Tran Hong Ngoc

If you’re already familiar with a vibrant America of skyscrapers, casinos, and entertainment venues that sparkle throughout the night, there is a very different America awaiting your exploration – one with majestic wilderness, stunning beyond your imagination.

Antelope Canyon in Utah

The best destinations in the United States for nature lovers are undeniably the national and state parks. These areas are conserved so well that their natural charm and rich diversity of flora and fauna remain intact. Here, you may forget the White House, the Empire State Building and Las Vegas to admire the wonders of Mother Nature. Take a drive along endless roads across deserts and through deep gorges, or bathe in the winds of freedom to find yourself insignificant compared to vast nature.

Painted Desert in Arizona

Valley of Fire

Just one hour’s drive from lively Las Vegas lies the Valley of Fire. This Nevada state park covers about 14,000 hectares and is designated a National Natural Landmark. During the Mesozoic era, the land lay under the sea. The  movement of the Earth’s crust, the impact of weather, and the erosion caused by the wind and the sand have created a terrain similar to Mars. According to geologists, the valley’s bizarre landscape is the result of sandstone, limestone and shale getting uplifted, faulted, and rejoined about 150 million years ago. This process is still ongoing.

Picturesque colors in the Valley of Fire

Over the years, erosion has given birth to excellent rock formations amid the wilderness. Some notable attractions in the Valley of Fire are Arch Rock, Grand Piano, and Elephant Rock. Not just red, the Valley of Fire is a perfect painting with multiple colors, causing visitors to constantly exclaim and wonder how nature could paint” such a masterpiece.

Arches National Park

Arches National Park in southern Utah is considered one of the five iconic parks in the U.S. with over 2,000 unique sandstone arches. In the list of Top 10 Arches in the World voted by the Natural Arch and Bridge Society, six entries are from Utah. Visiting this state, you will find the image of Delicate Arch – the most spectacular and fanciful natural wonder and arguably the symbol of Utah – depicted on license plates and postcards. At a height of 18 meters, Delicate Arch stands solemnly between a chasm and a high mountain, with the Rockies visible from afar. The trail to this natural arch is challenging: one must travel on foot for one hour under the scorching sun, overcome steep slopes and walk through thorny bushes. However, when you catch sight of this wonder, you’ll realize your efforts were not in vain. Take the time to stand at the foot of the stone arches here, breathe in the immensity of the mountains and feel the transcendence of Mother Nature.

Delicate Arch is a famous arch in Utah

Monument Valley

If you’re a fan of cowboys roaming free over barren lands on horseback in famous movies like Stagecoach and The Searchers, you must pay Monument Valley a visit. Located on the western border of Utah and Arizona, Monument Valley is the territory of the Navajo people. In the Navajo language it is called Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, meaning valley of the rocks”. The vivid red color here comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone. This land has been used as the setting for many Hollywood blockbusters, such as Vertical Limit, Transformer 3, and Forrest Gump.

The dirt road to Monument Valley takes you through most of the famous attractions here, including The Mittens, Three Sisters, John Fords Point, and Totem Pole. If you do not like the idea of exploring the area by car, consider riding a horse around the valley in the evening. Riding across the sand hills wearing a cowboy hat and a pair of boots, you can explore the area like a local.

A golden sunset in Monument Valley

The landscape of Monument Valley is truly magnificent and breathtaking, making visitors  feel like they are lost on another planet or have reached the end of the world. After thousands of years,wind and water have created a miracle.

For me, the best thing about America’s nature is the national parks. In the Western United States, there are many famous parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands, and Grand Canyon, among others. Seeing them with your own eyes, walking along the trails, and driving through the wilderness are experiences you should have at least once in your life.