Can we just say how hard it was to narrow this down to our top 5! We travel with a mindset that every single place we visit, big or small, popular or not, has amazing beauty in this country. Our personal preference is the smaller state parks, and taking the roads less traveled to find the hidden gems. But we love traveling the well-known National Parks and popular attractions too. However, this was really hard to narrow down to just 5. Justin is the love of my life, and I have a standing statement I say to him – “when we’re gone, and on to our next life, I’ll meet you right here”. Only the “right here” keeps changing. I do hope with all the direction changes we can find each other again in our next lives.
So after many weeks of re-prioritizing our top list, re-arranging, and adding, here it is.
5. Coopers Rock State Forest – West Virginia
Our youngest daughter attended WVU (recently graduated), so we’ve been back a few times and we are never disappointed. We even hiked in the pouring rain one time because it was just too beautiful to leave without hiking parts of Coopers Rock.
The Coopers Rock overlook is a 1,200-foot drop to the mile-wide gorge below. No hiking involved to see this at all. If you do nothing else, you should just walk out on this platform and take a look at this amazing view. The Fall is just breathtaking. We’ve been back to Coopers Rock twice now. We’ve hiked several hiking trails, and our favorite two were the Rock City Trail and the Clay Furnace Trail. I’m trying to keep this brief, but I think I could do a whole 3-page blog on Coopers Rock. It’s beautiful! If you only have an extra hour or an extra 3 days, there is something to see.
4. Windsor Ruins – Near Port Gibson, Mississippi
We both really like architecture and mystery surrounding unique places. This definitely has both! Windsor mansion was located on a plantation that covered 2,600 acres. The mansion was constructed between 1859 and 1861 for Smith Coffee Daniell II, who was born in Mississippi and had acquired great wealth as a cotton planter by age 30. In 1849, Smith Daniell married his cousin (YUCK LOL) Catherine Freeland. The couple had six children, with three surviving to adulthood. Much of the basic construction of Windsor mansion was accomplished by Smith Daniell’s slaves. On April 28, 1861, Smith Daniell died at age 34, just weeks after construction of the mansion was completed. The mansion stood from 1861 to 1890, when it was destroyed by fire. The mansion was never photographed in it’s completion. And to this day there has never been any known photographs found of the completed mansion. There is only someone’s drawing of it found many years later. Hummmm … makes you wonder!
3. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – UP of Michigan
This was breathtaking. The cliffs of spectacular sandstone, the colors, the caves, and the arches were truly epic! We really wanted to kayak to the caves on Lake Superior but the weather didn’t cooperate with us while we were there.
A few times a year after the rain, if the wind is just right, it will push the garnet that washes from the rocks up to the shore, turning the sand a beautiful color of pink. Bright pink! We were lucky enough to be there during one of these times. There are some beautiful hikes, however, we didn’t do much hiking while we were there. We did do a few of the shorter ones but plan to go back and do some more in-depth hiking during the warmer months. Check this video we captured!
2. Hocking Hills State Park – Ohio
Magical and Mystical. This is a small, beautiful State Park with tons of hiking. Waterfalls, bridges, rock stairs, and valleys. It’s just unbelievable. We have only traveled for a year but this is by far our favorite State Park thus far. There is just a feeling here of awe. I half expected a character from The Hobbit to walk from under the bridges or from behind the waterfalls. It’s over 2,000 acres of cliffs, waterfalls and deep Hemlock shaded gorges. We hiked several trails this day, and one wasn’t better than the other. Check out the history of Old Mans Cave if you ever get a chance to knock this off your bucket list.
1. Hidden Falls on Grayson Lake – Kentucky
This was a super easy #1 pick for us. Kayaking and secret hidden falls had me from the beginning. (Watch our video below of our trip into the hidden falls area) This is so far the most amazing kayaking we have done. The cliffs, and the canals, and the waterfalls coming off the sides was our most epic 2017 trip. Again, we will be going back with more time. We also ended up, by chance, meeting the most genuine, amazing people who offered to spend the whole next day with us showing us around and even taking a tour on their boat, and then inviting us to a community art function that night. A beautiful little town, spectacular kayaking, and scenery, and kind, genuine people make this our #1 pick.
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