Established in 1872, Yellowstone is famous for being the very first national park in the world. There are numerous geysers to watch here – notably Old Faithful, which is practically legendary; it never fails to erupt on schedule. And then there’s the multicolored Grand Prismatic Spring, ringed by rainbow colors thanks to different bacteria that live in the cooler sections of this boiling body of water. Yellowstone National Park is also home to more wild animals than just about any place in the United States.
Attracting millions of visitors every year, the Grand Canyon is one of those bucket list destinations in the USA. Located in northern Arizona, this massive natural wonder was carved by the Colorado River over a period of several million years. It is not the deepest or the longest canyon in the world but the overwhelming size and colorful landscape offers visitor vistas that are hard to match. Simply find a viewpoint and peer over the edge, or fly over it in a helicopter. There are numerous well-marked trails to try out, including the South Kaibab Trail. If you want a really long hike, go for the Rim-to-Rim Trail but don’t forget to pack plenty of water, this is an unrelenting desert climate, after all.
The Polynesian archipelago of Hawaii is a veritable paradise that’s spread across hundreds of islands in the Pacific Ocean. With its tropical climate, famously pristine beaches and wealth of natural scenery, Hawaii has been promoted as a tropical destination since the end of WW2. The islands are also a prime destination of surfers from around the world; famous spots include the Banzai Pipeline, a break just off Oahu’s north shore. Despite the steady influx of visitors, indigenous Hawaiian culture still thrives and can be seen in ceremonies, traditions and folk music.
The world-famous Niagara Falls straddle Ontario in Canada and the American state of New York. Located on the Niagara River, the falls are a culmination of the flow of water that gushes out of the Upper Great Lakes and are actually made up of three falls – Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls. Six million cubic feet of water cascades over the ridge every second, making for an incredibly impressive site which draws an estimated 30 million tourists a year. The Maid of the Mist boat cruise has been taking tourists to experience the rapids beneath the falls (and get soaked in the process) since 1846.
Yosemite National Park
Located in the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite National Park is a vast stretch of wilderness that covers thousands of acres. It’s noted for its incredible biological diversity; more than 20% of California’s plant species are found within the park boundaries. The park sees upwards of four million annual visitors, who are attracted by the fantastic hiking opportunities among the famously breathtaking granite rock formations, gushing waterfalls, lush meadows, and impressive glaciers. Iconic and photogenic centerpieces include the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome as well as the imposing Bridalveil Fall.