Last Updated on July 6, 2023
If you’re craving a taste of America’s hidden natural beauty away from the tourist crowds, this list of under-the-radar U.S. road trips is for you. The U.S. is home to countless stunning landscapes, charming towns, and breath-taking vistas that remain off the beaten path.
International Drivers Association is diving into seven of these under-the-radar gems that you should consider for your next road trip.
Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona
In southeastern Arizona roughly 15 miles from the U.S./Mexico border and closer than that to the New Mexico state line, Chiricahua National Monument is a captivating oasis of rock pinnacles known as “The Wonderland of Rocks.” An 8-mile scenic drive and 17 miles of day-use hiking trails provide opportunities to discover the beauty and diversity of this less-known, yet remarkable destination.
The park’s rich biodiversity and unique rock formations will surely create a lasting impression.
Door County, Wisconsin
Known as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” Door County is a charming peninsula located between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. With its quaint lighthouses, artisan shops, galleries, and more than 300 miles of shoreline peppered with rugged beaches and hidden coves, Door County is a serene and picturesque road trip destination.
Be sure to try the region’s famous cherry pie.
Cumberland Island, Georgia
Accessible only by ferry, Cumberland Island is a haven of untouched natural beauty. Home to wild horses, maritime forests, and pristine beaches, it offers an escape like no other.
As Georgia’s largest barrier island, it offers miles of trails for hiking and biking. Don’t miss the stunning ruins of the Dungeness Mansion, and make sure to camp under the stars for an unforgettable night.
The next barrier island south of Cumberland is Amelia Island in Florida. Even though the St. Mary’s River separates them by less than a mile, it’s about an hour’s drive because there is no direct bridge linking them. Thankfully.
Where Cumberland Island is largely undeveloped, Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach is increasingly developed. This makes it the best place to find a hotel, bed and breakfast, or vacation rental home accommodations.
The Palouse, Washington and Idaho
The Palouse is a rich farming area of rolling hills and prairies spread across Washington and Idaho. Its surreal landscape, reminiscent of Tuscany’s rural vistas, is best enjoyed on a leisurely drive on the Palouse Scenic Byway.
Time your visit during the spring or summer when the hills are stunningly painted in shades of green or gold.
Madeline Island, Wisconsin
Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands, is a serene retreat on Lake Superior. With beautiful sandy beaches, scenic hiking trails, and historic sites, the island offers something for every traveler.
The ferry ride across the lake is an experience itself, but once you’re on the island, visit Big Bay State Park for its fantastic birdwatching and striking cliffs.
Alvord Desert, Oregon
The Alvord Desert in southeast Oregon offers a starkly beautiful landscape. This dry lake bed nestled in the rain shadow of the Steens Mountain is an off-the-beaten-path destination perfect for stargazing, camping, and even land sailing due to its flat, barren expanse.
Don’t forget to relax in the nearby Alvord Hot Springs after a day of exploring the desert.
Beartown State Park, West Virginia
Beartown State Park is a natural hidden gem, known for its unique rock formations created by hundreds of years of wind and water erosion. A boardwalk trail leads visitors through a maze of moss-covered boulders, overhangs, and deep crevices.
Despite its somewhat remote location, the park’s serene beauty makes it worth the detour.
Road Trip Safety Tips:
- Plan Ahead: Always research your destinations and the routes you’ll be taking. Know the weather conditions, road closures, or any area-specific conditions you should be aware of.
- Vehicle Check: Make sure your vehicle is in top shape before you start your journey. Check the tire pressure, brakes, oil, and coolant levels, and ensure your spare tire and jack are in good working condition.
- Emergency Kit: Carry a well-stocked emergency kit. This should include first-aid supplies, a flashlight, blankets, bottled water, non-perishable food items, and a multi-tool.
- Stay Connected: While the idea of going off-grid might sound appealing, it’s essential to have a way to communicate in case of emergencies. Carry a cell phone and charger, and consider a satellite phone if you’ll be in very remote areas.
- Hiking Safety: If your trip includes hiking, never hike alone, stay on marked trails, and carry a map of the area. Make sure someone knows your hiking plans and when you’re expected to return.
- Wildlife Safety: Remember you’re in their territory. Maintain a safe distance, never feed wild animals, and store your food securely.