When it comes to au naturel hidden gems found in the great outdoors, the United States sparkles from coast to coast. From sand dunes and caves to vast wilderness areas and waterfalls that will have you gushing in awe, these are 5 of the best often overlooked natural wonders across the US.
South Manitou Island—Empire, Michigan
When glaciers passed through Michigan’s lower peninsula, they etched out the basin that would become Lake Michigan. As the area filled with water, the ridges and peaks that remained formed the spectacular Sleeping Bear Dunes. These remarkable landmarks provide incredible photo opportunities for all who encounter their majestic beauty. Visitors to South Manitou Island are invited to walk along its pristine shoreline, climb stairs to the top of a lighthouse, take a wagon ride through giant cedar trees or visit the site of the Francisco Morazan shipwreck.
Tuckaleechee Caverns—Townsend, Tennessee
“The Greatest Site Under the Smokies” is between 20 and 30 million years old. This attraction features ominous onyx formations in large rooms with waterfalls that spill over from high above the cavern floors. Occupying more than one mile of underground real estate and reaching depths of 150 feet, Tuckaleechee Caverns is the ideal place for spelunkers and serious cave dwellers. If you’re just interested in a casual stroll past geological greatness not found in the darkest regions of the Smoky Mountains, tours of the caverns are conducted on paths with lighted walkways.
World’s End—Hingham, Massachusetts
World’s End is conveniently located just 15 miles away from the hustle and bustle of Boston—and this 251-acre tree-lined paradise is beckoning to be explored. This exceptional property provides ample space to walk, hike, jog, picnic, ride horses and be in the company of Mother Nature. Here, you can traverse saltwater marshes, travel through meadows, peer over granite ledges, walk under a canopy of red cedars and put yourself in the center of a blueberry thicket. During the winter months you can traverse this wondrous habitat on snowshoes. After a snowy excursion, stop by one of the nearby cafés to warm up with a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
Thompson Falls—Pinkhams Grant, New Hampshire
New England waterfalls are among the most fascinating natural wonders of the US. Nestled in the White Mountains, Thompson Falls is a must-see for nature lovers. Resembling a massive clam, the water flows and cascades over ledges, plunging into deep dark pools. Thompson Falls has an upper and lower section, both off the beaten path and both seemingly forgotten by visitors. If you’re looking for a bit of solitude during your New Hampshire vacation, you’ll find this location offers plenty of space to reflect in the peaceful surroundings of the great outdoors.
Talking Rocks Cavern—Branson, Missouri
Branson is known the world over for numerous stages of family entertainment. But deep below the surface and far beyond the live music lies another stage—and its stars have been rocking out for more than one million years. Talking Rock Caverns is a member of the Missouri Cave Association. This breathtaking natural creation was forged by pressure and decorated with multiple layers of mineral deposits. No matter the weather on the outside, the inside of the cavern remains a cool 63 degrees year-round, making it a preferred place to be in the Ozarks. Those who wish to venture above ground can play nine holes of mini-golf or try their luck at gemstone mining.