12 U.S. Hidden Gems to Travel to in Fall 2020
If you’ve got itchy feet and are craving a fall 2020 vacation, you are not alone! With the whole world on lockdown at the moment, people are eagerly awaiting the day when we can safely head out into the world again.
Travel experts are predicting it will be a slow return to normal, occurring in stages. So while you might not be able to fly internationally, experience nightlife in Miami or attend a Broadway show in New York, here are 12 U.S. hidden gems to travel to in fall 2020!
Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Instead of a crowded city or festival, opt for a vacation in the great outdoors!
Like all national parks, Great Smoky closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. But it will be the first to open up again on May 9th! So this Tennessee park is number one on our list.
But just because Great Smoky is the first to allow visitors again, doesn’t mean things are back to normal here. Not yet anyway!
Popular trails and sites will remain closed for now. But people can go on socially distanced hikes! So hop off your couch and get out amongst the mountains while continuing to practice safe habits.
And be sure to monitor the situation here in case things change.
Badlands, South Dakota
This underappreciated landscape is due for it’s time in the spotlight! Many Americans haven’t made the journey up to South Dakota yet and after the lockdown ends, it might be the perfect spot to camp, get out in nature, hike and photograph the bizarre and interesting landscape.
Include these Badlands bucket list stops in your itinerary:
- Drive the Badlands Highway 240 Loop Road -it’s the main route right through the park!
- Stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center
- Camping options: Sage Creek Campground, Cedar Pass Campground or backcountry camping
- Stop at the ridiculous & infamous Wall Drug Store that’s been confusing tourists since 1931
- Visit Mount Rushmore only 90 minutes away
Custer State Park, South Dakota
Combine this with your road trip to the Badlands because Custer State Park is only a little over an hour away. Learn about Native American culture, swim at the beloved Sylvan Lake Lodge, drive Needles Highway, rent canoes and most memorably: get caught in a buffalo jam.
It’s hard to say just how long you’ll be stuck sitting on the road unable to move. With 1,300 bison freely roaming the park, you often have to wait for them to pass as they lazily cross the road on their own time. Really, they never seem to be in any rush.
To see the buffalo herd off the beaten path, book a buffalo safari here.
Estes Park, Colorado
This adorable mountain town provides plenty of wide open spaces for hiking, golfing and kayaking out on the lake. Right near the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, you are perfectly situated to self-drive one of the most beautiful routes in America! This is an easy destination to practice social distancing until the pandemic is fully resolved.
Your Este Park Bucket List:
- Drive the through the breathtaking Rocky Mountain National Park which starts in Este Park and ends in Grand Lake
- Spend the night in the Stanley Hotel that inspired Stephen King’s 1977 bestselling novel The Shining and bonus points if you’re brave enough to do a ghost tour!
- Ride up the Estes Park Aerial Tramway
- Drive the scenic route towards Fort Collins and hike up Horsetooth Mountain
- When you’re done hiking Horsetooth Mountain, go for a swim in the beautiful Horsetooth Reservoir
Big Bend National Park, Texas
There is a place far off in West Texas, that is totally underrated, the majestic Big Bend! Even the national park website refers to it as “splendid isolation.” Sounds like a perfect place to go as we recover from the pandemic.
Go hiking, do an air tour and appreciate the park from the sky, raft the winding Rio Grande river or horseback ride through the park for a few hours or even a multi-day trip! There is no shortage of adventure (or space for social distancing!) here at Big Bend National Park.
Boundary Waters, Minnesota
Nothing says lack of crowds and social distancing like a canoe trip to the most isolated (but totally gorgeous!) part of Minnesota. Nights under the stars, food over a campfire and a beautiful, untouched landscape awaits you in the Boundary Waters!
You can do a trip solo but with no cell service and total wilderness stretching for miles in every direction, I recommend hiring a guide or joining a group canoe trip.
Ladies, you can even book to join an all women’s canoe trip through the gorgeous Minnesota wilderness with Women’s Wilderness Discovery.
Monument Valley, Utah
While I usually suggest booking a guided tour with a Navajo guide through Monument Valley, there is always the option of driving it yourself if you’re looking to still practice some social distancing. Either way, Monument Valley does not disappoint. These scaling rock formations will have you feeling like you’ve just stepped back in time to an old John Wayne movie.
For the extra adventurous, book to spend a night in a hogan, the traditional Navajo dwelling.
North Cascades National Park, Washington
Located just 3 hours from Seattle, this underdog gets absolutely none of the attention it deserves! It is one of the least visited national parks in the entire country despite it being home to a startlingly, gorgeous scenic route. And this is why it’s perfect for your post lockdown vacation! All the views and none of the people. What more could a socially distancing traveler want?!
Your North Cascades Bucket List:
- Drive North Cascades Highway
- Take in the gorgeous views at Diablo Lake Overlook
- Stay at the beautiful Ross Lake Resort or North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin
- And everyone’s favorite: soak in the views at Washington Pass Overlook
Stunning red rock formations scale to the sky in this iconic Arizona location! And with plenty of wide open space for even the most nervous of travelers post lockdown, Sedona is the perfect place to road trip. Here, it’s all about the hikes, the views and disconnecting from the buzz of the busy world.
Easily one of our favorite towns for United States vacation destinations after lockdown!
- Devil’s Bridge Trail
- Cathedral Rock Hike
- Doe Mountain Trail
- Fay Canyon
- Boynton Canyon
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Most likely you’ve heard of California’s most famous national park, Yosemite. It’s hugely popular with 4.4 millions visitors a year. But did you know California has another awe-inspiring mountainous park you can visit instead? Officials have already said Yosemite would be slow to reopen given the park’s popularity but it’s likely Lassen Volcanic National Park won’t have that same issue!
Lassen Volcanic Park is full of easy but rewarding hikes and trails. You don’t have to be an extreme hiker to get the most out of your time here!
Be sure to visit:
- Mount Lassen: an easy but super rewarding hike
- Manzanita Lake: stunning lake with a great trail around it
- Bumpass Hell: a geothermal area with bubbling mud & spitting blowholes, just an easy 1.3 miles walk from the main road
- Kings Creek Falls: an easy one mile hike to get to this waterfall
Road Trip Down Route 66
If you haven’t driven the “mother road” of America, post-lockdown is the perfect time to do it! With plenty of space between you and the next car, this infamous highway spanning from Chicago to Los Angeles is the ideal vacation destination.
And along the way, there are countless quirky roadside attractions to delight (and sometimes confuse!) you. So pile in the car, let’s go!
Don’t miss these stops:
- The Grand Canyon: this legendary Wonder of the World is only a short detour from Route 66
- Seligman, Arizona: this historic (but wonderfully wacky) Route 66 town is the inspiration behind the movie Cars. Make sure you stop in Angel Delgadillo’s Barber Shop. This man is the one responsible for petitioning and saving our beloved Mother Road! And be sure to leave a business card amongst the thousands of travelers who have made the pilgrimage along Route 66. Stop for a milkshake and burger a la the 1950’s for some very Americana nostalgia at Delgadillo’s Snow Cap which has been open since 1953.
- Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, Texas: this road trip tradition of spray painting old cadillac cars that were installed as an outdoor art exhibit in 1974 has been carried on for decades by travelers. Even Bruce Springsteen wrote a song about his visit here!
Just about anywhere in a camper van rental!
Better yet: test out the #vanlife and drive to multiple of these vacation destinations after lockdown.
The open road is waiting for you! Rent a campervan from any number of companies around the USA and go on a spontaneous road trip adventure. Watch sunrise from your bed, travel without set plans and enjoy the freedom of being able to go wherever, whenever!
Or check out Voyagers Campervans & use discount code “emilyrose40” for $40 off your first booking!