We all know and love the legendary destinations in the United States like Yellowstone, Yosemite, New York, and San Francisco. But sometimes you just have the urge to go where few others have gone before. Not only do you get to explore the world’s secret gems, but you’ll also do it with fewer crowds. From lesser-known towns to underrated national parks and historical sites, here are eight of our favourite off the beaten path destinations in the USA.
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1. Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California
California is jam-packed with uber-famous destinations from Hollywood, Napa and San Francisco to Yosemite and Joshua Tree. But there are still some hidden gems to explore. While the ancient Redwoods are a must-see, we’ll also take you to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Here you’ll wander among the world’s oldest living trees, with some more than 4,000 years old. You’ll marvel at their curiously twisted branches and colourful swirling wood, standing tall in this one-of-a-kind landscape.
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2. Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico
Acoma Pueblo may be the oldest continually-inhabited city in North America, but it’s still one of the most underrated and off the beaten path destinations in the USA. The Acoma people have occupied the area for over 2,000 years, and you’ll discover centuries-old stories carved in the adobe brick buildings. The pueblo sits on top of a towering mesa, giving it the nickname, ‘Sky City’. When you visit this incredible site with Trafalgar, we’ll also take you to the Acoma Sky City Cultural Center & Haak’u Museum for a guided tour into the history and culture of the Acoma people.
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3. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
Colorado is packed with popular places from Denver and Boulder to Vail and Aspen, not to mention the legendary national parks like the Smoky Mountains, Mesa Verde, and the Great Sand Dunes. But if you’re looking for the best off the beaten path destinations in the USA, why not check out the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado?
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Sculpted over two million years, the park surrounds a plunging gorge carved out by the Gunnison River. You can explore this incredible wilderness on the Rim Rock trail hike, where you’ll see the enormous walls of the Black Canyon and the Painted Wall cliff. You might even spot the local wildlife like elk, deer, and golden eagles.
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4. Weston, Vermont
While everyone else flocks to Vermont’s most popular destinations like Stowe, Burlington and Montpelier, we’ll take you to one of the best hidden gems in the state – the little village of Weston. This quaint town is known for its arts and craftsmanship and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you explore the Vermont Country Store and the Weston Village Christmas shop. It’s the perfect place to discover a one-of-a-kind artwork or gift, indulge in some hearty East Coast cuisine, and ogle the autumn leaves – without any tourist crowds.
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5. Valdez, Alaska
When you think about off the beaten path destinations in the USA, you’ve got to consider Alaska. You’ve probably heard of Anchorage and Denali National Park, but what about getting even further off track – in Valdez? This port community is set along Prince William Sound and to get there, you’ll drive past glittering glaciers, the stunning snowy summits of the Alaska Range, and the Trans Alaska Pipeline running next to the highway.
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Once you’re in Valdez, you’ll get immersed in the incredible history, culture, and wildlife. Spot seals, porpoises, sea lions, and otters as you cruise Prince William Sound. Gaze out at the giant icebergs and soaring ice cliffs of Columbia Glacier. And explore the history and culture with a visit to the Valdez Museum.
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6. Cody, Wyoming
It doesn’t get much more remote than Wyoming. But while everyone else flocks to the famous Yellowstone National Park, we’ll take you to the nearby, lesser-known town of Cody. It’s more than just a gateway to Yellowstone – this is the hometown of “Buffalo Bill”, the legendary American soldier and bison hunter. We’ll visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West museum to get an insight into the “Spirit of the American West”. You can also explore the excellent living history museum with authentic frontier buildings or head to a rodeo and get a real dose of wild west adventure.
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7. Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota
Want to get away from the overdone tourist attractions and have a meaningful travel experience? We’ll take you to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where you’ll meet a Local Specialist for an insider’s view into the history and culture of this community. The reservation is the home of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate Nation and your visit will Make Travel Matter by contributing to their economy of tribal tourism. You’ll visit the St. Francis Community Mission and the Buechel Museum where you’ll learn about Sicangu Lakota Oyate traditions and culture. Meet locals at the Turtle Creek Crossing Supermarket to sample delicious Lakota Foods, then stop by the Sinte Gleska University for a Star Knowledge Presentation by Lakota elder, Victor Douville.
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You’ll also enjoy a Be My Guest Experience when you meet Marla, C. Bull Bear, Executive Director of the program and a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe for a day of traditional storytelling, singing, dance and local foods. You’ll get a rich insight into their language, culture, and spirituality, and also take a guided indigenous plant walk. It’s one of the most unique and soul-stirring travel experiences you can have in the USA.
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8. Hood River, Oregon
You’ve probably got Crater Lake National Park in Oregon on your bucket list… But have you considered a trip to Hood River? It’s only an hour away from Portland and it’s absolutely stunning. When you travel with Trafalgar, we’ll spend the day exploring the extraordinary Multnomah Falls and Columbia River George, before following the historic Columbia River Highway where waterfalls flow from basalt cliffs along the road.
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As we arrive in the town of Hood River, you’ll get to explore everything from the excellent local breweries and cideries, outdoor art installations, and the Hood River and Columbia River confluence, a hub for hikers, cyclists, and wind and kite surfers. We’ll even take you for a tasting and tour at the TMK Creamery, where you’ll see how their famous ice cream, cheese and Cowcohol are made.
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What are your favourite off the beaten path destinations in the USA? Let us know in the comments below!