There are so many epic places to visit in the USA that most don’t even know exist. We all know about the famous locations and tourist spots that are advertised all over but what about the off the beaten path locations in this beautiful country.
We all love to find out of the way, less crowded places to spend some quality time with our loved ones. In addition, it would be great to find places to visit that are less crowded.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen too often but it will never happen in places like the Grand Canyon because after all who doesn’t want to visit the Grand Canyon. Although, I’m differently not saying that you shouldn’t go there are times that we just want to go somewhere not as crowded and still have a great vacation.
Here are some of the places that are worth visiting but are “off the beaten path” of the more popular location.
Bear Lake Utah/Idaho
The first of the epic places to visit in the USA is Bear Lake, Utah or Idaho.
If you are looking for turquoise blue water, beautiful beaches, boating, fishing, and waterskiing go to the “Caribbean of the Rockies”, Bear Lake.
This natural lake is 20 miles in length and 8 miles wide. Its depth is 208 feet and it has 48 miles of shoreline. It borders both Utah and Idaho and sits between Salt Lake City and Yellowstone National Park.
I loved Bear Lake and would definitely go back. It has so much to offer. We rented jet skis one day and a motorboat with an attached float another day and just really enjoyed being at this lovely beach.
The water is chilly even in summer but is clear. The surrounding mountains make the area amazing with hiking, horseback riding, ATV riding, bird watching and scenic drives.
This great vacation spot is known for its Raspberry shakes. You will be able to get one in just about every store and restaurant in the area. They even have a Raspberry Festival the first week in August.
Check out this site on Bear Lake for all tourist information including camping and lodging.
Baxter State Park, Maine
Another of the epic places to visit in the USA is Baxter State Park, Maine’s Wilderness Experience. With over 200,000 acres, this special place is a hiker’s paradise to experience nature at its best.
There are 46 mountain peaks for you to explore of which 18 of them are over 3,000’ in elevation. The highest peak in Baxter State Park is Baxter Peak at 5,267’. The Apllicihian Trail ends at Mt. Katahdin in the park.
I have been very fortunate to have experienced the seclusion of this magnificent park many times. Maine is one of my favorite places to vacation and it’s true when they say, “Maine, The Way Life Should Be”.
Also, as I am a big moose lover and to see them in the wild is an experience of a lifetime. I’ve seen many moose at Baxter State Park, and I guess it’s one of the main reasons I love it so much.
So come and enjoy this true wilderness experience. The park has no cell service and no electricity. Only primitive camping on camping cabins with gas lights. So this is really nature at its best.
For more information about hiking, camping, nearby lodging and canoeing check out my post-Baxter State Park, Maine’s True Wilderness Experience.
Washington & Jefferson National Forest
With over 1.8 million areas within 3 states, the Washington & Jefferson National Forests is the largest public land in the Eastern United States. The majority of this land is in Virginia but also sections are in West Virginia and Kentucky.
If you love the outdoors this is the place to vacation. These are the Appalachian Mountains and this forest encompasses 325 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
It’s divided into 8 districts that engulf 2200 miles of hiking trails, 1700 miles of open roads, numerous campgrounds, picnic areas, and boat launches. Activities include hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, fishing, boating, horseback riding, and cross country skiing.
Mount Rogers National Recreation Area is almost 200,000 acres and its highest elevation at 5729 feet. In this area alone, there are 11 campgrounds and over 500 miles of hiking trails. Also in this location, there is a herd of wild, free-ranging ponies on the mountain.
So if you are looking for outdoor recreation at its best without the crowds of the national parks, this is a place to consider.
For more detailed information visit Washington Jefferson National Forest.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park Upper Peninsula Michigan
Tahquamenon Falls State Park has over 45,000 acres of pristine wilderness following the Tahquamenon River known for its waterfalls and 22 miles of hiking trails. The park also has two campgrounds and restaurants.
With a 50′ drop, 200′ wide and rushing water flowing at over 50,000 gallons per second, the Upper Falls is the main attraction of the park. It’s one of the biggest waterfalls east of the Mississippi only second to Niagara Falls.
Four miles north of the Upper Falls is a series of five smaller waterfalls known as lower falls. The park rents rowboats where you can row to an island to explore the lower falls and has several places for swimming. You can also hike to views of the falls.
By the Upper Falls is the Tahquamenon Brewery, the only one in any of Michigan’s State Parks. The restaurant offers a fine selection of beer brewed right there in the park as well as fine dining in a rustic atmosphere. We enjoyed our dinner there and my husband enjoyed the beer.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is filled with beautiful places to see. You can check out a complete guide here.
Letchworth State Park, New York
Most people come to this park to see its stunning waterfalls. Known as the “Grand Canyon of the east” Letchworth State Park is a popular destination for New Yorkers but also should be on your list of places to see. The reason, it’s been voted the top state park in the United States many times and it definitely deserves this title.
Stunning waterfalls is just the start of what you will see here. The 14,000 plus acres making up the park includes 3 major waterfalls, the lower, middle and upper falls as well as many other smaller falls that runs along the Genesee River and this 550 foot gorge.
The park has 66 miles of hiking trails. In addition, also has white water rafting, horseback riding, balloon rides, camping and cabins, and a pool which is open during the summer.
Visit this site, Letchworth State Park for more information.
Custer State Park, South Dakota
Not far from Mount Rushmore is a place you won’t want to miss, a place where wildlife roams in their own environment. Custer State Park is this place with over 70,000 acres where you can get a glimpse of bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, prairie dogs, elk, deer, and wild burros.
The park charges a $20 fee but it’s so well worth it even if you only have a half of day to visit.
The main attraction is Wildlife Loop Road where you get to stay in your car and see how much wildlife you can find. The park is home to over 1500 bison so be prepared to stop for this huge animal. Look for deer, wild burros, prairie dogs, elk and pronghorns in the fields.
Out of all the animals, we saw here on our visit my favorite was the wild burros. This was the first time we got a chance to see these animals in the wild. And yes, they are wild so don’t approach them. I was amazed to see other people trying to pet and feed them although the park doesn’t allow it so they can keep these animals wild.
There is so much more to Custer State Park then just its wildlife. The park is home to 5 lakes and swimming is allowed in all of them however there are no lifeguards. Boating and fishing are also popular activities within the park. Each lake has its own restrictions however you will find one that fits your needs. They also rent boats in 2 of the lake, Legion Lake and Sylvan Lake.
There are also numerous hiking trails, scenic drives, horseback riding and, rock climbing in the park. You can even take a jeep safari tour as well as go to a chuckwagon cookout.
Lodging in the park includes cabin rentals (all kinds and sizes, numerous campgrounds including RV camping, primitive camping, group camping, camping cabins and even a horse camp. There are also several restaurants at the park’s lodges as well as convenience stores and gift shops.
You won’t regret visiting Custer State Park and you will want to return again and again. I know we plan on another visit but this time we will be staying longer than a day.
Check out its website for more information on visiting Custer State Park
Isle Royale National Park
As you can see, Isle Royale National Park is the only national park on this list. It’s one of the least visited national parks but the most revisited in the United States.
Most people flock to our National Parks and they are all very popular travel destinations. However, Isle Royale is a pain to get to since it is in the middle of Lake Superior but it is truly worth the effort.
This is a hiker’s paradise and well as a wildlife sanctuary. There are no roads on the island so the only way you get around is by foot or boat.
Backpacking is very popular and is a great way to see the island by spending each night in a different campground along its 45-mile shoreline.
There is also a lodge with restaurants on the east side of the island. This is where we stayed and experience this beautiful place.
It is probably the most unique and stunning park we’ve visited and was differently worth the time and effect to experience the wilderness and peacefulness that Isle Royale brings.
Read my post for more information on Isle Royale National Park.
Block Island, Rhode Island
Another one of the hard to get to epic places to visit in the USA is Block Island. It may not be the easiest place on this list to visit but it’s worth the trip as it feels like you are a world away. You can only get there by ferry. The Port Judith Rhode Island ferry is the only one operating year-round and takes cars to the island. In addition, high-speed passenger-only ferries operate seasonally from Montauk, NY and New London, CT.
Once there you can rent a bike, mopeds or smart cars to get around. The island also has a taxi fleet. New Shoreham is the main town. You can walk this small town and explore its quaint shops or search for the perfect restaurant for dinner. There is only one market in town where you can purchase sandwiches. There are choices for ice cream and desserts too!
Block Island is shaped like a pork chop with the narrow part at the north end. Sachem Pond and the North End are places to visit. Most of the north end is preserved land with marked trails. Walk along the beaches to look for seals. This is also a great spot for stargazing on a clear night.
The south end is home to South Light. If conditions are clear you can see across to Montauk Lighthouse which is 15 miles away and the 5-turbine wind farm that supplies all of the Island’s electricity.
Block Island is a birding paradise, especially in fall, as the island is a stop-over for migrating birds. The numerous freshwater ponds (over 300 on the island) attract waterfowl and shorebirds. You can also see and variety of flowers including goldenrods and wildflowers.
Block Island is a getaway for you if you truly want to relax and take in the quiet and peaceful beauty that this island has to offer. For more information visit their website here.
Pittsburgh, New Hamphire
Located in northern New Hampshire close to the Canadian border is the town of Pittsburg, also known as Moose Alley. This is a paradise for ATV lovers as the trail system and area caters to riders. With hundreds of miles of trails, there are even many town roads open to ATV travel that are accessible to the Pittsburg trail system that also connected to the “Ride the Wilds” trail system. ATV maps are available at all stores in the area.
With the Connecticut Lakes Realty Trust, there are over 150,000 acres of forest for recreational use. This includes many scenic drives, hiking trails and paddling and boating in the Connecticut Lakes.
The area is known for its population of moose and moose watching, camping, fishing, wildlife watching, horseback riding, and skiing.
We camped here for a week (Ramblewood Cabins & Campground) and enjoyed views of the Connecticut Lakes from our campground. If you are an outdoor enthusiast, this is a place that needs to be on your bucket list!
Get more information her, Pittsburg New Hampshire.
Assateague Island, Virginia
Visit Assateague Island Virginia and experience the Assateague Island National Seashore and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Together there are over 14,000 acres on unspoiled beachfront, marsh, dunes and maritime forest. The island has over 300 species of birds depending on the time of year as well as Chincoteague Ponies.
This is an amazing place, the beach goes on forever and is clean and beautiful. If you love nature and quiet beauty this is a place for you to visit.
There is hiking and biking on the island so stop at one of the two visitors center to get a map. You can also climb the Assateague Island Lighthouse.
For more information be sure to read my post on Assateague Island.
Boca Grande, Florida
Boca Grande is a small town on the west coast of Florida known for its beautiful beach. It’s an island about 50 miles from Naples. Once you cross over the bridge ($6 toll) you enter a world surrounded by the beautiful gulf.
Boca Grande beach has white soft sand and clear water. Its also known for its shells, shark teeth and sand dollars you can pick up from the sand while taking a walk along the shoreline.
When swimming on any given day, you have a chance of seeing stingrays, I’ve seen plenty at this beach over the years. This is the most beautiful beach I’ve been to and just love it.
Boca Grande also has a quaint small town. People that live on the island get around with golf carts.
After a day at the beach, stop at The Loose Caboose Restaurant in town for fresh Florida Grouper (a sweet white fish plentiful in the waters in the area) and a cocktail. I promise you won’t regret it.
There are also other restaurants in town as well as a bakery and of course an ice cream parlor. Check out tourist information here.
Pine Creek Gorge, PA
The last of my list of epic places to visit in the USA is the Pine Creek Gorge. Known as Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon, it’s located in the Tioga National Forest is an area known as the “PA Wilds”. The gorge covers 165,000 acres of pristine mountains and beauty. It’s an outdoor adventurer’s dream.
There are many outdoor activities in the area from biking the Pine Creek Rail Trail to many miles of hiking trails and paddling Pine Creek. There are several state parks in the area that offer stunning views of the gorge and have their own programs for you to experience.
For more information on the gorge including where to stay and camp, check out the Pine Creek Gorge, Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon Guide.
Check out my post all about th Pine Creek Rail Trail here.
There are so many epic places to visit in the USA that are off the beaten path. The above places that I love to visit is just a handful of stunning beauty this country has to offer.
What are some of your epic places to visit in the USA?
Get out and find your adventure! Kathy xoxo
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