Surrounding yourself with the planet’s natural beauty is one of the best ways to celebrate Earth. Here in the United States, there are lots of unique landscapes that our planet offers that also serve as a wonderful reminder as to why protecting our planet is so important.

In no particular order, I want to share with you some of my favorite spots where you can feel swept away by nature’s beauty – without all the crowds, concession stands or parking nightmares.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe, Nevada

The drive around the lake takes about three hours and while you will occasionally drive past a casino or ski resort, you’ll also pass some of the most gorgeous views in the world. The photo above was taken at sunrise in Sand Harbor Beach, which is fabulous at sunrise or sunset, or anytime really. The lakeshore around this area is all breath taking, so anywhere you stop to explore will always be the right place.

Tip: Make sure you stop and take photos over Emerald Bay — it’s just stunning, especially at dawn.

Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls, Portland, Oregon

Don’t worry — as beautiful as these falls are, the crowds will all be at the famous Multnomah Falls, which are the largest falls in Oregon. At Latourell Falls, you’ll easily be taken away by its beauty and solitude. In fact, the last time I went I only saw maybe six people during the time I spent there. You can see the falls from either up high by where you park, or you can take the easy hike down to the base where I took the shot you see above.

Lake Placid

Lake Placid, New York

You might have heard that this location was home to the 1980 Winter Olympics, but you might not have known how beautiful and serene the lake really is. When you come here you must experience dawn. As the sun rises you’ll take in the beautiful nearby waterfalls (like High Falls Gorge and the Ausable Chasm) along with many streams that make up this beautiful scenery. The photo above was taken at dawn on the lake and is a sneak peek into what you can see too.  


Savannah, Georgia

It’s an absolutely charming town with a deep history and my favorite – a beautiful waterfront walk. When I’m in Savannah, I also like to drive just outside of town to the jaw-dropping Wormsloe Historic Site (seen above) to enjoy an old dirt road canopied by stately oak trees covered with Spanish moss. At the end of the road, you’ll discover ruins, but don’t rush down there — this scene is meant to be enjoyed.

Tip: When in Savannah, make sure you visit its beautiful beaches with high sandy dunes and even a quaint lighthouse.

Big Sur

Big Sur, Northern California (near Carmel and Monterey)

This is probably my favorite coast line drive in the world. There are so many places to stop and enjoy life that it’s hard to call out any one location. Though, I can give you a good place to start so that you can spend an entire day winding along the most incredible coastline found anywhere. Right as you leave the charming seaside village of Carmel-by-the-Sea (it’s not officially a village, but it’s so delightful calling it a town or city just doesn’t do it justice), stop and take in Point Lobos, which is a very small state park and nature reserve. Here there are lots of things to see, including seals and sea lions. After, I suggest heading towards San Simeon on the Pacific Coast Highway to discover an assortment of breathtaking beaches, waterfalls, redwood forests, stunning rock formations and jagged cliffs along the ocean.

Rock City

Rock City, Chattanooga, Tennessee

I grew up in the south and along every stretch of major highway I would see little birdhouses with the slogan, “See Rock City,” painted on the sides. Even though I saw these messages for many years, it wasn’t until recently that I actually went to Rock City and I have to tell you, I wish I had seen it sooner. There’s so much beauty to behold around every corner, including the dramatic Ruby Falls tucked inside a giant cavern, the beautiful views at Lover’s Leap (see above) and surprisingly charming gardens to wander through. It is popular with tourists, but not so much that it takes away from the experience. This hidden wonder is another reminder of how awesome our planet truly is.

Outer Banks

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Another lesser known gem is North Carolina’s Outer Banks. With its miles of beautiful beaches, blue skies and beautiful lighthouses, you’ll find plenty of places to breathe in fresh, crisp, outdoor air. Shown above is the Whalehead Club, which is part of the beautiful Currituck Heritage Park that is open to the public. The grounds at the club make for what feels like a beautiful, graceful and delicate place to enjoy the Outer Banks in all its natural charm.

Tip: Don’t miss the Bodie Island black and white striped lighthouse — it’s surrounded by beautiful sea oats blowing in the breeze.

Well, there ya have it folks. Seven extraordinary places in America where you can celebrate our planet’s beauty.

Scott Kelby

Scott Kelby is the editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine and President of He is the co-host of the highly acclaimed weekly videocast The Grid, and teaches photography, Lightroom and Photoshop workshops around the world.

Scott is an award-winning author of more than 50 books, including The Digital Photography Books, The Adobe Photoshop Book for Digital Photographers, The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers, and Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It: Learn Step by Step How to Go from Empty Studio to

For more on Scott, see his blog

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