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- Social media has become a huge tool in helping travelers find inspiration for their next trip – but sometimes these “Instagram-worthy” destinations become overcrowded.
- Insider compiled a list of 20 lesser-known stunning locations in the US.
- You can explore ice caves on the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, or see a light dusting of snow on Arizona’s red rocks in Sedona.
- You can see Canada, the Atlantic Ocean, and five different states from Mount Washington.
In the past decade, social media has taken over the travel industry. Trips are planned around potential Instagram posts, and travelers are flocking to photo-worthy beaches and mountains, only to arrive and see everyone else had the exact same idea.
Yet there is an abundance of untouched wonders across the US that very few travelers know about. Whether it’s a trickier hike or an extra 30-minute long drive, these lesser-known destinations are well worth the effort to visit. Just don’t tell anyone.
Pelindaba Lavender Farm, San Juan County, Washington
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Washington may be notorious for rain, but the gloomy weather breaks open in the summer, when lavender is in full bloom. The San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington are bursting with lavender farms, and visitors can get lost wandering for hours through the groves.
Thor’s Well, Cape Perpetua, Oregon
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Thor’s Well is a large hole in a rock that constantly drains water from the ocean. During high tide, ocean water rushes through the hole and creates a fairly dangerous site. Because the waves are so aggressive, photographs of the scene are rare, making this site fairly unknown.
Fly Geyser, Gerlach, Nevada
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Located on Fly Ranch Property, these two geysers are a product of a man-made accident. In 1964, a well was drilled, but eventually work stopped once they reached geothermal boiling water. Apparently the well was sealed, but the seal didn’t keep, resulting in a super natural-looking mound that continues to grow. The green and red colors come from the thermophilic algae which illuminates in a moist and hot atmosphere. The geyser can be viewed during nature walks held between April and October.
Abiqua Falls, Marion County, Oregon
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Abiqua Falls Trail is a difficult trail, but the payoff is enormous. Hikers enjoy a leisurely nature hike that ends almost directly across from the top of the waterfall, giving visitors a fantastic view looking down into the bright swimming hole. However, more daring hikers will continue the very physical descent down the dirt-covered rocks, where you can plunge into the freezing cold water and enjoy the seclusion for hours.
Taggart Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
- Caroline Fox/Insider
Hiking the Taggart Lake Trail takes you away from the crowds and tourists. The trail opens up into a glistening (and cold) Taggart lake, offering a clear reflection of the Grand Tetons on the water. This hidden treasure also awards hikers with picturesque views of the American West and the opportunity to spot some incredible wildlife.
Taos Pueblo, Taos, New Mexico
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The Taos Pueblo is the only Native American site that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The buildings have been lived in for over 1,000 years and are constructed entirely out of straw, water, and the grounds of the earth to form a mixture called adobe. Few tourists know the history of the site, and it is an important destination to check out on any road trip through the West.
Hamilton Pool Preserve, Travis, Texas
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Hamilton Pool Preserve is a local’s secret swimming hole. Freezing cold water spills over limestone rocks to create a 50-foot waterfall that bursts into a wide-open canyon. The site itself is spectacular, but watching people dare to plunge into the icy water is even more exciting.
Mount Scott Hiking Trail, Crater Lake, Oregon
- Caroline Fox/Insider
Crater Lake National Park is a popular national park, but hiking is a great way to get off the beaten path and take in 360-degree views. The challenging, seemingly never-ending switchbacks on Mount Scott Hiking Trail make this hike less-populated than others, and the few who reach the top earn a quiet lookout point all to themselves.
Fern Canyon in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County, California
- Sumiko Scott/Getty Images
The hike to Fern Canyon isn’t easy, which keeps this hidden paradise quiet and fairly unpopulated. Unlike most dry canyons out west, Fern Canyon has seven different types of ferns attached to the rocks, with an abundance of salamanders and frogs living underneath. Weave through the canyon using the footbridges, where you’ll pass by different waterfalls and creeks as the canyon begins to close in on you.
National Lakeshore Ice Caves, Apostle Islands, Wisconsin
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The National Lakeshore ice caves come out when the temperature is just right. It has to be cold enough for visitors to delicately tread across Lake Superior, but the dangerous trek is well worth it. The red sandstone cliffs are dripping with massive icicles that sparkle in the sun. Tourists need the correct gear to make the hike, which makes this site fairly undiscovered and empty.
Soldier Pass Trail, Sedona, Arizona
- Caroline Fox/Insider
The red rocks in Arizona may be fairly known, but the opportunity to see them in the wintertime is entirely different. Most tourists are used to photos of the red rocks under the hot Arizona sun, but to see them covered in a light dusting of snow and bursting with pine trees is truly unique.
Tennessee Valley, San Francisco, California
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Very close to San Francisco is the Tennessee Valley Hiking Trail, which offers breathtaking views of the sunset and opens up into a secluded beach. Most tourists head towards Marin headlands and completely miss this hike and beach access, bringing the lucky ones peace and quiet.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
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About 45 minutes outside of New Orleans, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve protects Louisiana’s Mississippi River Delta region. Paths are built-in, and visitors can stroll through the swamps, where alligators swim past your feet. Trees and plants fill the swamp water, giving off the illusion of a grassy field and creating the ideal environment for unique southern wildlife.
Blue Lakes Trail, Mount Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado
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The Blue Lakes Trail should be on the top of everyone’s list if you ever find yourself traveling through Colorado. The trail weaves through wildflower meadows and leads you to three lakes: lower, middle, and upper. Lower lake is the easiest to get to and has flat space where hikers can choose to spend the night, but the middle and upper lakes offer the best 360 views of the entire glacial basin.
Mildred B. Cooper Chapel, Bella Vista, Arkansas
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Sun streams through the Mildred B. Chapel, made up of 50 arches that reach over 50 feet into the air. The chapel is transparent, which makes the interior constantly feel different depending on the changing weather and seasons. Secluded on a wooded hilltop, visitors and locals enjoy meditating and reflecting inside and around the peaceful forest.
Mount Washington, Coös County, New Hampshire
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Mount Washington is the highest peak in the northeast, and the best way to summit to the peak is on the Cog Railway. Only about an hour up to the top, this historic railway ends with a 360 view of Canada, the Atlantic Ocean, and five different states. Take the train in early fall and you’ll weave through the brightly colored trees and leaves that make New England autumn so famous.
Pictured Rocks, National Lakeshore, Michigan
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The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a hidden gem, offering crystal clear waters, kayaking, rock climbing, bird watching, fishing, and some great exploring. The picturesque spot is just as beautiful in the winter, where visitors and locals alike enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and even snowmobiling for the adrenaline junkies.
Cedar Falls, Hocking Hills State Park, Hocking County, Ohio
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Hocking Hills State Park has seven different hiking trails, and Cedar Falls is a must. The trail itself is only a half-mile long and perfect for kids of all ages. It ends with a whimsical waterfall plunging over moss-covered rocks and surrounded by huge trees. Because the trail is so short, it’s a great spot to have a picnic or spend an afternoon relaxing.
Mohegan Bluffs Beach, Block Island, Rhode Island
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Thirteen miles off the coast of Rhode Island and only about 9 miles long, Block Island is a hidden spot offering beaches, hikes, and endless exploring. As tourists flood the island on the daily ferry, the main beaches quickly fill up. A rugged hike down the breathtaking Mohegan Bluffs opens up to essentially your own private beach built into the rocks. Plus, it’s a locals secret that rubbing the dark mud from the rocks onto your skin makes for a perfect exfoliants.
Grace Farms, New Canaan, Connecticut
- Grace Farms/Facebook
Grace Farms is approximately 80 acres of open meadows, woods, and ponds. Right outside of New York City, visitors can stroll through the property and modern architecture, experiencing a rare few moments of peace and quiet.
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