Even after you master the art of gearing up and plunging into a sandstone slot in Zion, potential perils await. "I rappelled down a 40-foot cliff, then a 100-footer," recalls erstwhile Zion Rock & Mountain Guides student Silvana Clark. "But the bottom was filled with water. There was no way through but to swim in 42-degree snowmelt." This explains why much of the intermediate course (which starts with the basics) is about problem-solving. After three eight-hour days in the slots, you’ll troubleshoot like a pro. And about that 42-degree water—yes, wetsuits are provided ($465; zionrockguides.com).
Think you’re fit from all those gymbound stair-climbing sessions? Put your quads to the real-world test by entering the Bisbee 1000 stair climb. The race honors the heritage of the small Old West mining town east of Tucson—the stairs, built during the Depression by the WPA, follow old mule paths that once connected Bisbee’s copper mines. The run is a 5K and climbs 1,034 steps and a few steep roads (October 18; bisbee1000.org). The 1902 Copper Queen Hotel is the place to stay ($122; copperqueen.com), and Bisbee Breakfast Club is the place to fuel up (try the killer breakfast burrito).
Jennifer McCarthy is the Cesar Millan of the hiking set. Whether you’ve got a problem pup or just want your best friend to behave a bit better on the trail, a weekend at her retreat—at 8,000 feet in the Rockies high above Boulder—is a good bet. The boot camp clinic is pretty intense: eight-hour days of dog and owner training. "The owners are a lot harder than the dogs," McCarthy says. She teaches myriad fancy tricks and deals with difficult problems like aggression, but even your average friendly hiking mutt can benefit: "We do a trail-ready course that meets City of Boulder leash law," she says. "Your dog can only hike off-leash in Boulder if it’s trained to come back to you if it sees an animal. Since we have cats and deer on the ranch and bears and lynx in the mountains, they learn how to deal with distractions." Dogs and owners bunk right in McCarthy’s house for the weekend ($2,999 for one dog; jmdogtraining.com).
"Fall is a magic time on the Bighorn River," says Nick Forrester of Forrester’s Bighorn River Resort. The inn owner and former biologist isn’t talking about the color in the cottonwoods, alders, and chokecherries lining the river in south-central Montana. He’s extolling the emergence of tricos, a kind of mayfly, which bait 20-inch brownies into rising for a feast. Forrester and his chef wife, Francine, run the handcrafted, rustic-luxe, Orvis-certified lodge perched on the Bighorn’s uppermost stretch. The place may ooze machismo—cigar loft, wing shooting trips, bison and pheasant on the menu—but it doles out plenty of creature comforts, like blueberry pancakes and organic coffee. If weather happens to skunk a day of float-fishing, relax by a huge river-rock fireplace or journey 30 miles up to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument ($1,400 all-inclusive for two days’ fishing, three nights’ lodging; forrestersbighorn.com).