The prospect of another year ahead, without the glimmer of an outdoor adventure on the horizon, can be quite daunting. But the myriad of options on where to go for an outdoor adventure can be just as troubling. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled the six best outdoor destinations to head to this year. Some are far-flung, others a bit closer to home. One thing is for sure: each of these locations is sure to excite and offer adventures galore.
Where the prairie meets the Rockies.
Celebrate Canada’s 150th with free entry to all of the country’s national parks, five of which happen to be in Alberta. Photograph the bison herds of Elk Island or wind through the Canadian Rockies of Jasper and Banff on the Icefields Parkway — scenery is by no means in short supply. A thirst for adventure can be quenched with skiing, hiking, kayaking and fishing, and beyond the mountains, the province’s capital city of Edmonton hosts a growing cultural scene not to be overlooked. Thanks to recently rewritten beer laws and an abundance of barley, craft brewing is taking off, and small shops like Situation Brewing and Alley Kat are at its forefront. Those more interested in cocktails should check out the bar at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald (book a room and stay late). – Tanner Bowden
The Western Slope, Colorado
An off-roader’s paradise comes of age.
The Western Slope of Colorado runs roughly from Glenwood Springs, west to Fruita and south to Durango. It’s a large area, but one well worth exploring. Beyond gratuitous off-road adventure opportunities, you’ll find a unique food and wine culture in the Grand Junction-Palisade region, with Bin 707 Foodbar leading the charge. Stay at any number of incredible ranch-hotels — Dunton Hot Springs, Gateway Canyons, Smith Fork Ranch — for a taste of the real west. – AJ Powell
Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
Surf the other side of the world.
Kamchatka, the nearly impossible-to-reach peninsula to the far east of Russia, is an outdoor adventurer’s dream. If you’re a surfer, much of the coastline is largely unexplored and has been known to see fairly large swells. The fishing’s also good, though you must be part of a group “conducting scientific research” to take advantage of its famous steelhead. Petropavlosk is the main city in the area, but it’s still quite remote, completely cut off by roads from the rest of the world. – AJ Powell
A lakeside adventure hub in the shadow of an active volcano.
Settled on the eastern shores of Lago Villarrica in Chile’s Lake District is the resort town of Pucón. While small — the main drag, Avenida Bernardo O’Higgins, stretches just six blocks — the downtown area is home to a variety of hotels and eateries. It’s worth the commute to get out of town for a stay at the Hacienda Hotel Vira Vira, and to experience the best local Mapuche recipes head further east to Cocina Mapuche Mapu Lyagl. Relaxing on the beach may be tempting, but so are the snowy flanks of the Villarrica Volcano. Depending on who you ask, it’s one of the most active volcanoes in South America. It also has one of the world’s few visible lava lakes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hire a guide service and climb to the summit in summer or ski and snowboard down its slopes in winter. Hiking, rafting, canyoning and hydrospeeding are just a sampling of the other adrenaline-spiking activities the area has to offer. – Tanner Bowden
Canoe thousands of America’s most pristine lakes.
In the far northern reaches of Minnesota, straddling the border of Canada, is a vast region of lakes and boreal forest known as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, or BWCA. Outside of the Midwest, it seems, the BWCA is hardly ever spoken of — and Minnesotans probably like it that way. It is a million-acre best-kept secret. Stand on the rocky shores of any of its thousand-plus pristine lakes, throw a stone in any direction, and it’ll land in a more pristine lake. Bull moose roam swampy creeks, black bears sniff around campsites, bald eagles soar, loons wail. And the fish — monstrous Northern pike, largemouth bass, walleye, trout — are abundant and tasty beyond belief. There are three ways to experience the BWCA: canoe, kayak or motorboat. Canoe is the traditional way, and by far the most popular. All you need to do is apply for a permit, get outfitted, draw your route on a map, and go.
– Michael Finn
Sun Valley, Idaho
Former playground of the rich and famous.
In the ’40s and ’50s, Sun Valley was known to draw celebrities such as Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and several members of the Kennedy family. While some celebrities still own homes here, this Idaho resort town near Ketchum is now known as a premier outdoor adventure destination. Go mountain biking on the Warm Springs Trail if you visit in the summer, or ski some of the surrounding burn forests in the winter. For a place to stay, check out the newly opened Limelight Hotel right in the heart of downtown Ketchum. – AJ Powell