Top 10 Wildly Different Landscapes in the USA

Grand Prismatic Springs.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone. Mineral deposits and heat tolerant bacteria give Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring its color. Photo by Flickr/Albert Bruijin


The United States is comprised of some of the world’s most beautiful and diverse landscapes. Because of its size, and its wide swath of latitude, the variations in the land and topography are wild and sometimes surprising.

Landscapes in the USA

When the non-contiguous states of Hawaii and Alaska are factored into its incredible places, the United States may house a larger collection of distinct landscapes than any other country on the planet. American landscapes range from vast desert to rainy redwood forests to alpine meadows and tropical beaches. 

Here are 10 of the most unique and distinctive places to visit in the United States:

Everglades National Park, Florida

An alligator in the Everglades.
Everglades National Park comes complete with alligators and panthers. Photo by Flickr/Sheila Sund

The Everglades marsh is actually a wide, slow-moving river created by the seasonal overflow of Lake Okeechobee. Despite inroads made by civilization, it covers two million acres – from Miami to Florida Bay.

The water is so thick with grasses that transportation by “airboat” is easier than a traditional propeller in the water.

A massive fan creates the force necessary to move the watercraft through a unique landscape of alligators, panthers and hundreds of species of birds.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon.
The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park stand at attention. Photo by Flickr/Orientalizing

In stark contrast to the Everglades stands Bryce Canyon, quite literally. Thousands of hoodoos stand like a stone army.

Hoodoos are strangely shaped spires left upright despite the erosion of land around them. The sedimentary limestone was once a lake bed; differences in the rock layers density have caused the wild formations.

Because the hoodoos are created by erosion, they don’t stick around very long. They decrease in height at a rate of about two feet a year.

Catch them while you can, because in three million years they’re scheduled to be gone entirely.

Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Pacific Northwest forest.
Light breaks through the pines in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Photo by Flickr/BLM Oregon

The moist Pacific Northwest of the United States is so thick with vegetation and life that some of its areas qualify as rainforest.

Some places may receive over 10 feet of precipitation a year. The Siuslaw National Forest in Oregon is notable dense because of the rains and the stabilized temperatures created by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean.

Trees grow out of trees. When a pine drops its seed into its own branch crook, it takes root in the arm of its parent. Moss covers everything; mildew is inevitable.

In the Pacific Northwest, it seems mankind itself could be overgrown by the foliage, if not for willful effort.

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Margerie Glacier at Glacier Bay.
Margerie Glacier at Glacier Bay. Photo by Flickr/Andrew Adams

The 1867 acquisition of Alaska from Russia increased the size and diversity of the United States.

While glaciers are present in the Rocky Mountains of the lower 48 states, they’re on display in magnificent fashion here.

Since the icepack diffracts light into its component wavelengths, the crystals within the glaciers often appear to be blue. Temperate rainforest vegetation, high peaks and Native American historical sites complete the experience.

A glacier viewing is a good item for any bucket list – they’re melting all too quickly, and the glaciers in the park are receding more quickly than any others in the world.

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 the 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 1940s 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.

Previous article Laid-Back Jersey, the Largest of the Channel Islands
Next article Exploring Greek Cuisine by Boat


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here