Tourist attractions in the USA stretch from one side of the country to the other and include emblematic buildings like Arizona’s Grand Canyon, New York City’s Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial, or must-see neighborhoods like San Francisco’s Mission District.

If you don’t feel comfortable having to constantly dodge other people because of jam-packed touristy places, consider traveling beyond the classic destinations. In other words, seek places where holidaymakers are few and far between so your visit has the potential to make a real difference. These are some of the best hidden gems in the US you should visit in 2024.

1) Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, United States
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, United States via Pixabay

California is the number one vacation destination in the USA, both for Americans and international travelers, as it is full of exciting, unexpected, and memorable experiences. The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is a must-see amid climate change because it’s where you’ll find trees that have stood the test of time.

Some bristlecone pines and limber pines are more than 4,000 years old; they thrive in one of North America’s most desolate yet uniquely beautiful environments.

You’ll undoubtedly marvel at the twisted and beautifully colored wood standing tall in an inhospitable climate. The strangely beautiful scenery of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest will definitely wow you.

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Getting to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest requires over an hour of driving. Enjoy the scenic drive but be aware that there’s no gas, food, or water available at the top or along the way.

2) Block Island, Rhode Island

Block Island, Rhode Island - USA's hidden gems
Block Island, Rhode Island – USA’s hidden gems via Unsplash

Located off the coast of Rhode Island, Block Island offers a serene and unspoiled natural environment that’s relatively unknown to many travelers. With its pristine beaches, scenic hiking trails, and charming coastal villages, Block Island provides a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Visitors can enjoy outdoor activities such as biking, kayaking, birdwatching, and exploring historic lighthouses. The island’s laid-back atmosphere and untouched beauty make it one of the best hidden vacation spots and a hidden gem worth discovering for those seeking a tranquil escape.

3) Hood River, Oregon

Life in Hood River orbits around water and mountains – it’s for skiers, mountain bikers, and kiteboarders. The town is only an hour away from Portland, accessible by shuttle, bus, and car. Transportation by train is also possible.

Commonly referred to as Portland’s backyard gem, Hood River welcomes art lovers, foodies, and beer and wine enthusiasts, but even if you have other interests, you’re bound to enjoy your stay. The Camp 1805 distillery is the first in the state with a full bar, so you can indulge in clear rum, whiskey, and vodka.

4) Cumberland Island, Georgia

Cumberland Island, Woodbine, United States
Cumberland Island, Woodbine, United States via Unsplash

Cumberland Island offers visitors a unique and unspoiled coastal experience. Accessible only by ferry, the island boasts pristine beaches, lush maritime forests, and historic ruins. Visitors can explore miles of hiking trails, observe diverse wildlife, and even catch a glimpse of wild horses that roam freely on the island.

Additionally, Cumberland Island is home to historic sites such as the ruins of Dungeness Mansion and Plum Orchard Mansion, providing insight into the island’s rich history.

Overall, Cumberland Island’s remote location, natural beauty, and sense of solitude make it a hidden gem for travelers seeking a peaceful and authentic coastal escape.

5) Mackinac Island, Michigan

What makes Mackinac Island unique is its charming atmosphere, historic architecture, and absence of motor vehicles. Visitors to the island can step back in time as they explore the Victorian-era buildings, ride horse-drawn carriages, and cycle along scenic trails.

Additionally, Mackinac Island offers stunning views of the Straits of Mackinac, with opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and enjoying leisurely strolls along the shoreline.

Overall, while Mackinac Island may not be entirely hidden from the public eye, its quaint charm, car-free environment, and slower pace of life make it a hidden gem for travelers seeking a nostalgic and tranquil getaway.

6) Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Located along the picturesque shores of Lake Superior in Wisconsin, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore encompasses a stunning archipelago of 21 islands, each offering its own unique blend of natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities.

Pancake ice on Lake Superior Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Bayfield, United States
Pancake ice on Lake Superior Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Bayfield, United States via Unsplash

Despite its incredible natural features and recreational activities such as kayaking, hiking, camping, and lighthouse tours, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore remains relatively undiscovered compared to some other national parks and recreational areas. This relative obscurity adds to its charm, making it feel like a hidden treasure waiting to be explored by those in search of adventure and tranquility.

Visitors to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore can explore sea caves carved into sandstone cliffs, paddle through pristine waters dotted with historic lighthouses, and hike along scenic trails offering breathtaking views of Lake Superior. The park’s remote location and pristine wilderness make it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a peaceful retreat away from the crowds.

Whether you’re embarking on a kayaking expedition to explore the sea caves, camping on one of the islands, or simply soaking in the natural beauty of Lake Superior, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offers a hidden gem of natural splendor waiting to be discovered, especially for those who love the great outdoors.

7) Half Moon Bay, California

What makes Half Moon Bay special is its charming small-town atmosphere, stunning coastal scenery, and abundance of outdoor activities. Visitors can enjoy exploring pristine beaches, scenic coastal trails, and picturesque seaside cliffs. The town itself offers quaint shops, art galleries, and delicious seafood restaurants, adding to its appeal as a hidden gem for travelers seeking a more laid-back coastal experience.

Additionally, Half Moon Bay is home to the annual Pumpkin Festival, which draws visitors from near and far to celebrate the fall harvest season. This event showcases the town’s unique character and sense of community, further highlighting its status as a hidden gem along the California coast.

Overall, while Half Moon Bay may not be entirely undiscovered, its beauty, charm, and relatively quieter atmosphere compared to other coastal destinations make it a hidden gem worth exploring for those seeking a more authentic and relaxing coastal experience.

8) Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico
Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico via Unsplash

Acoma Pueblo is part of New Mexico’s cultural heritage. It’s believed to be the oldest and continuously inhabited city in the USA, managing to survive to narrate its story. The name of this landmark comes from the Keresan Indian language – ako means white rock and ma, people.

The pueblo resides on top of a mesa, which explains why it’s called the Sky City. It’s definitely a fantastic addition to your Route 66 tour, as the views are simply awe-inspiring, and the history is incredible. There are opportunities to interact with local vendors and artists.

9) Yachats, Oregon

Tucked away along the rugged coastline of the Pacific Northwest, Yachats offers a serene and picturesque escape for travelers seeking natural beauty and tranquility. Despite its stunning landscapes and charming coastal vibe, Yachats remains relatively undiscovered compared to more well-known destinations along the Oregon coast, making it a hidden gem for those in the know.

Visitors to Yachats can explore breathtaking coastal vistas, dramatic sea cliffs, and pristine beaches. The town itself exudes a laid-back atmosphere, with quaint shops, art galleries, and locally-owned restaurants serving up fresh seafood and Pacific Northwest cuisine.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities for hiking, tidepooling, whale watching, and beachcombing. The nearby Cape Perpetua Scenic Area offers miles of trails through old-growth forests, stunning viewpoints, and the famous Thor’s Well natural wonder.

Whether you’re seeking a peaceful seaside retreat or an outdoor adventure, Yachats offers a hidden gem along the Oregon coast where you can unwind, reconnect with nature, and create lasting memories.

10) Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park park is renowned for its pristine coral reefs, crystal-clear waters, and historic Fort Jefferson, which is situated on Garden Key within the park. Visitors can explore the fort, snorkel among vibrant coral reefs, and relax on sandy beaches surrounded by turquoise waters.

While Dry Tortugas may not be hidden from the public eye, its remote and secluded nature still make it feel like a hidden gem to many. The journey to the park, typically by boat or seaplane, adds to the sense of adventure and exclusivity, making a visit to Dry Tortugas National Park a truly unforgettable experience.

11) Petoskey, Michigan

Petoskey, Michigan - Best Hidden Gems in the US
Petoskey, Michigan – Best Hidden Gems in the US via Unsplash

Perched on the shores of Lake Michigan, Petoskey is the place where Earnest Hemingway spent the first summers of his life sailing and fishing. Swimming is a must, but so is taking a stroll through the downtown of the Gaslight District, a joyous place to spend the day with friends and strangers alike.

The lovely red and dark green trolley is a great way to save your legs when you visit interesting places in the area. If you have a love of wine, you’ll be happy to know there are excellent wineries and vineyards across Petoskey.

12) Fly Ranch Geyser, Nevada

Fly Ranch Geyser (or Fly Geyser), located in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, can be considered a somewhat hidden destination. While it has gained attention in recent years due to its unique and otherworldly appearance, it still remains relatively unknown compared to more famous geothermal attractions like Yellowstone National Park.

Fly Ranch Geyser is a human-made geyser that formed as a result of geothermal drilling in the area. Its vibrant colors, terraced pools, and constant eruptions make it a captivating sight for those who are fortunate enough to visit. However, access to Fly Ranch Geyser is restricted, and visitors typically need to arrange for guided tours or special access to view it.

While it may not be entirely hidden from the public eye, Fly Ranch Geyser’s remote location and limited access contribute to its status as a somewhat hidden destination. For travelers seeking unique and off-the-beaten-path experiences, a visit to Fly Ranch Geyser offers the opportunity to witness a natural wonder that few have had the chance to see.

13) Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park is the longest-known cave system in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. it doesn’t always receive as much attention as some of the more iconic national parks in the United States and is often regarded as one of the most underrated national parks of the country.

Mammoth Cave offers visitors the chance to explore vast chambers, intricate passageways, and underground rivers within its extensive network of caves. The park also features above-ground attractions such as hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and historic landmarks.

Despite its impressive size and geological significance, Mammoth Cave National Park tends to be less crowded than other national parks, offering visitors a chance to experience its natural wonders in a more serene and intimate setting. For travelers seeking unique underground adventures and a quieter alternative to more popular destinations, Mammoth Cave can indeed be considered a hidden gem worth exploring.

14) Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, United States
Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, United States via Unsplash

Located just outside Juneau, Alaska’s capital city, Mendenhall Glacier is easily accessible by road, making it a popular destination for visitors to the area. However, its remote location within the Tongass National Forest and its vast expanse of ice fields, deep blue crevasses, and stunning ice caves make it feel like a hidden world waiting to be explored.

Visitors to Mendenhall Glacier can hike along scenic trails, take boat tours to get up close to the glacier’s face, or even embark on helicopter tours for a bird’s eye view of this magnificent natural wonder. The nearby Mendenhall Lake and Nugget Falls offer additional opportunities for outdoor recreation and stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

While Mendenhall Glacier may not be hidden from the world, its remote location and awe-inspiring beauty make it feel like a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by those who venture to Alaska’s wild and rugged landscapes.

15) Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota

Last but certainly not least, if you prefer to avoid the crowds, abandon the beaten path and opt for a destination like the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Get an insider’s view into the history and culture of the community. The Rosebud Reservation accommodates Sicangu Sioux, the descendants of the Sicangu Oyate of the Tetonwan Division of the Oceti Sakowin or Seven Council Fires. They’re the last representatives of the Plains Indian culture. Since its founding, the reservation has been reduced in size considerably.

Pay a visit to the Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum if you want to find out more about the local traditions and culture. It’s a major resource for historians, ethnographers, anthropologists, and artists, providing a wealth of information. Of course, travel is incomplete without food, so don’t shy away from sampling the traditional Lakota foods – you can enjoy Wohanpi soup, wasna (pemmican), or Tanka bars. Nutrition is given proper respect because, without food, there’s no life.

Step out of your comfort zone – all you need is a curious heart and the willingness to venture out into the world. Before you leave, get an unlimited data plan to stay connected with your loved ones to keep them at ease.

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