Are you looking for some of the best hidden gems in the United States? There are so many great places around the country just waiting to be explored!
While most people add destinations like the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon to their bucket list, those willing to venture off the beaten path are in for quite a treat!
From quirky small towns to stunning natural wonders, these hidden gems are waiting to be discovered by travelers seeking something a little different.
In this post, I’m going to share the top off-the-beaten-path destinations in the US for travelers looking for a new adventure.
Top Hidden Gems in the United States
Voyageurs National Park – Minnesota
Situated in the Northwoods of northern Minnesota is Voyageurs National Park. This unique park is less visited than many others in the country and really showcases Minnesota’s beauty.
Known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, you’ll get to explore those lakes in Voyageurs since over ⅓ of the park is underwater.
From wandering through the park’s hiking trails to kayaking through the blue water and staying at the gorgeous lakeside resorts, a trip to Voyageurs National Park will allow you to disconnect from everyday life.
Valley of Fire State Park – Nevada
Only an hour outside of Las Vegas is Valley of Fire State Park, which is a completely unexpected destination, being so close to the city.
The park boasts stunning red sandstone formations that are millions of years old. As a visitor, you can hike through canyons and over sand dunes, marvel at ancient petroglyphs, and even camp out under the stars.
A few of the most popular hikes include the Fire Wave Trail, where you’ll see something similar to The Wave in Arizona, the White Domes Trail, and Elephant Rock Loop. While on the trails, keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, bighorn sheep, and more.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – Wisconsin
Wisconsin is often overlooked, as is the Midwest, when it comes to travel destinations in the US, but that doesn’t mean that it should be skipped over!
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a stunning location along the coast of Lake Superior. Out in the water, you’ll find 22 islands that are just waiting to be explored.
You can either take a sea kayak out to the islands, or you can explore inland on the hiking trails that wind along the shoreline. During the winter, when the conditions are just right, you can walk along the lake and explore the sandstone caves that are found lining the shore.
Grand Marais – Minnesota
Found in the center of the most beautiful place in Minnesota, the North Shore, is Grand Marais. This small town features beautiful hiking trails, some of Minnesota’s best campgrounds, gorgeous viewpoints, and great food.
While in Grand Marais, you can enjoy spending time on Lake Superior, whether that be wandering around on the shore collecting rocks or hiking on the trails to see overlooks of the water.
Near Grand Marais, there are eight different state parks that feature beautiful nature and opportunities for seeing waterfalls, changing colors during the fall, and enjoying the outdoors.
And time in the small town will allow you to visit local shops, eat at delicious restaurants, and wander through Main Street.
Along with Grand Marais, there are also several other small towns, such as Two Harbors, along the North Shore that are worth a visit.
Mackinac Island – Michigan
Nestled just off the shores of Mackinaw City in northern Michigan is the small island of Mackinac Island in Lake Huron.
Mackinac Island is known for its historic buildings, beautiful architecture, and city parks that allow visitors to enjoy nature.
Visitors can explore the island on foot, by bike, or by horse-drawn carriage, but no vehicles are allowed on the streets!
Wandering along Main Street of Mackinac Island is one of the best things to do, especially for the lingering smell of fresh fudge that you can indulge in.
Another great activity is visiting Mackinac Island State Park, where you can hike and enjoy the amazing views of Lake Huron.
Fort Bragg – California
Fort Bragg is a charming coastal town located in California, well known for being an instrumental location in the World Wars.
One of the most popular things to see in Fort Bragg is the popular glass beach, where you’ll find thousands of pieces of colorful sea glass.
Other things to do in the small town include wandering along the coastline at places like Mackerricher State Park or walking and biking on the Fort Bragg Coastal Trail.
A few museums are also located in Fort Bragg, where you can learn about the town’s history.
Solvang – California
This adorable town is located just outside of Santa Barbara and will transport you over to Denmark, without ever having to leave the US.
Solvang is a United States hidden gem, where you can stroll through the streets lined with windmills, half-timbered buildings, and colorful flower gardens, all reflecting the town’s Danish heritage.
You can also indulge in Danish pastries and other treats, including restaurants with a Danish theme to them.
Many small shops line the streets that you can wander into and grab a souvenir to bring home.
Smith Rock State Park – Oregon
When most people think of Oregon, they don’t think of the desert, but at Smith Rock State Park, you can experience something unique.
Towering rock formations jut out of the ground and are surrounded by a snaking river. In the distance, you can see mountains like Mount Bachelor and Mount Hood on clear days.
Visitors can hike through the park’s many trails, climb the challenging rock faces, or enjoy a leisurely picnic by the river. In fact, rock climbers come from all over to hike here, because of the amazing views and routes for beginners and advanced climbers.
Smith Rock is an amazing destination in Oregon to go off the beaten path.
Garden of the Gods – Colorado
While most visitors head to Rocky Mountain National Park and large cities like Denver, Garden of the Gods is a beautiful destination that is perfect for families.
Found just an hour south of Denver, you’ll find towering, red rock formations at Garden of the Gods.
Short trails wind through the rocks and allow you to really enjoy the amazing scenery that feels so out of place here. Many people also enjoy rock climbing in the park.
There’s also a visitor center, where you can learn all about how the formations were formed and get a few maps for exploring the park.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Michigan
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is one of the most beautiful places in the Midwest, and is home to miles of shoreline along Lake Superior.
At Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, you can enjoy towering sandstone cliffs that jut out of the clear waters of Lake Superior. These cliffs form unique shapes and patterns, made of bright red and orange colors.
You can hike along the shoreline to enjoy views of the lake from above, or you can take a kayak tour along the coast to explore the beautiful cliffs that rise out of the water.
The park is also home to waterfalls, beaches, and wildlife to spot while you explore.
The Ozark Mountains – Missouri
Mountains are some of the most popular destinations for vacations, but many people don’t realize that the Midwest has its own mountains!
The Ozarks in Missouri are a set of rolling hills, plateaus, and beautiful landscapes which are great for scenic drives, hikes, and exploring.
A few of the best places to stop in the Ozarks include Lake of the Ozarks State Park, hike along the Ozark Trail, or pay a visit to the Live Entertainment Capital of the World, Branson.
From exploring charming small towns to going for an all-day hike, the Ozarks are a fantastic hidden gem in the United States.
Devil’s Tower – Wyoming
When people take a trip to Wyoming, they typically visit the western side of the state and hit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park.
But often overlooked is Devil’s Tower, located in northeastern Wyoming, this stunning geological formation rises to a height of 867 feet above the surrounding terrain.
It was formed by magma rising underneath the surface. It’s considered sacred by Northern Plains Indians and is one of the most unique land formations in the state.
Devil’s Tower is a popular destination for rock climbers, hikers, and tourists, and has been designated as a National Monument since 1906.
Stowe – Vermont
If charming small towns are your thing, then Stowe, Vermont is going to be the ultimate destination for you!
This adorable town is nestled in the rolling hills of New England and is surrounded by pure beauty. Especially during the fall time, the natural scenery around Stowe is phenomenal!
Stowe is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with activities like hiking, skiing, and snowboarding available year-round.
Visitors can explore the picturesque village center, which is home to a variety of shops and restaurants, and no trip to Stowe would be complete without sampling some of the fresh maple syrup.
Finger Lakes Region – New York
You might not think of the outdoors when you imagine New York, as most imagine the bustling center of Times Square in NYC.
But in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York, you can wander through gorgeous canyons, flowing waterfalls, and stunning hiking trails.
The area is known for its beautiful scenery as well as its high concentration of local breweries and wineries.
One of the best places to visit is Watkins Glen State Park, where you can find lots of waterfalls to hike to. Another great thing to do is paddle through the many lakes that cover the region.
And, of course, hop on one of the wine trails in the Finger Lakes Region and savor the local beers and wines made in the state.
Channel Islands National Park – California
A stunning national park located off the coast of Los Angeles will allow you to admire the jagged coast, watch for dolphins, and snorkel with marine life.
The Channel Islands National Park is only accessible by boat and is well worth the visit if you’re able to snag a seat on the watercraft!
There are eight total islands in the archipelago. Depending on which you visit, there are so many things to do, from snorkeling and diving to watching for whales and dolphins in the distance and seeing where people once roamed the islands long before we named it a national park.
Escaping to a tropical paradise is easy at the Channel Islands, but it’s much less visited than some of the other parks in California!
Block Island – Rhode Island
Gorgeous beaches, towering lighthouses, and lots of opportunities for recreation are a few reasons to visit Block Island. Located just south of Rhode Island, this small island is a great vacation destination in New England.
On the island, you’ll find plenty to do, from relaxing on the beaches to riding your bike along the boardwalks and trails that line the roads.
The Block Island North Lighthouse is a popular spot to see, and Mansion Beach is home to a pristine beach with white sand to relax on.
The Mohegan Bluffs are also a must-see. These towering cliffs on the oceanside feature views into the water and the rugged coastline for miles. You can also take a long staircase to the beach and enjoy time relaxing and listening to the sound of the waves.
Jekyll Island – Georgia
This small barrier island off of the coast of Georgia, and makes for a great beach vacation away from some of the other large beaches in the south. The island used to be home to many wealthy people, but today is a great vacation spot!
Make a stop at Driftwood Beach for one of the most unique beaches around. Here you’ll find thousands of pieces of large driftwood that have washed up onto the shore.
Other fun activities on the island include visiting the Georgie Sea Turtle Center, wandering around or relaxing on many other beaches, and taking a tour, whether it be for boating, fishing, or a sunset cruise.
You won’t find as many people on the island as you would at other popular beach destinations, which is what makes it such a great US hidden gem!
White Sands National Park – New Mexico
When visiting the Southwest, many people overlook New Mexico for larger places like the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.
But White Sands National Park is a unique destination that should be on your must-visit list!
The park covers over 275 square miles of desert landscape and features vast expanses of white gypsum sand dunes that sparkle in the sunlight. You can climb the dunes, learn about the history of the park, and just enjoy the Southwest sunshine.
Driving Dunes Drive is another popular activity, where you can see the natural beauty right from your car. Or grab a sled and fly down the side of the dunes as if they were a massive snow bank.
The park is also well known for being a popular stargazing destination, so if you’re able to stay up late enough, don’t miss the show in the night sky!
Dry Tortugas National Park – Florida
The remote and hard-to-get-to Dry Tortugas National Park is located off the coast of the Florida Keys and is a beautiful destination to explore the Gulf of Mexico.
The park is composed of seven small islands and is known for its turquoise waters, pristine coral reefs, and history.
As one of the least visited national parks in the country, this is one of the best places to be if you’re hoping to escape some of the crowds! But the only way to get there is by boat or seaplane!
Once you’ve arrived, be sure to explore Fort Jefferson, which is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. You can also snorkel or scuba dive, as these two activities are popular, and you’ll find tons of tropical marine life.
You can either visit on your own, or take a guided tour.
Cape Kiwanda – Oregon
While the entire Oregon coastline is stunning and should be added to your bucket list, there are certain places that are more special than others.
Cape Kiwanda is one of those places, where you’ll find towering sand dunes, red sandstone cliffs, and massive rocks jutting out of the Pacific Ocean.
If you’re able, climb up the sand dunes and marvel at the views of the rugged coastline from high above the water. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to spot some whales out in the distance!
Otherwise, relax on the beach and enjoy watching people surf out in the water or hang glide over the dramatic coastline. Cape Kiwanda is a beautiful hidden gem in the United States.
Leavenworth – Washington
Nestled deep in the North Cascades mountain range of Washington is the adorable small town of Leavenworth. This Bavarian-themed town feels like it’s straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie.
Every street in Leavenworth is designed as if you were in a Bavarian village in Germany. From restaurants with schnitzel and sausages to a Nutcracker Haus, you’ll find plenty of great ways to spend your time here.
And if you’re an adventurous traveler, then you’ll love how close Leavenworth is to some of the very best hikes in Washington State. From popular destinations like Colchuck Lake and the Enchantments to shorter, lesser-known trails like Icicle Gorge, you’ll find so much to do in Leavenworth!
Hidden Gems in the US
Visiting hidden gems in the United States rather than flocking to tourist destinations can give you a much better travel experience than some others in the world.
Enjoy fewer tourists, amazing views, and still a fantastic vacation for you and your family
From charming coastal towns to stunning nature reserves, these amazing hidden gems should be added to your bucket list immediately!