over 270 contemporary sculptures against a backdrop of colorful flowers and trees in the warmer months. It’s also a great spot to take a date.
New Mexico: White Sands National Monument
Located in New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, White Sands National Monument looks like a spot from another planet. The white sand here is made up of gypsum crystals — a remarkable fact, as gypsum is a mineral that rarely forms into sand; it usually gets dissolved by rain before running off into the sea. As the Tularosa Basin has no outlets into the sea, rain gets trapped and the gypsum here eventually turns into sand. Comprising the largest gypsum dune on the planet, the white sand covers 275 square miles that you can hike or even sled down.
New York: Heart Island
Technically part of the town of Alexandria, Heart Island is one of the Thousand Islands and lies on the Saint Lawrence River in New York. The already lush and beautiful spot is made more beautiful by Boldt Castle, an unfinished castle with a rather heartbreaking story. In 1900, millionaire George Boldt hired architects and workers so that he could build a castle for his wife, complete with six stories, 120 rooms, gardens, tunnels, a drawbridge, children’s playhouse, and more. When his wife suddenly died in 1904, Boldt had all construction immediately stopped and left the castle as a testament to his love for her, never returning to Heart Island again.
North Carolina: Blue Ridge Parkway
An officially designated All-American Road and National Parkway, the Blue Ridge Parkway is the best way to appreciate the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachians. It runs 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina (mostly the latter), from Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and a drive through here would take you through some of the best landscapes on the East Coast.
North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
A truly patriotic destination, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in the badlands area of western North Dakota. It’s so named in honor of the 26th president due to his love for the North Dakota “Wild West” and his dedication to national parks and preservation. It’s a great place for a scenic drive and has about a hundred miles worth of trails for walking and horse riding, as well as plenty of camping and hiking opportunities. It’s also known for its wildlife; you can see badgers, bison, cougars, coyotes, elk, wild horses, and more, as well as over 180 different species of birds.
Ohio: Ash Cave
Ohio’s Hocking Hills State Park is home to plenty of natural wonders, such as waterfalls, cliffs, caves, and amazing rock formations. Of its seven sections, however, the most awe-inspiring is Ash Cave. A huge recess cave that you can only access after going through a narrow gorge, it’s 700 feet wide and 100 feet deep, and the top of the entrance rim is 90 feet high. A runoff waterfall from up top makes this cave even more picturesque.
Oklahoma: Wichita Mountains
Located in southwestern Oklahoma, the Wichita Mountains is a popular destination for hiking and rock climbing. The geologic diversity here makes for differently colored mountains as well as amazing views from any of its summits.
Oregon: Thor’s Well
It’s only 20 feet deep, but Thor’s Well is a jaw-dropping sight located in Oregon’s Cape Perpetua. A salt water fountain, the ocean’s tide is responsible for what looks like an awe-inspiring sinkhole. Come between approximately an hour before high tide and an hour after to see it in full force.
Pennsylvania: Bushkill Falls
The Poconos are a great place for a weekend getaway, and a visit to the picturesque Bushkill Falls while you’re there is a must. Called “the Niagara of Pennsylvania,” Bushkill Falls is made up of eight waterfalls and over two miles of trails, walkways, and bridges, all spanning approximately 300 acres. It’s great for romantic walks and hikes, as well as birdwatching, fishing, and other adventures.
Rhode Island: Newport Cliff Walk
Known for its mansions, the city of Newport is a great Northeastern getaway for a quick weekend or even just an evening. A big reason is its famous cliff walk, a three-and-a-half-mile public walkway, which holds some of the most beautiful views on the Eastern Seaboard. Witness wildlife and beautiful mansions that run alongside the walkway, the latter of which can also be visited for their own history.
South Carolina: Caesars Head State Park
Caesars Head State Park is a South Carolina destination known for its amazing views, and it’s a great place for hiking, picnicking, fishing, and camping. Waterfalls and cliffs make this park especially picturesque, and the wildlife here includes the endangered green salamander, falcons, black bears, and hawks migrating in the fall.
South Dakota: Black Hills
Located right next to the Badlands of South Dakota, the Black Hills are a small mountain range near Rapid City with a controversial history. Promises to the Lakota Sioux to keep white settlers off the land were broken by the United States government when gold was discovered, and as a result, the existence of monuments like the famed Mount Rushmore remains controversial. In addition to the faces of the four presidents carved into a mountain, visitors also flock to Black Hills National Forest, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Custer State Park, and the Crazy Horse Memorial, the native answer to Mount Rushmore which is set to become the world’s largest sculpture once completed. This is a great hiking destination, as well as a wonderland for winter sportsmen.
Tennessee: Twin Falls
Twin Falls is a cascade waterfall in Tennessee’s Rock Island State Park, accidentally created by the Great Falls Dam on the Caney Fork River. As a result, some of the water from the Collins River (which flows into Caney Fork) seeped through the limestone to create a waterfall in which the water flows through the walls of the gorge rather than over them.
Texas: Krause Springs
Owned by the Krause family for more than 50 years now, Krause Springs is an amazing spot in Texas Hill Country meant for camping and swimming. Its 115 acres contain 32 springs, several of which feed into both a natural pool and a man-made pool (which both, in turn, flow into Lake Travis). Surrounded by lush green trees and amazing scenery, the experience of swimming here is breathtaking.
Utah: Lake Powell
Lying on the Colorado River, the reservoir of Lake Powell is mostly in Utah but some of it stretches into Arizona. Two million people come here every year to marvel at this man-made lake surrounded by Mars-like terrain. In fact, Lake Powell is so extraterrestrial-esque that it’s been the shooting location for 45 films and television shows, including Gravity, Doctor Who, and Planet of the Apes. Part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Lake Powell is a great place for water sports and hiking, and visitors can also visit the nearby Rainbow Bridge, the world’s highest natural bridge.
Vermont: Jenne Farm
It may seem like just a farm, but the scenery surrounding Jenne Farm is so notable that it’s become one of the most photographed farms in the world. Located in the small Vermont town of Reading, it has appeared in ads, magazine covers, postcards, calendars, photography books, and even films such as Forrest Gump. Come in the fall when the surrounding area really comes to life with the changing leaves.
Virginia: Falling Spring Falls
With quite the descriptive name, Falling Spring Falls is a waterfall that plummets an astounding 80 feet from a cliff in the Alleghany Highlands of Virginia. A viewing area with a place to picnic and a paved path from which to admire the waterfall is nearby, and many have come here to enjoy the view — including Thomas Jefferson, who is said to have called it a “remarkable cascade.”
Washington: Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh Rainforest is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the country, located on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state. Unique mosses and lichens on its trees give the rainforest its distinctive appearance, and it’s also home to species such as the Olympic black bear, northern spotted owl, Pacific tree frog, banana slug, and more. Take the Hall of Mosses trail, a loop trail that runs less than a mile and takes you through beautiful trees covered in green and brown moss.
Washington, DC: Tidal Basin
A particularly good spot for a picnic in the spring, the Tidal Basin is a reservoir between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel. From here, you can see the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial, both of which are situated along the basin, as are other Washington, D.C., memorials, including those honoring Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., and George Mason. Running about 10 feet deep, the Tidal Basin covers more than 100 acres and is a popular site for paddle-boating in the warmer months.
West Virginia: Blackwater Falls
The most photographed place in West Virginia lies in the Allegheny Mountains near the city of Davis. You’ve probably seen the spot where the Blackwater River hits Blackwater Canyon in a gorgeous fall of water on jigsaw puzzles, calendars, advertisements, and even stationary, but it’s even better in person. Multiple trails provide great hiking opportunities, including a wheelchair-accessible nature trail.
Wisconsin: Cave Point County Park
Wyoming: Lower Yellowstone Falls
Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park is the country’s (and possibly the world’s) first national park, as well as one of its largest, making for the ultimate American getaway. The best spot to catch a view of is the Lower Yellowstone Falls, the highest in the park and the highest-volume waterfall in the Rocky Mountains. Various trails around the surrounding canyon offer a good vantage point, as does a one-way loop drive. Before you go rushing out for a road trip, however, you'll want to know the best food and drink in every state.
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