From the most remote county in the U.S. to a secret slot canyon located just a few miles from where the tour buses go, these off-the-beaten-path places are worth finding. Just have a full tank of gas when you go
1. Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
The Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwest New Mexico – once a major urban hub for ancestral Puebloan culture – showcases the United States’ most complex and best-preserved collection of “great houses.” The largest house had up to 800 rooms and reached up to four stories tall when inhabitants from the 9th to 13th centuries dwelled there. An architectural marvel with stairways, irrigation systems, and sophisticated roadways, Chaco is tough to get to. In fact, some GPS-guided navigation routes into the park are actually unsafe for passenger cars. Use National Park Service directions.
2. Lake City, Colorado
The math is simple, really. Five Colorado Fourteeners plus four wilderness areas plus two scenic byways equal one can’t-miss weekend getaway. A former supply hub and smelting center for the area’s mineral deposits, Lake City now serves as a hub for Old West history – a place where visitors can bask in kitsch-free authenticity of more than 200 historic structures nestled at the base of the San Juan Mountains. Oh, and here’s more math: Hinsdale County is made up of 96 percent public land. Thus, an abundance of wilderness areas, waterfalls and wildlife awaits birdwatchers, hunters, rock climbers, and off-road enthusiasts who make the trek to the “most remote county in the lower 48.”
3. Secret Canyon, Arizona
Think of this as the anti-Antelope Canyon tour. No shuttles. No tourists clogging up your photos. And no time clip. Slot Canyon Hummer Adventures out of Page, Arizona, takes a maximum of 10 guests at a time into Secret Canyon, one of the longest slot canyons on the Navajo Nation. With sculpted sandstone walls formed by water, wind and sand, Secret Canyon rivals the nearby, heavily-traveled Antelope Canyon with this added bonus: an 8-mile off-road Hummer excursion to the canyon entrance. Ask your guide to channel Shaun White with a few “Hummer halfpipes” on the way in. And maybe skip breakfast before you go.
4. Moonshine Arch, Utah
The hike to Moonshine Arch in northeastern Utah serves up nature with a side of solitude. While car loads of tourists travel to nearby Dinosaur National Monument, this little-known arch may be the region’s best-kept secret. It’s a bit of effort to get there, but Butch Cassidy didn’t hide away in the canyons of Flaming Gorge because they were easy to get to. GPS navigation may lead you astray, so check this map to Moonshine Arch before you go.
5. Gruene, Texas
Autumn’s kinder, gentler temperatures just seem to make Texas Hill Country exhale. Maybe you should too. Don’t be like the travelers who punch their ticket on the “Texas trifecta” from Dallas to Austin to San Antonio without ever stopping to explore the towns that dot I-35. We recommend Gruene (pronounced “Green”) as a jumping off point for a gorgeous, windows-down drive along River Road, which ribbons across and along the Guadalupe River. Feeling fly? Try your hand at fly fishing the Guadalupe, the southernmost trout stream in the Northern hemisphere. Carpe diem: The Gruene Music & Wine Festival is coming up Oct. 6-9.