50 Great American Adventures
A selection of thrills from sea to shining sea.
Written and reported by Rich Beattie, Jason Cochran, Jennifer V. Cole, Amy Farley, Martin Forstenzer, Granville Greene, David Howard, Xander Kaplan, Eric Kater, Dean Kuipers, Clark Mitchell, Celeste Moure, Clara Ogden, Dan Oko, Kira Salek, Jack Stephens, Anya Strzemien, Bonnie Tsui, and Marion Winik.
Sometimes, a trip is more than a trip—it's an adventure. An opportunity to test your limits, to learn something new, to find yourself—whether you're alone on a mountaintop or with a group, diving to the ocean floor, in a city or even indoors. Adventure today is about much more than braving the elements: it's also about embracing unique experiences. From a classic kayaking trip through Yellowstone to a training session with a Hollywood stunt team, here are 50 ways to seek your thrills in the United States. Plus: Dream trips and gear recommendations from adventurers who have been there and back.
Related: The Best Vacation Spots in the U.S.Water
The Trip Small-boat cruising through Glacier Bay and Prince William Sound.
Why When you board the small-scale boats and sail past this gorgeous landscape, the Dall's porpoises, Steller's sea lions, bald eagles, and other wildlife come close, and the local humpback whales are nearly half the size of the ships. Try sea kayaking amid icebergs and hiking on glaciers.
Don't Miss Photographing orcas cavorting off the bow.
Wilderness Travel, 800/368-2794; www.wildernesstravel.com; Glacier Bay cruises from $2,995. Geographic Expeditions, 800/777-8183; www.geoex.com; Prince William Sound cruises from $2,950.
The Trip Kayaking the Buffalo National River, through the remote wilderness of the Ozark Mountains.
Why Dillard's Ozark Outfitters offers exclusive tours of Crooked Creek, near the Lower Buffalo.
Don't Miss The great abundance of wildlife—mink, beaver, bobcats—along the creek.
Dillard's Ozark Outfitters, 800/423-8731; www.dillards-outfitters.com; kayak rentals $35 per day.
The Trip Explore the Everglades among otters, orchids, and alligators with naturalist and photographer Jeff Ripple.
Why You can customize your tour: walk the swamp for a day or sign up for a four-day stint.
Don't Miss A glimpse of the American crocodile—an endangered species of which there are just 1,000 left. The southern Everglades is the only ecosystem in the world where crocs and alligators coexist.
Dragonfly Expeditions, 888/992-6337; www.dragonflyexpeditions.com; four-day trip $2,500 per person.
The Trip White-water rafting on the rapids of the 40-mile-long Chattooga River, where the movie classic Deliverance was filmed.
Why In the three-hour mini trip, you'll learn precision paddling from an expert guide as you glide down Chattooga's easier Section III run.
Don't Miss An overnight excursion—which includes a catered trout dinner—will take you to Chattooga's challenging Section IV.
Southeastern Expeditions, 800/868-7238; www.southeasternexpeditions.com; from $49.
CLASSIC The Trip Surfing in Waikiki, where the sport was born.
Why Modern surfing has abandoned Honolulu's tourist-choked beaches, but grab one of the heavy old 10-foot planks for rent anywhere in "town," as islanders call it, and you'll discover why a statue of Duke Kahanamoku still blesses the bay where Jack London learned to ride the waves. Summertime swells are bathwater warm and perfectly shaped.
Don't Miss Local delicacies, such as laulau.
The Trip Sailing and diving along the remote Napali Coast of Kauai.
Why Austin-Lehman Adventures has a multisport tour that includes catamaran sailing in the Pacific and biking around Waimea Canyon's volcanic rim. You can also take advantage of Pure Kauai's customized spa vacations and end a day of sailing with a muscle-melting massage.
Don't Miss Snorkeling off powdery, 15-mile Polihale Beach, or a kayak tour of the coast from Haena to Polihale to look for humpback whales and sea turtles.
Austin-Lehman Adventures, 800/575-1540; www.austinlehman.com; six-day itinerary from $2,848 per person, double. Pure Kauai, 866/457-7873; www.purekauai.com; seven-day trips from $2,500 per person, double.
The Trip A 6-day chauffeured raft ride through the canyons of Idaho's Main Salmon River. Mackay River Wilderness Trips' advance teams set up luxury camps, so when rafters stop for the evening, tents are already pitched.
Why This summer, guides will be adding a spare "cataraft" to each downriver regatta. Borrow one when you feel like some easy paddling.
Don't Miss The high-end cuisine, cooked over an open flame, including local salmon and paella.
Mackay River Wilderness Trips, 800/635-5336; www.mackayriver.com; from $1,495 per person.
The Trip Wreck Valley, off the south shore of Long Island, a diving spot with an impressive concentration of historic shipwrecks, including rumrunners, wooden schooners, and paddle-wheel steamships.
Why You'll be one of the first to climb aboard the Wreck Valley, a custom-built boat from Aqua Explorers; it's piloted by Captain Dan Berg, author of 10 books on shipwreck diving.
Don't Miss If you're lucky, Captain Dan will find you a fresh lobster to take home.
Aqua Explorers, 516/868-2658; www.aquaexplorers.com; from $65.
The Trip Mona Island, 50 miles west of Puerto Rico, is known as the Galápagos of the Caribbean. Mona's carefully protected status (it's home to the endangered giant Mona Island iguana and leatherback sea turtles) guarantees pristine diving.
Why No more than 100 visitors are allowed on the island at any time—score a permit early to camp on Sardinera Beach.
Don't Miss Snorkeling at Playa Carmelita, where visibility can reach 150 feet.
Nekton Cruises, 800/899-6753; www.nektoncruises.com; seven-night trips from $1,820 per person, double. Puerto Rico's Department of Natural Resources (787/724-8774) coordinates permits.
CLASSIC The Trip OARS's five-day kayak tour in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, suitable for beginners and veteran paddlers alike.
Why A support boat provides a restful perch from which to view the majestic peaks. Guides prepare first-class wilderness cuisine at one of the few outfitter camps on Jackson Lake.
Don't Miss A rafting trip down Class I rapids along the seven-mile stretch of the Snake River that connects Yellowstone Lake to Jackson Lake.
OARS, 800/346-6277; www.oars.com; trips run June to mid September; $894 per person.
The Trip Hike the 1,000-foot rock formations of Boynton Canyon at the otherworldly Enchantment Resort in Sedona. The 70-acre desert retreat is surrounded by miles of rugged terrain, including the Coconino National Forest.
Why The two-hour Vortex Walk: acertified Qigong instructor will guide you through the red rocks, among them a majestic spire that locals call Kachina Woman.
Don't Miss The 90-minute Table Thai Massage at the Mii Amo Spa.
Enchantment Resort, 800/826-4180; www.enchantmentresort.com; doubles from $395.
CLASSIC The Trip A 17-day trek along the John Muir Trail—the backbone of California's Sierra Nevada. The Mountain Travel Sobek hike is demanding but spectacular, covering 146 miles of the trail's most scenic section, between Yosemite and Mount Whitney.
Why This is the outfitter's only U.S. multiday trek that provides mules to lug all camp gear.
Don't Miss The predawn climb to watch the sun rise from the top of 14,495-foot Mount Whitney.
Mountain Travel Sobek, 888/687-6235; www.mtsobek.com; $4,400 per person.
The Trip A hike through the Pisgah National Forest.
Why You can choose a one- to three-day Smoky Mountain trek: the company provides camping gear and llamas—smart, agile, calm animals—to haul it. Scale the walls of Panthertown Valley; rock-climbing instructors will meet you there.
Don't Miss Standing on top of 4,629-foot Max Patch Bald for a 360-degree view of the Smokies.
English Mountain Llama Treks, 828/622-9686; www.smokymountainllamatreks.com/; from $70.
CLASSIC The Trip Canyoneering through Escalante Canyon, in the red-rock country of southern Utah.
Why Thanks to the worst drought in recent history, the surface of Lake Powell has dropped 130 feet, curtailing boat traffic and exposing remote sections of beautiful Glen Canyon and the lower Water Pocket Fold that have been submerged for the past three decades. This year, Escalante Canyon Outfitters plans to lead several five- and six-day trips into these emerging natural wonders. And Abercrombie & Kent offers bespoke trips in the area.
Don't Miss The pictographs and granaries of the extinct Anasazi civilization.
Escalante Canyon Outfitters, 888/326-4453; www.ecohike.com; from $200 a day per person. Abercrombie & Kent, 800/323-7308; www.abercrombiekent.com; four-day trips from $1,345 per person, double.
The Trip The Hayduke Trail.
Why The 812-mile track links up the Southwest's greatest hits, passing through six national parks in Utah and Arizona, including Arches, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. A pair of self-proclaimed desert rats officially opened the trail this spring with the publication of a map-filled guidebook.
Don't Miss The hike in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which takes you into several sandstone slot canyons so narrow you can drag your hands along both walls at once.
Deep Desert Adventures, 435/260-1696; www.deepdesert.com; from $800.
The Trip Cabin living above it all at Cedar Creek Treehouse.
Why After a day's hike in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, you'll stargaze from your bed through the skylights of a wooden cabin50 feet up a 200-year-old rain-forest cedar, or contemplate Mount Rainier from on high.
Don't Miss Crossing the vertiginous Rainbow Bridge to the glass-encased Treehouse Observatory, a smaller lookout 100 feet up a nearby forest giant.
Ashford; 360/569-2991; www.cedarcreektreehouse.com; doubles from $250.
The Trip The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail curls along the Cook Inlet for 11 miles—entirely within the city limits of Anchorage.
Why On clear days, walkers, runners, bikers, and cross-country skiers can view a row of high peaks, including the nation's tallest, Mount McKinley.
Don't Miss Sightings of beluga whales in the inlet.
Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau; 907/276-4118; www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/aktrails.
The Trip High-speed bicycling on the banked oval track at the only international standard velodrome in North America.
Why The track at the Home Depot Center near Los Angeles offers a six-week introductory course in this exclusive sport, often taught by members of the U.S. Olympic Team.
Don't Miss After certification, join the training races: on Saturdays there are endurance disciplines like pursuit, points, and Madison; Sundays are for sprint forms like scratch, Keirin, and match sprints.
Home Depot Center, 18400 Avalon Blvd., Carson; 310/630-2072; www.homedepotcenter.com; course $185.
The Trip Kayaking beneath the sea cliffs of San Francisco Bay.
Why The Hotel Vitale, a new, 199-room boutique property on the revitalized Embarcadero waterfront, offers its guests four-hour kayaking excursions with unique views of the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island.
Don't Miss Intermediate and advanced paddlers can brave the waves under the Golden Gate Bridge, or charge across the strait to Alcatraz and circle the former island prison.
Hotel Vitale, 8 Mission St., San Francisco; 415/278-3700; www.hotelvitale.com; Vitality Weekend package $299 per night, double, including kayak rental and guide.
The Trip Explore New Orleans while riding a Segway.
Why Let the bon temps roll by gliding around town on a single-person, stand-up electric scooter. Get acquainted with your machine during the 30-minute training session, then don the probably-a-good-idea helmet and set off on your half-day tour.
Don't Miss The saxophonists in Jackson Square.
City Segway Tours, 877/734-8687; www.citysegwaytours.com; $65.
The Trip A half-mile of white-water kayaking in the heart of downtown Reno.
Why Within walking distance of casinos and hotels, the man-made Truckee River Whitewater Park features 11 drop pools, Class II to III rapids, and water temperatures that range from 50 to 70 degrees.
Don't Miss The North Channel's great views of downtown.
775/334-2414; www.renoriverfestival.com; free.
The Trip Mastering the art of the flying trapeze.
Why Trapeze School New York, founded in 2002, will erect its own big top this spring—a giant tent along the Hudson River dedicated to the art of flying. Gravity defiers can convene for two-hour classes year-round. Don't Miss Upside-down, mid-air city views.
Trapeze School New York, 917/797-1872; www.trapezeschool.com; sessions from $47.
The Trip Boulder scaling in Central Park. Why Because the climbing can be done very low to the ground, without a safety rope or spotter, bouldering provides an intense and fun workout for solo adventurers.
Don't Miss Rat Rock is easily identifiable by its many white chalk marks. The north face of the wall is best for beginners, while the east side offers some challenging "problems" (boulderingspeak for "routes").
Visit www.climbnyc.com for info.
The Trip Bike through Philadelphia with local hero Jane Golden, whose city art program has been turning desolate gray corners into rainbow dreamscapes for 20 years.
Why One hundred indoor and outdoor murals were created in 2004, bringing the total to 2,500 citywide. Among those unveiled: a multistory tribute to African American poetry; "Healing Walls," a series by prison inmates and victims of crime; and "Passing Through," a postmodern treasure hunt composed of 20 satellite murals.
Don't Miss Lunch with Golden—a tiny tornado of inspiration and energy.
Mural Arts Program, 215/685-0750; www.muralarts.org; tours $25.
The Trip A four-day Grand Canyon multisport adventure, featuring guided hiking along North Rim trails and van-supported mountain biking on backcountry off-road terrain.
Why Record rains and snowfall last winter will bring stunning, lush wildflower displays this June.
Don't Miss The unusual perspectives of the canyon seen from the Rainbow Rim Trail.
Canyon Rim Adventures, 800/897-9633; www.canyonrimadventures.com; trips run June-September; $795 per person.
The Trip Mountain biking in the Sonoran Desert.
Why The Miraval resort's courses in the sport, from beginner to advanced, are top-notch.
Don't Miss The prairies filled with wildflowers along the way.
Miraval, 5000 E. Via Estancia Miraval, Catalina; 800/825-4000; www.miravalresort.com; doubles from $1,100.
The Trip Biking through the wine country in Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara.
Why Trek Travel's Classic Luxury Tour lets you explore Napa at your own pace, and Backroads offers a five-day multisport excursion in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Don't Miss Discovering a new favorite wine.
Trek Travel, 866/464-8735; www.trektravel.com; $2,475 per person. Backroads, 800/462-2848; www.backroads.com; five-day trip from $1,998 per person.
The Trip The recently completed165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail leads bikers (and hikers) through two states high above Lake Tahoe.
Why The view from Chris's Loop of the nation's largest and deepest alpine lake is spectacular.
Don't Miss Après-ride, check out the all-season nightlife at Squaw Valley USA's newly revamped pedestrian village (www.squaw.com).
Tahoe Rim Trail Association,775/298-0012; www.tahoerimtrail.org; call ahead for maps, permits, and trail conditions.
The Trip More than 200 miles of bike trails and forest roads from Durango to Moab.
Why This weeklong traverse debuted last year, mimicking the formula of the wildly successful Telluride-to-Moab mountain biking route that opened in 1989. (Butterfield & Robinson offers a deluxe version of that trip.) The new course is a bit more challenging—though intermediate riders will do fine, and beginners can walk the tougher parts—and a lot more remote.
Don't Miss The Wedding Bell Hut, on the fourth night of the trip, sits spectacularly on a cliff 2,000 feet above Colorado's Dolores River. 970/626-3033; www.sanjuanhuts.com; $553 per person.
Butterfield & Robinson, 800/678-1147; www.butterfield.com; six-day trips from $4,995 per person.
The Trip Bike in El Paso's 37-square-mile Franklin Mountains State Park. With peaks topping out at 7,192 feet, it's a towering Chihuahuan Desert landscape.
Why One hundred-plus miles of trail will be accessible when construction concludes this year. Already finished is the Sierra Vista Trail, a 28-mile backcountry route connecting El Paso with nearby Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Don't Miss Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, just outside town, with more than 5,000 Native American pictographs dating back to A.D. 1000.
Franklin Mountains State Park; 915/566-6441; www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/franklin.
The Trip Mountain biking on a ranch at the edge of Texas Hill Country.
Why The Rocky Hill Ranch—not far from Austin—was recently bought by bike enthusiasts. Knock yourself out on miles of single-track on 1,200 acres: the aptly named trails range from EZ Pickens to Fat Chuck's Demise.
Don't Miss A burger and a frosty Shiner Bock at the on-site saloon.
Rocky Hill Ranch, Smithville;512/633-8778; www.boomersrockyhill.com.
CLASSIC The Trip The 185-mile C&O Canal towpath from the U.S. capital to Cumberland.
Why Mules stopped pulling coal barges in 1924; now bikers pass locks, lockhouses, and aqueducts while looking for bald eagles. The Monocacy Aqueduct, at milepost 42.2, has just been restored to its original grandeur, and there are trailside campsites, or you can stay at inns along the way in towns like Williamsport and Hancock.
Don't Miss Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and Antietam National Battlefield—you don't have to be a history buff to love them.
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal; 301/739-4200; www.nps.gov/choh.
The Trip A course in drag racing.
Why You'll go a quarter-mile in eight seconds—and hit 150 mph. After two days of instruction, you'll be wearing a fireproof suit behind the wheel of a big-block Chevy dragster. And it's more than just fantasy camp: good students can get an NHRA license and begin racing for real.
Don't Miss Frank Hawley's Alcohol Course, where you can ignite a 200-plus-mph, alcohol-burning funny car.
Frank Hawley's NHRA Drag Racing School, La Verne, Calif., 888/901-7223; Gainesville, Fla., 866/480-7223; courses from $159.
The Trip River-boarding the rapids of Colorado's Clear Creek.
Why You'll swim through rapids (in fins, a life jacket, and a wet suit) on a torso-length boogie board-type contraption, popping through or ducking under waves. The boards look skimpy but in fact provide riders with good control and maneuverability.
Don't Miss Golden, Colorado's Clear Creek Whitewater Park, one of the sport's epicenters. RipBoard Inc. offers beginner lessons daily there from May through September.
866/311-2627; www.ripboard.com; equipment rental and lesson $95.
The Trip Training with a professional Hollywood stunt team.
Why Thrillseekers Unlimited, the stunt team behind 2 Fast 2 Furious and MTV's Road Rules, puts together one- to five-day "Extreme Getaways" from its Las Vegas location. These build-your-own adventures are designed for groups of four or more, so grab three friends and do stunts like bungee jumping 180 feet, fire walking, racing hovercrafts, mountain-boarding, skydiving, or any of 40 other forms of madness.
Don't Miss Throwing yourself into a wind tunnel for indoor skydiving.
866/497-8868; www.thrillseekersunlimited.com; from $350 per person for a one-day trip to $2,545 for five days.
The Trip Land sailing across dry lake beds.
Why When a breeze fills the small sail attached to a three-wheeled cart, hang on. Solo or tandem with an instructor, a most effortless way to tour the desert.
Don't Miss Catered trips by Landsailing Tours out of Reno or Las Vegas, including all necessary equipment and your own first-timer regatta.
Landsailing Tours, 877/217-1820; www.landsailingtours.com; one-day trip $149.
The Trip Diving with sandtigersharks and gathering scientific data on them.
Why These protected fish grow to a length of nine feet and are found hovering above the ocean floor. Beginning this summer, those with Advanced Open Water certification can become the first handful of Sandtiger Specialty Divers—a designation that will allow them to help with hands-on tasks like photographing tagged sharks.
Don't Miss The many wrecked ships that serve as a shark habitat.
609/921-3522; www.sharks.org; from $250 per day.
The Trip Powered parachuting for beginners.
Why Unfold your chute, buckle into a go-kart-like seat with a powerful propeller at your back, taxi down a makeshift runway, and off you go in what has been referred to as the safest form of modern flight. It's like parasailing without the tow rope. The rigs have a range of 90 miles, and newbies can fly in a two-seater with an instructor. SkyTrails Ranch offers three-day courses over gorgeous Utah desert and canyon country.
Don't Miss The Powrachute Extravaganza (www.powrachute.com), a massive annual rally, in September in Columbus, Kansas.
SkyTrails Ranch, 435/656-0800; www.skytrailsranch.com; three-day course $1,075.
The Trip Study fly-fishing at the Redoubt Bay Lodge.
Why The lodge, 50 minutes by floatplane from Anchorage (and the only place to stay in this 171,000-acre wilderness area) provides expert guides, along with the culinary touches of chef-owner Kirsten Dixon.
Don't Miss Joining the local grizzlies fishing for salmon.
Within the Wild Adventure Co., Anchorage; 907/274-2710; www.withinthewild.com; $1,845 per person for a three-day stay.
CLASSIC The Trip Kayaking lessons at the Otter Bar Lodge, one of the best schools for the sport in the United States.
Why You'll be taught basic paddling skills on a spring-fedpond—and be navigating neighborhood rapids on the Salmon River within a week.
Don't Miss Nailing your combat roll in Class II and III rapids during the overnight trip at the end of the course.
Otter Bar Lodge, Forks of Salmon; 530/462-4772; www.otterbar.com; from $1,950.
The Trip Learning to shoot at the Elk Mountain Resort in Montrose.
Why Owned by former pro wrestler Tom "The War Lord" Foreman, this new luxury retreat provides all the traditional pleasures of a ranch(including horseback riding) while also serving as home to the state-of-the-art Valhalla Shooting Club. Valhalla offers one-of-a-kind,reality-based scenario rooms—a bar, bedroom, and subway station are among the many "crime scenes" in the 16,000-square-foot shooting gallery.
Don't Miss The simulated airplane cockpit, where you can imagine you're an air marshal in training.
Elk Mountain Resort, 970/252-4900; www.elkmountainresort.com; doubles from $325. Valhalla Shooting Club, 970/252-4905; www.valhallatraining.com; from $100 per hour.
The Trip A course at the Offshore Sailing School on Duck Key.
Why There are classes for all skill levels on racing and cruising boats, and the Women's Spa Sail Escape includes a one-hour massage at Indies Spa.
Don't Miss Frolicking with dolphins in a natural saltwater lagoon at Hawk's Cay, where visitors learn about dolphin behavior.
Offshore Sailing School, 888/454-8002; www.offshore-sailing.com; courses from $1,745.
CLASSIC The Trip The Wulff School of Fly Fishing sits on the legendary Beaverkill, the birthplace of dry fly-fishing.
Why The course covers casting, streamcraft, fishing knots, tackle know-how, fly selection, wading, playing, and landing; the textbook used is a revision of Joan Wulff's classic, Fly Casting Techniques. Accommodations can be had less than a mile away at the Beaverkill Valley Inn, a 19th-century angler's hotel.
Don't Miss The school is located on 100 bucolic acres in the Catskill Mountains, so take time to see the landscape that inspired the Hudson River school painters.
Wulff School of Fly Fishing, 845/439-5020; www.royalwulff.com; $475 per person. Beaverkill Valley Inn, 845/439-4844; www.beaverkillvalleyinn.com; doubles from $225.
CLASSIC The Trip Rowing lessons at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.
Why Located on the 320-acre campus of a former boarding school, the 30-year-old center provides home-cooked meals and serious training. With former Olympians and world champions as coaches, you'll learn to row like an Ivy Leaguer. Two Yoga & Sculling programs combine rowing sessions with extended yoga classes, designed to help students increase their range of motion and sense of balance.
Don't Miss Showcasing your newfound skills at the Head of the Hosmer, a two-mile race held on the camp's penultimate day.
Craftsbury Outdoor Center, 802/586-7767; www.craftsbury.com; five-day sculling camps from $835.
The Trip Mount, draw, and shoot a traditional bow and arrow at the Equinox Resort's Archery School.
Why Competition hounds can hone their new skills on a forest trail where foam targets simulate bears, deer, and turkeys, while instructors keep score.
Don't Miss For the full medieval experience, add a falconry lesson and learn to handle and fly Harris's hawks.
Equinox, 802/362-4700; www.rockresorts.com; classes from $135.
The Trip The National Audubon Society's seven-day Hidden Yellowstone tour, led by an experienced naturalist and photographer.
Why The first Audubon trip to focus entirely on Yellowstone includes travel throughout the park and lectures and presentations about its geysers and hot springs, the reintroduction of wolves, and other topics.
Don't Miss The chance to spot grizzly bears in the park's Lamar Valley. National Audubon Society, 800/967-7425; www.audubon.org; May 28-June 3; trip for two $4,790.
The Trip A dinosaur dig in Wyoming's fertile fossil fields, with big-bone excavations, studies of fossilized footprints, and lab work.
Why The Glenrock Paleontological Museum near Casper now offers weeklong trips to two sites, so amateur paleontologists can study both Jurassic- and Cretaceous-era bones.
Don't Miss A chance to meet renowned paleontologist Robert Bakker.
Glenrock Paleontological Museum, 888/461-5015; www.paleon.org; trip for two $2,300, all-inclusive.
The Trip A hands-on Wild West experience.
Why The Arizona Cowboy College in Scottsdale has teamed up with the Phoenician resort to offer guests long weekends of herding, roping, and tying tutorials, followed by spa treatments.
Don't Miss Once you're a seasoned cowpoke, you can join the annual Roundup Cattle Drive in Billings, Montana (August 13-19): five days of wrangling, with nightly country-and-western hoedowns.
Arizona Cowboy College,480/471-3151; www.cowboycollege.com; three-day sessions $1,275. The Phoenician, 800/888-8234; www.thephoenician.com; doubles from $1,110. Roundup Cattle Drive, 800/257-9775; www.roundupcattledrive.com; five-day trip $1,595.
The Trip The horse trail along the bluffs 13 miles north of Santa Barbara.
Why The track leads through sand dunes and into the Pacific surf, and skirts the largest monarch butterfly preserve in California, on Ellwood Mesa.
Don't Miss Stay at the famous San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, JFK's honeymoon spot, and go wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley, one hour north.
Arriba Horse Adventures, 805/551-8567; www.arribahorse.com; $85 per person. San Ysidro Ranch, 800/368-6788; www.sanysidroranch.com; doubles from $399.
The Trip The high prairie on horseback.
Why Brings Arrow Camp is a remote wilderness experience run by Lakota Indians, on their own reservation. You'll sleep in a basic tepee with no electricity (there are showers and bathrooms nearby) and explore the tribe's traditional homeland.
Don't Miss Native American drumming, Lakota storytelling, and traditional dancing.
Brings Arrow Camp, 605/964-2333; www.bringsarrowcamp.org; open June through August; $50 per person per day, all-inclusive.
SOLO OCEAN ROWER, FIRST WOMAN TO ROW ACROSS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN
DREAM TRIP "My next goal is to cross the Pacific. No woman has yet succeeded. I will row from Peru to French Polynesia—that's 4,320 nautical miles, which will take about five months. Crossing the ocean is a way for me to get back to what's essential in life." (Fontenoy began her journey on January 12; follow her progress at www.pacifiqueamainsnues.com.)
SLEEPING AID "I hang a South American dream-catcher—a gift from my family—inside my boat. It catches the good and bad dreams and helps me sleep." ESSENTIAL GEAR "New technologies make it easier and safer to travel alone in risky places, but they can make a journey more difficult psychologically. I'm lucky to have my satellite phone and battery-operated GPS; they are important for my security. But when I call my family and friends, it's very hard to hang up and say good-bye. I do get very, very lonely in my boat."
DREAM TRIP "Alaska still has plenty of opportunities for real adventure. I'd like to climb the south face of Denali—I made an attempt on it once but got caught in a storm."
ADVICE "If you want to have an adventure, leave your gear at home. You have to allow for serendipity. The best trips are those where you take off with a goal in mind, and then something comes up and you go in a completely different direction."
PREDICTIONS "For clothing, the biggest breakthrough will be making things without sewing. We're already manufacturing jackets where every piece is glued together, and you end up with a garment that's completely waterproof and twenty-five percent lighter. That's the key advance in gear—going very light."
IN HIS BACKPACK "I've got an old German pocketknife made of carbon steel, with a corkscrew in it. I never go anywhere without it—I love good wines."
PRESIDENT, EXPLORER'S CLUB
INSIDER ADVICE "Don't overlook some of the American destination clichés: Hawaii, Alaska, the Grand Canyon, the Florida Everglades. I'd put each one of those places on a world-class level. Canoeing through the Everglades is still one of my favorite trips. And the best time to go dogsledding in Alaska is in March or April, when there's still a lot of snow on the ground but the temperatures are warmer."
AMERICAN DREAM "I'd love to sail between Hawaii and Alaska. Also, I haven't traveled that much in the Southwest. I'd like to go on a biking trip through some of the desert regions, like Monument Valley and Moab, and camp along the way."
IN HIS BACKPACK "The SteriPEN is the best and simplest water purifier I have ever used. It's perfect for camping—you don't need a cumbersome pump or those hideous-tasting tablets. And Ex Officio makes great underwear, in a synthetic blend that dries really fast, so you can wash it at night, and it's dry the next day."
MOUNTAIN CLIMBER, FIRST WOMAN TO SUMMIT EVEREST
IN HER SIGHTS "Currently I want to climb the highest peak in every country of the world. So far I have touched that point in thirty-four countries."
AMERICAN DREAM "I have climbed in Hawaii and scaled McKinley in Alaska, but I haven't made it to the mainland yet. Someday I would like to hike the John Muir Trail from Yosemite to Mount Whitney [the highest mountain in the lower fourty-eight states]."
IN HER BACKPACK "One item I love and always take with me on climbing trips is a colorful little lunch box made of bamboo. It's a round basket from Bhutan that carries my fruits and sandwiches. I like it because it is functional yet beautiful, and by buying it I was able to make a little contribution to the Bhutanese economy."
INNOVATIONS "Mountain-climbing clothing has improved—in terms of its function and materials. I have designed a line of clothes that also look good, on or off the mountain."
ADVICE "Be aware of your physical strength and choose experiences to match your abilities. I am always aware of the might of nature, and I remain modest in the face of it."
ASTRONAUT, FOUNDER OF THE SHARESPACE FOUNDATION
DREAM TRIP "After having already gone to the great extremes of hazardous environments—from the lack of pressure on the moon to the Titanic, deep in the ocean—I kind of like settling myself in a hammock on a peaceful South Pacific island, between scuba dives where I play with the fish and manta rays and contemplate the presence of sharks."
PREDICTION "Appropriate space tourism will satisfy the desires of both the private sector and the government. A high flight rate will benefit the government, and in exchange they need to subsidize the new industry of private space travel. We also need lotteries or sweepstakes to expand the availability of travel opportunities. This is the direction that we're heading, but we need real patience. I can see suborbital travel commencing before 2010, but it's going to be at least 2015 before we're able to finance, build, and develop the capabilities for orbital travel."
ADVICE "Most travelers, myself included, tend to overlook the importance of recording their experiences. Today I regret that I didn't record enough on paper, audio, or film. It's no big loss to me now—I just don't remember what I don't remember. But if I did remember, my life would be much enriched."
ALWAYS IN HIS BAG "My contact list and three cell phones. Why?Well, you never can tell. Three is better than two."
San Ysidro Ranch
No wonder this was JFK's honeymoon spot: The 500-acre property, which got a $150 million re-investment in 2011-2012, gives the impression of stretching on forever (even if a few neighboring mansions creep into the picture), and when you arrive at the long driveway lined with olive trees and lavender, you have the sense of being on the frontier, at the last citrus grove before civilization gives way to the scrubby Santa Ynez Mountains. All of the 41 private cottages and suites have decks and most have hot tubs. The resort sits less than an hour south of the Santa Ynez Valley, a perfect daytrip for wine tasting.
Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa
Arizona has handful of wellness-oriented desert retreats, but Miraval Resort & Spa, 55 miles north of Tucson, stands out for an all-inclusive nightly rate that includes some spa treatments and activities (dance fusion, cocktail and cooking classes, and Pilates, to name a few). A spa pioneer, the 1995 resort recently renovated and relaunched the already renowned Miraval Life in Balance Spa with Clarins. These days, treatments take place in one of six new tents styled by Irish-born designer Clodagh and set in a botanical garden shaded by Palo Verde trees, or in a spacious spa facility headed by Dr. Andrew Weil. Our favorite in-room amenity? The deep soaking tubs, which all overlook the Sonoran desert landscape.
Beaverkill Valley Inn
Elk Mountain Resort
Surrounded by the 14,000-foot peaks of the San Juan Mountains and adjacent to more than 60,000 acres of national forest, Elk Mountain is like camp for grown-ups. It boasts a staggering assortment of adrenaline-pumping, glee-inducing activities: ATV riding, rock climbing on the property’s 30-foot man-made boulder, and paintballing on a 4 1/2-acre course. The resort also has a state-of-the-art shooting range and a helipad for heliskiing adventures. Luckily, no one sings “Kumbaya” here; instead, unwind in your soaking tub (big enough for two) or in your wrought-iron four-poster bed. There are also 18 secluded three-bedroom cottages, perfect for families.
Otter Bar Lodge
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Mules stopped pulling coal barges in 1924; now bikers pass locks, lockhouses, and aqueducts while looking for bald eagles. The Monocacy Aqueduct, at milepost 42.2, has just been restored to its original grandeur, and there are trailside campsites, or you can stay at inns along the way in towns like Williamsport and Hancock. The 6.5-mile Maryland heights tral climbs to a stunning view of the Shenandoah Valley.
Rocky Hill Ranch
Cedar Creek Treehouse
Why It’s Unique: Tucked 50 feet up in the air in a centuries-old cedar and bordering Gifford Pinchot National Forest, the Cedar Creek Treehouse is outfitted with a sleeping loft, kitchen, and glass-enclosed observation room with indoor hammock.
Access: Winding stairwell.
What to Do: Take in even greater views from the recently added observatory—100 feet up a nearby fir tree—which looks out on majestic Mount Rainier. Or, drive 10 minutes for a day hike in stunning Mount Rainier National Park.