10 Great Places that Veer Off the Beaten Path

The Dog Days of August are upon us. Does everything seem a bit blah, a little "been there, done that"? Shannon Stowell, president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association and co-author of the new Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean: A Guide to 50 Extraordinary Adventures for the Seasoned Traveler, may have the cure. He shares his list of favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations with Tim Smight for USA TODAY.

Channel Islands National Park, California

Just a short boat ride from the coastal town of Ventura, Southern California's Channel Islands are home to more than 2,000 species of plants and animals — and the waters around them teem with life, as well. "Kayakers can view thousands of sea birds, dolphins, sea lions and even spouting whales," Sowell says. The islands also feature hiking trails, diving and snorkeling coves and tide pools. 805-658-5730; nps.gov/chis

Jalapão region, Brazil

Located in the northern heartland of Brazil, the Jalapão region is one of South America's "hidden gems," Stowell says. "I love this area for its incredible scenery, friendly people and diverse flora and fauna. Here you can take guided excursions through the jungle wilderness — a land where panthers, anacondas and capybaras (the largest living rodent in the world) roam free — starting or ending with a stay at a comfortable safari camp." braziltourism.org

Yukon River, Canada

If you read Jack London as a kid and never quite got it out of your system, this may be just the destination for you. "Boarding a custom-designed riverboat in Whitehorse, you can cruise through more than 370 miles of Yukon wilderness to Dawson City," Stowell says. "It's a great opportunity to view wildlife, meet locals and explore historical and geological sites." 800-661-0494; travelyukon.com

Ancient African ruins, Kenya

The islands off Kenya's north coast feature some of Africa's most ancient historical sites. "A visit here will give you wonderful insight into that history," Stowell says. "You can sail to the islands in a traditional dhow and explore the ruins up close." Tours can include kayaking through lush mangroves, visiting a turtle-breeding project, snorkeling pristine coral reefs and kicking back on palm-fringed beaches, with nights spent in comfortable safari-style camps. magicalkenya.com

Alpine trails, Switzerland

"A country that's well-known for efficient transport, Switzerland has again raised the bar — this time for adventure travelers," Stowell says. "The alpine nation now boasts a brand-new, national trail system supported by detailed route guides. There are more than 12,000 miles of interconnected hiking, cycling, canoeing and mountain-bike trails, with accessibility from more than 18,000 stops on Switzerland's public transport network." A wide range of accommodations are available, as well as luggage transportation and sports equipment rental. switzerlandmobility.ch

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

OK, so Yellowstone isn't exactly off the beaten path. Each year, thousands of tourists visit the USA's oldest national park. But most of them drive to the major tourist sites, emerging from their cars only for short strolls. Experiencing the park's grandeur by bicycle gives visitors a whole new perspective — not to mention saving all that gas money. "Just imagine riding alongside beautiful Yellowstone Lake, with bald eagles soaring overhead and elk grazing nearby," Stowell says. 307-344-7381; nps.gov/yell

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