Top 10 Wildly Different Landscapes in the USA

Na Pali Coast State Park, Hawaii

This fifteen-mile stretch of coastline is located on the northwest shore of Kauai. Much of Na Pali Coast is inaccessible due to its characteristic sheer cliffs that drop straight down into the ocean.This fifteen-mile stretch of coastline is located on the northwest shore of Kauai. Much of Na Pali Coast is inaccessible due to its characteristic sheer cliffs that drop straight down into the ocean.
This fifteen-mile stretch of coastline is located on the northwest shore of Kauai. Much of Na Pali Coast is inaccessible due to its characteristic sheer cliffs that drop straight down into the ocean.
This shot taken from a helicopter. Photo by Flickr/Howard Ignatius

A different kind of coastline exists in the other outlying state. Hawaii is halfway to Asia, but it still counts among the 50 of the United States. The Na Pali Coast is located on the north side of Hawaii’s northern most island of Kauai. Rugged, lush cliffs break into fingers before dropping into the sea, with nothing to the north for thousands of miles. Teal waters complete the picture perfect notion of Hawaii, but the Na Pali Coast contains of a little of Middle Earth, which is to say New Zealand.

Great Plains, Kansas

Kansas wheat.
The Great Plains of Kansas: America’s agricultural heartland. Photo by Flickr/James Watkins

There’s nothing to see here but for one line – the horizon. Well, two lines if you count the highway. This is America’s Heartland, and one of the world’s biggest producers of wheat, corn and soy. The expanse is powerfully landlocked by the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Mississippi to the east. If you’re just passing through, you’ll be passing through for a long, long time.

Vermont in the Autumn

Vermont colors.
Vermont’s autumn trees explode into color. Photo by Flickr/Stanley Zimny

Vermont epitomizes New England, and in no way more so than in its display of its “fall colors,” the explosively bright turning of the autumn trees. Because 75 percent of the state is forested, Vermont lays fair claim to the title of best fall foliage, something for which New England as a whole is well known. Rolling farmland, quaint towns and dozens of 19th century bridges come packaged into a Vermont expedition. Fall may be the best time to go, but the product of those burning bright trees – maple syrup – isn’t ready until the beginning of the next spring.

White National Monument, New Mexico, USA

White sands panorama.
White sands panorama. Photo by Flickr/Diana Robinson

White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico is a ghostly expanse of gypsum unlike any other place on earth. While Vermont may be renowned for its color, White Sands is remarkable for its absence. Blue sky and white sand dunes are pretty much all that’s out there, though a sunset can change the hues in wild fashion. The area was used to test the atomic bomb in the 1940’s because of its wide berth from civilization. That was a good reason then, but it’s an even better reason to head there for a trip now. It’s the closest you’ll get to the surface of the moon.

Yellowstone National Park, California

The Yellowstone Caldera. Photo by Flickr/Maarten Otto
The Yellowstone Caldera. Photo by Flickr/Maarten Otto

The natural features of Yellowstone make it an obviously special place, so special in fact that it was the world’s first area designated as a national park. Epic canyons, waterfalls, geysers, and hot springs populate the area. Old Faithful is a must-see, in part because it’s guaranteed – the geyser faithfully erupts with steam every hour and a half. The Grand Prismatic Spring is a rainbow of microbial activity and mineral deposits that changes its hue as the seasons pass. Park goers would do best to stay out of this particular hot springs – it’s 160°F!

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

The Badlands.
The rugged and rocky hills of Badlands National Park. Photo by Flickr/John Fowler

The severe landscape of the Badlands is home to bighorn sheep, bison, and black-footed ferret, but it was once the habitat of much more. The wild geological features are embedded with fossils of saber-tooth tiger and rhino. Hiking trails wind through the eroded rock in mellow fashion, and there are camping facilities. Backpacking in too far from the road is difficult, however, because there is essentially no water to be found.

Jack Bohannan is a freelance writer working in the Denver, Colorado area.

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