Often, we hear about the number one tourist destination or the most popular places to visit when we travel, but what about those hidden gems no one talks about? Here we’ve put together a list of the best hidden gems in the United States to visit this year. Whether you’re looking for a quieter trip, or have just been everywhere else, there hidden gems will not disappoint!
Encompassing 40,000 acres of bright red Aztec sandstone, Valley of Fire State Park is a great place to check out if you plan on being in the Las Vegas area. Be sure to check out the visitor center to learn about petrified trees and petroglyphs over 2,000 years old. Camping in the park is open year-round, though it is preferable to not visit in the heat of summer.
Address: 29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV 89040
Located along the California coast in Mendocino County lies the historic town of Fort Bragg. In the early 20th century, people dumped their trash off the cliffs by the ocean. The coast was later cleaned up in the 1960’s as the environmental movement began. However, after years of dumping glass into the ocean here, the shoreline is now covered in pebbles of sea glass. This area is known as the glass beach. Come check out this beautiful beach which has given new life to the debris dumped from the cliffs.
Address: Fort Bragg, CA
If you’re looking for a quick stop on a road trip along Interstate 90, Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming is a great place to visit for a couple of hours. Combine a trip to Devils Tower with recreation in the Black Hills, South Dakota. The tower stands 867 feet above its base. Although most people believe the tower formed from a volcano, this is not the case. Devils Tower is the result of a magma intrusion into sedimentary rock below ground. Over time, the softer sedimentary rock eroded away, leaving Devils Tower behind. During your visit the 1.3-mile Tower Trail takes you around the base of the tower.
Address: Highway 110, Devils Tower, WY 82714
Located in the Allegheny mountains, of Tucker County, Blackwater Falls is one of the most photographed attractions in West Virginia. The 57-foot waterfall has an amber color to its water due to the tannic acid from hemlock and red spruce leaves. To view the waterfall, there are steps, as well as many viewing platforms. Other things to do in the park include hiking, biking, geocaching, camping, fishing, swimming, etc.
Address: 1584 Blackwater Lodge Rd, Davis, WV 26260
Located at the east entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is the hidden gem that has everything Colorado. Any outdoor activity you can think of, Estes Park has it. Choose anything from hiking, biking, rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, fishing or golf. Any activity you choose, you can find a guide outfitter in town. These guided outdoor adventures are what the town thrives off of. Be sure to book a trip with a local guide to get the most out of your experience in Estes Park, Colorado.
Address: Estes Park, CO
Located between Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan, Ludington State Park has miles of shoreline along both lakes. This hidden gem has a lot to offer from sandy beaches and scenic sand dunes to an iconic lighthouse. There is great wildlife viewing in the park along the extensive trail system. Be sure to check out the history of Big Sable Point Lighthouse while you’re there.
Address: 8800 M-116, Ludington, MI 49431
On a hot day, enjoy a swim in the cool, refreshing water of Hamilton Pool. Hamilton Pool Preserve is a nature preserve under the federal Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan. This hidden gem has grown in popularity over the last decade, so be sure to secure a reservation well in advance if you wish to visit the pool. Reservations are required to protect the canyon by limiting the number of visitors per day. In addition to swimming, there are short hikes throughout the park. Be sure to be on the lookout for the endangered Golden-cheeked warbler!
Address: 24300 Hamilton Pool Road, Dripping Springs, TX 78620
Also Read: Top 10 Weekend Getaways in Texas
Located in southwestern, Ohiopyle State Park acts as a gateway to the Laurel Highlands. The main attraction when visiting is the Youghiogheny [yawki-gaw-nee] River Gorge. At Meadow Run, ride one of the two natural waterslides. For those seeking more adventure, sign up for a guided river trip down the “Yough.”
Address: 124 Main St, Ohiopyle, PA 15470
A hidden gem in the Great Smoky Mountains is the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Slow down and enjoy a scenic mountain drive through old growth forest. The road gets its name from the Roaring Fork, a mountain stream influenced by heavy rain. The drive is 5.5 miles on a one-way loop and take you past log cabins, gist mills and other historic buildings that have been well-preserved over time. If you’re looking to spend time out of the car, Rainbow Falls is one of the more popular waterfalls in the park. The 5.4-mile roundtrip hike is moderately strenuous so be prepared before hitting the trail.
Address: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN 37783
Located in the finger lakes region of New York, Hammondsport is a cool small town, with a lot to offer. You can admire the beautiful views of Keuka Lake and can indulge in various water sport activities. Explore the lake and rent kayaks or jet skis in town or book a fishing trip for the day. For cold days, check out the museums, wine tasting and breweries around town.
Address: Hammondsport, NY
The Cache River State Natural Area is a Wetland of International Importance in southernmost Illinois. The park is divided into three different regions; Little Black Slough, Lower Cache River Swamps and Glass Hill. Each of these regions contains different habitats ranging from migrant birds to many other rare species. Be sure to check out the 200 years old cypress trees. These trees have large flared buttresses over 40 feet in circumference at the base. Learn more about the wetlands and what they have to offer at the Barkhausen-Cache Wetlands Center.
Address: 930 Sunflower Ln, Belknap, IL 62908
Meow Wolf, an interactive art exhibit in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a cool experience for all ages. Come and explore the House of Eternal Return, a mystery house that was brought to life with help from George R. R. Martin. Inside, the entire exhibit tells a non-linear story of a mysterious family. Travel from one room to another dimension through secret doors and hidden portals. With collaboration of over 100 local artists, Meow Wolf is not something to be missed in Santa Fe.
Address: 1352 Rufina Cir, Santa Fe, NM 87507
Come and explore the incredible blue-green waters of Supai, Arizona. The remote Village of Supai near the Grand Canyon is a hidden gem of incredible year-round waterfalls. What makes this place special is that it’s only accessible by foot, even the mail is delivered by mule. To get there you must hike 8 miles down. However, once you are there enjoy a refreshing dip in the waterfalls and travertine pools of Havasu Creek. From there it’s still another 2 miles hiking to the camping area. This is a great place to enjoy a dark night sky for star gazing.
Address: Supai, AZ
Come explore the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore of the shores of Lake Superior. The chain of 21 islands is a great place to come explore via kayaking, island camping or hiking. The islands are made up of breathtaking rock formations. Be sure to check out at least one of the six historic lighthouses on the islands. Boat tours and sailing charters are available to take between the Apostle Islands and the mainland. The ferry is also available for those wishing to take their car. Get the most out of your experience by taking a guided kayak tour of the islands.
Address: 415 Washington Ave, WI 54814
This unique outdoor art display is a cool place to stop in the Nevada desert. The International Car Forest is located outside Goldfield on US Highway 95. During its days, Goldfield was once one of the wealthiest boomtowns in Nevada. Sunk deep into the ground, or balanced on top of one another, 40 cars are on display at this outdoor gallery. Each car is painted or decorated in some way by different artists. The exhibit is free and provides many great photography opportunities.
Address: 1111 East, Crystal Ave, Goldfield, NV 89013
Near Cape Perpetua in Oregon, Thor’s Well seems to endlessly suck water down from the ocean. During low tide the well in inactive, but as the tide rises, the well fills and begins to drain water from the Pacific Ocean. Although it may seem bottomless, the well is only 20 feet or so. Some researchers believe the that the well began as an underwater cave along the coast. Over time, waves eroded the cave ceiling so thing that the cave collapsed into the well we see today. The best time to visit Thor’s Well is high tide or during a storm when the water is high. Though it’s best to visit when the water is high, be extremely careful not to get swept into the hole during these times.
Address: Highway 101, Yachats, OR 97498
If you're going to visit Juneau, take some time to check out the Mendenhall Glacier and the historic visitor center. The Mendenhall Glacier is a 13-mile-long river of ice that flows into Mendenhall Lake. In addition to the glacier, there are plenty of easy to moderate hiking trails in the area. Explore one of the trails and you may get an opportunity to see black bears, bald eagles, beavers, porcupines, mountain goats and migrant birds. The best time of the year to visit is in the summer, but the trails are open year-round. In the winter the visitor center is only open Friday-Sunday.
Address: 8150 Mendenhall Loop Rd, Tongass National Forest, Juneau, AK 99801
Unique rock pinnacles make up the landscape of Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona. You can enjoy this park by an 8-mile paved scenic drive through the park or exploring the 17 miles of day use trails. Be sure to take your time to look around as Chiricahua is a premier birding spot in the desert southwest. Stop by the Faraway Ranch Historic District for a tour and to learn about the history of the land. Just south of the park is an ancient volcano. The rock pinnacles that make up this unique landscape have been formed from the erosion of compacted ash.
Address: E Bonita Canyon Rd, Willcox, AZ 85643
Located along the coast of Lake Superior, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan is a cool hidden gem to explore year-round. From Sandstone cliffs, sand dunes and wild shoreline to waterfalls, inland lakes and deep forest, there are lots of outdoor beauty to explore. This rugged coastline is shaped by the powerful forces of Lake Superior. Stop by one of the many visitor centers to learn about the 100 miles of trails to explore or talk with a ranger about a guided tour. Be sure to check out the maritime historic lighthouses and coast guard stations.
Address: Munising, MI 49862
Off the coast of Rhode Island in the Atlantic Ocean is a little island called Block Island. This little tourist island is a great place to explore if you’re looking for a quite getaway. Since there are no tour buses on the island, the best way to explore everything is via a guided taxi tour. Taxi drivers are all locals and give you great insight on the history of the island as well as best places to eat and see. At the north end of the island check out the granite North Light as well as the Block Island Wildlife Refuge. On the southern end, Mohegan Bluffs tower 150 above sea level. In fall, explore the island with a self-guided bike tour, or in the warmer months, try a guided kayak tour around the island.
Address: Block Island, RI
Located 70 miles west from Key West, Florida is Dry Tortugas National Park. Though the park is only 100 square miles, small compared to some, the majority of the park area contains water. Since the park is mostly water, Dry Tortugas is only accessible by boat or sea plane. One of the main attractions of Dry Tortugas is the 19th century Fort Jefferson. This is one of the largest forts built-in the 19th century. The best way to explore the park is by water. Explore marine life by snorkeling, diving or boating.
Address: Key West, FL 33040
If you’re looking for a small-town getaway with big adventure, look no further, Fayetteville, West Virginia has it all. Downtown there is great food, shopping even a beautiful town park. If you’re looking to add some adventure to your stay, sign up for a float down the New River Gorge National Waterway. Be sure to check out the New River Gorge Bridge while you’re there too. There are plenty of trails for hiking and mountain biking, as well as great rock-climbing routes.
Address: Fayetteville, WV
The Katy Trail is the longest rail-trail in the country and attracts people of all ages with a variety of interests. The rail-trail is a great place for bicycling, walking, horseback riding, bird watching or learning about the rail history.
Address: 101 Lewis St Machens to Clinton, Boonville, MO 65039
If you’ve ever wondered what makes Minnesota the land of 10,000 lakes, then check out Brainerd Lakes. Here there are many water sport options to choose from. Try your hand at a water ski lesson or sign up for a guided fishing trip. If you’re looking for something slow-paced, explore one of the many lakes or mellow rivers in the area by kayak. For those looking for dry land activities, there are plenty of mountain biking and hiking trails to explore. Downtown is a great place to explore the arts. During the summer, be sure to check out the Lakes Area Music Festival which brings many big-name artists to town each summer.
Address: Brainerd Lakes, MN
Just two hours north of Reno, Nevada is the incredible sight of Fly Geyser. The geyser stands almost 6 feet tall over a field of grass and reeds. However, Fly Geyser has not always been there. Fly Geyser was created accidentally in 1964 by a geothermal power company. The power company was drilling a test well on this site and when they were finished either left the well uncapped or insufficiently capped. Regardless, the scalding hot geothermal well water as able to shoot out of the drilled well and began to form Fly Geyser. Today the structure is almost 6 feet tall and brightly colored. This is due to sediment deposits as the water shoots out and thermophilic algae growing on the sides. This alga particularly flourishes in moist hot environment such as Fly Geyser.
Address: County Rd 34, Gerlach, NV 89412