Favorite hometown adventures brought to you by people who do adventure for a living.
Favorite hometown adventures brought to you by people who do adventure for a living. (Photo: Bart Jaillet/Unsplash)

A Guide to the Best Adventures in a City Near You

From tubing to trail running, pro athletes describe the best way to get outside in their hometowns

Favorite hometown adventures brought to you by people who do adventure for a living.
Bart Jaillet/Unsplash(Photo)

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You don’t become a pro athlete if you’re the kind of person who settles for “good enough.” That’s why it’s always a good idea to ask a pro for advice. Their obsession with perfection means they know where to find the best taco or the best trail to get in a great workout.

So we asked the pros—from bike racers to track stars—about their favorite hometown adventures.

Boise, Idaho

Pro: Cyclist Kristin Armstrong
Adventure: River and trail

If you float the Boise River in the morning on an inner tube and take a shuttle back, says Kristin Armstrong, three-time Olympic gold medalist in women’s individual time trial, you’ll have time to tackle a few of the 190 miles of singletrack around Boise. The river is typically calm, so don’t worry if you’re a novice. All you really have to do is put your butt in the tube and float. The best spot to put in is at Barber Park. Step out about six miles downriver at Ann Morrison Park.

Pro Tip: There’s an official start date for when the river opens, typically in late June. (Find that info here.) Also, Armstrong says, “For the best ice cream, you have to experience the Stil.” Everything is made in-house, and for a great after-tubing treat, try one of the booze-infused creations (bring your ID).

Bend, Oregon

Pro: Runner Lauren Fleshman
Adventure: The North Fork Trail to Happy Valley

Run, hike, or bike on this path that’s friendly to all three. You can choose any number of loops that range from eight to 24 miles, says Lauren Fleshman, a two-time 5,000-meter champion. “There are several waterfalls, starting with the big and bold Tumalo Falls right out the gate,” she says. When you finally get to Happy Valley, it “feels a bit like being a cartoon rabbit in the movie Bambi.”

Pro Tip: “Pick up a sack lunch at Village Baker,” Fleshman says. “The sandwiches and salads are fantastic. Or stop by the cute local co-op, the Humble Beet, and grab a wrap.” And remember to bring cash for the $5 parking day pass.

Menlo Park, California

Pro: Max Fennell
Adventure: Trail running in Wunderlich County Park

Pro triathlete and entrepreneur Max Fennell says that, as a young kid with ADHD, sports helped him cope and relax. These days, he’s still constantly in motion, up before sunrise to train in Silicon Valley. His ideal local run is a four-mile loop with a 1,400-foot climb that “takes you to this spot where you can watch the sunrise over the valley,” Fennell says. To get there, start at the historic Folger Horse Stables and take the Alambique Trail. Autumn is his favorite time to hit the loop; on cool days, Fennell says a mist covers the trail, giving it an otherworldly vibe.

Pro Tip: Parking is nuts on weekends, so weekday mornings are a great time to go. Also, the trails are shared with horses, which have right of way.

The Bay Area, California

Pro: Endurance cyclist Yuri Hauswald
Adventure: Hitting the area’s best bakeries on a bike

Yuri Hauswald grew up on a farm in Petaluma, California, without a TV. So if you’re looking for an outdoors recommendation while you’re in the area, who better than him? Hauswald says he and a group of riders, including former road pro and Dirty Kanza winner Alison Tetrick, did a 100-miler based on local bakeries. To do the same loop, start at Acre Coffee in Petaluma, then head toward the scenic Highway 1. You’ll ride up the coast to Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station, hugging the Tomales Bay Ecological Reserve and the beautiful coastline until you get to the Tomales Bakery. Finally, take the farmland back roads through Valley Ford to Wild Flour Bakery. “I love this route because it takes you from farm fields to redwoods to rolling coastal roads along Highway 1,” Hauswald says. Just be advised: There’s a steady climb up Burnside Road following your stop at Wild Flour. Plan your pastries accordingly. Here’s a Strava map of the route.

Pro Tip: Hauswald recommends the bear claw at Bovine Bakery and the raisin and rosemary focaccia at Tomales Bakery.

Flagstaff, Arizona

Pro: Track and road running star Sara Hall
Adventure: Hiking Humphreys Peak

“This can be done in one day,” says Sara Hall, who last year won the U.S. Track and Field Women’s Marathon competition in Sacramento, California. “But it is challenging enough so you have a sense of accomplishment at the end.” Humphreys, located in the Coconino National Forest, is the tallest peak in Arizona. The nine-mile trail to the top has more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain, and while it’s a bit of a huffer and puffer, it’s well worth it. Once you reach the top, look for the summit register book and sign your name. Then pause to take it all in. “There are incredible views from the top,” says Hall, adding that on clear days you can even spot the Grand Canyon.

Pro Tip: Pack more snacks than you think you might need, plus an extra layer for the top, which can be chilly even in summer.

Burlington, Vermont

Pro: Olympic mountain biker Lea Davison
Adventure: Nordic skiing at Craftsbury Outdoor Center

“I love Craftsbury, near Burlington, because it has so many gorgeous trails, and they guarantee skiing with their snowmaking if it’s a bad snow year,” says Olympic mountain bikers Lea Davison. Also, “the grooming is always impeccable, the lodges are beautiful, and it has an amazing commitment to environmental sustainability and zero waste. It’s also very affordable, and the resort makes skiing very accessible.”

Pro Tip: Go to the Craftsbury General Store afterward to refuel. The deli options and ready-to-go meals are outstanding.

Vancouver, Canada

Pro: Triathlete Rachel McBride
Adventure: Swimming in the Kitsilano Pool

“Kits Pool is one of the most unique pools in the world,” says Rachel McBride, a savage cyclist with several Ironman bike course records who has won the Ironman 70.3 championships twice. The pool is situated on English Bay and looks out on the North Shore mountains and the Vancouver skyline. Built in 1931, the pool recently underwent a round of renovations. Now you can swim 150-yard laps in saltwater or play with the kids on the slides in the shallow end. It’ll definitely be a swim you’ll remember.

Pro Tip: Parking can be nuts—avoid the weeknight and weekend peak hours. “The best time to go is weekday mornings,” McBride says.

Waco, Texas

Pro: Ultrarunner Sabrina Little
Adventure: Running the upper trails in Cameron Park

Cameron Park has 416 acres of running and mountain bike trails. “A lot of them have momentum-breaking switchbacks, steep climbs, and technical descents,” says Sabrina Little, who five years ago blew up the women’s 24-hour record by covering 147.9 miles. Come ready for a lung buster of a workout, she says. And be prepared for the heat, depending on the season. In summer, temps can easily top 110 degrees Fahrenheit, so bring lots of water. The upside? “After spending quality time there, I know I’m strong and ready for anything,” Little says.

Pro Tip: The maps at the trailhead are outdated, since new trails have been added in recent years. Little suggests the Highlander Trail, which is on the map, but if all else fails, she says, “Ask a friendly local.” When you’re done, grab some of Waco’s famous tacos from Taqueria Zacatecas.

Los Angeles, California

Pro: Cyclist Phil Gaimon
Adventure: Hiking in Griffith Park

“Everyone knows about the Hollywood sign, but I think most people don’t realize that it’s in this huge park right in the middle of the city,” says former pro cyclist Phil Gaimon. “I love the idea that half a mile from the urban sprawl of Sunset Boulevard, there’s real nature and quiet where you can escape. Roads are closed to cars, so it’s also a great place to ride a bike.”

Pro Tip: The L.A. Zoo is in the park, but Gaimon says there are also remnants from the old zoo in some spots, and it’s super creepy—if you’re into that kind of thing. Also: The Trails Café, located inside the park, is just as good and even better than any overpriced hipster café you’ll find in Santa Monica.

Bellingham, Washington

Pro: Trail runner Corrine Malcolm
Adventure: The Skyline Divide Trail

It’s about a 90-minute drive, but for an epic hike with beautiful views of Mount Baker and the Cascades, head to the Skyline Divide Trail. Round-trip is about nine miles, although you can turn back at any point if you want to shorten it. Be warned that the first two miles pack a lot of elevation gain. After that, trail runner Corrine Malcolm says, “It’s primarily a rolling, grassy ridgeline from one high-alpine knoll to the next.” You can certainly do this as a day trip, but if you have the time, the camping and stargazing are unbeatable.

Pro Tip: The road to the trailhead is long and turns to dirt, but most cars can handle it. If you’re hungry on the way back, hit up the North Fork Brewery for pizza and a beer.

Boulder, Colorado

Pro: Cyclist Mara Abbott
Adventure: Bike and hike your way around town

Start at Scott Carpenter Park, says Mara Abbott, who in 2010 became the first U.S. cyclist to win the Giro Donne. “Come armed with a bicycle, a lock, running or hiking clothes, and a credit card,” Abbott says. Ride the Boulder Creek Path until you get to Sixth Street, then turn left and work your way up the hill. Ride to Chautauqua Park, then lock up your bike. “Now you’ve got two options,” Abbott says. If you want to go for elevation, hike or run up Green Mountain, a 5.5-mile trip. The hike rises to 8,100 feet and offers an amazing view of the entire valley. “If you’re looking for a more rolling route,” she says, “try the Mesa Trail, an out-and-back with a lot of up and down and great trail conditions. This is one of my favorite trail running spots.” You can hike or run as far as you like, because both routes end with a downhill that lands you near the tasty Chautauqua Dining Hall.

Pro Tip: If you don’t feel like riding home, take heart in knowing that it’s slightly downhill the whole way. Also, Abbott says Scott Carpenter Park has a giant rocket ship with built-in slide, “should you require a grand finale.”

Washington, D.C.

Pro: Ultrarunner Mike Wardian
Adventure: The Billy Goat Trail

This trail is part of the National Park Service’s C&O Canal National Historic Site, and although it’s close to D.C., it feels far removed from the city. The Billy Goat Trail is only four miles long, but it’s a scramble, hence the name. “I love this hike because it showcases a lot of what I find so interesting about East Coast trails and outdoors in the Washington, D.C., area,” says Mike Wardian, a prolific ultrarunner who in 2008 won the U.S. National 100K. The Billy Goat is rocky, rugged, and technical and offers beautiful views of the rapidly flowing Potomac River. You might spot wildlife like eagles, blue jays, hawks, deer, owls, and snakes, depending when you go, Wardian says. You might also spot some world-class kayakers.

Pro Tip: Dogs are not allowed. Also, Wardian says the trail can be really busy, so early is best, although there’s a quiet lull in the late-afternoon as well.

Lead Photo: Bart Jaillet/Unsplash