From the rugged Canadian Rockies to the scorched canyons of the Southwestern United States, North America is astonishingly beautiful and diverse.
If you’re looking for adventure, you’ll find it here – whether you’re dreaming of exploring the desolate wilderness of Alaska, hiking through the lush rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, or admiring rock formations in America’s canyonlands.
There’s so much natural beauty to be found on this enormous continent that if you’re thinking about visiting, it can be tricky to know where to start. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Cosmos, who are leading providers of budget-friendly tours to some of the world’s most fascinating places.
With tour directors to manage accommodation and transport, local guides to show you around, and lots of free time to explore at your own pace, these tours don’t just ensure you get the best out of your trip – they also allow you to completely immerse yourself in the experience.
To get you inspired, we’ve ventured off the beaten track to show you some of the most stunning places. Here are seven lesser-known natural wonders to explore in North America.
1. Denali National Park, Alaska, USA
Of all the wild and remote places in North America, Alaska best represents the concept of true wilderness.
Known as the USA’s last frontier, Alaska’s size is tricky to grasp. It’s two-and-a-half times larger than Texas, America’s second-biggest state – and one of the glaciers here is twice the size of Wales. Of the USA’s 20 highest peaks, 17 are found here.
Alaska is so huge and so wild, in fact, that it can be a deterrent for visitors, which is why Denali National Park is a must-visit. While it feels ancient and untamed – and encompasses a staggering six million acres – a single ribbon of road cuts through the land, giving you the chance to access this magnificent wilderness.
Denali National Park is named after the mountain, which, at 6,190 metres, is North America’s highest peak. The sheer size of its bulk will take your breath away, and it’s rightfully become an icon of all that is wild and wonderful about this state. While you need to be a seasoned climber to scale it, there are many hikes that provide outstanding views of the summit.
Then there’s the wildlife. Denali is home to bears, wolves, caribou, and moose – and bald eagles and golden eagles soar in the sky. Backcountry hiking is popular here, so if you’ve never veered off the beaten path, this is the place to do it. With over six million acres to explore, you can find your own undiscovered paradise here.
To explore the wilderness of Denali National Park, as well as Canada’s Yukon territory, you might want to check out Cosmos’ Alaska & The Yukon Tour.
Have an experience like no other in the wilds of Alaska
2. Mount Robson, British Columbia, Canada
The Canadian Rockies are why many people come to Canada, and the snowy mountains, dense forests, mirrored lakes, and glistening glaciers of this region have become symbols of the whole country, not just British Columbia.
The landscape of the Canadian Rockies is so vast that you can’t possibly attempt to see it all – but you can still see a lot.
There are many natural wonders to be found here, but arguably the most impressive is Mount Robson. Standing at a lofty height of 3,954 metres, it’s the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and circled by some of the most beautiful scenery you can imagine. Though it was first climbed in 1913, it’s still considered a treacherous challenge.
But luckily, there are many other more accessible trails in the surrounding country. Mount Robson is just 15 miles from Jasper National Park – a ruggedly beautiful preserve that attracts ambitious and adventurous travellers. Home to colossal icefields, turquoise lakes, snow-dusted mountains, and captivating wildlife, you’ll feel a world away from civilisation.
To visit Mount Robson and Jasper National Park, you might want to check out Cosmos’ Heart Of The Canadian Rockies Tour.
Visit the magnificent Mount Robson
3. Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA
Utah has one of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in North America. It’s also incredibly diverse, encompassing vast desert plains, soaring wooded mountains, blazing white salt flats, and brilliantly coloured canyons. But of all its extraordinary natural wonders, few places are quite so dazzling as Bryce Canyon.
When you first catch sight of Bryce Canyon, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve somehow ended up on another planet. Despite the name, Bryce Canyon isn’t actually in fact a canyon at all, but a huge natural amphitheatre that’s made up of hoodoos – sunset-coloured spires of rock that are formed by river erosion and frost weathering.
These alien-like contorted stone pinnacles burn in shades of red, orange, and yellow – colours that are far more vibrant than the Grand Canyon – and they rise above equally colourful ravines. Standing at the rim of the precipitous amphitheatre, you can admire truly jaw-dropping views while marvelling at how these improbable structures are still standing.
Aside from this exquisite geological wonder, Bryce Canyon National Park is also one of the best places to go hiking in the country – and huge pockets of this sprawling reserve remain all but undiscovered. Little over an hour away is the busier, but equally beautiful, Zion National Park, where you can go hiking, canyoning, and abseiling.
To visit Bruce Canyon, as well as Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, you might want to check out Cosmos’ Highlights Of The Canyonlands Tour.
Have an otherworldly experience at Bryce Canyon
4. Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada
Circled by the churning Atlantic, and attached to the mainland by a 15-mile stretch of land, Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s most unique and least-visited provinces. Its weathered coastline is more than 4,500 miles long and is studded with rugged beaches, rocket inlets, charming villages, and windblown headlands.
The crashing swells of the ocean can seem ever-present here, but then Nova Scotia is a maritime province – and its striped lighthouses, historic fishing villages, and hulking red cliffs are part of its appeal. This is a place where even the cities feel wild, particularly in the winter, when waves thrash the shore and storms tear across the streets.
One of the loveliest spots here is Peggy’s Cove, which is less than an hour’s drive from the capital, Halifax. This pretty bay is home to colourful fishing shacks and bobbing boats, but the real attraction is the lighthouse and the rocks. Leap along the boulders as the sea air buffets you and the waves crash, and enjoy the special sense of peace this place brings.
To visit Nova Scotia, as well as Ontario, Toronto, Québec and Montréal, you might want to check out Cosmos’ French Canada With Ocean Train To Halifax Tour.
Be blown away by the beauty of Peggy’s Cove
5. Crater Lake, Oregon, USA
Located in the Pacific Northwest, the American state of Oregon is known for its magnificent and varied scenery. The coastline alternates between craggy cliffs and sweeping sandy beaches – and, inland, jagged gorges give way to thick coniferous forests. But nowhere in the state is as spectacular as Crater Lake.
Crater Lake isn’t just the deepest lake in the US, it’s also the remnants of a now dormant volcano. The water here is an astonishingly deep blue, and because no tributaries run in or out of the lake, it’s beautifully clear too and perfect for swimming. These crystalline waters reflect the encircling wooded peaks like a vast sapphire mirror, providing breathtaking panoramas.
It goes without saying that hiking around Crater Lake is an unforgettable experience, and there are more than 90 miles of trails that weave their way through the surrounding woods and mountains. In the centre of the lake lies Wizard Island, a volcanic cinder cone that rises almost 800 ft above the lake’s surface – and, in the summer, you can take a boat over and explore.
The Oregon Dunes are another of this state’s incredible natural wonders. Stretching for over 50 miles, these rolling hills of sand are among the largest coastal dunes in the world, and you can have a blast exploring on sand buggies, ATVs, and dirt bikes. If you fancy something more relaxed, just hike along the dunes instead, and keep an eye out for grey whales offshore!
To visit Crater Lake and the Oregon Dunes, you might want to check out Cosmos’ Exploring The Pacific Northwest Tour.
Admire the breathtaking panoramas of Crater Lake
6. Inside Passage, Alaska, USA
Given the nearly unfathomable size of Alaska – plus the fact that it’s consistently viewed as the USA’s last frontier – it makes sense that it appears more than once in an article about undiscovered natural wonders. But, where Denali National Park evokes the wild bleakness of the land, this next destination is about the sea and the coast.
Inside Passage is a 500-mile stretch of ocean along the North American Pacific Fjordland, stretching up from Seattle to the southeastern Alaska panhandle. It passes through the Alexander Archipelago and is dotted with over 1,000 forested islands, encompassing snow-capped peaks, gleaming glaciers, deep fjords, and swathes of forest-blanketed land.
Because this strip of ocean is so protected, it offers smooth-as-glass sailing, and it’s this factor – together with the staggering views – that makes it such an excellent cruise destination. Drifting along these icy blue waters, and gazing out at the verdant coastal rainforests, windswept beaches, and mist-wrapped mountains can be a dream-like experience.
Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage also gives you an excellent opportunity to spot wildlife. While passing through fjords, keep an eye out for otters and seals basking on the ice; and in the waters, spot orcas and humpback whales. Along the coastline, Alaskan brown bears can be seen searching for food; and in the skies, eagles, puffins, and cormorants swoop.
To witness the beauty of Inside Passage, and explore the unspoilt beauty of the North American Pacific Fjordland, you might want to check out Cosmos’ Western Canada With Inside Passage Tour.
Drift along the Inside Passage
7. Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA
Spread across 500,00 acres in America’s Southern Appalachian range, on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains are stupendously beautiful. This is a land of lush forests, mist-shrouded peaks, cascading waterfalls, and iconic blue ridgelines that haze against the sky –- giving the mountains their eponymously smoky look.
The Great Smoky Mountains are stunning at any time of year. In spring, colourful wildflowers sprout up through the forests; and in summer, the shady swimming holes are perfect for cooling off. In autumn, a fiery blaze of changing leaves sweeps across the range; and in winter, the sound of silence will make you feel like you’re the only person in the world.
There’s a fascinating variety of flora and fauna to be found here too – from black bears to glittering fireflies. You can also spot elk, who were reintroduced into the mountains in 2001.
The North Carolina side of the park is quieter than the Tennessee side, and the glorious Fontana Lake here is one of the park’s best-kept secrets.
To visit the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as explore seven of America’s oldest states, you might want to check out Cosmos’ Historic Trails & Blue Ridge Mountains Tour.
Uncover Tennessee’s hidden gems
North America is vast and varied, and there’s a near-endless wealth of beautiful sights and fabulous natural wonders to explore.
From the bleakly beautiful icefields of Alaska to the mountainous forests of British Columbia, and the lakes and sand dunes of Oregon to the remote canyons of Utah – there’s an astonishing amount of diversity here.
Exploring this huge continent and planning a trip can be overwhelming, so if you’re looking for a helping hand, you might want to check out some other tours offered by Cosmos.