4 Long Weekend Picks from Adventure Pros
Where the pros go
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Is there anything as magical as tacking on an extra day of freedom to the end of a long workweek? Labor Day, the mother of all three-day weekends is upon us, which means you’re going to need a plan. You could spend those 72 hours in a daze of naps and Netflix (a perfectly legitimate lifestyle choice) or you could hit the road for an adventure. We choose the latter. Since all good adventures begin with a destination, we asked a handful of professional athletes, from mountain bike legends to soccer standouts, to detail their favorite long weekend getaways. Here’s where the pros vacation.
Andrew Skurka, Backpacker
Favorite Long Weekend: Indian Peaks, Colorado
Andrew Skurka is one of the few people in this world who can claim the job title of professional backpacker. The Colorado-based hiker is known for solo trips like his six-month, 4,700-mile trek through Alaska’s Yukon Territory. More recently, he collaborated with Sierra Designs to create the innovative new pack, the Flex Capacitor. So when Skurka gets excited about a destination, we listen. While the rest of the world flocks to Colorado’s famed 14ers, Skurka opts for solitude in the state’s 74,000-acre Indian Peaks Wilderness, just south of Rocky Mountain National Park, a quick drive from the Front Range.
“This Wilderness is full of 13ers that are really accessible from town,” Skurka says. “They’re just as pretty as what you’ll find in Rocky Mountain National Park, but way less crowded.”
Brainard Lake Recreation Area, which borders the Wilderness, makes a smart base if you’re looking for developed car camping. You’ll have views of the tallest summits in Indian Peaks as well as trails leading to high alpine lakes. A small campground at Fourth of July trailhead will put you closer to the summits.
As for which 13ers to bag, Skurka suggests starting with the 13,229-foot Mount Audubon, an eight-mile round trip hump that climbs 2,715 feet from the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. Most of the hike is above tree line, offering views of RMNP and Longs Peak, and a tough stretch through a talus field during the final push for the summit.
Kirt Voreis, Mountain biker
Favorite Long Weekend: Copper Harbor, Michigan
Voreis is a former dual slalom national champ and World Cup standout that rode the highs of American mountain biking in the ‘90s and early 2000s, filming countless legendary freeride segments for New World Disorder and Kranked. Voreis and his wife—also a pro—now travel all over the country preaching the gospel of mountain biking through their AllRide Tour. He’s ridden big mountains all over the world, but his favorite system for a weekend getaway sits squarely in the middle of the country: Copper Harbor, Michigan.
“It should be on everyone’s must ride list,” Voreis says. “The system is a well-thought out spider web of progression and flow that never gets boring.”
Copper Harbor sits at the northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, an isolated strip of land jutting into the middle of Lake Superior. During the last decade, local pro trail builders have been turning the forest into a wonderland of flow and tech downhill.
“Every wooden bridge, jump, or berm is built beautifully, and the views of Superior will be stamped in your brain forever,” Voreis says.
The system stands at 35 miles right now (and it’s still growing), and Keweenaw Adventure Company runs shuttles if you’re not into climbing. Be sure to ride Voreis’ favorite trail, Flying Squirrel, a .7-mile downhill that’s packed with sweeping berms and big air that’s easy to shuttle. Just don’t expect cell service when you’re there.
“Copper Harbor is far removed from the rest of the country, so isolated, that the vibe is really chill,” Voreis says. “It’s the kind of place that lends itself to mid-day naps.”
Chris Gragtmans, Kayaker
Favorite Long Weekend: Fayetteville, West Virginia
Chris Gragtmans goes big. The champion kayaker manages Dagger’s team and is known for first descents of burly waterfalls and racing fast on class V creeks like the Green River. So it makes since he looks to Fayetteville, a tiny town in West Virginia for his weekend getaways, which has some of the biggest whitewater in the East.
“It’s pretty epic how much fun you can have out of that small town,” Gragtmans says, “especially during the fall, when they’re releasing on the Gauley.”
The Gauley is a big-water river that offers almost 25 miles of continuous whitewater, but only during the fall dam releases known as Gauley Season. Gragtmans likes to combine runs on the Upper Gauley, which drops 335 feet in under 13 miles, giving boaters big water fun that’s highlighted by class V hits like Pillow Rock and Sweet’s Falls, with mellow standup paddling and deep water solo climbing on nearby Summersville Lake, and a detour to Snowshoe Mountain’s mountain bike park, which boasts 1,500 feet of lift-served vertical drop.
If you can snag a primitive campsite on the New River near Fayette Station Rapid, directly under the gorgeous New River Bridge, take it. Otherwise, head to the American Alpine Club’s New River Gorge campground, for platform campsites and on-site bouldering.
Christen Press, Soccer player
Favorite Long Weekend: Tulum, Mexico
Christen Press doesn’t get many long weekends. The 27-year-old is an increasingly important member of the U.S. national team and spends most of her time training and traveling with her team members. Press, who grew up in an adventurous family that backpacked often, makes the most of her free time though, hiking some of the iconic mountains in the world while traveling for work. And if she does get a few days to herself, she heads straight to Tulum, Mexico, where she focuses on rest and relaxation.
“For me, Tulum is about staying on the beach, eating tacos, and spending time in nature, exploring,” Press says.
Tulum, which sits on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, about an hour and a half south of Cancun, has become renowned in the last decade for its blend of new age spiritualism (the village has its own set of Mayan ruins), soft adventure, and posh digs.
While the beach is the obvious draw, a weekend in Tulum is highlighted by meandering hikes through the 1,000-year old ocean-side ruins and a swim through Dos Ojos, a set of sea caves just north of town that draw snorkelers and scuba divers.
“And definitely do a little sunset yoga by the water,” Press says. “That’s the real priority for me.”
Reaching Tulum is relatively easy thanks to multiple direct flights into Cancun, where rentals cars will whisk you far away from the college crowds. Look for eco-resorts on the water, like the cabanas of Playa Mambo, and spend your calories on lobster and fish, which are pulled from the water just outside of the village and served pretty much everywhere.