Gas is cheap and flying is not. The dollar is strong, so tourists will be flocking to Europe—leaving domestic destinations blissfully uncrowded. The result: stay local and the country will be yours.
Nationwide, the price of gasoline is hovering around the two-dollar mark—the lowest it's been since about April 2009. But this massive dip in oil prices hasn’t affected airfares, even though fuel is an airline’s second largest expense. Why? With planes already filled to capacity, the companies have no reason to charge less.
Still, with our greenback doing better against the Euro than it has in the last decade, more people are shelling out to experience a cheaper Europe. (Some travel agents are reporting a 30 percent increase in European bookings from 2013 to 2014.) And that means crowds.
So while most of the country is looking across the Atlantic, now's the perfect time to start looking around the homefront. If you live anywhere in America, the truth is that you really don’t need to hop on a plane to find an outdoor adventure. There’s probably one just a car (or bus or train) ride away.
Before you book that pricey flight to a far-off land, consider what makes the radius around home—or one of your favorite cities—a worthy destination. To nudge you in the right direction, take a look at some of these urban-centric outdoor options for the fitness and fresh-air enthusiast.
New York City
As temperatures rise, take a few days in nature to restore your sanity. Head north on I-87 and explore the hiking trails and climbing spots in the Shawangunks (a.k.a. the Gunks) for a weekend, or head east from the city to grab the great surf out in Montauk. Those without a car can ride the Metro-North Hudson Line up to Breakneck Ridge, an intensely steep, somewhat technical but still rewarding hike with a marquee view of the Hudson Valley.
You can also keep to boroughs. The city itself offers killer runs (road or trail), kayaking and paddling, bike rides (there's even mountain-ish biking in Manhattan if you head up to High Bridge Park), and swimming in the ocean.
Surprise! This Midwestern city is surrounded by outdoor opportunties. Even if you can't wait for the ice to melt, take a road trip through Wisconsin and see the majestic ice caves of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Or plan a spring or summer fishing trip on Michigan's Muskegon River (picture 20-pound steelheads), kiteboarding out at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (where you can also camp) or bomb the 30 miles of singletrack trails in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest.
When the ice starts melting and Lake Michigan begins to shimmer again, there's nothing better than running or biking up the 18-mile Lakefront Trail. As a shady alternative, hit the Des Plaines River Trail a bit farther north. Then cool off at Ohio Street Beach on Lake Michigan.
If you live in Seattle and still haven't driven the Olympic Peninsula Loop, do so immediately. While you're there—feeling rejuvenated and ambitious—take an extra couple days to tackle the South Coast Route, one of America's best overnight beach hikes.
Downtown is a great hub for cycling routes (try the Mercer Island Loop.) Between the Arboretum and Discovery Park, there's enough open green space in Seattle to make you fall in love with your city again. Or you can always hop in your vehicle and make the 20-minute drive to the 38 miles of trails in Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park. Hike the 1,595 feet to the top for photogenic views of downtown. Or skip the park and keep driving into the Cascades where you can camp, hike, and bike for weeks on end.
Los Angeles just gained a National Monument: the San Gabriel Mountains. Throw your bike in the trunk, drive to the base of the San Gabriels, and ride 38 beautiful, uninterrupted miles on the River Bike trail until you hit the Pacific. Or drive up and bring your tent—there’s hiking and camping embedded in these hills.
Mountain bikers, hang back in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area where you’ll find 150 miles of trails just for you.
Surfcasting, snorkeling, mountain biking, Key lime pie, cocktails in South Beach, and Little Havana in 48 hours? We know how. Alternatively, spend those two days at Oleta River State Park, fishing, kayaking, and sleeping in a little cabin.
If you have more time, and want to really soak in the city, know that Miami runs one of the nation's best bike-sharing programs. A little more than an hour outside of town, take a day to explore Everglades National Park. Rent a bike to conquer the Shark Valley Bike Trail. If you go in the morning, you’ll breeze past gators getting their fill of morning sun.
At sunset, drive up to the Berkeley hills to behold (in a single view) the San Francisco skyline, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Mt. Tam, and the iconic cranes on the Port of Oakland from Grizzly Peak Boulevard. While you’re out there, run or hike the fire trails, a winding network cut out of the lush forests.
Road-trip possibilities abound. Try heading north through Eureka, then up to the incomparable Lost Coast for a backpacking excursion. Or if you head south, aim for Pinnacles National Park and scale some wild rock formations.
If you live in Austin, you live in close proximity to some of the best rock climbing in the U.S. Take the Route 30 bus to the Barton Creek Greenbelt, home to more than 15 climbing spots.
Or don’t plunge—float. Austin’s got one of the best SUP and rowing scenes in the U.S. Head over to Ladybird lake for an active day out on the water.
And don’t forget your two wheels. Just southwest of downtown you’ll find Barton Springs and a seven-mile network of bike and hike trails.