As you can imagine, ranking the most beautiful states in America is no easy task.
My husband and I are avid travelers and have visited every single state in the country.
We’ve had the opportunity to swim with sea turtles in Hawaii, summit mountains in Washington and sip wine at the base of the ancient Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina.
Through it all, we found ourselves impressed by the beauty of our country.
Though daunting, we felt compelled to try and rank the most beautiful states in the USA based on firsthand experience (a nearly impossible task, if you ask me).
But listen, someone had to do it.
While you read the article below keep in mind that this is our personal list of the most beautiful states in America, not everyone will feel the same way!
With that said, let’s jump right in. 😉
Most Beautiful States in America
Florida is the flattest state in the country, but what it lacks in mountainous terrain it makes up for in miles of sandy beaches, fascinating marshes, intriguing wildlife and breathtaking sunsets.
Head to Everglades National Park to experience the splendid and wild beauty of southern Florida. Soak in the 1.5-million acre wetlands filled to the brim with coastal mangroves, marches, turtles, manatees and alligators.
Another option is to spend a weekend at Ocala National Forest, where you can see stout manatees during the winter months. Hop aboard a kayak and explore the majestic beauty or take a swim in the inviting turquoise waters of Silver Glen Springs.
If you’re into cities and nightlife, head to Miami or Orlando where the music is loud and the drinks pour freely. And if you’re into a calmer pace, drive to Key West where the white sand beaches demand relaxation.
It seems like the secret is out. Everyone that visits knows that Maine is one of the most beautiful states in America (largely thanks to Acadia National Park, which attracts 2.7 million visitors annually).
Folks are drawn to the rocky beaches, colorful towns and picture-perfect lighthouses that pepper the coast. Base yourself in Portland, Maine to have access to some of the best restaurants in the country (the seafood is unbelievably good) and great accommodations.
If you’d like a quick breakdown of the best things to do in Portland, Maine, read this helpful post I wrote a few months back.
Another awesome stop you shouldn’t miss is Bar Harbor, Maine. Especially in the autumn when the entire landscape is transformed by vibrant fall foliage.
For those that love rugged landscapes and wild nature, Maine is easily one of the most beautiful states in America.
#13. North Carolina
Ripe for exploration, North Carolina is seldom mentioned as a beautiful US state, so imagine my surprise when I visited for the first time and felt like I discovered a gem.
Picturesque undulating mountains cascade down from the middle of the state to the east giving way to sweeping beach fronts.
Asheville is my favorite city in the state being gently nestled into the mountains with unbelievable fall color and often painted scenery. While I personally prefer the mountainous area of the state, home to the famous Great Smoky Mountains and part of the Appalachians, it’s not hard to imagine why other folks are drawn to the coast.
Home to the world famous site of the first flight, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina’s Outer Banks are renowned for their massive beaches (big enough for flight!).
If you live on the East Coast then you have no excuses not to visit this state’s diverse beauty and experience North Carolina for yourself.
Vermonters know how good they have it, made evident by the fact that Vermont is considered the second most active state in the country.
Locals are giddy to explore the natural wonders at their doorsteps and enjoy the landscapes year-round, long after the leaf-peeping crowds leave for the season.
But fair warning, wandering the charming New England towns will make you tempted to buy a vacation home along Lake Champlain in no time.
My favorite cities to explore are Burlington, Stowe and Woodstock. Visit during autumn to see why New England is such a hot spot for fall color, it’s beautiful beyond measure.
Further Reading: 10 Festive Things to Do in Vermont in the Fall
Alaska is remote (making it inherently expensive), which is a pity because most folks don’t get an opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful states in America.
Heck, When my husband and I visited Alaska last summer we found ourselves in a constant state of sticker shock, it’s expensive!
Regardless, we were keen to enjoy our trip because between the flights, transportation and hotels we knew we wouldn’t be able to afford visiting Alaska often.
That detail aside, allow me to share with you that Alaska is truly breathtaking. The expansive vistas, draw dropping glaciers, towering mountains and epic wildlife viewing made me feel like I was in a movie.
I don’t want to deceive you though, the land is vast and wild and preparation is key. Visiting Alaska requires meticulous planning, but the effort is worth it because the state will take your breath away. You absolutely must see it at least once in your life, a cruise might be a good way to go!
Alright, I feel like I should provide a disclaimer here: any state that houses the epic Grand Canyon would show up on this list.
The Grand Canyon is so beautiful that it’s known to make folks cry when they see if for the first time. So I ask, how could I not include this spectacle on this list?!
But the Grand Canyon isn’t the only thing that steals the show — Arizona if full of breathtaking landscapes. Pay a visit to Saguaro National Park, Petrified Forest National Park or Monument Valley and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
If you’re more of a city person, Arizona has you covered in that department too. Phoenix is a great place to explore, especially during the mild winter months when most of the country is boasting freezing temperatures.
Another favorite city of mine is Sedona, which is engulfed by the dramatic red rock landscape Arizona is best known for. You’ll find ample outdoor recreational opportunities and great restaurants to end the evening with, it’s a win-win for all.
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, there’s no better place to go than the least populated state in America. Just don’t head straight for the national parks, because crowds are all but guaranteed there.
It’s comical that the least populous state in the country is also home to the second most visited national park, Yellowstone National Park.
And as much as I love Yellowstone National Park, it’s Grand Teton National Park that steals the show for me.
The iconic jagged peaks at Grand Teton National Park is why I consider Wyoming to be one the most beautiful states in the USA.
If you want to avoid the crowds, head to the neighboring national forest, Bridger Teton National Forest, which offers all the alpine beauty without the hordes of tourists.
I think Glacier National Park is quite possibly the prettiest national park in the country. And by that logic, there’s no denying that Montana has to be one of the most beautiful states in America.
Wide open skies, jarring mountains and pristine prairies define this beautiful US state and I find it impossible to stay away for long.
Montana’s claim to fame is Glacier National Park, which spans one million acres and boasts some of the most pristine glacier-fed lakes in the country.
With more than 700 miles of hiking trails, you’re bound to find yourself entertained for days. Visit during the summer for comfortable hiking temperatures and to avoid the snow/ice on the roads.
Image courtesy: TripSavvy / Alisha McDarris
Colorado is a favorite state among mountaineers because it is home to more than 50 peaks that exceed 14,000 feet. The dreamy alpine landscape that defines Colorado attracts nature enthusiasts and photographers by the millions every year.
From the towering mountains to the colorful valleys below, this state is ripe for exploration. You’ll find beautiful lakes, sand dunes, forests and quaint towns with great restaurants and accommodations. If you can only visit two cities during your trip, make it Aspen and Colorado.
One of the biggest reasons Washington is the most beautiful state in America is due to the diversity of landscapes. You can see everything from glaciated mountains to temperate rain forests and miles of rocky beaches. Oh, and the moody weather is only icing on the cake.
The hiking trails swell with visitors and locals alike during the summer months. Everyone is eager to experience the great outdoors that Washington is known for!
Make sure to swing by Mt. Rainier National Park, it’s my favorite park in America (I’ve visited more than 40 times!). Another gem is Mt. St. Helens National Monument, which has one of the most underrated hikes in Washington state.
If you’re interested in cities, don’t miss a weekend in Seattle where you’ll be rewarded with phenomenal restaurants and plenty of fun things to do!
Further Reading: 13 Jaw-Dropping Hikes at Mt. Rainier National Park
The striking red-rock formations and landscapes in Utah are unlike anywhere else on earth, which is why folks flock to this beautiful US state from all corners of the world.
The best way to see all the incredible landscapes is to take an epic Mighty 5 road trip which takes you through all five of the state’s national parks (including the most visited national parks in America).
You’ll want to bring a trusty pair of hiking boots with you because the hiking opportunities are endless and the panoramic vistas are best seen from a trail. I mean, just check out these 12 jaw-dropping hikes at Arches National Park.
Further Reading: A (Very) Helpful Guide to Utah’s Mighty 5 Road Trip
Home to nine national parks (more parks than any other state in the country), California is undoubtedly the most beautiful state in America for natural wonders.
From sandy beaches drenched in sunlight to majestic granite mountains, arid desert landscapes and the tallest trees in the world, California has it all.
In addition to the epic national parks, California is also home to some of the prettiest cities in the country. San Francisco is a great destination for weekend trip, especially if you make time for a winery tour through Napa Valley.
Santa Barbara and San Diego are the two other gems I enjoy visiting at lease once a year. The sunshine does wonders for me, especially during the winter months and there’s no place like California.
The land of perpetual paradise, surely you’re not surprised to see Hawaii on this list! Hawaii is one of the most beautiful states in America, especially for those that love palm trees and long stretches of soft sand beaches.
Each of Hawaii’s islands offers something spectacular for nature lovers — impressive (and active) volcanoes, vibrant rainbows, and miles of striking coastlines.
If you’re visiting Hawaii for the first time, I highly recommend staying on Maui. I’ve visited all the islands and Maui feels the most romantic to me, also, make sure to drive the Road to Hana for an experience you won’t soon forget.
Another great stop on Maui is Haleakala Crater, which may quite literally take your breath away. Experiencing sunrise over the crater feels like a rite of passage and can’t be missed.
If you’re more into cities, Oahu may be more fitting for you. The town of Honolulu has a plethora of great restaurants and shopping. Plus, the hike to Diamond Head is iconic for a reason! Oh, and the North Shore simply can’t be missed.
Regardless of the island you choose to visit, you’ll soon see why Hawaii is considered the most beautiful state in America by most visitors.
Further Reading: 10 EPIC Spots to Get Shave Ice on O’ahu
Idaho is an often overlooked gem that is slowly starting to get attention. And it’s not hard to see why, in terms of beauty, Idaho is hard to beat.
Spend a long weekend in Stanley, Idaho and you’ll inevitable create an annual tradition of it. The Sawtooth Mountains rival the beauty of Washington’s dreamy alpine landscapes. Most folks have a hard time believing these stunning mountains are located in Idaho until seeing them firsthand.
Base yourself in Boise if you want to explore the state extensively. You’ll want to allocate time for Coeur D’Alene Lake, Bruneau Dunes State Park, Priest Lake and (if you’re a skier) Schweitzer Mountain.
Whatever you do, don’t miss a visit to Shoshone Falls, arguably the most popular waterfall in this beautiful US state.
However you define your idea of a good time, Idaho is sure to fit the bill. Not only is Idaho one of the most beautiful states in America, but it’s also one of the most exhilarating to explore.
Photo Credit: Sara Sheehy.
Now before anyone accuses me of being biased (I grew up in Oregon), let me assure you that Oregon truly is one of the most beautiful states in America and anyone that visits is bound to agree.
From the breathtaking Alvord Desert to the striking Cascade Range and blissful serenity of the beloved rugged Oregon Coast, this beautiful US state has everything covered.
Oregon is a vast state, so seeing everything will take multiple visits. To get a good head start, base yourself in Portland and take day trips to some of the natural wonders — like Mt. Hood where you can spend an afternoon sipping award-winning wine.
Another place worth exploring is Bend, which has some of the most jaw-dropping hikes in the state and incredible waterfalls work hiking to.
Further Reading: The 7 EPIC Wonders of Oregon (+4 We Should Add ASAP)
Most BEAUTIFUL States in America (Post Summary)
- North Carolina
Map of beautiful US states
If you’d like to offer your two cents feel free to do so in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.
Your state rankings for natural beauty are spot on IMO. I have resided in 12 states and have visited 42. I currently live in Boise and love Idaho. Hard to top the diverse beauty of OR & Wa. Also completely agree that Glacier and Grand Teton NPs are the most stunning, and I’ve been to most NPs in the US. Great article; thanks!
Having Washington that far down the list is not right. Washington is basically Oregon except with taller buildings in Seattle. I’m an Oregonian and to say Washington is that far behind Oregon IS being biased. Seattle is perhaps the most beautiful city in America.
Stacy Bishop says
I’ve lived in Oregon for 24 years. It’s so beautiful here and you have green of the trees the beautiful mountains and the gorgeous coast! Before that I lived in Washington for 18 years so I know the beauty of mount Rainer and nothing compares
Except for Yellowstone, Wyoming has nothing to offer in terms of sight-seeing. Same with Eastern Montana. You can’t base your poll based on one section of the state. Sorry. I have been through a lot of states. I know what I’m talking about.
I grew up n California and have been in most or the states you listed I transplanted t Oregon as a young newlywed and been here for 35 years and scouts not agree more that Oregon is truly beautiful. Only one item I believe was missed and that is the state of Tennessee it is beautiful in its own right with the music and the Smokey mountains. As well as some of the most incredible water ways anywhere. But that’s simply my opinion.
Eric Hall says
Guess you forgot Georgia. Has everything from mountains ,beaches,swamps and low lands, various orchards and farm lands. Way nicer than half the states you mentioned including California.