Northbound and Down: Off the Beaten Path

We love visiting lesser known or under-appreciated spots. It’s not to say others haven’t been there, but chances are there’s no list of the top 10 things to see or do there. These places give us freedom to explore on our own terms and to feel that everything we see is our own discovery.

1. Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

While Wrangell–St. Elias is America’s largest park, many people (including us before visiting) have never heard of it. It’s anonymity adds to its splendor. There are two access roads—Nebesna and McCarthy—and because of the sheer size of the park, both are worth checking out for the different experiences they offer.

Nebesna Road quickly turns into a dirty road, and the bumps and potholes deter more timid travelers. As a result, crowds are basically nonexistent here. You can go on hikes that offer amazing views or simply hang out by a lake and take in the ancient volcanoes and the sprawling boreal forest around you – virtually alone.

McCarthy Road follows an old train route to the town of Kennecott where adventurous and resilient miners lived and worked in the 1920s. The road ends at the Kennecott River, so walk or bike across the bridge to the small town of McCarthy and then continue another ~5 miles to Kennecott where buildings from the mining days still stand. From there you can hike to abandoned mines high above glaciers or simply hike to the glaciers themselves!

2. Stanley, Idaho

Many Idahoans asked us not to tell anyone how beautiful Idaho is as to not draw crowds but we think people should know. One place that impressed us the most was Stanley, a small town surrounded by the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The mountains are spectacular, there are near by natural hot springs, and the numerous forest roads wind past beautiful homesteads. You can find all sorts of trails here that take you up mountains or past beautiful lakes. At night you can check out some local bars or breweries, some locals even provide a fee shuttle service to these spots. It helps keep you safe and keeps the town watering holes prosperous!

3. The Lost Coast, California

The Lost Coast is known for the 24-mile trail that stretches the remote coastline of Northern California. The landscape alone makes a visit here worth it—forested mountains butt up to the powerful Pacific Ocean (which has some sweet surfing). Day hikes take you from mountain forest to cliff overlooks and down to the surf. We found we could hike or mountain bike through the mountains and then watch the sunset on the beach all in one day, and many times, without seeing anyone else.

Nearby Hipcamps: Albion Redwood Cabin, Windy Hollow Farmstay, Newbird Cabin @ Oz Farm, Coastal Country Getaway

4. McInnis Canyon, Colorado

McInnis Canyon is at the northwest corner of Colorado and borders some better-known areas. We went there with no expectations and were blown away. The canyons are magnificent and make you feel like you’ve gone back in time. There’s plenty of hiking and mountain biking to keep anyone busy, and if you’re into history there are petroglyphs that are easily accessible.

Nearby Hipcamps: The Lavender Bunk Room, High Desert Hideout, Lavender Fields Tent Camping

Alyssa and Brian left their full time graphic design gigs in March 2016 to live and work on the road. Since then they’ve traveled across the lower 48, Canada and Alaska in their truck camper. When they’re not playing outside, they work as freelance designers and create personal work inspired by their travels. In 2017 they are headed south to Central America and are looking forward to endless beach days. Follow them on Instagram: @northbound.and.down.

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