The Best Weekend Detours from Cities
Make this summer all about exploring off-the-beaten-path adventures within a few hours of your home
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If you haven’t discovered at least a dozen hidden gems in your backyard and hometown since the start of the pandemic, you’ve been doing it all wrong. But don’t worry, there’s still time to build that list. For those of us living in cities, there are plenty of weekend-long detours that will make you feel as if you’ve escaped the grind, without having to had to travel very far at all.
If You’re in Seattle or Portland
Go to Sisters, Oregon. The Suttle Lodge (from $125), three hours from Portland or five from Seattle, has everything you want in a quick summer getaway: a lake with kayaks, canoes, and SUPs on loan, a bar serving up lakefront cocktails, mountain bike trails nearby in Deschutes National Forest, and musicians playing music around the campfire most nights. Stay in one of 11 newly restored lodge rooms or 16 rustic cabins on Suttle Lake.
If You’re in San Francisco or Los Angeles
Go to Mammoth Lakes, California. It’s a six-hour drive from San Francisco, or five hours from Los Angeles. Mammoth Mountain is staying open for skiing through Memorial Day; then the resort offers lift-accessed mountain biking, hiking trails, and scenic gondola rides. Need a camping rig? TrekkerVans has rental campervans you can pick up in L.A. or San Francisco. Or check in to the Sierra Nevada Resort (from $169), which has independent chalets.
If You’re in Boston or New York
Go to North Adams, Massachusetts. A three-hour drive west of Boston and a 3.5-hour haul from New York City, the northern Berkshires in the spring is a good place to be: the summer crowds haven’t arrived yet and hiking on a stretch of the Appalachian Trail is good to go. For birdwatchers, you’ll find plenty of action at the Audubon Society’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox, which has seven miles of hiking trails. Stay at Historic Valley Campground, 1.5 miles from downtown North Adams, which has 100 lakeside and wooded sites for RVs, campers, and tents (from $25). Pick up barbecue and a growler of craft beer at Bright Ideas Brewing in town.
If You’re in Atlanta
Go to Ellijay, Georgia. Less than two hours from Atlanta, this is a mountain biker’s dream spot, but there’s plenty to do here—from hiking to fly-fishing through Chattahoochee National Forest—if you don’t ride bikes. Stay in a cabin or park your van or RV at Mulberry Gap (from $70 per person) and you’ll have miles of singletrack and gravel riding from your door.
If You’re in Chicago
Go to Starved Rock State Park, Illinois. Its waterfalls and wildflowers come alive in the springtime, and the park’s campground and lodge see relatively fewer crowds. Hike into the sandstone canyons or scenic bluffs via 13 miles of marked trails or fish for white bass and walleye in the Illinois River. Less than two hours by car from Chicago, the park has a sprawling campground (from $25) and a historic lodge (from $120), built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.