Keahiakawelo, Garden of The Gods (Lanai, Hawaii)
Okay, yes, it’s basically common knowledge that all of Hawaii is magical and the islands were created by volcanoes, but the island of Lanai continues to be shaped by volcanic activity still today. Lanai’s wahi pana, or sacred storied landscape, used to be part of a native dryland forest, but due to grazing animals and erosion, the current topography is now dry and clay-like populated with innumerable boulders, rock towers, spires, and other formations. Various stages of sunlight on the landscape will illuminate the rocks and surrounding earth in brilliant reds, oranges, and purples. Even scientists are puzzled by how the large colored boulders seem to be scattered and stacked in such a natural yet artistic way.
Barry Arm, Black Sand Beach (Alaska, USA)
The Barry Arm, Black Sand Beach in Prince William Sound was created by lava flows years ago, but what makes this place unique from other black sand beaches are the stunning scenic views filled with glaciers, mountain peaks, crystal-blue waters, and waterfalls. Just imagine being on the beach and seeing mini icebergs floating by or stranded on the sand next to you. Although the black sand will retain the sun’s warmth and can sometimes be uncomfortably hot to walk on barefoot, it is still recommended to wear warmer clothing than you’d usually wear to a beach. Depending on the time of year you visit, the waters may be too cold to swim in directly, but you can opt for other water activities such as kayaking or canoeing. If you’re lucky you may even experience a few wildlife sightings as well.
Angel's Landing, Zion National Park (Utah, USA)
Did you know that Zion National Park was the first national park in the USA? The notable rock formation known as Angel’s Landing is renowned for its thin red mesa which towers almost 1,500 feet tall in the middle of the canyon. Standing at the summit, it’s natural to feel small as you witness 360° views of breathtaking cliffs, arches, and canyons spanning across hundreds of square miles. 275 million years ago, a combination of gravel, mud, and sand eroded down from nearby mountains and was deposited into the Zion basin creating the unique and mesmerizing landscape formation. The awe-inspiring view we enjoy today was enhanced by floodwaters that left behind carbonate deposits which eventually turned into limestone, and the residual mud and clay became mudstone and shale. Persistent and prolonged erosion occurring over thousands of years ultimately left a sight that can definitively be described as breath-taking.
Sequoia National Park (California, USA)
If you enjoy standing among massive natural objects that will tower over you and leave you speechless, then this is the right destination for you. With over 400,000 acres of forested mountainous terrain and encompassing a vertical relief of nearly 13,000 feet, California's Sequoia National Park contains some of the largest trees you will ever see in your lifetime. The giant sequoias here grow up to an astonishing 250 feet, and redwoods can grow to over 350 feet! This is about the height of 8 city buses stacked vertically bumper to bumper, or as long as a football field from end zone to end zone. The largest tree in Sequoia National Park is the General Sherman Tree which dominates the sequoias at 275 feet tall, with a base circumference over 100 feet, and is estimated to be around 2,500 years old. Just in case those statistics aren’t impressive enough, General Sherman is not just the largest living Giant Sequoia in Sequoia National Park, but it holds the record for the largest living organism (by volume) on the planet! The sequoias in this area are able to grow so large and vast due to the structure within their leaves and the subalpine climate where the dry mountain air and elevation provides a comfortable environment for the cones to open and release seeds. If you are an outdoor enthusiast and nature lover, then this is one place you should definitely add to your bucket list.
Bisti Badlands (New Mexico, USA)
Entering into the Bisti Badlands will have you thinking you took a wrong turn and landed on Mars. Part of the desolate 45,000-acre Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, the 4,000-acre Badlands area was formed by erosion occurring millions of years ago and Mother Nature leaving us with a magnificent landscape of colorful mounds and eroded rocks composed of sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal, and silt. Resting 200-400 feet below the surrounding plains of traditional orange-and-brown sands and sage-green desert grasses, the Badlands exude mysterious alien qualities among a variety of gray, black, red, and purple sands and rock. Although a small variety of wildlife can be found here like rabbits, coyotes, quails, falcons, lizards, and scorpions, don’t expect to see them in the Badlands as they can camouflage themselves quite well. On the other hand, fossils can often be found amongst the layers of shale. Inspiring archeologists will be happy to know that several teeth and bones of various large dinosaur species have been discovered in the Badlands. The nearby abandoned and derelict ruins of the old Bisti Trading Post north of the Badlands emphasize the harsh loneliness and mystery of this strangely wind-swept desert wilderness.