5 Spring Break Trips That Don’t Require Boozing In Mexico

Neon colored fruity cocktails consumed poolside with college students and bad house music in the background not really your thing? Spring break can be a lot of things, and it doesn’t have to fit the classic stereotype of sunburned jocks taking tequila shots in Cabo.

Spring is that perfect time of year when it’s not quite summer but the weather’s nicer so you can take full advantage of the great outdoors while still avoiding the larger crowds of tourists. If you’re willing to invest a little time in adventure planning, you can get some serious payoff. This is the time of camping and road trips after all.

So start packing your tent and down sleeping bag and get ready to explore. And although you might not be boozing at Senor Frogs, feel free to bring a flask of high-quality whiskey. It’s perfect around a campfire.

Explore Red Rock Country, Southwestern Utah

Some of my best spring break trips have been spent in southwestern Utah. This is the hotspot of mountain biking, canyoneering and just good old-fashioned exploring. If your mountain biking legs are itching to get out, you can’t do any better than the White Rim Trail. Arches National Park is always busy no matter what time of year, so either be sure to reserve your campsite in advance or opt for the less frequented Canyonlands; Squaw Flat Campground in the Needles District is easy to access from Moab, but is far enough out that you’ll definitely feel off the grid. You’ll freeze at night, but during the day you’ll get dessert spring heat and low crowds. Be sure to bring ample down and wool for when the sun sets.

Hike in Yosemite National Park, California

One of the most iconic and most visited National Parks in the US, you should do whatever you can to avoid Yosemite National Park in the peak of summer. Springtime, however? Have at it. Because you are at elevation, you will need to pack layers, and you’ll need to be ok with the potential of waking up to snow on the ground, but you’ll have a beautiful park with a touch more peace and quiet than most people see it in. Take a day hike to explore a small part of the John Muir Trail.

Highway 101 Road Trip, Oregon and California

It might not be warm enough to do the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible, but a drive down the coast of Oregon and California in springtime is a beautiful thing. There are plenty of state parks along the way, which are much less crowded this time of year, and you’ll pass through enough cities that you can log in some urban adventures.

Bike in Yellowstone National Park, Montana

In the summer you can barely see a buffalo without a tourist and a camera right next to it, and cycling within the National Park would be near suicide, but in the early spring when the roads are plowed and the crowds have yet to arrive en masse, cycling is an excellent way to explore Yellowstone. It’s still a time of year when you are subject to the desires of the weather gods, so you will want to check with the local park service which roads are open.

A Hut-to-Hut Trip at Mount Rainier, Washington

Cross country skiing and snowshoe in the Mount Tahoma Trails Association‘s hut and yurt system. The trail system lies just outside of Mount Rainier National Park, and includes two cabins and a yurt for overnights. You’ll want to be sure to check availability online, and weather can quickly change your winter adventure into more of a muddy hike, but the views of Mount Rainier from High Hut are stunning and certainly worth it.

[Photo Credits: Anna Brones]

Montana’s Moonlight Basin Mixes Luxury And Winter Adventure

Moonlight Basin offers winter adventure visitorsIf you’re looking for an adventurous, not to mention luxurious, winter escape, it’s tough to beat a visit to Moonlight Basin. Located in Big Sky, Montana, Moonlight is a beautiful and exclusive resort that offers guests world-class skiing, fine dining and a full-featured spa. The resort is a wonderful oasis of refinement in a spectacular mountain wilderness, and they’re currently offering travelers a winter adventure package that will provide memories for a lifetime.

The Montana Adventure Package includes lodging for two at Moonlight Basin, where guests will enjoy ski-in, ski-out accommodations for a minimum of four nights. The resort features some of the best skiing in all of North America, with more than 100 runs spread out across 1900 skiable acres. Those numbers expand to more than 230 trails and an astounding 5532 acres when you add in the interconnected routes that link Moonlight with nearby Big Sky Resort.

For many travelers, the skiing and snowboarding at Moonlight is quite the experience in and of itself, but the Montana Adventure Package offers even more opportunities to explore this impressive winter wonderland. Guests who purchase the package can also elect to go dog sledding or visit nearby Yellowstone National Park via either a snow coach tour or on a guided snowmobile excursion. Alternatively, they can also choose to take a romantic dinner sleigh ride after a long day on the slopes. Guest can pick any two of these experiences as part of the package.

Rates for the Montana Adventure Package start at $1509 per couple. This special is available by call-in only and Moonlight Basin can be reached at 877-822-0430. If you’re looking for a winter escape that will both thrill and pamper you, it’s tough to beat this option.

[Photo Credit: Moonlight Basin]

Yellowstone National Park Opens For Winter Season Tomorrow

Yellowstone National Park in winterThe National Park Service has announced that Yellowstone National Park will open for the winter season beginning tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. Visitors will be able to gain access to the park via the North, South and West Entrances and travel is allowed on interior roads via commercially operated snowcoaches or on guided snowmobile excursions. Also opening for the season starting tomorrow will be the Geyser Grill, the Bear Den Gift Shop, and the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, all centrally located near Yellowstone’s star attraction, the Old Faithful geyser. Other lodges and restaurants around the park, as well as its East Entrance, are expected to open next week.

Established in 1872, Yellowstone is America’s first national park and remains incredibly popular to this day. On an annual basis, the park attracts in excess of 3.3 million visitors, but only about 100,000 of them actually come during the winter. That means that travelers who venture into Yellowstone during the colder months will find a pristine and serene setting that is free from the crowds that are common during other times of the year.

I was fortunate enough to visit Yellowstone during the winter a few years back and found it to be an amazing travel experience. The place is so vast that you can spend the whole day cross country skiing, snowmobiling or snowshoeing, and never run into another person. The wintery landscapes are simply breathtaking and when intermixed with all of the geothermal activity, the park truly takes on an otherworldly look at times. Additionally, much of the wildlife that Yellowstone is so famous for is at a lower elevation and easier to spot during the winter months. Bison, elk and even wolves are common sights, although the bears are all sleeping comfortably in their dens.
Yellowstone is one of my favorite parks any time of the year, but during the winter, it goes to a whole new level. If you’re looking for a great winter escape for 2013, then definitely consider visiting the park. I recommend staying at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel or Old Faithful Snow Lodge to get the full experience.

If you do go, be sure to bundle up in your warmest clothes and pack your sense of adventure. You’ll need them both!

[Photo Credit: Kraig Becker]

Photo Of The Day: Buffalo In Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park is among our country’s most famous, and arguably most beautiful, natural wonders. In addition to dramatic scenery, the park is home to an impressive array of wildlife, including elk, wolves, bears and that most iconic of symbols from the American Plains: the buffalo. I love the lighting, the idyllic setting and most importantly, the herd of buffalo grazing in today’s photo of Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, courtesy of Flickr user Max Waugh Photography.

Taken any great photos of our nation’s national parks? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Max Waugh Photography]

US News & World Report Ranks Best Vacations

kauaiIt’s time for summer vacation, and we’re pretty sure we could use a long week at the beach. Thanks to U.S. News & World Report, we now know the most statistically sound places to maximize our oh-so-precious vacation time, sorted by region.

The new rankings identify the top vacation spots based on a methodology that combines expert and consumer opinions. They reflect how strongly a destination is recommended by travel experts and U.S. News Travel website users.

According to the survey, Bali, Kauai and the Seychelles take the top awards for “Best Beaches” while Barcelona, Paris and Berlin rank on top for Best European Vacations. Within the U.S., Yellowstone, New York City and Washington, D.C., are the most coveted destinations.

In total, more than 200 destinations were considered in the current rankings, and this marks the first time the publication has ranked the “Best” list on a global scale.

[Flickr image of Kauai by Chuck 55]