These states are home to must-visit national parks, dreamy, snow-covered peaks, and dramatic black-sand beaches.
From the icy glaciers of Alaska to the white-sand beaches of Florida, our country is home to stunning natural landscapes and diverse wildlife. Each state is beautiful on its own, but some are home to a plethora of awe-inspiring natural wonders, dramatic landscapes, and state and national parks (California, we're looking at you), making them heaven for nature lovers.
Ahead, we've rounded up the 10 states where Mother Nature has truly outdone herself, taking into consideration must-visit national parks, coastlines, scenic drives, mountain ranges, and much more.
Nature's bounty is on full display in the Golden State. With 280 state parks and nine national parks — the most out of all 50 states, California's beauty and natural diversity are unrivaled. You can be soaking up vitamin D on a golden sand beach along the Pacific Coast, watching the sunset over the magical yuca palms of Joshua Tree National Park, exploring the Mojave desert, taking a dip in a hot spring, or hiking lava beds in the northeast, all without leaving the boundaries of the state.
The famous naturalist and "father of the national parks" John Muir wrote in his 1915 book "Travels to Alaska": "To the lover of pure wildness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world." And who could argue with that? With eight national parks, including the breathtaking Denali National Park and Preserve that encompasses six million acres of unspoiled wilderness and, of course, the highest peak in the country, Alaska's beauty will leave anyone full of appreciation for Mother Nature. Add to that the dense forests, glaciers, and rugged coastline of Glacier Bay National Park and the stunning snow-covered scenery of Kenai Fjords National Park, and you get a good idea of why the Last Frontier state is on the wishlist of most travelers.
Utah has long been a favorite destination of outdoor and winter sports enthusiasts flocking here to enjoy the state's snow-capped mountains and world-class resorts. The Beehive State offers a wealth of natural treasures that any traveler should take advantage of: from the ancient rock formations at Arches National Park and Goblin Valley to the expansive Bonneville Salt Flats and Mirror Lake, Utah will captivate your mind and leave you speechless.
While saying that Colorado's landscape is dominated by its towering peaks is technically correct — after all, the state is home to a whopping 58 mountain peaks that are higher than 14,000 feet — it is also a little misleading as the Centennial State has a lot going on at lower altitudes, too. Whether it's the mysterious Caves of the Winds, the deepest hot spring in the world (Pagosa Springs), or the stunning Garden of the Gods with its red-rock formations, Colorado's natural beauty certainly qualifies it as one of the most scenic states in the country.
Hawaii may be one of the smallest states in the country, but it packs quite the visual punch. The eight major islands that comprise the Hawaiian archipelago offer miles of pristine, picture-perfect beaches with white, yellow, orange, red, black, and even green sand. Lush rainforests, volcanic craters, expansive valleys, picturesque waterfalls, and striking canyons transform Hawaii into a natural paradise.
One look at the Grand Canyon is enough to convince you that Arizona is an extraordinary place. While this national park, with its 1,904 square miles of layered red rock formations, turquoise waterfalls, and snaking streams, is the state's main draw, there are plenty of other natural gems to explore here. The majestic smooth shapes of Antelope Canyon, Sedona's red rocks, the Sonoran desert's giant saguaros, and the ancient "plant fossils" of petrified wood logs in the Petrified Forest are some of Arizona's most unique natural landmarks.
With 124 state parks, three national parks (Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park, and Olympic National Park), and countless hidden natural gems, Washington certainly deserves a spot on your travel wishlist. Hike the enchanting Hoh Rain Forest with its fairy tale–like landscape of moss-covered conifers; descend underground in Ape Coves, a two-mile lava tunnel; and marvel at the sheer beauty and grandeur of Mount St. Helen, or discover beaches, rugged cliffs, stunning viewpoints and sites (like the Tree of Life) along the Pacific coast.
It's easy to see what makes Wyoming one of the most beautiful states in the country—and we don't just mean the stunning mountain landscapes that have made it a premium winter sports destination. The Equality State treats its visitors to some pretty mind-boggling vistas. And if you've ever laid eyes on the bright colors that make up Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, you know what we mean. Then, there are the idyllic scenery, picturesque mountains, and pristine lakes of Grand Teton National Park that will make you think you're dreaming with your eyes open.
What Massachusetts lacks in drama, it makes up in dreamy ocean vistas and lush mountainscapes. The state is home to the scenic Berkshires region and the beautiful Connecticut River Valley, two major fall foliage destinations as well as 24 state parks, four national wildlife refuges, dozens of islands (among which are the gorgeous Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard), and 38 state forests. But the (natural) crown jewel of Massachusetts is Cape Cod National Seashore—one of only ten countrywide, a favorite vacation spot of generations of Americans.
With its sun-drenched beaches along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, Florida has become the quintessential vacation (and a favorite second home) destination. Ocean lovers can't get enough of its dreamy stretches of sand (all 825 miles of them), turquoise waters, vibrant coral reefs, and beautiful islands in Biscayne and Dry Tortugas national parks. And of course, there is the Everglades — a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and home to the largest tropical wilderness in the country and countless endangered species.