I have been traveling the US for over a year and a half now living out of my car and relying on a strict budget and the kindness of strangers to get by, while see absolutely everything I can; be it big cities or quaint towns, National Parks, National Monuments and all else. What are your favorite places that dont show up on a map? I have fallen in love with some places in the Southwest, specifically, The "not so secret" Wave in Wire Pass.
If you have any recommendations outside the tourist traps and iconic destinations, I'd love to hear them, -snip-
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Decades ago it was noted that when Lonely Planet guides started showing people these off the map gems, suddenly they became full of tourists and just another tourist trap. That is why many now keep such places to themselves.
Some of the best places I found in America I happened on by accident.
British comedian Billy Connolly drove along Route 66 (in the miniseries of that name) and found a number of gems which have since been forgotten as people now take the fast route instead.
A few of mine--at the risk of them becoming big tourist attractions:
(1) the Bobsled Ride (available both in summer and winter) at the Olympic Village in Park City, Utah--it's pricey, but simply the closest you can get to feeling like you are actually an olympic competitor. P.S. One of the "regular" drivers is actually the German who won the Olympic bobsled competition (gold medal) when the Olympics were held in Utah. My friend went on this in winter and the time they set would have won them the Olympic Bronze medal had they been competing. I went on it in summer and went almost 73 miles per hour on my trip down the mountain.
(2) Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming. Everyone goes to "Old Faithful", which is only about 4 miles away from this spring--but only a few go to this spring--even though it is the largest in North America. I was fortunate enough to be here at a time when it was clear, but starting to get super cold. In about 20 minutes, it went from being clear to cloudy to it starting to snow. As a result, all the other tourists left and jumped in their cars. However, standing near this beautiful opal lake I noticed that I was still receiving the warmth from the steam coming off the lake, which was melting (and steam drying) the snow just as it was reaching the top of my head. In a few minutes, I noticed giant herds of buffalo and elk were all starting to head my way. They knew the "secret" and were heading to the lake to stay warm during the snowstorm. As my wife urged me to leave before getting trampled, I left, but not before seeing (and feeling) one of the greatest spectacles of my life.
For a picture, see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Grand_prismatic_spring.jpg
The black thing on the south and east side of the picture is not a road, but rather the walking ramp over the hot springs leading up to the opal lake (notice the steam on the east side of the picture (which is actually the west side of the lake).
(3) Just north of the town of Mexican Hat, in southern Utah, is an interesting site. If you travel up from Mexican Hat on state highway 261 about 10 miles you will approach a "plateau wall" of flat mountains--all rising approximately straight up about 2500 feet to 3000 feet. You'll be wondering where the tunnel is that takes you to the other side through the mountain--but, surprise!--there is no tunnel. Instead, the road narrows to essentially one lane--and then winds its way back and forth straight up the side of this plateau. It (along with the famous "Going to the Sun" road in Glacier Park) is one of the most unusual (and totally frightening) journeys you will ever take. Particularly this is true if you find yourself either behind an RV thinking it has a snowball's chance in hell of making it up this road--or facing an RV trying to come down the road from the top. The only possible places to pass is at the turns at the end--and even then by not leaning out the windows and risking tipping your car off the road and tumbling to the canyon below. I think the drive may be even more harrowing if you are coming from the top down. Either way, enjoy the view from the top (if you survive the trip).
(4) Snoqualmie Falls, Washington--just a short ways (15 miles) east of Seattle. It is actually higher (more than 50% higher) than Niagara Falls, but gets about 10 tourists a day compared to Niagara Falls' ten thousand tourists a day. There is actually a restaurant (fairly expensive) built right over the top of the falls. I never understood the building of it there, since you can't see the falls from that vantage point. Just go down river 100 yards and the view is fantastic.
(5) St. Michaels, Maryland. This city is becoming a tourist destination, but is still fairly quiet. On the east side of Chesapeake Bay is this historic town that has retained its character and offers some of the best bay rentals on the entire east coast. It has a famous lighthouse and some quaint shops, and great crab restaurants. But if you like a family getaway with your wife and young kids at a summer retreat without having to fly to either Florida, California or Hawaii, then this east coast retreat might be for you.
[ Edit: Edited on 14-Aug-2012, at 01:29 by Calcruzer ]