Time to tune up that garageful of gear (we don't mean lawn chairs) and devote your next outing to full-throttle fun.
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What’s your pleasure? Allow us to present our secret instructions on how to plot an escape from your hardwired grind to wide-open adventure. Just in time for spring, plug in to our jammed database of North America’s sweetest getaways, rugged resorts, classic wild places, coolest mountain towns, and the finest riding, climbing, paddling, trekking, and exploring on the continent.
Otter Lodge GalleryGet psyched for adventure with these images from America’s most renowned kayaking lodge.
Rock the Red Rocks
The Inside 5
Pro climber and Moab local Steph Davis’s perfect day: 1. Grab a go-mug of organic coffee from Eclectica Café, on Main Street. 2. Take a ten-mile trail run up Pritchett Canyon, along Kane Creek, to Hunter and Gatherer canyons. 3. Make a quick lap on Bad Rad Duality, a 5.10 crack in Indian Creek. 4. Cool down at the swimming hole in Mill Creek. 5. Join friends for dinner at the Desert Bistro, on the north edge of Moab.
Fresh Tracks: You’ll never go wrong on classic Moab mountain-bike rides, like Porcupine Rim and the Slickrock Trail. But for something new, head 11 miles north to the Sovereign Trail, a motorcycle playground that’s recently added 16 miles of sweet singletrack. Spin through a sage-studded landscape, drop off small ledges, blast fast descents, and hammer up heart-pumping climbs. Poison Spider Bicycles, 435-259-7882
Tower Power: Seventeen miles northeast of Moab, in scenic Castle Valley, 400-foot Castleton Tower is a sharp-angled sandstone monolith offering some of the airiest, hairiest climbing anywhere. Try the four-pitch Kor-Ingalls route (5.9)—one of the best climbs in the U.S. Pagan Mountaineering, 435-259-1117
Play the Slots: If slithering through shoulder-wide fissures of copper-colored sandstone, in chest-deep water, after a 50-foot rappel sounds like your kind of fun, head to the Cheesebox Canyon, near Blanding, 80 miles south of Moab. Bring a 100-foot rope and a wetsuit—even in summer—for this chilly eight-hour trip. Moab Cliffs & Canyons, 435-259-3317
Rush the Colorado: Fourteen Class IV–V rapids riddle Cataract Canyon, a 17-mile stretch of whitewater just downstream from the junction of the Colorado and Green rivers, a half-hour from downtown Moab. Go in May for the wildest ride, or try July for a toned-down trip. O.A.R.S., 800-346-6277
Big Air: Skydive Moab will take you to 9,500 feet and let you free-fall for 35 seconds, hurtling—in tandem with an instructor—toward the orange desert deck before pulling the ripcord. 435-259-5867
Go Multisport: Can’t quite settle on one activity? Don’t fret. Adventure Xscapes’ Adventure Retreat will hone your rappelling, climbing, mountain-biking, trail-running, night-hiking, and kayaking skills. 970-259-7771
The Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa, 17 miles north of town, delivers Moab’s only four-diamond accommodations. Enjoy views of the Colorado River to the west and Castleton Tower to the east. Sports massage, a cedar-filled sauna, and spa treatments are available after your four-course organic meal. Doubles, $279; 877-317-8244
Make advance base camp at Beef Basin, 60 miles south of Moab, where you’ll be a five-minute drive from hundreds of crack climbs and 15 minutes from Canyonlands National Park.
Browse books in downtown Moab at the ABC and Beyond bookstore. 435-259-3330
Wet and Wild Appalachia
Fayetteville, West Virginia
The Inside 5
Two-time world-champion aerial freestyle kayaker Tanya Shuman has lived in Fayetteville for four years, but her love affair with the whitewater hub started back in 1997, when she came for Gauley Fest, a yearly paddlers’ bash. Here’s what she does in her free time: 1. Organizes and competes in Gauley Fest, held each September. 2. Boats the New River Dries, one of the biggest play waves in the world. 3. Stocks up on climbing gear at Water Stone Outdoors. 4. Spin-casts for rainbow trout at the put-in near the dam on the Upper Gauley. 5. Paddles to the cliffs on Summersville Lake in a sit-on-top kayak.
High Water: With two of the East’s biggest rivers plowing by right outside of town, Fayetteville is a washing machine of whitewater. The New River is a classic standby, offering Class III–V rapids all spring and summer, but Gauley River season—weekends in September and October, when the Summersville Dam releases its gates to create churning Class V+ rapids—is truly something to write home about. ACE Adventure Resort, 800-787-3982
Roll On: North American River Runners offers two-day kayaking classes on tamer sections of the New. Beginners and intermediates practice stroke technique and learn to roll, ferry across currents, and nail tricks in Class I–III rapids. 800-950-2585
Will Ride For Views: From the town park, mountain-bike the gentle, wooded 2.8-mile Fayetteville Trail to the head of the seven-mile Cunard-Kaymoor Trail, a semi-technical spin 500 feet up along the edge of the New River Gorge. Or, for more secluded singletrack, explore the developing network of rolling, forested paths surrounding Summersville Lake. Ridge Rider Mountain Bikes, 800-890-2453
Do the New: From one of four free National Park Service campsites set amid maples, poplars, and oaks at the bottom of the Gorge, you’ll be a short drive from more than 1,400 diverse sandstone sport and traditional climbs, known simply as “the New.” Take a stab at Discombobulated, a classic, exposed 5.11 with huge views. New River Mountain Guides, 800-732-5462
Need a caffeine wake-up call? Head to Cathedral Café, the local river runners’ rendezvous. 304-574-0202
Smokey’s on the Gorge, overlooking the river, cooks up a gourmet buffet with barbecued wild boar ribs and grilled quail. 800-252-7784
Northern Rockies Nirvana
The Inside 5
When he’s not on expedition, Bozeman alpinist Conrad Anker prefers: 1. Taking his family wolf-watching in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley. 2. Soaking in thermal baths at Chico Hot Springs. 3. Canoeing the Yellowstone River, then stopping at Martin’s Cafe, in Livingston, for a burger. 4. Running the 1.5-mile Galigator Trail and getting “a good pump” on its new 12-foot-high, 50-problem concrete boulder. 5. Free-soloing Spare Rib, a 5.8 hand crack in Gallatin Canyon.
The Perfect Angle: About 50 miles of burbling Montana riffles roll between Ennis Lake and Quake Lake, on the Madison River, at such a consistent pace (five miles per hour, to be exact) that even beginner anglers can cast well enough to sucker fat browns and rainbows into swallowing a fly. Float or wade, but be sure to arm your tippet with caddis and salmon flies and yellow Sallies. Madison River Fishing Company, 800-227-7127
Spin Cycle: While new-school steepcreekers don body armor to push the limits of runnable whitewater on Big Timber Creek, the Class III rapids on the Gallatin River, near Big Sky, appeal to those who like to paddle without risk of reconstructive surgery. Montana Whitewater Raft Company, 800-799-4465
Climbs and Pines: The limestone walls in Gallatin Canyon, 20 miles southwest of Bozeman, tower some 200 feet over spindly spruce and fir and come peppered with hundreds of rock-climbing routes. Test your mettle on the newest batch of sport climbs at Scorched Earth, near Squaw Creek, where you can tinker on the 5.9 Child’s Play before offering up your soul to the 100-foot-long Unholy Act, a 5.11a. Barrel Mountaineering, 406-582-1335
Grind the Divide: One of southwestern Montana’s newest trails, the 23-mile Bangtail Divide singletrack starts with a 40-switchback climb near Bracket Creek; spin the 1,000 feet of vert to the top and you’ll be rewarded with views of the Bridger Mountains, the Gallatins, the Tobacco Roots, and other toothy ranges. Keep your eyes open for bear and moose. Summit Bike & Ski, 406-587-1064
Park and Ride: The most remote spot in the lower 48 sits in southeastern Yellowstone National Park: Saddle up for an 85-mile horsepack trip through this area, the Thorofare district, by crossing the Yellowstone River and riding the meadows on the South Boundary Trail. Cast for trout in the Snake River, watching for grizzlies along the way. Wilderness Pack Trips, 406-848-9953
Swing by five-year-old Bozeman Brewing Company‘s tasting room Monday through Saturday for a pint of their Bozone Select or Plum St. Porter. 406-585-9142
Pacific Northwest Paradise
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
The Inside 5
Olympic mountain-bike racer and two-time defending NORBA champ Geoff Kabush is psyched to call Vancouver Island home. Here’s his four-star day. 1. Grab a quad espresso at Tarbell’s Coffee Bar, in Cumberland. 2. Hop two ten-minute ferries to Hornby Island’s Ridge Trail. 3. Refuel on a chicken burrito at Delicado’s, in Nanaimo. 4. Build a bonfire at Departure Bay Beach. 5. Hang with bike-riding bros at Cumberland’s Riding Fool Hostel.
Ride the Next North Shore: Remember playing Chutes and Ladders when you were a kid? Welcome to chutes and ladders for grown-ups. Nanaimo and Parksville locals have built the Doumont Trails—high-flying bridges, ladders, and drops that thread pine forests and sluice down needle-blanketed singletrack. DirtWorld
Paddle With Killer Whales: Slip across 54-mile Johnstone Strait and, with luck, you may get within ten feet of the largest orca pod in the world. Rent boats from Telegraph Cove Sea Kayaking or go with a guide on a one-to-six-day trip, snapping pics of seals, bald eagles, and humpback whales. 250-756-0094
Walk in Juan’s Footsteps: Fastpack the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, a 29-mile shoreside ramble skirting 100-foot waterfalls and tide pools at Botanical Beach. You’ll cross wooden suspension bridges and slip through giant cedar forests, nabbing views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca along the way. 250-391-2300
Get High: Just off Highway 28 near the Campbell River, 19 granite crags—with more than 150 sport and trad routes— surround Crest Lake. Or go ropeless at Sutton Boulders, near Tofino. Coastal British Columbia
Angle for Big’uns: Hook a trophy rainbow or cutthroat at one of a half-dozen inland lakes just 20 minutes by floatplane from Clayoquot Sound, in Tofino. Clayoquot Ventures, 888-534-7422
At Tatchu Adventures’ Eco Surf Village, off the west coast of Nootka Island, guests sleep 15 feet up—in a cozy tree house. By day, hit beach and reef breaks with head-high lefts and rights. At night, dine on grilled oysters and salmon kebabs. Doubles, $1,643 per week; 888-895-2011
The Wilderness outpost at Bedwell River is like a safari camp—with Wi-Fi and 300-thread-count sheets. Guests stay in ultra-deluxe canvas tents set deep in the Bedwell River Valley, a jumping-off point for fly-fishing, hiking, and sea kayaking. Doubles, $4,151 for three nights (minimum stay); 888-333-5405
SoBo—which began as a giant purple truck plunked in the Tofino Botanical Gardens—serves mushroom enchiladas, cedar-plank salmon, and other “sophisticated bohemian” delights. 250-725-2341
New England High
North Conway, New Hampshire
The Inside 5
Alpinist and Jackson, New Hampshire, native Mark Synnott, 36, calls the White Mountains “the Banff of the East” and raves about: 1. Revving up at Morning Dew Espresso, on Main Street in North Conway. 2. Warming up his legs on the seven-mile loop run on the wooded Bog Brook Trail, in Jackson. 3. Canoeing the flatwater Saco River, camping on sandbars, and studying views of his next ascents. 4. Splurging on a heated-stone massage at the Inn at Thorn Hill, in Jackson. 5. Walking out his front door and through the woods to grab a Bud at his favorite bar, the Shannon Door, in Jackson.
White Mountains Classic: With 100 years’ experience operating huts in the Whites, the Appalachian Mountain Club has perfected the art of wilderness hospitality. Hike a 22-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail from Pinkham Notch to Crawford Notch, staying in three huts along the way: Madison Spring, Lakes of the Clouds, and Mizpah Spring. You’ll traverse the largest chunk of alpine tundra in the East, and numerous peaks, including Mounts Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, and Franklin. Huts are rustic, but meals feature fresh bread, homemade soups, and entrées like marinated beef tips. 603-466-2727
Get Wet: Less than a mile south of Pinkham Notch, the smallest cliff jump at Glen Ellis Falls is 20 feet of pure aria. For something tamer, put on your oldest trunks and slide down Franconia Falls’ granite cascades, an hour’s hike off the Kancamagus Scenic Byway.
Sport Central: Rumney, about 50 miles southwest of North Conway, has more than 400 hold-riddled mica-schist sport-climbing routes from 5.4 to 5.14. For longer traditional climbs, like the classic four-pitch 5.6 Thin Air, head to Cathedral and White Horse ledges, outside North Conway. Synnott Mountain Guides, 603-383-6976
Fleet Feet: Local trail runners are partial to the 32-mile Pemi Loop, in the Pemigewasset Wilderness; for shorter options, try the three-mile Lincoln Woods Trail, which connects to paths through oak, maple, and beech forests.
Go Fat: Moat Mountain’s 25-mile mountain-bike network has everything from logging roads to ridge-tracing singletrack. Overnight at the Forest Service’s Covered Bridge Campground, ten minutes away. 304-465-0508
The AMC’s Highland Center, at Crawford Notch, is one rung cushier than its huts, offering family-style meals, a fully stocked gear room, and easy access to the Whites’ best hikes. Doubles from $135; 603-466-2727
For beer that flows as freely as the smoked barbecue, head to Moat Mountain Smoke House and Brewing Co., a climbers’ hangout in North Conway. 603-356-6381
Or spruce up for Sunset Hill House, in Sugar Hill, where you can dine on maple-glazed salmon with caviar while watching the sun set over the Whites. 800-786-4455
Hood River, Oregon
The Inside 5
Hood River–based pro kayaker Tao Berman is partial to: 1. Paddling the five-mile Class V froth on the Little White Salmon and White Salmon rivers. 2. Mountain-biking Syncline, a web of trails across the Columbia in Washington that climb 800 feet above the river. 3. Grabbing a burger and a pint of locally brewed Full Sail Ale at Sixth Street Bistro & Loft. 4. Teeing off at the 18-hole Indian Creek Golf Course, in the Hood River Valley. 5. Riding motocross on the singletrack off the Mount Adams Boundary Trail, which offers enough options, he swears, to “last a month.”
Wave Rave: From June to September, Oregon’s warm eastern desert sucks cool Pacific air through 4,000-foot-high walls to turn the Columbia River Gorge into a world-renowned wind tunnel. Kiteboarders flock to the Hood River Sandbar, where shallow water makes for easy launching. New Wind Kite School, 541-387-2440
Ski Summer Corn: About three-quarters of the way up Mount Hood, the Palmer Glacier stays open all summer, allowing skiers and snowboarders to carve 1,524 feet of vertical. Timberline Lodge serves up bloody marys and picture-window views of 10,495-foot Mount Jefferson. 503-622-7979
Gorge Yourself: The first paved road through the Columbia River Gorge lasted from 1922 until 1960, when the interstate made it obsolete. Today, segments of the Historic Columbia River Highway remain open only to hikers and bikers, including the ten miles from Hood River east to Mosier and back. Bicycle Adventures, 800-443-6060
Stump Jump: With its gap jumps, ladders, and teeter-totters, the new Post Canyon stunt park, just west of Hood River, is quickly attracting the freeride mountain-biking set. Want to keep your collarbones? Start out on Family Man, where a biff on lower stunts will likely leave you bruised but not broken. Discover Bicycles, 541-386-4820
Classic Cascades: Summit 11,235-foot Mount Hood via the Hogsback, the traditional ascent from Timberline Lodge, where some climbers opt to pitch tents for a wind-blasted sleep. Come morning, crampon your way to the summit for views of the Pacific Ring of Fire volcanoes, from Rainier in the north to the Three Sisters in the south. Mazamas, 503-227-2345
Cast the Chutes: Anglers will find one of the most productive trout streams in the West, where the lower Deschutes River pours cool Cascade runoff into the Columbia. Wander among alder trees and under basalt cliffs to fish for the redside, an endemic rainbow trout. KD Guide Service, 509-493-3167
The 1913 Hood River Hotel is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and still maintains its Victorian flare with antique reproductions in its 41 rooms. The Cornerstone Cuisine restaurant’s pomegranate-glazed salmon will do a body good. Ditto the deep-tissue massage at A Salon Day Spa Boutique, just down the street. Doubles, $69–$119; 800-386-1859
Windsurfers and bikers meet over vintage Formica at Dog River Coffee for shots of Portland–based Stumptown Roasters Coffee. 541-386-4502
Upper Midwest Zest
Traverse City, Michigan
The Inside 5
Like any good midwestern boys, Keegan and Matt Myers, owners of Broneah Kiteboarding Company, in Traverse City, enjoy a good mix of daily exercise and nightlife. Their picks: 1. Mountain-bike the sweet Vasa singletrack trail, in Acme. 2. Sea-kayak near Chimney Corners Resort, 30 minutes north of town. 3. Hit Friday Night Live, a weekly outdoor summer concert series downtown. 4. Grab a beer at Dillinger’s Pub, Bootleggers, or Union Street Station. 5. Beach-camp in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.
Isle Royal National Park, MichiganRoyal Flush: Isle Royale NP’s untrammeled shore
Picture Perfect: Along the 42-mile stretch of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, glide by 200-foot-high multihued sandstone cliffs rising from the waters of Lake Superior. Dock your boat anywhere you choose on the park’s 73,000 acres of beaches and dunes, then hike through conifer forests to waterfalls and cedar swamps. 906-387-3700
Pedal the Point: Copper Harbor, at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, boasts nearly 20 miles of rocky, rooty, hardpacked trails, marked by steep 900-foot climbs and technical descents. Zip through old-growth boreal forests and top out on ridgelines with views of Lake Superior. Keweenaw Adventure Company, 906-289-4303
Ridge Walk: Grab your backpack and hop a ferry or seaplane to Windigo, in Lake Superior’s Isle Royale National Park. Then complete the 40-mile, three-to-five-day Greenstone Ridge trek, crossing 1,394-foot Mount Desor, ancient, 800-foot-thick lava flows, and pine forests where wolves abound. 906-482-0984
Lake Dive: Cold, yes, but also world-class. Lake Superior’s freshwater has preserved ten major shipwrecks off the coast of Isle Royale. Expert divers plunge 170 feet to the Emperor, a 525-foot steel bulk freighter that sank in 1947. Newbies can aim for the America, a passenger steamer that sank in shallow water in 1928. Scuba Center, 651-681-8434
Paddle Power: Boat the lower Montreal River from the Saxon Falls Powerplant, where a 13.8-mile stretch of Class II–III whitewater carves through a 200-foot-deep sandstone gorge. Check conditions by calling 715-893-2213.
Air Up There: Get high at Broneah’s Spode to Pro Kiteboarding Camp, in Traverse City, two hours south of the Mackinaw Bridge. Owners Keegan and Matt Myers show you how to arc, spin, and flip at one of 20 spots along a 40-mile stretch of Lake Michigan. 231-392-2212
Need to decompress? Check in to the Treetops Resort, in Treetops Village. Play 18 on one of its five championship golf courses, then head for a eucalyptus steam bath at the spa. Your digs overlook the Pigeon River, where you’ll find top-shelf fly-fishing and mountain biking. Doubles from $129; 989-732-6711
Crowdless and carless—that’s the mantra on Lake Michigan’s North Manitou Island, a motor-free, 14,426-acre mega-wilderness accessible only by boat. From base camp, explore 400-foot limestone bluffs populated by bald eagles and endangered piping plovers.
The Inside 5
Three-time Olympic cyclist and Tucsonite Gord Fraser opts for: 1. Road-biking the Saturday Shootout, an open-to-the-public 60-mile training ride that meets at the corner of University and Euclid every Saturday morning. 2. Salmon sashimi at Sushi-Ten. 3. Café Poca Cosa’s signature dish, a combo of three Southwestern house specialties. 4. Checking out the local flora and fauna at the Arizona–Sonora Desert Museum. 5. Getting spoiled on massages, gourmet food, and luxury R&R at Canyon Ranch resort and spa.
Crux Move: The fabled hideout of the Chiricahua Apache, Cochise Stronghold—a complex of domes and cliffs in the Dragoon Mountains, 80 miles southeast of Tucson—is home to 250-plus traditional and sport-climbing granite routes. Try What’s My Line, a three-pitch 5.6 with chicken-head holds all the way up. Summit Hut, 800-499-8696
The New Must-Do: Bust out your fat tires for a spin on a recently completed 22-mile section of the Arizona Trail. Park at La Sevilla picnic area, in Colossal Cave Mountain Park, 20 miles east of Tucson, and ride south on winding, technical singletrack with views of the Santa Ritas and Empires. Southwest Trekking, 520-296-9661
Cool Down: “Desert whitewater” isn’t a complete oxymoron. Between February and May, head two and a half hours northeast of Tucson to the Class III–IV Salt River for a two-day run through 2,000-foot-deep Salt River Canyon. Mild to Wild River Rafting, 800-567-6745
Go Avian: The Patagonia–Sonoita Creek Preserve and Patagonia Lake State Park, about 60 miles southeast of Tucson, host more than 300 species of birds, from flycatchers and phoebes to the Montezuma quail. Stop at the Village of Elgin Winery, Sonoita Vineyards, and Callaghan Vineyards to quaff the local vintages. Patagonia Area Business Association
Fourteen acres of manicured gardens—including citrus and palm trees—surround the Arizona Inn‘s 1930s adobe lodge and casitas, near the University of Arizona. With its cathedral-ceilinged library and vintage furniture, the lodge is pure class. But it’s also savvy to Tucson’s wilder side, offering free mountain bikes and a concierge to arrange horseback rides. Doubles, $199–$369; 800-933-1093
For classic Tucson burrito-stand fare, try El Guero Canelo, on South 12th.
Xoom Juice, on East Speedway, has the city’s best smoothies. 520-321-9666
Blazing a Trail
Why I Want to Walk the Continental Divide
Continental Divide TrailDivide and Conquer: Split the difference on the CDT across the spine of North America
Each spring, when I drive north from Jackson Hole to fish the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park, I cross the Continental Divide at three places. There is nothing spectacular about these low mountains west of Yellowstone Lake; nonetheless, each crossing brings a thrill, the sheer dimension of being on the spine of a continent. The melting snowpack in this lodgepole forest will become both the Columbia River, entering the Pacific near Portland, Oregon, and the Mississippi, reaching the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans. One can wander about on the wet pine needles and watch these journeys begin. Doing so rekindles a desire for my own journey: to walk the Continental Divide, all 3,100 miles it, from Canada to Mexico.
Spanning five ecological zones, with diverse flora and fauna—from grizzly bears and dwarf shrews to whitebark pine and mesquite—the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) offers a glimpse of the West as it was when Lewis and Clark tra-versed its wild tracts. It enables us to know the Rockies with the soles of our feet.
The problem is, the trail is only half finished.
In 1978, Congress designated the CDT as part of the National Trails System Act, joining America’s other great footpaths, the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails. But it failed to allocate funds for the CDT’s completion, and though you can now hike beautiful sections through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, 1,400 miles of the proposed route remain incomplete. The challenge now is to stitch together existing routes with new trails through a patchwork of federal, state, and private ranchland—an effort that depends increasingly on volunteer labor and private donations. (Mariah Media, the company that owns Outside, is a sponsor.) The Continental Divide Trail Alliance has a plan to finish the path by 2008.
If the CDT is completed on time, I intend, one early-spring day, to skip the Firehole River and stand on the Mexico border at a point just south of the Big Hatchet Mountains and face north. Then I will take a 3,100-mile walk through the heart of the American West.