Published: October 2009
Pacific States
Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.
Text by Editor at Large Robert Earle Howells
Baja
Swimming With Sharks

Las Animas Wilderness Resort is the sleepy Baja that bewitched John Steinbeck. In fall, its Midriff Islands teem with 40-foot whale sharks, brown boobies, pelicans, and the world’s craziest concentrations of elegant terns and Heermann’s gulls. It’s like a safari. In the desert. On the coast of Mexico. Sleep in a luxury yurt, head out daily to fish, bird, clam, hike, sail, kayak—and swim near those preposterously huge but gentle giants. Baja Air Ventures flies you in a prop plane from San Diego (12 hours if you drove) and ferries you to the off-the-grid, blessedly silent huddle of eight yurts and a dining room on a placid cove beneath steep, rocky mountains (four-day/three-night trips, $1,495, including flights; six-day whale shark trips, $1,895; bajaairventures).

Washington
Escape From Leavenworth

[THE BASE CAMP] Situated in a wooded valley of the eastern Cascades, the Bavarian town of Leavenworth is your base for some of the Northwest’s best day trips. Trek to Spider Meadow near Lake Wenatchee—a moderate 12.5-mile round-trip hike with fall color and few people. Or mountain bike Freund Canyon, a 4.5-mile climb to views of town and the surrounding valleys followed by a mind-the-water-bars plummet. Or climb Icicle, southwest of town, which has single-pitch routes in abundance and a stellar 5.9 multipitch called Outer Space on 800-foot Snow Creek Wall. The upside of Leavenworth’s touristy vibe is a wealth of woodsy places to stay. Our pick: the tucked-away Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort (doubles from $198; sleepinglady.com). And of course, there’s the obligatory Oktoberfest the first three weekends of the month.

Oregon
Really, A Tepee

October mornings can be freezing on the banks of the John Day River in Clyde Holliday State Recreation Site. No matter—you’re snug in your tepee ($29; oregonstateparks.org). When daytime temps hit the 90s, venture out on short riverside hikes beneath the tall cottonwoods and maples, watch for elk and mule deer, or grab a rod and try for trout. Best of all, Clyde is within eyeball range of the unsung Strawberry Mountains, which run up to 9,038 feet. An hour’s drive gets you to day hikes to alpine lakes, such as the 4.5-mile trail from Strawberry Lake Campgrounds to Slide Lake. That tepee will look good at day’s end.

California
Hike With Baccus

[SAVE THE DATE: Oct. 25-29] Wine country blurs when you're doing the standard tasting-room crawl. "But you will remember the wines vividly," says Allan Wright, owner of Sonoma Vineyard Walks, "when you’ve had a great walk and you’ve seen a bald eagle soaring above the grapes." On SVW’s three-day tour, you hit a winery a day and hike into the long rows of vines, whose leaves are bright red in October. SVW will lead a five-day walk through Sonoma County’s loveliest vineyards October 25–29 ($1,900, including meals and lodging) and will arrange the three-day version anytime ($495, including some meals; sonomavineyardwalks.com). Wine country blurs when you’re doing the standard tasting-room crawl. "But you will remember the wines vividly," says Allan Wright, owner of Sonoma Vineyard Walks, "when you’ve had a great walk and you’ve seen a bald eagle soaring above the grapes." On SVW’s three-day tour, you hit a winery a day and hike into the long rows of vines, whose leaves are bright red in October. SVW will lead a five-day walk through Sonoma County’s loveliest vineyards October 25–29 ($1,900, including meals and lodging) and will arrange the three-day version anytime ($495, including some meals; sonomavineyardwalks.com).