Thanks to the United State’s wide variety of geography and various climates, every U.S. state has unique and beautiful physical features. Beauty is subjective. Where there are the most beautiful states, there are the least beautiful - or the ugliest.
This is not to say that the ugliest states in the country don’t have other redeeming qualities or are completely undesirable places to live. They’re just not the most picturesque.
Please keep in mind that, from one person to the next, all the definitions of “ugly” or going to be different. One person can love low-lying deserts, and the next can have a preference for mountain forests. So, to answer the question of the ugliest states, let the data hold your answer.
Due to the subjectivity, we took a look at five different criteria. The first was Wallet Hub’s Greenest States list, where they judge each state based on 25 independent metrics, including air quality, water quality, soil quality, energy efficiency, green buildings per capita, the total capacity of solar PV systems, the share of renewable energy consumption, energy consumption per capita, gasoline consumption, daily water consumption per capita, and share of “smart” electricity meters.
The second type of data added was the total number of state parks and national parks, specifically the parkland managed by the National Park Service (NPS). And even though the NPS manages everything from battlefields to lakeshores, the only unit included in the tables below are parks. Thirdly, we included the acreage of each state, how many acres are dedicated to parks, and the percentage of each state that is covered in parks.
Fourth, the United States Environmental Protection Agency tracks data on the amount of trash per capita and landfills in each state.
Finally, the site Best Life created an algorithm that took all of the above into account and ranked each state. So, to recap, the following ranking is based on data including
Even though beauty can be found anywhere, some states undeniably have more than others. “Ugliness” is judged here based on states with fewer states and national parks, less energy regulation and management, and more landfills and trash per capita.
Even though you can enjoy the seashore, sailing, and plenty of Gilded Age mansions, Rhode Island sits in the number one spot for ugliest states. Most states stuck in between the District of Columbia, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston tend to be lacking in the beautiful nature department. There are only six thousand acres of parkland out of the 778,000, which is only 0.84% of the state. While being the smallest state, it holds five landfills and roughly 37 tons of trash per capita, which is the 17th highest rate in the country.
Wedged in between D.C. and New York City, The First State is second on this list and is considered to be a rather boring state, with some calling it just “a couple toll booths with representation in Congress” or “not large enough to hold more than three cars at a time.” As the second ugliest and the second smallest, there are four landfills and 33 tons of trash per capita, with only 1.69% of the state dedicated to parkland. There isn’t much nature in there to generally recommend it, but Delaware does have some of the cleanest beaches on the East Coast.
Known for the NASCAR Indianapolis 500 races and not much more, Indiana is the third ugliest state. With a green ranking of 39, less than 1% of dedicated parkland, and 89 landfills, there are not a lot of recommended sites to be seen. The state has views of Lake Michigan on its northern edge and idyllic rolling hills on its southern border, but there’s not much in between. There are a lot of cornfields.
Maryland has a lot to offer residents and is the fourth greenest state when judged on things like air quality, soil quality, and solar buildings per capita. On the other hand, only 100,000 of its 7 million acres are dedicated to parkland, there are only 46 state parks and about 48 landfills throughout the state. While many enjoy the beauty in the western half and coast, many tend to see central Maryland (along with Deleware, Eastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey as a long stretch of urban sprawl between D.C. and New York City.
With a mediocre green rating of 24, 1.02% of land dedicated to parks, and 74 landfills, Pennsylvania comes out as the fifth-ugliest state. Western and central Pennsylvania has rolling hills, adorable farms, and a good deal of state parks, but eastern Pennsylvania is mostly just stuff surrounding Philly. And we can’t forget about the industrial district. They do have Allegheny National Forest, which is very beautiful.
With a population of nearly 11.8 million, Ohio is the 7th most populated state, which makes sense when you learn that there are also 73 landfills and 48.8 tons of trash per capita. Naturally, Ohio has only dedicated 0.77% of its total acreage to parkland. The state is generally considered “very American”, but it’s not known for many (if any) breathtaking landscapes.
Louisiana has the 2nd worst green rating in the United States, a measly 0.10% of total acreage dedicated to parkland, 37 landfills, and 38.7 tons of trash per capita. With only swamplands, its history, and New Orleans to recommend it, you can understand how few feel this state offers much natural beauty. Louisiana is much more of a cultural hub than a nature destination.
While driving through Georgia, you might enjoy the northern mountains that trickle down to Atlanta, the central hills, and the eastern coast, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the state does very little to accentuate the natural beauty. Only 0.23% of the state's total acreage is dedicated to parkland, and there are 77 landfills with over 33.7 tons of trash per capita.
While there is much more to enjoy than just Chicago, there is little people know outside of the name of that one city. They have a low percentage of land dedicated to parks, as 1.39% of Illinois’ 36 million acres. There are 95 total landfills and the fourteenth highest amount of trash per capita at 38.7 tons. Additionally, Illinois is the 23rd greenest state, which is slightly above average.
Virginia has a green ranking of 18, a total of 0.98% of total acreage dedicated to parks, and 74 landfills, which is the 12th highest of all the states. As with most states on the east coast, the eastern half is much more urban, with the west half being much less populated. Directly opposing the District of Columbia, there is Arlington, and while there are some beautiful spots in Virginia, the data speaks for itself.
# of State Parks
# of National Parks
Park Area (acres)
Total Area (acres)
% of State Covered in State and Nat'l. Parks
Trash Per Capita (tons)