These days, adventure is all about packing as much excitement as possible into every hour.
Meet Your Epic Weekend Guides
Whether you're looking to plan an overnight getaway or 3-day ultimate weekend escape, the trick to packing more adventure into your life is simple: all it takes is a little inspiration and planning. That's where we come in. No matter what metropolis you're looking to escape, we've got you covered.
To kick things off, and provide a little extra motivation, we teamed up with adventure power couple Adrian Ballinger and Emily Harrington. A world-class mountaineer and skier, Adrian is the founder of Alpenglow Expeditions, one of the world's most respected guide companies, and a six-time Everest summiter. Emily is one of the most well-rounded and prominent climbers on the planet, equally at home on ice cliffs as big walls. We sent the Tahoe-based couple off on two weekend adventures—one to Yosemite and the other to explore Northern New Mexico. And that's just the start. From endless East Coast mountain biking to the most mind-blowing drives out West, you'll find twenty epic weekend ideas below.
San Francisco, San Antonio, Denver (Pikes Peak), Albuquerque, Cincinnati, Washington D.C., Asheville, Reno, Las Vegas, Jackson, Salt Lake City, Denver (Multisport), San Francisco (Hwy 1), Los Angeles (multisport), Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago, NYC
Hub: San Francisco
From backpacking and biking to fishing and swimming, there’s more than enough to keep you busy at Yosemite National Park. It also happens to be the world’s most iconic rock climbing destination—and the backyard of adventure power couple Adrian Ballinger and Emily Harrington, who agreed to show us around in the video above. Aspiring climbers can ease into it with top roping on lower grade routes, hang out and boulder with the pros at Camp 4, the legendary epicenter of American climbing. Experts can test their skills on a multi-day climb up one of the iconic big walls, such as the famously-photographed Half Dome. If you need guidance with any or all of that, ring up the pros at Yosemite Mountaineering School & Guide Service, the only group authorized to teach in the park. Start planning: Classes with Yosemite Mountaineering School & Guide Service begin at $148.
Kick Back Near Big Bend
Hub: San Antonio
Smack-dab in between Big Bend National Park and the equally sprawling Big Bend Ranch State Park, 27,000-acre Lajitas Resort has everything you need to play cowboy or playboy. Take a horseback ride through the ocotillo. Or play 18. The resort’s famed Black Jack’s Crossing has been rated the most beautiful 18 holes in Texas. Or hop in the bike saddle and connect through ranch trails to the Fresno-Sauceda Loop, a rugged mountain bike ride through creek beds and past deserted ranches and pictographs. Get the knots—and any cactus spines—out at Lajita’s Agave Spa before kicking back with a margarita at the resort’s Thirsty Goat Saloon. Start planning: Rooms at Lajitas Resort begin at $197/night.
Drive Pikes Peak Highway
With 14,115-foot Pikes Peak directly above town, the Arkansas’s Class IV rapids two hours to west, and 260 miles of multisport trails available within a ten-mile radius, Colorado Springs can give almost any town in the state a run for its money in the outdoor-entertainment department. It also has something the other towns don’t: one of the premier mountain-driving experiences in the U.S. The 19-mile stretch of pavement has 156 twists and turns as it winds its way to the summit of the iconic peak. For auto enthusiasts, the road alone is worth the visit.
Explore Northern New Mexico
Hub: Albuquerque | Adrian Ballinger and Emily Harrington take us on a visual tour of Northern New Mexico's high-alpine desert playground
It’s like Colorado, only prettier and with no crowds. First up, mountain biking in Santa Fe, where the trails range from technical and mountainous to mellow and flowy. The crew at Broken Spoke can hook you up with a rental bike and point you in the right direction. Then venture to the Rio Guadalupe in the Jemez Mountains for some of the best trout fishing in the state. Refuel at the Love Apple, an organic restaurant that serves locally-sourced food in a converted church that was built in the 1800s. Then, continue the mutlisport weekend in Taos, by testing your fitness level with some high-altitude running on the scenic trails near the famous Taos Gorge Bridge. Complete the weekend with some stand up paddle boarding down the Rio Grande or, if you'd rather see the river from a different perspective, try flying ultralights over the Rio Grande Gorge. Which is exactly what adventure couple Adrian Ballinger and Emily Harrington did this past summer, as you can see in the video above.
Paddle the Gauley
Insignificant, Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle, Iron Ring, Sweet's Falls. Outside of the Grand Canyon there are few rapids as legendary as those in West Virginia’s Gauley River, the epicenter of whitewater in the eastern U.S. The nearby New River is just as iconic. Expert paddlers can spend a weekend challenging the 9.8-mile upper Gauley and less experienced watermen can experience the Class V+ rapids on a commercial rafting excursion during dam-release days. Playboaters can easily blow a day on the slightly more mellow lower Gauley before heading into nearby Fayetteville to refuel with a beer and some pimento cheese fries at Secret Sandwich Society. Start planning: Trips on both the Gauley and the New River with New Gauley River Adventures begin at $110.
Ride Singletrack in Harrisonburg
Hub: Washington D.C.
Little known fact: Just over two hours outside the city, George Washington National Forest has more than 500 miles of mountain-bike trails. Beginners can ease into the fat-tire life at Rocktown Trails at Hillandale Park, checking out newbie routes like Let It Flow. More experienced riders can try their hand at the Massanutten Resort trails, a World Cup-caliber bike park with two chair lifts. Afterwards, shake the mud off in Harrisonburg at one of its craft breweries like Pale Fire downtown and Three Notch’d on Market Street.
Drive the Tail of the Dragon
It’s been called the most exciting 11 miles in America, a two-lane challenge on the edge of the Smoky Mountains and the Tennessee/North Carolina border with 318 turns. With no driveways, service stations, or scenic overviews to create distractions, this downhill section of U.S. highway 129 is more like a closed racetrack than a public road. And motorcyclists and drivers treat it that way. It’s not the only attraction of course—there are dozens of scenic byways in the area if you decide to take it slow and gawk at the deep hollers or drive up Clingmans Dome, the highest point in Smoky Mountain National Park, for the area’s best panorama.
Fish the Truckee River
Flowing from Lake Tahoe in California to Pyramid Lake in Nevada, the 106-mile Truckee River and its tributaries are known for holding huge rainbow and fat brown trout, and the lakes on either end grow even bigger fish. But the fish are notoriously picky, that’s why consulting with a guide service like Gilligan’s Guide Service is a must. Once you get the hang of it, though, there’s plenty of wide-open, freestone river to explore. Tell your fish stories at night back in Truckee with a Rockslide IPA and some pulled pork at FiftyFifty Brewing. Start planning: Half day trips with Gilligan’s Guide Service begin at $295.
Hike Red Rocks
Hub: Las Vegas
Less than two hours from the strip exists an entirely different kind of slot, the type that are a portal into a canyon-striped wonderland of red rock that feels more like Mars—and light years away from the glitz and glam of Vegas. Of course, Utah’s canyonlands can be as unforgiving as Vegas’s roulette wheel, which is why we recommend you base your adventures out of St. George, Utah’s Red Rock Mountain Resort, the perfect spot to learn the secrets of the slickrock. On the resort’s daily group hikes, you can visit lava caves, volcanic cones, and red cliffs at the nearby Snow Canyon State Park or sign on for day trips to nearby Zion or Bryce Canyon National Parks. Best of all, you can work the kinks out of your back with a hiker’s massage at the resort’s Sagestone Spa & Salon before tucking into a nourishing, well-balanced feast at the Canyon Breeze. Start planning: Rooms at Utah’s Red Mountain Resort begin at $148/night.
Climb the Grand Teton
At some point, you just have to admit it: Everest, K2, Denali? They’re never going to happen. But the Grand Teton? That’s a respectable challenge that most active people have a shot at. The centerpiece of Grand Teton National Park, the 13,775-foot mountain has over a dozen routes suitable for newbies and experienced mountaineers, with most novice climbers make their way up the Owen-Spalding or Upper Exum. The best way to make the summit? Sign up with the legendary Exum Mountain Guides for a 2-day mountaineering training course before spending a day earning your bragging rights on the mountain. Start planning: Exum Mountain Guide service for the Grand Teton begins at $600.
Raft the Green River
Hub: Salt Lake City
Utah’s canyon lands are beautiful, but it’s hard to get a sense of the vastness and beauty of the place on two legs or two wheels. On a laid-back rafting trip on the Green River, the largest tributary of the Colorado, though, it’s easy to let the sense of space wash over you. A three-day trip down the river through Dinosaur National Monument with renowned outfitter O.A.R.S. will take you through wide valleys, narrow slot canyons, desolate deserts, and lush canyons full of brush. Float through three major canyons including Lodore, Whirlpool, and Split Mountain, occasionally getting your heart going with rapids like Hells Half Mile. Start planning: Three-day trips with O.A.R.S. begin at $649.
Road trip to Durango
Lots of Colorado towns like to boast about their multisport bona fides, but if we had to pick our favorite, it’d have to be Durango. That’s because the city in southern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains is more laid back and less crowded than most, but every bit as well-rounded. Trout fishermen can cast for fat browns in the Animas River. Road cyclists can work their quads on the classic 48-mile Durango to Silverton route. Mountain bikers have the Hermosa Creek trail and 2 million acres of San Juan National Forest to explore. Climbers can challenge themselves year-round at X-Rock, just outside of town. Runners, hikers, and landscape photographers can take a trip down the Colorado Trail. And everybody can soak their muscles just down the road at The Springs Resort and Spa in Pagosa Springs. Start planning: Hot springs at The Springs Resort and Spa begin at $26.
Cruise the Pacific Coast Highway
Hubs: San Francisco
California State Route 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, runs for 550 miles down the Golden State. Everyone has a favorite spot, but the 240-mile section from Monterey to Santa Barbara is an unforgettable weekend ride. Head north for unobstructed views of the Pacific churning against the rugged cliffs and coastline, studded with rocky islands and reefs. Stretch your legs by checking out some of the 23,000 elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas rookery and get a bit messy (don’t worry, there’s a swimming beach nearby) at the Cracked Crab in Pismo Beach, where they’ll dump a bucket of crab, clams, shrimp, and whatever else is in season at your table.
Watch: The Getaway Car
Whether you're looking to escape LA or explore New Mexico's open roads, the new Porsche 718 Boxster is the ultimate companion
Ditch the Crowds in Southern California
Hub: Los Angeles
LA may be the second largest city in the country, but with 75 miles of coastline, unbeatable weather year round, and a vast network of hiking and biking trails, you can escape from this city without ever leaving it. Get a feel for the landscape by hiking up to Griffith Park Observatory, where you’ll find 360-degree views of the entire Los Angeles basin. Or, if you want an even better view, Anthelion Helicopters can give you a view from above on one of their eight custom tours. Next up: Head to the coast for some surf lessons. Aqua Surf School can help kooks catch their first wave or those looking to fine tune their skills. If you’re looking for something to get your adrenaline pumping, head to the Porsche Experience Center, where you can test drive their state-of-the-art sports cars on the 53-acre performance facility. Make the Hollywood Roosevelt, the oldest continually operating hotel in the city, your centrally-located base camp for the weekend. Start planning: Rooms at The Hollywood Roosevelt begin at $299/night. Visit Discover LA to learn more about deals from local hotels and attractions, and to see an events calendar.
Mountain Bike the Methow Valley
The Methow River runs through a spectacular valley on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains. While there’s plenty to do like hiking and cross country skiing in the valley and the surrounding million acres of wilderness, most people like to explore the place on two wheels. There are hundreds of lightly traveled paved and dirt roads in the Valley including easy loops like Sun Mountain, challenging rides with stunning views like Washington Pass, and all-day leg busters like the Tour de Okanogan. Fat tire fanciers can hit alpine routes and smell the wildflowers along the grueling Angel’s Staircase or stretch their legs on easier routes like Big Valley. Recover at night at the Chewuch Inn, just a short walk from downtown Winthrop and Washington’s oldest saloon. Start planning: Rooms at Chewuch Inn begin at $100/night.
Trail Run in Bend
With more than 65 miles of awesome running trails accessible from downtown, the funky high-desert city is a trail runner’s smorgasbord. Routes through the Cascade foothills, like the Green Lakes Loop, are great as a warm up or training run for beginners. But the real deal are higher elevation routes like the Tam McArthur Rim in the Willamette National Forest, with constant views of the Cascades. For more sociable athletes, there are over a dozen running events in Bend, including the Bend Beer Chase, a 50-mile-relay that includes stops at seven of the area's best craft breweries. The mountain biking is pretty darn good, too. If you prefer to rip down the trail on two wheels, reserve a XC, Enduro, or Trail bike at Bend Cyclery. The guys at the shop can tell you where to go.
Hike Lodge-to-Lodge along the Northshore
Stretching more than 310 miles between Jay Cooke State Park in the Duluth area and the Canadian border, it might be hard to figure out where to begin on the Superior Trail along Lake Superior’s north shore. If you only have a weekend, the best bet is the section between Two Harbors and Grand Marais. Hike the granite-strewn trail over dozens of waterfalls and through the aspen, birch, balsam fir, and cedars during the day. Then let Boundary Country Trekking shuttle your gear, and your weary body, to one of eight lodges along the Lake Shore. If you're lucky, they might let you stop for a piece of (world famous) blueberry pie at Betty’s in Two Harbors before taking you to the next leg the following day. Start planning: Trips with Boundary Country Trekking begin at $175/night.
You haven’t seen Maine until you’ve explored the coast, and the best way to see it is on a classic sailboat. Climb aboard the Bagheera or Wendameen, two early 20th century ships, at the Portland Schooner Company for spectacular views of the rocky coast and the cold, pristine waters of Casco Bay. If you already have your sea legs and want to skipper your own boat—or learn how—visit the South Portland Sailing Center to rent a Cape Ensign or Cape Dory 30. Start planning: Spend the weekend at South Portland Sailing Center learning your knots and maneuvers during two-day beginners course beginning at $1028 for two.
Unwind in Door County
If you combined the beauty of the Upper Midwest’s North Woods, the old-school charm of Cape Cod, and down-to-earth nature of Wisconsin’s rolling dairy farms, you’d have something like Door County, the breezy peninsula separating Lake Michigan from Green Bay. Cyclists can spend hours rolling through apple and cherry orchards or scenic backroad routes like the Sunset Trail Loop in Peninsula State Park, which has epic views of the bay. Sea kayakers can explore cliffs, pictographs, and shipwrecks at Door Bluff County Park. Runners can get a sense of the boreal forest on the 40 miles of trail in Newport State Park, with 11 miles of trail along the shoreline. Any day in the Door needs to begin or end at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay famous for meatballs, lingonberry jam, and real live goats lounging on the grassy roof.
Climb the Gunks
Sure, plenty of people mess around on the boulders in Central Park, but the best place to go for anyone interested in learning to climb is New Paltz in the Shawangunk Mountains. The area has more than 2,000 climbs on its quartzite cliffs, from beginner routes like 5.6 Climb and Punishment to tougher routes like 5.10d Graveyard Shift. If your arms need a breather, there are over 120 miles of trails around New Paltz, the “Boulder of the East.” Before your day on the ropes, get your batteries powered up with Climber’s Plate and sweet potato biscuit at Karma Road, the best vegetarian café in town.