Off the Beaten Path Series

Off the Beaten Path in Mississippi. Our Top Hidden Gems

As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series, where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path.” We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include at least one epic boondocking area, some complete with pictures and all with GPS coordinates. 

Ahhhh Mississippi! Have you driven the Natchez Trace Parkway? It’s 444 miles through 3 states with fantastic history and sights. We actually started in Tennessee and drove down to Mississippi. I have a detailed 3-part series – Click the button below.

Fun Facts about Mississippi

  • Kermit the Frog was born in Leland, Mississippi
  • It’s also where Elvis was born.

Windsor Ruins

WindsorRuins1 copy

We found the story behind this absolutely fascinating. This was by far my favorite thing to see. I love castles, mysteries, and ruins. This was all of those! 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 (interesting, huh?) Catherine Freeland. The couple had six children, with three surviving to adulthood. Much of the basic construction of the Windsor mansion was accomplished by Smith Daniell’s slaves. On April 28, 1861, Smith Daniell died at age 34, just weeks after the 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 its completion. And to this day there have 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! Really enjoyed visiting this site. Such mystery surrounding his death, the fire, no known photograph … just fascinating. The ruins are falling. Literally. So don’t miss this while you can still see this. It’s not far off the Natchez Trace, but don’t take your RV. Though it might be doable in a small one, if you have the choice, don’t do it.  The parking near this is small and hard to turn around if your RV is large. The huge oak tree on the property was massive!

The only regret we had … not bringing our drone to fly. We are very law-abiding, rule-following drone flyers, and it looks like you can freely fly your drone here, which had we brought it, we would have. 

We went exploring the Natchez area and got there just in time to see this riverboat take off! That was amazing and fun to see!

Cypress Swamp

CypressSwamp2 copy

I think this was one of my favorite stops. This loop takes you through a pretty impressive but very short walk, Cypress Swamp. I didn’t realize just how unique and different Cypress trees grew. Though we were hoping to see an alligator, none seemed to be there while we were there.  

Sunken Trace

Make sure you stop at this! The trace appears sunken in this spot due to thousands of travelers walking on the easily eroded soil.

Sunk3

This short trail will allow you to walk on the Natchez Trace just as thousands have before you. It was really a neat thing to see!

Rocky Springs Abandoned Town

This was another of my very favorite stops. We stayed in the Rocky Springs campground (see GPS coordinates below), so we could spend quite a bit of time here.

InstaRocky copy

This is an abandoned town. There isn’t much to see here in the way of structures or old town buildings. They have a couple of old safes still in the church, which had a sign out for the next gathering, so we have to assume it’s still an operational church which was super cool. The history of why this town perished is unfortunate and unique. Again, I don’t want to spoil it for you. We did quite a bit of research on the history of places on the Natchez Trace, but I tried not to read the stories before going. Only after. So that way, we could learn while we were standing right in front of it. For us, that makes it so much more exciting. 

French Camp

FrenchCamp1 copy

We loved this stop! It’s a wide-open place where you can walk around the grounds, read the history, see and touch the old farm implements and you have to eat at the little restaurant (best potato soup ever!). We also learned there is a school there. Not a typical school but some sort of school where the kids live there. From listening, we understand it’s much like the “Hershey School” in PA. Also loved walking through the gift shops (there are 2). There is also a carriage house you can stay overnight in, and they have a wonderful bed and breakfast. Plan to spend a few hours here. It’s a great little community!

Children’s Museum

There is a wonderful Children’s Museum in Jackson. We did not stop there, but if you have children traveling with you, it comes highly recommended. It’s a bit on the pricey side from what I’ve seen, but definitely do some research on it. It looks like it’s a great place to spend a day!

Take A Tour of an Antebellum Home

Have you ever taken a tour of the antebellum homes in Natchez? We enjoyed a beautiful tour of a couple of them and found the historical stories really interesting. You can get information on all the homes at the welcome center in Natchez. 

Here are a few other blogs we think you’ll love!

Boondocking

Did you know you can stay at the welcome center in Natchez for two nights for free? We did it! Very friendly people at the visitors center, and they even have 20 and 30-amp hookups for us! Fresh water can be filled as you come (or leave) on the other side of the parking lot. GPS: 31.5543, -91.4131

  • Rocky Springs Campground (Natchez Trace Parkway) Hermanville, MS // GPS: 32.0868, -90.7994
  • Airey Lake Recreation Area // De Soto National Forest // GPS: 30.6892, -89.0611 We really enjoyed this area. Easy access camping, and aside from the one man who arrived on the motorcycle, clearly down on his luck and not real happy (about anything), we had a great time here. Loved the little lake, the ducks and the views were awesome, and our cell service was excellent!
  • POW Camp near Saucier, MS. See the pictures below (GPS info on the picture). Really unique history and a lake nearby.

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean, who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Thank you for stopping by our little corner of the internet! We truly appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read our blogs. We’re honored you spent the last few minutes with us!  If you aren’t signed up to follow us, please do! You’ll be notified of our new blogs when they go up. 

Amazon Affiliate disclaimer
Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Tennessee. 11 Hidden Gems You Can’t Miss.

As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include some great lists of RV camping areas. Both free and paid!

Tennessee has so many fun and unique things to do! We love caves and have you seen the cave systems in Tennessee? WOW! Just Wow!

Lost Sea Cave

The Lost Sea is America’s largest underground lake, located in Sweetwater, TN. Once you reach the lake you are able to board a flat-bottom boat and ride around on its smooth, glassy surface.

lostsea1

There are also tours that allow visitors to spend the night in the cave and explore some of the lesser-seen parts of the enormous cavern. This could be popular in the summer and even more so during the summer on weekends. I’d suggest Fall. Have you seen Tennessee in the Fall? Absolutely stunning!

The Forbidden Caverns

FORBIDDEN

Located in Sevierville, TN these caves stretch for a half-mile and feature eerie and arresting mineral formations, echoing grottoes, silent reflecting pools, and a clear cool stream fed (most likely) by a nearby underground lake.

Ruby Falls Cave

Ruby Falls Cave has all the geological features one would expect (stalactites, stalagmites, etc.) with one magical addition: an underground waterfall. Until humans tunneled into the cave in the 19th century, the water had been trickling undiscovered beneath Tennessee for roughly 200 million years. Ruby Falls is the tallest underground waterfall the public can visit. This is a lantern-only tour.

Fall Creek Falls State Park

State Parks are some of our favorite places to go.

I won’t give too much information about it other than to say it can be a pretty popular place to go. But this waterfall has been featured in movies due to its beauty! 

Window Cliffs State Natural Area

We totally stumbled upon this while visiting a friend near Cookeville! The hike is steep at the beginning but a beautiful hike with amazing views.

Spaceship House

spaceshiphouse

If you are in the area of Signal Mountain, you must visit the Spaceship House. If you read my blogs you know I love the crazy and different houses, castles, etc. As of 2008 after several private owners, it was purchased by Signal Mountain and is now a vacation rental property. Super fun to just drive by and get pictures in front of though! 

Fun Museums

There are a ton of museums that are fun. Teapot Museum in Trenton, International Towing and Recovery Museum in Chattanooga and don’t forget … the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum. 

Tuckaleeche Caverns

tuckcave1

Located 32 miles from Knoxville, in Townsend, TN this mile-long cave system is near the Great Smoky Mountains. Visitors come here to see both the strange and impressive geological formations, but also the crystal clear stream that flows through the entire system of caverns.

Raccoon Mountain Caverns – Chattanooga, TN More than 5 miles of underground passages. This is still on our list of things to see for sure!

Twin Falls Waterfall – Rock Island State Park

waterfall-1618435_1920

Not a natural waterfall, but very beautiful to see! 

Patricks Pub and Grill

Well … depends on which side of the restaurant you sit on. You might be in Georgia, or you might be in Tennessee. You might park in Tennessee and eat in Georgia.

Super cool little bar and grill where the state line runs right through the middle. No alcohol on the Georgia side though! You can certainly have a drink served to you just a few feet away on the Tennessee side though.

Savage Gulf State Natural Area

Most beautiful hike!! Near Palmer, TN. Probably not exactly a slot canyon, but some of the hiking areas are amazingly similar and just as beautiful! This park is filled with waterfalls and bluffs that are just so unbelievable. The Stone Door trail is incredible!

Check out the stairs built right into the cliff. The Laurel Falls Loop trail leads you to a beautiful waterfall by the same name. There is another amazing waterfall that falls into a pool you can swim in if you want, called Greeter Falls. You’ll feel you’ve left the USA when you look at the turquoise pool. 

Savage Gulf Natural Area

What have you found while exploring Tennessee? We’d love you to share your own hidden gems with us! Here are some other blogs we think you’d love!

RV Camping in Tennessee

Click the button below to be taken to our list of the best free boondocking and paid campgrounds we’ve stayed at!

Thank you for stopping by our little corner of the internet! We truly appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read our blogs. We’re honored you spent the last few minutes with us!  If you aren’t signed up to follow us, please do! You’ll be notified of our new blogs when they go up. 

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in West Virginia. Unique and Hidden Gems in West Virginia

As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include at least 1 epic boondocking area, some complete with pictures, and all with GPS coordinates. 

WV

When our youngest daughter was accepted into the forensic program at WVU in Morgantown, we were excited to see and explore WV. We hadn’t been there before, and  So we found ourselves venturing to WV a lot to visit. WOW! What an amazing, beautiful state to explore!! Fall in WV is spectacular. 

What did we notice a lot of? Abandoned towns, jails, theme parks, schools, etc. If you’re into exploring abandoned places, this is your Mecca. Did you also know that the Worlds Largest Teapot can be found in WV? This is not something I went to see, but maybe if I were driving near Chester, I might stop for a picture. 

New River Gorge Bridge

new-river-gorge-bridge-871395_1920

Fayetteville, WV – I’m not sure if this is really something to go out of your way to see, but it is very impressive!! Built in 1977 and ranking among Earth’s finest mega-bridges, the New River Gorge Bridge can be challenging enough to motorists’ bravery simply when driving across. But one day each year it takes thrill-seeking to a whole new level when base jumpers from all over the world cling to its girders and fling themselves off in a massive festival made special for its legality, of all things.  The views over the gorge are amazing!

While you’re in Fayetteville, check out Nuttallburg. Hikers can still stroll beneath the long conveyor of this abandoned mining facility hidden in a West Virginia river gorge. First established in 1870, the Nuttalberg Coal Mining Complex and its attendant ghost town have been abandoned since the early 20th century, but determined hikers can still visit the remains of the operation which are sitting in a lush West Virginia river gorge.

Berkeley Springs Castle

Samuel Taylor Suit was many things: a successful whiskey distiller; an honorary Kentucky colonel; and a wealthy, well-connected landowner, businessman, and politician.

meBerkeley Springs Castle

He was also unlucky in love. Samuel Suit’s first wife died in childbirth, and his second wife divorced him after 20 years of marriage that proved to be socially advantageous but otherwise deeply contentious. When he fell in love a third time, it was with Rosa Pelham, daughter of a Congressman from Alabama, and 29 years his junior. The couple married, and Samuel built his new bride a castle. Access to this castle is not allowed, but you can certainly see it easily from the road. 

Fun Places in West Virginia to Explore as a Family

If you’re in the area of  Berkeley Springs, to do a drive-by of the castle above, and you are curious about where George Washington took a bath — Check out George Washington’s Bathtub.

Nelson Rocks / Suspension Bridge

meNelsonRocks1

A popular, busy place is Seneca Rocks. But have you heard of Nelson Rocks? Located in the North Folk Valley of Pendleton County, WV. This is just an amazing sight to see. Would I cross that bridge? NOPE! But it is such a sight to see. Nelson Rocks, in the North Fork Valley of West Virginia, is located just 10 miles south of Seneca Rocks. This unique rock formation is comprised of two razorbacks “Fin” ridge-lines of Quartzite rock. When you make it to the bridge, definitely take a minute to have a drink of water. This is the part of the trip where most people discover they have a fear of heights. Ha! The bridge spans roughly 150 ft across and takes you over the gap and valley floor located 200+ ft below. If you are afraid of heights and have made it this far, I applaud you! Take the bridge slowly. Each wooden plank is roughly a foot apart and will require you to look down as you make each step. You are clipped into the steel cable, but the bridge swings if you move too fast.

MENelsonRocks5

Curious Rock

Located in Spencer, WV – Natural formation or Native American totem? Local legends imply that it could be either, or perhaps both. Onlookers say this large, 20 ft rock formation looks like a “God” sitting on the mountain top. After a 2 hour hike, this unexplained tower appears to have an altar for worship, or simply a sitting area for visitors. The large capstone precariously sitting atop the stone column almost looks like a hat. While there are local mysteries regarding the formation’s origins, geologists actually have a name for this type of rock: a “Table Rock” formation, not unlike the Jug Rock formation in Indiana (which I mention in my blog here) or the Turnip Rock formation in Michigan (which I mention in my blog here). 

Old Abandoned Dam in Spencer, WV

If you decide to check out the above Curious Rock, make sure you take a side trip and also explore the old Dam in Spencer too. This is an incredible hike to an abandoned dam in the middle of a forest. The hike is easy and less than a 2-mile round trip hike. Well worth it! The name of the trail is called Ben’s Run trail.

WVU PRT

PRT2

Most of our time was spent in the Morgantown area. Whether you have ties to WVU or not, you just gotta check out this university. It’s absolutely gorgeous!! And if you haven’t seen their PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) system it’s the most fun, and unique transit system aside from Disneyland, we’ve ever seen. The first of its kind, and greenlit in the early 1970s as a federally funded transportation pilot project, the Morgantown PRT was designed by Boeing and cost $120 million to construct. In continual usage since 1975, the system consists of a fleet of 71 automated, rubber-wheeled vehicles operating on an 8.7-mile long network of elevated guideways. It features a number of inventive features, including a heating system that pumps chemicals and warm water onto the tracks to clear them of snow in the winter. Unlike similar transit systems, travelers on the Morgantown PRT can travel directly to their final destination, without additional stops along the way. We love going to visit and seeing the PRT running all over the place. 

Favorite Waterfalls

If you follow our blogs, you know waterfalls are my favorite! Aside from the beautiful waterfall at Blackwater Falls State Park (see below), check out Cascade on Glade Creek in Babcock State Park.

Henry Clay Iron Furnace

Furnace1
Furnace2

Justin and I like to hike, and last year we hiked to the Henry Clay Iron Furnace. It’s an easy hike, and really a neat part of history. (Yes, Justin likes to investigate inside things like this) These furnaces processed ore into raw pig iron that was necessary to drive the industrial revolution and the growing appetite for steel and ironworks that came with it. Iron furnaces were especially prevalent throughout central and western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia (Virginia at the time).  It’s about a 3/4 of a mile hike from Coopers Rock.

Coopers Rock

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0071.JPG

Speaking of Cooper’s Rock! WOW! It’s all about the views! Located 13 miles from Morgantown, a few minutes off Interstate 68, the forest has many overlooks of the canyon section of the Cheat River that offer breathtaking views in any season. I think we’ve been there every single time we’ve visited our daughter. And every single time we’ve seen something new. One year we hiked in pouring down rain just to be able to complete one of the many magnificent hikes there. I’ll bet there are 7-10 different hiking trails at Coopers Rock, and each one shows you something different. The overlook area is just a super short walk from the parking lot. So if you aren’t into hiking, make sure you at least take the paved path to the overlook. It’s breathtaking! If you love Geocaching, there are quite a lot at Coopers Rock. Don’t know what Geocaching is? Check out our blog here and you’ll be hooked! It’s free fun for big kids and young kids!

Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory

Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory  Monroe County  – The Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory is located in an old forest service fire tower. It’s the perfect spot for viewing hawks, eagles, falcons and osprey, especially during migration season from August through November. Find the observatory about halfway between Waiteville and Gap Mills

Oregon Cave

meorgancave2

Organ Cave – You know we love caves if you’ve been following our other Off the Beaten Path blogs. A visit to Organ Cave is definitely worth the drive. This cave has bats, fossils, rock formations and an interesting Civil War history. Take one of three tours to explore the cave and learn all about this interesting natural wonder. You’ll find it south of I-64 in Greenbrier County.

Blackwater Falls State Park

BLACKWATER FALLS STATE PARK

Blackwater Falls State Park – Another beautiful, amazing state park that is hardly heard of. The waterfall is easy to get to and see, and well worth the trip. FYI, the state park has no cell service, so if someone is meeting you there, make sure all communication is done prior. Also, don’t miss the Elakala Falls in this park.

Boondocking

  • Summerville Dam Site Army Corps Of Engineers GPS: 38.2175, -80.8901
  • St. Albans Roadside Park City Park – Only 3 sites – max stay 2 days – Free electric hookups GPS: 38.3884, -81.8249
  • Little River dispersed camping Durbin, West Virginia RV size is unlimited GPS: 38.650157, -79.74618 Monongahela National Forest’s Greenbrier Ranger District on FR17
  • Gandy Creek dispersed camping Whitmer, West Virginia GPS: 38.76688, -79.57288 About 25 sites, unlimited RV length
  • Dolly Sods at Bear Rocks WV – Davis WV GPS: 39.065981, -79.301634 Bear Rocks is spectacularly beautiful with great scenic views

Thank you for visiting our little corner of the internet! We hope you found some value and fun things to put on your West Virginia bucket list! Please share your favorite hidden gems with us! And check back often! We update our blogs with new places and things to do all the time.

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!