12 Towns in Rural America Worth Detouring For

12 Towns in Rural America Worth Detouring For

Plot a course along country roads and break up your stateside road trip with a visit to one of these 12 rural American towns

breathtaking natural beauty and captivating histories,
these bite-sized American towns make for the perfect weekend escape or road-trip pit stop. Venturing from the New
England coast to a New Age mountain retreat, we’ve found the best
places to escape the big city and get some low-key R&R.

12 rural American towns to add to your road-trip route



Framed by the cinematic Cascade Range, this Bavarian-style town
is all charm. Visit during the holiday season, when twinkling
lights are strung across Leavenworth’s streets. Explore the
snow-laden valleys on a horse-drawn sleigh ride or visit the
Nutcracker Museum, where some 9,000 figurines make for
especially festive entertainment. Book a stay in a LOGE
cabin, overlooking the Wenatchee River, and feast on
warm s’mores over the fire in one of its cosy outdoor community
spaces. Oktoberfest is one of the town’s key calendar dates,
but Leavenworth wine country and the hiking trails threaded across
the Pacific Northwest have year-round appeal.

Eureka Springs


Nestled in a deep valley, with gingerbread architecture giving
way to a Victorian-era downtown, Eureka Springs is the turf of
leather-clad bikers, hippies and Arkansas’ most progressive
LGBTQ+ policies. Experience the town’s
nightlife at a drag show hosted by the legendary Blaze Duvall at
, or, for a different kind of pilgrimage, visit the state’s
two famed Christian landmarks: the 20m Christ of the Ozarks and
Thorncrown Chapel. The entire area is on the National Register of
Historic Places, so chain stores are banned. We recommend visiting
Studio 34, a local art gallery reflecting the quirky
and fun local attitude. Stay at the 1890s-built New Orleans Hotel, where timeless elegance
meets southern hospitality. Relax in the natural springs that give
the town its name or enjoy a zipline adventure through the Ozark
Mountain forest.



A jewel on the Pacific Coast Highway, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a
haven for creatives: Doris Day and Bing Crosby lived here, as did
Brad and Jen, and Clint Eastwood is a former mayor. Flaxen sands,
salt-sprayed cliffs and wispy cypress trees typical of the Monterey Peninsula are just a short walk from
whimsical cottages and the independent boutiques and cafés of Ocean
Avenue. Step into the Cottage of Sweets, a traditional British-style
confectionery shop, and tour the authentically restored
18th-century Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo, a National
Historic Landmark. Vagabond’s House Inn is a warm and inviting
boutique B&B that dates from the 1920s, decked out in English
Tudor style. The city may be small but its calendar is big on
events – the annual Carmel Bach Festival is a local favourite.



“Small town, big life” is Ketchum’s motto. At the heart of
Idaho’s Sun Valley, it’s a nirvana for outdoor enthusiasts thanks
to its hiking trails, whitewater rafting, hot springs and
world-class ski runs. Yet nature isn’t the only USP. Ernest
Hemingway worked and died here – literary boffins should book room
228 (formerly suite 206) at the Sun Valley Resort, where the author completed
For Whom the Bell Tolls. Get your culture fix at the Sun Valley Museum of Art,
or admire high-altitude flora at Sawtooth Botanical
. Light pollution is strictly controlled in Ketchum, so,
come nightfall, gaze skyward for stellar views of the Milky



An 1880s water stop, this unassuming small city in the
Chihuahuan Desert hit the headlines when artist Donald Judd moved
here in 1971. Today, Marfa is a place of gas stations-turned-galleries,
crystal-filled corner shops and laundromats serving lattes. For
breakfast, grab a bite at Aster Marfa – the eggs benedict is legendary.
Tour The Chinati
outdoor and indoor art installations – at sunrise
is best – before driving along Highway 90 for Scandinavian duo
Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset’s famed Prada Marfa
installation. Time your visit to coincide with the Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love for good tunes,
great art, camping, sandlot baseball and stargazing.



Step into a bygone era in this Midwestern town set on the banks
of the Mississippi River, where trolley cars cruise
down the six-block Main Street, gliding past 19th-century buildings
that house small galleries, antique stores and independent
boutiques. Lunch at local hotspot Fried Green
, then walk it off with a stroll along the Galena River
Trail, before poking around historical sites such as the home of
Civil War hero and former US president Ulysses S. Grant. For
meticulously handcrafted spirits, visit Blaum Bros Distilling Co, which was founded by two
brothers. Stay at the Farmers Guest House, a homey B&B in an
1867-built house serving up farm-to-fork dishes in uniquely styled



If you loved The Proposal as much as we did, you’ve probably
heard of this remote fishing settlement (although filming actually
took place in Rockport, Massachusetts). Only accessible by air or sea,
Sitka is prime territory for off-grid pursuits such as wildlife
safaris, kayaking, hiking up the dormant volcano of Mount Edgecumbe
and spotting totem poles in Sitka National Historic Park. Visitors
may spy a few onion-shaped domes, too; the city of New Archangel,
as Sitka was formerly known, served as the capital of Russian
America until 1867. We recommend basing yourself at Dove Island
, where each cabin is built with rich Alaskan yellow cedar
and blessed with panoramic views of the wild Sitka Sound



Gazing over the Atlantic, this delightful New England village
has a rich seafaring past and present. It’s home to the US’s
leading maritime museum, centuries-old docks and an aquarium
housing some of North America’s only beluga whales – during
Mystic’s Holiday Boat Parade, even Santa arrives by
tugboat. Stay at the central Spicer Mansion, a refined Victorian inn with
sea views and a fine-dining restaurant. Some of Connecticut’s best
state beaches, including Misquamicut and Watch Hill, are within a
30-minute drive, too. Fans of the silver screen should stop by
Mystic Pizza, the setting of the eponymous 1988 film
starring Julia Roberts.



This small town, located between Yellowstone National Park and the jagged peaks
of the Grand Tetons, isn’t just for cowboys. With the best of the
great outdoors on its doorstep – hiking, biking, climbing, skiing,
paddling, fishing, wildlife spotting – and a mighty cultural
offering – you’ll spot a Warhol at the National Museum of
Wildlife Art
– plus a renowned dining scene, this town is a
real crowd-pleaser. Come autumn, make tracks for the luxurious
Rustic Inn
, home to a full-service spa, outdoor pool, hot tub
and sauna.



Watched over by Mount Mansfield, which, at 1,340m, is Vermont’s
highest peak, this quintessential New England town is known as the
“Ski Capital of the East” thanks to its pristine, powder-dusted
slopes. Stowe offers endless opportunities for dining, shopping and
getting back to nature. Hiking, biking and canoeing are on tap
year-round, but perhaps best enjoyed in autumn, when hickory, maple
and birch trees paint the mountainside amber. Don’t miss the
Trapp Family Lodge
, a chalet owned by the same von Trapp family
of The Sound of Music fame. Sweet tooth? Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream factory is in nearby
Waterbury. We recommend an extra scoop of Phish Food for the

Taos Pueblo

New Mexico

Home to the Tiwa tribe for more than a millennium, this
otherworldly Unesco World Heritage site is one of the oldest
continually occupied places in the US. While much of the historic
architecture and culture remains, the town is today a thriving
artistic colony. Pueblo communities welcome visitors to experience
their traditions. Take a guided tour of the historic pueblo,
a collection of adobe structures dating back to 1000 AD. Tucked in
the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, its red-rock canyons and
sapphire desert skies backdropped by snow-capped peaks have
inspired painters, sculptors and writers since the late-19th
century. Vistas along the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway are nothing
short of spectacular. Bed down in a vintage RV at Hotel Luna Mystica and drift off to sleep under
locally made blankets in the wide-open desert.


North Carolina

The small town of Cashiers nestles in the valleys below the Blue
Ridge Mountains. Home to the Nantahala National Forest, the area
has some magnificent falls and mountain trails to explore. We’re
checking in at The Wells Hotel, a quaint, cabin-style
offering, then grabbing a cold beer at Whiteside
Brewing Company
, next door, and enjoying the mountain air in
nearby Sawyer Park. Chat with the baristas at Bucks Coffee Café while they whip you up a
dreamy lavender iced latte, or visit Slab Town Pizza
for a slice of its bestselling The Duke, topped with Italian
sausage, pepperoni, bacon, ricotta and mozzarella. A visit to
Cashiers wouldn’t be complete without a hike up Whiteside Mountain
or exploring Panthertown Valley, either. Often called the “Yosemite
of the East”, the landscape is dotted with gorges, cliffs and

This article was updated 28 November 2022. It contains
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