As the travel season approaches, many people want to escape the typical touristy areas and explore some of the most unique spots in America. Sure, there are the usual suspects when it comes to travel destinations, but what about trying something a little different, off the beaten path?
We’ve compiled a list of some unexpected places to visit in the US. From caves and canyons to forgotten towns and small islands, here are some off-the-beaten-path spots you need to add to your bucket list.
Dry Tortugas National Park, FL
Located 70 miles off the coast of Key West, Dry Tortugas is definitely off the beaten path. The only way to reach the park is by seaplane or boat. But those who make the trek can enjoy watersports like snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, or exploring Fort Jefferson.
Page is a small town in northern Arizona by the Utah border. This place is an outdoor lover’s paradise, with hiking, camping, and boating on Lake Powell as popular activities. Page is famous for Antelope Canyon, a beautiful sandstone canyon with unusual rock formations. It takes some work to get here, but it’s worth it.
Coyote Buttes, AZ
Continuing the desert theme, Coyote Buttes, aka “The Wave,” is a must-visit if you can get a permit. Permits are available online or in person, and it’s a lottery system. Located between Page, Arizona, and Kanab, Utah, this spot is popular for hikers and photographers. It’s a tough ticket to get, but well worth it if you can secure a permit.
Jekyll Island, GA
Jekyll Island is on the southeast Georgia coast and is a beautiful spot to relax and enjoy nature. Driftwood Beach is a great spot to spend time; walking, biking, and fishing are some of the favorite activities visitors love about this spot.
Apostle Islands, WI
If you want a serious adventure to get away from it all, consider the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. This is a popular spot for kayaking, with a boat launch at Meyers Beach, the perfect place to park a kayak trailer. Or you might enjoy a boat cruise around the islands.
Oracle is about 45 minutes north of Tucson and is widely known for the Biosphere 2 research facility. Biosphere houses various ecosystems under one roof, including a rainforest and desert environment. Tours are available, and it’s a terrific spot for families to spend a day. Other popular activities include hiking at Catalina State Park and on Mt. Lemmon.
Goldfield gives visitors of glimpse of the wild west. Experience a taste of the gold rush from Nevada’s past by visiting the well-preserved buildings of this “living ghost town.” This might be the spot for you if you are into interesting art and potential ghostly encounters.
Animas Forks, CO
Animas Forks is located about 15 miles outside Silverton, Colorado, and it’s definitely off the beaten path. The drive up the mountain to what remains of this once-bustling mining community is fantastic and beautiful. High-clearance vehicles are recommended, and rentals are available in Silverton.
Valley of Fire State Park, NV
About an hour outside Las Vegas is a hidden gem. Blockbuster movies like Total Recall and Transformers have been filmed in this otherworldly location. You’ll be surrounded by contrasting colors of red sandstone and gray and tan limestone. Valley of Fire State Park is an excellent escape from Sin City if you have the time.
Devils Tower, WY
Devils Tower is in northeast Wyoming, not too far off I-90. Summer is the busiest time of year to visit, which makes sense with the nice weather and plenty of freeway traffic. Devils Tower is a great spot to stop and stretch your legs if you need a break from driving east or west.
Hamilton Pool Preserve, TX
Hamilton Pool is an excellent spot to relax and spend the day outside of Austin, Texas. Those who love hiking will enjoy the trek to the beautiful pool. Make a reservation to secure your spot. The fall colors are beautiful too.
This once thriving gold mining town is pretty far from anywhere. It’s northeast of Yosemite National Park, close to the Nevada border. Today visitors can explore the ghost town to get a feeling of what this boom town was like when the population hit close to 10,000 people.
If you want to add a little slice of Bavaria to your life, Leavenworth is the spot. Leavenworth is about 2 1/2 hours east of Seattle, and the surrounding area is beautiful no matter what season it is. There are plenty of outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and white water rafting to keep folks entertained.
Moab is home to Arches National Park. The area is very popular for photography, hiking, and camping. People visit Moab from all over the world to get up close and personal with the unique landscape. If you can make it here, it’s worth a stop.
Block Island, RI
Block Island is a great place to decompress off the coast of Rhode Island. It’s an excellent spot for a day trip or a weekend getaway. You can get here by ferry or small airplane. Once on the island, visitors can explore on two feet or two wheels by renting a bike or moped.
Smith Rock State Park, OR
Central Oregon is magnificent, and Smith Rock State Park is no exception. It’s about 3 hours southeast of Portland, and visitors enjoy various outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, camping, and climbing. So get here if you can if you are an outdoor enthusiast.
Now we are talking seriously off the beaten path. Molokai offers unspoiled beauty and rugged coastlines in addition to outdoor activities. Fishing, snorkeling, and boating are popular, or you can chill and soak up the sun on one of the island’s beautiful beaches.
Broken Bow, OK
Broken Bow is about 3 1/2 hours northeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Broken Bow Lake is a big attraction for fishing, boating, and other watersports. Trout and bass fishing are especially popular. Camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities will keep visitors busy too.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, MN
Back to the shores of Lake Superior, we have Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. Nearby Pebble Beach is a great spot to launch a kayak. Of course, you need your own equipment, so if you have a kayak rack, that is ideal. Other popular activities include camping, hiking, fishing, and swimming.
Sleeping Bear Dunes, MI
The dunes are a big attraction, no matter the season. Summertime is especially fun to climb around the touring dunes for excellent views of Lake Michigan. Hiking, camping, and fishing are all popular activities in the area. Kayaking is another way to get a unique view of this incredible area.
Port Townsend, WA
Port Townsend is located on the east side of Puget Sound. The quickest way to get to Port Townsend from the Seattle area is by car. Visitors can enjoy the local beaches or explore the nearby Olympic National Park. If you want to take a trip off the beaten path from Seattle, Port Townsend is a great spot.
Sure, Plymouth is home to a famous rock, but this town has so much more to offer. The history is undeniable, and it’s also an easy day trip from the Boston area. This beautiful coast community is a great place to stop if you are headed to Cape Cod.
Nestled in the San Juan Mountains, Ouray, Colorado, is a little slice of heaven. The hot springs are one of the main attractions. Hiking, biking, camping, and climbing are all popular outdoor activities. Skiing at Telluride is a great way to spend some time in winter. For a unique experience, experience ice climbing in the winter.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ
Canyon de Chelly is not easy to get to, but that is part of the allure. It’s about a 5 hour’s drive from Phoenix to get here, so it’s definitely off the beaten path. However, the towering rock formations and native dwellings are worth the trip.
White Sands National Park, NM
White Sands is a fantastic place to explore. The park is known for its vast dunes of gypsum sand. These shifting sands create a unique landscape, and you can walk through ever-changing hills and valleys. Not only does the terrain provide a fun challenge, but it also offers some stunning views of the surrounding desert.