The United States has a lot of amazing places to visit and some of them are very crowded due to their huge popularity. But there are also some off-beaten and best hidden Vacation spots in the US that you should visit if you want a vacation away from the crowds. From some underrated National Parks to historic towns and unique beaches, these hidden gems are worth including in your US bucket list.
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Best Hidden Vacation Spots in the US
Ice Lake Basin, Colorado
By Meg Atteberry of Fox in the Forest
Set close to popular Ouray, Colorado, theIce Lake Basin Trailis touted as one of the best secret hikes in Colorado for those who love idyllic mountain scenery and quiet hikes. Lqocated inside the San Juan National Forest, the trail will treat you with waterfalls dropping from high cliffs sides, gorgeous alpine meadows, and vistas of insanely vibrant blue lakes backdropped by a cirque of 13,000-foot peaks.
The Ice Lake Basin Trail starts at South Mineral Campground. To get there (from Ouray), drive south on the US-550. After several miles, drop towards Mineral Creek, where you’ll need to make a sharp right onto Forest Road 7. Continue down a hill and you’ll reach the trailhead. In total, it takes approximately one hour to get here from Ouray. Entry to San Juan National Forest is free and the trail is open all year round without the requirement of any special permit to do the hike.
Despite its beauty, Ice Lake Basin is considered one of the best hidden vacation spots in the US due to the fact that it’s quite a challenging hike (don’t worry too much about it, with so much beautiful scenery around, you’ll be making plenty of stops to catch your breath). At the end of the trail, you’ll be treated to views of Ice Lake and Island Lake, both of which are two of the most quintessential views of Colorado’s alpine beauty.
Note that this is a pretty challenging hike, so make sure to acclimatize properly. Moreover, make sure to hike this trail during a sunny day as the lakes look even more vibrant when the sun is out, and in order to not disturb the ecosystem, do not swim in the lake. Due to limited parking, it’s worth arriving early here to secure a parking spot.
Keep aside a total of six to eight hours for this hike or take it easy with one whole day to complete it. However, if you want to explore a little longer, you can stay at Ouray where you’ll find ample amenities. Along Forest Road 7, you can also find a few campgrounds, all of which offer basic amenities and work on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Zion National Park, Utah
By Kenny Chow of Knycx Journeying
Located in southwestern Utah, Zion National Park is a beautiful red rock wonderland closest to the small town of Springdale. It is also an hour drive from the city of Saint George, and 2.5 hrs drive from Las Vegas, making it an easy day trip from there.
Self-driving is the easiest way to get to Zion National Park but if you are coming from St. George then it is recommended to book a Zion shuttle that costs only 1 USD as, from March 13, 2021, the Zion Canyon scenic drive is closed to private vehicles when shuttles are in service. Zion Shuttle Tickets must be purchased online at Recreation.gov or using the Recreation.gov mobile app as the tickets are not being sold at the park.
FromLas Vegas, self-driving is the best option toreach Zion National Parkas it gives the opportunity to make a stop at Valley of Fire state park which is totally worth it.
Visitors do not require a permit for the general visit and for a day hike in the Narrows; but permits are required for other activities such as backpacking, biking, rock climbing, and canyoneering. The park is open all year round (24/7) and private vehicle access costs $35, valid for 7 days; for an individual visit who relies on the national park shuttle to get around, the ticket is $20.
Though Zion National Park ranks under the top 10 popular National Park in the US, it still contains some of the lesser-known trails and SecretSlot Canyons. Zion Canyon offers a stunning landscape, an expansive scale, and has an average height of 2,000 feet. The great diversity of rock formations makes it perfect for different kinds of activities like hiking or rock climbing. The natural rock arches is also a spectacular feature in Zion but it could sometimes be overshadowed by the nearby Grand Canyon.
The national park covers a sparse area of 590 square kilometers with desert, riparian, woodland, and coniferous forest. The main sight of the national park is Zion Canyon and the iconic and epic views of Zion can be seen by doing the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail. Some of the best things to do in Zion National Park include the popular Narrows hike, the dangerous Angel’s Landing hike, Zion Mount Carmel Highway, and the scenic drive of Zion Canyon.
With so many places to see and things to do in Zion National Park, tourists should explore the area for a few days by setting the base at the town of Springdale, staying in a lodge, or by going camping.
INSIDER TIP: One perfect spot to truly appreciate the magic of the rocks in the park is under the Great White Throng. The sunlight changes colors during sunset and the giant rock also changes color dramatically from red, violet to white.
Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming
By Lotte ofgezondweekmenu.nl
Set in northeasternWyoming nearHulettinCrook County, Devil’s Tower National Monument is the first US National Monument. It is an amazing geologic phenomenon, a single 867 feet tall rock rising up from the surrounding prairie land. Sacred to many indigenous people, there are many oral histories and narratives about the Devil’s Tower which is also known as Bear’s Tipi, Grizzly Bear Lodge, Tso-aa, and several other names.
It is very convenient to get to Devil’s Tower National Monument from big cities like Rapid City and Gillette. Gillette is the nearest big city and only about an hour from Devils Tower. However, Hulett is the nearest but smallest village and only a 12-minute drive. To visit Devils Tower National Monument you need to purchase a $25 pass (vehicle including all passengers), which is valid for 7 days. If you have the National Parks Pass, you don’t need to pay a separate fee.
Devils Tower is often overlooked and doesn’t feature on many Wyoming itineraries, but it’s a very special place to visit. There are many beautiful hiking trails and the scenery is quite spectacular. The most popular hike in the park is the 1.3-mile Tower Trail that goes around the base of the entire tower and guided hikes are available. You can also climb the Devil’s Tower.
If you are into rock climbing, stay longer as this is one of the best rock-climbing locations in North America.Some of the best things to do at Devil’s tower include Red Bed Trail from where you get to see the tower from all angles and the views over Belle Fourche River Valley are also pretty; South Side Trail and Valley View Trail.
Note that it can get quite hot in the middle of the day and there isn’t much shade on many of the trails so wear a hat, bring plenty of water, and splash on a high-factor sunscreen. Allow at least a day to explore Devil’s Tower and its surroundings. There is a lovely campground, the Belle Fourche River Campground where you can either pitch your tent or park your RV. Admire the spectacular starry skies and catch the sunrise over the Devil’s Tower.
Apostle Islands Ice Caves, Wisconsin
Located in Lake Superior, off the Bayfield Peninsula in northern Wisconsin, Apostle Islands are a group of 22 Islands managed by the National Park Service and the Ice Caves are an absolutely remarkable formation to see in the winters. The closest big city to the Apostle Islands is Duluth which is around an hour’s drive and the visitor centers for the Islands are located both in Ashland and Bayfields.
The Ice caves are located in the Meyers Beach areaand are only accessible from late January to late February when Lake Superior freezes. The reason why Apostle Islands Ice Caves is one of the hidden vacation spots in the US is that the lake needs to be completely and solidly frozen before the park service allows people to visit and walk across the lake to see the ice caves which is why they are not crowded and rarely visited.
There is a small fee for people of age 16+ yrs to visit the ice caves. To reach the caves, you have to hike 2 miles roundtrip on the frozen Lake Superior and it is advised to be dressed in layers wearing comfortable winter hiking shoes. The wind can make it hard to move forward or may even change the ice formations so always check the conditions before you visit.
Visiting the ApostleIslands Ice Caves makes for a great weekend trip. There are plenty of lodging options and amazing restaurants inBayfield to choose from.
St. Augustine, Florida
By Amy of The Florida Travel Girl
Set south of the bustling city of Jacksonville in North Florida, the historic and ancient town of St. Augustine is one hidden gem worth visiting that will take you on a trip back in time. Simply take 95-S to US-1 and in less than an hour, you will come across this coastal port. If you are not interested in exploring on your own then a day tour to St. Augustine is the best option.
Charming cobblestone streets, historical landmarks, and quaint shops make St. Augustine one of the best hidden vacation spots in the US. One of the highlights to check out while visiting St. Augustine is the Masonry Fort, Castillo de San Marcos. This is the oldest fort in the continental United States. One can explore the fortress and see a cannon launching, as well as amazing views, for $15 per person. Checking out the museums and other attractions, such as the St. Augustine Lighthouse and the Lightner Museum are some of the other things to do at St. Augustine.
There are also dozens of excellent restaurants and bars to try, such as The Floridian, Odd Birds, and The Blue Hen Café. A visit to the St. Augustine Distillery is practically mandatory, for their fun tour is free and includes drink samples! After a few days, heading over to the beach area is ideal. To get the full experience, staying at a historic bed and breakfast, like The Cozy Inn or Bayfront Wescott House is recommended. However, Marriott has a Casa Monica hotel that is raved about here as well.
The best time of year to visit St. Augustine is the holidays when the Night of Lights covers the streets in dazzling Christmas lights, but the fall and spring are also lovely. No matter what time of year, checking out the hidden gems of St. Augustine is the best way to get an experience of old Florida, before Disney World and the many tourist attractions took over.
Tettegouche State Park
By Martha of Quirky Globetrotter
Tettegouche State Park is located just north of Silver Bay in Lake County.To reach there, take highway 61 and you will find the Visitor’s Center on the lakeside of the highway. If you’re starting your trip from the Twin Cities, Tettegouche State Park is a bit of a hike. A little over 3.5 hours by car makes the park a quintessential stop on a weekend trip.
The daily fee of Tettegouche park is $7, but if you are exploring more of the North Shore, opt for the annual Minnesota State Park permit for $35.
What makes Tettegouche one of the best hidden vacation spots along the North Shore is the impeccable panorama views seen while hiking to Shovel Point. The trail has over 300 steps, so it’s definitely a glute and leg workout. Another hiking trail that shouldn’t be missed is the trail to High Falls, the highest waterfall located entirely within Minnesota which offers an up-close view of the Baptism River’s powerful current. Take your time to cool off in the cool water before hiking back through the thick forests.
Furthermore, hikers can watch the sky erupt into a masterpiece of colors, best for early a.m. risers who are sunrise aficionados. The trails at Tettegouche State Park are all moderate-level and most clock in just under 3 miles. The park also features Waterfalls, Wildlife/Peregrine Falcons, Rock Climbing, and cross-Country Skiing.
Depending on how many trails you’d like to hike, you can stay as long as you want or even for half a day. If staying overnight, there is a campground at Tettegouche State Park, otherwise, there are several other campgrounds in nearby state forests and even municipal camping in Silver Bay.
LOCAL TIP: Minnesota has numerous craft breweries, so grab a six-pack and enjoy it around the campfire.
The Pirate Tower of Laguna Beach, California
By Olivia of Girl With Blue Sails
Located in beautiful Laguna Beach, California, the mysteriousPirate Tower of Laguna Beach, California, rises out of the rocks and sand as if out of a fairytale.
To visit the pirate tower, plan about 20 minutes to walk from the neighborhood, down the stairs, and alongside the secluded section of the beach. Once at the tower, plan at least 40 minutes to explore and take photos. There are no time restrictions or required permits, but it’s best to check the weather and tide reports ahead of time. Street parking is required to access the neighborhood staircase that descends to the sand.
While it’s a popular source of inspiration for photographers and treasure seekers, it remains a hidden gem and off the beaten path for regular beachgoers because the Pirate Tower hides against the rocks of Victoria Beach. While it turns out this iconic beach tower did not get its origin from pirates, its history does involve some pirate tales. It was originally built in the 1920s as a private staircase down to the sand. It later became the property of a retired naval captain, who notoriously wore pirate clothing and entertained local children with pirate stories. He even used to hide gold coins at the base of the tower.
If time allows, there is much more to explore at the beach, including the surrounding shops and restaurants. There are tons of hotels nearby, but the closest one to the tower is called Casa Laguna Hotel and Spa, a beautiful hacienda-style beachfront property. No matter the length of visit to the pirate tower, it’s recommended to bring a bathing suit, a towel, and a sharp eye for any remaining gold coins.
TIP: A tip for visitors is to search for the tower in the morning or evening, as street parking becomes scarce midday.
By Maddy of Madelyne on the Move
Located in Northern New York, about 4 hours north ofManhattanand two hours south ofMontreal, The Adirondack Region is one of the most underrated destinations in the USA. This quiet, easygoing mountain territory spans 5,000 square miles and consists of twelve different regions – all of which boast their own unique experiences ranging from incredible hikes to stunning wineries and so much more.
Since the park is so huge, you will definitely want a vehicle in order to get around. While entry to the park is free and does not require any sort of permit, you will likely drive through tolls to get there if coming from a major city such as Albany or Syracuse.
The park is located in a more remote region of the United States and does not have a National Park designation which is why it stays relatively uncrowded. Beautiful, diverse landscapes that are free of crowds make the Adirondacks one of the best hidden vacation spots in the US and an outdoor lover’s paradise – especially in the summer when the entire park is extremely lush or the fall when the park is full of vibrant colors.
Some of the more popular areas like Lake Placid attract more tourists due to the availability of extensive hiking trails but even that fails in comparison to more popular areas of theUS, such as the Smoky Mountains. One can also enjoy canoeing and kayaking in Saranac Lake.
If you are feeling adventurous, take the ferry from Port Kent, NY (1 hour east of Lake Placid) over to Burlington, VT to enjoy an unforgettable dinner on Lake Champlain. A week would give most visitors time to enjoy the area without feeling rushed and Lake Placid and Saranac Lake areas are two of the most convenient places to stay to experience the best of the Adirondacks.
By Nicole of The Abroad Blog
Jekyll Island is located off the coast of Georgia and is part of the Golden Isles, along with Saint Simon’s Island, Little Saint Simon’s Island, and Sea Island. Renowned for its golf courses, beaches, shopping, sea turtle center, and home to historic landmarks, it is one of the best-kept secret vacation spots on the east coast.
The easiest way to access Jekyll Island is by car. There are two major airports nearby- Jacksonville, FL, and Savannah, GA. From Jacksonville, Jekyll Island is a little over an hour’s drive, and from Savannah, it is a 1.5-hour-long drive. Once on Jekyll Island, it’s easy to explore by car or on foot. If you are someone who loves an adventure then try renting a golf cart. Red Bug Motors is a great option as their electric vehicles are of good quality and will get you anywhere you want to go.
Jekyll Island is quite small hence there isn’t too much to do here making it a perfect spot for a family vacation. The 2 must-see attractions on the Island are Driftwood beach and Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Located on Jekyll’s north end and considered as the icon of the Island with its unique natural beauty, Driftwood Beach has been deemed one of the most romantic beaches in the United States and is a gem. Don’t be surprised if you catch a wedding here while visiting.
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is the turtle hospital and rehabilitation center located on the island. Not only is this place super educational, but it’s also the only one like it in Georgia. This hospital allows the public to not only learn about different sea turtles but to actually visit them in their rehabilitation tanks. Some other things to do in Jekyll Island include riding the bike trails to enjoy the outdoors, going golfing, and visiting the Jekyll Island Museum.
It’s recommended to stay on Jekyll Island for about 3 days to enjoy its amenities. Most people opt to stay along the beachfront, located on the south end of the island, in hotels such as the Hilton or the Westin.
By Lori of Naples Florida Travel Guide
Thinking about Florida may tell you that there aren’t many hidden gems left that are not already discovered by tourists, but then you probably haven’t visited the artsy barrier island town ofMatlachaFlorida. This tiny village located less than an hour from Ft. Myers in southwest Florida is definitely worth a visit!
Matlacha was once and still is a place to go for the best saltwater fishing in Florida. But today, the colorful artists who call it home have taken to creating a whimsical and wonderful little enclave by the sea, filled with amazing art galleries, salty bars, fishing, and kayak companies, and bait and tackle shops. Be sure and visit the Leoma Lovegrove Gallery, for her artwork defines the colorful community.
You can visit the town in one day, but nearby Pine Island offers nature trails to hike, the Calusa Blueway to paddle, and tasty joints where you can grab some fresh fish tacos and cold beer, and even be back in nearby Ft. Myers for dinner. That’s assuming you ever want to leave.
If you’re looking to spend the night, Tarpon Lodge offers Pine Island’s best waterfront accommodations. Enjoy dinner on the veranda and take in a fiery sunset right from your table. Just across the street, pick up the Heritage Trail and hike through some of Pine Island’s most natural settings.
With Pine Island as your base, you can explore other parts of southwest Florida from Sarasota to the north, and Naples, Marco Island, and the famous Florida Everglades to the south.