You don’t necessarily need to plan a trip to the Amazon or Arctic circle to get your adventure fix. Sometimes, all you need is the perfect weekend trip away from crowds and noise, and we’re here to give you the perfect weekend trip ideas.
Here are four road-less-traveled destinations that are great options for weekend trips and excursions, as well as the ideal places to stay and the best ideas for what you can do once you get there.
Whitewater Rafting – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole is one of America’s top winter sports hubs, but also a world-class adventure sports resorts. When the snow is thin or non-existent, you can start with an eight-mile-long whitewater trip down the Class II or Class III grade Snake River.
En route, you will be treated to stunning canyon scenery, exhilarating rapids, and the two biggest waves on the river: Big Kahuna and Lunchcounter. In fact, it’s home to one of the best river surfing hotspots in the world. If you haven’t had enough of the water, you can go Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) in Teton Valley.
If Snake River was enough for the water-adventurer within, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village and Snow King Resort in Jackson offer tandem paragliding rides from the peaks of their mountains. The scenic flights can be tweaked to suit your urge for adrenaline, and your guide can cater to sharp turns and flips if desired.
Hiking – Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Grand Canyon is a great adventure hotspot and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Twenty-four hours may not be enough time to see all it has to offer, but adventurers looking for a complete, day-long trip will have more than enough to work with.
Start early to witness a breathtaking sunrise from the South Rim. Then, take the Maverick Canyon Spirit helicopter flight over the Kaibab National Forest, home to the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest. You’ll also see the North Rim, the eastern end of the canyon and even the Painted Desert.
Afterwards, hike along the Bright Angel Trail, a route used for millennia by the many Native American groups that have lived in the Grand Canyon. The trail takes you 19 miles over some of the roughest terrain in North America.
End the day by cooling off with some rafting on the raging Colorado River, which carves a winding path through the one-of-a-kind canyon.
Rock Climbing – Yosemite, California
Like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite presents an array of adventure options with acres of serene woodland. The main event here, however, is rock climbing. Yosemite is an exceptional venue, offering 3000-foot rock walls and incredible ascents.
Climbers come to enjoy a vast array of challenges, including the sustained crack climbs of the Merced River Canyon. To get in the swing, you might want to recruit the services of the Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service – the only guide service allowed to operate within Yosemite National Park.
Afterwards, you might then like to hike into Tuolumne Grove, where spectacular Sequoias bristle around you. Finally, you could drench yourself in the mists of Yosemite Falls or the gemstone lakes of the high country’s sub-alpine wilderness.
Windsurfing – Hood River, Oregon
Dubbed the Windsurfing Capital of the World, the Columbia River Gorge is a magnet for wind sports enthusiasts. While you’re here, take on some windsurfing, kiteboarding or stand-up paddleboarding. You’re guaranteed to be whisked along because the wind rarely stops blowing along the gorge.
The best winds are unleashed during the middle of the day. Afterwards, there are all kinds of other adventures to take on because Hood River County also boasts some of the best kayaking, mountain biking, skiing and hiking areas in the United States.
Paragliding – Telluride, Colorado
Another of America’s top outdoor adventure playgrounds is to be found at Telluride, Colorado. The top attraction: an ultra-high-altitude take-off spot perched at a height of 12,250 feet. Paragliders who take the plunge get to wheel over a breathtaking box canyon down to 8,750 feet.
Check out this video that shows how it feels to fly with Telluride paragliding school. If you fancy taking your own solo glide, why not time it to sync with the sunset.
After you get your adrenaline fix, you can try your hand at hiking, biking, skiing and snowboarding – Telluride serves up plenty of fresh powder. You can also do cross-country skiing and heli-skiing. The surrounding white-capped mountains of Colorado make for a magnificent view.
Rock Climbing – North Cascades National Park, Seattle
Climbers and mountaineers rejoice: North Cascades has countless backcountry climbs and hundreds of glaciers. Check out some more info about permits and preparation.
Washington state’s North Cascades National Park sits north of Seattle and is ample evidence of how the surrounding region received the nickname, “The American Alps.”
Waterfalls, dense forests and dramatic peaks are a welcome departure from the hustle and bustle of city life. This mountainous wonderland sees less than 20,000 visitors a year.
How to Get There
North Cascades National Park is an easy two hour drive northeast from Seattle, or two and a half hours southeast from Vancouver. Stay at the Sun Mountain Lodge just east of the park in Winthrop, where you can rent a bike and access a number of trail systems.
Spelunking – Great Basin National Park, Salt Lake City
Utah has no shortage of parks and playgrounds, but just across the Nevada border lies a small park rife with ancient mystery and plenty of weekend trip ideas. Great Basin National Park is home to hundreds of species of trees, including the Bristlecone Pine – the oldest organism on the planet.
Known for stargazing opportunities, hikes to glacial lakes and the second and third-tallest peaks in Nevada, the park gives cross-country skiers and snowshoers opportunities for extreme solitude during the winter. Lexington Arch is a geological marvel and worth the weekend trip alone.
The park has over 40 wild caves within its boundaries, but all are closed to exploration except one. Experienced cavers can apply for a permit to explore Little Muddy Cave.
How to Get There
Great Basin is in Nevada, but the closest large city is Salt Lake City, UT. The park is about a five hour drive southwest of Salt Lake. Try a stay at the La Quinta Inn & Suites Ely.
If you’re traveling in January, check out the White Pine Fire and Ice Show nearby Cave Lake State Park.
Mountain Biking – Congaree National Park, Charleston
To add an extra kick to your weekend adventure, bring your mountain bike and cruise past Columbia to Sumter National Forest to take in some of the most epic waterfalls in the Southeast and miles and miles of bike trails.
Congaree National Park is the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States, and makes for some killer canoeing and kayaking.
Hikers can enjoy moderate brief to day-long hikes through the floodplain and take in the towering trees and wildlife that the Congaree River has fed for thousands of years. Overnight canoe trips allow for deep access into the forest.
How to Get There
Congaree National Park is located two hours northwest of Charleston, not far from Columbia, SC. Day hikers can stay at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Columbia-Fort Jackson, just 18 miles from the park entrance.