31 Best Hidden Gems in the US: Epic Secret Spots You Must See

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From coast to coast, there are so many unique hidden gems in the US. Some of these towns look like they only exist in fairy tales with idyllic beaches, sailboats on the harbor, and breathtaking architecture.

If you’re looking for some lesser-known places, here are 30 destinations in the US you should visit on your next vacation. Some of these destinations are great options for US summer road trips!

The Best Hidden Gems in the US

Here are some amazing off-the-beaten-path destinations to add to your US bucket list:

1. Asheville, NC

Asheville, North Carolina is tucked away among the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. Just a two-hour drive from the capital city of Charlotte, this US hidden gem offers a little bit of something for every type of traveler!

Upon entering the little mountain town, you’ll learn they have a huge craft beer scene. The city boasts having the most amount of breweries per capita in the US! Other travelers will love it for its history like the Biltmore Estate, the largest estate in the United States, and the Omni Grove Park Inn that has served guests for more than a century dating back to the likes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Vacationers looking for a relaxing getaway won’t want to miss Shoji Spa. You’ll enjoy a unique experience at the only Japanese spa on the East Coast.

Not to mention, the food is something to rave about. Foodies will love Rhubarb and Early Girl Eatery, while chocolate lovers will flock to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. 

Spend your morning chasing waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains and your nights brewery hopping around town. For those non-beer drinkers, join in on one of Asheville’s famous rooftop tours. You’ll find no better drink and view combo than at Capella on 9. Once you visit, you’ll understand why Asheville is much more than just a little mountain town.

Asheville downtown skyline at dusk.

By Liz from Spend it like Stanford

2. Amarillo, TX

In the center of the Texas Panhandle lies the state’s ninth-largest city: Amarillo.

Amarillo is not what most people first think about when planning a trip to Texas—in fact, it’s not often a destination that crosses people’s minds at all. It is far out of the way in West Texas, closer to New Mexico and Oklahoma than it is to any other large Texas city. However, it is a destination worth visiting at least once!

The biggest draw to Amarillo—and perhaps the main reason people outside the region visit—is Route 66. Amarillo is nearly the center point for the road that stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles, making it a great pit stop and place to find Route 66 memorabilia.

Big Texan Steakhouse is another popular attraction in Amarillo. It’s more than a restaurant—it’s a souvenir shop, motel, RV park, and steakhouse all in one. Their 72 oz. steak challenge also makes it a form of entertainment, where people compete to win a free meal consisting of 72 ounces of steak, a baked potato, cocktail shrimp, and salad if they can finish it within an hour.

Two photogenic spots to see in Amarillo include Cadillac Ranch and Palo Duro Canyon. Cadillac Ranch is an art installation where visitors can find Cadillacs that are partially buried in the ground and covered in spray paint! Palo Duro Canyon, thirty minutes south of Amarillo, is the second-largest canyon in the United States, after the Grand Canyon. It is a beautiful place to visit any time of year.

USA Hidden Gems

By McKenna from One More Step Travels

3. Annapolis, MD

Annapolis, Maryland’s capital is a quaint little town that gets sidelined by the famous Baltimore and DC in the vicinity. Located by the Chesapeake Bay it is a great place to visit if you want to run away from the hustle-bustle of big cities. We were lucky to have visited Annapolis as a day trip from Philadelphia.

Home to the US Naval Academy or USNA, the trip to Annapolis has to begin by exploring the campus. The best way is to take a walking guided tour of the Academy. The tours cost a minimal amount and begin from the Visitor Center with experienced guides. The walk across the academy blooming with flowers and greenery is beautiful. Visiting the memorial hall, hearing the stories of valor, walking by the residences of the professors and senior Naval officers is very interesting. There is a beautiful chapel inside the campus as well. A valid Picture ID card is must to enter.

Note: The tours and Visitor center are closed as of Jan 2021 due to Covid-19.

Since Annapolis is the capital city of Maryland, the Maryland State House , the Capitol building is a great place to visit. The building was constructed way back in 1779 but still holds its charm. There are free self-guided tours of the State House. 

Annapolis’s red brick Main street is a place for the shopping lovers and art enthusiasts. The charming area has boutiques, galleries and cafes to help satisfy the shopping and food desires. Walk by the docs and watch the sailing boats or take a cruise. 

Annapolis, with its history and beautiful architecture would definitely make everyone fall in love with it. 

Annapolis Harbor and Eastport Bridge.

By Neha from Travelmelodies

4. Boothbay Harbor, ME

Boothbay Habour is home to the largest boating harbor north of Boston! This coastal town is one of the most unique hidden gems in the US. This town doesn’t get as crowded as others during summer in Maine.

With colorfully painted boathouses and charming cottages, there is so much you can do from Boothbay! You can explore the region’s waterways by the many boat tours available, or even opt for an excursion to see seals, puffins, or whales.

Boothbay Habour has many oceanfront restaurants, making this a seafood lovers paradise.

5. Beaufort, SC

Beaufort is South Carolina’s second-oldest city, after Charleston, and the perfect escape to disconnect from the chaos! The town was named after Henry Somerset, the Duke of Beaufort.

Some of its iconic landmarks include the Beaufort National Cemetery, the Beaufort Arsenal, and the Santa Elena History Center. Movies like Forrest Gump and Great Santini were filmed at this US hidden gem!

6. Bozeman, MT

Bozeman is in the Southwest corner of Montana and is home to Montana State University. It’s so much more than a college town, though! Whether you’re visiting in the Summer, Winter, Spring, or Fall, there are so many amazing things to do around Bozeman. This is also a great area for people who like to get outside and explore nature as well as people who prefer to walk around downtown and shop!

If you’re visiting in the colder months, Bridger Bowl is close by for skiing. Cross country skiing is also a huge activity in this area. If you visit Bozeman when it’s warmer, there are so many amazing hikes. The “M” Trail is one of the most popular as it takes you up to the big white Montana State “M” in the mountainside.

Yellowstone National Park is also driving distance from Bozeman, so spending a weekend exploring Yellowstone when traveling to this part of Montana is highly recommended.

Bozeman truly is a hidden gem for outdoor adventure seekers. Montana in general is such an under-rated place to travel to, but if you like outdoor activities, exploring National Parks, or spending time in a cute little town, I’d highly recommend choosing Bozeman as your next travel destination!

Bozeman, MT, USA Gem

By Sarah from She Travels

7. Capitol Reef National Park, UT

Capitol Reef is the best kept secret of all of Utah’s national parks. Located in south central Utah, the park is home to towering rock formations, amazing hikes, and fruit orchards!

You won’t find large crowds at Capitol Reef – even the most popular trails will be fairly empty compared to other parks. 

Capitol Reef is divided into three main areas: the Fruita district, Cathedral Valley, and the Waterpocket Fold. Fruita is the best place to spend one day in Capitol Reef

Adventure seekers will want to explore Cathedral Valley, where huge rock monoliths stand tall. Backpackers will find a world of canyons and bucket-list worthy hikes in the Waterpocket Fold. 

In Fruita you’ll find a world of history. Take the Capitol Gorge trail to see both petroglyphs and the Pioneer Register, which is where pioneers etched their names into the rock as they passed through a few hundred years ago. 

Other hikes include the Cassidy Arch trail, named after the famous outlaw Butch Cassidy, who was reported to have a hideout here. To walk among towering canyon walls, you’ll want to check out the Grand Wash Trail. Bonus, you can combine the Grand Wash trail and the Cassidy Arch trail for an epic hike! 

No trip to Capitol Reef is complete without tasting the fresh-baked pies at the Gifford House. Plus, if you’re lucky and visit at the right time, you can even pick fruit from the Capitol Reef orchards! Capitol Reef is one of the best-hidden gems in the US and absolutely worth the trip!

USA Hidden Gems

By Ale from Sea Salt & Fog

8. Carrizo Plain National Monument, CA

Carrizo Plain National Monument is a huge plain in Central California, in the southeastern part of San Luis Obispo County. It is not too far a drive from the Los Angeles area, yet it remains a hidden gem much of the time.

Carrizo Plain is wilderness, with not many services, and hence it is mainly overlooked by visitors to the state. The exception is when there is a wildflower super bloom, which gets widely reported in the local media, drawing large crowds to see the colorful bloom.

While wildflower bloom is a good time to visit the monument, there are other things to do here, if you enjoy the outdoors. And because it is not on the main tourist trail, you can enjoy the offerings at the park in relative solitude.

One of the best things to do in Carrizo Plain is hiking to view the San Andreas Fault, which caused the catastrophic San Francisco earthquake in 1906.

At Carrizo Plain, the fault is clearly visible. Another thing to do here is to look for wildlife and birds. Carrizo Plain is home to many endangered species. Look for pronghorn deer, rabbits, and many species of birds, especially in the winter, when there is water in Soda Lake in the park.

Carrizo Plain

By Dhara from Roadtripping California

9. Chincoteague, VA

There are so many reasons to visit gorgeous Chincoteague, Virginia and it definitely is one of the hidden gems of the United States.  

Chincoteague is located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and is on a shared stretch of land called Assateague Island National Seashore.  While it is known for many things, perhaps its biggest claim to fame is that it was the setting for the famous Marguerite Henry book ‘Misty of Chincoteague’ in 1947 about a wild horse, another thing that the island is known for.  Chincoteague is renowned for its wild horses and you can travel there annually for the Pony Swim to see them all.

Another popular thing to do in Chincoteague is to visit the Assateague Lighthouse and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  Both of them are beloved things to do on the island and you can see the best of the wildlife and nature surrounding both.

If you’re into space tourism, definitely opt to visit Chincoteague when a rocket launch happens at the nearby Wallops Island Flight Facility.

Chincoteague may be a secret to many Americans, but it is slowly gaining the recognition that it deserves.

USA Gems

By Megan from Virgina Travel Tips

10. Devils Tower, WY

Devils Tower is a natural butte rock formation located in the Bear Lodge Mountain range of Wyoming. Standing at 1267 feet ( 62-story building), this tower was the first national monument ever created by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.

In the past, people used to assume its a volcanic neck but this unique US gem is actually an igneous intrusion, a place where magma from the Earth’s mantle welled up between chunks of sedimentary rock.

This is a sacred place to many native Americans and it’s a popular place for ceremonial rituals. Today this geologic feature is a rock climbing location with over 5000 annual climbers.

Devils Tower, USA

11. Golden, CO

Located a mere 20-to-30-minute drive from Denver sits a quaint mountain town that hidden gems are made of. Because unless you fancy yourself a beer fan, you have likely never heard of the little town of Golden. And that’s a shame! Because there are so many things to do in Golden, Colorado making it the perfect unique mountain escape from the big city.

Golden is well-known to beer fans. Because the monster brewer Coors began and still operates their HQ facility out of Golden, CO. Add in the local microbreweries (eight currently), and you have enough beer produced by volume to put Golden in the #1 spot in the world! So naturally, when visiting Golden you must sample the fruits of their labor. Daily tours are offered at the Coors facility and the local breweries open visitors with open arms. Be sure to check them out!

Another unique thing to do in Golden is to visit the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave. Yes, that Buffalo Bill! He was not from this area but fell in love when passing through. It was his dying wish to be buried on Lookout Mountain, and that is where he rests today. Visitors can learn about his life at the museum and visit his actual grave. But be sure to also allow some time to take in the incredible views from their observation deck! It is the best place to take in a bird’s eye view of Golden and her surrounding beauty.

USA Hidden Gems

By Kara from Destination: Live Life

12. Hanalei, HI

Hanalei is a charming US town on Kauai’s north shore. Its surrounded by cascading waterfalls, emerald mountains, and the destination is also refreshingly resort-free, making it one of the peaceful surfing locations in Hawaii.

Hanalei, Hawaii

13. Ice Castle, NH

Ice Castles in New Hampshire are man-made structures that are interactive experiences with tunnels, fountains, slides, thrones, and towers carved out of ice.

This giant castle of ice is a great winter wonderland experience for any age group!

You can also visit the Ice Castles in Salt Lake City, Utah and a few other locations.

14. Kodiak Island, AK

Kodiak Island, also known as Alaska’s ‘Emerald Isle’, is the second-largest island in the United States and 80th in the world.

The island has strong ties to the Native American community and you’ll also find Russian monuments and Orthodox churches.

This USA gem is a great choice for seafood lovers, nature enthusiasts, and also home to the Kodiak Bear and the King Crab.

Alaska, Hidden Gems

15. Leavenworth, WA

Leavenworth, Washington is a Bavarian-styled village in the Cascade Mountains nearby Steven’s Pass area. From hiking, rock climbing, water rafting, mountain biking, camping, skiing, boating, fishing, or even just admiring the beautiful scenery. This hidden US gem is worth a visit year-round! 

The town is a 3-hour drive from Seattle and offers Alpine-style architecture, German food and beer, and festivals like Oktoberfest (celebrated across 3 weekends in October), the Autumn Leaf Festival, and the infamous Christmas Lights Festival (with over 2 million lights, caroling, and nutcracker museum) every winter in Leavenworth.

Foodies will love the abundance of restaurants and vibrant wineries. Adventure seekers will enjoy exploring majestic mountains, glacial lakes and rivers. There is a little something for everyone in Leavenworth and the town is worth adding to your USA bucket list!

Leavenworth in Winter

16. Lone Eagle Peak, CO

Standing tall among the alpine beauty of the Indian Creek Wilderness, Lone Eagle Peak is one of the most awe-striking destinations in Colorado for outdoor and adventure enthusiasts. 

Despite the fact that it’s considered an iconic peak of the Rocky Mountains, not many people venture deep in as it is considered one of the toughest hikes in Colorado. While the hike definitely takes effort, it’s worth the reward, especially if you’re keen to take a scenic jaunt that involves stops at alpine lakes, waterfalls, forest trails, open meadows, and if you’re lucky, you might get to spot a moose or two!

Aside from the hike itself, there’s so much to do while backpacking Lone Eagle Peak. If you’re up for even more adventure, there are several multi-pitch alpine trad routes. Moreover, I also recommend hiking to the top of Buchanan Pass and spending a while taking in the beauty of the alpine lakes and waterfalls in the area. If possible, split up the hike into two days and take up the chance to camp at Mirror Lake. Not only is the lake itself an absolute treat to the eye, but it’s also the most sublime spot to photograph Lone Eagle Peak.

Hidden Gems in the US

By Daniela & Meg from Fox in the Forest

17. Lone Pine, CA

California is a vast state with many options for adventure, even though many tourists are drawn to attractions near larger cities such as Los Angeles or San Francisco, you can still find hidden gems in the Golden State. 

Lone Pine, California is a very small town in the heart of the Eastern Sierra Nevadas. This small town of about 2,000 population still maintains its old western historic charm, yet is the gateway to some of California’s most scenic landscapes and iconic film history. 

The Alabama Hills are a must-visit when you come to Lone Pine. Many Hollywood films, like The Lone Ranger and Django Unchained, have filmed scenes in the Alabama Hills amongst many other classic films. You will have an uninterrupted view of Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, and many unique geologic formations to discover. Check out the Mobius Arch, Movie Rd, and Eyes of Alabama Hills while you are in this area. 

If you are a film history buff, you will thoroughly enjoy this infamous museum. After spending some time in the Alabama Hills, you must visit this museum to see why so many filmmakers love this landscape. The Museum of Western Film History has a collection of America’s past and present film memorabilia, with 40 on-going exhibits to keep you entertained. 

Lone Pine is a hidden gem to many tourists and even California residents themselves because there are not many lodging options or large cities nearby. To visit this area, plan a road trip to fully experience this slice of the Wild West.

Alabama Hills

By Britt from Brittsbellavita

18. Mystic, CT

Mystic is located 3 hours from New York City and less than an hour and a half from Boston, making it a perfect escape in New England!

The village was founded in 1654 and today it’s home to the most visited attractions in Connecticut: the Mystic Seaport (the Nation’s largest maritime museum) and the Mystic Aquarium (Home to New England’s only beluga whales.).

If you are a nature lover or maritime history fanatic, Mystic is the US hidden gem for you to spend time admiring beautiful waterfront and historic homes.

19. Newberry National Volcanic Monument, OR

If you’re a nature enthusiast, you’ll love the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Located in the Deschutes National Forest, about 13 miles south of Bend, Oregon. The monument includes 54,000+ acres of lakes and spectacular geologic features.

A trip to the Pacific North West is not complete without a visit to the Newberry Monument.

The area is teeming with ancient lava flows, jagged volcanic glass, rivers, lakes, caves, hot springs, waterfalls, and forests – You can spend time exploiting the lakes, driving the peak, or hiking to the hot springs.

The Newberry National Volcanic Monument offers fun things to do in both summer and winter.

20. Pfeiffer Beach, CA

Pfeiffer Beach is hands down one of California’s most beautiful and unique beaches, and have you seen California? That is saying a lot!

You can find Pfeiffer Beach tucked away on the rugged central coast of Big Sur, California. What makes this place a true hidden gem is its purple sand beach! After a recent rainstorm, streaks of a deep purple are scattered throughout the beach. The purple hues are caused by manganese garnet that has trickled down from the nearby mountains.

A visit to Pfeiffer Beach is a great way to unplug and explore all of California’s natural beauty. Besides the purple sand, Pfeiffer Beach has tide pools and epic rock formations, including the KeyHole Arch. The views are so stunning! Many photographers are drawn to Pfeiffer Beach in hopes to get the sun perfectly setting through the famous KeyHole Arch.

Pfeiffer Beach is the ideal location to watch the sunset with a picnic, walk the beach, play in the sand, and it is a nice spot to take your furry best friend. Yes, it is dog friendly too!

Pfeifer Beach is one of California’s best-kept secrets. With all of its beauty and charm, a trip to Pfeiffer Beach is well worth the visit!

By Alisha from Travel Today, Work Tomorrow

21. Polihale State Park, HI

Polihale State Park is home to one of the most secluded beaches in Kauai. The beach is accessed by 4×4 via a rough, five-mile road. Upon arrival, you’ll find 17 miles of shore and large sand dunes – some reaching up to 100 feet high.

It is important to know that, due to the high currents this beach is not for swimming. The only safe area to swim at is Queen’s Pond. This beach is best for picnics, watching the sunrise or sunset, or relaxing.

This is a popular weekend hangout for locals and camping at Polihale is by permit only (permits can be purchased at the Department of Parks and Recreation office in Lihue).

22. Portsmouth, NH

Known as “America’s Greatest Small Town” by National Geographic Travel, I think a visit to Portsmouth should be on everyone’s New England bucket list. Portsmouth is the crown jewel of New Hampshire’s Seacoast and is perfectly situated within an hour from the White Mountains and an hour from Boston. 

It’s the perfect place to visit for a weekend year-round, or can even be enjoyed in just a day trip. Portsmouth is a hidden gem because of its countless historical homes dating back to the 17th century. Strawbery Banke, an outdoor history museum, is New Hampshire’s oldest neighborhood to be settled by Europeans. 

Additionally, did you know that Portsmouth has more restaurants per capita than any other small town in the United States? When visiting Portsmouth, be sure to check out all the small businesses downtown in an area of the city known as Market Square. Every time I visit Portsmouth I manage to find something new that I love in one of the many charming boutiques.

Lastly, a fun fact about Portsmouth is that it’s actually located across the river from Maine! If you visit, continue on north to explore Maine’s coast. Kittery is only a 10-minute drive away, and can even be accessed by walking across one of Portsmouth’s many bridges. 

By Nicole from The Abroad Blog

23. Port Townsend, WA

Have you ever seen a town with over 300 Victorian-style homes and a population of less than 10 000? Port Townsend is a charming, seaport paradise in Washington (two hours drive from Seattle).

The town was built in the mid-1800s and town planners expected it to be the busiest seaport in the state because of its position on Puget Sound, but this ended up being Seattle!

Today you’ll find plenty of antique stores, a courthouse, a museum, and even a castle. Port Townsend is home to one of the oldest breweries in the region – Port Townsend Brewing Co which opened in 1905.

24. Sandwich Cape Cod

Sandwich is a unique US hidden gem located on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It’s the oldest town in the Cape (settled in 1637) and named after its twin city of Sandwich in Kent, England.

This picturesque village offers opportunities to enjoy the scenery, walking and bike trails, beautiful seashores, salt water estuaries, fresh water ponds, bird sanctuaries and more.

Sandwich boasts historic colonial architecture, inns, restaurants, and several shops. The town is known for glassmaking and you’ll also find the Sandwich Glass Museum, with its collection of over 6,000 pieces of glass produced between 1825 and 1888.

25. Stanley, ID

There is just something about Stanley, Idaho, a town of around 69 people, that keeps people interested and flocking to the tiny place.  This Idaho town is located in Custer County and is the gateway to many other regional sights, such as the Sawtooth Mountains and several hot springs, like Boat Box Hot Springs.

For being so small, there sure are many things to do in Stanley to keep occupied!  You can start your day at the Stanley Baking Co. & Cafe, a cozy cafe with a town-famous breakfast and tasty coffee.

In Stanley and nearby, you will find Stanley Lake, a popular spot for locals.  You can go swimming, hiking, or canoeing in Idaho Lake.

If you’re using Stanley as a base, be sure to head to the Sawtooth Mountains and some wonderful places like Redfish Lake, Alpine Lake, and Alice Lake.  There is also the gorgeous Iron Creek Trail that will take you to Sawtooth Lake, the gem of the forest.

End your day at Sunbeam or Boat Box hot springs, and really soak up all that Idaho and Stanley have to offer!

US Hidden Gems, Stanley, Idaho

By Megan from Megan Starr

26. Solvang, CA

Solvang is a great town in southern California; unfortunately, it often gets overlooked by it’s big sibling, Los Angeles. Luckily, if you are planning a trip to Los Angeles, you can still make it to Solvang – it’s just over two hours up US-101. 

The moment you enter, it’s obvious this town has charm; it celebrates Denmark with statues, décor, and architecture modeled after Denmark icons. Some examples include windmills throughout the town and the Little Mermaid statue on the main street corner! You can even head to the local park named after Hans Christian Andersen to see a Danish-inspired castle-like entrance.

There are a myriad of things to do in Solvang besides marveling at the atmosphere. Despite its Danish appearance, Solvang has strong roots with the Spanish. Old Mission Santa Ines was built as a connection between other missions in the area and is free to explore by foot. If you are strictly interested in Danish history, the Elverhøj Museum is the best stop. It is filled with art and cultural information about Denmark.

Everything in Solvang is close, but Downtown Solvang has the highest concentration of stores if you’d like to go shopping and experience Danish food, clothing, or crafts. Visitors will want to stop at one of the many bakeries for Danish pastries, including æbleskivers – a cross between a pancake and a popover. There are also stores for visitors to try on or buy traditional Danish clothing, buy unique jewelry, and nearly anything you can think of.

Solvang, CA

By MacKenzie from Rainbow Travel Life

27. Sonora, CA

If you’re looking for a hidden gem destination in Northern California, you need to visit the historic gold mining town of Sonora. Just over two hour’s drive east of San Francisco, and close to Yosemite National Park, you’ll find Sonora nestled in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.

Back in its heyday, Sonora was known as the “Queen of the Southern Mines” for the sheer amount of gold mined from the area. Today it’s a quaint town with a charming historic main street filled with antique shopping opportunities, a soda fountain, an old-fashioned candy store inside a former bank vault, and art galleries and museums.

The best part is that Sonora isn’t quite on everyone’s radar yet, so you won’t be fighting crowds of road trippers looking for a weekend getaway.

Head to the 160-acre Indigeny Reserve ranch to sample award-winning cider made with apples grown on the property’s orchard, hike the trails on site, and have a picnic. Train and movie enthusiasts should visit Railtown 1897 State Historic Park for a ride on a steam train or diesel engine and to learn about the hundreds of films and TV shows shot there.

Just because you’re not on the coast doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy watersports either. Visit Tuttletown Recreation Area for boating, kayaking, and jet skiing, plus some great hiking spots on New Melones Lake.

There are lots more things to do in Sonora, California check our guide to the gorgeous town for more!

Hidden Gems in the US
New Melones Lake

By Katherine Fenech from Bright Lights of America

28. Upstate New York

When thinking about New York, one’s mind often wanders to the Big Apple, the Statue of Liberty, and Times Square. This is such an oversight and when exploring all that Upstate New York has to offer it is not hard to see why. Upstate New York is considered by many to be the majority of New York State located North of the metropolitan New York City area. It is full of small cities, mountainous terrain, quaint villages, and stunning scenery making it a very much overlooked hidden gem in the US!

Upstate NY’s main cities offer plenty in the way of culture, history, and fun. Visit Rochester to explore the oldest photography museum at the home of the founder of Kodak, tour the Susan B. Anthony home, or enjoy some family fun at one of the many green spaces within the city. The city of Buffalo is home to the world-famous Niagara Falls and Buffalo wings. 

If you are looking for an outdoor nature escape, explore one of the many state parks that offer stunning natural beauty. Watkins Glen will take you along a 400 ft. deep gorge past 19 waterfalls. Letchworth State Park is known as the Grand Canyon of the East and will take you along the Genesee River through another waterfall filled gorge.

The Adirondack Mountains offer the perfect nature escape with a plethora of hiking opportunities, campgrounds, fishing and watersports, and the largest water park in New York State. No matter what kind of getaway you are looking for you will surely find it in Upstate New York!

Hidden Gems in the US

By Melissa from Navigation Junkie

29. Watkins Glen, NY

Tucked away inside the amazing Finger Lakes region of central New York is Watkins Glen, an amazing national park and a hidden gem that is overflowing with fantastic hiking trails, picturesque stone bridges, and no less than 19 different waterfalls. 

So, if you’d like to see some of the best waterfalls in New York, just take a leisurely hike along the relatively easy, 3-mile (round trip) Gorge Trail. It will take you through the center of the park and past some of the most scenic views in the area. 

Although the path is well-paved and relatively easy to traverse, some of the stone stairs can get slippery. Therefore, it’s recommended to wear a pair of good shoes with non-slip grips. I would also pack some water and maybe a snack or two since there aren’t a ton of refreshments available in the park. 

There’s also no park entrance fee. However, if you use the designated parking lot, you will have to pay an $8, day-use fee for your vehicle, which will also give you access to the on-site pool. 

And once you’re finished hiking? Well, you can take a boat tour of nearby Seneca Lake or do a bit of wine tasting at the family-owned and operated, Lakewood Vineyards. Trust me, it’s a great place to relax and unwind after a full day of hiking. 

Hidden Gems USA

By Kelly from Girl with the Passport

30. Whitefish, MT

Whitefish, Montana is located at the doorstep of  Glacier National Park. This is the perfect location for outdoor enthusiasts.

During winter visitors can enjoy skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing while cycling and boating are popular activities during warmer weather.

You can also take a gondola from Summit to the Whitefish Mountain Resort to admire the spectacular views.

31. The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont

The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont is a beautiful natural area often ignored as travelers flock to Burlington or Stowe. The Northeast Kingdom is tucked away in the extreme northeast corner of Vermont. The area is bordered by Canada to the north, the Green Mountains to the west, and the Connecticut River to the east.

Nature lovers will be enthralled by the outdoor adventures of the Northeast Kingdom. Lake Willoughby is the clearest lake in Vermont. It is a popular destination for hiking, swimming, sailing, and fishing.

Burke Mountain is a ski resort that has been the training mountain for many Olympic skiers. In the summer, the Kingdom trails near East Burke offer over 100 miles of world-class mountain biking.

For those interested in more mellow cycling, try the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail in St. Johnsbury. A ride on the gravel path will take you past scenic forests, through old trail tunnels, and over bridges.

For dog lovers, the Dog Chapel is a heartwarming tribute to beloved pets. The beautiful stained glass chapel in St. Johnsbury was built to honor all pets. Hundreds of photos of dogs who have crossed the rainbow bridge line the walls.

Finally, for fans of craft beer, the Northeast Kingdom has some of the premier breweries in New England. Visit a tasting room at one of the many breweries, then take home some of Vermont’s finest craft brews.

By Karen Warren of Outdoor Adventure Sampler

By Karen Warren at Outdoor Adventure Sampler

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