Although we celebrate Earth Day on April 22 of each year in support of environmental protection, it might seem as though there is not much pristine land left to protect. Humans have sought to discover and develop new lands throughout history, disturbing natural resources in the process. Fortunately, there are still places where nature appears undisturbed.
Keep reading to discover some of the most stunning displays of nature across the country and around the globe. You might just find the perfect place to add to your travel bucket list.
1. Alice Lake, Stanley, Idaho
This alpine lake is one of the largest in the Sawtooth Wilderness of Idaho, a federally protected swath of wilderness that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has some of the clearest air in the lower 48 states.
Along with a glassy body of water, visitors who hike to the lake can take in cliff views, cross several streams and gaze at a gorgeous waterfall.
2. Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs, Texas
Visitors to Hamilton Pool, located about 30 miles west of Austin, will discover a natural, jade-colored swimming pool in a grotto beneath a flowing waterfall.
Limestone slabs and stalactites surround the pool, which was created when an underground river collapsed thousands of years ago. Access to the pool is by reservation only, as the country park district that manages it works to preserve its natural ecosystem.
3. Zion National Park, Utah
These protected lands in Utah became a National Park in 1919. Sandstone cliffs in creamy shades of red, pink and beige surround the canyon, standing out exquisitely against the azure water.
After recognizing the effects of pollution from heavy traffic on the Park’s Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, a propane-powered public shuttle bus was introduced in 2000 to help preserve the biology of the park.
4. Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
The largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park is comprised of about 4,200 square miles of unspoiled forests, glaciers, lakes and peaks that have been protected since 1907.
Large populations of bears, moose and elk call the rugged area home, which boasts stunning scenery in fall and spring.
5. Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas, Mexico
Experts believe that the creation of the Sumidero Canyon or Cañón del Sumidero began around the same time as the Grand Canyon and it is just as breathtaking in its own right.
The Rio Grijalva and other waterways run through and around the deep, narrow canyon in southern Mexico. The canyon is part of a protected national park that is covered mostly by deciduous rainforest.
6. Gorges Du Verdon, France
Many consider the deepest gorge in France to be the most beautiful canyon in Europe. Protected since 1990, the jewel was formed by the Verdon River, named for its arresting turquoise-green water.
The steep limestone walls spotted with foliage add more color and textures to behold.
7. Lake General Carrera in Patagonia, Chile
As if the aqua waters of this massive lake, which is situated half in Chile and half in Argentina, were not enticing enough, the unique geological formation near its center is mind-blowingly beautiful.
Over time, the elements transformed a blue marble island into a network of caves and tunnels known as the Marble Cathedral.
8. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia
In the heart of the Central Australian Desert stands a striking red 348 meter-high sandstone formation known as Uluru or Ayers Rock.
The sacred land of Aboriginal Australians surrounding the monolith has an wealth of caves, natural springs and waterholes.
9. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
The largest national park in Croatia and one of the oldest in Europe, the UNESCO World Heritage site Plitvice Lakes is situated in a rugged, mountainous region in the center of the country.
Small rivers form a series of lakes with waterfalls that cascade from one body of water to another. The cerulean water is surrounding by a thick, verdant forest.
10. Wulingyuan Scenic Area in Zhangjiajie, China
This scenic and historical area in the Hunan Province is made up of multiple parks spanning an area of 266 square miles. The captivating landscape includes more than 3,000 sandstone pillars, canyons and caves, lush forests and waterscapes ranging from lakes and springs to streams and waterfalls.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the region is also home to a number of endangered plant and animal species.