Ten outdoor destinations with everything!

Who says you can’t have it all? For many travelers vacation time is limited. Those in search of adventure want to maximize that short window of travel time. Here are ten cities where adventure-seekers can expand their options with a range of heart-pounding choices.

Buena Vista, Colorado
Buena Vista translates to “beautiful view.” It’s easy to understand why the name stuck. Nestled into the central Colorado highlands, this Colorado town just might be the hidden adventure gem of the Rockies. Peak-baggers have twenty 14ers within roughly an hour-and-a-half drive from Buena Vista, making it a perfect base camp for high-altitude hiking. Ski Cooper, Monarch and Aspen are all close by for a winter sports fix and the class III-V Arkansas River provides thrilling whitewater rafting all summer long.

Cape Town, South Africa
South Africa is considered by many to be the adrenaline capital of the world. Cape Town has no shortage of blood-pumping options. Traditional sports like sea kayaking and mountain biking are epic here, but there’s also more unique endeavors like sand boarding. If that’s still not enough to get adrenaline junkies excited, there’s always the shark cage diving experience.
Vancouver, Canada
Adventure pursuits like sailing and kayaking are synonymous with this famous Canadian coastal city. Of course, skiing is the main draw in Vancouver, a fact reinforced by the city’s selection as host of the 2010 Winter Olympics. One visit to Whistler Blackcomb, among the top ranked snow resorts in North America, and the powder crazed will fall in love.

Quito, Ecuador

I was on the summit of a 15,763 foot active volcano within four hours of leaving my hotel in Ecuador’s capital city, Quito. This short trek with dizzying altitude is but one of the quick fixes found in this city of less than two million. Rural Ecuador is still developing its adventure sports attitude, but when using Quito as a starting point guides can be found easily. Cotopaxi, one of the world’s most perfectly shaped volcanoes, is only a two hour drive from town. Cycling and mountain biking have seen a huge boom in recent years and bike rental companies are eager to take visitors on epic rides through the Andes for up to two weeks in length.

Bar Harbor, Maine
In Summer, the population of this quaint Maine fishing village swells from around 5,000 inhabitants to 18,000, and for good reason. Surrounded by paddling and sailing opportunities, those making their way into the area’s bays can not only watch whales and seals but can spot a variety of stunning bird species such as Bald Eagles and Puffins. During my stay I found that land based options are equally as spectacular with Acadia National Park sitting just out the back door. Hiking provides views of the channels and bays while the park’s abundant exposed rock opens up endless climbing opportunities. There is even a climbing school in the city for those uninitiated to the sport.

Castries, St. Lucia
Once travelers work their way past the cruise ships and trinket shops, a world of adventure awaits in Castries, the capital city of St. Lucia. Professional mountain biker Tinker Juarez designed a trail system specifically for the Anse Chastanet Resort. Beginner, intermediate, and expert single track trails wind their way through former plantations and lush jungle vegetation. Diving and snorkeling opportunities abound along St. Lucia’s shore. More experienced divers will find wreck diving just off the coast. This Caribbean island is even home to a diving shop named Scuba Steves. What more could a beach bum want?

La Paz, Bolivia
Trek along ancient Inca trails, raft the class II-IV rapids or the Rio Tuichi, or take on the world’s highest ski resort Chacaltaya. If that’s not enough adrenaline, mountain bike the Death Road, reported to be the most dangerous mountain bike ride in the world.

Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland boasts average highs between 59 and 75 degrees year round. The mild temperatures make for an ideal adventure sports hub. Rappel into massive caverns with Waitomo Cave Adventures to explore the underworld of New Zealand. You will need at least two weeks to take in all the adventure Auckland has to offer. Surfing, horse trekking, sailing, and magnificent hiking can all be found near this city in the “Land of the Hobbits.”

Bend, Oregon
With a beautiful trout stream rippling through town and ski slopes just up the road at Mount Bachelor, Bend accommodates Winter and Summer visitors alike. I found a trail run around Todd Lake that was the perfect way to take in a pristine alpine setting. Backpack the 40-mile Three Sisters Loop and enjoy jaw-dropping views of these triplet peaks.

Chamonix, France

France’s Chamonix has long been known as the site of world-renowned ski resorts and awe-inspiring vistas of the Alps. But these days, the French city is also home to an “air park” where brave visitors can paraglide from just below snowy summits and soar above green pasture. For those who prefer their adventures a bit closer to the ground, there’s the Via Ferrata course. Via Ferrata takes rock climbing to the masses with metal steps and small ledges for climbers to use, all while clipped in to a secure cable system.

Having your cake and eating it too was never so easy. Any of these world-class destinations should be a crowd-pleaser for even the most ambitious adventure travelers.

The Poconos pair autumn foliage with a wide-range of lodging options

Located in northeastern Pennsylvania, the Poconos Mountains have been a haven for people looking to escape the bustle of city life ever since Buck Hill Falls Inn and The Inn at Pocono Manor resorts opened in 1901 and 1902. With its reputation as a perfect getaway location, the Poconos has continued to be developed with things-to-do offerings and options for places to stay. In the fall, the more than 100 types of trees become a palate of color brilliance.

With a bit of planning, you can time your visit to hit the foliage at its peak and settle in for a night at one of the Pocono’s lodgings whether you prefer a vacation rental tucked in the woods, or a Poconos resort like the Inn at Pocono Manor that includes a golf course, horseback riding and a spa. Because eighty percent of Pennsylvania’s resorts are located here, there are plenty of choices. The Buck Hill Falls Inn, however, is no longer open. It is for sale, though. Annie also suggests Rentalo.com for seeking out lodging deals. She found a Poconos hotel for $75 per night. There are even less expensive digs listed here. If you’re interested in a couple’s only retreat, the Caesar’s Paradise Stream may be the answer.

To help you decide where and when to go and the best route to take for the best fall foliage here are 8 suggestions:

  • Ricketts Glen State Park–Considered the most scenic part of Pennsylvania, this park has more than 20 waterfalls, a gorge and old growth timber. Some trees are 500 years old. The area not to miss here is Glens Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark.
  • Lehigh Gorge State Park–Great place to see wildlife because the gorge’s river serves as a transportation corridor. A unique way to visit the area is by taking an Audubon Auto Tour.
  • Hickory Run State Park –Has scenic overlooks, hiking trails and trout streams. The park’s Boulder Field, is also a National Natural Landmark. An Audubon Auto Tour is also available for this park.
  • Big Pocono State Park–From the summit of Camelback Mountain the view includes part of New Jersey and New York. There’s a paved scenic drive, so you can get the view without hoofing it.
  • Lacawac Sanctuary–This historic nature preserve is a place to pair foliage with wildlife viewing thanks to folks who treasure the environment and share. In October there are fall foliage walking tours.
  • World’s End State Park–If you go here, head to Canyon Vista.
  • Beltzville State Park–The park’s 949-acre lake is a stopping place for migrating birds and if you walk along Saw Mill Trail you’ll pass through remnants of area history going back to the 1700s.
  • Delaware River Gap National Recreation Area–Why not see fall foliage from the water? Adventure Sports offers canoe, kayaking and rafting trips through the end of October.

    To help plan a scenic drive, here’s an excellent resource I found. This page on TripCart outlines specific driving routes and highlights places to look for and things to do along the way.

    Call the Pocono Mountain Fall Foliage hot line at (570)421-5565 for an up to date report on what colors can be seen where and when. Included in the recording are the types of trees that show such glory. I just called and can vouch for this resource. It’s terrific. Here is an on-line version.

  • Best adventure videos on the web

    When National Geographic Adventure decides to run an article titled, Top Ten Online Adventure Flicks, you just know that your productivity at work will slam to a halt until you’ve watched all ten.

    The videos are fortunately short in length and cover a variety of genres such as kayaking, BASE jumping, rock climbing, snow boarding, skiing, surfing, mountain biking, and the art of parkour.

    In short, it’s a miniature Banff Film Festival on your computer. And yes, it will make you feel spineless and a bit of a loser watching other people live exciting lives while you’re hiding behind the safety and comfort of your work cubicle.

    Go ahead. Click it again and dream a little.