Not letting this seemingly never-ending pandemic ruin your summer vacation plans?! Good, we aren’t either. Just please make sure you are still mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing!!! Even if we aren’t jetting off to some international locales, the US boasts some pretty amazing places. The only downside is summer is hot and crowded… maybe you want a vacation without all the crowds? I can’t do anything about the heat of summer, but I CAN help you find some off the beaten path vacations in the US. Looking to get off the beaten path? Here are nine lesser known vacation spots in the US!
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Helen is a cute little mountain town in the Appalachian mountains that has a Bavarian influence. You may not be able to fly to Germany in 2021, but this might be the second best thing if you’re looking to vacation on the East Coast this summer. When you’re not enjoying the Bavarian architecture and drinking kolsch, hike to one of the tallest waterfalls in Georgia, Anna Ruby falls. Enjoy the sunshine and tube down the Chattehoochee river. Then, take an afternoon to sip wine at Habersham Vineyards and Winery. If kids are coming along with you, you absolutely can’t miss the mountain coaster. There are about a million other great hiking trails in the area as well, so you’re sure to enjoy your vacation in this outdoor OR Europe lover’s paradise.
Nearby: Greenville, SC | Atlanta, GA | Athens, GA
Not exactly an “off the beaten path vacation” town, but it’s definitely a little less famous than it’s Colorado sibling towns like Denver and Telluride. This town is an outdoor lover’s dream–plenty of hiking, biking, rafting, and tubing to be done here. Make sure you take the train on this 9 hour (there and back) journey to explore the town of Silverton. It’s closed about halfway due to avalanche activity in the winter, so it’s a truly must-do in the summer. Another day, take an hour drive to Mesa Verde National Park to see this Native dwelling, caves, and cliffs.
If you’re still looking for another day trip, hop in the car and head to the San Juan Scenic byway and enjoy the sites. Take the Durango-Ouray section and stop over in Ouray to see this famous European-esque town. Looking to stay in Durango? Bring your bike along for some epic mountain biking and then take a raft ride down the Aminas river. Enjoy some of the rich history and walk along downtown, grab a bite to eat, and learn about this historic mining town.
Nearby: San Juan National Forest | Telluride | Southern Ute Reservation | Colorado Springs
Another cute mountain town with Bavarian influence. After a little research, this place looks like a Winter wonderland (Reindeer farms and sleigh rides, anyone?) but if you can only take that coveted PTO in the summer there’s still tons to explore in Leavenworth. That adorable reindeer farm I mentioned? It’s open in the summer, too! It wouldn’t be the PNW without some amazing hiking too–check out a glacier lake on Icicle Gorge then hop over to Lake Wanatchee state park. After your hike, enjoy a show at the Leavenworth Summer Theater. After all this outdoor activity you’ll probably be thirsty, so don’t miss the Icicle Brewing Company and Silvara Cellars for a glass of wine. If you love a good road trip, consider doing the whole Cascade Loop and seeing all the towns in the North Cascades of Washington!
Nearby: Cascades Loop | Seattle | Vancouver
Talk about an off the beaten path vacations… this spot is basically in the middle of nowhere (in the best way possible). Boasting landscape like Yosemite, but in a remote town in Arizona! Head to the Cave Creek canyon for some hiking with great scenery and then drive over the Cave Creek Ranch for some horseback riding. If you’re still looking for adventure, take a Jeep tour in the Wild West. Be sure to stargaze in this dark sky at night! If you’re a bird watcher, look for a variety of birds in the area.
Apostle Islands, Wisconsin
Okay, I’m adding this to my own personal bucket list because it looks OTHER. WORLDLY. This would be a trip you’d have to take in the summer (I’m assuming…? but I’m also a whimp when it comes to cold so maybe ask a Wisconsan to chime in). You can kayak, hike, and enjoy Lake Superior. Take your kayak out on a tour to see shipwrecks and explore caves. Bring along your snorkel gear! Don’t leave Wisconsin without eating some Wisconsin delicacies–beer brats, cheese curds, and Blue Moon ice cream!
Nearby: Duluth | Isle Royale National Park
Gila National Forest, Arizona/New Mexico
Poor New Mexico. I feel like it is never on my radar. But I’ve heard there are some GEMS in this state. The main attraction in this area is the Gila Cliffs National Monument. We won’t make it to the cliffs on our trip this summer, but now I wish we could! There is so much rich Native American history wrapped up in this place. Not to mention the natural hot springs?! Sign me up. The hot springs are regulated, so the temperature is just about perfect all the time. Nearby, there’s an almost-ghost-town that has a restaurant claiming to have the best burger in New Mexico. It’s called the Purple Onion and I might just have to try it out to see if its really the best!
Nearby: Payson, AZ | Tucson | Fort Apache Reservation
Block Island, Rhode Island
It’s neighbors are Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket but this island with 17 miles of beaches doesn’t boast the same amount of tourists–which is great for your beach vacay! You can only reach this island by ferry (hard to be a beaten path if it’s over water amirite???) and the reservations are released in January. As you can imagine, popular weekends and summers book up quickly, so plan this vacation far in advance. Once you get over to the island, make your first stop Ballard’s in Old Harbor. There’s a private beach with lounge chairs, umbrella rentals, live music, and food & drinks.
After your fill of food and drinks (or maybe the next day for safety reasons…) check out the Mohegan Bluffs. After you climb 141 stairs to get down the beach at the cliffs and back, head over to Dead Eye Dicks for a Lobster BLT (honestly I would make this trip just for that!!!). If you have kids, let them run around on the lawn at the Atlantic Inn.
Nearby: Martha’s Vineyard | Nantucket | New York City | Boston | The Hamptons
Jekyll Island, Georgia
Not too far outside Savannah, this island town used to be a hot destination in the early 2000s. It’s not quite as poppin as it used to be, but it hosts plenty of festivals, beautiful golf courses, and those famous Southeast coast beaches! Driftwood Beach is probably the most famous beach here with tons of driftwood, trees, and roots perfectly washed ashore for a picturesque setting. You also can’t leave the Island without seeing the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. The center focuses on rescue, rehab, and release of our favorite marine animal! If you’re looking to get off the beach, there are tons of dolphin tours and boat tours in the area. But if the open sea isn’t your thing, rent a bike and take a ride through the many trails Jekyll Island boasts.
Nearby: Savannah | Jacksonville | Amelia Island
Bear Lake, Utah/Idaho
Known as the “Carribbean of the Rockies” this lake is the most beautiful turquoise blue I’ve ever seen in the States! This lake sits right on the border of Idaho and Utah. As with any lake, you can boat, kayak, swim, and sunbathe to your heart’s delight. Don’t you dare leave without eating a raspberry milkshake from Garden City–they are absolutely to die for!
Aside from your typical lake adventures, about 10 miles down the road from the lake there’s an ICE CAVE! Even in the summer, Paris Ice Cave will have some frozen water to cool you off. Get out and hike through Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge to see some wildlife, summit the Logan Canyon and visit a 600 year old pine tree on the Limber Pine Trail, and cool off at an alpine lake at Bloomington Lake. If you haven’t had your fill of caves or cool underground temps, head to the Minnetonka caves. There’s 9 different “rooms” to explore and it stays about a balmy 40 degrees!
Nearby: Logan | Brigham City
My bucket list was already a million miles long, but this article has made me add a few more destinations! Are you looking to visit any of these off the beaten path vacations this summer? Have you visited any of these areas? Better yet, did I miss any hidden gems? Let me know in the comments below!