Today, we’ve rounded up the best outdoor adventure spots for everyone from the serious surfer to the climbing enthusiast. Get your calendar ready--you’ll have some serious adventures to pencil in once you’re done with this one.
For the Avid Outdoorsman: Yosemite, California
We couldn’t compile a list of our favorite outdoor adventures without including the breathtaking Yosemite National Park. A 1,200-square-mile park that’s part of the iconic Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, Yosemite has a wide range of terrain and no shortage of areas to explore. We recommend spending a full week here. You’ll find everything from massive age-old Sequoia trees to sprawling meadows to deep valleys and towering peaks.
We recommend staying at Tenaya Lodge, one of the Park’s more high-end cabin hotels. The lodge is a prime example of balance between architecture and nature. It boasts a grand lodge aesthetic that manages to exude luxury, while still feeling cozy and remaining true to its natural surroundings. Set just two miles from the south entrance to Yosemite, the hotel sits amidst the Sierra National Forest and offers beautiful views. We particularly like their free-standing cottages, for those looking for more privacy and space.
Yosemite has different things to offer throughout all of the seasons, but we recommend planning your trip for mid to late spring, as the Park’s famous waterfalls will be running and its meadows, in full bloom. For cross-country travelers, we recommend flying into SFO, though LAX, Reno-Tahoe, Oakland International, San Jose International and Sacramento International are all viable options as well.
You’ll need to rent a car for the drive to Yosemite. SFO is about a four-hour drive from Yosemite, while the other airports listed range from 4.5-8 hours. Keep in mind the drive to Yosemite, regardless of where you’re coming from, is beautiful, as you’ll make your way into the Sierras for the last hour or so of the drive. Passengers should have a camera ready and, bird enthusiasts should bring along a good pair of binoculars, as you’ll definitely catch some raptors as you weave your way into the Valley.
As far as entering the park itself goes, you can choose to either drive in with your rental car (cars are permitted) or park at your hotel or in a nearby lot and take one of the Park’s shuttle busses. You’ll need to pay $30 to enter the park by car, $20 by motorcycle and $15 on foot or bicycle, so bring cash or a card with you.
Must-see attractions include the renowned El Capitan, Glacier Point and the renowned Half Dome. The experienced hiker can apply for a permit to hike Half Dome, but the hike is one of the Park’s most sought after and, therefore, most crowded. For those with less experience, we recommend hiking easier portions of the Yosemite North Rim Trail (the entire trail is 31 miles long), where you’ll see some of the best views the part has to offer (including an unbelievable view of Half Dome).
After you’ve spent 3-4 days hiking and exploring the Park, we recommend taking advantage of Tenaya’s Ascent Spa before you head home. Try a Firefall Body Renewal to combat dryness that trips to the arid area usually result in, or opt for the Hiker’s Trek Treatment, for a focus on sore lower legs after days of wandering through the wilderness.
For the Climber: Red Rock Las Vegas
Another one of our favorite outdoor getaways happens to be in Sin City, a spot not often recognized as an outdoorsman’s destination. Just west of the Valley, though, sits Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, an absolute climbing mecca. Implied in its name, the area boasts a set of piercing red rock formations (the Calico Rocks), that make the perfect playground for hikers and climbers alike.
You can either enter the park on bike or in a vehicle. You’ll need some cash or a card for a day pass and, once you purchase one, can take the 13-mile, one-way scenic loop around Red Rock (this happens to be a cyclists’ favorite). You’ll find a number of turn-offs, trailheads and dirt roads, where you can either stop for a photo op, or hop out and start hiking. For beginners, we recommend taking the Lost Creek Trail, a .75-mile trail that’s fairly easy. You’ll hike into a cool canyon, where, during the right time of year, you’ll find a waterfall (yes, in Las Vegas.)
For more experienced hikers, we prefer the New Oak Creek trail. The beginning portion of the trail starts out on the exposed valley floor (so you won’t want to take this trail in the dead of the Las Vegas summer), but you eventually meander your way into a cool, shaded canyon that offers tons of features for climbers to explore.
The area also offers countless options for bouldering, but the Craft Boulders in Calico Basin are a crowd favorite (right before you enter the park, off of Highway 159). You won’t need to pay to play in Calico, as it’s not technically part of the Park (though it sits right outside of it).
We recommend staying at Red Rock Resort and Spa, one of Vegas’ newest (and nicest) hotels. We love that Red Rock is off the strip, and offers a Vegas experience that isn’t saturated with tourists or yard-long margaritas. Weekdays are best if you’re looking for a less-crowded time to visit, and early spring or late fall will offer the best conditions for long day hikes. After a long day of hiking, treat yourself to the fried oreos at the high-end T-Bones Chophouse in Red Rock Resort. You won’t be disappointed.
For the Surfer: Pacifica, California
Just south of San Francisco is one of our all-time favorite sleeper towns, Pacifica, California. This quaint town of about 38,000 is a perfect spot for beginner-advanced surfers and ocean-worshipers alike.
We love the Pacifica Beach Hotel, a charming boutique hotel right in the heart of Pacifica, just a stone’s throw from the Pacific. Surfers can stay here and enjoy a three-minute walk to Linda Mar Beach across the way for a day chock-full of riding easy, manageable rollers.
Even on its most crowded of days, Pacifica is never too overrun with tourists, as it’s one of Northern California’s best-kept secrets. But, if you’re looking for serious seclusion, we recommend visiting Pacifica on the weekdays. Waking up early and catching sunrise waves alongside just a few other surfers makes for one of our all-time favorite beach days.
We recommend making your way into Half Moon Bay, the town just south of Pacifica, for shopping and dining. Our favorite local restaurant is Half Moon Bay’s Cameron’s Pub (you have to try their Fish & Chips), a charming laid-back bar that offers a true Half-Moon-Bay experience. For a more high-end dining experience, we love Puerto 27 (in the same lot as the Pacifica Beach Hotel), a peruvian restaurant boasting some of the best (and most authentic) ceviche we’ve had to date.
For the Spa Enthusiast: Sedona
For the outdoors-enthusiast who still wants to treat themselves to some luxury (yes, please), we recommend a trip to Sedona, Arizona. A desert town near Flagstaff, Sedona is famous for its red rock formations and, in particular, Cathedral Rock.
We recommend splurging on a spa and wellness retreat at Mii Amo, the area’s most high-end destination spa. You’ll get the best value with one of Mii Amo’s all-inclusive packages. You can choose from either 3-, 4-, or 7-day packages. Each includes spa treatments, and full hotel accommodations. Keep in mind that, because these are all-inclusive spa retreats, certain packages require certain arrival days.
Mii Amo’s spa services range from the more traditional--massages and body wraps--to less-traditional personal consultations, like Reiki Healing Attunement, psychic readings and hypnosis. We recommend opting for at least one of the spa’s less-traditional options, especially if you’re there for four or more days. Mii Amo’s psychic massage is a crowd favorite, as is its Interactive Aura Photography.
If you can pull yourself away from the zen vortex that is the Mii Amo property, we recommend driving to Cathedral Rock, Sedona’s most well known landmark. The drive to Coconino National Forest will take you about 30 minutes, but is well worth it. If you’re planning to hike, visit Sedona in the early spring or late fall, as temperatures can reach the high 90’s in the heart of summer (though it usually cools down at night).
For the Snow Bunny: Mount Rose, Lake Tahoe
If you’re hoping to get in one last ski trip before this season comes to close, we recommend Mount Rose, Lake Tahoe. Mount Rose is Tahoe's highest base elevation and offers some of the area's best snow. Visiting during the dead of winter is obviously your best bet for fresh powder, but early spring also offers beautiful blue bird days.
Located just 40 minutes from Reno, Nevada, we recommend staying at Whitney Peak Hotel, a non-gaming, non-smoking, health-focused lodge in the heart of downtown Reno. You can then drive up to Mount Rose in the early morning, taking the scenic Mount Rose highway that offers beautiful views of the Truckee and Washoe Valleys. We also love that Basecamp at Whitney Peak features the world’s tallest climbing wall (for those who didn’t get enough activity in on the slopes).
Heritage Restaurant, one of famed Chef Mark Estee’s passion projects, is located in the Lobby of Whitney Peak and happens to be one of our favorite places to dine in the area. Their breakfast hash is a perfect meal to scarf down before heading up to Mount Rose for a day of snowboarding or skiing, and they offer a great happy hour (perfect for winding down after a long day on the mountain). Their Beet Salad and Chicken and Waffles are both crowd favorites for dinner, and their Root-Beer wings and Bacon Candy make for great late-night snacks.
What are your favorite outdoor adventure spots? Share them with us in the comments section below.