We have some die-hard travelers on our staff, and it can be hard for many of them to chose their most memorable vacations. But, when pressed, they came up with these answers, which range from epic (biking 3,600 miles across the country) to indulgent (bingeing on braised oysters and sazeracs in the Big Easy). Take your pick, then pack your bags.
Bike from Seattle to Virginia
Biking across the country is the best way to see every inch of it. One summer, I rode with a group raising money for charity from Seattle, across the northernmost states, right up to my parents’ front door in Virginia—3,600 miles. Montana was incredible—all wide-open land and sky. We camped in a rodeo grounds one night. I also loved North Dakota, which has the nicest people in the world. And Minnesota and Wisconsin—all the lakes, rolling hills, cheese, and beer. You’d be surprised at the kindnesses people bestow on you when it’s just you and your bike. We were taken in and fed more times than I can count. It restores your faith in this big ol’ country of ours.
—Mary Turner, deputy editor
Hike Mount Mansfield via the Hell Brook Trail
Before my family lived in Stowe, Vermont, we visited the town every year to hike the Green Mountains. When I was around eight years old, we climbed Mount Mansfield on Hell Brook, arguably the toughest route up the mountain. I was not very fit (I blame my childhood diet of pasta and Kool-Aid), but I finished. It was the greatest feeling to accomplish something I knew was difficult, and it was the moment I fell in love with the outdoors. I’ve hiked this mountain many times, but this trail is definitely the best—and most challenging—way to do it.
—Abbey Gingras, social media editorial assistant
Sail Bear Lake
My favorite place is one I go back to as often as I can and that I’ve been visiting since I was a kid: Bear Lake, Utah. The lake is about 18 miles long and seven miles wide and straddles the Utah-Idaho border. It has everything you want in a weekend getaway. I grew up sailing a catamaran across the lake to get raspberry shakes at LaBeau’s, skiing at Beaver Mountain, and hiking to Old Ephraim’s Grave, a monument dedicated to a massive grizzly bear in the area—or as the poem on the plaque reads: “To the king of the forest so mighty and tall, we salute you, old Ephraim, the king of them all.”
—J. Weston Phippen, senior editor
Kayak Mosquito Bay on Vieques Island
My father worked in Puerto Rico when I was growing up, and on one of our many trips, my family found our way to Vieques, a small island off the commonwealth’s eastern coast. After a moonless ride through the jungle in an old school bus, vines snapping through the open windows, we arrived at the most magical natural wonder I’ve ever seen: Mosquito Bay, the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. I’ll never forget the water dripping through my fingers, outshining the stars in the night sky.
—Nick Hunt, associate editor
Explore Chapel Hill, North Carolina
One of my favorite summer trips was to visit my best friend outside Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We spent plenty of early mornings and late evenings kayaking the local fishing hole, Lake Jordan. The pinks and oranges in the sunsets over the tree-circled lake are beyond ’gram-worthy, and the fish always seem to be biting. On weekends, when we weren’t climbing quartzite in Linville Gorge, we were scouting for the wild ponies that live on the Atlantic coast along the Outer Banks. When we were craving mountains, we’d drive west for hiking in the Appalachians and end our trip in Asheville, which has one of the most expansive microbrewery scenes in the country. The best part? Sampling a wide range of sweet and smokey barbecue to refuel after a big day of running, climbing, or paddling.
—Abby Wise, online managing editor
Drive Highway 1
Cliché alert: Mine has gotta be driving California’s Highway 1 from San Diego to Big Sur. Highlights: the best breakfast burritos in the world at Pipes Café in Encinitas, surfing at Swamis, eating at the Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga Canyon, sea kayaking in San Simeon with the Hearst Castle looming on a hill on the other side of the highway, pulling over to watch elephant seals laze around on the beach, and staying at the Treebones Resort in Big Sur. If you have time to keep going north, do. Some of the best food, views, and wildlife are found between Monterey and Bodega Bay.
—Svati Narula, assistant social media editor
Tackle the Teton Traverse
If you like moving quickly through big mountains, there’s no better trip in the contiguous United States than the Teton Traverse with Nat Patridge and Zahan Billimoria from Exum Mountain Guides. Three days, ten summits, and more than 24,000 feet of elevation change.
—Matt Skenazy, senior editor
Road-Trip Through the Southwest
The summer after third grade, my parents took us on a ten-day RV trip through the Southwest. My brother and I collected junior ranger badges from parks throughout the region, including Grand Canyon, Zion, Arches, and Bryce Canyon. While the details are hazy, to this day it is the best vacation I have ever been on because it whetted my appetite for adventure.
—Jenny Earnest, social media manager
Canoe the Boundary Waters
For my most recent Boundary Waters trip, I planned a solo route across lakes I’d been to before, confident that I’d reach total serenity by about day three and emerge a better human on day five. A very close bear encounter, a few hours of being totally lost, and an untimely storm sent me paddling back on day two. Pledging never to call myself “outdoorsy” again, I drank and fished the week away at a nearby cabin instead. Why pick the BWCA, then? When I think of that trip now, I mostly just recall the perfect reflections of the trees and the steady flow of my paddle. Turns out serenity hits you pretty quickly up there.
—Jonathan Ver Steegh, editorial producer
Fish and Eat Your Way Through New Orleans
I base my travel on one of two things: food or fish. When I only have a weekend to spare, that usually means focusing on one (fish in northern Michigan) or the other (food in Cincinnati). In New Orleans, that’s not the case. In one day, you can have some of the country’s best cuisine and biggest redfish. Start by meeting Captain Miles Larose, just a 30-minute Uber ride from downtown. After you’ve spent the morning looking for backing reds, he’ll drop you off at Saint Roch Market, where you can refill on braised oysters and sazeracs. But save room for dinner at Upperline. It gets a lot of media love and deserves every bit of it.
—Jonah Ogles, articles editor
Tube Down the Little Colorado River
In high school, I lucked out on the trip of a lifetime: rafting down Grand Canyon with a private group. I have many highlights from those two weeks, but the one that stands out most in my mind is the afternoon we spent hiking up, then tubing down the Little Colorado River. This waterway, one of the main tributaries that flows into Grand Canyon, is remarkable for its bright-blue color and white limestone rocks. After being surrounded by shades of ocher for a week, the Little Colorado looked like something out of a Dali painting and inspired childlike play from everyone in the group as we slashed and bumped our way down its course.
—Axie Navas, executive editor