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.
Big City Mountaineers, an organization dedicated to changing the lives of urban youth through outdoor, wilderness encounters, has announced that early registration for the Summit For Someone program is now available, allowing altruistic and adventurous travelers to take part in one of their 2011 expeditions simply by paying a $50 early application fee. This reservation earns them one of just 150 slots on their 2011 roster of mountain climbs, giving participants the chance to scale such famous peaks as Mt. Rainier, Mt. Shasta, or even Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.
The Summit For Someone program is the number one mountaineering fund raiser in the U.S., and a primary source of funding for the Big City Mountaineers. Those that choose to join a climb pledge to raise a certain amount of money for the organization, and in return they receive an adventure of a lifetime, and a gift card to help them purchase gear for their adventure. The amount of money that they pledge to raise varies depending on the climb, for instance, on a four day expedition to the top of Rainier, they’ll need to earn $4000, while a seven day ascent of the Alaskan peak Denali requires a pledge of $7500.
This year, the Summit For Someone program is more accessible than ever. In years past, a $1000 deposit was required by October 1st for participants to claim their spot. This year, they have been given the option to either pay a $450 deposit or raise $1250 in funds that will serve as the deposit instead.
Some of the other climbs that are included on the 2011 schedule for Summit For Someone include the 14,505 foot tall Mt. Whitney in California or the 13,809 foot Gannett Peak in Wyoming. There is also an expedition planned to climb volcanoes in Mexico, a beginner mountaineering seminar in Rocky Mountain National Park, and a full traverse of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire as well. For a complete list of the planned expeditions click here.
For adventure travelers, the Summit For Someone program is a great opportunity to not only experience a true wilderness adventure, but also give something back in the process. The money they raise goes directly to the Big City Mountaineers program, which in turn uses the funding to create meaningful experiences for at-risk urban youth who would normally never receive the opportunity to explore the outdoors in such a way. Each year, BCM helps hundreds of kids to build self-esteem, confidence, and communications skills through their program.
Travel, adventure, the great outdoors, and a chance to help a great organization. What more could you ask for?
For many travelers, the default mode of transport is a plane or a car, but they’re certainly not the only options. Have you ever considered adding a bicycle ride to your next trip? Riding a bike has a number of advantages over other forms of transportation. You’ll move slower, no doubt, but with that slowness comes an increased awareness of your surroundings, a chance to get some fresh air and exercise and the sense of accomplishment that comes with a great ride. Whether you’re looking to ride across the USA or simply take a leisurely pedal around a nearby town, Gadling has compiled the following list of 20 great bike rides. Take a look below!
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Straddling the divide between Lake Huron and Michigan, Mackinac Island transports bikers to the simpler days where horse drawn carriages and bicycles were the main modes of transportation. Not having to worry about sharing the road with motorized vehicles, with the exception of emergency and service vehicles, this island is a cyclist’s haven. With 3 bike rental outfits to choose from, anyone can enjoy this National Historic Landmark filled with Victorian charm on 2 wheels and after a visit here, you will not want to return to the hustle and bustle of the 21st Century.
Newport, Rhode Island
It is understandable that images of the renowned Newport Mansions are the first to come to mind when you hear “Newport, Rhode Island.” Admittedly grand on the inside, riding by these mansions from the outside and through the surrounding parts of town are just as breathtaking. Take the path passing by the Newport Harbor, Brenton Cove, Ocean Ave, and of course Bellevue Ave where you get a feast for the eyes with the famed Marble House, The Elms, and Chateau sur Mer, among other grand homes and before long, you can understand why the rich chose this location as their summer playground.
Monterey Bay, California
California’s Monterey Bay is filled with many options for a scenic bike ride. The famous 17 mile drive meanders through Pebble Beach but those who prefer skipping the entrance fee can be rewarded with an equally scenic ride on what some dubbed the “Poor Man’s 17 Mile Drive”. Drive down to the Asilomar State Beach where parking can usually be found and ride along the coastline through the town of Pacific Groves where in the spring you may come upon the harbor seal pups lounging on the sand and frolicking in the ocean. Do not forget to bring binoculars for those otter sightings as you bike through Monterey and Cannery Row.
Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii
When one thinks of Maui, biking is probably not on the top of the list. However, they would be missing one of the best bird’s eye view experience. Although Haleakala National Park eliminated commercial downhill bike tour operations a few years back, bikes are still allowed. Those wishing to bike downhill from the summit can rent bikes from Haleakala Bike and experience unparalleled views of the island itself as they bike down. Two tips for riders: Have someone drop you off at the summit so you will not have to ride back up to pickup your car and wear layers that you can peel off as you descend from 40 degree temps at the top to 80s at the bottom.
Napa Valley Silverado Trail, California
Although not along a coast or body of water, the Napa Valley Wine Country is a beautiful place for a scenic bike ride. Start in picturesque Yountville and take the less crowded Silverado Trail that parallels CSR 29. You will find yourself surrounded by the yellow mustard fields in the spring and vineyards that stretch for miles that for a moment, you might think you were in Tuscany. You can not go wrong with a bike ride here any time of year. After an invigorating ride, you can enjoy a leisurely picnic and a wine tasting or two at a choice of wineries, including Duckhorn and Rutherford Hill. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
South of the famous Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming’s other gem, Grand Teton NP offers hundreds of miles of hiking trails but biking paths are harder to find. Since accessibility is limited in areas, joining their “Scenic Guided Bike Ride” would be the best and safest option. The bike tour will have you riding through open prairies, under the peaks of the Teton Mountain Range, and through sagebrush flats where you may spot where the buffalos roam.
Sausalito/San Francisco, California
Marin County’s Sausalito is reminiscent of a coastal Mediterranean town with its colorful houses clinging to the hillsides and houseboats along the north end of town. Riding through downtown will offer you views of the SF skyline and the bridge in the distance and those who are on a mission to chase that mirage can ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and back or through San Francisco and return by ferry.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
New England’s Martha’s Vineyard south of Cape Cod is a popular spot for celebrities but knows how to retain its low key atmosphere. With over 44 miles of bike trails and roads available, there are options for beginners and advanced riders alike. The “down-Island” route is mainly flat, great for beginners and families while the “up-Island” route is for more experienced riders. Either way, you will get to experience the versatility of this place with its changing landscapes from the gorgeous waters and beaches to the meadows to the red Aquinnah Cliffs. Before long it will seem like everything is a vista point.
Lake Tahoe, California
Tahoe, known for its ski slopes and casinos may find that it may still be a hidden gem for mountain biking. Northstar Ski Resort opens up its lift access for downhill mountain biking adventures in the summer. Just purchase a lift pass and you can take the lift up and bike down. For those less adventurous, get a “pedaling only pass” to access the park and cross country ride for free from a choice of beginner to advance trails all with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and trees.
Coronado, California San Diego County’s picturesque coastal community offers a village atmosphere with a downtown filled with shops, restaurant, and theaters. With many bike friendly areas to choose from, you are treated to ocean views, architecture, and history including the home of Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum. He was so in love with Coronado, many erroneously thought his vision for the Emerald City must have stemmed from the Hotel del Coronado. Erroneous or not, anyone can see how a place like Coronado can be so inspirational.
Rock Creek Park Trails, Washington DC (5-50 miles) Suggested starts: N. Pitt St and Second St. in Alexandria or Dupont Circle in DC
There are so many great bike paths in the DC area, but this is one of my favorite rides, from Alexandria’s Old Town with its many federalist buildings, along the Potomac River, past Reagan National Airport and Arlington Cemetery, across the river at Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial, and then into Rock Creek Park. There are a few tricky transitions, particularly around the Lincoln Memorial, and the path is very popular on weekends. Parts of the Rock Creek Park roads are bikes-only on weekends. You can take your bike on Metro for the return trip too.
Mississippi River trail to Chain of Rocks Bridge, St. Louis Missouri (20 miles) Suggested start: Commercial St. and Carr St., downtown St. Louis
St. Louis is my hometown now and this is a frequent route because it is relatively flat and has some great views both of the River and the industrial side of the city. You can see the Arch at many points along the river, as well as pass multiple levees and locks. It ends at a bridge that is closed to car traffic and figured prominently in the movie “Escape from New York”. There are links to other trails that cross the river and you can return on the Illinois side, for some variety. Few services along the way, bring lots of water.
Brooklyn Bridge, New York City (5 miles) Suggested start: Park Row and Centre Streets, New York City, across from City Hall
This is the one iconic ride in Manhattan that anyone can do, and while packed on the weekends (and you share the path with pedestrians), during the week it can be very enjoyable. It is a bit of a climb too. Finding the path on the Brooklyn side can be a challenge, and if you want more than the bridge ride you can travel across Chambers Street in Manhattan and connect with the path along the Hudson River along the West Side Highway.
Crater Lake Rim Road, Oregon (33 miles) Suggested start: Rim Village parking lot
This road circles Crater Lake, a volcanic caldera that contains almost pure water of the most amazing color blue. The road is only open during July and August since at more than 7,000 feet it is snowed in the rest of the time. There is light auto traffic but the views are unparalleled of the lake and the surrounding mountains. If the 33-mile ride isn’t sufficient, you can hike down to the lake in one spot too. Only attempt this if you are in excellent shape and have ridden at altitude before.
St. Michaels to Easton, Maryland (36 miles) Suggested Start: Courthouse on Washington St. in St. Michaels
This part of Maryland is completely flat and very picturesque. You will be near water and boats and biking on very rural (meaning little traffic but plenty of ruts) roads. There is even a short ferry to take across the Tred Avon River that runs frequently. There are numerous historic buildings that date from colonial times and dozens of B&Bs and restaurants to take advantage of when you are done biking. Some of the roads are in poor condition so better to use a heavier mountain or hybrid bike for this trip.
Shelter Island, New York (10-50 miles) Suggested start: Greenport, NY ferry terminal/Long Island Railroad train station
Shelter Island is a small island that is nestled between the two forks of Long Island, and is a biking paradise. The roads are well maintained, there is hardly any traffic, and while it has hills, you are never far from water and great views of the Peconic Bay . You can do many trips in the area, including a circle one that takes in both ferries, but starting in Greenport is best for the variety of services, restaurants, and places to stay nearby. Plus, you can take your bike on the Long Island Rail Road to there too. Saltspring Island, British Columbia, Canada (~30 miles) Suggested start: Sydney, BC ferry terminal
This trip will take some planning but is worth it because you have virtually no traffic once the cars leave the ferry, have lots of interesting places to visit, and you’ll be biking through some of the most spectacular scenery in North America. There are dozens of small islands that are perfect for biking and BC Ferries and the ferry from Sydney is a good place to start. Saltspring Island is one of the bigger islands in between Vancouver Island and the mainland, and you can take other ferries to other islands as well as Vancouver Island to continue your exploration.
Santa Monica to Manhattan Beach, California (10-40 miles) Suggested start: Dockweiler Beach State Park
The best beach bike path is very crowded in summer, but great the rest of the year. You visit the Venice Boardwalk, go around the Marina Del Rey’s many boat docks, underneath the flight path of LAX airport, and past many surfers to end up in trendy Manhattan Beach. Parking is difficult, and finding your way around the Marina can be a challenge.
Death Valley, California (10-100 miles) Suggested start: Furnace Creek Visitor Center
There are no water views on this ride but you are traveling between two lovely mountain ranges with hardly any traffic. Skip the summer months, but this ride is great the rest of the year when temperatures are more moderate. You can go up to a century to Jubilee Pass (1300 foot) or more moderate distances. The road is a bit rough in spots and no shoulders. Paradise, Mt. Rainer, Washington (40 miles) Suggested Start: Nisqually Entrance of the park
This is another trip for very experienced cyclists. You are riding on narrow mountain roads with no shoulders and at altitude, and this route will rise more than 3,000 feet in the 20 miles it takes you to get to Paradise. The good news is that the return trip will take no time at all and it is a breeze. The best time to do this ride is in late August or September. Weekends can be crowded with cars. The views of the mountains are unparalleled.
Outdoor Research, manufacturer of a full line of great outdoor gear, is giving adventurers the chance of a lifetime with their Climb A Northwest Icon sweepstakes. The contest will send one lucky winner to Washington state, where they’ll have the opportunity to climb Mt. Rainier, led by one of the best mountain guide services in the business.
To enter the contest simply click here and fill out the online entry form any time between now and September 30th. Later this fall, the winner will be announced, and sent off on a 3-4 day guided climb of Rainier, led by International Mountain Guides, a company that has experience on peaks from the Himalaya to the Andes and beyond. The contest includes round trip airfare to Seattle, and $1500 worth of gear from Outdoor Research as well. The prizes don’t end there however. Two second place winners will each receive a Mithril Jacket courtesy of OR, while five third place winners will each get a pair of Outdoor Research Arete Gloves. The contest is is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.
Standing 14,411 feet in height, Rainier is the tallest mountain in Washington, and one of the top climbs in all of North America. To reach the summit, climbers will have to cross a massive glacier, the largest in the contiguous United States, and ascend a vertical prominence that is taller than the legendary K2. Depending on their experience, and the weather conditions, most people will reach the summit in three days, where they are treated to an outstanding view of the landscapes around them, including two massive craters that are remnants of the mountain’s volcanic past.
On a personal note, I have a number of gear items from Outdoor Research, and after months of use, they continue to impress me. They may not be as well known as some of the other, larger, gear manufacturers, but they do produce high quality gear for all kinds of activities. I highly recommend them for your next outdoor adventure.