Published: June/July 2009Instant Adventures

Mountain States

Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.

Text by Contributing Editor Robert Earle Howells
New Mexico
The Road Trip: Geronimo!

Kitsch is mandatory on summer road trips—and Truth or Consequences, named for a 1950s TV and radio show, is lousy with the stuff. In town, the Blackstone Hotsprings, a restored 1930s motor court, has rooms decorated to evoke classic television (think I Love Lucy) along with private geothermal soaking tubs surrounded by memorabilia (doubles from $75; blackstonehotsprings.com ). The newly christened 154-mile Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway runs right through downtown. Its northern route leads to hikes in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness amid stands of ponderosa pine and intersects with the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. The southern route gets you to old mining-days ghost towns like Kingston and Lake Valley ( geronimotrail.com). In between? A hot bath.

DIY Snowcat

In summer, the Beartooth Pass just outside Yellowstone’s northeast corner is your ticket to poor-man’s snowcat skiing: Drive up with some pals to a headwall high in the pass, let out a load of skiers, and meet them a couple thousand feet and a few hairpin turns below. Switch drivers. Repeat. The road is typically cleared by Memorial Day—then it’s time to feast on high-angle corn snow that often stays through July. The Gardner headwall is just southeast of the pass in Wyoming, with access to 1,200 feet of 40-degree-plus skiing. The Rock Creek headwall on the Montana side starts out crazy steep, softens a bit, and drops 1,500 feet. Camp down below along Rock Creek in Montana’s Custer National Forest ($9; www.fs.fed.us/r1/custer ). In the morning, purchase will be terrific, but still—be confident in your ski-pole arrest.

Flyover Stash

Between the Rockies and the Great Plains lies a wilderness secret: 50 square miles where mountains give way to foothills, canyons, and shortgrass prairie. It’s a landscape so unique that locals voted to tax themselves to preserve it in two seamless sections—Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space, both 25 miles north of Fort Collins. The rolling grasslands, which debut June 6, host 54 miles of new trails for mountain bikers, hikers, and equestrians. Cyclists should check out the Mahogany Trail, a 5.1-mile lollipop loop, and horse folk should prance along the 14.2-mile Plover Trail, which opens in mid-July after grassland birds have nested ( fcgov.com/naturalareas/soapstone.php ). No camping is allowed in the preserves, so bed down in Fort Collins, one of the Front Range’s most bike- and beer-friendly towns.

The Next Big Whitewater

Peter Grubb, founder of ROW Adventures, is bullish on the Lochsa River come June: “It’s like the Gauley or the Tuolumne,” he says, “only bigger and with more whitewater miles.” Lochsa is a Nez Perce word for “rough water,” and the river tumbles to the tune of 40 feet a mile. “At higher water levels, there are sections we don’t run because the risk is unreasonable,” Grubb adds. But he and his crew aren’t all about adrenaline. They’ve built a log cabin resort on the placid Clearwater River—home base for running the Lochsa for a day (boat trip, $112; rowadventures.com ) or fly-casting down the Clearwater (two nights, doubles from $360; riverdancelodge.com ).

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