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6 Weekend Trips You Can Pull Off from the City

Get far into the wilderness in as little time as possible

Washington's Alpine Lakes Wilderness. (Courtesy of Megan Michelson)

Get far into the wilderness in as little time as possible

Overnight camping doesn’t have be a weeklong, use-all-your-vacation-days affair. Do it right, and you can pull off a solid one- or two-night trek into the wilderness during a weekend. This is true even for major cities like Denver or Boston. You just need to know where to go.

From: Denver, Colorado

Indian Peaks Wilderness

Towering above the town of Boulder in Colorado’s Front Range, Indian Peaks Wilderness is about 90 minutes from downtown Denver. Plan a two-night backpacking trip starting from the Fourth of July trailhead or the Buchanan Pass trailhead and you’ll have access to 133 miles of trails, dozens of lakes, and six mountain passes that cross the Continental Divide. Be sure to secure a permit to camp in the backcountry before you head out.

From: Seattle, Washington

Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness is as vast as it is accessible. Less than two hours east of Seattle, the area covers 394,000 acres, with 600 miles of trails and peaks that look like the Alps. Start at the Salmon La Sac trailhead and backpack eight miles and 3,000 vertical feet of elevation gain to Tuck and Robin Lakes. Both are downright gorgeous spots to pitch your tent, and camping permits will be easier to secure than the Cascades’ popular Enchantments area.

From: Boston, Massachusetts

Long Trail, Vermont

Vermont’s 272-mile Long Trail crosses the Green Mountains from the southern end of Vermont to the Canadian border. There are more than 70 first-come, first-served backcountry campsites along the way. For the closest trailhead from Boston—about three hours by car—start at the trail’s southern terminus, near Williamstown, Massachusetts, and point it north, hiking a section of the trail that coincides with the Appalachian Trail. Your end goal could be Bennington, Vermont, 18 miles away. Prefer a point-to-point over an out-and-back? Luckily, a few local taxi services and bus lines will provide a shuttle.

From: San Francisco, California

Desolation Wilderness

Desolation Wilderness, which spans 63,960 acres and is filled with granite slabs and crystal-clear lakes, isn’t that hard to get to. But once you approach the south end of Lake Tahoe, 3.5 hours from San Francisco, you’ll feel a million miles away. Start at the Echo Lakes trailhead and hike in six miles along the famed Pacific Crest Trail to Lake Aloha for an overnight destination. Be sure to reserve a permit in advance.

From: Salt Lake City, Utah

High Uintas Wilderness

This 456,705-acre zone—the largest wilderness area in Utah—features 545 miles of trails and endless backpacking options. You can set out for Utah’s highest peak—13,528-foot Kings Peak—or try an out-and-back section of the Highline Trail, which runs east to west for more than 70 miles and can be accessed via the Mirror Lake Highway trailhead. Both are about a 3.5-hour drive from Salt Lake City.

From: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Superior Hiking Trail

The 326-mile Superior Hiking Trail climbs along a rocky ridgeline above Lake Superior and has more than 90 backcountry campsites perfectly built for multiday outings. You can hike out and back or walk one direction and arrange for a shuttle back to your car. The closest trailhead from Minneapolis is about 2.5 hours away, near Duluth.

Filed To: Denver / Colorado / Seattle / Washington / Vermont / San Francisco / California / Utah / Salt Lake City / Minneapolis / Travel
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.

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