Not many people think of the US as a place to see natural wonders, and when you think of the word “exotic” the US doesn’t even come to mind. However, we have put together a list of natural wonders in the US that are exotic enough to make you feel like you’ve traveled to a different country. These locations will give you the experience of a lifetime without ever needing a passport! Pack your bags and head out to take in all the hidden natural wonders the US has to offer – and save some money while you’re at it too!
25. White Mountains, New Hampshire
Hike up a mountain or down to a waterfall, either way, this park is sure to exceed your expectations. As part of the Appalachian Trail, the view from the White Mountains is nothing short of spectacular. Experience new flora and fauna as you explore the trails. Because most of the trails in this part of the Appalachians are above the timberline, hiking can be extreme and dangerous. However, the mountains and trails are remote and not as often traveled which allows for a quiet and peaceful hiking experience. The park is surrounded by a national forest to ensure that the area will remain undeveloped and true to it’s natural form.
24. Eternal Flame Falls, New York
While the most famous waterfall in New York is Niagara Falls, we think this little waterfall deserves some recognition too! Eternal Flame Falls may be a fraction of Niagara’s size, but it has its own unique character. Behind the falls, there is a small cavity that gas from underground leaks through. The widely accepted theory is that the flame continued to burn after it was lit by Native Americans many years ago. Take the hike to reach the falls and be sure to get some pictures of the flame that never dies! The trails leading to this cascade can get muddy and messy so be sure to come prepared!
23. Turner Falls Park, Oklahoma
One of the less visited natural and exotic areas in the US is Turner Falls Park. With a 77 foot waterfall in the park, this area is sure to make you feel like you’ve traveled to a tropical getaway. Nature trails and hiking opportunities are scattered throughout the park and hold many more sights as well! Experience the Arbuckle Mountains, caves and much more in this park. With swimming holes, beach areas and caves, this destination is perfect for everyone in the family looking to experience a small natural wonder within an exotic, fun area.
22. Olympic National Park, Washington
From the shoreline to the alpines, Olympic National Park offers you the full experience. Take a hiking trip, go fishing in the lakes, or enjoy tide pooling on the beach. The activities visitors can find here are endless. Camp right on site so you wont miss out on a thing! The park holds a variety of ecosystems that blend together to create a unique encounter with nature. If you want to take your pup along, this is the perfect place! Here, your furry friend has the opportunity to explore a large portion of the park with you and can even become an Olympic National Park Bark Ranger!
21. Providence Canyon, Georgia
Known as Georgia’s own little Grand Canyon, Providence Canyon State Park gives you a unique experience. Here you can get up close to the rim and journey down into the canyon on a tour. The colors of the canyon create a spectacular contrast with the trees and skyline and offer an unforgettable view to everyone who visits. While this natural wonder may be beautiful, this structure was not formed on it’s own. The canyon is the result of years of harmful agriculture practices in the 1800’s, and stands to inform and educate visitors on the power of man’s influence.
20. El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico
While it may not be in the contiguous United States, El Yunque National Forest in the US territory of Puerto Rico offers a new sight for everyone. As the only tropical rainforest in the entire US National Forest system, this area contains unique, biologically diverse flora and fauna that is uncommon in the rest of the country. You can view both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea from different points in the park. Here, visitors can hike, swim or simply relax and enjoy the views that the park has to offer.
19. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
Looking for a fun summer destination that can double as a winter wonderland? The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is the perfect destination for you! During the summer you can kayak, canoe, and swim down the Lake Superior shore. Explore the rock islands, cutouts and caves by water during the summer when it’s hot. Then, when the water freezes over during the winter and the surface is sturdy enough to stand on, visitors can explore the rock cutouts that transform into mystical ice caves. In either season, the experience here is a must for any traveler!
18. Big Sur, California
Everyone dreams of taking the perfect Fiji-esque beach vacation at some point in their lives. Now, you can make that dream happen. While it may not exactly be Fiji, Big Sur, California requires no passport or trip across the pond. Here, the mountains dramatically drop into the Pacific with trailing waterfalls and small beaches at the base. Travel to this remote beach by hike or boat and find an incredible getaway that will fill your desire for that Fiji trip!
17. Outer Banks, North Carolina
If you’re looking for a secluded beach town getaway, North Carolina holds the answer for you. The coast holds a strip of islands, known as the Outer Banks, that will redefine your ideal beach vacation. The northern islands are primarily made up of wilderness and undeveloped areas. In areas like Corolla, you can find wild horses roaming the beaches while in areas like Hatteras, you can explore the national seashore that holds the barrier islands’ history. If you’re looking for even more of an adventure, we suggest taking a tour with Corolla Jeep Adventures. Explore the shore by jeep, kayak or even ATV and you won’t be disappointed. With multiple state parks, open sea beaches, and the small town feel, this destination is sure to leave you wanting to return!
16. Joshua Tree National Park , California
Deep in southern California, the Colorado and Majave Deserts meet to form Joshua Tree National Park. The park contains parts of two very different ecosystems that have combined to create an unusual and fascinating landscape. Go hiking and climbing on your own or let a park ranger guide you through the desert. Either way, you are sure to have a great experience here. Enjoy the rugged, rocky scenery scattered with plenty of Joshua Trees and cacti as you visit here. If you’re really looking for an incredible sight, we suggest camping out under the stars. The seclusion of this park makes the night skies brighter than ever and will leave you with a great view.
15. Kauai, Hawaii
Known as the Garden Island and the Island of Discovery, Kauai is a Hawaiian destination like no other. Used as the backdrop for movies such as Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean, this widely uninhabited island is the definition of exotic. With scenic drives, waterfalls, canyons and over 60 beaches scattering the island, you will always have a new place to explore! Discover the island by ATV, boat, helicopter or zip-line with Kauai Tours. Hike, kayak or simply relax and you are sure to experience the natural beauty that covers Kauai.
14. Aleutian Islands, Alaska
One place in the US that feels otherworldly is the Aleutian Islands off the southern coast of Alaska. The 14 large volcanic islands and 55 other smaller islands form a barrier between the Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Because these islands lie between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates, the 57 potentially active volcanoes that are scattered throughout the landscape could erupt if any shift occurs. These volcanoes contribute to the northern segment of the Ring of Fire and create a unique sight for any visitor. The wildlife here is completely different than anywhere else in the United States and includes a variety of species of sea birds, caribou, foxes, and sea otters.
13. Thor’s Well, Oregon
This natural hole off the coast of Oregon appears to be draining the surrounding sea. When the tide rises or a storm comes in and causes a sudden increase to the volume of water, Thor’s Well becomes a spectacular sight. However, this destination is not for everyone. Only nature lovers and photographers that are thrill seekers should venture out to this seemingly bottomless pit. However, it isn’t dangerous for the risk of falling in the well. Sneaker waves have the ability to knock unsuspecting visitors into surrounding volcanic rocks. If you are up for the thrill, this is a sight that is sure leave you breathless.
12. Havasu Falls, Arizona
While this natural wonder may be a little bit more known, Havasu Falls is still only lightly visited. This exotic destination is only for those who are comfortable with a hike that is about 10 miles. As the falls are located on land that belongs to the Havasupai Indian Tribe, the only way to reach the falls is through a 10 mile hike each way. However, once you reach the falls, both the sight and experience are incredible. The bright blue water against the red rock canyon creates a landscape that is like no other.
11. Devil’s Den, Florida
This Floridian spring that has formed in a sinkhole is home to one of North America’s most prehistoric discovery sites. Extinct animal fossils have been found in the underwater cave system that lies below Devil’s Den. Take the staircase down into the inverted mushroom shaped cavern that is filled with water and go for a swim. The site offers scuba gear rentals and encourages guests to explore the underground pool! They also offer diving which takes you down into the depths of the den and the entrances of the cave system for those who are more experienced. However, entrance into the caves is prohibited due to the risks. Visitors love the view inside the den and different exclusive experience it offers!
10. Grand Prismatic Spring, Wyoming
While most people know Yellowstone National Park for Old Faithful, we have another must-see sight that lies close by. Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the US and the third largest in the world. The vivid colors and enormous size make this one of the most photographed areas in the park. The center of the spring remains a vibrant blue and continues out in a color scheme that follows the rainbow until the edge. On the trail leading to this spring, visitors can also view 2 other pools and a geyser.
9. Sailing Stones, California
One of America’s most interesting geological phenomena has to be the Sailing Stones or Sliding Rocks of Racetrack Valley in Death Valley National Park, California. The Racetrack is a dry lake bed known as a playa. The rocks move along the playa at speeds up to 5 meters per minute without any intervention. Scientists concluded that movement is due to ice sheets melting underneath the surface and being pushed by winds. Here, visitors can witness the rocks move and see the track they left behind.
8. The Lost Sea, Tennessee
One of the widely unrecognized natural wonders of the US lies in the deep south. Inside the caverns underneath Tennessee, you can find America’s largest underground lake. Tours include a walk down to the bottom of the cavern and a glass bottom boat ride across The Lost Sea. Spanning across a large section of Craighead Caverns, this underground body of water covers a known 4 and a half acres, however the complete extent of the lake still has not been measured. Having been used as a Cherokee meeting place and a saltpeter mine by the confederate soldiers, the interior holds boundless amounts of history along with the incomparable sights.
7. Northern Lights, Alaska
Known as one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world, the Northern Lights were a must on this list. This event lights up the Alaskan sky during the fall and winter seasons and is a must see for any nature lover! Take a tour or simply find a location where there is no surrounding light and watch the lights swirl across the sky. Locals suggest viewing the lights from Flattop Overlook in the Anchorage area or Denali National Park due to the lack of light pollution on the 6 million uninhabited acres that make up the park. If you love experiencing new wildlife, we suggest exploring Denali during the day as well!
6. Palouse Falls, Washington
Palouse Falls State Park in Washington may be a small 105 acres, but the beauty it holds is immeasurable. The 198 foot waterfall is surrounded by lush greenery and dramatic rock canyon that is 377 feet deep. Enjoy kayaking on the river or hiking the many trails that cover the rim and provide access to incredible views. In the spring and summer, the falls have a high volume of water flow while in the winter, the rocks around the falls freeze over. Only a short distance off the main highway, this less traversed area looks like it should be buried in the midst of an exotic wilderness. The falls are rated one of the top in the US and visitors describe the view as picturesque.
5. Devil’s Kettle, Minnesota
As one of America’s greatest natural mysteries, the Devil’s Kettle had to make it on this list! This Minnesotan waterfall cascades off of the Brule River into a pothole. No one has discovered where the water here drains. It’s almost as if half of the Brule River is disappearing into thin air. Scientists have conducted tests with dye, cameras and objects, yet none seem to provide an explanation. While it may just be a small sight, the truly spectacular aspect is the mystery that surrounds it.
4. Fly Geyser, Nevada
Lying just a third of a mile off the beaten path, this natural wonder looks like it was taken straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Fly Geyser is widely unknown and remains secluded from the typical tourist filled areas visitors ordinarily experience in Nevada. This geyser may no longer spout water, however, the two other small geysers in the area stream scalding hot water and hiss as they release it. While the geyser is on private land, those who call the owners prior to their visit will be able to experience the sight from up close. The property was just recently purchased and is rumored to be commercialized soon. This sight is one of Nevada’s best and least known, so take advantage of the view while it is still remote!
3. Mohegan Bluffs, Rhode Island
There’s no need to travel all the way to the Irish coast for the view when you could experience something just as beautiful right here in the US! While Ireland may be known for the beautiful, green cliffs that dramatically drop into the ocean, it is not the only place in the world you can find those iconic beach lines. Rhode Island’s Mohegan Bluffs are lined with grassy cliffs that will make you feel like you’re in a different country. Take the 141 step staircase down to the beach for a swim or surf or enjoy a picnic on the grassy hilltop. Visitors say this is one of the most dramatic views you can get of the Atlantic Ocean.
2. Banana River, Florida
While the Banana River may be nothing spectacular during the day, it tops our list for the way it comes to life at night. As one of the six places in the world where you can see bioluminescence, this is by far one of the most exotic things to experience in the US. Hop in a kayak and take a tour with BK Adventure Tours, and experience the lights first hand. Watch as the water glows blue when you paddle. The bioluminescence is the result of microorganisms that photosynthesize during the day and accumulate in the water. They release a chemical that emits a bright blue glow when they are moved during the night. Paddle through a school of fish and watch what seems like fireworks go off underwater. You will be left amazed after your experience here!
1. Mendenhall Caves, Alaska
Topping off our list is the Mendenhall Glacier located just miles outside the city of Juneau, Alaska. The natural glacier lies on the Tongass National Forest and remains a great place to have an exotic experience in American nature. Rivers form these caves by melting a hole in the glacier. Because of this, the caves are only accessible only by kayak. After the kayak, guests then have to climb ice and hike to the site. Inside the caves, visitors are met with sights that are so extraordinary they seem unreal. The glacial ice appears a bright blue and provides a vibrant landscape for everyone to take in. However this isn’t an easy journey, so before embarking on this trek, be sure you are adequately prepared. If you want to explore these caves on tour, we suggest the Juneau Mendenhall Glacier Ice Adventure.
No mater what kind of vacation you’re looking to take, RVUSA.com has suggestions for you! Check out our other articles on travel destinations like Top 5 Places for Wildlife Enthusiasts, Top 5 Destinations for History Buffs, best places to take your dog, and 8 Best National Forests for Summer RV Travel.