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5 Spectacular U.S. Landscapes You Have to See to Believe

Discover some of America's most inspiring backdrops.

U.S. News & World Report

5 Spectacular U.S. Landscapes You Have to See to Believe

Mountain goat resting at Glacier National Park

From the craggy mountains of South Dakota to the turquoise lakes of Montana, here's where to find some of the country's most dramatic scenes.(iStockPhoto)

If you're ready for a change of scenery on your next vacation, you might think you need to grab your passport. But here's the truth: There are plenty of awe-inspiring landscapes to see right here in the good ol' USA. From the mighty peaks of Glacier National Park to coastal canyons of Laguna Beach, these glorious scenes are sure to inspire your next trip.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

One of the most scenic areas in the United States sits smack dab in the middle of South Dakota.  Set on 244,000 acres, Badlands National Park boasts a dynamic landscape that includes sharp cliffs, deep gorges and all the rugged beauty you can handle. Local wildlife, including bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets are also on full display.

Where to stay: Cedar Pass Lodge is the only lodging option in the Badlands. Its historic lodges and cabins are both inviting and eco-friendly, featuring energy-saving appliances and efficiencies, private baths with on-demand hot water and other modern amenities, such as coffee makers and TVs.

Laguna Beach, California

Along with its Orange County opulence, Laguna Beach is rife with natural beauty. With a scenic backdrop of mansion-sprinkled hills, a homey waterfront village and a cliff-covered beachfront sculpted over millions of years, Laguna Beach lures nature lovers and luxury seekers alike.

Where to stay: Travelers who want to enjoy all this city has to offer should consider staying at Laguna's most popular haunt, the Inn at Laguna Beach. With a cliff-top location right next to Laguna's public beach, the inn is within walking distance of both the water and popular restaurants.

Minnehaha Falls Park, Minnesota

Minnehaha Falls Regional Park offers the best of Minnesota in a bundled package. Located within the city of Minneapolis, the park and its numerous water features, hiking trails and bike paths that draw city-dwellers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The 53-foot falls themselves are photographed relentlessly, and have become a popular place for Minnesotans to escape busy city life.

Where to stay: Enjoy both urban and natural splendors on your trip with a stay at The Grand Hotel in Minneapolis, A Kimpton Hotel. Apart from its award-winning restaurant and full service spa, this hotel offers easy access to Minnehaha Falls.

Beaver Creek, Colorado

Just a 2½-hour drive west of the Denver International Airport, you'll find the sleepy city of Avon, Colorado and its crown jewel – Beaver Creek. This mountain community offers much more than a high altitude; at the top of its lifts, you'll find some of the best mountain views in the western United States. Ski the slops in the winter and enjoy shopping and long brunches in the summer. No matter the season, Beaver Creek is a place for outdoor recreation and relaxation.

Where to stay: At the bottom of the mountain sits the Westin Beaver Creek Resort & Spa, the premier resort in the Beaver Creek and Avon area. Its four-lane lap pool, three infinity hot tubs, and multiple dining venues and occasional live entertainment will keep you busy while you take in all the mountain views you can handle. Better yet, with many rooms offering kitchenettes and washers and dryers, this resort is ideal for families.  

Glacier National Park, Montana

Near the U.S. - Canada border, you'll find one of the most dramatic landscapes in the United States at Glacier National Park. Stretching across more than 1 million acres, the park includes everything from mountain ranges to verdant forests to more than 130 lakes. In addition to the scenery, you'll discover animals and plant species you probably never knew existed (like long-toad salamanders and glacier lilies, to name a couple), plus plenty of peace and quiet.

Where to stay: The National Park Service lists a handful of lodging options located in and around the park itself. Included are lodges, motels and 13 camping grounds.  

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About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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