Published: August/September 2009
Pacific States
Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.
Text by Contributing Editor Robert Earle Howells
Water From Stone

Burney Falls doesn’t conform to standard waterfall protocol— you know, river flows downhill, reaches cliff, tumbles off. Walk along Upper Burney Creek above the cataract and you won’t see a thing, just a dry riverbed. Then a couple of pools of water. And then—bam!—a 129-foot waterfall spilling a hundred million gallons of water a day. Burney’s secret? Five underground rivers converge to form it, with nary a tip-off. Two short trails in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park lead to the headwater pools and the base of the falls. The park’s other paths—including a section of the Pacific Crest Trail—wend through the volcanic landscape shaded by cedars and firs. You’ll find 128 campsites ($20; and 24 cabins in the woods near Lake Britton ($72;

Bike, Soak, Sleep

We’re not giving anything away here, at least not to Oregonians. The 26-mile McKenzie River Trail is one of the state’s great mountain bike rides, with a little bit of everything the knobby-tired set covets, including elevation loss (a 1,500-foot descent from the trailhead at Clear Lake, between Bend and Eugene on Oregon 126). The riding is technical, with lava rock sections— full-suspension recommended—and fast flats, smooth descents, and enough serious pedaling to call it a workout. But the real draw is what surrounds the trail: old-growth forest, roaring waterfalls, and Clear Lake (the McKenzie’s aptly named headwater). Just beyond trail’s end is a worthy reward: Belknap Hot Springs, where you can soak in mineral pools and bed down (tent sites, $25; cabins from $65; Cog Wild Bicycle Tours offers a shuttle from Bend ($35 per person;

Surf the Wind

On a stretch of coastline better known for wintertime big-wave surfing, superb summer winds make Waddell Creek, 20 miles north of Santa Cruz, one of California’s best and safest places to learn to kiteboard. High-wind season runs through October, and a prevailing side breeze guarantees you won’t get blown clear to Japan. Santa Cruz Kitesurfing School teaches basic board skills, water starts, and straight-line riding—all with video support. For a more advanced tutorial (back roll, anyone?), just look seaward, where some of the best kiters in the country gather ($100 an hour;

Bellingham by Boat

[SAVE THE DATE: Aug. 29-Sept. 26] Bellingham is one of those towns that always takes “best place to live” honors. Two good reasons why: paddling Salish Sea and pedaling the Interurban Trail. Elakah Expeditions hits both on a daylong trip that starts at Chuckanut Island, site of a 10,000-year-old shell midden. River otters and seals provide a water escort, while onshore EE guides lead the 15-mile ride down the Interurban Trail, an abandoned rail bed through ferny cedar forests ($110;