Mountain Bike the Tahoe Rim Trail
Photograph by Scott Markewitz, Aurora Photos
Encircling the largest alpine lake in North America, the 165-mile (266-kilometer) Tahoe Rim Trail just may be the singletrack with the greatest view in the United States. More than 80 miles (129 kilometers) of the trail are open to mountain bikes. In fact, the riding here is so sublime that the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) named the 21.8-mile (35-kilometer) section between Tahoe Meadows and Spooner Summit as one of its Epics, an honor bestowed on trails that epitomize the best that mountain biking has to offer. Read the whole article here.
Paddle Lake Powell
Photograph by James Kay, Stock Connection/Aurora Photos
The huge upside of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, nexus of an environmental battle lost a generation ago, is the emergence of its progeny, Lake Powell, as a supreme freshwater kayaking destination. The lake’s green-water tentacles extend from the main 185-mile (300-kilometer) watercourse into 96 side canyons, where kayakers can paddle free of tides, waves, currents, and motorboats. A reverential hush inevitably descends upon a group of kayakers when they proceed into slots of Navajo sandstone towering 500 feet (150 meters) overhead that constrict to barely the length of a paddle. Read the whole article here.
Heli-Ski the Ruby Mountains
Photograph by Joe Royer, Ruby Mountains Heli-Experience
Located about halfway between Reno and Salt Lake City off a lonely stretch of Interstate 80, Ruby Mountains Heli-Experience offers an Alaska-size day of powder shots in the Lower 48. Only in the isolated Ruby Mountains, you won’t have to share any of it with other backcountry skiers or snowboarders. Read the whole article here.
Hike the Zion Narrows
Photograph by James W. Kay, Aurora Photos
If any place has the power to inspire awe, it’s the Zion Narrows, southern Utah’s premier hike in Zion National Park. For 16 miles (26 kilometers), the canyon winds voluptuously through the crimson sandstone, in some spots stretching 2,000 feet (610 meters) high and narrowing to 20 feet (6 meters). Read the whole article here.
Dive Freshwater Caves
Photograph by Wes C. Skiles, National Geographic
Little known fact: Florida’s best diving isn’t in its saltwater. It’s hidden in the northwestern corner of the state, which is riddled with freshwater springs that flow through mazes of limestone passageways. Few people ever witness the strange sights of these underwater chambers—fossils, sunlight beaming in from holes in the cave ceilings, and even ancient mastodon tusks—because the only way to see it all is by donning a mask and flippers. Read the whole article here.
Learn to Fly a Wingsuit
Photograph by Jimmy Halliday, Aurora Photos
Learning how to jump out of an airplane wearing something that looks like a superhero costume—and then, well, fly like one—sounds like the most impossible, extreme thing a person could try. Really, it’s not. Modern wingsuits, which consist of extra fabric under the arms and between the legs to provide enough lift for flight, are popular and allow parachutists to enjoy freefall longer. Read the whole article here.
Raft the Owyhee River
Photograph by Brandon Sawaya, Aurora Open
The last great underappreciated epic river in the Lower 48, the Owyhee weaves through Idaho’s southwestern sage steppes, cutting deep canyons into cliffs of volcanic rhyolite. Surrounded by an ocean of three million acres (1.2 million hectares) of sagebrush desert, the Owyhee, as locals call the whole region, is rich with songbirds and sage grouse leks, ancient archaeological sites, and ruined homesteads. Read the whole article here.
Bodysurf the Wedge
Photograph by David McNew, Getty Images
Most of the time, when humans mess with nature, they lose. But at the Wedge, a monstrously big and powerful break off Newport Beach, California, they hit the jackpot—for bodysurfers, that is. There, an Army Corps of Engineers jetty relays big swells, forming slow-moving, pyramid-shaped waves that, during South Pacific storm cycles, can top 30 feet (9 meters). They’re too steep for surfers but perfect for the ultimate man-versus-nature contest: bodysurfing. Read the whole article here.
Camp With Alaskan Brown Bears
Photograph by Alaska Stock/National Geographic
It’s thrilling to see big browns with no fence or barrier between you and them. At the Great Alaska International Adventure Vacations Bear Camp, you can quietly watch a dozen or more brown bears from a spruce-fringed meadow that lies between Mount Iliamna in Lake Clark National Park & Preserve and Cook Inlet. Or try out the camp’s viewing platform elevated 15 feet (4.5 meters) above the grassy plain, where hungry brown bears congregate in late spring and summer to fatten up on the supple shoots. Read the whole article here.
Fly-Fish the Spring Creeks of Paradise Valley
Photograph by Barry Beck, Aurora Photos
According to Montana author Norman Maclean, the only pure way to catch a trout is on a dry fly. After all, in the first lines of his A River Runs Through It, one of MacLean’s characters says that “all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.” And there is no more religious experience for a dry fly angler than catching big trout on the spring creeks of Montana’s Paradise Valley. These slow, rich, clear waters require great art with a fly rod, but they also pay out the greatest reward—big, fat rainbow and brown trout. Read the whole article here.
Ice Climb Hyalite Canyon
Photograph by Boone Speed, Getty Images
The ice of Hyalite Canyon, just south of Bozeman, has gained fame as the proving ground of legendary Himalaya climbers Conrad Anker and Alex Lowe, as well as a spot for the locals to just get out and swing their picks. Filled with countless waterfalls in the summer, Hyalite sets up with a smorgasbord of ice climbs in the winter. Routes range from popular, consistent classics to ephemeral wisps of ice that have only have been climbed one season. Read the whole article here.
Backcountry Ski the 10th Mountain Division Huts
Photograph by Pat Gaines
Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division Huts are the fruits of one man’s crazy idea: Fritz Benedict, a 10th Mountain Division soldier who fought in World War II and an Aspen architect, dreamed of setting up a system of winter huts to rival the Alps’ Haute Route. The results arguably outdid the Europeans at their own game. Read the whole article here.
Boulder Hueco Tanks
Photograph by Bobby Model, National Geographic
It’s the climber’s equivalent of Mecca: Every winter, between November and March, thousands of climbers from across the world make the pilgrimage to Hueco Tanks, an 860-acre (348-hectare) bouldering area outside El Paso, Texas, with more than 2,000 problems—and counting. It’s renowned for its dry, sunny weather, bombproof igneous rock, and fantastical rock formations that make for endlessly challenging climbing. Read the whole article here.
Hike Yellowstone’s Wild Southwest
Photograph by Christopher Zimmer, My Shot
It’s a mighty high claim to call one backpacking trip in our archetypal national park the best, but it’s hard to top this traverse of the southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park. Factor in a hot soak or two with a hike beside burbling hot springs, steaming fumaroles, streaming waterfalls, a grand finale at the park’s signature attraction and you’ve got plenty to back up the boast. Read the whole article here.
Trek Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, Alaska
Photograph by Whit Richardson, Aurora Photos
Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, the country’s largest national park, operates on an entirely different scale than the Lower 48. Let’s just review the numbers: Six times the size of Yellowstone, it’s home to the country’s largest collection of glaciers and peaks over 16,000 feet (4,879 meters), including nine of the 16 tallest mountains. Read the whole story here.
Climb the Diamond on Longs Peak
Photograph by Kennan Harvey, Aurora Photos
In general, Colorado’s famed fourteeners—the state’s 54 peaks over 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) tall—are pretty easy to climb. This makes the east face of 14,259-foot (4,346-meter) Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, which serves up the biggest buffet of multipitch, big-wall routes this side of Yosemite, even more of a prize. The east face’s sheer, 2,000-foot-high (609-meter-high) Diamond is a true, big mountain adventure that requires confidence in climbing 5.10 rock and the guts to sleep out in a portaledge. Read the whole article here.