USA’s Hidden Gems

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The best attractions and landmarks that are off the beaten path

The USA is a vast country with so much to see and do. In fact, you could probably make an entire bucket list purely consisting of the nation’s most famous tourist attractions.

From the Golden Gate Bridge and Las Vegas Strip on the West Coast to Times Square and Walt Disney World Resort on the East, the options are endless.

But what about the tourist destinations that you might not have heard of? Being such a huge country, the USA is full of hidden gems, perfect if you want to avoid the crowds or just try somewhere different.

So, which parts of the country are home to most of these hidden gems, and which are the best to visit?

List of states with the most hidden gems

The states with the most hidden gems

1. Alaska – % of hidden gem attractions: 10.95%

Hidden gem attractions: 309

Total attractions: 2,823

Known for its dramatic landscapes featuring icy glaciers and fjords, Alaska is famously the most remote US state.

This remoteness means that many parts of the state are very hard to get to, meaning that it’s packed full of lesser-known places waiting to be discovered.

According to listings on Tripadvisor, just over 1 in 10 of the state’s attractions are deemed to be hidden gems, including the Mendenhall Glacier and Kodiak Island.

2. Wyoming – % of hidden gem attractions: 7.67%

Hidden gem attractions: 114

Total attractions: 1,486

Second is the state of Wyoming, which is the least populated state in the country but clearly has a lot of attractions to entice visitors.

Like Alaska, Wyoming is a state popular with tourists who love the great outdoors and a sense of adventure.

In total, 7.67% of its attractions are listed as being hidden gems, such as Devils Tower and the Midway Geyser Basin.

3. Utah – % of hidden gem attractions: 6.98%

Hidden gem attractions: 217

Total attractions: 3,108

Completing a top three of states located in the West of the USA is Utah, where just under 7% of attractions are listed as being hidden gems.

Utah has three distinct geographical regions and a history stretching back thousands of years, which means there’s an adventure to be found in every corner.

Some of the attractions you might not have heard of include: Capitol Reef National Park, Kanarraville Falls, and Fifth Water Hot Springs.

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USA's top 3 landmarks

The USA’s best hidden gems

1. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming – 9.51 out of 10

Annual search volume: 4,184,000

Google review score: 4.9 out of 5

Taking into account the number of searches on Google as well as reviews by visitors, the most popular of the US’s hidden gems is the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

While it’s undoubtedly a popular place, Grand Teton is often overlooked by visitors in favor of the neighboring national parks of Yellowstone and Glacier.

The park stretches over 300,000 acres and is home to the Teton Range of mountains as well as the Jackson Hole valley.

2. Badlands National Park, South Dakota – 8.57 out of 10

Annual search volume: 1,295,000

Google review score: 4.9 out of 5

Second place goes to another national park, the Badlands in South Dakota. Similarly rated 4.9 by visitors, the Badlands miss out on the top spot due to a lower search volume than Grand Teton.

Like Grand Teton, the Badlands is one of the more underrated national parks in the country but has some jaw-dropping scenery.

It can also be visited as part of a wider trip to South Dakota to see a more recognizable landmark: Mount Rushmore.

3. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan – 8.13 out of 10

Annual search volume: 886,900

Google review score: 4.9 out of 5

In third place is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan, located on the shores of Lake Superior.

Known for its dramatic multicolored cliffs and unusual sandstone formations, there is lots of natural beauty to explore here.

There are over 100 miles of trails to follow as well as guided tours led by the rangers, such as the one from Twelve mile Beach through the beautiful white birch forests nearby.

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Methodology

The states with the most hidden gems

For each state, the number of total attractions listed on Tripadvisor was sourced. The number that is listed as being ‘hidden gems’ was then also sourced and calculated as a percentage of the total.

The USA’s best hidden gems

Using a number of articles we built a list of over 150 hidden gem attractions and landmarks across the USA.

For each, we then found the number of global Google searches between June 2021 and May 2022 according to Google Ads Keyword Planner as well as the average review score on Google Maps.

Finally, we gave each attraction a normalized score out of ten for both of these factors, before taking an average of these two scores to reach our overall score out of ten.