In the dead of winter, the desire to get outside can be tempered by sub-zero temperatures and the lure of a cozy couch. But there’s no better cure for stoking your adrenaline and getting after it—no matter how chilly it is—than being inspired by others doing just that. To that end, here are our picks for 10 gripping, critically acclaimed outdoor documentaries that each tell a remarkable story about the outdoors and the adventurers, athletes, and environmental icons who run, climb, race, and row their way to glory (most can be streamed on Amazon, Netflix, or Hulu). Grab the popcorn and get ready to get inspired (and then outside).
1. Desert Runners
Desert Runners, which was released in 2013, follows a group of amateur runners as they attempt to complete the 4 Deserts race series, one of the most difficult endurance series in the world, in one year. The races take place over the course of 155 grueling miles in the Gobi, Sahara, and Atacama deserts, with the final race in Antarctica. Runners compete over the course of several consecutive days, sleeping at designated camps and slogging on the next day. You’ll have a newfound appreciation for gear like gaiters that keep sand out of shoes and feel intensely connected to the featured runners.
Wild mustangs have become a political and social symbol of land management in the American West. To call attention to their treatment and management, as well as the future of the public lands where they roam, four college buddies adopted and trained 16 wild mustangs from a BLM adoption program, before packing them across 3,000 miles of public land from Mexico to Canada. Their ambitious quest is documented in this compelling 2015 film which is beautifully filmed across stunning landscapes and highlights the important narrative of how government is working to manage wild horse populations, shrinking public lands, and seasonal livestock grazing.
3. 180 Degrees South
Patagonia founder Yvonne Chouinard has been a prominent figure in the outdoor industry since the company’s inception and is seeing renewed relevance with his public disapproval of today’s political climate. Which makes it an excellent time to revisit this 2010 film, which follows adventurer Jeff Johnson as he retraces the 1968 journey to Patagonia of Chouinard and conservationist and outdoorsman Doug Tompkins. Chouinard’s tale is told through scenes of his initial inspiration, and the environmental story is more relevant than ever. More than the history of a company and entrepreneur, the film weaves modern-day adventure with Chouinard’s rise to become a prolific and important environmental advocate.
By the time she was 16, Dutch high school student Laura Dekker had become the youngest person to sail around the world alone, completing the journey over the course of 17 months. The feat is mindboggling, but the real joy is watching Dekker’s transformation—a time-lapse coming-of-age on a 38-foot boat. The 2013 film also covers the drama unfolding in her native Netherlands as the media labeled her delusional, and the government took partial custody in an attempt to prevent the trip.
5. Valley Uprising
Valley Uprising, which was released in 2014, spans the 60-year history of climbing in Yosemite. Anyone familiar with the history of climbing will love seeing icons like Royal Robbins, Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold, Dean Potter, and the other colorful characters who pioneered the scaling of Yosemite’s big walls, and then took it to the next level. The film focuses on the three generations of counter-culture outdoorsmen who set up camp in the Valley and, much to the dismay of law enforcement, transformed the big wall landscape into what it is today.
World-famous photographer Jimmy Chin’s compelling film, which won the coveted U.S. Documentary Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, tells the story of climbers Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk, and Chin as the trio attempts the first ascent of Meru’s notorious “Shark’s Fin.” After a failed attempt in 2008, the three men are determined to return and conquer this peak, and the film delves into the near obsession the world’s most elite mountaineers face as they tackle these death-defying expeditions.
7. The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats its Young
Starting out as a backwoods run loosely based on the 1977 escape of James Earl Ray from a state penitentiary, this now-famous race fills its 40 slots within a day of registration opening. Boasting only 20 finishers in the first 25 years, the race consists of five loops totaling (supposedly) 100 miles through the woods of Pennsylvania. The course is so challenging that racers are given a 60-hour deadline, and each loop has more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain. The documentary, which came out in 2015, is a hysterical peek into the grueling absurdity of the race and the dedication of the joyfully suffering runners.
8. Finding Traction
Released in 2014, Finding Traction follows this ultrarunner as she sets out to break the speed record on Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail. The effort is grueling to watch as the cameras capture the highs and lows of this extreme endurance undertaking. The Long Trail is brutal at any pace, with exposed peaks, roots and boulders strewn across the trail, and sections so steep they require ladders. Kimball is an inspiration, as are her efforts to help women assume their equal place in professional sports across the board.
9. Under an Arctic Sky
Think surfing was limited to coasts lined with palm trees and warm sandy beaches? This 2017 film follows six intrepid (insane?) surfers as they travel to the northern coast of Iceland in the middle of winter in search of perfect waves. This region sees only three hours of daylight during the winter months, which would make for enough of a story, until the worst storm in 25 years hits and turns their excursion life-threatening.
10. Made to Be Broken
In 2016, Karl Meltzer broke the supported Appalachian Trail speed record after making it from Maine to Georgia on foot in under 46 days. This 2017 documentary follows Meltzer on his 2,189-mile journey, and he’s a real kick to watch. A superb athlete who doesn’t take himself too seriously, Meltzer is entertaining and self-deprecating—and falls down a lot. Red Bull, which produced this film, did a phenomenal job telling the story of this personable, quirky, and altogether astounding athlete from start to finish.
Written by RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I haven’t even put my truck into park before Derek swings the door open and jumps out. He post-holes his way through knee-deep snow over to the tree line and doubles over, retching into the pines. The trailhead hurl has become something of a tradition for Derek. The rest of us barely acknowledge it. We’re dealing with our own demons.
As I see it, this problem begins at home. Specifically, the distance between home and the trailhead. We live in Chicago, and that means driving great distances to get to our destinations for any true wilderness trip. We can’t just gear up after breakfast and be on the trail by 10AM.
The nearest wilderness area is 6 hours away.
Getting to the backcountry requires driving up and finding local accommodations the night before. That means there’s time to kill that evening, and the default method for the killing of said time is… to drink.
Among our group of friends, the “Hike-In Hangover” has become as much a part of our wilderness adventures as GoreTex or freeze-dried food. Whether we killed a growler of Founders around a campfire the night before a Manistee River paddling trip, or bar-crawled our way through Marquette, Michigan the night before snowshoeing into the Ottawa National Forest, it’s inevitable that most of us will wake up that first morning with some degree of regret. Sure, we still want to get close to nature—even if this sometimes means lying down on the cool ground and staying very, very still.
The Hike-in Hangover seems to get worse with age. And since simply “making better choices” is not in the cards, I will instead take a mature, scientific approach to this problem.
I’ve tapped the expertise of two qualified experts in the field: My friend and long-time drinking buddy, Dr. Michael Sullivan MD—a family practitioner and avid outdoorsman living in Watertown, Wisconsin; and Morgan Delaney—a fellow backcountry enthusiast and professional bartender at Spotted Bear Spirits, a community-minded craft distillery in Whitefish, Montana. Their shared wisdom might just be the tonic we’re all looking for.
Plenty has been written about hangover remedies. But, specifically for the outdoor adventurer, is there an approach that you’d recommend?
Dr. Mike: “As a physician, I obviously must warn against excessive alcohol consumption. Men should keep intake to 2 drinks daily. Women should keep this to 1.5 servings daily. The best approach to hiking with a hangover is avoiding a hangover in the first place.”
Bartender Morgan: “Chasing every drink with a tall glass of water – it won't kill your buzz, but it will make you a happier, more hydrated skier the next day.”
Are sports drinks any better than just drinking water?
Dr. Mike: “Water is always a good choice. Sports drinks can be better when you plan to be active, since you’ve depleted not only calories, but electrolytes.”
Bartender Morgan: “Sports drinks have a lot of sugar, so I find it is best to chase them with water. And then a shot of bourbon.”
What about coffee?
Dr. Mike: “If you regularly consume coffee, skipping it may add to your hangover symptoms, like headache and shakes. However, I’d recommend consuming only a cup or two. Since coffee is irritating to the stomach and dehydrates, try to avoid.”
Bartender Morgan: “In the backcountry, coffee can be a blessing and a curse. It helps get camp broken down quickly, and gets you on the trail… But it is a diuretic.”
Do bready carbs help soak up alcohol?
Dr. Mike: “Carbohydrates do not ‘soak up’ the alcohol. But carbs are a good source of fast calories, and their bland nature tends to be easy on the gut. Since we are calorie deprived and our stomach is inflamed, carbs are typically a good choice for the day after.”
Bartender Morgan: “Whip me up some biscuits and gravy, flap jacks, eggs, and a side of bacon. But don't expect me to go anywhere the rest of the day.”
That’s the perfect segue into the ‘greasy food’ approach? A good idea before hiking or paddling with a hangover?
Dr. Mike: “The scientific answer is no. Going back to the idea of alcohol causing inflammation and irritation in the stomach, greasy foods are not recommended for a hangover, especially if you’re planning a 6-hour canoe or kayak trip. Let alone the availability of reliable facilities!”
Bartender Morgan: “Again, you want to be mindful of the weight you are carrying with you, be it on your back or in your bowels. Once you hit the trails, dehydration and a heavy belly will make for a slow hiker.”
What about pain meds?
Dr. Mike: “In general, it is okay to take OTC pain relievers, but it’s important to avoid acetaminophen, as this is broken down by the liver and potentially toxic. Not a good idea considering you’ve just stressed your liver with alcohol.”
Bartender Morgan: “The best medicines to carry are Aspirin and, for those living in states where it's legal, cannabis.”
A big thing now is Pedialyte. Thoughts?
Dr. Mike: “Pedialyte is along the same lines as sports drinks. It has sugar and electrolytes which, again, you are depleted of. But I would strongly question a person who would bring Pedialyte on a backpacking or kayaking trip.”
Bartender Morgan: “Pedialyte is best utilized for the really bad hangovers. But in that case… The Baby's Alright cocktail: 1. Fill your cup with a handful of that slushy Spring alpine snow… 2. 2-3oz Pedialyte 3. 1oz vodka 4. Seltzer water or Ginger brew. If you have a water filter and/or trust your water source, that will work fine as well. Add a tab of Alka-Seltzer for carbonation.”
Does vomiting that morning help or hurt with a hangover?
Dr. Mike: “Vomiting only helps you if you feel nauseous and need to get it out. This occurs because of inflammation in the stomach, and high acid content. While it may temporarily make you feel better, it won’t speed things up. Do not induce vomiting. If nature takes its course, so be it.”
Bartender Morgan: “Vomiting the morning after is never a good sign. If you're going to hurl, do it the night before and then drink a lot of water.”
Let’s pause here for a moment, because this brings up an interesting question. If—like us—you are a proponent of Leave No Trace ethics, then what exactly are the Leave No Trace guidelines for puking in the pines? Horking in the hills? Barfing in the bush? It’s not a situation we plan for, but it is human waste after all. So, I contacted Katie Keller, a Leave No Trace Master Educator based in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
What are the Leave No Trace guidelines for upchucking?
Katie Keller, LNT Master Educator: “The principles behind ‘Dispose of Waste Properly’ with Leave No Trace still apply. If you have enough time, dig a cat hole 6-8 inches deep, that is at least 200 feet from all water sources, trails, and campgrounds. Or, if you have access to a bag or container, you could pack it out until you can properly dispose of it. Make sure that your disposal method is compatible with where you are. It is always a good idea to read Leave No Trace information related to specific ecosystems before you go.”
Turns out Derek has been doing it wrong for years. Words to ralph by, thanks Katie. Now, back to our interviews.
What about exercise? Sweating it out?
Dr. Mike: “Most of the data actually discourages exercise due to the fact that you are dehydrated, calorie depleted, and your GI system is inflamed. If you do exercise then you should overhydrate to compensate not only for your initial fluid depletion, but to account for fluid loss due to activity. Get calories as well.”
Bartender Morgan: “Extreme dehydration from a mix of outdoor activities and a night of drinking can cause substantial mental and physical fatigue, leading to poor decision making, injury, or worse…a Trump presidency.”
Does the temperature outside affect a hangover?
Dr. Mike: “The hotter it is, the more fluid you’ll lose. But be very careful in the winter as well. Our bodies don’t always give the same signs of dehydration in winter. You may not feel as thirsty, or sweat as much, but you’re still losing fluids.”
Bartender Morgan: “I've drunk during the summer in the desert and I've drunk in the winter above the tree-line. I prefer the latter, as the cold does seem to have anti-inflammatory effects. And being out in the dry, hot sun while hungover is not my idea of a good time.”
So, there we have it. Thanks to Dr. Mike and Bartender Morgan we can now approach our next backcountry bender with some degree of knowledge and preparedness. Fluids and calories: good. Acetaminophen and bacon sandwiches: bad. The only thing left to do is to field-test what we’ve learned. Whitefish, Montana is only 25 hours from Chicago. Last call at Spotted Bear is at 8PM. I sense a plan coming together.
Written by Patrick Burke for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
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The planet is crisscrossed with epic trails, from the Alps to the Andes. There are snowy summit trips for fleet-footed peak-baggers, long and leisurely rambles for wildlife lovers, and everything in between. While the options are almost infinite, here are a few epic hikes to add to that ever-expanding life list.
One of the planet’s Seven Summits, 19,341-foot Kilimanjaro is the highest freestanding mountain on Earth—and Africa’s loftiest peak. Despite the distinction, the glaciated summit is accessible courtesy of a number of a non-technical routes, leading climbers through five distinctly different climate zones. On the path to Uhuru Peak, trekkers traverse a lowland rainforest inhabited by colobus and blue monkeys, ascend the scrubby montane moorland of the Shira Plateau, cross hulking glaciers, and catch glimpses of the megafauna-loaded grasslands of Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. At basecamp, vividly colored tents dot an unearthly moonscape, and climbers rest in the shadow of toothy 16,893-foot Mawenzi.
While the flat-topped mesa soaring above Cape Town is accessible by cable-car, the climb to the apex of 3,569-foot Table Mountain is one of the planet’s most spectacular treks—and a must-do for a visit to this dynamic city. Routes to the top of the 500 million-year-old massif treat ascending climbers to panoramic vistas of the pointed peaks of the Twelve Apostles, the azure water of Camps Bay, knobby Lion’s Head, and Cape Town’s bustling City Bowl. There are plenty of half-day routes to the mesa’s highest point, Maclear’s Beacon, including the three-hour slog through Skeleton Gorge, allowing hikers to encounter Cape dwarf chameleons, stealthy caracals, and vibrantly colored sunbirds. The climb can also be done as a multi-day trip along the Cape of Good Hope Trail or the Hoerikwaggo Trail, beginning at Cape Point.
Meaning "the long pathway," in Maori, New Zealand’s 1,864-mile Te Araroa Trail is the Kiwi version of America’s Appalachian Trail. Bookended by the Pacific Ocean, between Cape Regina and Bluff, the route runs through the heart of New Zealand, traversing both North and South islands and leading backpackers through a staggering diversity of landscapes: sun-drenched coastlines, subtropical rainforests, snow-dusted alpine passes, and river-braided glacial valleys. The epic trek also showcases many of New Zealand’s geological gems, including the Southern Alps, famed backdrop for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the still-active Tongariro volcano.
Besides Everest, the most idolized Himalayan foray is Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit. The nearly 130-mile route horseshoes the Annapurna range’s sea of glaciated summits, capped by 26,545-foot Annapurna I. The high-altitude tour takes hardy trekkers through highlands terraced with rice paddies, across surging whitewater rivers, through shadowy rhododendron forests, over otherworldly mountain passes, and past Buddhist gompas and Hindu shrines. While backpackers on the circuit must tackle challenges like 17,768-foot Thorung La, the route is dotted with cozy tea houses affording creature comforts like brief but heavenly hot showers and steaming plates of dal bhat, a traditional meal of steamed rice and cooked lentil soup.
Named for legendary naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, the John Muir Trail strings together two of California’s most spectacular natural wonders: the Yosemite Valley and 14,496-foot Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States. Tracing the spine of the High Sierra, the 211-mile route moseys through three national parks and two federally designated wildernesses, leading hikers through a landscape of high peaks and passes, glassy alpine lakes, and sun-drenched mountain meadows. The trail skirts Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, and showcases natural wonders like the Devil’s Postpile National Monument and Evolution Basin in Kings Canyon National Park. Plus, hikers have ample opportunity to encounter black bears, mule deer, and curious marmots along the route.
The most photographed spot in Colorado, the snow-stripped twin peaks of the Maroon Bells are best celebrated on the epic Four Pass Loop through the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness. The aptly amed 26-mile circuit begins at turquoise-toned Maroon Lake, just west of Aspen, and takes backpackers over four alpine passes each higher than 12,000 feet, across airy meadows dusted with wildflowers, through spruce forests and copses of white-barked aspen, and past backcountry waterfalls and peak-framed lakes. Besides the Maroon Bells, the Elk Mountains sampler also provides trekkers the chance to gape at a handful of celestial fourteeners, including Pyramid Peak and Snowmass Mountain.
Ringing Ireland’s wind-pummeled Beara Peninsula, a 48-mile sliver of land bisected by the Caha and Slieve Miskish mountains, the Beara Way provides a quintessential taste of the Emerald Isle and forms part of Ireland’s longest hiking trail, the Beara-Breifne Way. The 122-mile trek cobbles together bucolic country lanes, highland tracks, and ancient roads, offering a glimpse of the peninsula’s colorful past. Following the path taken by Beara’s last chieftain, Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare, as he fled hotly pursuing Elizabethan troops in 1603, the Beara Way takes trekkers past Neolithic and Bronze Age sites, through charming towns, and over craggy highlands. Fortunately, the lung-taxing climbs and knee-grating descents are greeted with panoramic vistas of the rugged coastline, including the shimmering waters of Bantry Bay, staging point for Theobald Wolfe Tone’s infamous but ill-fated 1786 rebellion.
One of the peaks in Ecuador’s Avenue of Volcanoes, 19,347-foot Cotopaxi soars above the high Andean páramo of Cotopaxi National Park. Although the peak is the second highest in Ecuador—and one of the loftiest active volcanoes on the planet—Cotopaxi is scalable without prior mountaineering experience. Ropes, crampons, and ice axes are required to reach the snow-capped pinnacle, but with the help of local guides (and after a quick hands-on introduction to mountaineering), the crater-pocked peak is reachable for most reasonably fit trekkers. Along the way to the summit, hikers have the chance to spot wild horses, llamas, and spectacled bears (the ursine species credited with inspiring the fictional character Paddington).
The most celebrated trek in South America, this Andean excursion takes hikers from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu, the stone-hewn urban center crafted by the Incas during the 15th century, a World Heritage site since 1983. Along the way to Machu Picchu, the 24-mile trek follows paths forged by the Incas more than 500 years ago, meandering through cloud forests studded with 300 types of orchids, over three cloud-shrouded mountain passes, and past pre-Columbian ruins. Stashed away at 7,972 feet, the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is also a biodiversity hotspot, serving as an ecological corridor linking the Andes, Sacred Valley, and Amazon, and affording trekkers the opportunity to spot 370 different types of bird, including mammoth Andean condors.
Soaring above other peaks in Malaysian Borneo’s Crocker Range, 13,435-foot Mount Kinabalu is the loftiest summit in Southeast Asia. Gunung Kinabalu, as the peak is known in Malay, is also the country’s first World Heritage site, a global hotspot for flora and fauna. The mountain’s ecosystems harbor more than 5,000 types of plants, over 300 species of birds, and 100 different mammals. Along the path to the granite-tipped summit, which typically takes two to three days round-trip, lush lowland rainforests give way to cloud-bathed montane and coniferous forests, providing the chance to spot orangutans, Bornean gibbons, and long-tailed Bornean Treepies. The mountain’s six different vegetation zones also support a thousand different orchids and five endemic species of carnivorous pitcher plants, including the largest on earth, Nepenthes rajah.
While scaling 15,781-foot Mont Blanc requires extensive mountaineering knowhow, more casual hikers can still get an eyeful of Western Europe’s loftiest summit from three different countries—France, Italy, and Switzerland—on the Tour du Mont Blanc. The 105-mile route rings the entire snow-frosted massif, traipsing over seven alpine passes, past storybook alpine hamlets, along colossal glaciers, and through wildflower-freckled meadows. Besides the spellbinding scenery, the Tour du Mont Blanc also provides a snapshot of regional culture, taking hikers through historic locales like medieval Courmayeur. Best of all, while physically taxing, the route is scattered with cozy alpine huts, affording plenty of opportunity to swap freeze-dried fare for fondue.
Towering above the guanaco-grazed steppes of Chilean Patagonia, the trio of granite pillars dubbed Torres del Paine comprise one of the most iconic massifs on earth. The blue-hued granite cathedral tops out at 10,656 feet and crowns Torres del Paine National Park, a former sheep estancia declared a World Heritage site in 1978. Backpackers can gape at the granite monoliths from every angle imaginable along on a circuit trek on the national park’s non-technical trails. The more heavily trafficked ‘W’ configuration can be done in less than four days, while the more extensive ‘O’ circuit, takes about a week. Despite the rugged landscape of glaciated granite peaks, raging rivers, and iceberg-strewn alpine lakes, the Torres del Paine circuit can be done without forgoing creature comforts by cobbling together a route linking the park’s cozy refugios.
Showcasing Kauai’s rugged Nā Pali Coast, where fluted mountains meld into the glistening Pacific Ocean, the Kalalau Trail is among the most spectacular coastal treks on earth. But, the 11-mile trek is no walk on the beach. Between Ke’e Beach and Kalalau Beach, the trail winds through five different valleys, across more than a half-dozen streams, and along precipitous cliff sides, including a vertiginous stretch aptly dubbed Crawler’s Ledge, for the hikers duly daunted by the 500-foot drop. Grit and determination are mandatory, but trekkers are rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the Pacific and gems like the 300-foot Hanakapi’ai Waterfall. While the 22-mile out-and-back trip can be done in a day, the route is scattered with stunning camping spots, like the area near 1,400-foot Hanakoa Falls, about halfway through the trek.
Located southwest of Tokyo, the solitary summit of 12,388-foot Mount Fuji is one of the planet’s most recognizable peaks. Dormant for just over 300 years, the snow-dusted stratovolcano has served as an artistic muse for centuries, revered as one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains. Religious pilgrims have been scaling the sacred mountain since ancient times, and the climb remains exceedingly popular. Climbing season for Mount Fuji only runs from the beginning of July to the end of August, but more than 300,000 trekkers make the approximately six-hour trip every year. While there are celestial views on the way to the summit, the trek has the distinction of being one of the few climbs on the planet that is more cultural experience than wilderness excursion. Each of the four routes to the top offers mountain huts peddling food and drinks, and there is even a post office at the summit where you can drop a postcard to a lucky recipient.
Rambling along the wild Sunshine Coast in southwest British Columbia, the Sunshine Coast Trail is a less-frequented alternative to the West Coast Trail. Built entirely by volunteers and maintained by the non-profit Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society, the 112-mile trail ambles from Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay, taking trekkers through old growth rainforests roamed by black bears, grey wolves, and cougars. Wildlife watchers also have the chance to spot the blubbery bodies of Stellar sea lions and harbor seals along coastal stretches of the trail, and the route’s highest point—4,821-foot Mount Troutbridge—is a hotspot for seafaring marbled murrelets. Best of all, the Sunshine Coast Trail is Canada’s only free hut-to-hut track, with no reservations or permits required.
Written by Malee Baker Oot for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Nobody needs to explain to kids why Kanab’s Coral Pink Sand Dunes are a wonderland. To them, it’s one hundred percent self-explanatory: gigantic sandy hills are a blast to run up and somersault down. You can catch the bug too, of course—add and ATV, mountain bike, or hiking shoes to the mix, along with nice cameras to catch some mind-blowing shots of a glowing desert studded with little wildflowers and determined junipers, and you’re guaranteed to be hooked.
Beyond the normal din of giggling kids and vrooming ATVs bustling over the sand, these dunes bear a special draw for ski and snowboard enthusiasts too. You can bring your own skis or board, or rent a special sandboard from a local company.
If you are a snow-starved skier or boarder, this is serious fun in the summer months. It is a total joy to carve big smooth turns down a balmy-warm desert hill on a July morning. While it’s not exactly the same quality of turns as snow skiing, the activity bears more than a novelty factor—its skiing/boarding in a comfy dry, warm environment, which will deeply appeal to you if you are cold-adverse.
Here’s the down-low on how to do it and what you need. If you’ve never skied or boarded before, this might be a funky way to learn. (But never fear: you can always snag a simple sled instead.) If you’re already a competent skier or boarder, get ready for a total ball.
How to Get to the Park
The Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park lies 30 minutes outside Kanab, UT. The drive to get there is nearly as pretty as the park itself. You’ll drive about seven and a half miles north on highway 89, then turn left onto Hancock Road, which you’ll continue on for nine and a half miles until you get to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes road at the entrance of the park. You’re now just a hop and a skip away from the Arizona border. Toasty territory.
Once you’re inside the park, prepare for your jaw to drop. It contains 3,730 acres of rolling sand dunes that have ammassed over thousands of years. Geographically this spot is perfectly situated to have gathered all these little sand grains blown in the wind from surrounding sandstone formations.
The park contains trails and nature walks aplenty, so if you don’t want to propel yourself down a hill, there are still entertainment options aplenty.
What to Bring for Sand Shredding
For gear, option one is to rent a $20 sandboard at the park; it rides like a snowboard but with simple bindings you can just slip your feet into—no special boots necessary. This is good and bad: it’s highly convenient but if you’re an experienced rider, you’ll notice you’re sacrificing the level of precision and control you’re used to with snowboard boots and bindings.
Option two is to bring your own (old!) skis or board, with bindings and boots you don’t mind getting a lot of sand in. (Let us repeat: bring an old setup that’s ready to be sacrificed to the rock gods.) Sand will trainwreck your bases and get lodged in your bindings, but this approach will give you a fairly normal skiing or snowboarding sensation.
You can even rent a sand sled (also $20) if you don’t feel super confident with your carving skills—also, a great option for kiddos and newbies.
Whatever setup you ride on, you clearly don’t need to bother with snow clothes—but long pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt will feel nicer if you fall. Goggles can be a pleasant touch to keep the wind out of your eyes. (‘Round these parts, wind comes with sand, free of charge.) If you have poles with larger powder baskets, those will feel better in the sand than race-type pole baskets.
Don’t bother with a bunny hill grade; you need a steeper hill to get going, as your ski bases were designed for a snow surface, not sand. You’ll probably find it helps to keep your weight shifted back as you would when powder skiing.
You’ll get a great workout hiking and riding down the dunes, so be sure to wear comfortable clothes and bring tons of water. If you’re riding in proper boots, you might want to strap them on your pack for your walk up the dunes—it’s a little more comfy that way. And obviously, avoiding the hottest part of the day will make the experience about 1,000% more fun.
So hike up, let ‘er rip, and enjoy an incredibly special, unseasonal sensation of carving down a hill, hollering with joy—and soaking in the sun.
Written by RootsRated for Utah Office of Tourism and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
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I’m worried about the next pass. Thunderstorms loom over the mountains that line the horizon in every direction. The thin trail winds between wildflowers and grass. I’m atop a small hill, looking over the enormous prairie that sits between mountain ranges. Soaring 14,000-foot mountains tower before me. After two days of biking through lodgepole pine forests and aspen groves, the mountains seem enormously far away. But in the next ten miles I’ll need to climb above treeline to cross between two distant peaks. It will be the first time I’ve been above treeline with a bicycle.
I lose myself staring across the prairie until a crack of thunder reminds me I need to find shelter. I drop down the tight singletrack, riding through sudden hail and rain. The storm is ferocious, drenching me almost immediately. The trail is suddenly a small creek. Once I’m in the forest again, I jump off my bike and pull it beneath a pine tree. I pitch my tarp and wait out the storm.
The Colorado Trail (CT) stretches over 486-miles between Denver and Durango and encompasses a landscape home to everything from high elevations and exposed summits, to alpine meadows studded with wildflowers, to dense spruce forests and raging waterfalls.
I think everyone who loves the outdoors should do the Colorado Trail. I don’t think everyone should bike it.
Anyone who has biked the CT knows one thing: it was not designed to be biked. Sure, it’s possible to get a bike from Denver to Durango (or the reverse) using the Colorado Trail, but you will not be riding the bike the whole way. Instead, you’ll be pulling, pushing, cajoling, and carrying it. In fact, you’re not even allowed to bike the entire 486-miles of the CT, because bikes can’t enter the six wilderness areas located along the trail. Instead, you’ll have to go around them using forest roads, and depending on your choices, you might bike closer to 500-miles before you’re finished.
With that said, the Colorado Trail is perfect. It is one of the best bikepacking trips in the United States. It is certainly the best for its combination of high altitude, length, and technicality. On the CT, I found 3,000-foot descents, incredible solitude, and the most beautiful views imaginable. The CT changed everything about how and why I bike. Here are some things that might be helpful to know if you’re interested in bikepacking this legendary route.
If you’re going to bike the Colorado Trail, you ought to have some backcountry experience under your belt already. I’m not going to provide a complete gear list, but I’ll suggest some general ideas.
Go Light: If you aren’t already into ultralighting, you don’t need to change your whole setup, but certainly prioritize lighter gear, because there’s roughly 70-80 thousand feet of vertical gain and loss along this trail. Try leaving the stove and only bring cold food—you won’t miss the extra weight, fuel management, or long cooking times. And I’d highly recommend a tarp and/or bivy sack instead of a tent.
The Bike: Bring what you’re comfortable on. The trail ranges from beautiful flow trails and thin alpine tracks through tundra, to brutally difficult trails littered with babyheads (term for baby-head-sized rocks). You won’t be able to ride the whole trail due to a variety of un-bikeable barriers, but different types of bikes will definitely change your experience. You can do it with a rigid, hardtail, or full suspension, and I have friends who’ve used each on the trail. I chose to ride my hardtail, so it was neither light on uphills nor comfortable on downhills. Instead, it split the difference and made everything equally uncomfortable.
Bike Repair: You’ll be fine if you don’t know anything about bike repair. I knew next to nothing before I started my trip, and I learned as I went. Get ready to get to know some bike mechanics. I learned almost everything I know now from standing in the corner of bike shops watching mechanics and asking questions. There are great bike shops along the eastern half of the trail (which means hopefully you’ll know what you’re doing by the western half).
You can’t prepare for every possible eventuality, so be ready to walk your bike out if anything catastrophic happens. My rear derailleur snapped off midway through one particular segment, and I was forced to walk and coast on my bike for 30 miles to the nearest bike shop. A broken bike is a great excuse to get a huge dinner in town.
Rigging your Bike: Put as much as you can onto your bike. It will handle strangely, but it’s far better than having that weight on your back (where it will slowly crush your will to continue). I used a 14-liter seat bag combined with a 40-liter pack. My base weight (without food or water) was roughly 13 lbs, not counting the bike.
If I did it again, I’d use a frame bag, handlebar bag, and seat bag, and only keep snacks and water in a light daypack. While there are a variety of bikepacking gear designers, I’d highly recommend Revelate Designs.
Layers: Layers are the only way to prepare for the enormous range of temperatures you’ll experience. I brought only one “change” of clothes, but I had five layers for my top half and four for my bottom half. You’ll want, at the very least, a light base layering system, a puffy top, and a solid rain shell. I also highly recommend cheap rain pants, as they’re so terrible at breathing that they’re perfect for keeping your legs warm in windy conditions.
I find the Colorado Trail in my dorm room, in a coffee table book my roommate brings home. I spend late nights daydreaming through the pictures and researching specifics. I’m certain I want to bike the trail, even though I’ve only been seriously mountain biking for a few months. I want to go farther and faster than I can on foot and to spend as much time as possible on a bike. I want a goal that I’m not sure I can complete.
On July 12th, 2013, my brother and I start the trail. He’s on foot, and I leave him behind immediately. I cruise up the dirt road for six miles. After all the anticipation and planning, I’m finally on the trail. My bike is heavy, but the road is gently graded, and I feel great…. Until the road ends.
A thin track climbs up into the forest, clearly marked by a CT trail blaze. I stand up on my bike, cranking as hard as I can. The pack sits heavy and sweaty on my back. I’m panting, glad that no one’s around to see me. Just minutes before, I’d felt so proud of myself, cruising past day hikers, my stuffed bags showing how badass I thought I was. And now I can’t even climb my first real hill.
Exhausted, I spill off the side of my bike, barely landing on my feet, and I immediately drop my pack and sit on a log. I’d been training for two months with a pack, but I’d only just gotten the seatbag, and my bike consequently handles completely differently. This is going to be impossible, I think, and I repeat this mantra in my head endlessly over the next 17 days.
The trail can be ridden in either direction (Denver to Durango or the reverse). Due to acclimatization and trail intensity, I believe it is far better to bike from Denver to Durango. Staying on the trail is not hard. The CT is extremely well marked. If you are confident with backcountry navigation, you do not need more than the Colorado Trail Databook. If you’re a bit shaky on navigation, you can buy detailed maps for the entire trail or bring a GPS.
The hard part is actually riding the trail. While the terrain is extremely varied, it is typically loose, techy, and has an incredible amount of elevation gain and loss. One particularly gruesome segment has six 12,000-foot passes in a row. Which leads us to the next section:
Timing: The Colorado Trail is all about timing. There are three main variables you need to juggle: Snow, Water, and Thunderstorms. You’ll have to decide which to prioritize. For me, I chose to start in mid-July to make sure there would be as much water as possible.
Snow: Snow on the trail is a real issue. While the elevation range is from 5,500 to 13,200 feet, the average elevation is just over 10,300 feet. So, for eight months out of the year, there’s significant snow on the trail. The trail typically clears in early to mid-July and is doable through early October—though if you wait this late, you’ll almost certainly see heavy snow in the San Juan Mountains.
Water: If you’ve ever carried over 4 liters of water, you’ll know that water availability is essential. The amount of water near the trail varies through the season, due to snowmelt and rainfall (more on this in a second). July typically has the most accessible water, and during my July thru-bike the longest section without reliable water was around 25 miles. Water availability typically falls off after July, so if you’re biking in September or October, seasonal springs may be dry. Of course, water in Colorado is incredibly difficult to predict, so nothing is guaranteed.
Thunderstorms: Colorado has a monsoon season, which means through July and early August, there are almost always thunderstorms every day between noon and 3pm. You do not want to be at high altitudes during these storms. These storms make alpine passes extremely stressful. The monsoon season usually ends by mid-August, and September typically has perfect weather.
Weather: Prepare for every weather event. You will experience temperatures from 20° to 90° (F) as well as snow, sleet, sun, rain, fog, thunder, lightning, and high winds. The biggest issue is thunderstorms. They’re inevitable, regardless of when you’re on the trail. And they must be taken seriously. Nothing else on the trail is as dangerous as a high altitude thunderstorm. Do not take them lightly. Remember that you are riding on a large chunk of metal, and try to avoid being above treeline in the afternoon.
However, at some point you will almost certainly get caught above treeline in a thunderstorm, so stay calm and find shelter or get to a lower altitude as fast as possible.
Pace: Biking the trail can take between 4 and 20 days. The record is 4 days 4 hours and 17 minutes, during the Colorado Trail Race (during which riders bike through storms and darkness to compete in a race with no prizes). If you’re sane, it’ll probably take you between 15 and 20 days, if you’re averaging 25-35 miles per day, though backpackers regularly take upwards of 30 days, so it really depends on how long you want to be out there.
Food: You will not be able to eat enough food on the trail. In towns, it’s not uncommon to eat three dinners in a row, and it’s a constant struggle to eat enough on the trail. I didn’t bring a stove, so I ate an incredible amount of summer sausage, cheese, and pita bread, supplemented with vegetables and snack bars. It’s not hard to restock on food, though some people (mainly hikers) choose to do food drops. I don’t think this is necessary, as wilderness areas force bikers to go through more towns. Biking, you’ll go through five towns on the trail and you’ll come near at least four others.
The People: There won’t be many other bikers, but every day you’ll pass hikers, whether they’re just out for a dayhike or doing the whole CT. I met some amazing people along the trail, and I often camped near others to swap stories and to hear about the trail ahead. There are a number of Trail Angels who provide food stashes and transportation to trail towns, and rumors about these Trail Angels often stretch a hundred miles in either direction along the trail. I don’t know if the legendary Trail Angel named Apple is still around, but he used to give out root beer floats at random trailheads. It was incredible.
I finish the trail after 17 days. My legs are covered with cuts, my bike is scarred and barely hanging together, and I’m filled with more joy than I’ve ever felt before. I’d ridden through fields of wildflowers, run out of food twice, and fallen off my bike countless times. I’d slept in a new place every night, and fallen wholly in love with Colorado.
Thinking back on that trip, the trail taught me so much. I learned how to handle the immensity of being alone in the backcountry, how to ride (pull, push, cajole, and carry) my bike through some of the most technical terrain Colorado has to offer, and why I, personally, need to spend as much time as possible in the backcountry.
The hardest part of the trail was finishing. After 17 days, I never wanted it to end. But while every trail comes to an end, there will always be another adventure just around the next bend.
Day 3 – 4:00pm – Below Georgia Pass
The sky is clearing and everything feels washed and clean. Hail lies piled in the hollows between tree roots. I’m warm, huddled in my sleeping bag. I can’t decide if I should camp or attempt the pass. I’m only three days in, but something is already pulling me along. As in all decisions on the trail, I’m alone, which is both paralyzing and freeing. A shaft of sunlight reaches through the clouds and pine branches, and I decide that’s enough of a reason to hope the storms are finished for the day. I pack my bags for the pass.
Four hours later, I’m in dense fog at 12,000 feet. I can see the trail in front of me but not much more. I’m above treeline. The fog built slowly, almost imperceptibly, until now it’s almost complete. I can’t even tell if I’m at the top of the pass. I keep struggling on. The light is changing color, growing warmer. I realize I’m inside a sunset. A cairn looms out of the fog, marking the top of the pass, and suddenly the fog rips away in front of me. Peaks line the horizon as far as I can see, and the sun is enormous and orange. For the second time today, I lose myself in the mountains. The growing chill reminds me that night is almost here. I bike down below treeline in the gathering darkness and find a small campsite. I rig my tarp between two trees, eat a quick meal, and fall asleep already dreaming about the next day ahead.
Written by Richard Forbes for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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From the Smokies to the Rockies, and the Everglades to the highest point in Maine—and everywhere in between—the United States is full of world-class hikes. Whether you’re a hardcore peak bagger, out for an ambitious day hike, or are obsessed with the panoramic views for your Instagram feed, there’s always something thrilling to lace your hiking boots up for. Here, we tapped RootsRated editors for intel on some of the best hikes in the United States. Use them as inspiration for your next outing—or as a reason to plan a trip.
Teton Crest Trail, Wyoming
There are a lot of really great hikes on this list, but Wyoming’s Teton Crest Trail might just take the cake as being the most epic. For 35-45 miles (depending on your route), this slender singletrack path cuts a dwarfed, serpentine figure as it slices through the heart of one of America’s most stunning mountain ranges, linking together its very best features along the way. Over the course of two to five days, hikers will pass through wildflower-filled meadows, over airy mountain passes, past glacially-fed tarns, and across expansive basins that swallow up hikers and spit them out as tiny, inconsequential specks against the jagged backdrop of the Tetons. In short, this trail will skew your perception of what constitutes a bucket-list worthy hike. Pro tip: Permits are hard to come by, but because the trail weaves in and out of national parklands and national forestlands, if you camp in national forest designated areas, obtaining a permit isn’t necessary.
Roan Mountain, Tennessee
Ask any Southeastern backpacker what the best overnight trek in the region is, and the majority will tell you: the 14-mile traverse of East Tennessee’s Roan Mountain Highlands via the Appalachian Trail is a true standout. Not only is it home to one of the most unique shelters on the entire A.T. (the Overmountain Shelter, better known as "the barn" because it’s, well, a two-story barn), but it also offers up some of the best grassy “bald” hiking in America. Think of it almost like the Southeast’s version of ridgeline hiking: You’re above the trees, surrounded by a sea of billowing grasses in the foreground and a sea of bluish-gray mountains sprawling into every direction in the background, with nothing in the way to obstruct these views. The only downside? Cameras rarely do Roan justice.
Buckskin Gulch, Utah
In a region as labyrinthine and loaded with slot canyons as Southern Utah, it’s difficult to say that Buckskin Gulch is the definitive best slot canyon hike in the region. But it’s certainly the longest and the deepest … and, yeah, probably the best, too. For 13 miles, these narrows snake through a mazy tunnel of towering red rock walls, often no more than a wingspan’s width apart and so tall that they block out sunlight. Some hikers choose to link up with nearby Paria Canyon for an overnight 20-mile trip, but for day hikers, it’s just as rewarding to park at the Wire Pass Trailhead and embark on an out-and-back distance of your choosing. The important things to remember with this hike are largely water-related: First, flash floods are a very real threat, so be sure to check the forecast and plan accordingly. Second, bring more water than you want to carry; the dehydration creeps up quick in the desert.
Mount Katahdin, Maine
The tallest mountain in Maine and the North Star, northern terminus of the famed Appalachian Trail, Mount Katahdin is truly legendary. It juts upward out of the sprawling expanse of lakes, ponds, and deep woods that define Baxter State Park and towers over the land with a commanding presence. The most iconic way to reach the summit is via the vertiginous spine of the 1-mile Knife’s Edge Trail. Along its impossibly narrow and serrated saddle, hikers scramble from Pamola Peak across Chimney Peak to South Peak and finally to the 5,267-foot summit of Katahdin. Once the (likely fog-shrouded) summit photos have been snapped, a roughly 5-mile descent via the Appalachian Trail will take hikers back to the Katahdin Stream Campground trailhead 4,100 feet below.
Grayson Highlands, Virginia
In a word, the Grayson Highlands of Virginia are breathtaking. In 19 words, they are an almost make-believe land of high mountain meadows, 5,000-foot peaks, thick rhododendron tunnels, and mystical wild ponies. Like most state parks, there’s a large variety of activities to pick from (camping, bouldering, fishing, and horseback riding), but arguably the best way to get a comprehensive taste of the park’s character in a condensed snapshot is to hike the 8.5-mile out-and-back to the summit of Virginia’s highest point: Mount Rogers. The route starts out from the Massie Gap parking area along the Rhododendron Trail. It links with the Appalachian Trail, traveling through grassy pastures sprinkled with boulder outcroppings, and then eventually connects to the Mount Rogers Spur Trail, which twists through a lush, mossy forest to the summit.
Clouds Rest, California
The 14.2-mile round-trip hike to the Clouds Rest summit offers an exceptional taste of what Yosemite National Park is all about. As you’re standing atop its 9,926-foot perch, high above Yosemite Valley from a less-witnessed vantage point than the famous Half Dome buttress, with a giant sea of granite and coniferous pines and sequoias below, it’s hard to feel anything but utter awe and respect for your surroundings. The trailhead is located in the northeast corner of the park. From here, it’s a 7-mile mostly uphill trek whose elevation chart vaguely resembles a healthy year in the stock market—a few spikes up steep ridges here, a few dips into gullies there, but with a pretty consistent uphill hockey stick growth toward the summit. What the chart won’t illustrate, however, are all the glorious intangibles along the way—babbling snowmelt streams, sequoias so stout you’d need a group of five to fully hug them, ever-expanding panoramas as you ascend, the tranquillity at the summit, and of course, the icy plunge in Tenaya Lake as a refreshing reward once you return to the trailhead.
Wheeler Peak, New Mexico
It’s weird to think that the tallest peak in New Mexico would be overshadowed by anything within the immediate vicinity. But with Southern Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park some two hours to the north, and the cultural hotspot of Taos about 45 minutes to the south, that’s kind of what happens to Wheeler Peak. Don’t let this lack of regional recognition fool you, though: The 8.2-mile round-trip hike to this lofty summit in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is one of the best in New Mexico and a true lesson in uphill slogging. Averaging about 800 vertical feet per mile, this trail takes hikers through lung-expanding evergreen forests and then up lung-crushing climbs above treeline. What you’ll remember other than the impressive summit panorama will be the near endless collection of switchbacks that seem to pinball you back and forth, side to side, and up-and-up through a seemingly infinite sea of scree. Patience—and quad-strength—are both virtues on this hike.
Appalachian Trail, Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
For Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, the 72 miles of the A.T. within the Smokies represent one of the most revered sections of the entire 2,200 mile route. For long-weekend backpackers, this stretch represents one of the most efficient and spectacular ways to get an intimate taste of America’s most visited national park. Whichever way you slice it, the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies is a spectacular hiking experience teeming with old-growth forests, incredible biodiversity, challenging climbs, sprawling mountain vistas, and a booming population of fearless and curious black bears. You can’t go wrong with any day hike section you choose along this route, but to really maximize the experience, a 4-5 day excursion that covers the entire 72 miles is your best bet. Overnight permits are required, so make sure you plan in advance.
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
You don’t need climbing skill or equipment to scale Yosemite’s iconic Half Dome. Using steel cable handrails, hikers can ascend 400 feet up the backside of this granite monolith to reach its summit of 8,840 feet, with panoramic views of the Sierra Mountains in all directions. From the Yosemite Valley floor, Half Dome is a strenuous, 12- to 14-mile round-trip hike. Break up the journey by hiking 4.7 miles to Little Yosemite Valley to camp. Then, hike 3.5 miles to Half Dome and hit the cables early before they’re super crowded. Usually, the cables are accessible May through October, and permits are limited, so set a reminder to snag one as soon as they open on March 1. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water and bring sturdy gloves.
Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
The 41.4-mile Rae Lakes Loop showcases some of the most stunning scenery in the High Sierra. Beginning at 5,041 feet in a forest of pines, cedars, and cottonwoods, the trek requires nearly 7,000 of climbing for hikers to visit emerald meadows and cobalt lakes surrounded by mammoth granite towers. While the hike includes the heart-pounding, 2.1-mile ascent of Glen Pass at 11,998 feet, grades are generally moderate and water is plentiful along the way. To avoid several intense climbs, do this hike clockwise. Due to high demand for permits, book as early as possible to March 1, when permits are released, and hike in May to avoid summer crowds.
Appalachian Trail, Georgia section hike
Northbound AT thru-hikers begin their 2,200-mile journey in Georgia, where the trail climbs high, exceeding 4,000 feet of elevation, to offer epic views from rock outcrops and sublime walks through emerald forests of rhododendron, mountain laurel and moss-covered boulders. Stretching 78.6 miles, the Georgia portion of the AT is not only beautiful but also challenging, with steep, rugged terrain that strains less-seasoned hikers and causes some to abandon their dreams of hiking to Maine. If a thru-hike is a little too ambitious for you, the Georgia AT includes many access points, so several day hikes and short trips are possible. If you begin at Neels Gap you can visit the Mountain Crossings gear store to mingle with thru-hikers and see the only point where the AT passes through a manmade structure. From there, make the steep climb to the summit of Blood Mountain to explore a unique stone trail shelter and enjoy a remarkable view of Appalachian ridges rolling to the horizon.
Florida National Scenic Trail
One of the most iconic trails in the Southeast, this 1,300-mile route stretches from the state’s Panhandle all the way to Big Cypress National Preserve at the southern end of the state. But you don’t have to tackle the whole thing to savor some of its highlights, from serene marshland to spectacular wildlife viewing. Take your pick from a number of excellent section hikes: A few recommended routes include the 11-mile stretch from Clearwater Lake to Alexander Springs, one of the trail’s oldest sections, and hikes around Hopkins Prairie, where you’re likely to see sandhill cranes and eagles. Campgrounds, both primitive and traditional, are interspersed along the way, so you can easily turn your day hike into an overnighter.
The Dipsea Trail, Marin County, California
Don’t let this trail’s whimsical name fool you: The approximately 7-mile stretch is a doozy, with nearly 688 steps—in the first mile—and long uphill stretches for nearly 2,000 feet in total elevation gain. Even so, doing the Dipsea is a must for any Bay Area hiker or active-minded visitor, with forests that look like they’re lifted from a fairytale book, flowy single-track through majestic redwoods, and a finish at the Pacific Ocean. The trail is also home to one of the most infamous trail races in the country (and the oldest): The Dipsea Race, which has drawn hardy runners to battle its roots, ruts, and other ankle-twisting obstacles since 1905. Whether you run it or hike it, you must do it.
Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, Santa Cruz, California
You can hike its sections separately, but to really experience the essence of this 31-mile trek, one of the best in the San Francisco Bay Area (if not all of California), it’s best to make a true adventure of it, with two overnighters on trailside campgrounds. Built over seven years by a local nonprofit, the trail treats hikers to roaring waterfalls and towering coastal redwoods and passes through two excellent state parks, Castle Rock and Big Basin, before culminating at the Pacific Ocean. Another big plus? With a start in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the trail is all net downhill. No surprise, then, that reservations fill up fast, so plan ahead and be patient—it’s well worth the effort.
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, New Hampshire
The iconic 6,288-foot Mount Washington in the White Mountains is a challenging and worthy summit, especially in the winter. While many are drawn to its eastern slopes to ski Tuckeman’s Ravine, a select few hike the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail on the western side to the mountain’s peak. This demanding, approximately eight-mile round-trip route challenges hikers with steep and exposed sections, icy scrambles, and the threat of erratic weather and strong winds. But the stunning views, frozen waterfalls, and exhilaration of standing atop New England’s highest peak make the cold toes, burning lungs, and treacherous trek worth it.
Longs Peak, Colorado
Longs Peak’s 14,255-foot summit looms over Colorado’s northern Front Range, a mountainous beacon summoning the adventurous. A journey to the top of Longs is a truly epic undertaking—even for fit hikers. The standard ascent route via the Keyhole is a 15-mile outing with more than 5,500 feet of elevation gain and is usually done in a single 10-to-14-hour push. Most begin in the darkness around 2 am, catching the sunrise above treeline about five miles in at the famous boulder field. Crossing through the Keyhole dramatically changes the character of the hike from a steady, class-2 cruise to a wild, exposed, class-3 scramble along well-marked ledges. A tough push up a loose gully called "The Trough" grinds up to 14,000 feet, where there is still work to do. A steep scramble through the “Home Stretch” exits atop the surprisingly flat, broad summit block. After all that work, there’s still the challenge of getting down safely. Big, bold, and tough, Longs is one of the most amazing adventures in the Rocky Mountains.
Mount Frissell, Connecticut/Massachusetts
At 2,454 feet, Mount Frissell stands in the heart of southern New England and New York’s rolling Taconic Mountains. When the full force of the changing seasons paints the trees in hues of red, yellow, and orange, this hike makes a strong case as the most beautiful in the region. A modest, 1-mile trail start from Mount Riga Road in Massachusetts and gently climbs through scrub oak to the summit of 2,289-foot Round Mountain before continuing to the top of Mount Frissell. Unlike most hikes, however, you’ll get the best views beyond the summit. Passing into Connecticut, hikers come across the highest point in Connecticut at 2,380 feet on the south slopes of Mount Frissell—keep going! At 0.5 miles past the highpoint pin is the Connecticut-New York-Massachusetts tri-point marker, and roughly another mile past that are the panoramic views of rolling farmland and distant Appalachian mountains from 2,311-foot Brace Mountain. Return the way you came for excellent views of neighboring mountain domes to the north.
Peak One, Colorado
At 12,933 feet, Peak One is more than 1,400 feet lower than Colorado’s highest peak, but what it lacks in elevation it makes up for in unmatched views. Access is easy, with the trailhead located right off highway I-70. Hikers climb past the ruins of an old mining town before breaking treeline. A class-2+ ridgewalk reveals the depth and beauty of Colorado’s high country. Dillon Reservoir sits at the foot of the peak to the east, where the mighty Front Range 14ers stand in the distance. The northern views are dominated by the mysterious and challenging Gore Range, while far-off Sawatch Range mountains decorate the western horizon. A fun, brief scramble ascends the summit. Turn around at that point for an 8-mile out-and-back with more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain—or keep traversing along the Tenmile Range to Tenmile Mountain and beyond. Hiking from Peak One to Peak Ten is one of Colorado’s big point-to-point testpiece adventures.
Humphreys Peak, Arizona
The highest point in Arizona, 12,633-foot Humphreys Peak is an ambitious peak to bag, with an impressive history to ponder as you conquer it. Geologists speculate this strato-volcano once stood much higher until it experienced a Mount St. Helens-style eruption that resulted in its trademark bowl and diminished height. The Arizona Snowbowl ski area is set on the flanks of the peaks San Francisco Peaks, of which Humphreys is the tallest. A hike to the top travels through pine forests and out of treeline along a well-maintained trail through chunky volcanic rock. Admire the power that shook the land as you take the final steps to the airy summit, where views span out into the lowlands that transform into far-off deserts and canyons. It’s about nine miles round-trip, with 3,000 feet of elevation from the standard route on the Humphreys Peak Trail.
Greenstone Ridge Trail, Isle Royale National Park
Located on an island in Lake Superior that’s 45 miles long and just nine miles wide, this national park is so remote you’ll have to take a ferry or seaplane to access it. But once you do, you’ll have your pick of 165 miles of hiking trails that cover spectacular terrain, including the ruins of an old copper mine and a lighthouse that dates back to the late 1800s. Many hikers flock to the Greenstone Ridge Trail, which runs along the spine of the island, but the Minong Trail is a 52-mile trek that’s slightly harder, but with far fewer people and just as stunning views, wildflowers, and up-and-close wildlife viewing. Choose from several out-and-back routes, or make it a point-to-point overnight trip (there are 36 first-come, first-serve campgrounds) and you just might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Written by RootsRated for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
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When it comes to two-wheeled adventuring, sometimes self-guided exploration is part of the thrill. Other times, you’d rather leave the wayfaring to an experienced guide so you can focus on soaking up the scenery as well as the eats (and drinks) along the route.
Whether you’re a hardcore cyclist looking to press your daily mileage or just out for a Sunday cruise with plenty of stops for Instagram photos, there’s an offering that’s just your speed. In recent years, operators have expanded their offerings to include a wide range of interest and skill levels, from ambitious tours of California’s coast and wine regions, to food-centric cruises to Denver’s food halls, to historic rides through Maine’s lighthouses—and everywhere in between. In honor of National Bike Month in May, here are 10 of the best bike tours in the U.S.
Denver has become a food-hall capital as of late, thanks to five destinations dotting the Mile High City and its suburbs with a mouthwatering array of restaurants and artisanal food shops. Take a bite out of all five spots over 10 miles of urban road riding, from Avanti Food and Beverage in the LoHi neighborhood to Stanley Marketplace in Aurora, home to 50 local businesses housed in a former airplane hangar in Aurora. Get rolling at The Source, a hotel/market hall hybrid in a former iron foundry with 25 indie food vendors and bike rentals.
This kicky little veggie, whether in its red, green, chopped, and sauced forms, is ubiquitous in New Mexico. The crop is the basis of the state’s signature regional cuisine—and one of Albuquerque’s most popular outings from Routes Bicycle Tours. The 10-to-12-mile tour cruises along the Rio Grande’s cottonwood forests to six of the city’s top foodie hotspots, like Golden Crown Panaderia for green chile bread, and Pop Fizz, home to red chile chocolate popsicles.
During Austin's thriving festivals—and there are plenty of them—ditch the car and make like the locals, opting for a bike instead, which gets you past the inevitably snarled traffic to the stage way faster. And you’re sure to stumble across live music venues on the Austin Icons tour offered by Austin Bike Tours and Rentals. The two-hour outing pedals past Sholtz’s Beer Garden, the oldest operating business in Texas that’s had a grand influence on local culture and music.
It’s hard to decide which is more relaxing: the beach or wine country. But California Bicycle Tours’ multi-day rides from Southern California up the Central Coast promise the best of both. Riders pedal along scenic coastlines, past quaint seaside towns, and along the scenic vines of Santa Barbara’s wine country. Tours vary based on itinerary; however, they cover 22 to 40 miles per day, so they’re better suited to riders who are accustomed to being in the saddle.
La La Land’s taco scene is spicy, and an outing from LA Cycle Tours wraps up some of the city’s best known and off-the-beaten-path spots. The nine-mile tour through several L.A. neighborhoods and past historic sites helps justify that extra side of guacamole.
Portland has earned the nickname "Beervana" for good reason—it’s home to more than 70 breweries, at last count. Get a sampling of what’s on tap with Pedal Bike Tours, which guides thirsty riders along the five-to seven-mile route past 11 of the city’s sudsy spots and inside a handful of them to see the brewing process and—of course—taste.
You probably won’t come close to pedaling off the calories you consume, but who doesn’t come to the Big Easy to overindulge a bit? The Confederacy of Cruisers’ New Orleans Culinary Bike Tour itinerary changes with the seasons, but you can expect a sampling of NOLA classics like gumbo, po’boys, crawfish, Cajun pork boudin, and jambalaya, as well as a few off-the-tourist-track surprises from the city’s Italian and African influences. This caloric cruise follows six- to 10-mile routes (but don’t count on your pedaling to offset the feast).
The Atlanta Beltline will ultimately encircle A-Town, connecting 45 in-town neighborhoods along trails built on former railroad corridors. That neighborly spirit prevails on free weekly tours, organized by the Atlanta Beltline Partnership. Saturday morning rides follow the 16-mile Eastside Trail or the 11-mile Westside Trail; routes alternate each weekend.
Architecture aficionados will find their match in the summer tours (June through September) of the world’s largest collection of buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The outing begins and ends at the iconic architect’s home and studio, and cruises through a picturesque neighborhood filled with 21 Wright-designed structures.
10. Portland, Maine, for Lighthouses and Lobster Rolls
Summer Feet Cycling’s Lighthouse Bike Tour follows the scenic shores of Casco Bay by bike to five of the state’s picturesque lighthouses, with guides sharing Portland’s history along the way. along the 10- to 12-mile tour, you’ll work up an appetite for lunch, which features the city’s best lobster roll. Or, for the foodie-centric cyclists who prefer their tour with more lobster rolls than lighthouses, Summer Feet also has an offering exclusively devoted to taste testing one of New England’s signature dishes.
Written by Ashley M. Biggers for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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In 1968, Congress created the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System to preserve sections of America's rivers with exceptional natural, cultural, and recreational value. Little more than one-quarter of one percent of the nation's rivers earn the Wild & Scenic designation, protecting them from dams and development, and—in some locations—securing them for whitewater rafting and other recreation. With man-made dams altering 17 percent of America’s rivers, experiencing the free-flowing beauty of a Wild & Scenic river provides a unique adventure and a tangible reminder of the places worth protecting. Here's a sampling of some of the West's best for rafting.
Tuolumne River – California
Flowing from the High Sierras of Yosemite National Park down to California’s Central Valley, the 149-mile-long Tuolumne River courses through the heart of the state. Since there are several dams and aqueducts along the Tuolumne, often referred to simply as the “T”, only 83 miles of the river are designated as Wild & Scenic.
To experience some of California’s best whitewater rafting, take a trip down the remote 18-mile stretch of the Tuolumne River just outside of Yosemite. This stretch offers technical, boulder-strewn rapids ranging up to Class IV+ as it winds through rugged Sierra foothills that come alive with California poppy blooms in the spring. It’s possible to raft the full section in one long day, or extend the trip with one or two nights of camping to earn more time fishing, hiking and relaxing by the river. Popular outfitters for commercial trips include All-Outdoors and ARTA River Trips, while private boating trips require an experienced rower and a permit.
Rogue River – Oregon
Starting in the Cascade Mountains of southwestern Oregon and flowing over 200 miles to the Pacific Ocean, the Rogue River features nearly 85 miles of designated Wild & Scenic River. Most rafting trips down the Rogue explore a 40-mile stretch full of Class I to Class IV- rapids, relaxing flat sections, historic sites, impressive rock canyons, waterfalls, pristine forests, and abundant wildlife. In fact, the wildlife viewing may be one the main draws to a trip on the Rogue River, with frequent sightings of mule deer, black bear, bald eagles, osprey, otter and blue heron.
The Rogue is popular for three- to five-day rafting trips with plenty of opportunity for fishing, exploring side creeks, and visiting the historic sites along the river. Permits are required for private boating trips, while commercially guided tours are available through companies like Momentum River Expeditions, O.A.R.S., and Northwest Rafting Co.
Middle Fork of the Salmon River – Idaho
Flowing 104 miles through Idaho’s high country, the Middle Fork of the Salmon was one of the original eight rivers to earn the Wild & Scenic designation with the signing of the Act in 1968. Thanks to its remote location 20 miles northwest of Stanley, Idaho, the Middle Fork of the Salmon has seen very little intrusion from people and thus remains one of the only free-flowing tributaries in the Salmon watershed.
As the one destination on our list where the entire river is navigable by raft and protected as Wild & Scenic, a trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon makes for an unparalleled experience. The river features over 100 rapids ranging up to Class III and IV+ as it flows through the Salmon-Challis National Forest, complete with granite canyons, rolling hills of wildflowers, and picturesque waterfalls. Aside from the challenging whitewater and mountain scenery, the Middle Fork of the Salmon is unforgettable for its abundant wildlife, multiple hot springs alongside the river, and Native American pictographs painted on the canyon walls. Local outfitters like Canyons River Company and Sawtooth Adventure Company offer five- to six-day trips down the river, while experienced boaters can purchase private river launch permits.
Klickitat River – Washington
Flowing from Mt. Adams to the confluence with the Columbia River Gorge in southcentral Washington, the Klickitat River offers a true wilderness rafting experience. Of the river’s 21 miles, the last 10.8 miles were designated as Wild & Scenic in 1986 for recreational use. Most commercial rafting trips take guests down a 15- to 18-mile stretch of continuous Class II-III rapids, which includes the Wild & Scenic section.
Floating down the crystal clear water of the Klickitat River brings you up-close and personal with towering basalt cliffs, cascading waterfalls and the dense green foliage that the Pacific Northwest is known for. Because the Klickitat River is fed by glacial meltwater from the north, the rafting season lasts only a few months—April through June—and the water levels fluctuate naturally, affecting the difficulty of the rapids. Some of the biggest providers of commercial rafting trips on the Klickitat include Wet Planet Whitewater and Zoller’s Outdoor Odysseys.
Snake River through Hells Canyon – Idaho
Home to North America’s deepest gorge at nearly 8,000 feet, Hells Canyon offers a spectacular setting for rafting. This 67-mile-long Snake River forms the border between Idaho and Oregon, with the towering Seven Devils mountain range to the east and the rim country of Oregon to the west. The majority of the river canyon is protected wilderness and the river itself was designated as Wild & Scenic in 1975 due to the scenery, wildlife, recreational opportunities, and its Native American history.
The Snake River features several Class III-IV rapids and plenty of flatwater sections. Commercial rafting opportunities range from three- to six- day trips, depending on the water flow and the distance traveled. Taking a longer trip (five to six days) during the slower summertime flows affords rafters more time for hiking, fishing, and exploring Native American homesteads in the canyon. Some of the best-rated whitewater tours on the Snake River are available through O.A.R.S. and Hells Canyon Raft, while private river launch permits are required for non-commercial trips.
Honorable Mention Rivers
White Salmon River – Washington
Owyhee River – Oregon
Merced River – California
Main Salmon River – Idaho
Written by Jenna Herzog for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
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You’re extra-cautious to protect your prescription eyeglasses from misuse and damage. But, what about your sunglasses? Many people rub their sunglasses like that annoying BBQ sauce stain on your white shirt at the company picnic. Yet, mistreatment of your shades can lead to damage, which may void their warranty. Common abuses to never do to your sunglasses:
1.NEVER use household glass or surface cleaners, ammonia, bleach or vinegar on your sunglasses. These chemicals will damage the lenses and will strip the anti-reflective and mirror coatings off your lenses.
2. NEVER rub your lenses with your t-shirt, sweatshirt, button-up, shirttail, etc., especially when the lenses are dry. All those tiny particles of dirt and dust hiding in your shirt may cause micro-scratches in your lenses.
3. NEVER launder your microfiber cloth with fabric softener. Definitely clean your lens cloth to remove oil build-up, but the addition of fabric softener is a bad idea. It will destroy the effectiveness and durability of the fibers, and the fabric softener will leave a residue on your lenses.
4. NEVER wipe, clean, dry, or rub your lenses with a paper towel, tissue, or any other form of paper product. Paper is made from trees. When’s the last time you encountered a soft tree? That tissue may feel soft, but it contains little particles of rough pulp, which will scratch your lenses.
5. NEVER wipe your lenses that have been exposed to salt water; rinse them in fresh tap water or distilled water, first, before cleaning them.
6. NEVER use saliva to wet your lenses.
7. NEVER use paper towels, napkins, tissues or toilet paper to clean your lenses. These can scratch or smear your lenses or leave them full of lint.
8. NEVER try to “buff away” a scratch in your lenses. This only makes the situation worse.
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You are your
sunglasses worst enemy. All
sunglass lenses will get a few scratches over time from normal use and exposure
to the environment. (And from occasionally getting dropped or misplaced.)
Sunglass lenses are scratch resistant, not scratchproof. It’s up to you to care for them properly in
order to extend the life of your sunglasses.
Cleaning: For optimum performance, rinse
your sunglasses daily in warm water. Use
a mild liquid dish soap (clear dishwashing
soap such as Dawn works best) to wash each lens surface. Dry using a clean, soft, absorbent
cloth. Do not use paper-based products
to clean your lenses. Do not use
abrasive cleaners, soaps or detergents that may leave a deposit on the
lens. Do not use tissues with added
lotions, lanolin, silicone or other cleaners; they will leave a film on your
lens. Do yourself a favor and make this
cleaning routine a regular event. A few minutes every few weeks will keep your
sunglasses from accumulating so much gunk, and will extend the life of your
Chemicals: Certain household chemicals will
react negatively with the frame material and the metal oxides used on the
coatings of your lenses. Avoid contact
with acetone (nail polish remover), caustic solutions (such as glass or
ammonia-based cleaners), hair sprays containing methylene (listed on label),
chlorine (from swimming pools or unfiltered water) or glue.
Hard water on your lenses will leave visible spots that are difficult to remove
and may be damaging to your lens coatings.
Clean and thoroughly dry your lenses immediately if hard water such as
pool, unfiltered sprinkler or ocean water comes into contact with your
Scratches: The multiple coatings on your lenses are resistant to light scratching; however, heavy, abusive scratching can break through the coatings and cause visible marks. Removing dirt and other particles with good cleaning practices and keeping your sunglasses in their case when not in use will significantly help prolong the life of your lenses. Good cleaning practices will help minimize scratching.
Heat: Excessive heat may deteriorate your lenses or mis-shape your frame. Avoid placing your sunglasses where you might expect excessive heat, for example, on the dashboard of your car.