Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Wyoming. 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 a link to all the amazing free places we have stayed. And there is no shortage in Wyoming!

Hell’s Half Acre

Located 40 miles west of Casper. This geologic curiosity comprises of deep crevasses, caves, rock formations, and hard-packed eroded earth. Even though it’s called Half Acre, it’s actually over 300 acres of mysterious beauty. 

Travertine Terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs

This place is incredible! I know I say that a lot, but our country just amazes me, and though this place is possibly on the border of being popular if you go at the end of summer, it’s quiet and peaceful.

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  It’s ever-changing and one of those things that make you feel you’re on another planet. 

Smith Mansion

Ok, so you all know I love castles or strange houses, but mostly I love the history behind them, which is usually kind of mysterious and bizarre. This is no exception. Wyoming’s Smith Mansion has many rumors surrounding it, but the truth is that it is simply the work of a man who could not stop building.

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I’ll let you read this interesting, strange story and the myths surrounding it today. Location: 2902 North Fork Highway, Cody, Wyoming, 82414 TIP: There is a RV Park so close to Smith Mansion, you could probably walk. 

Buford, Wyoming

Buford

Buford is the smallest town in the United States. Just fun to drive through to take a picture of the sign. Don’t forget to check out “Tree in the Rock”. The population is 1. 

Intermittent Spring

Located at the foot of a mountain just outside of Afton, Wyoming, Intermittent Spring (otherwise known as the Periodic Spring), is one of only three springs of its kind in the world that start and stop every few minutes for a reason science can only speculate on.

Researchers have not pinpointed exactly what causes the surprisingly regular ebb and flow of the spring, but they believe it has to do with an underground siphon effect. The water at the spring site is said to flow for 18 minutes straight before stopping for another 18 minutes. TIP: Follow the signs to the gravel road and drive 5 miles up. Hike an amazing 3/4 mile hike to the spring. Wear comfortable walking shoes.

Don’t forget to explore the more popular things too. They are never less beautiful or less amazing. We love to travel to these more popular places, too. But we tend to do it more off-season and during the weekdays because we can! Wyoming has endless beauty. 

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area

Highly recommend exploring The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. And of course the National Parks! Our country is breathtaking. This is a more popular place, but it was worth a mention!

World’s Largest Hotsprings

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Located in the town of Thermopolis, you can find the breathtaking hot springs. The Hot Springs are located at 168 Tepee Street.

Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway

Yes, you can drive through the three tunnels with your RV in tow. The tunnels are 14 feet high. So know your height, but most RV’s can make just fine! It’s definitely worth the drive! The Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway begins in the town of Shoshoni at milepost 100. Following U.S. 20 north through Wind River Canyon and the Wind River Indian Reservation, the route ends just north of the city of Thermopolis at milepost 134. Without stopping, the total drive time is about 40 minutes. 

Thank you for visiting our little corner of the internet. Let us know some of your favorite hidden gems in Wyoming! We’d love to hear from you!

Check out our amazing free camping in Wyoming! Click the button below!

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Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Arizona

Top Hidden Gems We Bet You Didn’t Know About in Arizona.

Arizona is just packed full of popular, fantastic things to see. Of course, The Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and the Wave. Not to mention Horseshoe Bend, Havasupai Falls and The Petrified Forest National Park. If you’ve never been to these places, don’t miss them! But we’d like to share some unique and different places you might not have heard of. 

The Mystery Castle

What a crazy, sad, unique, and finally happy ending story. I’m not going to spoil it, but we did make a video that touched on the story a little bit. We loved this tour and the eclectic mind of the man who built it for his daughter. Not only is it really odd and interesting, but the story behind it is fascinating. We were lucky enough to have Juankarlo Gastelum as a tour guide. His father was a groundskeeper for over 40 years, and he basically grew up in and around the castle. It was really fun listening to his personal stories. If you have kids, bring them! They will love this quirky place! Check out our short video below. 

Hole in the Rock

This is a natural geological formation in Papago Park, a municipal park of Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona. This is a fun, short day trip. We took lunch and enjoyed a small hike to the top. Then we hiked a little more to do some geocaching. If you don’t know what Geocaching is, check out our blog here. The views from The Hole are beautiful!

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Kartchner Caverns

This is a beautiful state park located in Benson. After their discovery in 1974, these limestone caverns were kept secret for more than a decade as a way to preserve their untrammeled beauty. Seeking undiscovered caves in the mid-70s, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts discovered evidence of a secret cave: the two felt warm air emanating from a crack at the bottom of a sinkhole they found in the Whetstone Mountains of southern Arizona. The men slipped through the crack and discovered a network of pristine caverns with spectacular rock formations, including massive stalagmites and stalactites. They would return on several occasions over four years, discovering 2.5 miles of passageways and chambers while keeping their find secret. I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of stuff I think is fascinating. Can you imagine finding something like this and having it all to yourself for years?

Kartchner Caverns

Tonto Natural Bridge

Driving near Pine, AZ? Tonto Natural Bridge is the largest natural travertine bridge in the world is nestled in a small canyon in central Arizona.

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This 183-foot-high bridge is beautiful from every angle. The three hiking trails in the area bring you all the way down to the 400-foot-long tunnel. If you are not afraid of slipping on some algae, you can make your way through the tunnel to one of the other trails. Tonto Natural Bridge will not disappoint any visitor. There are viewing points from above so those not in the hiking mood can still enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Lake Havasu’s London Bridge

The old London Bridge was carefully dismantled, and each of the stones was numbered. Once it was broken down to its pieces, they were shipped to California through the Panama Canal, and then driven down to Arizona. The bridge was then just as carefully put back together again, and Arizona’s own London Bridge was opened in 1971. Near the bridge is a little walkway. Past some little shops, ice cream stores, and a few others. We found walking down the path pretty far was actually more thrilling to us than the bridge itself. Of course, we stopped for ice cream, so maybe that was more of our thrill. Ha! 

The Desert Bar

Located in Parker – and yes, it’s the Desert Bar, not the Dessert Bar!

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So we don’t really hang out in bars much, but this is more than a bar. The road to get there is an experience in itself. You just have to visit this really neat, unique, and totally run on solar power bar in the middle of the desert. It’s only open on weekends. Most people drive off-road vehicles to get there, which is half the fun, but you can certainly take your regular vehicle. We drove our dually. It’s just one of those interesting and unique places, and I have to say, though on the expensive side (because they can … there is nowhere else to go Ha) the food is actually really good. Humor yourself and get the gigantic pretzel. But ensure you have someone (or 5 someones) to share it with. Read the story of how the owner created this, and why he decided to go forward with it. Super fun place!! 

“The” Corner in Winslow AZ

Everyone who loves The Eagles needs to go stand on the corner in Winslow Arizona. Just sayin’! (Now you can thank me! The song will be stuck in your head for hours. In my case, days! Ha Ha!)

Slide Rock State Park

Located in Oak Creek Canyon just seven miles north of Sedona.

Slide Rock State Park is home to a smooth, natural water slide. It offers a fantastic place for cooling off on a hot summer day. Visitors can slide down the slickwater chute, wade in the cool waters, or soak up the sunshine along the creek.

Grand Falls

Grand Falls after monsoon rains

Located in the Navajo Nation, this seasonal waterfall flows a rich chocolate color after the annual snowmelt or after any significant rain! Most of the time, this is a dry river bed. So if you want to see the flowing water, make sure you are close by and schedule your time to go right after a monsoon. If you can get to this in March or April that is the best time to see it. The snowmelt will give you more opportunities to see it. There is also a short period in the summer that you can see the falls due to the monsoon season, but the window is short and is highly dependent on the weather patterns that year. FYI, this is on Navajo land, and you need to obtain a permit to be on it. 

The Town of Oatman

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The town of Oatman, AZ – OH what fun!! This is a quirky, fun place. Unique shops, and wild donkeys roaming the town. I mean ruling the town. While we were there they would often try to get into the shops because some of the shop owners have favorites they feed on a regular basis, and the donkeys know this. Also, the gunfighter wild west show happens every day in the middle of town at noon. The street is blocked, and it’s about a 15 minute, very humorous thing to see. The area close to the town of Oatman to boondock is also stunning (Boondocking information below). 

Sitegreaves Pass

Don’t miss this beautiful overlook near Oatman. The views are amazing. And the drive is even better!

Hiking

If you love hiking, you just have to check out the Arizona Hot Springs.

The hike is 7 miles round trip, and it pretty much kicked my butt with the rock scrambles. I am thankful for friends who didn’t mind pushing my butt up (literally) when I needed a little help on the rock scrambles. But we did it, and it was so worth it! After we completed the hike, we ran into some other friends a few months later who told us we could have kayaked right up to the short trail to the hot springs. Well … that would have been nice. But I wouldn’t trade that day for anything. We saw some beautiful sights and spent some amazing time with some friends. 

Another amazing find is Lake Powell. We haven’t made it there yet, but it’s on our list for next time! 

Boondocking / Free Camping

There is no lack of boondocking in Arizona. Here are our top picks in Arizona. What are your favorites?

SEE PICTURES FOR GPS COORDINATES

  • Sedona AZ – Forest Road 525. 
  • Oatman, AZ – Topic Dispersed. We loved this place. Beautiful area. 
  • Table Mesa Rd Boondocking near New River, AZ. 
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Off the Beaten Path Series

Off the Beaten Path in Montana – Our Top Hidden Gems in Montana!

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.  Of course, we love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique and different to see as well. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. We live our name – Opting Out of Normal.

Summer is the perfect time to visit Montana. It gets a little warm in Montana, but most days are pleasant and comfortable.


Kootenai Falls & Swinging Bridge

Located between Libby and Troy, (mile marker 21) the swinging bridge is only about half a mile from the parking area located on Highway 2.

Swinging Bridge Libby Montana

There is a place to eat lunch and bathrooms too. It’s just downstream from Kootenai Falls, the bridge offers access to the other side of the Kootenai River, offering a better view of the falls and connecting to multiple hiking paths. Fun Fact: The bridge was featured in the hit movie, The River Wild. Fun Fact #2: Kayakers can use the bridge to gain access to the famous Super Hole and other river access points.

Garnet Ghost Town

Hidden high in the Garnet Mountain Range east of Missoula. This was one of the coolest things we saw in Montana. The history of this little town is unbelievable.

For a town built that was never intended to last, this is Montana’s most intact ghost town. The miners were more interested in collecting the riches below ground than building above. As a result, buildings grew quickly, most lacking foundations. They were small and easy to heat. Yet, a century after Garnet emerged, remnants of the town stand. If you do nothing else on this list, definitely explore this!

Garnet

The Boiling River

Boiling River flows into the Gardner River and is as natural as it gets.  Just two miles from Yellowstone National Park’s North gate. The hot water and the cool water flow together, meeting in small, stone pools that create natural hot tubs for soaking.

Boiling River

The water flowing from Mammoth Hot Springs is very hot, so be careful. This is public land, and free to use as long as you follow the posted rules. 

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The Ringing Rocks

This place is a crazy phenomenon in my opinion. I’ve seen piles of rocks that don’t “ring”, so these just don’t make sense to me, but it’s fascinating to go see. Pack some hammers for this! Different types, and sizes. You’ll figure it out when you get there! The Ringing Rocks near Butte ring melodically when tapped gently with a hammer. Some sound completely hollow.

Ringing Rocks, near Butte

This pile of rocks exists as part of the edge of the Boulder Batholith, a geological formation that reaches from Helena to Dillon, covering roughly 1,900 square miles. The rock’s composition and connection patterns create the condition that causes the rocks to ring when struck. Scientists say that once removed from the formation, the rocks no longer ring. Just go check this out! It’s really fun for kids too!  Beware though, the roads to reach the rocks are often treacherous.

Havre Beneath the Streets

This is really bizarre and we really love stuff like this! It’s a little on the shady side when you do the Havre Beneath the Streets underground tour. When a fire almost decimated the town in 1904, adaptable business owners moved underground.

Havre

Some shops opened in their basements, and together, they created a series of tunnels that stretched about a six-block radius. They carried on business as usual during the rebuilding of the town above-ground. There is a barbershop, a general store, a saloon, a bordello, and others. If you’re looking for unique, definitely put this one on your list.

Jim’s Horn House

Ready for this one? Ha! This is a collection of 16,000 antlers crammed beautifully into a small shed. It’s actually very beautifully displayed. Art!! For the last six decades, Jim’s favorite pastime has been to hike out into the Montana backcountry, braving the elements, for the sole purpose of picking up thousands of pairs of stray antlers.

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Since starting his collection as a 10-year-old boy, the “Antler Man” has amassed a grand total of 16,000 antlers, all of which are on display in one well-lit shed in Three Forks, Montana. His story is absolutely fascinating and touching. I won’t spoil it! If you’re lucky enough to get a tour, you’ll be able to hear his story firsthand. 

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Know Before You Go: Jim isn’t open as a business. But he does love to share his collection with you, but you must email him (yes, I swear, this is legitimate) and he will give you his address if he’s able to give you a tour. His email is 2jd3law4@gmail.com

Holland Lake

Holland Lake is a small glacier lake in the Flathead Valley National Forest. Yes! this picture is mine and it’s what we saw most days if we woke up early enough. Just gorgeous! We were lucky enough to work here over the summer last year as workampers. (If you would like to read our workamping blog, click here) It is a paid campground with no hookups, but oh the lake! Just wow!

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And the hiking as well is just something completely worth the stay. There is a beautiful, short hike to the waterfalls, and you can also take a longer hike up to Upper Holland Lake. But don’t go too early, as Upper Holland Lake is frozen until the middle of June. We normally are all about free camping and boondocking but I had to include this beautiful out of the way area on our list. It’s worth a stop! There is a day-use area if you just want to enjoy it for the day and take a hike from there. You may not be able to get into Holland Lake to camp (it’s off the beaten path, but it’s a very busy campground for the locals who usually head from Helena every summer). But, there is boondocking right next to Holland Lake (walking distance even) called Owl Creek.

Want to check out all our favorite boondocking locations in Montana? Click the button below for lots of great boondocking and paid campground information.

Morrell Falls

This might not be an “off the beaten path” place, but we hiked up to Morrell Falls and it’s worth a trip! The water that comes over the top of these falls is so intense, that it was hard to get pictures because as soon as we lifted our camera, it would be full of mist. We hiked in, sat in the beautiful spray of the water, ate lunch, and enjoyed a very easy hike back out.

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Here are some more of our travel blogs we think you’ll love!

Thank you for coming to our little corner of the internet. We hope you found some fun things to see and explore. We’d love to hear from you! Where are your favorite hidden gems in Montana?

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Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Colorado. Our Top 10 Hidden Gems in Colorado!

If this is your first time here – WELCOME! If not, welcome back!! 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 hidden treasures in every state. We love the big popular attractions like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and taking the road less traveled. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to share your own off-the-beaten-path stories. Each series will include a link to our favorite boondocking locations!

Here’s a fun video we made! Take a couple of minutes to explore the Midland Train Tunnels in Buena Vista! 

Twin Lakes – Twin Lakes is like no other. Incredible boondocking area (check out our boondocking link below for all the information), beautiful scenery and we met some wonderful people. The lake is incredible, with amazing kayaking and fishing. Leadville is a quaint town to visit that is pretty close.

Leadville’s Abandoned Silver Mine

There is an abandoned silver mine with wrecked and twisted structures. It’s like you’ve walked back in time. It’s interesting and eerie at the same time. Make sure to stop and soak in what might have been so long ago! And don’t miss out on the actual town of Leadville! Did you know it’s the highest incorporated town in America?

Swetsville Zoo

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Ok, so don’t expect the living, real kind of animals here! Ha! This “zoo” is a cross between a junkyard and a sculpture garden, featuring animals you won’t see anywhere else. Alongside the classic dragons and trains are aliens and dinosaurs, and some things you’ll just have to ask the owner what they are. Super fun and interesting place! This is located in Fort Collins, CO. 

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Paint Mines

No doubt this was a place where ancient people collected clay to be used as war paint on their bodies, or paint for their pottery  The weird stone shapes were formed by water, wind, and erosion. The spires come in shades from creamy white to orange, purple, gray, rust, and dark brown. Another ecosystem thrives there. So please read up before visiting. Another place that pups aren’t allowed. But, well worth the sites. 

Bishop’s Castle

This was by far the most bizarre place I’ve ever been to. Seriously EVER. My recommendation is to read the history of this place before going. We wrote a blog about it! Exploring Bishop Castle – The Most Unique and Bizarre Find in Colorado!

Cano’s Castle

Cano's Castle

Another bizarre castle. Well … if they build them, we will come! Another self-built castle where the towers are built largely out of beer cans (yep, you read that right) and other metal “things”. Cano’s Castle is actually four separate structures. “The king”, “the queen”, “the palace” and “the rook”. Located in Antonito, CO. On the corner of State St and E 10th Ave. If you’re around that area, you just gotta drive by. Tell me you aren’t speechless! Ha! 

Hanging Lake

Yes, the picture is real! Beautiful, right? Hanging Lake is a crystal-clear, travertine lake located high atop the cliffs of Glenwood Canyon. The hike is only a mile, but it’s steep with lots of rock scrambles. If you normally use hiking poles, I wouldn’t here. They can be cumbersome.  I added this to our list because of its amazing beauty and wonder. Hanging Lake is a geologic wonder. They ask that you not touch the lake at all. Not even dip your toe in it. It’s a perfectly balanced ecosystem. When you get there, you’ll see! Please make sure you follow their rules. No animals are allowed, so leave your pup home on this trip. UPDATE: In an effort to help keep control of the number of people, this hike is now by reservation only. So do your research. You can find more information here.

Flying Saucer House

Yep … another one! Ha! But where else can you see all these strangely built houses? If you’re in the area, it’s worth a drive-by. It’s been featured in several movies and episodes of “strange” homes on TV. The house is not a personal home today but is used for private events. Location is West on Highway 70 (away from Denver) – GPS: 39.7009, -105.2771

Geyser Spring Trail

Have you heard of this? I hadn’t either. Colorado’s only true geyser is hidden within the San Juan National Forest. Trailhead: 37.7573, -108.1278. US Forest Service says this is the only true Geyer in Colorado. If you wait around for a while, you’ll likely see it erupt but all that means is you’ll start to see it boil over the sides of the pool and overspill, so to speak. Not super impressive in comparison, but it’s still worth it since most likely you’ll not see a single soul there the entire time you’re there. You’ll most likely have it all to yourself. Pretty cool! The pool is about 82 degrees and bubbling. It’s also very stinky! Apparently sulfur is good for your skin, but no thanks! 

Independence Pass

You have to take a day and complete this drive. It’s incredible. It might not be a hidden gem, but it is truly breathtaking. If you drive it in August as we did, it’s as close to perfect weather as you can get. Here’s a short video we made, with some of the rules driving this pass.

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I know I could have added about 10 more things to this list. Colorado is full of “off the beaten path” things. Please comment below if you have a really cool place to share in Colorado. 

Looking for the best boondocking or paid campgrounds to stay in while you’re traveling in Colorado? Check out our ever-changing, always updating the list. Click the button below to see our best RV Camping in Colorado!

We hope you enjoyed and find value in our information. We’d love to hear from you! Have you seen something unique and off the beaten path you’d like to share with us? Please let us know!

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!