The Seven Natural Wonders of the Continental United States

Everyone has heard of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, right?   I thought it would be interesting to look at the Seven Natural Wonders of the United States.   Since I haven’t made it to Alaska or Hawaii yet, I will narrow this down to the Seven Natural Wonders of the Continental United States.  Each of these places is magnificent and has been protected by our National Park System

  • Crater Lake – Crater Lake, located in Oregon, is the deepest lake in the United States with a depth of 1949 feet.  When measured by average depth, Crater Lake is the deepest in this hemisphere and 3rd deepest in the world.  Crater Lake was formed when a volcanic caldera filled with water over hundreds of years.  This lake is also known for its extreme water clarity.

Crater Lake (photo credit to guest photographer and friend, Katie)

  • The Everglades –  The Everglades are the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.  Covering 1.5 million acres in southern Florida, this area is also known as a river of grass.  The Everglades used to consist of over 3 million acres before much of the area was drained for farmland in the early 1900’s.   This area is home to alligators, manatees, and the Florida Panther.
  • The Giant Sequoias and Redwoods – These enormous trees in California are the tallest and largest trees in the world.  These two species are closely related.  The Redwoods can reach heights of 375 feet and diameters of 25 feet.  The Giant Sequoias can reach heights of 275 feet and diameters of 30 feet.  These trees truely must be seen to be believed.

Redwood trees in Muir Woods 15 minutes north of San Francisco

  • The Geothermal Features of Yellowstone – Located in northwest Wyoming, Yellowstone is an unearthly place.  The first explorers of the area brought back tales of exploding geysers, colorful pools of hot and poisonous water, and boiling mud that were not believed.  We now know that this area sits upon a super volcano that will one day destroy much of North America when it erupts again.  In the meantime, it is a beautiful and mesmerizing place to visit.

Hot spring in Yellowstone National Park

  • Death Valley – The commonly held image of Death Valley is of a swelteringly hot wasteland.  While it is true summer temps here can top out at 130*F, there is a lot to be amazed at here.  Badwater Basin in the center of the park is a giant salt flat and at 282 feet below sea level is the lowest point in North America.  Telescope Peak rises directly behind Badwater Basin to a height of 11043 feet.  The only population of the rarest fish in the world exists in Death Valley.  There are less than 200 Devil’s Hole Pupfish left.

Badwater Basin in Death Valley

  • The Arches of Utah – The highest concentration of rock arches in the world is in Utah.  Arches National Park has over 2000 arches alone with thousands more spread out across southern Utah.  Landscape Arch spans 290 feet.  Rainbow Bridge boasts a height of 290 feet.  Delicate Arch is arguably the most famous in the world.

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park

  • The Grand Canyon – The Grand Canyon is the only member of this list that is also one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.  It is located in northern Arizona and was carved over a millennia by the Colorado River.  The Grand Canyon has a length of 277 miles, width up to 18 miles and a depth of  6093 feet.  To appreciate the Grand Canyon in all of it’s glory you will want to hike or mule down to the Colorado River.

Sunrise at Mather Point in the Grand Canyon


10 Things You Must See and Do at The Grand Canyon

1)  Walk the Rim Trail.   This is where you see all the postcard worthy views as this trail runs along the edge of the south rim.   There are shuttle bus stops all along the trail.   I would recommend parking at the Visitors Center.   Walking the length of the trail to Hermits Rest.   Take the shuttle to the opposite end of the trail (South Kaibab Trailhead) and then walk back to the Visitors Center.   One way the Rim Trail is 12.6 miles.


2)  Eat at the El Tovar Dining Room.   El Tovar is an architectural masterpiece located directly on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.   Arguably it is the finest hotel in the National Park system.    The El Tovar Dining Room has incredible views to go along with delicious food and an extensive wine list.   I cannot recommend this restaurant enough.

3)  Get a drink at the bar at the North Rim.   Many visitors to the Grand Canyon only visit the South Rim.   Don’t make that mistake.   The drive from the North Rim to the South Rim takes about 4 hours, but you will be awed by the scenery around you the entire time.   The pace at the North Rim seems to be a little slower and the people a little friendlier.   After spending time hiking, taking time to chill at the Roughrider Saloon with a cold beverage is hard to beat.

4)  Hike down to the Colorado River.   Or if you have to, ride the mules down.   As amazing as the vistas are from the rim, looking up from the Colorado River is even more memorable.   I would recommend going down the South Kaibab trail and returning via Bright Angel Trail.   This can be done in a day during the shoulder seasons if you are in shape, but don’t try it in the heat of the summer.   The NPS recommends you get an overnight permit to camp at the bottom.   Round trip this is close to 16 miles (with 8 of it seemingly straight up) so it is difficult to do in a day.


5)  See the sunrise at Mather Point.    Mather Point is the iconic place to see the Grand Canyon.   It is on the Rim Trail and basically right behind the Visitors Center.   Crowds here can be very heavy with everyone trying to get that perfect selfie.   Beat the crowds and get here early for sunrise.   At sunrise you can have the place all to yourself.


6)  See the movie at the South Rim Visitor Center.   Normally I skip the Visitor Center movies, but I was glad I watched this one.   The history of the canyon is interesting and if you can’t make it to the bottom, you can at least see what it looks like in the movie.

7)  Watch for wildlife.    I have been fortunate at the South Rim to see California condors, mountain goats, elk, deer and coyotes.   At the North Rim they have an entire bison herd.   It’s really exciting to see wildlife up close.


8)  See the stars on a clear night with a new moon.   In the majority of the USA, you cannot see the Milky Way or even pick out more than 40-50 stars in the sky because of all the light pollution.   That is not a problem in most of the National Parks out west.   If you are fortunate enough to visit during a new moon, set your alarm and come out at night to be amazed by the millions of stars you can see.

9)  Tour the Hopi House.   The Hopi House is right across the street from El Tovar.  It is in a historic building and seems something like a cross between a museum and a gift shop.   It is a pretty cool place.

10)  Stay onsite.   Whether you stay at El Tovar or one of the other lodges onsite or camp at Phantom Ranch at the bottom, stay onsite to beat the crowds and to get the full Grand Canyon experience.