Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Oregon – 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 1 epic boondocking area, some complete with pictures and all with GPS coordinates. 

Oregon is … simply put … EYE CANDY. If you blow through Oregon fast, this is one state you’re really missing some phenomenal things. Spend some time here! You won’t regret it. The Oregon Coast is one of the most amazing drives in itself. Make sure you spend some time driving the coast if you can. 

Some of the popular things in this state, I still have to highly recommend. Have you seen Thor’s Well or hike around Crater Lake? The Columbia River Gorge with the Multnomah Falls looks so picture-perfect, it’s almost fake! Cannon Beach and Mt. Hood National Forest are definitely the more popular things not to miss. But that’s not why you’re here! Let’s get to the Off the Beaten Path stuff!


Here are our pick’s for the unique and different finds.


Sea Lion Cave

Located 11 miles north of Florence on U.S. Highway 101 – The Sea Lion Caves along the Pacific coast in Oregon are a connected system of caverns where Steller’s sea lions (also known as northern sea lions) gather every spring and summer to breed and give birth to a new generation.

If you arrive and see no sea lions, it’s still a really cool place to see. At sea level, the ocean continually washes into the main chamber of the caves. The walls of the cavern are stained with a rainbow of colors because of the lichens and algae that grow in the dark, wet space.

Painted Hills

An unusual combination of a brutal high-desert climate mixed with the gentler lowland environment creates a setting for one of the most scenic landscapes in Oregon. Turn north to Burnt Ranch Road from Route 26 in Oregon, and it is impossible to miss them. This reminded us of South Dakota’s “Bad Lands” area. 

Octopus Tree of Oregon

Located in Tillamook – The Octopus Tree is believed to be around 300 years old. The tree itself extends from a central base that is nearly 50 feet around, and instead of shooting straight up with a central trunk, the body of the tree splits into a number of smaller trunks. The bizarre arbor has long been an attraction but the origins of its odd shape are up for debate.  

The Wreck of Peter Iredale

100-year-old shipwreck you can walk up to at low tide. The Peter Iredale was a four-masted steel barque sailing vessel that ran ashore on October 25, 1906, on the Oregon coast en route to the Columbia River. It was abandoned on Clatsop Spit near Fort Stevens in Warrenton about four miles (6 km) south of the Columbia River channel.

The wreckage is still visible. Take SW 9th Street West from Warrenton proper and turn north on NW Ridge Road. Turn left/west onto Peter Iredale Road and follow it all the way to the beach, where there is a lot of parking about 200 yards from the wreck.

Crack In The Ground

MEcrackrock

I’m guessing coming up with a name wasn’t top on the priority list for this. Ha! This volcanic fissure is over two miles long and up to 70 feet deep – Simply called Crack in the Ground. There are 2 places in my travels I have found where I feel the most peace. Peace with everything and a calmness comes over me that it’s just hard to explain. Those two places are walking through a slot canyon, and next to a waterfall. Some people love the beach, I’m more of a waterfall girl. This crack in the ground is really amazing to walk through. It’s like a slot canyon and really is something to see. It’s over two miles long and up to 70 feet deep. If you can’t walk the whole thing, at least step inside a few feet of it if you can. It is located in the Deschutes National Forest. Hikers can walk the length of the main crack and explore its tributaries.

Airplane Home

Airplane

If you’ve followed along, you know how much I love strange homes and mystery castles with a story. Well … how about Airplane Home in the Woods? This man lives in a converted Boeing 727 parked out back. The aircraft’s owner, Bruce Campbell has been living in the airplane for six months each year since purchasing the plane in 1999 for $100,000. Equipped with water, electricity, and sewage plus 1,066 square feet of interior space, Campbell’s airplane home is pretty plush for all its eccentricities. This private residence is on private property, so check out his website for a tour if you’re interested. Campbell is happy to offer tours of his airplane in the woods.  Email: bruce@AirplaneHome.com

Elowah Falls Bridge

Elowah Falls (also called McCord Creek Falls). This reminds me of The Hobbit. Ha! I am sure you’ll feel the same way when you check it out. It’s on our list of places to see! So if you get there first, send me a picture or 5. Ha! If you allow us to post the pictures, I’ll give you credit!

2021 Update! One of our readers sent us this beautiful picture of Elorah Falls Bridge. Thank you to Holly for this picture, and you can follow her on Instagram @adventureswithholly. I highly recommend following her. She has some amazing and beautiful places to explore, not to mention incredible photography!!

Photo By Holly – IG: @adventureswithholly

Pillars of Rome

Located in Malheur County you will find these awesome and unique rock formations. Driving on Highway 95 South to Rome, then go west from Rome station the south for a little over a mile and you can’t miss this. Millions of years of weather erosion have given us an amazing sight to see. 

Natural Bridges Cove

Located on Hwy 101 along the southern Oregon coast, it holds many interesting natural wonders, including Natural Bridges Cove. Just before the CA border, there is the town of Brookings. This cover is just a couple of miles north of that. Just breathtaking. 

Salt Creek Falls

I mentioned my love of waterfalls, right? Salt Creek Falls is one of 7 Waterfall Wonders in the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Region. Cascading 286 feet, Salt Creek Falls is one of Southern Oregon’s most powerful falls. A steep trail from the platform to the waterfall’s base is short but is not wheelchair accessible due to numerous stairs. The best viewpoint is halfway down this path. Salt Creek Falls Observation Site is 23 miles southeast of Oakridge and approximately 5 miles west of Willamette Pass. From Highway 58 look for the signs, turn onto Forest Service Road 5893, and follow the signs.

UPDATE! We visited the Oregon Coast this summer and found more for you!

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

Have you been to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse? We visited this really unique lighthouse, with a really great story! Take the tour! It’s free! The beautiful scenery around it, is just as amazing.

Oh … A little advice!! Traveling down the Oregon Coast? Don’t feed the sea birds. Even if he or she looks you in the eyes, begs and promises to be alone. Don’t ask us how we know that!! If you decide your story will be different, don’t say we didn’t warn you! Ha!!!

Looking for RV camping in Oregon? Click the button below where we share all our free boondocking plus paid campground and membership camping areas.

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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.

mammoth-50102_1280

  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.

Smith1me

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

Thermopolisme

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!

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Off the Beaten Path Series

Off the Beaten Path in Indiana. Our Top 10 Secret Finds in Indiana!

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 taking that road less traveled. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too.

Indiana – Who knew we’d find so much to do there? So much, I’m only scratching the surface in Indiana. I was writing and writing and realized it was going to be just too long of a post, so I picked out just the ones I hoped would be fun for everyone. There are so many more. 

Gravity Hill

I’m sure this isn’t much of an “off the beaten path” find anymore, as it’s become a little popular, but it’s still a really unique and interesting thing to see! Located in Mooresville is one of the most strange stretches of roads in the entire world. Locals nicknamed it “Gravity Hill” as drivers have reported rolling up the hill backward when they park their cars in neutral at the bottom of the hill. Go see for yourself. The hill is located about a mile off IN-42 on Keller Hill Road. Mooresville’s famous Gravity Hill is actually an optical illusion, but it is a strange one. If you were to place a ball in the road the hill will immediately start to pull it “up”  – wait … up?

Yes! In the wrong direction, according to gravity. Again, it’s a strange optical illusion. You’ll have to check this road out! It’s pretty strange! Definitely messes with what you think you’re seeing. There is kind of a creepy legend about this road. Go check it out, and let us know if you see “fingerprints in flour” on your bumper. Ha! Bring a little bag of flour if you’re curious!  Directions: Take exit 59 off of I-70 to Highway 39, then turn left on Keller Hill Road. Take the road to the dead-end, then turn around. One mile after turning around, you will find the hill.

Greensburg Tree Tower

This is a strange but interesting find. If you’re in the area, it’s kind of a cool thing to see. In the early 1870s, residents noticed something unusual was happening in the town’s main square.

A tree had sprouted on the roof of the county courthouse. Many years later, this small tree grew into a large tree, and more trees have sprouted on the roof throughout the years. Locals and experts are still dumbfounded how these trees managed to grow 110 feet off the ground but city officials suspect nature planted the original seed in the 1870s, by either wind or bird. However, the 50-year-old tree that hugs the clock tower now is a direct descendant. Definitely, something that makes you say “huh?”. 

Cataract Falls

I had to include a kayaking trip! Paddling Cataract Falls in Cloverdale, (Owen County) is a special treat with 2 sets of falls cascading 86 feet down. It’s only a little more than an hour from Indianapolis. It’s a short kayak day trip of only about a 3.6-mile trip. You also can hike from the lower falls to the upper falls before heading back.

Bluespring Caverns

BLueSpring

FAVORITE PICK: Things like this are just fascinating to us! This is the longest navigable underground river in the U.S. and get this … home to countless blind and albino animals. The Bluespring Caverns were first discovered in the 19th century, and more entrances to the caves were discovered into the 1940s. The constant darkness has created a unique setting where blind albino species can thrive. In addition to bugs like crickets, beetles, and spiders, larger creatures such as salamanders, frogs, and crayfish all live under, above, and upon the flowing waters, many of them purely white or almost clear looking. There is even an extremely rare species of blind cavefish that swims the waters. Tours down the river are available, taking visitors meandering across the underground waters for about an hour, where sightings of albino wildlife are abundant. While I do wish humans were more responsible and could be trusted with such a beautiful find, and we could see these caves on our own, we are very happy that an organization is taking care to preserve this. It’s a must-see!!

Grave in the Middle of the Road

This might not be something to go out of your way to see, but very quirky! The story is kind of funny! And sad, at the same time. And … it’s in Amity, Indiana. Ha! Of course, it is! In 1831, a woman named Nancy Kerlin Barnett passed away and was buried on a hill near Sugar Creek. In 1905, officials planned to build County Road 400 right through Barnett’s grave.

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 2.34.46 PM

They changed their minds when Barnett’s grandson showed up with a shotgun and threatened them. To compromise, they built the two lanes of the road around the grave, making it one of the few known gravesites located in the middle of a road. Update: In 2016, the Grave in the Middle of the Road along Indiana’s rural County Road 400 got a makeover. The road has been divided around the grave since the road was constructed in 1905. The grave, which lies directly in the middle of two lanes of traffic, has caused numerous accidents throughout the years. Warning signs and concrete bollards were added, but that didn’t cut it. In 2016 archeologists from the University of Indiana were called in to excavate the 1831 burial of Nancy Kerlin Barnett so the road could be widened. Unexpectedly, the remains of at least seven other individuals were also discovered on the hill. Creepy! Very Creepy! I’ll have to follow up and see if the other seven bodies were ever identified. 

Jug Rock

Jug Rock is hard to explain, so you might just have to see it yourself. It is the largest free-standing rock formation in the eastern half of the United States. This rare rock formation is located within Jug Rock Nature Preserve, located outside the small town of Shoals. the intrigue of Jug Rock – standing alone in the midst of a forest, with no telling rivers, open fields, or companion rocks in sight.

Directions: North edge of town, on the north side of US Hwy 50. Drive slow. You’ll see a street sign for Albright Lane. Pull off the highway there and park in the tiny gravel turnoff. Only then will you see Jug Rock back in the trees and a tiny directional sign, “Jug Rock,” with an arrow, that you would never see at highway speed. A path leads through the trees to the Rock. You just gotta see this thing! 

Empire Quarry

Empire quarry

Did you know this abandoned limestone quarry in southern Indiana provided the stone to erect the Empire State Building? A large number of iconic American structures are made out of Indiana limestone, including the Empire State Building, the Washington National Cathedral, the Pentagon, and 35 of the 50 current state capitol buildings. The deepness of these pools and minerals from the limestone foundation gives the water an aquamarine color, which is just amazingly beautiful. 

Important Information: Note that this is private property, and if you’re caught here, you may be scolded by a grumpy man in a hard hat. As of July 2017, signs now read, “No Trespassing. Live Ammunition In Use.” To reach the quarry, you will have to follow these exact directions. Starting at the Dollar General in Oolitic, (seriously! Ha) you’ll want to take the highway heading out. Driving down, you’ll see a church. Take a left at the Church. Take this road all the way down past the brewery. At the end of the road, there will be a cemetery on the right on a rock road. If you get confused, stop in the dollar general and ask the cashier for directions to the Empire Quarry. They’ll know. Ha!

RV Hall of Fame

This was a great place! We really enjoyed it, and with the fact you can park and boondock/free camp in their parking lot for 2 days, it made it even more fun.

If you like to Geocache, check out the local (walking distance) Geocaches in the area too. Don’t know what Geocaching is? Check out our blog here.  When we were there in 2018, they were planning some sort of a big RV park it seemed. I’d love to go back and see what they are doing with that area. If you visit here after it’s completed, do tell! Would love to know! This is such a neat look into the history of RV’s and my really interesting “RV’s” like the one built for Mae West in 1931 while she was filming. There is also an archive of thousands of periodicals, manuals, and photographs all having to do with the RV industry up on the 2nd floor. This is a really fun place for kids too. 

Albany Shoe Tree

I was a little hesitant to add this to my “favorites” list. First off, there is an awful lot of shoes in Indiana. Corners where shoes are piled, streets where shoes are strategically placed. I’m confused, but ??? Though we are not ones that like to see people use nature as things like this, the “Shoe Tree” in Albany, Indiana, which started as a quirky tradition for local teenagers but grew to be embraced by the entire community.

There are just shoes everywhere. We don’t understand the point, but there must be one. The actual number of shoes hanging from the Shoe Tree fluctuates more than one might think. Again … we certainly don’t condone this sort of thing, but this one seems like a tradition here. The tree seems to be dead, which is sad, and we hope that the shoes weren’t what killed it. But instead, made it continue to live through “art”. Again, not something I’d go out of my way to see, but if you’re in the area, might as well stop and look at the different shoes. A lot of old shoes on that tree! Directions: Take Highway 28 to Strong Road, pass Strong Cemetery, and turn right onto Edgewater road. The tree is visible from the road.

New Harmony Labyrinth

Free, and hard to miss! Easy to get to! Easy to find. Super fun for the kids. There is some really cool and unique history behind this. I’ll let you read about it. 

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

We’d love to hear your suggestions for exploring the hidden gems in Indiana! Please drop us a line and share your favorite places!

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Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Kentucky. Our Top 5 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. Exploring the popular sights is something we love to do too, 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. We love to “Opt-Out of Normal”. Each series will include at least 1 epic boondocking area, complete with pictures and GPS coordinates. 

Ahhhh Kentucky! One of the states we are sure we could spend a year in. We definitely will be going back. There is so much to see, and do! Who knew? Most of our finds listed are going to be nature finds (as that’s what we like to do). We know there is so much more in Kentucky to see. The whole state is just a hidden gem in our opinion. 

Grayson Lake / Grotto Falls (Hidden Falls)

Grayson Lake Kentucky

The scenery at Grayson Lake is just incredible. The sandstone cliffs, the waterfalls, the rare eagle flying overhead and if you love kayaking, this is candy for you! You’ll love this lake and the hidden falls you can only get into by a narrow short rock cave where you can paddle through a crack in the sandstone to go into a secret cove in the back, where you’ll think you’ve left one world for another. It’s magical and unbelievable.

Grayson Lake, KY

 By far our favorite place in Kentucky (so far). Also dropping onto Grayson lake are many waterfalls. We kayaked so much of the lake and I’d bet we passed 10 or more waterfalls just cascading off the side. It’s just amazing!


John A Roebling Suspension Bridge

This might not be considered off the beaten path, but it’s just a really amazing part of our US history not to mention a beautiful bridge!

John A Roebling Suspension Bridge

This bridge spans the Ohio River between Cincinnati, Ohio, and Covington, Kentucky. It opened on December 1, 1866. If you happen to be near it, or if you just like bridges, check it out.

Angels Window Trail

Double Arch Angels Trail Kentucky

Located in Daniel Boone National Forest. This is a phenomenal almost virtually unknown little gem. The bigger more popular arches here always win. From the forest service site: Angel Windows Trail begins at the Parched Corn Overlook off KY 715. The trail extends along a wooded ridge that leads under a high cliff to Angel Windows – two small arches clustered together at the end of the cliff. You will pass a number of overhangs and continue along the ledge. The official trail ends here, where there are some lovely views of the cliffs. Just beware of the drop-off to the right as you go past Angel Windows and use caution when exploring the area. Angel Windows Trail is located in the Red River Gorge in the Cumberland District of the Daniel Boone National Forest. 

The Ghost Ship

GhostShip
Ghost Ship in Petersburg KY

Abandoned in Petersburg, Kentucky, the ship that is now a favorite destination for kayakers was once an award-winning navy ship that served proudly during both world wars.  Fun Fact: It served as the backdrop in a Madonna video (if you’re old enough to know who she is Ha!). So how did this vessel end up abandoned in the river? I’m going to leave you to experience this! This is definitely a fascinating thing to see. If you’re looking for something different, definitely check this out. 

Mantle Rock

mantle rock, Kentucky

A very large natural sandstone bridge. Spanning 180 feet and 30 feet high, Mantle Rock is an impressive natural sandstone bridge. A very short hike from the parking area. It’s definitely something easy to access and it’s one of those formations that make you not quite understand gravity as you know it. 

I know first hand there are many more amazing things to do and see in Kentucky. Make sure you check out Mammoth Cave and all of the Red River Gorge hikes and rivers and cliffs and arches. There are so many! They are more populated and can get pretty busy in the Summer, but if you want to discuss some other areas that aren’t necessarily off the beaten path, send us a message and we’ll try to steer you in the right direction. Or … we’ll meet you there! We do plan to go back to Kentucky at some point in 2019. We’d love to hear your hidden gems in Kentucky too!

Boondocking

Ask any questions you need regarding the boondocking area shown. I’m including a map with GPS coordinates. 

(Daniel Boon National Forest Boondocking)

Paragon, KY boondocking
Boondocking in Kentucky

Thank you so much for visiting our little corner of the internet. We appreciate each and every one of you! Let us know where your favorite hidden gems are in Kentucky. We’d love to hear from you!

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

Off the Beaten Path in California. Our Top Hidden Gems

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 and different. And taking the roads less traveled. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to share your own off the beaten path stories. Each post will have a link to our favorite boondocking (free) camping areas, plus reviews or information on paid and membership camping areas.

I (Stacy) was born, raised, and lived in California for the first 27 years of my life. I met the love of my life there, and at 27 we moved to VA for a few years. We moved a lot in our 20 years with the military but California will always be a part of me. Though I’m told I’ve lost my “California lingo/accent”. Funny, when we were in Germany on a train, someone asked me if I was from California. I knew then and there that we speak a little differently. Ha!

The amazing thing about California is within a few hours one way or another, you can be in the mountains, the desert, or the beach. There are amazing lakes, beautiful ski areas, and hot desert places to explore. 

Highway 1 – Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)

Though it’s not an unpopular thing to do if you ever get a chance to drive the PCH, do it! Down in Los Angeles County you’ll find houses hanging off the side of the highway which — may not be there forever.

As you head up toward San Francisco, you’ll find the most breathtaking views of the rocky coastline. Fun Fact: Highway 1 is one of the most filmed car commercial areas in the US. 

Bixby Creek Bridge

This is probably my favorite bridge in CA. Yes, even more than the Golden Gate Bridge. It reminds me of the “Bridge to Nowhere” which I have included in this blog too. The concept of building something like this into the rocky mountains of CA is just mind-blowing to me. This Bridge is on Hwy 1 which is such a spectacular drive. You can pull over and take pictures, have lunch, and just overlook the Pacific Ocean. 

Catalina Island

If you haven’t taken the boat trip out to Catalina Island, it’s a must! I’ve taken a boat out several times, and it’s a pretty popular thing to do, so I won’t go into details, but let me know if you have any questions.

The Sunny Jim Cave Store

seacave

This is the only entrance to any sea cave in California that you can access via land. The entrance is a narrow and dim tunnel that leads from the store to a staircase made of 145 incredibly wet and dark steps that descend directly into the sea cave. The narrow tunnel and cave walls are very colorful, due to the natural minerals and the effect the saltwater has on them. Address:  1325 Coast Blvd., San Diego 

Natural Bridges in Calaveras County

This is a relatively unknown swimming hole that will really make you feel like you have stumbled on a true gem! If you’re planning to stop here, bring a flashlight, or headlamp. That will help ensure you really get to experience this!

CAVEmemem

I would never recommend going on a weekend or during the summer months, or any long weekend. Unless you like to immerse yourself in people. We tend to do everything off-season and during the week. This is a busy place on weekends, but it’s still one of those very unpopular places. Bring your water shoes and if you like to float you can bring your “pool floats” but please remember to pack it in, pack it out. 

Heart Rock Falls

Heart Rock Falls

Carved by a waterfall this heart-shaped rock has inspired lovers for many years. A woodland hike of a mile round trip ends at a lovely waterfall, but if you don’t recognize the end of the trail by the waterfall, you definitely will when you see the heart-shaped rock. In fact, there are two heart-shaped pools on the side of the cliff where the waterfall hits. A few yards before you get to the waterfall, you’ll come across a massive, very old oak tree, seemingly to signify how old this place is,  A little further down the stream is a slide rock pool. From there you can backtrack up the stream to reach the base of the falls. 

Crowley Lake Columns

Located in Mono County – The giant plateau formation sits in one of the world’s most interesting volcanic areas. You know, our country and the rock formations tell such amazing stories.  Lava! It’s all about Lava! The columns are along the east side of Crowley Lake. Access roads are winding and sandy, four-wheel drive recommended. Walking inside these amazing columns is a feeling like no other. I hope they are standing for many more years. What a really neat part of our country!

Bridge to Nowhere

If you have followed my blogs, you know I love mysterious, strange things. You know, the things that make you go “huh?” So here’s a little strange one for you.

Near Mount Baldy, CA you’ll find the old, abandoned bridge.  The Bridge to Nowhere remains one of the most bizarre artifacts of the San Gabriel Mountains. During its initial construction, Los Angeles County claimed that the bridge and connected highway would be one of the most scenic roads in America. The food in 1938 washed out the entire road to the bridge, and it still makes me wonder with the expense of such a bridge, why not build the roads back up. But it remains a Bridge to Nowhere. It may have changed now, but I believe the only way in and out is to hike it. It’s a breathtaking, beautiful hike through rivers and streams, and a pretty amazing sight to see when you get there. 

McWay Falls and Waterfall House Ruins

This Big Sur waterfall drops 80 feet directly into the Pacific Ocean, and inspired the hillside house up top. Big Sur’s Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is renowned for its 80-foot McWay Falls and some of the most breathtaking views anywhere along the California coast. The story of how this property could have been owned by one family and then let go, is quite interesting in itself. I’ll leave the exploring to you! 

Point Reyes Shipwreck

Have you seen the shipwreck in Point Reyes? My first thought was “yeah, right, just behind a shopping area?” But once you read the history and walk out to the abandoned ship, you realize it a real deal.  Point Reyes shipwreck is perched on a sand bar off the shoreline of Tomales Bay. It is located in the small town of Inverness, just behind the grocery store. Easy access, no hiking required. 

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I’m definitely going to have to do a part 2 for CA. But make sure you check out Alcatraz and Morro Bay, and one of my all-time favorite places to visit and wander around is Solvang.

Also if you want to see something really over the top with an interesting story behind it, check out Hearst’s Castle. The views alone will make it worth it. But take the tour, and the bus trip up there is fun! We’ve actually done it a couple of times, and it’s really worth it. 

Mono Lake

Mono Lake is located East of Yosemite National Park. When you think of California, you don’t think of a place like this. They call it hauntingly beautiful for a reason!

Mono Lake is a saline soda lake in Mono County, California, formed at least 760,000 years ago as a terminal lake in an endorheic basin. The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salts to accumulate in the lake. These salts also make the lake water alkaline.

Wikipedia

Hope you enjoyed our ideas! Thank you so much for visiting our little corner of the internet. We would love to hear what you find “off the beaten path” in California. Check back often! We are always updating our blogs with new hidden gems!

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

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 means a lot to us!

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

Off the Beaten Path Series

Off the Beaten Path in Texas. 10 Amazing, Cool and Unique Places to Visit

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, and different, and taking the road less traveled. We certainly can’t explore them all, so we’d love you to share your own off-the-beaten-path stories. Each series will include a link to our most epic boondocking locations. And boy does Texas have a lot!

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I kept thinking as I was writing this, that maybe I ought to contact my long-time Texas friend (Gayla) and pick her brain about some off-the-beaten-path places. Only I remembered she’s currently galavanting around London! So I’m on my own. 

Texas is home to … of course … the words largest cowboy boots, and the world’s largest killer bee – but wait – there’s more! Ha!

Old Tunnel

Located in Fredericksburg, this tunnel might look abandoned, and in a sense, it is, by humans, anyway. A railroad used to run through the tunnel, but now it’s home to a few million Mexican free-tailed bats.

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Every night at dusk between May and September, you can watch them turn the night sky into a cloud of darkness by following Highway 290 in Fredericksburg until you see a brown sign directing you to the tunnel. It’s an amazing sight to see them fly out for their nightly feeding

Munster Mansion (Waxahchie)

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To each their own, but this is a bit on the strange side. This family built an exact replica of the Munster Mansion. They were so infatuated with the TV show, they built their house exactly like that of the fictional family. It is a private residence and isn’t open to the public for tours, but you can drive by it at 1313 Mockingbird Lane, in Waxahachie

Hamilton Pool

Located just 23 miles west of Austin, Hamilton Pool is a breathtaking natural spring formed in the limestone bedrock and fed by an underground river. Surrounded by the Hamilton Nature Preserve. They require reservations from May 15 to September 30.

Fort Worth Water Gardens

The Fort Worth Water Gardens are pools of futuristic angles. A pool is surrounded by trees where waterfalls cascade down the walls. Nearby is an aeration pool where 40 nozzles spray 871 gallons of water every minute.  The pool is 40 feet deep. This is just one of those places where you feel so tranquil and at peace! 

Cadillac Ranch

As funny as it seems, I’ve had this place on my bucket list for a long time. I was so excited this last summer to finally get to see this! Cadillac Ranch, built in 1974, is the product of eccentric helium millionaire Stanley Marsh 3 (he doesn’t like the Roman numeral III) and The Ant Farm, a San Francisco art collective.

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The ranch consists of ten graffiti-covered cars half-buried in a dusty Texas field. The cars are positioned nose-down and face west “at the same angle as the Cheops’ pyramids.” The cars were actually moved two miles further out in 1997 to avoid the expanding city. Justin and I did not partake in the spray painting this time, as you can tell from the picture, it was so very windy that day and the area surrounding the Cadillacs was under about a foot of water. 

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Caverns of Sonora

The cave was discovered by accident in 1905, on ranch land belonging to the Mayfield family.  Our country has some spectacular caves! One of our favorite things to explore! This was really borderline popular, but I just had to share it. 

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Palo Duro Canyon

Known as the grand canyon of Texas. Palo Duro Canyon is considered to be the second-largest and longest canyon in the U.S. You can drive down onto the floor of the canyon by taking Park Road 5. The most prominent feature is the Lighthouse, a 300-foot formation at the north end of the canyon. It is accessible from the road or by a three-mile trail. 

Shamrock, Texas

U Drop Inn – Built in 1936, the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas, was kind of a big deal. With its prime location on iconic Route 66, the café with its connected Tower Station was one of the first commercial businesses along the route.

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The road itself was a fairly new addition to the country’s landscape, with the roadway being designated Route 66 just ten years earlier.  This was such a fun place to visit. You can walk through the now-closed cafe, which they have set it up as it looked just a few short years ago! 

We suggest checking out these caves if you’re in the area

  • Inner Space Cavern – Georgetown, TX
  • Cave Without A Name – Boerne, TX
  • Natural Bridge Caverns – San Antonio, TX

Also, make sure you visit Big Bend National Park. What an amazing place to hike and kayak. We didn’t get a chance to spend enough time there and we are definitely going back! It’s not an “off the beaten path” place, so we won’t be showcasing that here, but wow! It’s a beautiful place! 

Kayaking Caddo Lake

Caddo Lake in Karnack, TX (Caddo Lake State Park) is perfect for kayakers wanting to spend the day exploring its unique environment. I know there are two types of kayakers. Personally, we love floating the flat waters, taking in the scenery, and maybe eating lunch in our kayak. Just a warning, we have been told there are alligators here. Just leave them alone, and don’t try to get too close, and they won’t bother you.  And don’t forget your camera!!

Also, check out Frio River – We have not been there, but it’s on our list for sure!! We hear Fall is the best time to go! 

Here are some other blog posts we think you’ll love!

Thank you for reading and please leave your suggestions for your own off the beaten path in the comments section. We always love a new place to visit. Live Simply. Give More. Expect Less.

Looking for the best boondocking / Free camping areas in Texas? Definitely click the button below to see how many we found. And don’t forget to keep checking back!! We’re always finding more!

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 visiting our little corner of the internet! We hope you found some fun and unique things to see! We’re always updating our blogs, so come back often.

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. 

Antlerhouse1

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?

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 Vermont. 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 blog post will include at least one epic boondocking area, complete with pictures and GPS coordinates. 

Aside from the really fun Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard, and the world’s tallest filing cabinet, there are even more amazing, cool, and unique places in Vermont. So many to choose from, but here are our favorite picks. 

Floating Bridge of Brookfield

I wouldn’t say go too far out of your way, but if you’re driving near Brookfield, we recommend this. It was closed to car traffic from 2009 to 2015 and has now been reopened. Either way, you can walk or drive it (unfortunately, the floating bridge occasionally sinks). The bridge, which is the only floating bridge east of the Mississippi River, was originally built in 1820. 

Floating Bridgeme

Craving Chocolate?

Got Chocolate? Lake Champlain Chocolates is a family-owned business since 1983. Chocolate tastings are available weekends with tasting guides, where guests can sample four chocolate profiles. YUM!

Huntington Gorge

During the summer I would say this is probably borderline “unique and off the beaten path” but if you are lucky enough to catch this amazing place in spring or fall, do it. This is one of the most dangerous places, because of its beauty, people get very distracted. Please! Be careful, watch your step, and then enjoy the beautiful strange rock formations. Sadly, there have been so many deaths here, they call it The Hungry Gorge. There are many different places you can stop to view this incredible gorge. Dugway Rd, Richmond, VT 05477. It has so many angles and facets to view. The rocks here are perhaps the best example of water sculpture in the state.

Warren Falls

Located in Warren, VT. Another incredible view of Vermont’s different and unique sculptured rocks. Another very busy summer area, but if you can get there during the fall you won’t regret it. 

Kayaking Lone Rock Point

Our Pick for kayakingLocated in Burlington, VT. Very close to Burlington’s beautiful waterfront is Lone Rock Point. A kayaker’s destination for sure.

Most people put in at North Beach (see attached from Google Earth). It’s a few minutes (not even a mile) over to reach Lone Rock. But paddling farther north along the shoreline into Appletree Bay gives you some sights such as forested bluffs, Leddy Beach, and Appletree Point. Don’t miss these! 

Lone Rock Point Put In

Smugglers Cave

Vermont is known for being the most amazing place in the fall. If you have a chance to visit Smugglers Cave (in Smugglers Notch State Park) it’s scenic, interesting history, and kind of eerie. Bring your bear spray. Vermont definitely has a lot of bears. The cave is located about 60-feet from the scenic road (known as the Notch). The cave is easily missed, hence the reason why in the 1920’s it was used to illegally smuggle goods.

There is beautiful camping at the State Park. Unfortunately, it’s not free! We like to boondock, which gets us out and about from structured campgrounds. But if campgrounds are your preference, they have beautiful sites there.

Japanese Garden 

Located in Hubbardton. You won’t likely stumble upon this spot in Hubbardton by accident. While it’s known to the locals, it’s easily passed over. It is a privately owned property open to the public year-round whose centerpiece is a Japanese garden. Kit Davidson passed away on September 29, 2016. The preserve is now managed by Alyssa Bennett. The address is 321 St. John Rd, Hubbardton, VT. GPS location: N43°41.099, W73°08.538.

Green Mountain Byway

A Perfect beautiful short drive – Green Mountain Byway is just 11 miles long. Along with beautiful scenery, a large variety of attractions for all ages. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, and Vermont Ski Museum.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill

Historic Jericho

If you’ve never been to historic Jericho and you love taking pictures, this is such an amazing town. The old Grist Mill in Jericho is amazing. I’m not including a ton of information on Jericho, as it can get pretty popular at certain times of the year.

Knight’s Spider Web Farm

And … the most unusual place we would NEVER go. Stacy is deathly and ridiculously afraid of spiders! This would be such a huge challenge! Two garage-sized barns are packed with wooden frames, built-in grids, hanging from the ceiling.

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These square frames are ideal spots for spider webs, and the abundant orb-weaver spiders (typing this give me chills HaHa) that live on Knight’s farm make themselves at home. Actual spider webs are used to make his one of a kind artwork and he’s a great story-teller to keep your attention from beginning to end. Maybe I could at least just visit the retail store of his unique art. Might have to try it! This pictures is not mine. Haven’t been courageous to visit yet! 

Boondocking Suggestions:

National Forest Rd 71 – Any size, easy access // GPS: 43.060964, -72.987425 / 14 day max stay. Seriously, look this place up if you’re needing to do anything in the surrounding areas. 

GPS

Chittenden, Vermont GPS: 43.78686, -072.87901 Super easy to get to and some great hikes and dirt biking trails. Turn west off of route 100, once you past Knight Hill you should start to see campsites on both sides of the road. Sites are of all shapes and sizes.

Thank you for visiting our little corner of the internet. We’d love to hear your favorite places in Vermont that are off the beaten path and quiet.

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!

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

Off the Beaten Path in Virginia. The Most Unique Hidden Gems in 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 a link to our favorite boondocking area(s), some complete with pictures and all with GPS coordinates.

While Justin served on active duty we were stationed in Virginia. It’s funny how life can change from the plans you made. We bought a house, settled in Chesapeake, and he planned to get out of the military. Within a couple of years, we were offered orders to Germany, which we accepted, and we ended up finishing out 20 years of service.

FUN FACT: Virginia is home to the world’s largest Slinky (Richmond). 

Virginia is such a beautiful, fantastic state. It’s a state you just have to take your time in. The popular, tourist attractions are still unbelievable and amazing! So check them out!!

The Natural Bridge

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This really used to be unpopular and left alone. I think more and more it’s becoming something to see, but definitely visit this amazing place if you haven’t. We visited in the “Winter” (January) and couldn’t have been happier we did. It was in the 50s on the day we hiked the 2-mile trail to the waterfall. We might have seen a total of 20 people all day long. Very quiet, and peaceful. Virginia’s Natural Bridge is an enormous natural limestone arch. Carved by Cedar Creek over thousands of years, the arch was created when an ancient cavern collapsed leaving only the bridge. It is the largest natural land bridge on the North American continent. Don’t forget to go see the Hidden J.R.R. Tolkien Quote. Lines from a walking song are etched into a rock in Natural Bridge State Park.

Barboursville Ruins

We love the history behind ruins, and the architecture of some, for the times, is just breathtaking. Usually, there are mysteries and unanswered questions. We love that stuff. The ruins of this Thomas-Jefferson-designed mansion have been left to crumble since the Christmas Day they burnt down. The Mansion is available for visiting when the winery is open (10-5 every day, closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). It is an enjoyable 1/4 mile walk from the winery, or you can drive to a parking lot adjacent to the ruins. 

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We highly recommend this book on your travels! We don’t carry too many books with us but love this one, and have really gotten some great information from it. 

Kiptopeke’s Concrete Fleet

Nine of the 24 concrete ships were contracted by the U.S. Maritime Commission during World War II. In 1948 the ships were brought to Kiptopeke Beach in order to bring protection to the terminal during severe weather. The ships lie, partially sunken, about a quarter-mile off of the shore near the fishing pier. Kayaks are available for rent at the pier if you want to get up close and personal with the ships and the many nesting birds that live on them. We did not see if we could launch our own kayaks from the launch pad, but we are assuming you can. What a great historical thing to see! Can you imagine – ships made out of concrete?

Great Channels of Virginia

Wait! Slot canyons in Virginia? There sure aren’t many, if even more than just this one! If you read my blogs regularly, you know there are two places in the world I feel most at peace with everything. Slot canyons and waterfalls. They are all so very different, and yet, so much the same. This maze-like slot canyon is a unique gem within an already fascinating area. A roughly 6.5-mile hike leads explorers through their many twists and turns. The channels are near the summit of Middle Knob on Clinch Mountain, so hikers are rewarded with gorgeous vistas of the surrounded nature preserve.

meGreat Channels of Virginia

Patowmack Canal

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Today the Patowmack Canal is largely in ruins, though better-preserved portions are visible as part of the Great Falls Park. Great Falls Park is a section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The entrance to the park is located off of Old Dominion Drive, about 15 minutes off the Washington DC, beltway. Entry to the park is $10/car or $5/person without a car.

The Ghost Church

This is just something fun and unique, but also plays games with your vision and mind. Easy to get to and check out since it sits on the side of a rural road in Mechanicsville, Virginia. But what locals call the “ghost church” is more of a suggestion of a building. The white beams that comprise the structure were built on the site where the historic Polegreen Church once stood. Open sunrise to sunset!

Museums

Virginia is a state that is just full of historical museums if that’s your thing. We do go to some, but we really love outdoor things to do. Hiking, kayaking, and exploring. There are some fun and unique museums so if you are a museum hopper, make sure you do some research. 

KAYAKING

If you’re boondocking at the above Dismal Swamp CoE kayak an 8-mile there-and-back into the Great Dismal Swamp. Start at the state boat ramp on US 17 near Ballahack Road. Paddle your canoe or kayak south through the Dismal Swamp Canal then west on a feeder canal to Lake Drummond, one of only two natural freshwater lakes in Virginia, part of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Continue west on the feeder canal to reach cypress-ringed 3,000-plus acre Lake Drummond, a Virginia legacy.

We are asked a lot about how we travel in 39 feet with 2 full kayaks. Easy! They are inflatable. We do not have an affiliate with Sea Eagle Kayaks. We are simply very happy customers. We’ve traveled 3 full years with these and love them! Click here to see which kayaks we have.

Exploring Virginia

There is so much more exploring to do in Virginia! We hope to be back in Virginia at the end of this year to add more hidden gems to this list! Do you have your own hidden gems to share with us? We’d love to hear about them!

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

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 means a lot to us!

Looking for some more states in our RV Camping series? Check out the links below!

Plus! Here are some more blogs we think you’ll enjoy!

Thank you for checking out our little corner of the internet! We appreciate each and every one of you! We’d love to hear from you!

Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series

Off the Beaten Path in South Dakota. Best Kept Hidden Secrets in South Dakota

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. 

South Dakota is the state we chose for our domicile as full-time RVer’s. We decided we should probably know a little about the state since it was now our state of record.

Fun Fact – Did you know that South Dakota purchased the building designs from Montana for their capital building for $15? So the capitol building in Pierre is exactly the same as the capitol building in Montana. 

Our Top Picks for the 9 Hidden Gems in South Dakota. 

South Dakota has a ton of amazing, popular wonders to see. Don’t miss the Badlands! I won’t go too much into this as it’s a very popular place, but can I just say WOW! To think about the early settlers coming upon this area and trying to cross it is remarkable. Imagine what they thought as this area came into sight. It is one of the most scenic places of color, beauty, and history. 

Wall Drug

Do you know the story behind this place? Wall Drug started simply enough when Ted Hustead purchased the South Dakota town of Wall’s drugstore in 1931. But it was Ted’s wife Dorothy who hit upon the idea that changed not just the drugstore, but the entire 231-person town of Wall. The idea: ice water. In an attempt to attract people, Dorothy Hustead put up a sign advertising free ice water to parched tourists on their way to the attraction. It was a big hit. From then on Wall Drug grew under its own strange power, adding a bizarre assortment of fiberglass animals, including the iconic Wall Drug jackalope, giant dinosaurs, and an array of taxidermy jackalopes.

Wall-Drug-Jackalope

Wall Drug now has billboards as far away as 500 miles. If you are a honeymooner, veteran, priest, hunter, or truck driver, you can also get free coffee and donuts. They still give out ice water too. Some 20,000 cups a day. Though we don’t personally travel with our kids anymore, as they are now grown adults with their own lives, this is a super fun place for kids. Every 30 minutes the dinosaur inside comes to life and gives you a little show. Seriously make sure you spend a day in this little eclectic town. The little unique shops are really fun! 

Corn Palace

It happens to be raining when we decided to visit. The Corn Palace is built out of concrete, not corn. However, each year, the entire exterior is redecorated in murals made out of corn and various other local grains and grasses. These decorative facades are redesigned annually around a different theme created by local artists.

Decorations from years past are displayed inside the building itself. We didn’t venture inside, but it’s a pretty cute little town surrounding the Corn Palace. We were there in May of 2017 and it is all about Rock of Ages. Super cool! 

Roughlock Falls State Nature Area

Spearfish Canyon – This trail is handicap-accessible and winds its way slowly to Roughlock Falls, a breathtaking waterfall that flows into Spearfish Canyon from Little Spearfish Creek. Spearfish Canyon highlights an outdoor wonder that is impressive and unique to the Black Hills. From Spearfish, take 14A (Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway) to Savoy. The trail begins near Spearfish Canyon Lodge and is signed and accessible from the lodge parking lot.

Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway

Speaking of Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway – This is a breathtaking 19-mile stretch of US Highway 14A. Gradually climbing from the town of Spearfish on the northern edge of the Black Hills, this canyon is one of the gateways into the heart of an ancient mountain range. Spruce, pine, aspen, birch, and oak trees cling to the hillsides. Spearfish Creek flows along the canyon bottom, acting as a natural guide for the scenic byway.

Getting There: To start at the northern end of the byway, take either Exit 10 or Exit 14 off of Interstate 90 to Spearfish and hop on 14A. To find the southern end, take Highway 85 east from Wyoming or west from Lead/Deadwood. When you come to the Cheyenne Crossing junction, head north on Highway 14A and let your scenic drive begin. Before you go, check out some of the reviews on where to pull off and what to check out on the Byway. It’s different depending on the season you go. 

Devil’s Gulch

You just must take a drive here!! Located in Garretson – The ravine where Jesse James supposedly performed an impossible jump to evade capture. We just think it’s an amazingly beautiful area.

Thunderhead Underground Falls

A waterfall 600 ft. inside a mountain is a spectacle of nature. Unfortunately, this place closed down in May of 2017. Seriously just days before we were there. We’re keeping it on our list though!! Keep it on your radar to see if it ever opens up again. It’s one of the most unique and different things to see for sure. 2021 Update: We’re looking to visit this again, and it appears it’s still closed. I hope it does open up someday!! Please let us know if you hear of it opening up!

Awesome for kids (and kids at heart) Splash Central Waterpark in Huron with plenty to offer with its water slides, pools, and lazy river.

Falls Park / Sioux Falls

We think this has become popular, but it’s definitely a place to put on your list. Falls Park (or Sioux Falls). We highly recommend spending a few hours here.

The waterfall, one of the best in South Dakota, is the crown jewel of the 123-acre park. Falls Park also protects some of the city’s oldest and most historic buildings. The falls themselves are about 100 feet tall, and 7,400 gallons of water drop over them each second. 

Hippie Hole

HippieHoleme

Hippie Hole (funny name, right?) This is one of the most amazing hikes in the Black Hills (we think) You can approach the waterfall from two directions, a short hike (our choice) down Battle Creek from the small parking area found off of South Rockerville Road or from an extremely strenuous hike off of Hwy 40. Once you reach the water from either direction, it is all worth it.  You can jump from the waterfall, float in the pool, or just sunbathe on the rocks. The hike is about 1/3 of a mile, and it’s a great place for playing in the water, jumping off of a cliff, and taking in the scenery. From Rockerville, head south on S Rockerville Rd, or head north if coming from Highway 40, until you come to Foster Gulch Rd (gravel). Drive about a mile until there is a marked road to the right and then another right about a mile later, after the next cattle guard. Stay right on all forks and the road comes to an end at a parking area.

Have you visited a hidden gem you’d love to share? We’d love to hear it! Please share your favorite off-the-beaten-path places with us!

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