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

Off the Beaten Path in New York ~ The Best 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 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 at least 1 epic boondocking area, with GPS coordinates.

If you’re visiting New York City, did you know there are still so many “off the beaten path” things to do and see there? Strange happenings in that city, I tell ya!

  • Marilyn Monroes Subway Grate
  • The Earth Room – why? It’s a 22-inch-deep layer of dirt spread across a 3,600-square-foot gallery space in the middle of Soho. Interesting
  • Don’t forget about the Ghost Busters Fire House 

But our favorite part of NY is not the city. Have you been to Upstate New York? I hope you look at New York a little differently after checking some of these places out. 

The Wild Walk

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If you have kids, or even if you don’t, you just have to experience this place!  There are 81 acres for nature lovers. (wheelchair accessible as well) Nestled 45ft up in the Adirondack Forest. What would it be like to live on a spider web, hanging on a thread above the forest? The Spider’s Web at Wild Walk is your chance to lay in wait or walk across a web woven above the ground. This place is a really fun place whether you are 8 or 80.

Watkins Glen State Park

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We’ve been here twice, and we’re pretty sure we’ll go back again. It’s one of our two favorite State Parks so far. It’s magical and the beauty is one of those unforgettable places. New York’s Finger Lakes region. The park’s lower part is near the village, while the upper part is open woodland. There are 19 waterfalls along its course.  I believe it’s a course of 2 miles. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. Rim trails overlook the gorge. If you haven’t visited this State Park, definitely put it on your list.

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Letchworth State Park

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This park holds a special place in our hearts. It’s where we decided to take the first step to change the life we were living, which led us to ultimately the sale our two homes and live and travel full-time in our RV.

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It’s where the picture of us was taken on our home page. We were fortunate enough to visit right as they made a decision and started demolition of the old train bridge over the waterfall. There are three large waterfalls on the Genesee River and as many as 50 other waterfalls. The deep gorge formed by the river, with rock walls rising up to 550 feet in places and which narrow to 400 feet across above the middle of the three falls, prompted the area’s reputation as the “Grand Canyon of the East”. OH, and in the Fall, I hear there is a hot air balloon launch over the waterfall. I would love to go back and see that!

Eternal Flame Falls

The Eternal Flame Falls is a small waterfall located in the Chestnut Ridge Park in Western NY. A small grotto at the waterfall’s base gives off a natural gas, which can be lit to produce a small flame. This flame is visible nearly year-round, although it can be extinguished and must occasionally be re-lit.

Lucifer Falls

Located in Robert H. Treman State Park, Lucifer Falls can be found in the rugged Enfield Glen gorge.

There is a paved trail and staircases built by the Civilian Conservation Corps members that lead you along the gorge, making the hike beautiful and not overly challenging. A hike that is especially beautiful in Fall (we visited NY in the Summer), take the Rim Trail to Lucifer Falls to see the water cascading down the face of the rock. Be sure to also check out the rest of the park while you are there if you have the time. It is perfect for an afternoon picnic or a full day trip.

The Boldt Castle

Another castle! Another sad story! If you have read our other blogs in this series you will know I love to seek out castles. They are hidden in our American history in almost every state. I love researching and reading the story behind it. Sadly, so far everyone I’ve read about seems to be a story of despair, death, and/or extreme sadness. The Boldt Castle in Alexandria Bay is no exception. In 1900, Mr. Boldt started building a 120-room, 6-story home for himself and his family. Including a drawbridge, Italian gardens, and even tunnels.

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There were approximately 300 men working on building this structure. In January 1904, tragedy struck. Boldt telegraphed the island and commanded the workers to immediately “stop all construction.”  His wife, Louise, had died suddenly. A broken-hearted Boldt could not imagine his dream castle without his beloved. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument of his love. For 73 years, the castle and various stone structures were left to the mercy of the wind, rain, ice, snow, and vandals. 

(these are not my pictures. Boldt Castle does not allow even your own pictures to be published. These pictures were available for download on their website.)

Natural Stone Bridge and Caves

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Located in Pottersville. Bring good rubber-soled enclosed walking shoes to explore this self-guided (we love the self-guided tours since we love to just take our time through things like this) ¾ mile, mostly above-ground, natural stone step nature trail and experience up-close the unique marble features including potholes, grottos, gorge and mill site waterfalls. The massive stone bridge arch is the largest marble cave entrance in the east.

Additionally, New York is another state that I could write for 2 solid days about. And you’d still be reading next week. So we’ll end it here, but make sure you check out the Corning Glass Museum. We didn’t get a chance to go there, but it was on our list! Next time for sure!

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

Looking for some RV camping suggestions in New York? Click the link below to see the amazing places we stayed!

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

Off the Beaten Path in Michigan. Top Hidden Gems We Found in Michigan!

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 free camping areas, along with other RV camping we’ve done in the state

Crisp Point Lighthouse

This is a beautiful lighthouse to visit, but consider yourself forewarned, the road to get there is like no other we’ve traveled. When they sell a t-shirt in the gift shop that says “I survived the road to Crisp Point Lighthouse”, they aren’t kidding! We did it in a dually, so I know everyone can do it, but it is long and tedious, but worth the sights (and you might actually want to buy a t-shirt when you get there). A lot of people travel there on a side by side or off-road toys. We actually visited several lighthouses on the “lighthouse tour”. You can pick up a guide at the visitors center. Makes for a fun “truck hike” day. YES … this funny (funny because it turned out good) sign is actually on the road in! Let’s hear it for Girl Scout Cookies saving lives!!! 

The Tridge – Midland MI

Located in Chippewassee Park, this isn’t the only triple bridge in Michigan, but if you’re near the area, it’s a beautiful walk, and something pretty unique. There is also a farmers market, a skate park and a dog park if you’re interested. 

Crystal Coaster Alpine Slide

Assignment

Located in Thompsonville. It’s basically a huge water slide without the water. You take a chair lift to the top of the mountain and jump on a specialized sled to ride one of the two slides that are each 1,700 feet long. Make sure to check dates because the slide is only open seasonally.

Electric Forest

I’m adding this because it’s on my bucket list. We have not gone here (yet). But highly recommend at least checking it out. It looks really amazing and fun! Click here for information. 

Most everyone knows about the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It’s not an “off the beaten path” choice, but if you go to Michigan, DON’T MISS IT!!! It’s a breathtaking but very popular tourist place. We went! We loved it, and if you have any questions, let me know. The hiking and kayaking are amazing there!!  I did want to mention that once or twice a year, if you’re lucky, the wind is blowing just right and the garnet in the rocks washes up on shore and causes the sand to turn a vibrant pink. It only lasts a couple of hours to a couple of days. We were lucky enough to catch it! Go into the visitors center and ask about it. 

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Ann Arbor’s Fairy Doors

We find this a little creepy, (we like this kind of stuff Ha!) and quite entertaining and interesting. Have you heard the story behind these?  You can actually pick up a tour brochure to show you where all the fairy doors are. Pretty creative! 

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Here’s a little history I found: “In 1993, While Jonathan B. Wright was renovating his century-old home, his young daughters made a delightful discovery: itty, bitty, six-inch doors scattered throughout the space. When opened, there were tiny railings inside that led to other miniature doors. There were even windows springing up, where lights inside would magically turn on and off. By 2005, Jonathan had become a full-fledged Fairyologist, documenting the little doors that were now springing up all around town – obviously, they were fairies, what else could they be? His website has documentation of over two dozen doors from these “urban fairies.” 

Blooming Mystical Lavender Labyrinth

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Who knew? This is on a farm in Shelby Michigan, called Cherry Point Farm and Market. The fruit and farm market has been in operation since 1961. In 2001, owner Barbara Bull started work on a lavender labyrinth, which can be seen on Google Earth. Don’t forget the amazing cherry pie and other fantastic fruits and homemade yummy things from this farm and market. 

Manistique Boardwalk and River Walk

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The Boardwalk runs down the Lake Michigan shore in the town of Manistique. Go for an early morning walk or take an afternoon and picnic in the park. You can view the Manistique Lighthouse or ships passing by. It is a wonderful way to spend a day. You can spend as much or as little time there. It’s really beautiful to walk out on the jetty to the lighthouse. As you can see from the picture, the sunsets are incredible. Highly recommend early Fall if you’re wanting a more peaceful, quiet time. 

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

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This doesn’t fall into a typical off-the-beaten-path place, but I just had to mention it. We visited this area in September on a weekday. It was almost empty! We actually went twice in one day. (We wanted to get some pictures later in the day.) TIP: Paradise is actually a very small, very expensive little town. We made the mistake of running out of propane and having to fill up there. It was the highest propane cost we’ve ever paid. So gas up, fill your propane tanks, and arrive with everything you need or you’ll be paying extremely high prices there. 

Kayaking

Want to do some Kayaking (one of our favorite things to do) Here are two of our top picks (other than the Pictured Rocks National Seashore area which is not an Off the Beaten Path area)

Bete Grise Sea Arch

Bete Grise

Bete Grise is a nature preserve on Keweenaw Peninsula, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. A quiet and scenic kayaking destination on the Keweenaw Peninsula’s southern shores. The Bete Grise Bay is an amazing destination on its own.  There are miles of shoreline and waterfalls. Make a point to check out Keweenaw Historical Ruins too!

TIP: Launch your kayak or canoe from the Bete Gris Beach and paddle east, keeping the shoreline on your left side. After a couple of miles, natural rock sea stacks and sea arches rise from the shockingly clear water of Lake Superior. You can float through the arch and hang out in the shade. Please watch the weather. Lake Superior can be brutal in a kayak!

Turnip Rock

So, I was thinking this was a pretty popular thing to do. But when I started talking to people last year, no one had heard of it.

So we’re including it on our list. This unique rock formation is a favorite destination of those kayaking in Lake Huron, as it’s only accessible by water. The land on Turnip Rock is privately owned but you can still access this by water (kayak, boat, etc) Another option is to wait for Lake Huron to freeze and walk your way out to Turnip Rock.

Hope you enjoyed the 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 Michigan. 

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

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!

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Hidden Gems in Iowa
Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, RV Camping, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Iowa. Exploring the Our Top Hidden Gems.

Wait – Do people go to Iowa? I hope so!! I never see anyone talk about the beauty in Iowa, and there are so many amazing things to see! You’ll love it! 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. If you love boondocking, you’ll find a suggestion or two at the end of the blog.

Fun Facts – Did you know that Iowa is home to the world’s largest Bull named Albert?  And Iowa’s largest frying pan? Does that mean there is another “largest frying pan” somewhere else? I mean, who knew? 

Exploring our Top Hidden and Most Unique Places to Visit in Iowa

There are some really interesting and popular things to see in DesMoines. So if you’re going to Iowa, you’re probably heading there. But also check out our list of Off the Beaten Path places. 

Masquoketa Caves

Located in the state park with the same name, you’ll fall in love with the beauty here! Opened back up in April of 2021! With more caves than any state park, Maquoketa Caves is one of Iowa’s most unique outdoor attractions. And you’ll love the campground at Maquoketa Caves State park! This little state park is definitely grand when it comes to caves and you’ll learn about the cave history, and explore the gorgeous area. It’s well worth a day trip (or make it two).

Ice Cave Hill Park

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Decorah’s remarkable ice cave is located near Dunning’s Spring. While Iowa enjoys four seasons, you will find that the ice cave is frozen all year long, due to its glacial location. It’s a short hike up to the cave, and while the cave is small, it is a sight to see. Even in the Summer heat, be prepared to be cold in there. I wouldn’t even suggest taking a jacket though, as you’ll be in and out of there pretty quick.

Devonian Fossil Gorge

meFossil Gorge

This once hidden gorge was revealed by the floods of 1993, and it’s a fascinating place to stop if you’re in the Iowa City/Coralville area. Bring your cell phone!! You can take a free guided tour. There are instructions on a sign in the beginning. The gorge is actually a 375-million-year-old ocean floor with incredible fossils that are older than the dinosaurs. To get there, take I -80 Exit #244, go north for 2.6 miles on Dubuque Street NE, then east 1.3 miles on West Overlook Road to the Coralville Lake and Dam.

Dunning Springs

Located in Decorah, Iowa. There is a 200-foot waterfall located just minutes from downtown. Not a long hike at all, and bring your lunch. It’s beautiful!

Lover’s Leap Swinging Bridge

A warning to the weak-kneed: This narrow bridge does its swinging eight stories high.

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Directions: Columbus Junction is about 35 miles south of Iowa City, down Rt 218. Take a left onto Hwy 92 which turns into Oak Street when you get to town. Turn right onto Third Street (there’s a bright blue sign pointing the way), and the bridge is on the right where the road bends.

Historic Squirrel Cage Jail

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No, this isn’t a jail for squirrels. But this is a super great concept. This rotating jailhouse in Council Bluffs is one of the only jails of its type left in existence. Tour the inner workings of this unique jail built in 1885 and learn about the prisoners it held.

Wildcat Den State Park

We really love to explore state parks. The natural beauty of Wildcat Den State Park in Muscatine will truly take your breath away. The park features an extensive trail system, with 75-foot cliffs and amazing rock formations. The park also has several historic structures to explore. Located at 1886 Wildcat Den Rd., in Muscatine

Fenelon Place Elevator

Fenelon Place Elevator

When you get to the top of the Fenelon Place Elevator in Dubuque, you’ll be able to see not one…not two…but THREE states! Take a ride on the shortest, steepest railway in the world that elevates passengers almost 200 feet in the length of one city block.

The High Trestle Trail

The High Trestle Trail is a nature lover’s paradise and a work of art. It is a half-mile, the 130-foot-tall bridge gets bathed in blue light at night. Bike, walk or jog across the bridge, located near Madrid, for a one-of-a-kind experience. The 41 steel “frames” over the bridge represent support cribs within a historic coal mine. 

High Trestle Trail

After dark, the bridge comes alive as blue lights illuminate a section of the steel cribbings, which mark the location of the main river channel below. From April through October, the bridge is lit from sunset until midnight. From November through March, the lights turn off at 9 p.m.

Matchstick Marvels Museum

Located in Gladbrooke, Iowa. If you’re looking for something to do inside that is different and unique, this is the place! Patric Action of Iowa has been building detailed scale models with wooden matchsticks for nearly 40 years. In that time he’s created around 70 elaborate designs, from the Notre Dame Cathedral to the Wright Brothers’ Flyer. Each model is comprised of hundreds of thousands of two-inch matchsticks, which Acton has spent hours shaping, warping, and gluing together with careful precision in an impressive one-man operation.

This is such an amazing art form. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 5 to 12, and under 5 is free. The museum is open from April 1 through November 30, seven days a week from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is handicapped-accessible.

Roller Coaster Road

Are you up for a wild ride?

If anyone gets car sick in your group, definitely skip this one! Just outside of Harper’s Ferry in Northeast Iowa’s Allamakee County is Roller Coaster Road (Yes, it’s actually named that!). These thrills are typically reserved for the theme park, but here you can try it out in your car. Just remember to drive safely!

Boondocking

  • Big Creek Lake WMA (Polk City). We love Wildlife Management Areas. We also stayed at one in Colorado. Don’t pass these by: GPS: 41.819025, -93.756061
  • Hawkeye WMA. GPS: 41.792561, -91.71432 Gravel road is about 3 miles long but totally accessible. Big rig friendly! 

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

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

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

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Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

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

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

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

Lost Sea Cave

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

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

The Forbidden Caverns

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

Ruby Falls Cave

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

Fall Creek Falls State Park

State Parks are some of our favorite places to go.

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

Window Cliffs State Natural Area

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

Spaceship House

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

Fun Museums

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

Tuckaleeche Caverns

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

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

Twin Falls Waterfall – Rock Island State Park

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Not a natural waterfall, but very beautiful to see! 

Patricks Pub and Grill

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

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

Savage Gulf State Natural Area

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

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

Savage Gulf Natural Area

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

RV Camping in Tennessee

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

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

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

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

17 Hidden Gems in North Carolina

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. 

North Carolina is home to the world’s largest chest of drawers, and of course the world’s largest hammock. But wait! There’s more! 

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I won’t lie! Driving the very small section of the Blue Ridge Parkway was absolutely stunning! We actually ended up between two closed ends of the Parkway. It was closed for the season, but we entered from a camping area that we were at and drove both ways until the barriers. 

North Carolina has the most waterfalls we’ve ever seen. I’m a waterfall junkie. As I’ve mentioned in so many of my other blogs, two places make me feel the most me, and the most at peace. Waterfalls and slot canyons. Especially the ones that are less popular. 


Our Favorite Waterfalls


Soco Falls

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This is a breathtaking double waterfall between Maggie Valley and Cherokee. Off Hwy 19, you’ll see a sign and a small parking area. A short walk takes you to an observation deck, or you can take a short walk down to the falls. 

Juney Whank Falls

Located in Deep Creek, this is a lesser-known waterfall.

There is a footbridge to get up close and personal. It can be accessed from the Juney Whank loop trail at the Deep Creek Entrance. The 90-ft. fall is named after Mr. Junaluska “Juney” Whank, who’s rumored to be buried somewhere in the Deep Creek area, particularly near the fall.

Crabtree Falls

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Blue Ridge Parkway. Crabtree Falls, the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River, is a popular attraction located in Nelson County, just six miles off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 27. Crabtree Falls features a series of five major cascades and a number of smaller ones that fall a total distance of 1,200 feet

Dry Falls

There is nothing dry about Dry Falls. Dry Falls is also known as Upper Cullasaja Falls and is a 65-foot waterfall located in the Nantahala National Forest, northwest of Highlands, North Carolina.

Grassy Creek Falls

Many visitors to the DuPont State Recreational Forest have visited Wintergreen Falls on the Grassy Creek. However, most are not aware of another waterfall on the same stream, named Grassy Creek Falls. These falls are nearly 2 miles downstream of Wintergreen Falls, not far from High Falls Covered Bridge.

Secret Falls

It’s an easy half-mile hike, but there are no signs to the parking area. So, this remote area is mostly visited by locals.

Secret Falls

The trail is blazed with blue rectangles on trees and is easy to follow. There’s one lone stake in the small parking area at the start of the trail that says “Secret Falls.” The wooded hike is easy enough for the entire family. There are 2 easy creek crossings (one has a log bridge), a brief uphill section, and a series of stairs after you reach the falls area. Just 6.5 miles from busy downtown Highlands is this hidden oasis that is definitely a secret to many. Secret Falls (also known as Big Shoals Falls) is a gorgeous 50-ft. waterfall on Big Creek that cascades into a serene pool, deep in the Nantahala National Forest near the Georgia state line.

Clingmans Dome

Located in Bryson City – A concrete tower with a spiraling walkway winding 375 feet to the top crowns the highest mountain in the Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s definitely sad to see what we think is Pine Beetle damage though. Still an amazing view.

Historic Fort Fisher

You can visit this awesome place without any sort of military ID. It’s open to everyone. And it’s free! We really enjoyed walking around the grounds, and on this particular day, the fog really started to roll in which was pretty cool to watch. Fort Fisher was a Confederate fort during the American Civil War. It protected the vital trading routes of the port at Wilmington, North Carolina, from 1861 until its capture by the Union in 1865. We really enjoy all the history we’ve learned as we travel.

There is a small little campground located on the actual military facility that we stayed on. It was very reasonably priced ($25 per night). Beautiful, large paved spots, and very clean.

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Located in Bird Island – According to most stories, the Kindred Spirit Mailbox was first erected after the Kindred Spirit saw a mirage of a mailbox on the shore during low tide.

Although the vision wasn’t real, they were inspired to plant a mailbox with a communal notebook so that visitors could leave proof of their having been there. The use of the mailbox quickly caught on and visitors flocked to the island to sit on a nearby bench, look out over the water and write their own personal message inside the mailbox’s journal.

The House of Mugs

House ofMugs

I’m not sure I’d go out of my way for this, but if you decide to go, bring a coffee mug!! A cabin completely covered in coffee mugs, where visitors are welcome to leave one of their own—if they can find an empty nail. There’s no charge to see the Sisk’s collection, but donations are welcome. To see the Cup House, follow NC Route 90 north/west out of Collettsville for about half a mile and turn left onto Old Johns River Road.

Clyde’s Critter Crossing

If you happen to be in or near Pittsboro, you might not want to miss Clyde’s Critter Crossing. It’s a bit eclectic and bizarre but definitely check it out if you’re in the area, or passing through. I won’t spoil it for you. But the kids will love it. 

Emerald Isle

Yes, I realize this is a very popular place – in the summer! But we visited in December, and as you can see from our picture, it was pretty warm still and the beach was virtually empty. Though we know this isn’t much of an “out of the way” place, we highly recommend visiting off season. It was amazing!

Chimney Rock State Park

State Parks are really under-rated. We love them! This is a beautiful state park, and you just gotta see the views from Chimney Rock. Wow! There are a lot of steps to the top but you won’t regret the view once you make it to the top!

Pilot Mountain

Pilot Mountain has two distinctive features, named Big and Little Pinnacle. Big Pinnacle (also called “The Knob”) has high and colorful bare rock walls, with a rounded top covered by vegetation, reaching approximately 1,400 feet above the surrounding terrain. Visitors can take a paved road to the park visitor center and campgrounds, then up to a parking lot on the ridge. 

Fort Macon

This is also a state park. Another really awesome part of our history. I have to say, as soon as I sent the first picture to my daughter (who is spiritually sensitive) she immediately felt lots of death. Without even knowing where we were. The Battle of Fort Macon was fought there during March and April 1862. Fort Macon is made up of 2,379,546 bricks – more than any other U.S. fort. Five-sided Fort Macon is constructed of brick and stone. Twenty-six vaulted rooms (also called casements) are enclosed by outer walls that are 4.5 feet thick. This is open year-round, but again, we tend to travel off-season to many places that would typically be crowded. We saw one person coming in as we were leaving in early December.

Helen’s Bridge

Located in Asheville – Legends have it that the mansion was once home to Helen, a woman who lived here with her daughter.

A tragic fire claimed the daughter’s life and when Helen couldn’t bear the misfortune, she committed suicide by hanging herself from the bridge. To date, the bridge is known to be haunted by her spirit. Personally, we just think it’s a really scenic bridge.

Great Flat Water Kayaking

Merchants Millpond State Park

MEMerchants Millpond State Park

Southern swamp and hardwood forest mingle at Merchants Millpond State Park, adorning the landscape with massive bald cypress trees, beech groves, Spanish moss, and exotic wildlife. Please be forewarned, there are gators and snakes and … and … and … Ha! The cypress trees and quiet and frogs croaking and birds singing is just one of the most peaceful flatwater floats. 

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


BOONDOCKING


Our first pick isn’t technically FREE boondocking. But it is dry camping none the less. It cost us $2.50 a night, we were backed up to a beautiful stream we could listen to, and it was really epic!! Here is our video with some more information. In fact, there are several places in the Pisgah National Forest to boondock. 

  • We are very fond of horse camps. All the ones we’ve been in have had plenty of room for us. Hence the horse trailers must be able to fit too! Badin Horse Camp is also located in Troy, NC. GPS: 35.442526, -80.04055. This area can get a little crowded on weekends due to horse owners wanting to ride the trails. 
  • Yates PlaceTroy NC National Forest campground – GPS: 35.364606, -79.989031 – Open all year, great Verizon and ATT service. Beautiful forest views. 
  • 2020 Update! We boondocked at Oyster Point Campground. It is true boondocking with no hookups, but it is a managed campground with a camp host, water on site, and pit toilets. It does cost $10 a night, but we really liked the location. The sites are huge! Here’s a picture of our site from the front and then once we backed in. Awesome Verizon and ATT signal.

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Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Missouri ~ Our Unique Finds!

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 at least 1 epic boondocking area, with GPS coordinates.

Missouri is home to the world’s largest fork, the world’s largest goose, and apparently, there is a fish on a bike in Missouri. Can only get better from here, right? 

St. Louis Arch is definitely a unique, amazing, beautiful, and interesting visit! We’ve been there, and we rode the quirky elevator to the top. I’m not going to give much information about the Arch, as it’s a very popular, not really off the beaten path place, but if you’re going to Missouri, definitely hit that spot. If you like the out-of-the-way, less touristy places, my advice is to go on a weekday, not in the summer, and not around any holiday.

Waterfalls! Waterfalls! and more Waterfalls! They are my happy place. Some people love the beach or the lake. I am most at peace with myself and the world sitting by a waterfall. There have been many occasions I’ve pretty much had to be dragged away.

Hodgson Mill Waterfall

Hodgson Mill

This is easy access off of Missouri Hwy 181, the Hodgson Mill Waterfall makes for a great photo opportunity. The historic water-mill neighboring the falls dates back to the mid 19th century. It is really breathtaking and a great stop.  

Rocky Falls

This wonder is located just east of Emminence, in the southern Missouri Ozarks. You can find it near the Current River and Jack’s Fork National Scenic Riverways. 

The town of Hannibal has several things to see! We really enjoyed this little place. Great scenery, history, and just plain fun to walk around!

The Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse

Did you know? So … I climbed all 244 steps and then learned there is a back way in? Oh well, it was beautiful to get there, but it’s a lot of steps! Beautiful views! If you can manage the steps, definitely don’t miss this. Don’t miss the Tom Sawyer House complete with the whitewashed fence. This visit seriously made me want to read the books again! Really fun history! Pretty sure I didn’t walk the next day after that climb! And yes, the two pictures at the bottom are two separate climbs.

Mark Twain Cave

Also in Hannibal, MO. I hadn’t heard of this cave before I went. So I wasn’t sure if this would qualify as off the beaten path, but it was really fun! The cave is near a campground, and we did stay at the campground a night or two. We don’t normally stay in campgrounds, but we really needed to get our tanks dumped, and it was before peak season, so we stayed. There is a fabulous winery right there, with live bands sometimes. We really enjoyed this! Yes, these are real pictures we took. Pretty amazing right? By the way, there is a really neat Geocache near the cave! If you don’t know what Geocaching is, click HERE for our blog about it. You will love it (and if you have kids, they will too.) I’m a big kid so I still love Geocaching. 

The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

The old Chain of Rocks Bridge spans the Mississippi River on the north edge of St. Louis, Missouri. The eastern end of the bridge is on Chouteau Island, while the western end is on the Missouri shoreline. 

Lake of the Ozarks – This is a pretty popular place, but if you’re looking for some amazing kayaking, check it out. Not going to get too much into this lake because it is a very popular place. But the views from a Kayak are incredible!

Welch Spring Hospital Ruins

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Sitting along Missouri’s Current River, the gorgeously abandoned Welch Spring Hospital Ruins once offered healing waters but now simply provides scenic ruin. Due to the ecosystem, you aren’t supposed to go in the water at all. The story behind this is creepy, unique, and a little different. Definitely something off the beaten path and unique! 

Extra Info:

There is not an exact address. It is located between Cedargrove and Akers on the Upper Current. To drive, go north from Akers on Route K. Turn left on the first gravel road past the Akers Group Camp. At the end of the road, park next to the river and walk a trail north along the river for about a half-mile. At the end of the trail, you will be able to see the hospital, although you will be across the spring from it.

Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins

Ha, Ha Tonka State Park  (GPS: 37.97607, -92.76979) is first and foremost a super funny name! It’s a 3,700-acre public recreation area on the Lake of the Ozarks, about 5 miles from Camdenton, Missouri. One of the highlights of the park is the castle ruins which are European castle ruins in an American state park that are actually the story of death and grief. I’ll leave the history for you to check out! But don’t discount fascinating geological features. The natural bridge is over 70 feet wide, and 100 feet high. There are 2 caves. The Robber’s Cave and the Counterfeiter’s Cave – both known to have been hide-outs for 19th-century criminals.

Bonne Terre Mines

We did not visit this but read about this unique place. It’s on my bucket list for sure! If you like to dive or swim, or just want to explore this place, it’s super fascinating! The mine has been known as one of the most unusual diving areas in the world. Due to the toxic lead particles in the water, nothing can grow to render the liquid astonishingly clear. Would you feel comfortable swimming in that? I don’t know if I would but I really must see this place! Piercing lights have been installed throughout the caverns illuminating over 100 feet into the waters. Across 24 different diving paths covering 17 miles of subterranean rooms, visitors can swim through the grand arches and towering drowned chambers and you’ve got to see the rusting equipment still at the bottom of the “Billion Gallon Lake.” 

The Pinnacles

A geological formation formed by two rivers carving out a mass of limestone on both sides. The craggy peaks are now a unique and often overlooked landmark, This is north of Columbia.  You gotta see this place. It’s a real treat! There is a rocky archway, limestone boulders, and carved-out shelves that make the site excellent for hiking and climbing. 

Boondocking

If you want boondocking central, Missouri is your place!! There are so many places that you can camp for free, it’s unreal! And we aren’t talking about parking lots, Wal-Mart, or rest stops. We are talking about lakeside views!  Here are our two favorite places with GPS coordinates on the picture! 

Hope you found something fun or at least interesting to put on your own bucket list. Our county is amazing so get out there and explore, and we’d love to hear what you found in Missouri that was Off the Beaten Path! 

We think you’d love some of our other blogs!

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Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

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

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

WV

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

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

New River Gorge Bridge

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

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

Berkeley Springs Castle

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

meBerkeley Springs Castle

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

Fun Places in West Virginia to Explore as a Family

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

Nelson Rocks / Suspension Bridge

meNelsonRocks1

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

MENelsonRocks5

Curious Rock

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

Old Abandoned Dam in Spencer, WV

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

WVU PRT

PRT2

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

Favorite Waterfalls

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

Henry Clay Iron Furnace

Furnace1
Furnace2

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

Coopers Rock

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

Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory

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

Oregon Cave

meorgancave2

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

Blackwater Falls State Park

BLACKWATER FALLS STATE PARK

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

Boondocking

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

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

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