All across the world, there are places of beauty that are hiding right under our noses. It is often thought of that we have to travel far or across oceans to find the breathtaking parts of the world. While there are many places like this that may be far away from where you live it is worth checking out some lesser-known places closer to home. For example, in America there are many National Parks that don't get the recognition they deserve. Some of these places are so breathtaking that they seem fake, especially in this day and age. With progression into a more technology forward future places like National Parks are some of the only places that we can still connect with nature.
Some of these places even look like they are from another planet. However, many of these places can be reached by car or even a short plane ride. If you are a fan of the outdoors or maybe you just want to get out and take a hike these places are a great start. Most of the places on this list are national parks or places within national parks so they are mostly free to enter and enjoy.
25 Great Sand Dunes National Park And Preserve, Colorado
The Great Sand Dunes National Park located in Colorado is home to the largest dunes in the United States. These dunes could almost be mistaken for those in the Sahara Desert, if not for the surrounding snow capped mountain peaks on all sides. This park allows for amazing sand sledding and sand boarding experiences that can only be rivaled by Colorado's mountain snows. Such a place that many would believe to only exist across the Atlantic Ocean is in fact hidden in the middle of the U.S., allowing for a once in a lifetime experience!
24 Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
The Bonneville Salt Flats located in northwest Utah reach out for more than 30,000 acres across the state. Almost an exact copy of the famous Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, these salt lands are what's left of the now extinct Lake Bonneville. What was once a large and popular lake is now a dried up plain filled with leftover salt deposits, creating beautifully mesmerizing lands of white. In the winter months, rain is frozen over these flat lands and create an amazing mirror-like reflection over the salts, often as shiny as silver. Though you are permitted to drive through the Salt Flats, it is best to stick to the safer designated areas.
23 White Pass And Yukon Route Railroad, Skagway, Alaska
Known as one of the most scenic railway routes in the world, the White Pass And Yukon Route Railroad is home to mountainous scenery with rolling hills and wildflower fields. The hills filled with yellow and pink wildflowers could easily be mistaken for the Alpines, but instead are home to the popular route between Alaska and Canada. Built in 1989, this railway has grown to be one of the most traditional routes to take as passengers are continually in awe at the views. The peak of this route is at the mountain pass, though the entire 40-mile route will never leave its passengers bored.
22 Haiku Stairs, Hawaii
The Haiku Stairs located in Oahu, Hawaii were built into the green Ko'olau Mountains back in 1942 by the U.S. Navy. Given the nickname Stairway to Heaven, the Haiku Stairs reach the top of the mountain peak with over 4000 steps to reach the summit. At the top, people could see all of the mountains surrounding the area, giving a bird's eye view of the world below. Unfortunately, due to safety concerns with the stairs themselves, the path has been closed for a few years now. However, other safer nearby trails allow a great view of the stairs, rivaling the green mountain paths famous in the countrysides of China.
21 Castello Di Amorosa, California
Castello di Amorosa has a distinctly Italian feel to it, however, it is located in Nappa Valley, California. This castle was modeled after the medieval fortresses of Tuscany and looks as if it was plucked out of the wine country of Italy itself. To match with its looks, this castle is home to a winery of its own, best known for its award-winning Italian-style wines. The castle is open to guided tours of its property, as well as wine tours through its vineyards on site. This castle brings Europe to the west coast and gives the U.S. a taste of Italy.
20 Ice Caves At Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
The Apostle Islands in Wisconsin are known to look like places that fit well in a fiction novel. One of these places is known as the ice caves and they are literally iced over cave formations. If you head to Meyers Beach during the winter months you will be able to see the ice caves in person which look much better in person. The caves stretch a total of six miles so if you are looking to take a hike this may be the best spot to do it. If you are a fan of caves and spelunking you might want to add the ice caves to your list of places to visit.
19 Painted Hills, Oregon
Many people compare the beautiful style of the Painted Hills to the Rainbow Mountains in China. The two share similar characteristics with one of the main ones being the fact that the mountains look like they've come straight out of a Bob Ross painting. The Painted Hills are part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument located in Oregon. The hills offer several bright colors that range from yellow to red. These colors date back thousands of years and most of the colors are there due to volcanic ash which plagued the area many years ago.
18 Leavenworth, Washington
At first glance, the town of Leavenworth located in Washington looks like something straight out of a Christmas film. Not only that but it certainly doesn't look like the place to be located in the United States. However, Leavenworth is located at the foot of the Cascade mountains and is the perfect mountain town. If you want to get the full experience that Leavenworth has to offer then you should visit in October when Oktoberfest is all the rage. It is the perfect small town to visit before taking to the Cascade mountains for a hike.
17 Bowling Ball Beach, California
This strange beach is known as Bowling Ball Beach and is located in Schooner Gulch State Beach in California. The name is an obvious hint to what makes this beach so special. Large spherical rocks can be found all across the coastline and it looks like it was manmade for a scene in a strange sci-fi movie. However, the process is years of sediment gathering together to form these large spheres. It is amazing to see just how many large boulders there are lining this beach. While the beach might not be the best place to plan your next luxury beach vacation it is an interesting visit if you are in the area.
16 Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
One look at the Kenai Fjords National Park and you may think you are looking at a scene from James Cameron's Avatar. However, the Kenai Fjords National Park is a real place and it is located in the United States. That probably wasn't your first guess as to its location but it is located in Alaska. Thousands upon thousands of years have caused these tall rock formations to form and they are true wonders of mother nature. Not to mention the immensely blue waters and the mountain backdrop make this place a modern mystery. No special effects needed here.
15 Watkins Glen State Park, New York
When people think of New York they most likely think of the big city, however, they are missing out on some great spots. The Watkins Glen State Park located in New York looks like it could've been man made but in reality it another amazing product of mother nature. There are several spectacular waterfalls that you can see by walking through the state park. Not only that but a beautiful stream passes through the formation making the views amazing. The walk itself is a little under 3 miles and can be a great place to take a leisure walk. Or if you live near there you can take the most beautiful jog every day though Watkins Glen State Park.
14 Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness, New Mexico
Is this the planet Tatooine from Star Wars you may be asking yourself? Nope, this is Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah an area in New Mexico. The flat land desert is made up of strange rock formations that litter the skyline with wonder. These strange rock formations were caused by, you guessed it, erosion. However, unlike other places on the list, the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness has been the founding place for many fossils. There are no official trails for anyone looking for a hike so you will most likely want to know what you're doing if you want to hike through this wilderness.
13 Midway Ice Castles, Utah
These ice formations look like they are from another planet or at least Antartica. However, these ice formations are known as the Midway Ice Castles and are located in Utah. Unlike other entries on this list, the Ice Castles are man-made. They are made by a man named Brent Christensen and his hobby is to carve these small ice castles when winter hits in Utah. What an impressive job he's done and it is no easy task. Each of the giant Ice Castles weighs upwards of 20,000,000 pounds and they are a great tourist attraction for the state of Utah.
12 Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park, Hawaii
Without the given blue sky in the image above the terrain in the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park in Hawaii looks like it could be from Mars. Na Pali means high cliffs which this area has plenty of. The terrain here is mostly made up of mountains that can reach to be 4,000 feet high. There are several trails that go through the Wilderness Park but the best one by far is the Kalalau Trail. This trail will allow you to see everything there is to see in Wilderness Park. It stretches to be around 11 miles long and can be an undertaking for many beginner hikers. However, the views make the hike worth it.
11 Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
No matter where you go to see the aurora borealis it will be amazing. However, there are definitely more popular spots to see it than Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota. Surprisingly, Voyageurs National Park is one of the least popular parks in the state of Minnesota. This is hard to imagine given the views it presents from the pictures. This is likely because the beauty of the northern lights only comes around every once in a while. However, if you happen to visit the park when it is prime time for the Northern Lights you will be in for a treat.
10 Cumberland Island, Georgia
Cumberland Island is one of the most beautiful parts of Georgia and it isn't very known. The long stretch of islands is around 18 miles long. It has a large forest and several coasts where horses are known to roam. The area is known to have a large array of wildlife including aquatic wildlife like loggerhead sea turtles. The island is available to visit by ferry off of Georgia's mainland. If you want to take a visit to the island as a vacation spot or a nice place to hike the openings to visit are March through November.
9 Thor’s Well, Oregon
Off the coast of Oregon, you can find this large hole in the middle of the ocean. The hole is better known as Thor's Well and is located in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. The hole among other names has also been nicknamed "drainpipe of the Pacific". The hole itself delves around 20 feet into the Earth and is definitely a danger to those who venture too close, especially around high tide. The hole itself was once thought to be a cave that had its roof cave in on itself creating what we now know as Thor's Well.
8 Caddo Lake, Texas
Caddo Lake is something straight out of a movie or story. The Lake is more of a swamp but is the best a swamp has ever looked. The tall trees with moss hanging off of them reflect in the water beautifully. The lake and the area around it span for 26,810 acres. There is a lot to do in Caddo Lake if you are adventurous and you enjoy the outdoors. If you aren't paddling down the lake or catching fish you can explore and hike through the nearby forests. There are even cabins that you can stay overnight if you want to make Caddo Lake a multiple day venture.
7 Red Sand Beach, Hawaii
The Red Sand Beach located in Hawaii definitely lives up to its name. The beach has also been called Kaihalulu Beach but Red Sand Beach is a much more fitting name. Perhaps the most beautiful part of the beach is the contrast between the dark red sands and the bright blue ocean water. Where they meet they meld into pure beauty. The dark red sand that is present on the beach is due to volcanic sediment left behind from a previous eruption. The beach is fairly secluded as the trail to get to it is dangerous to anyone who isn't good at hiking.
6 Solvang, California
Similar to Leavenworth in Washington, Solvang in California doesn't seem like the type of place to be in the United States. The small town presents a large windmill and architecture that you would most likely see overseas. The town of Solvang has been nicknamed "Little Denmark" and there are several celebrations held here yearly. These festivals have dated back centuries and include older dances and foods. It is definitely a great stop if you are in California especially if you are visiting during the peak festival season. It is definitely the only place in California that will look like this.