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Share your local American "back doors"

What town in your area would be a good analog to a RS European "back door"?

I live in Tallahassee. Visitors to the Florida panhandle, especially spring breakers, flock to Pensacola and Panama City. Those are fine destinations, but tucked away behind a few barrier islands to the east is quiet and largely unnoticed Apalachicola. This small beach town on the Gulf has dreamy white beaches and blue-green waters and great fishing. This is Old Florida before the age of Disney. No chain hotels or chain restaurants, just local B&Bs or beach rentals and local restaurants where your dinner was wiggling on a boat a few hours earlier.

I get on my motorcycle and head down there at least 3 or 4 times a year. Great place to spend a long, lazy weekend.

This is a great topic for a travel thread!
My information is more "backwoods" than "back doors."
Talk about Old Florida - Micanopy, Fl. 1-2 nights, Herlong Mansion B&B, near Gainesville. Activities: fresh river springs - tubing, paddle boarding etc.. Casual, but good restaurants. A few small shops like vintage clothes for women, furniture, art, jewelry, antiques. (I emphasize few.)
Ancient Florida - natural area for hiking - Lake Wales, Fl. - Tiger Creek Preserve. (No amenities. Bring your own supplies for the trail.). Local Diner - Frost Bite (in Frostproof) and McDonald's. There are other hiking trails in this area. Lake Wales Ridge Area.

Posted by
21731 posts

We have a bunch in Colorado. One of my favorites is the Mineral Belt trail in Leadville. It is a 12 mile, hard surface loop trail that runs deep into the old mining country around Leadville. Lots of signs explaining the mining history. Literally an outdoor museum. It is basically flat except for one spot with a steep decent and, obviously, a steep accent on the other side. Very convenient from a bike.

Posted by
2234 posts

Another vote for Leadville and the Mineral Belt Trail as Frank has suggested.
The little town is itself a charming little place with low-key attractions and reminders of it's mining past (and present for that matter). Nearby Ski Cooper is itself a hidden gem - especially for families not interested in the glitz and higher prices of the more well known (and much more expensive) resorts in Colorado.
Might add that during the winter months the Mineral Belt Trail is groomed for cross-country skiing, and you can't beat the price - it's free.

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9729 posts

Fast Eddie and Sun-baked - Thanks for the little jaunt down memory lane! Graduate of both UF (before Micanopy and Cedar Key got cool and before Itchetucknee was a state park, lol!) and FSU and used to head out on the back roads a lot. A number of years ago my brother and I drove from Orlando to Jax taking only back roads trying to find remnants of the Florida we remembered from the 70's and 80's and yes, found some fern farms and shade houses along the way.

The area where I live in Idaho is not generally known to tourists, although I understand there are some photography tours to the area in late spring after the crops have emerged and it's all green. The Palouse is a geographical designation that spans parts of Idaho and Washington and is largely agricultural (wheat, dry peas and lentils). There is easy access to mountains (Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and Panhandle National Forest) and rivers (Snake and Clearwater plus the smaller tributaries upriver that flow from the deeper mountains). We've got a lot of Native American and Lewis and Clark history plus some paved biking/walking trails. Lovely in late spring thru Fall. OK in winter but we get a lot of snow most years.

Factoid (or not): The Nez Perce (or NiMi'iPuu) bred the Appaloosa horse and I've been told by tribal members that "Ap" means "from" in the NiMi'iPuu language - so it was a horse From the Palouse.

It also cracks me up when I go to France and see the signs not to walk on the grass/lawn which is pelouse. Supposedly the French trappers noted the green rolling hills and called them the Pelouse or now, the Palouse.

Posted by
2334 posts

Can Canada play? In my neck of the woods, Banff National Park gets all the international glory, but Alberta has 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this link lists 5 of them.

I like nothing better than taking an hour drive NE of Calgary to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum. the surrounding area is a hotbed of dinosaur fossils. One of the exhibits within the museum is a Hadrosaur which was featured on the cover of National Geographic a couple of years ago.

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1258 posts

I live in San Diego. In the eastern part of the county, in the mountains, is a town called Julian. In the 1870s they had a small gold rush in the area. It is apple country and once a year there is an APPLE FESTIVAL. There is a tea shop, an old hotel, an old drug store that still serves fountain drinks, apple pie shops and a small museum. There is one main street with gift shops and restaurants. I love it in the autumn because you actually have trees turning color. As I grew up in the midwest, I miss that time of year. Not too far out of town is a bakery serving all kinds of baked goods. People come from miles around just to shop there. YUM!

Too bad so much American Indian History was lost (i.e. lack of writings, etc.). A lot of what makes Europe cool is layers of history: Romans, Royals, palaces, food & drink, art, music, etc.. I find it interesting that during the 1500 - 1600's - early Americans (still very much Europeans at this point) were chopping wood, living in cabins, hunting beavers while the Italians had the Renaissance, built palaces, cathedrals, and St. Peter's. Fine clothes, fine food, and wine, etc.. (I just use the Italians as an example.). Such a contrast!
There may have been a few wealthy Europeans in the USA in the early 1500's. (Shipping Industry, etc.). Perhaps, along the coastlines like Boston and NYC.

Hey Ufkak,
I hear you and had some similar thoughts. I don't worry about rural Florida and hiking trails getting over-run. Far enough out of the way for most and the hiking activity itself eliminates a lot of travelers.

Posted by
9729 posts

"This may sound churlish but in these days of overtourism and instagram-driven travel, I have no idea why people would voluntarily share this kind of information."

Yes, to me this is negative and churlish. This is not Instagram and our comments on here are not going to suddenly cause a surge of overtourism in our local areas. There is no requirement to post on any thread, especially ones that seem to upset you. I routinely pass over threads, generally the ones that have devolved into political "discussions", that are not of interest to me.

If at a future date anyone wants specifics on hiking trails in my area or wants itinerary help, I'm happy to give them. I can also point you to a few lesser visited sites in Yellowstone as well. I'm happy to share.

Yes, is such a contrast between 1500's Europe and 1500's US. My brother, SIL and I occasionally do a "Geezer Adventure Day" and do a day trip locally. For one last Fall I picked a site called the Weis Rockshelter which has had non-continuous habitation dated back to 8,000 years ago. I figured since I had been making a point to go to megalithic sites in Europe (Carnac, Castlerigg, Hurlers Stones, plus the biggies of Stonehenge and Avebury) I should do the ones close to me as well. The other one I want to see is Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming just west of Sheridan.

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381 posts

Until Lyme disease became endemic in my area and I came home from a hike with three deer ticks stuck to me under my T shirt, I would find countless fascinating backwoods and backdoor sites through geocaching.

Geocaching is a hobby where some people hide camouflaged little boxes in the outdoors and others use the GPS coordinates and other clues provided to find the caches. (See

In my area, people would especially hide caches in mysterious cellar holes or tumbling down stone structures in the woods, and these were great fun to find, prompting speculation about the people who used to live there 100 or 150 or even 200 years ago.

Outside of my area, geocaches would lead me to deserted beaches or interesting geological features that only locals knew about.

I have not done geocaching internationally, but many people do, and I recommend it as a reliable and adventurous way of finding off-the-beaten-track attractions, particularly if you travel with an interest in natural history or ancient relics.

Posted by
5786 posts

Can Canada play? In my neck of the woods, *Banff National Park** gets all the international glory....*

I would add to Allan's North American backdoor.

Banff town is an overcrowded tourist town. While the nearby Canmore has been growing over the past 15 or 20 years it's more livable than Banff. And recreating in Kananaskis Country and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is a backdoor alternative to Banff NP And speaking of backdoor national parks, Yoho NP and Emerald Lake is a backdoor gem.

Unfortunately Kananaskis and Yoho are COVID-19 victims for now.

All Parks Canada facilities are temporarily closed, all visitor
services and all motor vehicle access by visitors are suspended until
further notice.

Posted by
5495 posts

I live in SE (Coastal Georgia) and with 200 miles of where I live there are some great places to visit:

1) Our area, The Golden Isles, Saint Simons Island, Jekyll Island, Sea Island. Sea Island is a very exclusive island usually visited by the wealthy. It has a famous golf course and way more. Jekyll Island was once owned by a group of millionaires, and some of their cottages can be visited or you can stay at a hotel that was once the club of those millionaires (Jekyll Island Club). Also, the island has a convention center, nice beaches and more golf courses as well as a great bike trail around the island. St. Simons Island is more residential, but has beaches, more golf courses as well as many great restaurants.

2) St. Augustine Florida is across the border from us, but a very historical place with lots to see and do.

3) Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, SC are other great places north of us.

Posted by
2941 posts

I would add to SunBaked's post about Lake Wales that there is a real gem there, Bok Tower and Gardens. Bok Tower is a 205-foot tower with carillon bells that play soothing songs every 30 minutes.
There is a a 250-acre garden of plants of all varieties, with walking trails, benches, a visitor center with cafe/coffee shop. The garden is a good place for birding and a pleasant place to sit and listen to the tower bells play their soothing tunes. There are several water features and fountains that add to the serenity there. There is a lovely home to tour, Pinewood Estate, built in the 1920's, of Mediterranean design.

The home, tower and gardens were built by Edward Bok, who was editor of Ladies Home Journal in the 1920's. He had the gardens built by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. who is known for more famous works, such as the original design of Central Park in New York City, and the gardens of the Vanderbilt home in Asheville, North Carolina, Biltmore House and Gardens.

We were introduced to this area by a friend who lived in Lake Wales. It is a spot I like to visit, just for the serenity of the gardens.

Posted by
2941 posts

One of my favorite places is Asheville, North Carolina. (Had family living in this area) It's a cool little mountain town with good restaurants, small family-run hotels and B&B's and a lively farmers' market on the weekends.
The must-see local attraction there is Biltmore House and Gardens, a French Chateau built by the Vanderbilt family in the 1800's as a summer residence. The house is spectacular, and the gardens even more so, having been created by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.

The mountains of North Carolina are spectacular, whatever area you visit.
Part of the Vanderbilt Estate lands were given to the state in lieu of taxes, and became the Pisgah National Forest. This is an excellent park with walking trails, waterfalls and campsites. Highly recommend. Mountain bikes are welcome on the trails, too. Great birdwatching.

Many movies have been filmed in the Pisgah National Forest, including one of my favorites, The Last of the Mohicans, with Daniel Day Lewis. You can walk the trail that they walked taking their prisoners up the mountain and stand under that waterfall where they hid. Amazing scenery, thick forests, no crowds, no restaurants or hotels to spoil the forests. The Cradle of Forestry is in this area.

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs north and south through this area. It's easy to jump on this and travel north into the mountains of Virginia or south into the mountains of Georgia.

Posted by
6361 posts

California is one of the most diverse states in the Union. Grew up in Northern California in the Bay Area. Presently dwell and work ( although not doing so at the moment) in the megalopolis of LA.

Have explored and experienced the state from top to bottom.

Everyone knows San Francisco, LA., many San Diego, but I’ll surmise most DONT realize that CA is an agricultural state with the Central Valley remaining one of the most productive ( food producing) areas of the world. Most know of the state capital of Sacramento but these parts of CA are worth a look see.

The Memorial Sculpture on 97 outside Weed
Burney Falls
Modoc National Forest
Lava Beds National Monument
Painted Dunes and Cinder Cone
Mt Shasta
Mt Lassen
Fort Bragg
Redwood National Statepark
Jedidiah Smith State Park
Navarro River Redwoods
Red Bluff
Bodega Bay
Sacramento and the river delta towns like Locke, Rio Vista and Isleton
Mt Diablo
Dillons Beach
Pt Reyes
Half Moon Bay
Purisma Creek Redwoods
Moss Beach
La Honda
Los Gatos
Butano State Park
Big Basin Redwoods
Bonny Doone
Three Rivers
Kings Canyon
Salvation Mountain outside Palm Springs
Pacific Grove and Pt Lobos
Pfeiffer Big Sur
San Simeon
Morro Bay
Montana Del Oro State Park
Lake Isabella
Bear valley Springs
Lone Pine and the Alabama Foothills ( think westerns and Gunga Din)
Death Valley
Mt Whitney
Joshua Tree
Big Bear
Desert Christ Park in Yucca Valley
Anza Borrego
Salton Sea
Channel Islands
Trona Pinnacles
The California Missions like the one outside Hunter Ligget

Road trip on Hwy 1, Hwy 101, Hwy 99 or along Interstate 5

Yep HUGE state....

WOW! I think you just earned the over-achiever award in sharing "Back Door" info.. That's a lot of traveling to consider. I may just have to visit California one of these days. (I will skip Death Valley. The name says it all. Great name to dissuade tourism.)

I understand what you are saying about agriculture. Many don't realize that agriculture is one of the top industries in Florida as well. (I know I was surprised when I first moved here.)

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6361 posts

Thanks Sun Baked.

As I said lots to see and explore in California and given I’m self isolating easy to list things.

Now back to Bingeing Homeland.

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100 posts

In early May of 2 years ago, a friend and I roadtripped in Arkansas and had a blast. This was part of my pursuit of visiting all 50 states (currently have 41), but I never expected to have such a great time. Some of the highlights: Little Rock (Clinton Library, Arkansas State House, Esse Purse Museum), the beautiful Petit Jean State Park, Bentonville (spent the day at the amazing and free Crystal Bridges art museum and strolled the festivities of the Bentonville Film Festival, which was founded by Geena Davis), Eureka Springs (well-preserved Victorian district, and we visited during a Mardi Gras-style parade), and Hot Springs (the bathhouses and hiking trails). And we enjoyed fantastic BBQ everywhere we went.

The irony for me was that people I know who seek out undiscovered international destinations were a bit pearl-clutchy about a trip to Arkansas. Their loss! There's a lot of great places to discover in the U.S.

Posted by
1780 posts

Claudia, reading your list of places in CA brought back memories of my childhood when we used to drive from Portland to L.A. for spring break. It had to have been Hwy 99 in those days. Yreka was just over the boarder and hitting that felt like we were almost there. I remember Weed, Red Bluff, getting out to watch for squirrels at the capitol in Sacramento, Stockton and Fresno. And then, the Grapevine. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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5697 posts

Certainty not an unknown --- but consider Yosemite Valley off-season. Went there one spring when the snow had just melted, and waterfalls were spectacular! The riverside roads were flooded, making driving slow, but the lack of crowds was wonderful. Also very nice (but limited waterfalls) in the early fall after schools are back in session.

Posted by
5786 posts

...consider Yosemite Valley....

Yosemite National Park, like Oregon's Crater Lake NP is closed because of Coronavirus rules issued by state and local officials. Don't travel until the COVID-19 crisis comes to past and we can safely travel without spreading the virus to these wonderful places to visit.

Posted by
828 posts

In Massachusetts, I recommend the Berkshires region in Western MA. It is beautiful with mountains, lakes, ponds and hiking trails. There are lovely small towns with art museums. Tanglewood is a famous place for musical concerts. NOrth Adams has Mass MoCA, a modern art museum located in a renovated factory building. There is the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, and an interesting museum in Pittsfield called the Berkshire Museum, a combination of art and history.

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1769 posts

We visited western Nebraska last June and thought it fantastic. Scotts Bluff, Chimney Rock, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron are all worth a visit.

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1277 posts

Stephen, two places in central Nebraska, the Archway museum at Kearney, and 40 miles down the road, Nebraska prairie museum and pow interpretive center, site of a camp for German Pows in 1943-46

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1202 posts

Carmel, IN - upscale small city north of Indianapolis
Whitefish, MT - ski town and jumping off place for Glacier National Park
St. Joseph, MI - lakefront town with art fest, area wineries, breweries, etc.
Bradenton Beach-Cortez, FL - beach town and old fishing village connected by causeway
Cumberland, MD - historic city with outdoor mountain amenities nearby
Talkeetna, AK - fun quirky village with outfitters for Denali National Park
Hermann, MO - cute little wine town west of St. Louis
Frisco, CO - great base town for skiing in Summit County
Lake Geneva, WI - resort town near Illinois-Wisconsin border

Posted by
13521 posts

I'll just assume Eddie meant "backdoor" places to explore when tourism has been given the go again. :O)

I'll pick remote, tiny Hanksville, Utah. It's not exactly unknown but my guess is that the vast majority of folks tripping between Moab and Capitol Reef N.P./Torrey pass through without stopping, or not for longer than just to gas up at Stan's, maybe. Great malts and shakes at Stan's.

We stayed 3 nights at a dandy motel (Whispering Sands) to be closer to trailheads for 3 great hikes in that area: Goblin Valley State Park; Little Wild Horse/Bell Canyon slot canyons; the Horseshoe Canyon unit of Canyonlands N.P. The trailhead for that last one involves 30 miles of dirt road that you do NOT want to attempt in wet conditions but it's a terrific trek through a red sandstone canyon to some of the most important archaic pictographs in North America. Look up the "Great Gallery, Canyonlands" if you're unfamiliar with them? Incidentally, that canyon is the one a technical scrambler famously hiked into for help from adjoining Bluejohn after sawing his choke stone-trapped arm off with a pocket knife. Bleh.

But back to tiny, well-worn Hanskville... It's in the middle of a flat, dusty piece of desert, has just 2 motels, zero bars (population is largely LDS) and a total of 3 places to eat (I hear one serves beer now!) and nothing at all to do if you don't enjoy the outdoors. Fortunately we do, and you couldn't find a nicer bunch of locals. It seemed to be a popular mid-point for boaters heading to Glen Canyon, and we had a couple lively al fresco happy hours with other guests and our respective coolers at that dandy motel!

Posted by
2023 posts

Another fun place to explore is Louisiana cajun country west of New Orleans. Good cuisine and pretty scenery--oak trees draped with Spanish moss. You can stay in an old plantation home--we liked Madewood.

Posted by
2186 posts

@Claudia-loved your list with the exception of Hemet! This is where my in laws live and have been there many times. What pray tell, do you like about it? I think its an armpit, but love nearby Temecula.
On our recent visit over the holidays, we took a road trip up the coast and stayed in San Simeon. Loved that area, especially Morro Bay. What a great seaside town!

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2186 posts

Well the town I live in (Eagle River) is in between Anchorage and Talkeetna. There is a great nature center nearby with wonderful, well maintained hiking trails. Everything in Alaska is about outdoor activities and scenery. So, frustrated city girl here!!

Posted by
6361 posts

The Ramona Pageant, Diamond Lake, the Western Center and the small Hemet Museum. And because I like the buildings that line Harvard Street that provide a glimpse of California in the 1800’s.

Each to their own.