Hikes & Trails

Top 30 Natural Landmarks in the US Reachable by Trail

POSTED ON June 7, 2022 BY Ralph S.


It’s no secret that the United States is overflowing with natural wonders. From desert canyons to glaciers to volcanoes, the diversity of landscapes in the US is astounding. But with so many incredible places to visit, it’s challenging to decide where to go next. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top 30 natural landmarks in the US. Each of the 50 states has gorgeous natural attractions, but these 30 spots are especially worth traveling for. All of the places we selected are accessible by trail. While you can witness immense natural beauty from your vehicle and drive-up viewpoints, we believe the best experiences of nature happen on foot.

Here are top 30 trail-accessible natural landmarks in the US to add to your bucket list.

1. Glacier Point

Glacier Point

Location: Yosemite National Park, California

Type: Viewpoint

Elevation: 7,214 feet (2,199 m)

Coordinates: 37.7303° N, 119.5737° W

Yosemite National Park in California is packed with stunning viewpoints, but Glacier Point is one of the best. This scenic overlook offers a jaw-dropping view of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, and the park’s high country. The road to Glacier Point is typically open from late May through October or November. From the parking area, you have a short walk along a paved trail to get to the overlook. Between mid-December and March, cross-country skiers and snowshoers can travel along Glacier Point Road from the Badger Pass Ski Area to reach the viewpoint. The trip is around 10.5 miles (17 km).

2. Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring

Location: Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Type: Hot Spring

Elevation: 7,270 feet (2‎,220 m)‎

Coordinates: 44.5250489° N, 110.83819° W

As the most photographed thermal feature in Yellowstone, Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the park’s top attractions. The rainbow-colored hot spring gets its vibrant hues from microorganisms living in the water, which gets progressively cooler towards the edges. Hot water travels up around 160 feet (50 m) from a crack in the earth’s surface, forming the United States’ largest hot spring. Grand Prismatic Spring is larger than an American football field and measures around 370 feet (110 m) at its widest point. Visitors can view the spring from boardwalks that wind through Midway Geyser Basin, also home to popular sites like Excelsior Geyser, Turquoise Pool, and Opal Pool.

3. Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

Location: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona

Type: Viewpoint

Elevation: 4,200 feet (1,300 m)

Coordinates: 36.8791° N, 111.5104° W

Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe-shaped section of the Colorado River that cuts through steep sandstone cliffs. This spectacular natural feature is one of the most photographed places in Arizona and an obvious choice when selecting the top 30 natural landmarks in the US. Although it’s located in Glen Canyon, the area is often referred to as the Grand Canyon’s “east rim.” To get to the overlook, you’ll need to hike a short 1.5-mile (2.4-km) path from a parking area located just off U.S. Route 89. Sunsets at Horseshoe Bend are stunning, so consider planning an afternoon trip to catch this spectacle.

4. Sunset Point

Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon National Park

Location: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Type: Viewpoint

Elevation: 7,920 feet (2,414 m)

Coordinates: 37.6227° N, 112.1660° W

Sunset Point provides visitors to Bryce Canyon National Park with an unforgettable view of the amphitheater and its famous hoodoos, including Thor’s Hammer. As the name suggests, it’s a fantastic place to watch the sunset and see the desert colors transform. Sunset Point is also an excellent place for hikers to start their journeys since it connects to some of the park’s most popular trails, such as the moderate 11-mile (17.7-km) Rim Trail. Getting to Sunset Point takes only a minute from the parking area, making it accessible to all Bryce Canyon visitors.

5. Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

Location: Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Type: Natural Arch

Elevation: 4,850 feet (1,478 m)

Coordinates: 38.7436° N, 109.4993° W

This iconic sandstone arch in Arches National Park is one of Utah’s most famous natural features. The widely-recognized rock formation appears on Utah’s license plate and attracts people from across the globe. At 52 feet (16 m) tall, Delicate Arch is one of the park’s 2,000+ arches. To reach Delicate Arch, you’ll need to hike 3 miles (4.8 km) roundtrip along a moderate trail with some steep sections.

6. Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

Location: Navajo Nation Land, Arizona

Type: Canyon

Elevation: 4,000 feet (1,219 m)

Coordinates: 36.8619° N, 111.3743° W

This otherworldly slot canyon in Arizona is a dream destination for many travelers. Antelope Canyon was formed over millions of years by water and wind erosion. These processes formed surreal shapes in the sandstone, resulting in incredible light displays as the sun shines through the canyon opening. Visiting the Antelope Canyon is only possible with a local guide due to its location on Navajo Nation private land. Hiking to the canyon takes about 20 minutes from the parking area, with mostly flat and sandy terrain.

7. Angel’s Landing

Angel’s Landing

Location: Zion National Park, Utah

Type: Rock Formation

Elevation: 5,790 feet (1,765 m)

Coordinates: 37.2690° N, 112.9469° W

Located in Zion National Park in the state of Utah, Angel’s Landing is a top destination among hikers and thrill-seekers who visit the park. The 1,488-foot (454-m) tall rock formation offers one of the most incredible views in Zion, but getting there is not for the faint of heart. To reach the top of Angel’s Landing, hikers must navigate a 5.2-mile (8.4-km) trail with an elevation gain of around 1,500 feet (457 m). The path is strenuous, narrow, and has significant exposure, making it among the most dangerous hikes in the world.

8. Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Location: Navajo County, Arizona

Type: Region

Elevation: 4,839 feet (1,475 m)

Coordinates: 36.9980° N, 110.0985° W

Stretching along the Arizona-Utah border, this red-sand desert region features a breathtaking collection of towering sandstone rock formations called buttes. The region is famous worldwide and has appeared in numerous Western movies. Indian Route 42 and Highway 163 pass through the area, but you can also explore parts of it on foot. Head to John Ford Point for sweeping vistas of the sandstone buttes reaching up towards the sky.

9. Diablo Lake Overlook

Diablo Lake Overlook, North Cascades National Park

Location: North Cascades National Park, Washington

Type: Viewpoint

Elevation: 1950 feet (594 m)

Coordinates: 48.712160° N, 121.113308° W

Located in Washington’s North Cascades National Park, Diablo Lake Overlook is one of the park’s top viewpoints. Visitors will enjoy stunning views of the lake’s turquoise waters, which are surrounded by pine forests and soaring peaks up to 8,000 feet (2,438 m). The parking lot for Diablo Lake Overlook is just off Highway 20. From there, it’s a short walk to reach the scenic overlook.

10. Mount Whitney

Mount Whitney

Location: Inyo National Forest and Sequoia National Park, California

Type: Mountain

Elevation: 14,505 feet (4‎,421 m)

Coordinates: 36.57855 ° N, 118.29239° W

At 14,505 feet (4‎,421 m), Mount Whitney in California is the tallest peak in the contiguous 48 states. The mountain is part of California’s Sierra Nevada and marks the start of the John Muir Trail. To get to the top, most hikers start at Whitney Portal (8,300 feet above sea level) in Inyo National Forest. The trail gains more than 6,200 feet (1,890 m) of elevation by the time you reach the summit. Most hikers require around 12 to 14 hours to complete the 22-mile (35.4-km) roundtrip.

11. Mather Point

Natural Landmarks in the US: Mather Point, Grand Canyon

Location: Grand Canyon National Park, Coconino County, Arizona

Type: Canyon

Elevation: 7,119 feet (2,170 m)

Coordinates: 36.0617° N, 112.1077° W

The Grand Canyon is one of America’s most famous and most visited natural landmarks. With more than 6 million annual visitors, this jaw-dropping natural feature is among the world’s most iconic geological wonders. Mather Point on the South Rim is one of the park’s top viewpoints, and for good reason. The scenic overlook is just a short walk from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and offers a sweeping view of the canyon. Visibility stretches 60+ miles (96 km) to the west and 30+ miles (48 km) to the east on a clear day.

12. The Wave

The Wave, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

Location: Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona

Type: Rock Formation

Elevation: 5,225 feet (1,593 m)

Coordinates: 36°59’43.0″N 112°00’16.7″W

This hypnotizing Navajo Sandstone formation is a must-see when visiting Arizona and Utah. The Wave technically lies in Arizona’s Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, but the starting point for the 6-mile (9.7-km) trail is in Utah near the town of Kanab. Due to the popularity of this natural landmark, the Bureau of Land Management has imposed limits on the number of visitors. Permits for The Wave are given out via a lottery system, so make sure to submit an application if you want to see this incredible sight.

13. Mount Katahdin

Mount Katahdin, Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail, Maine

Location: Baxter State Park, Maine

Type: Mountain

Elevation: 5,269 feet (1‎,606 m)‎

Coordinates: 45.9044° N, 68.9216° W

Located in Baxter State Park, Mount Katahdin is Maine’s highest peak and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The name comes from the Penobscot Native Americans and means “The Greatest Mountain.” Although it’s not as tall as many of the Western peaks, climbing Katahdin is no joke. The Saddle Trail is generally considered the easiest way up, but every route is strenuous and requires some rock scrambling. However, the summit rewards hikers with unforgettable panoramic views of the Maine wilderness.

14. Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

Location: Juneau, Alaska

Type: Glacier

Elevation: 5,184 feet (1,580 m)

Coordinates: 58.4409° N, 134.5459° W

Located just outside the Alaskan city of Juneau, the 13-mile-long (21 km) Mendenhall Glacier and its ice caves are among the area’s most striking and yet also accessible natural wonders. The glacier dates back to the Little Ice Age, around 3,000 years ago. Visitors can enjoy hiking around the ancient frozen landscape on a variety of trails. Two top picks are the Photo Point Trail and Nugget Falls Trail. Both routes are easy and offer jaw-dropping views of the glacier and plenty of opportunities to see wildlife, including bears and salmon.

15. Discovery Point

Discovery Point, Crater Lake National Park

Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Type: Viewpoint

Elevation: 7,150 feet (2,179 m)

Coordinates: 42.924680° N, 122.162118° W

This overlook in Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park offers spectacular views of the deep blue lake, its surrounding cliffs, and Wizard Island. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, reaching depths of up to 1,948 feet (594 meters). The crater formed following the eruption of Mount Mazama sometime around 5700 BC. Over time, the crater filled with water to create the lake we see today. To reach this overlook, you’ll need to hike an easy 2.4-mile (3.9-km) trail along the rim of the crater.

16. The Narrows

The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

Location: Zion National Park, Utah

Type: Canyon

Elevation: 5,900 feet (1,800 m)

Coordinates: 37.3050° N, 112.9491° W

This gorge in Zion National Park is the narrowest part of Zion Canyon, and, arguably, the most beautiful. The canyon walls stretch up to heights of around 1,000 feet (305 m), creating an unforgettable sight for those hiking through the Virgin River below. As one of the best slot canyon hikes in the world, The Narrows ranks among the top things to do when visiting Zion. You can reach the gorge with a 1 mile (1.6 km) walk from the Temple of Sinawava via the Riverside Walk.

17. Old Faithful

Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Location: Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Type: Geyser

Elevation: 7,349 feet (2,240 m)

Coordinates: 44.4605° N, 110.8281° W

Old Faithful is one of the main attractions in Yellowstone and a clear choice when choosing the top natural landmarks in the US. This geyser, along with Yellowstone’s other geothermal features, led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872. The geyser is highly predictable and has erupted very consistently since 2000. Eruptions range from 106 to 185 feet (32 to 56 m) high and occur 20 times a day. Scientists can predict the eruptions to within about 20 minutes and publish an eruption schedule, making it simple for visitors to witness this natural phenomenon on their trips to Yellowstone.

18. Rainbow Springs

Rainbow Springs State Park, Florida

Location: Rainbow Springs State Park, Florida

Type: Artesian Spring

Elevation: 115 feet (35 m)

Coordinates: 29.1025° N, 82.4370° W

These freshwater springs are among the most beautiful natural areas in Florida’s interior. Rainbow Springs feature crystal clear water ranging from gorgeous shades of emerald green to turquoise blue. The best place to start is near the park’s visitor center, where you’ll find a swimming area and walking paths wrapping around the springs, past waterfalls, and through lush forests. You can also explore the springs and Rainbow River by kayak to take in more of this natural wonder.

19. Hidden Lake Overlook

Hidden Lake Overlook, Glacier National Park

Location: Glacier National Park, Montana

Type: Viewpoint

Elevation: 7,170 feet (2,185 m)

Coordinates: 48.687216° N, 113.741582° W

The scenic Hidden Lake Overlook in Montana’s Glacier National Park is a fantastic spot to experience the park’s towering rugged peaks, wildflower meadows, and picturesque lakes. You can reach the viewpoint from Logan Pass on a moderate 3-mile (4.8-km) trail. Expect gorgeous panoramic vistas, mountain goat sightings, and vast alpine meadows known as the Hanging Gardens.

20. Devils Tower

Devils Tower

Location: Crook County, Wyoming

Type: Rock Formation

Elevation: 5,112 feet (1,558 m)

Coordinates: 44.5902° N, 104.7146° W

The soaring rock formation known as Devils Tower rises 1,267 feet (386 m) above Wyoming’s Belle Fourche River. The landmark became America’s first national monument in 1906, but it has been sacred to various Native American tribes for many centuries. Each June, tribes including the Crow, Cheyenne, Lakota Sioux, Shoshone, and Kiowa gather at the tower for religious ceremonies. Devils Tower is a popular destination for rock climbers, who attempt to ascend the vertical rock faces until they reach the summit.

21. Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

Location: Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah County, Oregon

Type: Waterfall

Elevation: 627 feet (191 m)

Coordinates: 45.5762° N, 122.1158° W

Located in Oregon’s picturesque Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls is the state’s tallest waterfall. The iconic cascade tumbles 635 feet (193 m) into the gorge below and attracts around 2 million visitors every year. One of the best views of the falls is found on Benson Bridge, the famous footbridge perched at a dizzying height above the waterfall’s second drop. The 2.4-mile (3.7-km) trail starting at Multnomah Falls Lodge is one of the best waterfall hikes in the world, so don’t miss the chance to enjoy it on your next trip to Oregon.

22. Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Type: Rock Formation

Elevation: 6,400 feet (1,951 meters)

Coordinates: 38.8784° N, 104.8698° W

This awe-inspiring park in Colorado Springs has been a sacred place for many centuries, and Native Americans in the area used to lay down their weapons when they entered these holy grounds. Protected as a National Natural Landmark since 1971, Garden of the Gods is an exquisite series of sandstone rock formations up to 300 feet (91 m) tall. The geological marvels are a striking contrast to the green pines and grasslands below. Visitors can also enjoy beautiful views of Pikes Peak in the distance.

23. Kilauea Volcano

Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii

Location: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Type: Volcano

Elevation: 4,091 feet (1‎,247 m)‎

Coordinates: 19.4069° N, 155.2834° W

Kilauea on the island of Hawaii is the world’s most active volcano and last erupted in December of 2020. As one of the highlights of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea draws around 1.5 million visitors every year and is among the top 30 natural landmarks in the US. You can see this natural wonder from many parts of the national park, but you’ll experience the best views if you get up close. You can reach the caldera floor on the 1.7-mile (2.7-km) Halema’uma’u Trail or head to the summit caldera on the 11-mile (17.7-km) Crater Rim Trail.

24. Devil’s Bridge

Devil’s Bridge

Location: Sedona, Arizona

Type: Rock Formation

Elevation: 5,000 feet (1,524 m)

Coordinates: 34.897634° N, 111.807660° W

Devil’s Bridge is one of Sedona, Arizona’s most popular and most photographed destinations. The 54-foot (16.4-meter) high sandstone bridge is an impressive rock formation that you can walk across if you dare! The easiest way to reach the arch is a moderate 1.8-mile (2.9-km) hike from the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead. In addition to the natural arch, you can enjoy the gorgeous scenery in the Coconino National Forest, including wildflowers, juniper forests, and red sandstone cliffs.

25. The Big Room, Carlsbad Caverns

The Big Room, Carlsbad Caverns

Location: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Eddy County, New Mexico

Type: Cave

Elevation: 5,528 feet (1,685 m)

Coordinates: ‎32°10′31″N 104°26′38″W

The Big Room in New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a must-see for cave enthusiasts. The massive limestone chamber is around 625 feet (191 m) wide, 4,000 feet (1,220 m) long, and 255 feet (78 m) high at the tallest point. By volume, the Big Room is North America’s largest single cave chamber. There are two excellent hikes through the Big Room: a relatively flat 1.25 mile (2 km) trail and a shorter 0.6 mile (1 km) trail. The trails snake through the cave system and feature numerous intricate rock formations, including stalactites, stalagmites, spires, columns, and more.

26. Lover’s Leap

Lover’s Leap, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Location: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Type: Natural Arch

Elevation: 764 feet (233 m)

Coordinates: 46.5330556°N, 86.4897222°W

Lover’s Leap is one of the most beautiful spots in all of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and the hike to get there is among Michigan’s best. Also called Petit Portal, the arch is the area’s most famous and most photographed feature. To get there, hike the 10.4-mile (16.7-km) Chapel Basin Loop for breathtaking views of Lover’s Leap, waterfalls, and the cliffs along Lake Superior. While hiking is an excellent way to explore the area, you’ll get an even better view of the rock formations from the water. Consider kayaking past this landmark for an unforgettable experience.

27. General Sherman

general sherman, Sequoia National Park

Location: Sequoia National Park, Tulare County, California

Type: Tree

Elevation: 6,893 feet (2,101 m)

Coordinates: 36.5817° N, 118.7514° W

General Sherman, a giant sequoia tree in California’s Sequoia National Park, is the largest tree on the planet when measured by volume. It’s hard to comprehend how big the tree is until you stand next to it. This sleeping giant stands 275 feet (83 m) tall and measures more than 36 feet (11 m) in diameter at its base. The tree is believed to be 2,300 to 2,700 years old, placing it among the world’s most ancient trees. To reach General Sherman, walk on a short trail from the parking area that sneaks through the ancient forest.

28. Painted Wall View

Painted Wall View, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Location: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Type: Viewpoint

Elevation: 1,820 feet (555 m)

Coordinates: 38°34’51.1″N 107°43’06.0″W

Painted Wall View is one of the most beautiful overlooks in Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. While lesser known than the Grand Canyon, this natural wonder wows visitors with its craggy spires, steep cliffs, and vast wilderness. Painted Wall View is situated at the top of the 48-mile-long (77 km) canyon’s steep rock walls and is only 0.2 miles (0.3 km) from the parking area. The viewpoint got its name from light-colored streaks of rock that look like brushstrokes on the dark canyon wall.

29. Panorama Point

Panorama Point, Mount Rainier National Park

Location: Mount Rainier National Park, Paradise, Washington

Type: Viewpoint

Elevation: 6,227 feet (1,898 m)

Coordinates: 46.802176° N, 121.728590° W

This viewpoint overlooking Mt. Rainier is one of the top scenic overlooks in Mt. Rainier National Park. Summiting Mt. Rainier is a challenging endeavor requiring impressive endurance and mountaineering skills and equipment, making it inaccessible to most Mt. Rainier National Park visitors. Hiking to Panorama Point is, according to many, the next best thing. The viewpoint features breathtaking views of Rainier and its surrounding jagged peaks, glaciers, and waterfalls. Start at the Paradise Inn for a moderate 4.1-mile (6.6-km) out and back hike, or do the more challenging 6.2-mile (10-km) Skyline Trail Loop for more incredible mountain views.

30. Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls

Location: Havasupai Indian Reservation, Grand Canyon, Arizona

Type: Waterfall

Elevation: 2,818 feet (859 m)

Coordinates: 36.2552° N, 112.6979° W

Located on Havasupai tribal lands in the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls is a brilliant natural feature that tops many travelers’ bucket lists when visiting the American West. The remote waterfall plunges 90-100 feet (27 to 30m) into a turquoise pool, creating a stark contrast with the surrounding red rocks. The travertine dams and numerous smaller falls along Havasu Creek are also a stunning spectacle you can enjoy during your hike. Visitors need a permit to hike to Havasu Falls, and day hiking is not allowed. The trail is 10 miles (16 km) each way.

Conclusion

From waterfall oases and vast canyons in the desert to glaciers and snow-covered peaks, the United States is packed with incredible natural landmarks. These top 30 natural landmarks in the US are all accessible by trail and highly worthy of a spot on your bucket list.


RALPH S.

Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

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