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Whether it’s Yellowstone on the northern route or the Grand Canyon on the southern route, there are certain stops that everyone knows about and few choose to skip. For those interested in some of the more “off the beaten track” stops, we’ve compiled a list of hidden gems for your America road trip.
1. Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Idaho
A large waterfall (larger than Niagara Falls) on the Snake River, Shoshone Falls is nothing short of gorgeous. With a number of viewing platforms that put you out on the cliffs overlooking the falls, you should plan on taking plenty of photos.
2. Perrine Bridge, Jerome, Idaho
Just a few minutes from Shoshone Falls, the Perrine bridge is the only bridge in the US where people can legally base jump. Even if you don’t catch anyone making the plunge, the view of the canyon below and the Snake River is breathtaking. Try to time it up for sunset.
3. Petrified Forest National Park, Apache and Navajo Counties, Arizona
A southern route stop that has plenty of fans but occasionally gets overlooked by other southwest stops, the park’s multi-colored layered rock and striking rock formations will make you feel like you’ve landed on another planet.
4. The Mississippi Gulf Coast
The beach can be a nice break from several days in the car. While even the best beaches in Alabama are getting notoriety, Mississippi’s coast has plenty of beautiful beaches and interesting coastal towns to check out, without any crowds. Seek out some live music and southern seafood.
5. National Museum of the US Air Force, Dayton, Ohio
With over 360 aircraft and missiles on display, the NMUSAF is fascinating for aircraft experts and novices alike. From presidential aircraft to famous WWII bombers to stealth spy planes, the museum is an engaging break (and history lesson) from the monotony of the road.
6. Livingston, Montana
Part flashback to the Old West and part escape for creatives, Livingston is one of Montana’s most interesting cities. Smack dab in the middle of famed Paradise Valley, the town is just upriver from the gates of Yellowstone and surrounded by stunning peaks. Besides being a capital for outdoor recreation (fly fishermen consider Livingston a mecca) the town also has a long history of welcoming artists like author Jim Harrison and painter Russell Chatham. Thanks to that the main stretch of downtown is lined with art galleries and spots of cultural significance.
7. Voyageurs National Park, International Falls, Minnesota
Voyageurs National Park tucked away in the far north of Minnesota, is one of the least visited national parks in our country. This is partially thanks to its difficult accessibility. Road trippers should be aware that the bulk of the park is only reached by boat, or in the winter by snowmobile or snowshoeing. However, they can get close to it and the extra step of taking a boat is well worth it. with over a thousand miles of lake shoreline and over 50 miles of hiking trails, outdoors enthusiasts, especially fishermen, kayakers, and hikers, will love Voyageurs.
8. Palouse Falls State Park, Washington
Canyons in the United States are usually associated with the Southwest. So it might come as a surprise to find some of the most beautiful examples of canyons in the Pacific Northwest. The Gorge in northern Washington has been put on the map by the Sasquatch Music Festival and thus doesn’t qualify as a hidden gem anymore. What does is Palouse Falls State Park. While Washington’s National Parks are often praised, the virtually unknown Palouse Falls is home to arguably the most beautiful single point of interest. Located in the south of the state, the falls are a result of the Snake River falling a couple of hundred feet into the origins of the Palouse River Valley. The site really is something to behold and looks more like something out of an Iceland guidebook than something encountered on a US road trip.
9. Bend, Oregon
Bend is one of those special places where nature integrates itself into the community, culture, and souls of those living there. Endless hiking trails, forested neighborhoods, the Deschutes River, and access to skiing and snowboarding on Mount Bachelor all constantly remind locals and visitors that they’re in one of the most beautiful and active cities in the US. But hey folks can’t always be frolicking outside. So we recommend visiting the shops and restaurants in Downtown Bend, or perhaps take it a step further and see why the city claims to have the most breweries per capita in the country.
10. Mendocino, California
It is hard to believe that anywhere in the most populated state could be considered a “hidden gem”. But in reality, most of the area in California north of the Bay Area is widely unexplored by tourists. Coastal cities like Eureka, Fort Bragg, and Mendocino benefit from this lack of visitors as their beaches are pristine and their towns sleepy but charming. Mendocino gets the nod over the others because the surrounding scenery is unbeatable. Big River Beach at Mendocino Headlands State Park boasts some of the best views of coastline anywhere. Much of the old school coastal architecture has earned a large portion of the town a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
11. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas
A fine arts museum in a city in Arkansas with under 50,000 inhabitants? Believe it. Of course, the explanation makes sense upon realizing that Bentonville is the birthplace of Walmart. Now, years later, the founder’s family the Waltons, maintain the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art as a passion project. The stunning pavilions are primarily built atop a series of ponds, giving the museum a striking look in a serene setting. The art collection contains pieces from titans of American art including Georgia O’Keefe, Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol, and Norman Rockwell. Auctions at the museum in the last decade have seen paintings by Warhol and O’Keefe sell for 57 and 44 million dollars each. In a part of the country where road trippers might think they just need to “power through”, Crystal Bridges is an inspiring revelation.