Published: November 2008

Best New Trips: North America

The 25 best new trips in the world.
Text by Claire Martin
Building a Better Road Cyclist
Even before $4-a-gallon petrol, cycling was on the rise in the U.S. (Americans bought 18.2 million bicycles in 2007.) The fastest growing group of hammerheads: road racers. Lifecycle Adventures, the riding specialist, has designed a trip for these competitive-cyclists-in-the-making that’s equally focused on fitness goals and training techniques. Teaming up with the country’s best coaches, the San Francisco–based outfitter devises custom thigh-burning itineraries through the vineyards and river valleys of Napa and Sonoma. Its coaches consult with clients pre-ride and assess each cyclist’s goals (anything from a first century to a top-half finish in the Tour de California). Riders can pound out five-mile climbs on 1,900-foot Howell Mountain and, come afternoon, cruise 30 miles along rolling Silverado Trail road, enjoying the same sun and even-keeled temps (rarely does it dip below 50 degrees) that lure many pros to live and train here. Throughout the trip, Lifestyle’s coaches review data from the bike’s power meter (which measures speed, cadence, and energy output) to optimize performance and provide advice on nutrition and bike handling.

Outfitter: Lifecycle Adventures;
Price: $1,600
Length: 6 days
Departs: Year-round

Next: California: A Weekend Whitewater Expedition

A Weekend Whitewater Expedition
"[The] Middle Fork Feather is the most spectacular and most difficult river in this book: 32 miles of Class V—and worse—rapids in a remote, steep-walled canyon," wrote Jim Cassady in his definitive rafting guide, California Whitewater (North Fork Press, 1995). One of the first in the United States to achieve Wild and Scenic River status (in 1962), the Feather is one of the last to lure a commercial outfitter courageous enough to lead clients down those near-continuous Class V+ rapids. In 2009 Sierra Mac, known for pioneering and perfecting the legendary Cherry Creek/Upper Tuolumne run, will be the first to maneuver paddle rafts through the Feather’s first three canyons, each one more technical than the last. "I’ve been boating since the 1960s, and this is the hottest thing I’ve encountered," says Sierra Mac owner Marty McDonnell. The put-in is a straight shot 140 miles northeast of San Francisco. The four-day trip starts with six-foot drops through volcanic-rock chutes lined with cedar forest. The river then narrows and steepens through metamorphic bedrock and ends in Devil’s Canyon, which passes through a thousand-foot wall of granite. "Those few who successfully negotiate this river will share the wilderness adventure of a lifetime," Cassady promised.

Outfitter: Sierra Mac River Trips;
Price: $1,800
Length: 4 days
Departs: May–June

Next: New Mexico: Into a Billionaire’s Playland

New Mexico
Into a Billionaire’s Playland
Ted Turner is the largest private landowner in the United States, and 590,823 Vermejo Park Ranch (280,823 acres larger than Grand Teton National Park) is his biggest property. Since Turner snapped up the stunning high-country spread in 1996, biologists working for his Endangered Species Fund have overseen the restoration of Rio Grande cutthroat trout, black-footed ferrets, prairie dogs, and bison (the ranch has one of the only genetically pure bison herds in the world). Next year Turner, channeling Willy Wonka, will open his wonderland to the golden-ticketed clients of Montana-based Off the Beaten Path. "We’ve got what amounts to a private national park," says Cory Lawrence, the outfitter’s CEO. "It’s absolutely wild and serene." The lucky few (groups of ten) will mountain bike, hike, and horseback ride into the far corners of Vermejo, learning about Turner’s progressive land management tactics in short-grass prairie, ponderosa pine forest, and alpine tundra. En route, they’ll experience an American safari, scouting for brown bears, elk, deer, pronghorn, and bobcats. The ranch is equally rich in natural and cultural history: An associate of Kit Carson owned the land in the 1840s; in the 1920s a group of Hollywood actors, including Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, used it as a hunting and fishing getaway. At night, guests repair to deluxe safari camps or to Turner’s private residence turned lodge, an early 20th-century stone manse with a world-class library of Civil War literature.

Outfitter: Off the Beaten Path;
Price: $3,295
Length: 6 days
Departs: May, September

Next: Trinidad & Tobago: The Caribbean’s Best Kept Secret

Trinidad & Tobago
The Caribbean’s Best Kept Secret
Tiny Trinidad and Tobago, just seven miles off the coast of Venezuela, shares the mainland’s tropical flora, fauna, and rumpled topography. Its Indian-European-African-Carib-Amerindian culture, however, is one of a kind. Native Trinidadian Courtenay Rooks, managing director of outfitter Paria Springs, is an adventure pioneer, having spent years exploring the country by mountain bike and working with locals to locate, clear, and rebuild trails that date to the 1700s. Under his watch, ecotourism has caught on. Local farmers and shamans have become Paria Springs guides. "I really wanted to create a trip that combined culture and conservation, with the involvement of the locals," Rooks says. Paria Springs’ new cultural multisport trip does just that, as clients crisscross the islands by foot, mountain bike, sea kayak, and fin. During the ten-day journey, they summit the nation’s second highest peak (3,077-foot El Tucuche), paddle among caimans and scarlet ibis, jump off a 32-foot waterfall, and snorkel with damselfish and eels. Meals are sit-down affairs in the homes of locals ("a genuine cultural encounter, not a show," says Rooks) and usually involve curry (roti is a favorite, with curried goat, potatoes, chickpeas, and mangoes). Accommodations include rustic guesthouses and a modest new beach hotel on the sea turtle–inhabited north shore of Trinidad, where—even in seeming isolation—the sounds of calypso and steel drums fill the night air.

Outfitter: Paria Springs;
Price: $3,000
Length: 10 days
Departs: Year-round

Next: Alaska: Traverse Glacier Bay

Traverse Glacier Bay
It’s been more than a decade since anyone has set eyes on the massive ice caps, lakes, rivers, coastline, and mountains inside the remotest stretches of Glacier Bay National Park, and few people have ever attempted to cross this region. But that hasn’t stopped the staff at Alaska Mountain Guides from dreaming. "For almost 20 years we’ve stood in front of a giant map in our office, planning outrageous itineraries," says AMG director Darsie Culbeck. "The Glacier Bay Wilderness Traverse is perhaps the most classic of these routes." With a newly scored permit (one of only two in existence), the guides at AMG—specialists in Alaska backcountry travel—will lead an inaugural traverse of this 27-million-acre wilderness. Clients will sea kayak 30 miles in Muir Inlet amid glaciers, humpback and killer whales, seals, and puffins; trek across 15 miles of the Muir Glacier; and raft down 25 miles of the Tsirku River through a bald eagle preserve where moose, wolves, bears, and wolverines roam. The group gets expert instruction in expedition kayaking, mountaineering, whitewater rafting, and, at journey’s end, beer drinking.

Outfitter: Alaska Mountain Guides;
Price: $3,400
Length: 12 days
Departs: July, August

Next: Utah & Arizona: The Best of Canyon Country

Utah & Arizona
The Best of Canyon Country
The Colorado Plateau is a geologic anomaly—a tectonic block that has remained intact for 600 million years while the Earth's crust surrounding it has lifted (forming the Rocky Mountains to the east) and stretched (creating the Great Basin to the west). The result is perhaps the world's premier showcase of sedimentary rock: a massive complex of hoodoos, sandstone windows, arches, cliffs, and canyons carved by the Colorado River. In 2009 California-based O.A.R.S. launches a first ever guided traverse of the plateau—an itinerary that's equal parts whitewater rafting adventure, road trip, and hiking expedition. As travelers head south from Salt Lake City to Moab—with pit stops to hike 500-foot-deep Buckskin Gulch (the deepest slot canyon in the Southwest), raft Cataract Canyon and the Grand Canyon, or practice yoga on their own—they journey farther and farther back in time. Guides, trained in geology, discuss the finer points of plate tectonics and shed light on the region's latest pressures. "The Colorado River system is overdrafted—there just isn't enough water anymore," explains O.A.R.S. founder George Wendt. "If people can see the source of the river and travel down through the plateau in a different way, they'll have a new perspective on it." Instead of sticking to the river or hitting just a handful of parks, O.A.R.S. highlights the entire region. Guests experience six national parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Canyon, and Zion), plus little-known Dead Horse Point State Park and Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument.

Outfitter: O.A.R.S.;
Price: $4,749
Length: 12 days
Departs: May-September