There’s something so special about escaping into nature in search of natural wonders. Whether you’re dreaming of swimming under cascades in the forest, or you’re hitting the trails of the soaring mountains in the US, we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover some of the most beautiful waterfalls and mountains in the US and start planning your USA nature tours for 2022 and beyond.
1. Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California
Setting eyes on Yosemite Falls is like wandering into a storybook. It’s one of the tallest waterfalls in the world and definitely one of the most beautiful. You can see the falls by walking the one-mile loop trail to see the base or take on the all-day hike to reach the top of the falls.
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2. El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, California
While you’re in Yosemite, you can’t miss seeing El Capitan. This icon of America rises above the western side of the Yosemite Valley, surrounded by lush forest. The vertical, sheer granite face is one of the most photographed sights in California and it looks especially breathtaking when the light makes the rock glow red at sunset.
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3. Seven Falls, South Cheyenne Canyon, Colorado
If you like your waterfalls with a side of geological wonders, you’ve got to visit Seven Falls. Set in the South Cheyenne Canyon, the falls are surrounded by fascinating rock formations. You can get up close to the falls by climbing the 224 stairs to the top, or take the fast lane on the in-mountain elevator. Either way, you’re sure to get a beautiful view.
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4. Maroon Bells, Colorado
The Maroon Bells offers up not just one stunning peak – but two. Located in the Elk Mountains, the Maroon Bells are famed for their enchanting beauty, surrounded by crystal lakes and lush forests that bloom in orange, red and gold in the fall. If you visit on a calm, sunny day, head to Crater Lake where you’ll see the two peaks perfectly reflected in the still water.
5. Palouse Falls, Palouse Falls State Park, Washington
The Palouse Falls are the jewel in the stunning Palouse Falls State Park in southeastern Washington. They’re one of the last active waterfalls on the Ice Age flood paths and they’re absolutely stunning. The 200-foot falls crash over the ledge into the Palouse River Canyon and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into an ancient world. There are three different ways to see the falls and the lower part of the falls can be easily accessed from the nearby parking lot. You can also get a view of the canyon and falls at the end of a paved path. The third option is to head to the Fryxell Overlook for spectacular views of the falls and the canyon.
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6. Mount Rainier, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Mount Rainier is one of the most extraordinary mountains in the US… and it’s also an active volcano. It’s famed for its postcard-perfect snowy peak that rises above wildflower meadows and forests and there are more than 130 trails winding around the mountain. There are options for all fitness levels and one of the most scenic trails is the easy 1.7 mile Alta Vista Trail. If you’re an experienced ice climber, you might even like to take on the 14,410-foot tall summit of Mount Rainier. But be sure to learn about signs of volcano eruption before you go!
7. Burney Falls, McArthur–Burney Falls Memorial State Park, California
Beautiful Burney Falls are an unmissable wonder for any waterfall lover in California. Surrounded by lush woodlands and mossy rocks, the falls are like something out of a fairytale. President Theodore Roosevelt Jr. even once called the falls the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. Best of all, you can easily reach the falls on the quarter-mile path to the base or the one-mile Burney Falls Loop Trail which takes you to many scenic viewpoints. As you ogle the 129-foot falls pumping 100 million gallons of spring water every day, you’ll probably agree with the President!
8. Grand Teton, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The Teton Range is extraordinary, but if you had to choose the crown jewel, it’s the Grand Teton Mountain. Towering at 13,770 feet, it’s the second-tallest mountain in Wyoming and the trails here range from short, easy walks to challenging full-day climbs through ice sheets and deep snow. You can even go skiing down the mountain. Or simply gaze up in wonder at the jagged snowy peak surrounded by gorgeous meadows and forest.
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9. Rainbow Falls in Watkins Glen State Park, New York State
All of Watkins Glen State Park looks like a storybook, but the Rainbow Falls is the stunning centrepiece. Keep a lookout for fairies and elves as you wander the Glen Creek gorge trail to see the sparkling falls plunging into the rocky gorge surrounded by stone staircases and bridges. And if you visit on a sunny late afternoon, you’ll find out why they call it Rainbow Falls. As the sun hits the canyon at just the right time, rainbows appear in the cascades – and it’s truly otherworldly.
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10. Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska
As the highest peak in North America towering 20,310 feet, Denali is definitely one of the magnificent mountains in the US. It’s surrounded by the remote and unspoiled landscapes of Denali National Park, home to wolves, bears, moose and caribou and it’s an extraordinary place to escape into nature with hiking trails and scenic drives. One of the best places to admire Denali is at the Reflection Pond, where Denali is reflected in the glass-like water.
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11. Havasu Falls, Arizona
If you’re brave enough to tackle the Arizona heat and the strenuous hike, you’ll be rewarded with the magical Havasu Falls. They’re famed for their stunning aquamarine water that contrasts with the surrounding red rock and green foliage. Plus, the water temperatures stay a refreshing 70°F all year round.
The falls are found at the bottom of Havasu Canyon on the Havasupai Indian Reservation near the Grand Canyon National Park and are only accessible by horseback or hiking. It’s a 10-mile hike and you must get a permit to enter the area. The Havasupai people manage the waterfall and surrounding area and limit the number of visitors to help preserve this extraordinary area.
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12. Mount Washington, New Hampshire
Standing at 6,288 feet, Mount Washington is the highest peak in New Hampshire – and also one of the most beautiful. The snowy peak rises above the lush forest that glows with autumn colours in the fall and bright flowers in spring. You can make the long hike to the summit or if you prefer not to walk, you can take the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway. Opened in 1869, the colourful trains make their way up the 3.5-mile track and you can spend an hour at the summit to take in the gorgeous scenery, with views all the way to Canada and the Atlantic on a clear day.
13. Niagara Falls, New York State
The Niagara Falls is one of the biggest and most iconic waterfalls in the US, with 3,000 tons of water crashing over the edge every second. Spanning across both the US and Canada, the Niagara is actually three falls including American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls. Whether you take a thrilling boat tour or go on a walking tour behind the falls themselves, you’ll be amazed by the Niagara.
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14. Whiteface Mountain, Adirondack Mountains, New York State
As the fifth-highest mountain in New York State and one of the High Peaks of the Adirondack Mountains, Whiteface Mountain is simply stunning. It’s famed for its snow sports in winter and it’s perfect for hiking in summer. But our favourite time has got to be autumn when the foliage glows in red and gold. Plus, it’s only a few hours north of New York City!
15. Wailua Falls, Kauai, Hawaii
Did you watch the TV show Fantasy Island in the ‘70s or ‘80s? Then you might recognise the Wailua Falls from the opening credits! A thick green forest surrounds these beautiful double falls and they plunge over an 80-foot-high cliff into a 30-foot-deep pool. There are no challenging hikes required here, as you can see the waterfalls from the parking lot. For the best views, stop by in the morning when the light reflects off the water creating mesmerising rainbows.
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16. Mauna Kea, Big Island, Hawaii
Mauna Kea might be the only place in the world where you can go snorkelling at the beach and throw a snowball in the polar tundra on the same day. This dormant volcano is the highest point in Hawaii and one of the few places in Hawaii to receive snow. Rising almost 13,796 feet above sea level and 33,000 feet from the ocean floor, Mauna Kea is the tallest sea mountain in the world, and it’s technically higher than Mount Everest!
Hikers and astronomers from all over the world come to Mauna Kea as it’s one of the best places in the world to see the starry night sky. It’s also home to the world’s largest observatory with 13 telescopes. You can hike or drive to the summit and it’s also a beautiful place to watch the sunset blazing through the blanket of clouds. It’s important to be respectful when visiting as this is a sacred place, home to the snow goddess Poli‘ahu.
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What are your favourite waterfalls and mountains in the US? Let us know in the comments below!