The 10 Most Naturally Beautiful States in the U.S., New Data Shows
You can find breathtaking beaches, gorgeous greenery, and marvelous mountains.
Whether you're checking out one of the country's many casinos or relaxing in a luxurious hotel spa, there's no shortage of indoor travel options in the U.S. But if you're looking for more of an outdoor adventure, you can also find endless opportunities to take in stunning scenery. You don't have to cruise to the Caribbean for breathtaking beaches or fly to Europe for gorgeous greenery. From coast to coast, the U.S. is full of some of the most diverse natural beauty in the entire world. And while you're likely to find spectacular views no matter where you visit, there are some states that just outshine the rest. To help you narrow down where you should go, Airport Parking Reservations recently released a ranking of the nation's most naturally beautiful states.
By researching a range of factors, from named mountains to national parks, the travel site revealed the 10 states home to the most natural beauty in the U.S. Read on to find out which pretty places made the cut.
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State beauty score: 6.12
New York might be last on the list, but it's certainly not lacking in natural beauty. After all, the scenic views here beat out those in 40 other states. Visitors can take in any one of this Northeastern state's 3,607 named mountains, 945 waterfalls, or 346 beaches. There are also 7,600 large natural lakes, "placing New York second for this factor," Martin Jones, a travel expert and CEO of Airport Parking Reservations, tells Best Life.
State beauty score: 6.26
If you head south down the East Coast, you'll eventually reach the 9th most naturally beautiful state in the U.S. North Carolina slightly edges out New York, which might be thanks to the state's one "ultra," meaning a "mountain with an elevation of 1,500 meters or more," according to Airport Parking Reservations. (New York, on the other hand, has no ultras).
But North Carolina also boasts other stunning scenic features in larger numbers than this. There are a total of 2,700 named mountains, 885 waterfalls, 241 beaches, and 59 large natural lakes in this state as well.
State beauty score: 6.36
Colorado does not take the crown for having the most of any particular feature out of the 10 states. But its "highest ranking factor" in general is for its national parks, according to Jones. The state has four very diverse national parks: Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
"Located across the state, these four national parks each have their own set of adventures, places to explore, nature to experience and memories to be made," the travel experts at Backroad Packers explain on their website. "And while they all might be located in the state of Colorado, all four are very different."
State beauty score: 6.60
If Wyoming is not on your travel list, then it should be. Not only is the state home to two of the most popular national parks—Yellowstone and Grand Teton—but it also offers plenty of other beautiful views. There are 4,000 large natural lakes, 2,471 named mountains, 528 waterfalls, and 3 ultras in Wyoming.
Depending on what you're trying to see, you might want to visit the state in the coming months. "Fall is the best season for wildlife spotting in Wyoming when moose and deer antlers are at their largest," Jones tells Best Life.
State beauty score: 6.87
You could also kill two birds with one stone by visiting the 7th and 6th most naturally beautiful states in the U.S. on the same trip. Directly above the state of Wyoming is Montana, which just slightly outranks the former. This Canadian-bordering state has 3,348 named mountains and 3,223 large natural lakes, which also make for a good fall trip.
"The waters are full of trout [during this time] and the mild climate provides the perfect temperature for lakeside fishing," Jones says.
State beauty score: 6.97
If you're looking to get out of the continental U.S., you can still stay in the country—and not miss out on beautiful scenery while doing so. Hawaii lands in the middle of the top 10 most beautiful states, despite not being one of the 48 contiguous states. You can of course visit the state's many beaches—385 to be exact—or you can see its 1,137 named mountains, 543 waterfalls, 6 ultras, 5 large natural lakes, and 2 national parks.
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State beauty score: 7.79
Oregon finds itself just shy of the top three for most naturally beautiful states in the U.S. But it is still in the top half for a reason: "This state ranks highly across all factors," Jones explains to Best Life. Throughout Oregon, there are 3,764 named mountains, 1,616 waterfalls, 1,400 large natural beaches, 91 beaches, 4 ultras, and one national park.
State beauty score: 7.89
The nation's only other noncontiguous states gets the bronze for its breathtaking views. Alaska is the largest state in the U.S. by area but also the third least populous, meaning there is "plenty of untouched natural beauty to appreciate," according to Airport Parking Reservations. This includes 3,174 named mountains, 3,197 large natural lakes, 336 waterfalls, 8 national parks, and three beaches located throughout Alaska.
And there is one thing this state beats out every other state for: ultras. With 64 in total, Alaska ranks number one for the most ultras in the entire U.S. "Ultras really take the cake here," Jones says. "Alaska is home to the highest peak in North America, known as Mount McKinley."
State beauty score: 8.64
People who live in California often appear happier than anyone else—and it's not hard to figure out why. This state offers so much stunning scenery that it ranks second out of the entire country for its natural beauty. "California may be the most densely populated state in the US, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have plenty of space for natural beauty," the experts at Airport Parking Reservations explain. "With an immense amount of geographical diversity throughout the state, you'll find miles of stunning coastline, sprawling forests, snow-capped mountains, and even dry deserts."
Out of the top 10 states, California ranks the highest for two different features: mountains and national parks. The state is home to 8,008 named mountains, which is nearly 11 percent of all the named mountains in the country. And out of the 63 U.S. national parks, California possesses the most with nine different national parks. These include Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and Sequoia National Park.
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State beauty score: 9.29
If you're looking to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to scenic views, Washington is the place to go, however. It outranks all 49 other states as the most naturally beautiful state in the U.S., according to Airport Parking Reservations. This is largely due to the fact that this state is overflowing with impressive features.
There are 3,132 waterfalls in Washington, which is more than any other state in the country. The Evergreen state also has 3,167 named mountains, 8,000 large natural lakes, and 1,368 beaches. But Jones tells Best Life these are not the only factors helping to put Washington on top. "The climate is perfect for hiking up mountains in the fall months, while admiring the stunning foliage," he notes.