National parks are often seen as the holy grail for outdoor enthusiasts, offering the full smorgasbord of hiking, camping, climbing and water recreation. But there are certainly many gorgeous places in the world that are less traveled and often overlooked by outdoor recreation enthusiasts.
Florida’s Forgotten Coast
This stretch of beach has been overlooked by developers and remains mostly untouched. Unique rock formations inhabit the quiet beaches while wildlife are relatively easy to spot as they make their way around their mostly undeveloped surroundings.
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
For water lovers who can’t quite make it to the coast for summer vacation, the Lake of the Ozarks is a paradise for fishermen. Bass, walleye and bluegill are booming year-round at this reservoir. With over 1,100 miles of shoreline, the Lake of the Ozarks offers plenty of off-water activities for those who aren’t fishing-inclined.
New Braunfels, Texas
New Braunfels is located near San Antonio and is home to a thriving community of water sport lovers. The climate here is warm almost year round, making it ideal for visitors and locals alike to enjoy the two rivers, the Comal and the Guadalupe. On top of fishing, people enjoy tubing, water skiing or rafting under the delightful Texas sun. New Braunfels is also home to the country’s largest water park, Schlitterbahn, perfect for visitors who want to get away from the fresh water of the rivers and enjoy the park’s many heart-pounding water slides.
South Carolina’s Hammock Coast
Located between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, the Hammock Coast is more than just a beach hangout. It’s riddled with kayaking, surfing and paddle-boarding opportunities. Rivers and tidal marshes are scattered throughout the region, making this a popular hangout for athletic locals. After a morning kayaking the lazy rivers of the coast, visitors will find plenty of space to lounge on Pawley’s Island, which has remained free of commercial development, making it a true beach getaway.
Gunflint Trail, Minnesota
Minnesota is severely underrated in the outdoor activities respect, but Gunflint Trail can fix that perception. Honeymoon Bluff is just a short 20 minute hike that will afford stunning views of the colorful sunsets as it overlooks Hungry Jack and West Bearskin Lakes. The Border Route Trail (BRT) is made up of over 70 miles of trails with shorter spurs for day hikers or off-trail camping opportunities for overnight hikers. The Gunflint Trail is also known for its moose sightings, earning the right as being one of the best places in Minnesota to sight the burly beast. Gunflint Trail cabins are a great option for both couples and families looking to enjoy the outdoors.
Havasu Falls, Arizona
Just off the infamous Route 66, the “Indian 18” takes travelers along 65 miles that eventually end up at Hualapi Hilltop in the Grand Canyon. From there, hikers should put on their boots and make sure they have their swimming suits because after a 10 mile hike, Havasu Falls comes into view. These waterfalls offer startlingly turquoise waters that can put the most tropical beaches to shame.
Outdoor enthusiasts who seek out little known vacation destinations are rewarded with unsullied landscapes and little to no crowds. Skipping the popularity of national parks affords visitors the opportunity to do and see things in the peaceful tranquility of nature, which is the penultimate experience for nature lovers.