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There are 13 weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day. To ensure you don't waste a single one, here are the trips you should take this summer, from sea kayaking in Georgia to mountain biking in Washington. Plus: the best outdoor music festivals, and great spots for lift-accessed mountain biking.
- Tybee Island, Georgia
- Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
- Strawberry, California
- Exeter, New Hampshire
- Lake of the Woods, Minnesota
- Methow Valley, Washington
- St. Lawrence and Watertown, New York
- Felton, California
- New York, New York
- Silverton, Colorado
- Lift-Accessed Mountain Biking
- Late-Season Snow
- Stand-Up Paddleboarding
- Weekend Floats
- Music Festivals
The Best Summer Getaways: Tybee Island, Georgia
Roam the Coast
It’s no surprise that Georgia’s coast has Civil War-era forts and amazing seafood. What’s shocking is the amount of wilderness. From Tybee Island, a village of 3,500 that dangles into the Atlantic just 18 miles east of Savannah, there are endless opportunities to get lost in 1,200 or so nearby barrier islands. Rent boats from Savannah Canoe and Kayak ($60 per day for a sea kayak, skirt, and paddle), a funky shop on the route to Tybee. From Alley Three, a public dock, paddle southwest and circumnavigate the 7,000-acre Little Tybee on a beginner-friendly trip through sheltered waters. With a stress-free half-mile crossing, free wilderness camp spots beneath live oaks (try the forested ridgeline on Beach Hammock), and easy access to the turtle-filled Wassaw Island Wildlife Sanctuary, it’s quintessential Georgian paddling that requires only a three-day commitment. Stock up beforehand at Charlie Teeple Sea Products (912-352-4031), a seafood market two miles from Savannah Canoe and Kayak that sells everything you need for a Low Country boil, Georgia’s signature dish of shrimp, potatoes, corn, sausage, and Old Bay Seasoning. Stow food and a gallon of freshwater per person per day in your boat, cook over the fire, and eat with your hands.
The Best Summer Getaways: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Catch a greenback
What’s better than a summer weekend at an empty lake? A summer weekend at an empty lake chock-full of rare native trout. Experience one in Rocky Mountain National Park, about 80 miles northwest of Denver. There are plenty of easily accessed alpine lakes, like Lily and Fern. But we suggest a more remote option: Lawn Lake, a six-mile hike north from the Lawn Lake trailhead, where you can catch up to 30 trout in a day. (Leave the fillet knife at home—it’s catch and release.) The true reward is the setting: a deep basin flanked by 13,000-foot granite peaks. The park has four campgrounds; try Aspenglen (permits, $20 per night.)
The Best Summer Getaways: Strawberry, California
Lead your first multipitch climb
There’s no better crag for leading your first big effort than Lover’s Leap. Located in California’s Eldorado National Forest, near the town of Strawberry, the 500-foot granite outcropping is lined with dozens of easy and moderate routes, so newbies can get a taste of Yosemite-style climbing without the bloody knuckles. Pack a double rack of cams and a set of nuts and base yourself at the Pony Express-era Strawberry Lodge, five minutes from the trailhead. Ask for a room on the river side, with views of the American and the Leap (doubles, $69). Hone your anchor placement with a lead-climbing class from Lovers Leap Guides ($125 for a half-day lesson). When you’re feeling ready, strike out on one of the Leap’s well-protected routes, like the three-pitch, 5.6 Deception or the three-pitch, 5.7 Corrugation Corner. Afterward, toast yourself with a beer on the lodge’s deck or cool off with a swim at Lester Beach, a sandy cove in D. L. Bliss State Park on Lake Tahoe’s western shore.
The Best Summer Getaways: Exeter, New Hampshire
Ride to water
This small New England town is best known for the ruddy-cheeked prep-school kids at Phillips Exeter Academy. It’s also a terrific and accessible cycling destination, just 54 miles from Boston and full of rolling, traffic-free back roads. Get a room at the Exeter Inn (doubles from $159) and stop at the Wheel Power Bicycle Shop for advice or a tune-up. (BYO bike—they don’t offer rentals.) On day one, head east toward the coast on a 30-mile loop that leads to grassy Rye Beach, south along the coast to Hampton Salt Marsh Conservation Area, and back. On Sunday, try a 60-mile loop north and west from Exeter to Pawtuckaway State Park. Along the way, stop in a series of historic New England towns. In Newmarket, the Big Bean Breakfast Cafe (603-659-8600) serves a mean brunch; in Lee, Flag Hill Winery and Distillery offers tastings of its vodka and spirits; and farther west, Nottingham Orchard sells fresh blueberries, peaches, and apples. When you reach Pawtuckaway, dive in the eponymous 80-acre lake.
The Best Summer Getaways: Lake of the Woods, Minnesota
Troll the border
In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, one stands out: Lake of the Woods, a 1,727-square-mile behemoth. For locals, it’s a famously enviable destination—especially if you like to catch and fry fish. There are 65,000 miles of shoreline and 14,000 islands dotting the lake, and you can reel in walleye, one of the best-eating freshwater species in the world, just about anywhere. But you want a boat, and there’s no better place to get aboard one than Ballard’s, a working-class resort near Baudette (guide-and-lodging packages from $385). Instead of a concierge, it offers a fishing hotline and a fleet of aluminum skiffs. The owners, Steve and Joanne Ballard, have 14 guides working for them; Steve still fishes nearly every day in order to stay abreast of the latest piscatory developments, so you’re guaranteed a good day on the water. Come sunset, chase your pan-fried catch with a High Life or three at the resort’s lakeside dining hall and bar.
The Best Summer Getaways: Methow Valley, Washington
Bomb the Cascades
The best way to celebrate June in Seattle: head east toward the dry side of the mountains with skis and a mountain bike in tow. At dawn, double-park beside big, lingering snowdrifts on the North Cascades Highway’s 5,477-foot Washington Pass for some lazy spring ski turns beneath the granite thumb of 7,720-foot Liberty Bell. (Pick up Rainer Burgdorfer’s 100 Classic Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes in Washington, then slap on the skins at the Blue Lake Trailhead.) Ski the abundant spring corn back to the car, then point the tires downhill to the Methow Valley, a handsome fold in the lion-colored hills that’s home to hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails (daylong rentals, $45 at Methow Cycle and Sport). Opt for the 13.5-mile Buck Mountain Loop, just north of Winthrop. It’s not the most taxing route in the area, but the scenery is unreal. Climb the 1,300-foot Forest Service road that begins the route beside exploding bouquets of arrowleaf balsamroot, a relative of the sunflower. Then the trail shifts to singletrack, swooping and rolling for miles among open hillsides, as tall white peaks loom on the western horizon. Finish the trip at the bottom of a local IPA on the Twisp River Pub’s river-front deck.
The Best Summer Getaways: St. Lawrence and Watertown, New York
Paddle the Empire State
Within 3.5 hours of the Albany airport, you can sea-kayak among storied shipwrecks, paddle Class IV rapids, and splash around in some of the country’s oldest lakes. First make for the St. Lawrence Seaway, home to the 1,864 leafy Thousand Islands, which range from rock outcroppings just big enough to hold a flock of Canada geese to Wolfe Island (pop. 1,400). Rent a sea kayak from 1000 Islands Kayaking (from $55) in the town of Gananoque, on the Canadian side of the seaway. Then paddle past a mostly submerged 1920s shipwreck, a turn-of-the-century stone castle, and overgrown war forts amid loons, pines, and granite boulders. Hole up on Wellesley Island, along the U.S.-Canada border, at the four-room, century-old Wellesley Hotel, and dig into blue crab cakes on the waterside porch (from $140). The next day, drive 40 minutes south to Watertown for a seven-mile float down the Class IV Black River with Whitewater Challengers (from $61). Circle back to Albany via Lake Placid, two and a half hours east of Watertown. Grab a cold hefeweizen from the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, check in at the Lake Placid Lodge (cabins, $400), and dive off the hotel’s private dock.
The Best Summer Getaways: Felton, California
Scale a redwood
Climbing the world’s largest trees requires more than standard monkey-bar skills. It involves ropes, harnesses, and aid tools similar to big-wall climbs. Which is to say tree climbing is serious business in Northern California, where rookies take 20-hour instructional courses in the Bay Area before setting out on their own. But you can get a taste in one day on a climb with Sam “Oak” Johnson, lead guide for Out on a Limb Tree Climbing ($300 for two). In Felton, seven miles north of Santa Cruz, ascend a 250-foot-tall redwood that has been standing for over 800 years—it’s more than 100 feet to the first limb. Afterward, come down to earth at the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz (doubles from $329), which has views over Monterey Bay, and make a weekend of it by jostling with locals at Cowell’s, the surf break right out front. (Board and wetsuit rentals, $35 per day at Cowell’s Surf Shop).
The Best Summer Getaways: New York, New York
Play the city slicker
In summer, most Manhattanites looking for an outdoor fix race off the island. But with a MetroCard and a little creativity, it’s possible to spend the day fishing, kayaking, and mountain biking without crossing a single bridge or tunnel. Start at Battery Park City, at the southwest tip of Manhattan, for surprisingly good striped bass fishing. The area around Wagner Park and Pier A is usually best. Spin fishermen: use diving lures. Fly-fishermen: you want an 8- to 10-weight rod with some clouser minnows and baitfish patterns. (You’ll also want a conservative backcast.) Pick up flies from Urban Angler on Fifth Avenue between 25th and 26th streets. Next stop: Pier 66, just west of 12th Avenue and 26th Street. There you’ll find the Manhattan Kayak Company, whose guides give lessons on the Hudson and take serious boaters on tours around the Statue of Liberty, where the currents can get hairy. (Half-day classes from $175; guided trips, $40–$175). Last stop: the five-year-old Highbridge Park trail system, which straddles the rocky cliffs above Harlem River Drive between 155th and Dyckman streets. It’s got a 1.5-mile freeride trail and a jump park designed by pros. Take the 1 train to Dyckman Street and look for the trailhead across from Fort George Hill. Pedal Pusher Bike Shop on Second Avenue and East 69th Street rents Gary Fisher bikes (from $28 per day).
The Best Summer Getaways: Silverton, Colorado
Climb a fourteener
Handies Peak may be high (14,048 feet) and remote (the trailhead is two hours down a rowdy four-wheel-drive road). But it’s one of Colorado’s few 14,000-foot peaks that is completely nontechnical—meaning it’s ideal for rookies. Base yourself in the old mining town and recreation hub of Silverton—90 minutes from the Durango airport—and rent a four-wheel drive from Silver Summit RV Park and JeepRentals (from $150 per day). Drive 21 miles north over Cinnamon Pass, camp at the American Basin trailhead, and wake up early on summit day to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. The trail leads about four miles through wildflower-choked meadows, rugged rockfall, and the occasional family of bighorn sheep to a bald summit with stunning views. The next day, head back to Silverton and crash at the 1896 Teller House Hotel (from $89). Better yet: come July 4 weekend and stay in Silverton on the big night, when local firemen unleash an outsize display of fireworks that echo off the steep valley walls.
The Best Summer Getaways: Lift-Accessed Mountain Biking
With more ski areas embracing the idea of intermediate flow trails, the options keep getting better. A number of mountains have recently expanded their offerings. Colorado’s Winter Park Resort has had chairlift-assisted mountain biking for more than 20 years, but over the past five it has invested close to $1 million in its new Trestle Bike Park. There are now three chairlifts, which shuttle bikers 1,800 vertical feet to the mountain’s 10,800-foot peak. At the top are some 30 trails to choose from. New offerings include the Lower Long Trail, a recently rebuilt 1.5-mile intermediate affair with excavated jumps and smooth wooden ramps. The resort’s bike-rental and demo facility has an impressive fleet, with Specialized, Trek, Giant, Santa Cruz, and Scott rides. Half-day package, including lift ticket, rental, and protective gear, $99; full-day pass, $39.
This June, Stevens Pass in Skykomish, Washington, also unveils a four-trail mountain bike park. A high-speed quad chairlift will carry bikers up 800 vertical feet to the head of the trails, which access moderate to advanced terrain (think lots of jumps and sharp turns). Don’t miss the new two-mile Rock Crusher trail. Rent a Trek bike and grab a coffee at the resort’s new on-site bike shop and café. Rentals from $100; day passes from $30.
North Carolina’s Beech Mountain Resort plans to launch a brand-new program in late July with a high-speed quad chairlift that will access to the mountain’s 5,506-foot summit. From there, pick from a new series of beginner and intermediate trails covering 830 vertical feet and offering rock gardens, jumps, berms, and wooded sections. Check beechmountainresort.com for updates and day-pass prices; Raleigh and Diamond Back rentals, from $25 per day at nearby Cycle 4 Life Bike Shop.
The Best Summer Getaways: Late-Season Snow
Lay down tracks
Most years, Utah’s Snowbird has the country’s best summer skiing: the 500 inches of fluff that typically blanket the mountain each winter usually allows for turns on some of North America’s steepest faces—including Pipeline, a hike-to, expert-only, 1,000-foot vertical chute—deep into June (lift tickets, $66). This isn’t most years. Utah’s snowpack has been weak, meaning June skiing is a long shot. If late-season storms arrive, fly to Salt Lake City, base yourself at the Cliff Lodge (doubles, $167), a short walk from the tram, and have at it. More likely, though, you’ll want to head north to Crystal Mountain, Washington, which is having another banner snow season (lift tickets, $30). The area was open into July last year. Make for the short but steep lift-line shots at Green Valley, and refuel with a gigantic tower of nachos at the Snorting Elk Cellar.
The Best Summer Getaways: Stand-Up Paddleboarding
Take a stand
Stand-up paddleboarding has exploded in the past several years, and for good reason: while the sport looks a little goofy, it’s both a great workout and really, really fun. Here, our favorite spots for summer S.U.P.’ing.
Malibu is crawling with surfers, but just past the most popular breaks you can find uncrowded water (average temperature: 65 degrees). Malibu Surf Shack runs two-hour guided stand-up-paddleboard trips ($70) up the coast, past cliffs and kelp beds teeming with seals and sea lions. Or rent a board for a day ($75) and paddle up to Point Dume, a collection of wild coves and beaches. At sunset, hit the Malibu Beach Inn for dinner, then splurge on a room at the Malibu Beach Inn (doubles from $425).
Lake Powell, Arizona
The best part about paddleboarding in Glen Canyon: you can access tight corners and slim slots that the lake’s behemoth houseboats can’t reach. From the town of Page, head to Kayak Powell. Opt for the three-day guided trip ($999 for two people) to the outer tentacles of the lake, like Labyrinth and Face canyons. By night, camp on sandy beaches far from the nearest houseboat party.
Lake Michigan, Michigan
Just a 90-minute drive east of Chicago in the lakefront town of New Buffalo, Third Coast Surf Shop rents boards ($40 per day), and you can take an introductory lesson ($140 for two) or go solo. It’s easy to learn on flatwater like the Galien River, a lush, winding waterway populated by herons and beavers. Then graduate to the city beach, where proficient paddlers can catch waves before pitching camp at nearby Warren Dunes State Park.
The Best Summer Getaways: Weekend Floats
Hit the high-water mark
La Niña left much of the West with feeble snowpack—meaning a low runoff season. These four rivers will be safe bets for a weekend float.
Wenatchee River, Washington
Rumbling out of the Cascades into the eastern Washington desert, the Wenatchee is known for big, splashy rapids. The east side of the Cascades pulled in 120 percent of normal snowpack, so bouncy rapids like Drunkard’s Drop and Grannies Panties should be rocking well into August. Blue Sky Outfitters’ 17-mile full-day run includes ten major Class III drops and a sirloin steak cookout at trip’s end ($92).
Lochsa River, Idaho
The Lochsa tumbles over 40 major rapids as it cascades out of the Bitterroot Mountains, which received 100 percent of normal snowpack this winter. Row Adventures offers single-day, 20- or 30-mile roller-coaster rides through the Lochsa’s legendary Class IV waves and holes ($113–$145). The Lochsa should still pack a raft-flipping punch when it peaks in June, but don’t book past the first week of July, when it’ll start getting low.
Elaho River, British Columbia
Most of the snow tracked north this winter, so if you want big water, head to Squamish’s Elaho River, 90 minutes north of Vancouver. Careering through a tight granite gorge, the 11-mile, Class III–IV Elaho has a pushy, big-water feel and views of dozens of hanging glaciers. Don one of Wedge Rafting’s wetsuits and spend a day pounding through drops like Devil’s Elbow and the Cheese Ball, followed by a barbecue lunch ($165).
Arkansas River, Colorado
While the rest of the state was cranking snowmaking guns, by some fluke of geography the Arkansas’s headwaters, located near Leadville, clocked in with 79 percent of normal snowpack, which means the nation’s busiest whitewater river should be respectable this summer. Arkansas Valley Adventures runs trips on six stretches. Opt for the 10-mile run down the Class IV Royal Gorge ($71).
The Best Summer Getaways: Music Festivals
Our favorite summer music festivals offer a mix of unique sounds and high adventure.
Mountain Sports Festival
Asheville, North Carolina, May 25—27
VIBE: This three-day gala pairs hippies and Gore-Tex nerds. The main events are a 10K run up 3,800-foot Choctaw Rock, a run-bike-kayak triathlon, a dodgeball tournament, and an SUP course on the French Broad River. By night, the festival grounds turn into one big grassy dance floor.
TUNES: Sanctum Scully, the Fritz, George Porter Jr. and Runnin’ Pardners
DON'T MISS: The Cyclocross Race, held under the lights during Josh Phillips Folk Festival’s Friday night headline set.
BYO: Kid. Between the Keen Kids Duathlon, night hikes along the river and the kid-friendly bouldering wall, they’ll be plenty occupied.
Clearwater Great Hudson River Revival
Croton-on-Hudson, New York, June 16—17
VIBE: Begun in the 1960s by Pete Seeger, this festival has a good combo of folk and bluegrass and an environmental mission—proceeds go to Hudson River conservation.
TUNES: Martin Sexton, Arlo Guthrie, Béla Fleck, Dawes, Deer Tick
DON'T MISS: A jaunt on Haverstraw Bay aboard the sloop Clearwater or the schooner Mystic Whaler. Or just fish for shad from shore with a seine net alongside a naturalist guide.
BYO: Boat. Kayaks and motorboats set up on the shoreline during sets.
Telluride, Colorado, June 21—24
VIBE: Great bands in a spectacular setting, framed by the rugged San Juan Mountains. Tickets go fast—the past two years sold out by December. (Buy tickets for next year this fall.) Try for a campsite in Town Park.
TUNES: Alison Krauss and Union Station, John Fogerty, Joy Kills Sorrow, John Prine
DON'T MISS: Night Grass shows at intimate venues like the New Sheridan Opera House.
BYO: Mountain bike. Work off the beer on the mellow, seven-mile Prospect Trail, just outside town.
High Sierra Festival
Quincy, California, July 5—8
VIBE: A mix of longhairs from the hills, Silicon Valley techies, and San Francisco couples have returned annually since the cozy (capped at 8,000 people) festival began in the '90s. The performers camp with the people, so you never know when you’ll find yourself next to a late-night jam.
TUNES: Ben Harper, Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass
DON'T MISS: The Feather River’s 600-foot waterfall and numerous swimming holes.
BYO: Costume. Creative garb is competitive here; bear suit sightings are common.
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