From the majestic shores of the Pacific Ocean to the picturesque Atlantic coastline, the Hawaiian Islands, and the Alaskan wilderness, America is a treasure of natural wonders. It's almost impossible to narrow such diversely beautiful territories down to a top ten, although the states that make the cut are worthy of awe and praise. Every state in the Union has its appeal, but the most beautiful states in America stand out for their unique topography, famous natural phenomena, and memorable landscapes.
There's a lot to appreciate about California's distinct landscapes. Whether it's the sun-drenched beaches and cliffs along the Pacific Coast, the expansive deserts of the southwest, or the vibrant valleys and forests further north, The Golden State's appeal is unmatched. The Pacific Coast Highway breezes along California's spectacular shoreline from San Diego to Washington State, passing through magnificent Big Sur. A detour through Central and Northern California leads to wineries, giant redwood and sequoia groves, sprawling farmlands, semi-arid deserts, and snow-covered mountain ranges. Though California claims some of the largest cities in America, most of its impossibly gorgeous sceneries are pristine and protected lands.
To witness Alaska's wild beauty is a unique experience, with some of the most extreme and memorable landscapes in America. Snowcapped mountains give way to glacial lakes and fjords, dense woodlands, and rugged backcountry. Summer camping affords endless recreational opportunities with 24 hours of sunlight in some places, while the winter months are the perfect time to behold the northern lights. Alaska's greatest hits include Glacier Bay National Park and Denali National Park and Preserve, home to North America's tallest peak.
With its uniquely beautiful rock formations and picturesque canyons, Utah provides some of the most jaw-dropping skylines in America. Not to be outdone by Arizona's Grand Canyon, Utah's 13 distinct national parks are a medley of geological wonders, contrasting colors, and some of the darkest night skies in the country. The untamed and otherworldly landscapes are also home to a vast array of wildlife and plant species. Pristine lakes offer a cool reprieve during the summertime, while mountain towns like Park City are a charming winter destination.
The Hawaiian Islands often stand out as a dream destination. From its famously dreamy tropical cliffs and waterfalls to the beautiful island culture, Hawaii is rife with breathtaking scenery. The islands abound with natural wonders, including hundreds of rare plant and animal species. The golden shores of Kauai are a welcome sight, rivaled only by the black sand beaches and legendary waves on Oahu's North Shore. Locals and visitors alike sip on locally-grown and roasted coffee in the shadows of an active volcano, fully embracing the island lifestyle.
Colorado's infinite mountain peaks and deeply carved canyons are famously appealing, but sprawling dunes and grassy plains add an unexpected edge to The Centennial State's beauty. Visitors can rock-climb stone formations, ride horseback on historic trails or tour the impressive cliff dwellings of ancestral Native Americans. Colorado's claim to fame, however, is its postcard-perfect view of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains. These majestic peaks command the skyline and surrounding landscapes with their massive presence. Panoramic vistas from the tallest summit are just as gorgeous as the view on a scenic drive.
The Pacific Coastline is one of the most stunning stretches of territory in America and just a small portion of the beauty that Washington has to offer. Sublime bluffs at Cape Flattery and along the Olympic Peninsula give way to lush forests, crystal-clear lakes, and verdant meadows. The Cascade Mountain range is spectacular, with scenic views at Mount Shuksan, Perfection Lake, and the historic Mount St. Helens. Eastern Washington is surprisingly pastoral, though no less beautiful, as the gently rolling hills of the Palouse Region can be quite breathtaking.
From the Rocky Mountain chain to the green river valleys and the Great Plains, Montana's natural wonders make the state an enchanting destination. Blue skies contrast striped rock formations in the badlands and complement the lush greenery of sprawling meadows. At Glacier National Park, the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road is a modern engineering marvel. Winding through glacial canyons and in between snow-capped peaks, the route exhibits some of Montana's most striking features: pristine lakes, evergreen forests, and abundant wildlife.
If there's one thing Wyoming does well, it's transforming ordinary moments into extraordinary experiences. From the hauntingly beautiful Moulton Barn to the hot springs soak that comes with herds of bison, the Cowboy State delivers unexpected beauty at every opportunity. A sunrise over Devil's Tower is just as marvelous as the setting sun behind the Grand Teton Mountain Range. A geological hotspot, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Prismatic Spring is a vision in vibrant colors, and the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area wows with its red sandstone formations and petroglyphs.
Michigan isn't the Great Lake State for no reason. With shores alongside four of the five Great Lakes and more than 60,000 inland bodies of water, Michiganders know a thing or two about enchanting sceneries. Michigan isn't just for watersports, either. Whether it's the idyllic Sleeping Bear Dunes, the densely wooded state forests, and parks, or the surrounding lake islands, Michigan's natural beauty is wildly engaging. Trees take on a variety of hues in the autumn, and in December, the infamous winters transform it into a seasonal wonderland.
Countless natural wonders and panoramic views grace every corner of North Carolina. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, home to the Appalachian Trail, is a remarkable contrast from the swamps of Merchants Millponds and the sandy beaches of the Outer Banks. The Blue Ridge Parkway, which winds alongside the Blue Ridge Mountains, is one of the most exquisite drives in the United States. Gorgeous mountain and valley views stretch as far as the eyes can see, with a stunning array of colored foliage in the fall.
New Mexico is a dramatically different type of beauty than many of the other states. With miles upon miles of desert, you might think that it would be boring and drab, but it's the exact opposite. Incredible rock formations and mountains with gorgeous colors decorate the skyline, and nothing beats the orange-purple sunsets in this state. Plus, unlike some states, the urban centers here are culturally rich and feature unique buildings that are sure to stick in your mind.
Just like many other New England states, Maine is an absolute paradise of pebble beaches, scenic coastlines, and unforgettable horizons. Discover winding trails in the state's dense, verdant forests or sail across the crystalline oceans to hidden offshore islands. If you had to visit only one spot in Maine to take in all its beauty, it would have to be the wonderland that is Acadia National Park.
It would be hard to find a time of year when Vermont doesn't look like a painting worthy of the Louvre. Throughout the spring and summer, rolling hills and plentiful forests are vibrantly green. However, it's the fall foliage that will stun you as the leaves change and the skyline explodes with red and gold. Sure, Vermont is the only New England state without any coastline, but you don't need an ocean view with sights like these.
Many people tend to forget about Oregon when thinking about the most beautiful states, but it truly is something amazing. This state is the perfect transition between the deserts of California and the evergreen wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. From Mt. Hood to Crater Lake, Oregon is full of natural wonders. Plus, there is no shortage of scenic beaches and seaside villages.
The towering gray buildings of New York City are probably the first things that pop into your head when thinking about New York, but the state is so much more than its metropolis. The wilder parts of the state are ridiculously diverse, with two mountain ranges, many lakes, and the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls. Whether you're up for hiking into the great outdoors or hitting the beach, New York has everything you need.
Arizona's most famous landmark is, of course, the Grand Canyon. However, people often allow the—admittedly breathtaking—Grand Canyon to overshadow many of Arizona's other beautiful locales. There are the Superstition Mountains, Lake Powell, the Petrified Forest, and the miles upon miles of scenic fuchsia and orange deserts between them. If you can handle the heat, Arizona is full of memorable stops.
If you've ever listened to a particular John Denver song and become nostalgic for a location you've never even seen, you're not alone. "Take Me Home, Country Roads" describes West Virginia as "almost heaven," which is the perfect way to depict the unforgettable gorges and winding woods of this state. The Monongahela National Forest is a great way to experience all that West Virginia has to offer, but you should also stop by the nation's newest national park, New River Gorge.
Many people don't realize just how massive Texas is, but it is immense. Because of this, the Lone Star State has just about every kind of landscape you could desire. Whether you long for the prairies of the Panhandle, the rolling greenery of the Hill Country, or the dreamlike beaches by the coast, Texas has something for everyone. Even just road-tripping through Texas gives you a sense of freedom that is hard to find anywhere else.
Some people might wonder how one of the Dakotas made it into a top spot. These individuals have never actually visited South Dakota, or they would see why. Sure, South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore, so the state gets a lot of visitors, but you won't find the real gems hanging around the presidents' heads. Journey through the Black Hills region, where you can discover Harney Peak or hike through Spearfish Canyon. Go a bit further, and you can explore the alienesque landscape of the Badlands. But when it comes to must-sees, you need to go to Palisades State Park and see the towering quartzite cliffs for yourself.
Tennessee is one of those states where it feels impossible to miss the beauty. All you need to do is hop on any highway, exit once you see any state park sign, and then just bask in the scenery. However, if you had to single out one place as a must-visit, it would be the gray peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains. Even from miles away, the "smoky" fog that rises from the range creates a museum-worthy image.
In many ways, Massachusetts is like the crossroads of New England. Its neighbors to the north are far more rugged, while the states to the south are just a bit plain. As a result, Massachusetts offers the best of both worlds. As nature reclaims old abandoned farms, the forests are once again spreading across the state. The sunsets are pretty enough through most of the year, but when those oranges and pink hues in the sky bounce off of the orange and red fall foliage, you'll never forget it.
Some people think of Nevada as Las Vegas and then a long stretch of desert, which isn't technically untrue. However, it's selling Nevada short. Right outside of Vegas is Red Rock Canyon, which is full of some of the most eye-catching red limestone and sandstone formations in the world. Dotted throughout the rest of the desert are areas like the Ruby Valley, which features snowy peaks and hot springs, and Valley of Fire State Park, which is home to some strangely gorgeous sights.
With the winding Appalachian trail on one side and miles of coastline on the other, it's hard to miss the beauty of Virginia. Virginia doesn't have many unique moments to offer, but it is consistently delightful regardless of where you end up. However, if you need to see something special, visit Assateague Island and just watch as herds of wild ponies charm you instantly.
Wisconsin might be the land of cheese and prairies, but don't get it twisted: those prairies are legitimately beautiful. The northern portion of Wisconsin has stretches of shores touching both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, giving the state some surprisingly scenic coastlines. The Apostle Islands National Seashore also demands a visit, with 22 islands, dramatic seaside cliffs, historic lighthouses, and so much more.
Because Idaho's neighbors are Montana and Wyoming, it tends to get overshadowed. A portion of Yellowstone cuts into the state's border, but that's just a small piece of this state's charm. To fully experience Idaho's majesty, head to the snow-covered peaks of the Coeur d'Alene Mountains or the cavernous canyons of the Snake River. And, if you've ever wanted to visit the moon, now's your chance. All it takes is a short trip to the Crater of the Moon National Monument.
Have you ever wanted to visit Canada but still wanted all of the coziness of the Midwest? Well, Minnesota is the perfect state for that. The northern region of Minnesota houses rugged lakeside cliffs with stunning waterfalls and waterways that are perfect for a pic or two. Those who can handle the cold can check out the strange glacial holes around Interstate State Park to get a real taste of the north.
Arkansas is a bit of a tricky state. The southeast areas of Arkansas aren't much to look at—unless you're a big fan of swamps and a few pine forests. Northern Arkansas is where the state starts to shine, with secret coves, hidden creeks, and magical gullies dotting the landscape. You can also find some fun camping areas near the Ouachita Mountains in the southwest that are sure to please.
Maryland isn't quite the most exciting state to visit—at least in terms of general beauty—but it doesn't lack anything, either. Striking green hills cover the border between Maryland and the Virginias, but it's the 600 miles of coastline that really sets Maryland apart. Even if you're not a fan of forestry or beaches, you can always spend some time wandering the roads between scenic farmland and picturesque vineyards.
If it's a matter of urban appeal, the charming colonial buildings of Charleston would put South Carolina near the top of the list. In terms of natural beauty, the absolute highlight of this state isn't the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area—despite its 420-foot waterfall and sublime overlooks. No, the real gem of South Carolina comes after a short drive south of Charleston. The Angel Oak isn't just the most beautiful tree in South Carolina; it might just be the most beautiful tree in the world.
Just like Kentucky is culturally a mix of the Midwest, South, and Appalachia, its scenery is a majestic blend of all of those regions. As you might guess, Kentucky has plenty of farmland and grassy hills winding across the countryside. It also has areas like the Mammoth Cave, which is over 400 miles long and houses paths perfect for thrillseekers and gentle hikers alike. The best part of the state, though, has to be Cumberland Falls. The falls are gentle yet wild and are the perfect example of Mother Nature's appeal.
It's hard to beat New Hampshire when it comes to pure geographical diversity. Lakes, beaches, mountain peaks, waterfalls, and miles of hiking trails all combine to make New Hampshire a pleasant sight. The only real fault that New Hampshire has is that it's just not particularly unique. That being said, the White Mountains are legitimately incredible, regardless of their uniqueness.
Georgia might not have the absolute jaw-dropping views that other states have, but it is far from the empty wasteland that some people think it is. From the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to Radium Springs or Tallulah Gorge, Georgia is lovely. Even the Okefenokee Swamp is charming in its own way. What stands out as the most interesting destination has to be Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island. As you might guess from its name, this is a winding beach full of gnarled trees that make for the perfect photo backdrop.
Rhode Island is tiny. Really tiny. Visitors tend to joke that Rhode Island is mostly beaches, which isn't that far from the truth. Rhode Island is an enchanting state, but there's just not enough land for anything to stand out. The most beautiful place in the state has to be the Newport Cliff Walk, which offers just over three miles of charming views for a leisurely afternoon outing.
Florida is a pretty difficult state to judge. Some areas of Florida, like the paradise of Biscayne National Park or the Keys, are undeniably stunning. Unfortunately, large portions of the state are flat swamps or artificial beaches full of tourists and unappealing buildings. Regardless, if you manage to beat the crowds or find a little hidden cove, Florida is a perfect locale for appreciating the majesty of the sea.
For a decently-sized state, Pennsylvania is a bit lacking in the "wow" factor. It's got some nice coastlines and attractive forests, but nothing to really satisfy you. The Poconos are great for skiing, and you have the chance to see some Amish buggies, which is a fun experience. The Delaware Water Gap, despite its bland-sounding name, is probably the one part of the state that could leave you speechless, thanks to its gentle waterfronts and captivating waterfalls.
Anyone who's driven through New Jersey knows that it's not rich with scenic landscapes or Instagram-worthy views. However, if you leave the sprawl of the urban centers, you can find some hidden treasures. The Palisades are truly beautiful and not as widely appreciated as they should be. Cape May is a great place to take in some local charm and the natural beauty of the ocean.
Most of the Gulf Coast states are relatively flat and a bit uninteresting. Alabama manages to stand out thanks to some beautiful hills and mountains in the central part of the state. These heights and the white sand beaches of Redneck Riviera are some of the prettiest areas of Alabama. The Little River Canyon National Preserve is also a must-visit for any lover of the great outdoors.
When considering aspects like culture, cuisine, nightlife, and pretty much any aspect other than beauty, Louisiana ranks extremely high. Unfortunately, it takes a particular person to enjoy the swamplands that make up most of this state. On that note, though, the Atchafalaya Basin is a swamp that is elegant beyond compare.
Is Connecticut ugly? Far from it. Is it particularly impressive? Not really. If you're the kind of person who is able to enjoy subtle beauty, then Connecticut might just be the state for you. The problem is that Connecticut's strengths are a little bit more exciting in the neighboring states. The 82-acre Lighthouse Point Park does provide a lovely little slice of nature—if you don't mind flocks of seabirds.
The interesting thing about Delaware is that outsiders don't tend to think much of the state—if they think about it at all. With dune grasses and ocean sunsets, Delaware is surprisingly pretty. Though it's not what you might expect when talking about a state's beauty, the wild fauna throughout Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge makes for great photos.
Spectacular sights in Missouri are few and far between. However, because they're so rare, the citizens of Missouri take remarkable care of these areas. Their state parks, like the Johnson Shut-Ins State Park, are so clean and well-kept that it almost makes up for them not being very interesting. The various forests and rivers do make for fun playgrounds, even if they're plain.
Nebraska's landscape doesn't stand out in a meaningful way. Toadstool Geologic Park has some nice views and enjoyable climbing opportunities, and Chimney Rock makes for a cool photo. What Nebraska brings to the table is open space—and a lot of it. The best view you'll get in the Cornhusker state is when the sun sets over the Platte River, and millions of birds dominate the skyline.
For whatever reason, a lot of people think of North Dakota as a barren, ice-covered wasteland. This isn't really true, but it would make the state more interesting. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is by far the prettiest part of North Dakota, with mountain views, mesas, and prairies stretching for miles.
As with most of these lower-ranking states, Mississippi just doesn't have much going on. Its Southern foliage is elegant but fades away in the fall and winter. The Gulf Coast gives the state some pleasant beaches, but they aren't showstoppers like in some other states. The Natchez Trace Parkway is the best way to take in Mississippi's charm, as it weaves between cypress trees, stretches of swampland, and gentle riverside hills.
The vast majority of Ohio is flat and forgettable. Even admitting that, though, there are areas where Ohio's allure shines through. The hills of the southern part of the state are perfect for some fantastic views, all because it sits along the borders of Kentucky and West Virginia. Hocking Hills State Park is full of waterfalls, lakes, and meandering trails. It might just be at its loveliest once the ice covers the lakes and it becomes a winter wonderland.
Unlike some of the other states on this side of the rankings, Oklahoma does have some variety. From gentle plains to mid-American forests, Oklahoma is quite exquisite sometimes. Unfortunately, it also borders some much more attractive states. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is ideal for anyone wanting to escape the flatness of the rest of the state and spot rare fauna, like bison, elk, and longhorn cattle.
Indiana is pretty in a kind of Old World nostalgic way. When driving through the state, the waves of corn and grain are almost hypnotizingly beautiful. The gentle hills in the southern part of the state give it a bit of variety, but for the most part, Indiana isn't anything special.
Another flat state with little to offer in the way of geographical interest, Illinois still has a few standout areas. Starved Rock State Park sits just 90 minutes southwest of Chicago and has plenty of deep canyons and vibrant greenery. Don't forget about the Garden of Gods in the Shawnee National Forest, which is one of America's last truly hidden marvels.
Kansas is so flat and so large it almost warrants a higher ranking. The fact that you can stand out in a field and see for miles is an experience you don't get in a lot of states. It just can't compare to the soaring vistas and roaring rivers of other areas. The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is your best bet for taking in Kansas' gentle appeal, thanks to its wild grasses and fields of wildflowers.
Yet another flat state. There is beauty in the simplicity, but it's not for everyone. However, if you gaze off toward the cliffs of the eastern region right as the sun crosses their peaks, you might just see something that will amaze you. Unfortunately, some lovely vistas and the deep caves of Maquoketa Caves State Park just aren't enough to allow Iowa to rank higher.