Imagine a travel book that overviews about 130 off-the-beaten-path destinations in the western US states? A book that gives historical, geological, and zoological information for a wide variety of parks that will pique the interest of almost anyone? That’s what Daniel Gillaspia has tried to accomplish with his recently-released book Hidden Gems of the Western United States. I’ll say that he more or less succeeds, too. There are so many different options in this book for places I’ve been and places I haven’t been that it’s becoming a first place for me to stop and look for destinations for future trips.
I thought I’d share my thoughts on it with all of you…so enjoy!
Note: Although the author stated that he’d be happy for me to write a review of this book, I am under no obligation to do so, and I receive nothing for doing so, beyond any affiliate links on this and other pages on this site and a bit of notoriety.
Pros of Hidden Gems of the Western United States
The sheer number of options. There are over 130 destinations covered in this book. That means over 130 parks; there are sometimes dozens of trails within a single park, which translates into so many options, it makes my head spin…and dream…
It covers a wide spectrum of interests. The destinations range from petroglyphs to swimming holes, from notable bridges to stargazing points, and from photography meccas to extremely remote wilderness areas. Most require some hiking or walking and have some cultural, historical, geological, or natural significance, but the destinations really are varied. There’s something for just about everyone here!
There’s lots of information about the flora, fauna, and history of each and every park. That’s great, even though I don’t usually enjoy reading about the animals I might see in a park (can you tell I’m not a zoologist?) Still, it’s interesting, especially for an armchair adventurer or just to get an idea of what I’d be visiting if (no, when) I go.
Many of the destinations are virtually unknown. I have done a lot of research on lesser-known destinations, and the author has included a good number of places I’ve never even heard of before. There are some well-known attractions – the Four Corners monument, for example – but most are off the beaten path, or at least mostly visited by locals. This also means that there usually aren’t crowds in these places, although there might be in the peak season. Sounds good to me!
The pictures! The photography on this is pretty incredible – or at least very enjoyable! It also gives an idea of what you’ll see in the park.
The admission prices are included. That’s a huge plus to me. Even if it will be out of date soon, at least I have an idea of if the park charges per vehicle (ok) or per person (rarely ok for my large group). Oh, and just how expensive this place really is…$5/vehicle or $35/person…
State maps showing where each destination is located. This is helpful for (especially spur of the moment) planning.
I’m published in it! Ok, so this is only a pro for me, but it is rather heady to know that your picture of the kissing rocks in Chiricahua National Monument is included… (Another of my group members also has his picture of the double rim of the cinder cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park in this edition.)
Cons of Hidden Gems of the Western United States
Not a lot of front matter. This is a total pro to me, but for some people, the lack of information about weather, geography, and the migration of species (be that animal or human) can seem to be missing. However, as I say, I’m just as happy not to have all this stuff in the front.
The information about trails isn’t very detailed. I can’t use this as a single source, though it makes a great jumping-off place to do research, and will also be great if we end up where I don’t expect on a trip (there are nearly always visitor centers, after all).
There are almost no maps. The only maps included are state maps showing where each park is. While helpful (especially for the overall “where on earth is this place?!?”), I would have enjoyed trail maps. Internet, here I come!
It’s really long. So don’t plan on getting through it all in one sitting. Or perhaps this is a pro?
No print edition. From my own publishing experience, I know the time and energy it takes to produce a print book through CreateSpace, but I’d still appreciate a hard copy of the book since I don’t usually take my tablet with me on the trail (ok, I never take it with me on the trail!)
Overall, I do recommend Hidden Gems of the Western United States. It’s a great resource for dreaming up new adventures, and it’s pretty easy to get specifics off the internet (which I’d probably do even if the book was more detailed). So, whether you’re an armchair adventurer, or a hiking adventurer looking for new places to visit, I think you’ll enjoy this book.
This Week’s Featured Product!
This week’s featured product is, well, the book itself!