As a teacher, you’re always looking for ways to engage your students and bring the world into your classroom. One great way to do this is by exploring some of the natural wonders that the United States has to offer. From canyons and geysers to hoodoos and volcanoes, this country is home to some truly breathtaking sights that can help your students connect with the natural world and learn about the forces that shape our planet.
Whether your students are able to visit these sites in person or you’re limited to a virtual field trip, there are many benefits to incorporating these natural wonders into your curriculum. By experiencing these sites firsthand or through virtual exploration, your students can gain a deeper understanding of the geological processes that create canyons, geysers, hoodoos, caves, and volcanoes. They can also learn about the unique ecosystems that thrive in these environments and how they’re affected by human activity.
ThinkFives researched the best natural wonders in the United States and explains why they’re such great destinations for families and students alike. Whether you’re a teacher looking to incorporate these sites into your curriculum or a parent looking for a fun and educational vacation destination, we hope this post will inspire you to explore the natural wonders of the United States.
A canyon is a deep, narrow valley with steep sides, often carved by a river. Canyons exist in almost every state but a couple of parks really stand out.
- Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s most famous and awe-inspiring canyons. It stretches for over 277 miles, with depths of over a mile in some areas. Visitors can hike, bike, or take a mule ride down into the canyon, or simply enjoy the breathtaking views from the rim.
- Canyonlands National Park, Utah: Located in southeastern Utah, Canyonlands is a vast, rugged landscape of canyons, mesas, and buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. It is known for its stunning views, hiking trails, and opportunities for outdoor recreation such as rafting, kayaking, and mountain biking.
A geyser is a hot spring that periodically erupts with a fountain of boiling water and steam. While it’s great to watch one on YouTube, if you get the chance there’s nothing like seeing one in person.
- Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: Yellowstone is home to over half of the world’s geysers, including Old Faithful, one of the most famous geysers in the world. Visitors can watch as the geyser erupts every 60-90 minutes, shooting water and steam up to 180 feet in the air.
- Lassen Volcanic National Park, California: While not as well-known as Yellowstone, Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to several geysers, including the popular Bumpass Hell geothermal area. Visitors can take a short hike to see the bubbling mud pots, steam vents, and hot springs that make up this otherworldly landscape.
Of the five natural wonders on this, hoodoos might be the ones you are least familiar with. Hoodoos are tall, thin spires of rock that are formed by erosion.
- Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: Bryce Canyon is known for its unique rock formations called “hoodoos,” which are tall, thin spires of rock that protrude from the canyon floor. Visitors can hike through the park and take in the stunning vistas from various lookout points.
- Goblin Valley State Park, Utah: This state park is home to thousands of hoodoos, which are known locally as “goblins.” Visitors can hike through the park and explore the maze-like formations, which range in size from just a few inches to over 10 feet tall.
Caves also exist in most states and are often sites of curiosity or mystery. A cave is simply a natural underground chamber or series of chambers.
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns is home to some of the largest underground chambers in the world. Visitors can take a guided tour of the caves and see incredible formations such as stalactites, stalagmites, and columns.
- Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky: Mammoth Cave is the longest known cave system in the world, with over 400 miles of explored passageways. Visitors can take a guided tour of the caves and learn about the history and geology of the area.
A volcano is a mountain or hill that has a vent through which lava, ash, and gas can escape from the Earth’s crust. Luckily, only five states have active volcanoes. Can you name them? (Hint: They’re listed at the bottom of the blog).
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii: Hawaii is home to several active volcanoes, including Kilauea, which has been erupting continuously since 1983. Visitors can take a guided tour of the park and see lava flows and other volcanic features up close.
- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington: Mount St. Helens is an active volcano that erupted in 1980, causing widespread destruction and loss of life. Visitors can hike through the blast zone and see the incredible effects of the eruption on the surrounding landscape.
Active volcanoes: There are currently 5 U.S. states that have active volcanoes: Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, and California.
Which National Parks are on your list this year?