Smart peak baggers know that the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is not just a tourist train, but a ticket to a fourteener bonanza in the San Juan Mountains. At the Needleton stop, grab your pack from the boxcar, cross the suspension bridge over the Animas River, and hike seven miles to camp in Chicago Basin at about 11,000 feet. The shimmery gold aspen only add to the allure of the three peaks that loom above—Eolus (14,086 feet), Sunlight (14,069), and Windom (14,082). They’re nontech, but some Class 3 and 4 scrambling makes them a fun challenge. If you want a guide, hire one from Southwest Adventure Guides ($350 a day; mtnguide.net). And tourist train or not, getting there is nearly as dramatic as climbing there ($79 round-trip; mtnguide.net).
"Saw more big trout rising than I have ever seen," Ernest Hemingway wrote to his son Jack after his first visit to Silver Creek in 1939. What he saw were leviathan-size browns and rainbows, 25 inches and longer. But when Jack visited the next year, he came up empty. Skunked. Because then as now, Silver Creek’s monsters are extraordinarily wary, gobbling the abundant fall hatches in lieu of your fly. "You have to stealth fish it," says one local. "They can hear you cast. Without perfect fly presentation, forget it." Hit an access point just south of Highway 20 between Picabo and Carey, about 40 miles south of Ketchum. Much of the best fishing is in the Nature Conservancy’s Silver Creek Preserve ( nature.org). Minimize the skunking likelihood by hiring a guide ($325; silvercreekoutfitters) and maximize the Papa angle by staying in Sun Valley Lodge ($139; sunvalley.com).
Tracy Reed, founder of the Moab Ho-Down Bike Festival, describes the 2009 edition in modest terms. "It’s bigger and more badass than ever," she says ($33; October 30–November 1; moabhodown.chilebikes.com). Don’t worry—you don’t have to be a badass to go yourself; shuttle-assisted group rides on classic trails like Porcupine Rim and slickrock playgrounds like Super Bowl are the real focal point of the three-day funfest. As are the evening Townie Tour (bring your cruiser bike), the Halloween costume contest (win a cruiser bike), and the premiere of the local bike-porn series, World Disorder 10. But if you do indeed consider yourself bad, sign up for the Mushroom Drop freeride contest, whose crux is a truly sick jump, or for the supertough Super D and downhill races on Sunday. Or, for that matter, the hot pepper–eating contest—easily as painful as the Mushroom Drop.
By definition, the Nature Conservancy knows all about the country’s coolest wilderness secrets (it buys them up to preserve them). Occasionally, these wilds grandfather in some equally cool buildings. Case in point: Bear Mountain Lodge near Silver City, set on 178 acres adjacent to Gila National Forest (doubles from $140; bearmountainlodge.com). An exquisitely renovated 1920s hacienda, the 11-room B&B has hand-carved staircases and furniture built from sustainably harvested trees. It’s a perfect home base for exploring TNC’s nearby Gila Riparian Preserve, with 300 bird species, or the amazing Whitewater Canyon catwalk trails that span mining streams in Gila National Forest. Drop into Silver City for the green chili at Jalisco Café.