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The 20 Best Natural Phenomena to Road Trip to in the United States

by Eben Diskin Mar 5, 2024

Seeing an impressive natural phenomenon is, of course, a memorable experience. Sometimes you happen upon one by accident, like driving through Iceland and seeing small geysers shooting steam out of the earth, and sometimes you plan your entire trip around them – like visiting Alaska with the hope of seeing the Northern Lights. After all, what’s better than renting a car, driving cross-country – or even just cross-state – and ending your journey by gazing up at a meteor shower, standing in sheer awe of an ice volcano? As it turns out, travelers are pretty keen on planning their trips around seeing some of the country’s most stunning natural phenomena.

Data compiled by SIXT, a rental car company, revealed that Google searches for “natural phenomena” increased by 600 percent this past year. Indeed, searches for “rare sky phenomena” alone have increased by 133 percent, showing just how interested people are in the natural wonders of our world. But before actually setting out on a trip like this, one key question remains: where to start? To help travelers narrow down their options, SIXT put together a ranking of the best natural phenomena in the United States, based on rarity, affordability, Instagram-ability (Instagram search volume from , and popularity (search volume across Google, TikTok, and YouTube from

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Grand Canyon topped the list. One of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world (not just the US), it’s a natural focal point for a vacation. Coming in second was Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii. Who says natural wonders can’t also be dangerous? While potentially a little nerve wracking, the active volcano is great for seeing the otherworldly lava tubes and caverns. The famous geysers of Yellowstone National Park also made the list, and so did the beautiful (yet often elusive) Aurora Borealis, as well as some less widely-discussed phenomena like alpenglow and hatching sea turtles.

Narrowing it down to 20 of the coolest natural phenomena may still give you decision paralysis, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. According to SIXT, these are the most must-see natural phenomena in the US, and where to find them.

  1. Grand Canyon: Fredonia, Arizona (year-round)
  2. Volcanoes: Kilauea, Hawaii (November – March)
  3. Geysers: Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (year-round)
  4. Aurora Borealis: Fairbanks, Alaska (August 21 – April 21)
  5. Meteor Shower: Cherry Springs State Park, Coudersport, Pennsylvania (fall or winter)
  6. Bioluminescence: Mission Bay & Torrey Pines Beach, San Diego, California (June – September)
  7. Firefall: Yosemite National Park, California (mid-February)
  8. Bird Migration: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, San Antonio, New Mexico (spring)
  9. Alpenglow: Chugach Mountains, Alaska (summer)
  10. Sea Turtles Hatching: Padre Island, National Seashore, North Padre Island, Corpus Christi, Texas (June – July)
  11. Nacreous: Fairbanks, Alaska (winter)
  12. Monarch Butterfly Migration: Monarch Butterfly Grove, Pismo Beach, California (mid-October – mid-February)
  13. Moonbows: Niagara Falls, New York (the night of the full moon or within two or three days before or after)
  14. Glowworm Caves: Pickett State Park, Tennessee (May and June)
  15. Light Pillars: Hudson, Wisconsin (Any time on a frigid winter)
  16. Sailing Stones: Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park, Death Valley, California (year-round)
  17. Ice Waterfalls: Multnomah Falls, Oregon (late winter)
  18. Ice Volcano: Letchwork State Park, Castile, New York (December – February)

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