Published: September 2008
Pacific States
Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.
Text by Contributing Editor Robert Earle Howells
WASHINGTON
Hiking: Sleep in the Sky

It’s pretty rare to be able to see three states and another country from a single perch, especially when that perch is your bed. Such is the high life at Mount Spokane’s Quartz Mountain Fire Lookout (5,129 feet). The cabin sleeps four, and from its windows you can scan the lake-dotted cedar and hemlock forests of Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, and Washington’s Selkirk Range ($60; parks.wa.gov/yurtsandcabins/quartzmtn.asp). More conventional lodging is available down the hill in Bear Creek Lodge ($65; bearcreeklodgewa.com). The surrounding 13,919-acre Mount Spokane State Park is laced with a hundred miles of bike/hike trails, including a great seven-mile ride called the Kit Carson Loop, which gains a cool 5,000 feet. Three Peaks Loop, a stellar day hike, starts near the lodge and runs 14 miles to the mountaintop (5,883 feet) and Vista House, a storybook stone cabin (day use only) that’s got nothing on that abode in the clouds.

OREGON
Tree Climbing: Hug a Tree

Scaling the tall conifers of southern Oregon’s Rogue River Valley is the arboreal version of big-wall climbing. The guides at Tree Climbing Northwest will gladly lead you up high for a simple overnight in a tree-slung hammock. Or you can give it three days and some serious effort and come away with mad tree-scaling skills ($575; newtribe.com). TCN is about “bringing people and trees together,” says Sophia Sparks, president and human-conifer matchmaker. As for the clinic, “It’s intense, but anyone can do it,” she says. TCN will teach you how to “read” a tree, execute the all-important rope throw, and tie the most useful knots. If guides and students are game, the course culminates with a night 150 feet up, on a ridge in forest so thick you (mercifully) can’t see the ground.

CALIFORNIA
Biking: Cruise Tahoe Slopes

Before snow flies (and snow bunnies multiply), Tahoe is mountain biking’s stunning little secret. Exhibit A: the runs at Northstar-at-Tahoe’s mountain bike park, some of which overlook Lake Tahoe and all of which serve up big views of surrounding Sierra peaks ($39 for a day pass; northstarattahoe.com). But don’t get too distracted on runs like Gypsy, replete with manicured berms, tabletop jumps, and log rides. Or on smooth roller coasters like Big Trees & Little Trees, which features a teeth-saving 120-foot boardwalk above a gnarly rock garden. Reading the terrain commands your full attention. Village at Northstar is the area’s most biker-friendly crash pad ($69, including lift tickets; villageatnorthstar.com).

CALIFORNIA
Kayaking: Talk With the Animals

Paddling Morro Bay has a certain Evan Almighty quality to it: Impossibly cute sea otters swim to your boat, as do harbor seals, bat rays, and the odd leopard shark, while you navigate the protected waters of this old-fashioned fishing village. Dusk is a great time to play animal wrangler with Central Coast Outdoors ($99; centralcoastoutdoors.com). You’ll glide through a heron preserve, across a salt marsh, and onto the sand spit for a sunset dinner—grilled sausages, veggie burgers, local wines. Make it a weekend by staying at the Back Bay Inn in nearby Los Osos and hiking up Valencia Peak in Montaña de Oro State Park for one of the best views of the central coast ($145; backbayinn.com).