You're going to love these six destinations. They're exciting. They're wild. They cater to active-living, adventurous people. Most of all, you're going to love them because they're off-radar.
Because we skipped the tourism zones and found six destinations you have to see to believe.
(Stay tuned for part 2!)
Mountain Bike at Little River (Vermont)
One of the newest and most exciting mountain bike areas in Vermont, Little River State Park offers a small but high-quality collection of trails just outside of Waterbury. Most were forged in just the past couple of years yet have already become known as some of the fastest and most flowy single-track in the state. Sweat up Stonewall then ride a rollercoaster trail like Highbridge or Hillfarmer, or access something more mellow like Bear Ridge or Cottonbrook. This ever-growing network is set to become even better and bigger in the coming years—so check it out now and in the seasons to follow.
Hike Mount Washington (New Hampshire)
With a lot of planning, a good skillset and a few buckets of sweat—you too can summit the highest peak in New England. Topping out at 6,288 feet, Mount Washington has the dubious distinction of logging some of the worst weather in America, but in-season the popular Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the summit should avoid that—though always check conditions before you hike. This eight-mile route climbs more than 4,000 feet and is suited for skilled hikers only. Late-summer is the best time to go, as snow and ice can persist. If you’re up for it, the ravines, viewpoints and even a waterfall won’t disappoint.
Climb in Custer State Park (South Dakota)
When you think of South Dakota, you think “rock climbing,” right? No? Well maybe you should—and Custer State Park is the premier climbing destination in the region. Take for example The Needles, an experts-only area in the park that is as challenging as it is scenic; a collection of rocks that stab like witches’ fingers into the sky. Climbers have been using these vertigo-inducing spires as test-pieces for nearly 80 years. But the area is still relatively uncrowded, compared to climbing destinations in the Mountain West. So the time to go is now.
Explore Toadstool Geologic Park (Nebraska)
Looking more lunar than Earthly, Nebraska’s Toadstool Geologic Park fascinates the mind and keeps the feet active. Hike across rolling badlands. Spot elusive fauna and delicate flora. Scramble wind-sculpted rocks. Search out the sod house. You might even catch a glimpse of fossils from the Miocene age. Hikes abound—start with the three-mile Bison Trail and branch out from there. Later, pitch a tent in the front-country or remote backcountry and stargaze well past midnight.
Learn More: fs.usda.gov/recarea/nebraska/recreation
Waterfall Hunt in Starved Rock (Illinois, PICTURED AT TOP)
Starved Rock State Park is a like a fairyland dreamscape. Water-sculpted rocks. Lush mixed-woods forest. Thirteen miles of serene hiking trails. And waterfalls galore. Unlike the rolling farmlands the state is known for, ancient glacial runoff carved up the landscape of Starved Rock and stripped it down the limestone. The result? Some 18 canyons with 14 stunning waterfalls. Wander the gorges in spring, when runoff is high, and marvel at the sight of everything from veil-thin falls to raging cascades. Trails range from 0.3 miles to about five miles long, so most guests will find a way to spot a waterfall.
Learn More: starvedrockstatepark.org
Canoe Big Darby Creek (Ohio)
Whether you put-in during the spring, when the flows are fast, or wait until midsummer, when Ohio’s most scenic river shallows and slows to a leisurely pace, the Big Darby delivers. Launch your canoe or kayak in Batelle-Darby Park and set forth—likely spotting local wildlife at every turn. Birdwatchers flock to this river as just about every species in the state stops by throughout the year. Floats usually take between two and four hours to get a good sense of the serenity, though more advanced paddlers go six hours plus with ease. Guided trips and rentals are available locally.