Done with NYC, Grand Canyon and the other obvious must-do stops in the USA? Head for some of these lovely under-the-radar or hidden destinations America has to offer

We all think of New York City and Los Angeles when travelling to the United States, and forget like any other countries, it has stunning destinations lesser known to travel lovers. Going to California for San Francisco and LA? Bet you didn’t know about the ghost towns and national parks the state offers. There are amazing national parks and hidden destinations America has to offer, some that even Americans don’t know about! These are a few under-the-radar destinations for a unique experience, without all the commercialized buildings and overpriced… well, everything. 

Garden of the Gods, Colorado

This National Natural Landmark the perfect place for hiking, biking, and rock climbing. The park is free, and offers a breathtaking view of the massive red rocks. Think towering sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of the snow-capped Pikes Peak.

While this park does not hold the same grandiose glamour of the Rocky Mountains, also in Colorado, that is exactly what makes it a brilliant destination to explore. There are about 15 miles of different trails in total, free guided walks and many are wheelchair and stroller-accessible.

garden of the gods colorado

Twin Sisters, Garden of the Gods. Photo via Pixabay

Bodie Ghost Town, California

What’s a better way to learn about the history of a town than to walk through its remains? Bodie is a modern Wild West ghost town but used to a popular gold mining town. The town is in a state of “arrested decay” which means that the structures in the town are only maintained to a point where they won’t topple over or collapse. Bodie is now a state park with active 1.5 hour walking tours, learning it’s history with a few ghost stories thrown in. Bodie is located down a dusty, bumpy, slow, 13 mile-long road off State Highway 395.

Bodie Ghost Town california

Photo: Linnea via Flickr

Pismo Beach, California

Pismo Beach is a beach town halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, along Pacific Coast and 101 highways. The long white beaches are perfect for a stroll during a beautiful sunset. The town offers golfing, ATV riding, surfing and much more. The town has a Monarch Butterfly Grove, in late October through February the grove is filled with thousands of butterflies passing through. And of course, don’t forget to sample some of the best from their wineries. 

Pismo Beach california

Photo: Mark Philpot via Flickr

Byodo-in Temple, Hawaii

Located on Oahu Island, the temple is a small scale replica of the 900-year-old Buddhist temple in Uji, Japan. The temple was established to honor the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. 

Located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, the grounds include a large pond filled with Japanese Koi carps, meditation spots, small waterfalls, and houses wild peacocks. This temple is a non-active Buddhist temple and welcomes all faiths; it’s often used for wedding ceremonies for local and Japanese visitors.

byodo-in temple hawaii

Photo: Manish Khatri via Flickr

Hamilton Pool Preserve, Texas

The pool reserve is an hour’s drive away from Austin, Texas is the one place in Texas to see an emerald green pool with an amazing waterfall. The pool is fed by the Hamilton Creek, and the 50-foot waterfall never stops flowing, even through dry seasons.

It used to be an underground river until the dome collapsed some thousand years ago and has been a popular swimming spot since the 1960s. However, to keep the area clean and regulated, the pool is open by reservation only and is a 30-minute hike from the parking lot to the pool itself, through a pretty rocky and steep hiking path. The water is always monitored, and maybe closed due to high levels of bacteria in the water. 

hamilton pool preserve texas

Photo: Chellie HinojosaHappily married via Flickr

McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, California

The California coastline offers a one-of-a-kind scenic drive on Highway 1 along the Pacific coast. Hiking, climbing, and camping are all offered in Big Sur. Stop by McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.  

For a short hike, the half-mile round-trip Waterfall Overlook Trail offers flawless views of McWay Falls, a favorite spot of Big Sur pioneer woman Julia Pfeiffer Burns, for whom the park is named. The water drops about 80 feet from the top of a granite cliff to a sandy cove below.

You can also hike the one-mile round-trip Partington Cove Trail. The hike leads over a wooden bridge down to a 60-foot tunnel, emerging onto the rocky beach.

big sur

Photo: stuartlchambers via Flickr

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

America’s first National Lakeshore offers over 100 miles of hiking trails, pristine beaches, breathtaking views of towering cliffs, and the great outdoors of the northern woodlands. The lakeshore is perfect almost all year round. Sunny in summer, breezy days with blooming flowers in spring. Orange, red and yellow hues during the fall and chilly days during the winter. You can kayak along the coast and cliffs, going over rock arches and exploring sea caves. Or you can go hiking and take in the view from above.

The Pictured Rocks sandstone cliffs tower 50-200 feet from Lake Superior, stretching out for about 15 miles along the lake from Sand Point to just after Spray Falls. Love the colour? The most colorful portion begins east of Miners Beach. The name “Pictured Rocks” comes from streaks of mineral stain that decorate the face of the weather-sculpted sandstone when groundwater oozes out of cracks and trickles down the rock face. Iron (red and orange), copper (blue and green), manganese (brown and black), and limonite (white) are among the most common color-producing minerals.

Pictured Rock National Lakeshore

Photo: K-Homp via Flickr

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