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- 72 Hours in Moab, Utah
38.5733° N, 109.5498° W While both of us grew up in the mountains of Colorado, over the years we have come to realize that we are, deep down, desert rats. The red rocks, dry climate, open vistas and the unique and wild plant and animal life, always draw us back to this "harsh" landscape time and time again. And one of our favorite desert destinations is Moab, a hopping town in east-central Utah. This mid-size urban oasis has a lot going for it - besides, of course, its fantastic location. The town was first established in the mid-1800s due to it being a popular spot to cross the Colorado River along the Old Spanish Trail. Eventually, in 1855 the Latter-day Saint settlers attempted to establish a trading fort at the river crossing, but within a couple of months and after numerous attacks, the fort was abandoned. It would take another 23 years before the area would be settled again, this time by Randolph Hockaday Stewart, who was under the direction of Brigham Young. Finally, Moab was incorporated as a town in 1902. Note: there was actually some intense controversy over the name Moab, so much so that a petition went out to change it to either Vina or Uvadalia. We have visited Moab a multitude of times, often in order to partake in one of our favorite outdoor adventures: canyoneering. And while most of our time has been spent getting ~slightly lost in various canyons, we still have spent a good amount of time exploring the town and surrounding area. Below is what we believe is the perfect adventure-focused 3-day itinerary for Moab, Utah. Day 1 You can’t go to Moab and not explore at least one of the national parks that surround the town (there are two within a short drive). And while we think Arches National Park is a bit too busy for our taste (1.5+ million people visit a year), nevertheless it is still worth exploring, if only for a couple of hours. One thing to know about the park is that it is more of a “driving” park - meaning you often spend a lot of time in your vehicle traveling to various viewpoints, nature trails and unsurprisingly, arches. A couple of our favorite stops are Sand Arch, Delicate Arch, and Double Arch. But if you are looking to get out of your vehicle and stretch your legs there are two options we recommend: hiking around Fiery Furnace or canyoneering U-Turn. | Fiery Furnace This wild maze-like area in Arches National Park is a great precursor for other - more daring - desert adventures. The Fiery Furnace can be done either with a park ranger or on your own (with a permit) - either way, there is a high demand so make sure to get a reservation early. This hike, which is roughly 2 miles in length, is rather physically demanding - be prepared to stem between sandstone walls, jump across crevasses, lift yourself up ledges and hike through thick sand. But if you are feeling like an exciting desert adventure in an otherwise pretty low-key park, then this is a great option. Learn more about the area and hike here. Note: due to Covid, there are no ranger-led hikes at this time. | U-Turn Canyon Now if you are looking for an even more exciting desert adventure, and especially if you are hoping to get away from the crowds that flock to Arches NP, then consider taking on U-Turn Canyon. This is a great entry-level canyon. Meaning even if you haven’t done much rappelling before or are nervous about canyoneering at all, you can still do U-Turn. While the beta does say there are 4 rappels, in truth many of them can be either downclimbed, jumped or hand roped. But what makes this canyon so great are the vistas of the surrounding desert monuments, including some unique views of Park Avenue below. Once you are up in the heart of the canyon, which is more like a big red amphitheater, you feel as if you have the entire park to yourself. It is a magical place, and definitely an adventure worth taking. Learn more about U-Turn here. Both options will give you a unique view of the park, as well as help you get away from the crowds and onto more off-the-beaten-path adventures. Fiery Furnace and U-Turn do require some physical fitness, as well as the usual adventure gear: water, sun protection, sturdy shoes, etc. If you are thinking of doing U-Turn, and haven’t canyoneered before, we recommend either doing your due diligence with research or going with a certified guide (don’t worry there are plenty in Moab). Once you have gotten your fill of exploring Arches NP head back to town for some lunch. One great area to get some delicious food is the Moab Food Truck Park, which is an open area with five or six (or more) various food trucks offering a number of different cuisines. Including, Italian, Mexican, and American. There is also a coffee truck and a shaved ice stand. Post-lunch is a great time to explore the city of Moab, including walking down the main street and popping into some of the shops, grabbing a coffee or sweet treat at the various bakeries and cafes, and just taking in the sites and sounds of one of Utah’s most adventurous towns. Later on in the day, especially around sunset, head a bit north of town towards the Colorado River. A great spot to explore the river is Lions Park (located at the intersection of Highway 191 and Route 128), a decently sized park with picnic tables, bathrooms (with potable water), and access to the Moab Canyon Pathway, a paved bike trail that takes you around the area. Lions Park is a great spot to walk along the river, go for a swim (at the boat ramp across the metal bridge) and just relax and take in all the sounds from the river. Day 2 On the second day you should definitely try to wake up nice and early (desert sunrise anyone?). To get you going head to one of the many coffee shops that dot downtown Moab; including, our favorite Moab Garage Co., a laidback coffee shop with tasty baked goods and breakfast sandwiches. Once fueled, make your way out of town towards I-70 (~30 minutes away). Once at the intersection turn left (west) towards Green River. You are now making your way to one of the most unique and out of this world landscapes in the US: Goblin Valley State Park. While the drive is relatively substantial (1.5 hours one-way) once you arrive and start exploring the park you will not question whether it was worth it. | Goblin Valley State Park The main draw of this desert park are the thousands of hoodoos that dot its dry landscape. Hoodoos, or as the locals call them, “goblins” are formations of mushroom-shaped rock pinnacles, some of which are several yards (meters) tall. This park, along with Bryce Canyon National Park (also located in Utah) contain some of the largest occurrences of hoodoos in the entire world. The best way to explore Goblin Valley State Park is by heading out into the hoodoos for a casual hike, much of which is done without a set trail (aka choose your own adventure). Many people compare Goblin Valley to the surface of Mars, which is kind of hilarious seeing as the 1999 movie Galaxy Quest used the park as their filming location for an alien planet. Once you are done hiking around the goblins, head back to the main parking area for some food and a quick break. Then pack up the car and head back out on the road you came in on, though this time turn left onto Road 1013 aka Wild Horse Road. Go 6 miles up the dirt road (relatively smooth) until you reach the Little Wild Horse Canyon/Bell Canyon Trailhead. | Little Wild Horse Canyon When we first explored this area we weren’t planning on doing this hike. But after finishing Goblins Lair, an amazing canyoneering adventure in Goblin Valley State Park (curious?) and still having too much sunlight to deem setting up camp necessary, we decided to go on a little hike to explore the desert scenery some more. Turns out, this hike ended up being one of our favorite adventures during our long trip through southern Utah. There are two options when looking to explore the area. The first is to just do Little Wild Horse Canyon, which is beautiful and full of awesome slot canyons. Here you simply head out for as long as you would like and then turn around when you start to get tired. The second option is to do the full Little Wild Horse Canyon, including the same slot canyons, and then keep going out until you get to Bell Canyon which will eventually bring you back to the parking area. The second option, a loop, is roughly 8 miles total - though it is never incredibly strenuous. We did the full loop and it took us about 3.5-4 hours. Both options will give you an amazing insight into the San Rafael Swell landscape, as well as give you another opportunity to adventure in some fun slot canyons and desert canyons. Note: while this trailhead is the most popular trail in the entire San Rafael Swell, that doesn’t mean it will ever be extremely busy. So be prepared to have much of the trail to yourself (especially if you decide to do the loop). By now you are probably getting pretty tired, luckily it is only an hour and half back to Moab (don't worry there is coffee available in Green River just in case you need a caffeine pick-me-up). Once back in town grab some tasty food at Thai Bella Moab, a casual Thai spot serving hearty curries, stir fries and other Thai classics. Day 3 After yesterdays full-on adventure you are probably looking for a bit more laid back third day in Moab. Luckily, while Moab is full of heart pounding adventures, it also has a pretty low-key side. One great option is to head down the scenic byway along the Colorado River. Just as you headed towards Lions Park on day one, now just turn right onto Route 128 and keep heading along the river. From here you will start to notice the red rock canyon walls get taller and the valley gets narrower. While there are some beautiful roads in Utah, this one always comes out near the top of our list for not only being stunning, but also having so many adventures off of it. | Grandstaff Canyon Measuring just under 6 miles in length, this scenic trail meanders along a clear river, through thickets of cottonwood trees and eventually, to Morning Glory Natural Bridge, one of the largest natural bridges in the world. The natural bridge, though maybe not as impressive as other arches in the area, is definitely still worth seeking out - if only for the opportunity to watch people rappel down it. The Grandstaff Canyon hike is relatively easy and can be done year round. Like any desert adventure, make sure to bring plenty of water, sun protection, sturdy shoes and some snacks. Note: there is poison ivy along the trail so long sleeves and long pants are not a bad idea. | Fisher Towers Further down the road (around when the canyon starts to open up) are some pretty majestic looking sandstone towers. Known as the Fisher Towers (in honor of a miner who used to live in the area in the 1880s) these red towers are popular for hiking and climbing. There is the established Fisher Towers Trail, which measures 4.2 miles and takes you along the main towers (The Titan, The Cottontail Tower, Ancient Art). You can also start out on the main trail and then take one of the many side trails that spit off and head deeper into some of the smaller canyons (just remember to follow Leave No Trace Principles). | Dewey Bridge The last stop on the river road (before it heads out to the open desert plains) is the historic Dewey Bridge. This area was once home to the town of Dewey, which you can still hike to today (though there isn’t much left to see sadly). The old Dewey Bridge, once the longest suspension bridge in the state, unfortunately caught fire in 2008. Today only the metal ends and a couple metal cables remain. This area is a popular spot for jeeping (on a route called Top of the World Safari), mountain biking (it is part of the long distance Kokopelli Trail), and camping (it is all BLM land, meaning free camping). We have camped here many times and loved the feeling of really being out in nature and the stunning sunsets over the nearby red rock walls. Once you reach Dewey Bridge there isn’t much more to see. That is unless you feel like exploring Cisco, a present day ghost town that was once a hopping railroad stopping point. In fact, during its heyday (around the turn of the 20th century) around 100,000 sheep were sheared in the town before being shipped to market. It’s population also rose when oil and gas were found nearby. But, like many towns in the West, once the mining jobs went elsewhere or dried up all together the town slowly started to decline. Today, while various buildings and objects remain, it has been heavily looted. Fun fact: Johnny Cash wrote the song "Cisco Clifton's Fillin Station" about H. Ballard Harris, a man who lived in Cisco with his wife, and who ran the local gas station. From Cisco it is about 47 miles back to Moab (or ~1 hour of driving). Once you make it back to Moab, and if you aren’t sick of driving just yet, consider exploring the other side of the Colorado River. Route 279 - much like Route 128 - follows the Colorado River and gives you plenty of opportunities to get out and explore the landscape around Moab. One great option is to do the short, but fun, hike to Corona Arch. | Corona Arch Measuring 2.4 miles round-trip, this hike takes you past two arches: Bowtie and Corona, the latter of which is one of the most photogenic arches in the area. While the trail is short, it still packs plenty of fun. Much of it is on sandstone and requires a bit of climbing (with the help of cables). This is the type of hike you do when you have a bit of extra time, want to see an arch, but don't want to head into the national park. If Corona Arch seems a bit too easy for you, another option is the slightly more challenging Jeep Arch Trail. This hike is just over a mile longer, and likely less busy (though still expect a couple of people, unless you go early in the morning). To reach the trail, go right past the Corona Arch trailhead and park along the road. The trail begins right after the railroad tunnel, and while the trail is a loop, many hikers recommend going left at the start. End the day at Moab Brewery, the only microbrewery in town and a true mainstay. Try their most famous beer, the Dead Horse Ale, which takes its name from the scenic overlook near Canyonlands National Park. Or if an ale isn’t what you are looking for instead grab a Raven Stout, an Over the Top Hefeweizen or if beer isn’t your thing at all, then consider a glass of their Rockin' Root Beer, which is brewed onsite. Moab is a popular adventure destination for a reason. Not only is it unquestionably beautiful, it also has a whole lot on offer. While we only talked about hiking and canyoneering, there are many other outdoor activities to partake in; including, mountain biking, rafting, jeeping and climbing. Another thing that sets Moab apart - and makes it so popular - is its location. Not only is it right next to Arches National Park (so close there is even a bike path connecting them), but also Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and Sand Flats Recreation Area (home to the uber famous Slickrock mountain bike trail). And those are only the established areas to explore - Moab really shines when you start to get off-the-beaten-path. This includes areas like Behind the Rocks (where one of our favorite canyons, Rock of Ages, lies), the La Sal Mountains (especially the Bull Canyon area) and Gemini Bridges, a great spot for jeeping and mountain biking. So, if you are looking for a true desert escape, one that is full of stunning landscapes and off-the-beaten-path adventures, then Moab is the place to go.
- BETA: Laos
19.8563° N, 102.4955° E Fast Facts | The country is officially known as the Lao People's Democratic Republic | Laos is one of the five socialist states in the world | Laos is bordered by Myanmar and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southeast, and Thailand to the west and southwest. It is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. | Modern day Laos traces its historic and cultural identity to Lan Xang, which existed from the 14th century to the 18th century as one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia. | After a period of internal conflict, Lan Xang broke into three separate kingdoms: Luang Phrabang, Vientiane, and Champasak. In 1893, the three territories came under a French protectorate and were united to form what is now known as Laos. The country briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but was recolonized by France until it finally won autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1953, with a constitutional monarchy. But soon after the Vietnam War ended in 1975, the communist party, Pathet Lao, came to power, ending the civil war. Laos was then dependent on military and economic aid from the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991. Today, Laos is a one-party socialist republic, espousing Marxism–Leninism and governed by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party. | The politically and culturally dominant Lao people make up 53.2% of the population, mostly in the lowlands. Mon-Khmer groups, the Hmong, and other indigenous hill tribes, which make up the rest of the population, mainly live in the foothills and mountainous areas. | Laos' strategies for development are based on generating electricity from rivers and selling the power to its neighbors, namely Thailand, China, and Vietnam, as well as its initiative to become a "land-linked" nation, as evidenced by the construction of four new railways connecting Laos and neighbors. Today, Laos has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. All facts from here. Fun Facts | Laotians rank second in the world for average height, with the average person standing just 155.89 centimeters tall (that is 5 feet 1.37 inches)! Laos also has the youngest population of all countries in Asia, with around 70% of the population under 30 years old. | Laos is one of the world's 5 remaining ‘communist' countries (alongside North Korea, China, Vietnam, and Cuba) | Laos is the most heavily bombed place per capita. This is a result of US bombings during the Vietnam War, where for 9 years (1964-1973), the US dropped over 2 million tons of bombs across Laos – that's more than ALL of the bombs during World War II combined. And, unfortunately, around 30% of those bombs didn't explode. | The Laotians are the highest consumers of sticky rice (khao niaow) in the world, eating more than 345 pounds (156 kilograms) a year, per person. Sticky rice has been around in Southeast Asia for at least 4,000 years, but a few hundred years ago rice farming methods changed, with most countries switching to growing non-glutinous white rice in the 18th century. | Lao coffee is delicious and not as internationally famous as it should be. But it is in fact Laos’ biggest agricultural export. Both the Arabica and Robusta coffee varieties are grown in Laos, mostly on the Bolaven Plateau, which has cool temperatures and plenty of rain – which is ideal for coffee growing. | Beerlao is the award-winning national beer of Laos. It is made from locally-grown Jasmine rice, malt imported from France or Belgium, and yeast and hops imported from Germany. Beerlao won the Monde Selection gold quality awards in both 2006 and 2010. | Though the country is landlocked, there are still plenty of islands to explore. For example, if you head to Si Phan Don (literally known as “4,000 islands”) in Southern Laos, you’ll find serene sandy shores and plenty of adventure. Another neat thing about Si Phan Don is that it is completely car free - everyone gets around either by bike or on foot. | With their rounded noses and upturned mouths, Irrawaddy dolphins seem to always be smiling. But unfortunately, this dolphin is now extremely rare - some believe there are only 60 left in the Mekong due to pollution and illegal electrofishing. Luckily, conservation initiatives are underway to help villagers save the population. | The jungles of Laos are home to an abundance of wildlife, especially in the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Biodiversity Conservation Area (NBCA). Here you can find tigers (the only ones in Indochina), white-cheeked gibbons, sambar deer, leopards, Asian black bears, sun bears, and dhole (also known as Asiatic wild dog). Fun facts from here and here. Adventures | Explore the Vat Phou ruins: a majestic Khmer temple complex near the Cambodian border. Similar to Angkor Wat, this site dates back to the 11th or 13th centuries, it has an easterly orientation, and comprises several different structures. But one thing that sets the Vat Phou complex apart is a crocodile-shaped carved stone, which is suspected to be the site of human sacrifices. The ruins sit at the base of Mount Phou Khao, some 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from the Mekong River. Designated as a World Heritage Site in 2001, the ruins can be easily accessed from the large town of Pakse. | Explore Kong Lor Caves: considered one of South Asia’s geological wonders, this massive cave in the southern part of the country is definitely worth exploring. The cave was formed by the Nam Hin Bun River, which runs through an entire mountain. Inside, there is a pool of water with a clear emerald-tinted glow that some locals believe is sacred. Travelers can hire a wooden boat and an experienced boatman to negotiate the sprawling caverns, which include massive passages with majestic stalactites and towering stalagmites. Take on the Thakhek Loop: if you are looking to hop on a motorbike and ride around the countryside of Laos, then this might be the route for you. Measuring 475 kilometers, or 295 miles, this loop should take about 4 days to complete. Along the way you will be able to explore traditional Lao villages, caves (including Kong Lor Caves), tall limestone karsts, rice paddy fields and of course, waterfalls. Learn more about the route here. | Adventure in Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area: located in the Champasak Province in southern Laos, this forested park rises from the Mekong River lowlands and encompasses 1,100 square kilometers or 420 square miles. The park is home to many animals, including the Siamese crocodile, hog deer and green peafowl, all of which are endangered. One of the must-see destinations in the park is the Tad Fane Waterfall, a double spouted set of falls that roll over the edge of a verdant green, forested cliff. | Spend some time in Luang Prabang: This ancient, UNESCO-protected city was once the royal capital of the Kingdom of Laos. That was until 1975, when the Pathet Lao party took over after the civil war. Today, the city features beautifully preserved old temples and palaces, historic streets, and plenty of outdoor activities. We suggest taking a turn around the old city, wander the markets and eat traditional Laos food (and French style sandwiches), visit the National Museum and just spend time just soaking up the charming ambience of this beautiful little river town. Plus, if you ever wanted to float along the Mekong River, then this is a great place to give it a go. More Information (links) History and culture of Laos: https://www.britannica.com/place/Laos More information on things to do and see in Laos: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/laos A first-hand account of traveling in Laos: https://nomadisbeautiful.com/travel-blogs/laos-good-and-bad-forgotten-country/
- The Best Ski Resorts in Colorado
After a long and tiring (but exciting) ski season in Colorado it is officially the end. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the snow is melting. Summer will be here soon enough. Luckily, we feel like we got a full season's worth of skiing in - and not just at our home resort of Crested Butte - where we have been holed up for the past couple of months - but at many of the best resorts Colorado has to offer. While we didn’t get to explore every ski resort in Colorado (there are 30+ in the state) we were lucky enough to be able to see a lot of them. And as the season started to wind down we began to reexamine each resort and decide which ones were the best. Now this list splits the resorts up into specific categories, with our absolute favorite one at the very end. So if you are curious about our views on the many different ski resorts in Colorado - keep reading. Best for Beginners: Breckenridge There is a joke we kept hearing over and over again when talking about this scenic resort. It went like this: “You know what they call Breck? ... flat.” Now while this might be a bit of an over exaggeration - there is plenty of steep terrain - in truth, Breck is actually pretty flat. Which is a great thing for people learning to ski or people trying to up their confidence. We went there twice: once early in the season when I (Madalyne) was not very good at skiing. It was freezing that day (about 1 degree and windy) but it was also practically empty. So I got the confidence to do a couple of blue runs (medium difficulty) and it actually felt really good. The blues and the greens at Breck are great for learning on - they are flat, open and easy to maneuver. The second time we went to Breck it was a lot warmer. We also were much better skiers. So we decided to go to the high lifts and try out some of the resorts black and double black terrain. And man was it fun. The snow was great, the scenery was beautiful and the runs were challenging but still really exciting and fun. So if you are looking for a resort with a great mix of beginner friendly and more challenging stuff then Breckenridge is the place to go. Runs we highly recommend include the bowl of Peak 6 (Bliss is fun), anything off 6 Chair (Lobo and Hombre are great) and Blackhawk, a double black off Falcon SuperChair that is a great way to challenge your mogul skiing abilities. For runs that are a little less challenging, Claimjumper (or Clamjumper, which we also saw it called) and Monte Cristo are great fun, and relatively easy. Learn more about Breckenridge here. Best for Powder: Monarch Living in Crested Butte meant you skied solely at Crested Butte Mountain Resort - or at least we thought. Then we heard about this little independent ski resort up in the mountains (the other mountains) that sounded like a good time. Plus tickets were cheap ($59). So on one of our day offs we made the hour and a half drive to Monarch Mountain and honestly, that day kind of changed our skiing lives. Powder. Everywhere. It was like a whole other type of skiing. After a couple of glorious runs, our legs were sore but our smiles were wide. We finally began to understand the whole idea of “chasing powder.” Besides the great snow conditions, Monarch Mountain is also well located (right on the Continental Divide, about 30-40 minutes from the hopping town of Salida), independent - which is a big draw for us - and less busy than many other resorts. While the resort is relatively small, it packs a whole lot of punch. From the wide open bowls, to the deep powder, to the amazing hike-to terrain in Mirkwood, Monarch Mountain is definitely a resort worth adding to your must-ski list (especially after a big winter storm). Some runs we highly recommend include taking on Mirkwood, which includes a 20-30 minute hike, but the powder and tree runs are just magical, Outback, an open black in one of the bowls, and the trees that lie just below the Mirkwood climb (they don’t have a name, but you can get to them if you start on Ramble On and then head straight to the trees). Learn more about Monarch Mountain here. Best for Views: Telluride If you want just drop dead gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains you are skiing in, then Telluride is the place to go. Honestly, Telluride is a great resort all around: great ski conditions, challenging terrain, plenty of restaurants on and off the mountain, and best of all, they have a gondola (only half joking). Telluride has a lot of things going for it, not least of all its amazing panoramic views of the nearby San Juan Mountains (home to six 14,000 foot mountains). That view is only magnified once you head to the higher lifts, namely the Prospect Lift (and especially the Black Iron Bowl), Revelation Lift, Apex Lift and the Plunge Lift - all four of which top out at over 11,500 feet. From that height you feel like you are on top of a mountain - which you somewhat are - with only other high, alpine peaks as company. In truth, sometimes stepping off those lifts made us feel a bit uneasy on our skis. If you are looking for a real mountain skiing adventure, we recommend heading to the Black Iron Bowl area. It does require a bit of hiking, length depending entirely on you, but the fact that you will likely have the mountainside to yourself is 100% worth it. Other recommendations include the Revelation Bowl (which rests at an insane 12,000+ feet!) and the very scenic See Forever run (a nice blue with stunning views). Learn more about Telluride here. Best for Extremes: Crested Butte We are definitely a bit biased when it comes to our home resort. But ask anyone, if you want to test your metal head to Crested Butte (or CB as we locals call it ;). CB is a tough mountain. Every run, no matter the rating (green, blue, etc. ) is just that bit more challenging on the Butte. This was something we had heard before but it wasn’t until we actually went to other resorts that we realized it was definitely true - what would be a blue at other resorts is our greens (looking at you Mineral Point). But what makes Crested Butte so great for people who are pretty well versed in skiing are their Extremes (note: CB has no regular double black diamond runs, it goes straight from black diamond to extreme double black). This includes famous runs such as the Last Steep, the Teocalli Bowl, the Headwall, even the Peak (which looks very similar to Mt. Crumpet in The Grinch). And let's not forget Rambo, the steepest cut run in North America. If you want to test your skiing skills and have a true mountain adventure then CB is the place to go. Just remember, we also have rocks - lots of rocks - so be prepared for a bit of crunch and slide as you make your way down the mountain. Some of our favorite runs on CB are the aforementioned Last Steep and the Teocalli Bowl, as well as Black Eagle (a nice blue), North Pass (in the always empty Gold Link area) and the beautiful Paradise Bowl (if you want views, go there). Learn more about Crested Butte here. Best for those Extra Amenities: Beaver Creek We didn’t really know what to expect from Beaver Creek. We knew it had a reputation as being one of the more expensive resorts in Colorado, so we went in expecting things to feel really different (more glamorous?) than other resorts we visited. In truth, it didn’t feel that much different than say, Crested Butte or Breckenridge. So why did we put it as the top choice for extra amenities? Well it comes down to the things that are important at a resort that aren’t skiing. This includes transportation, ease of access, food, scenery, atmosphere, etc. Beaver Creek checks all of those boxes, and it checks them handedly. It is easy to get to the ski resort and major lifts - either by bus (there is plenty of parking), or by walking to the various lower lifts that will then take you to the mountain, it is easy to get to the resort in general (it is an easy 2 hour drive from Denver on I-70, without traffic at least), there are plenty of restaurants on and around the mountain, the scenery is just as good as many other resorts (besides maybe Telluride and CB), and it had - at least when we were there - a nice easy going atmosphere (we went on a Wednesday btw). In truth, the mountain has plenty of great runs that, though not extremely challenging, still are lots of fun. And here is one more thing to think about (though this was something that might only pertain to us and other vanlifers). Beaver Creek had really nice weather when we were there, something we heard is often more common than at other resorts (also see Telluride and CB). We were able to car camp about 15 minutes away without any problems, and without freezing - and this was the middle of January! While we wouldn’t say Beaver Creek was our favorite resort, it definitely kept us smiling and having a great time all day. There are plenty of runs for every type of skier, it has all those extra things you want out of a ski resort, and it is easy to get to and around (a huge, but underrated, plus). Some of our favorite runs at Beaver Creek were Coyote Glade (a nice blue tree run), Larkspur, Tomahawk and Springtooth. Learn more about Beaver Creek here. Best Overall: Wolf Creek It is kind of funny, but we weren’t planning to go to Wolf Creek at all this season. But after a last minute change of plans we found ourselves with an open weekend, and Wolf Creek found itself getting a couple of feet of fresh powder. Wolf Creek Ski Area is another independent ski resort, and similar to Monarch Mountain, it is also located on a high mountain pass - in this case - Wolf Creek Pass. And for some reason, due to geographical location or just dumb luck, it often sees the most amount of snow of any ski resort in the state. We had only heard about it in passing, but after visiting it the first time (we ended up going twice), we quickly became its unofficial spokesperson (I literally told a person to go to Wolf Creek while checking in them in for skiing at Crested Butte…). The snow, the location, the mountain itself are all absolutely amazing. And the best part - even on one of the best days of the season (according to many locals we met there on that said day) it still wasn’t crazy busy. We have waited in line for ski lifts for over an hour, on mediocre ski days no less, so to head to Wolf Creek on an amazing powder day and have to wait in line for max 10 minutes felt like heaven on Earth. If you like tree runs go to Wolf Creek. If you like skiing in fresh powder, go to Wolf Creek. If you like tearing down blacks and double blacks without any worry of getting injured (due to the aforementioned powder) go to Wolf Creek. Honestly, if you want to feel like you are backcountry skiing without all the avalanche danger (and the uphill grind) go to Wolf Creek. We promise it is worth the long drive to the far southwestern corner of Colorado. And as if it couldn’t get any better, Wolf Creek is also located about 40 minutes from Pagosa Springs, which is home to various hot springs (we greatly enjoyed the free ones in the river) and nice restaurants (read more about Pagosa Springs here). Honestly, we cannot speak highly enough about Wolf Creek. The skiing is excellent, everyone is very nice, it never feels crowded and the views are wonderful (when you can see them). We have spoken more than once about the idea that if we were ever going to do another ski-focused winter in Colorado we would do it close to Wolf Creek. It is that freakin good. Some of our favorite runs at Wolf Creek were Boundary Bowl (an easy hike-to area), Alberta Face, any and all of the tree runs off Bonanza Chairlift, the Numbered Chutes off Coyote Park Trail and the Waterfall Area (which is where we did our first double black extreme run). In truth, Wolf Creek shines because it really feels like a free-for-all in terms of skiing: there are very few groomed trails and it really is a make your own adventure kind of thing. You honestly can’t go wrong no matter where you ski. Learn more about Wolf Creek Ski Area here. In the beginning of the season, we weren’t the best skiers (I personally could barely ski down a green without falling). But after months of skiing (and falling, and sliding, and yard-sale-ing) we really honed our skills and were soon confident enough to take on more extreme and challenging terrain. This allowed us to experience almost all of the runs at every resort we went to. From the scenic rolling blues at Breckenridge, to the powder-packed bowls at Monarch, to the fear-of-heights inducing open runs at Telluride, to the actual Extremes at Crested Butte, to the groomed trails at Beaver Creek, to finally some of the best tree runs in Colorado at Wolf Creek. All of these resorts are great in their own way, and while we still think Wolf Creek is our favorite and one of the best in the state, we would recommend exploring all of these resorts, as well as others not on this list (looking at you Cooper, Copper and Steamboat). These choices are entirely our own and might be completely wrong in the eyes of some other skiers. And that is okay. In the end, no matter where you ski, a day outside - and a day out skiing on the mountain - is a good day. Note: sorry for the not always great quality photos - it can be tough to capture the beauty and excitement of skiing when it is whiteout conditions and your hands are freezing. Luckily, we not only got photos but also sweet video of actually skiing at these resorts. Check it out at Luke's Laps.
- road trips | BACKROAD PACKERS
HIT THE OPEN ROAD stories + guides Is there anything better than hitting the open road, having no destination in mind, and setting out on a grand adventure? We don't think so. This is why we head out on road trips as often as possible, and why so many of our best stories come from our adventures on backroads. San Luis Valley: Colorado’s Kookiest Road Trip Exploring Cottonwood Pass in Colorado (in the Fall) The Best Scenic Drives From Estes Park, Colorado 5 Things to Know Before Heading Out on a Summer Road Trip Poudre Canyon Adventures: Hidden Gems Along the River Off-the-Beaten-Path Arizona Adventures adventurous road trip routes NORTHERN CALIFORNIA COAST start: san francisco | end: redding Venture out on Highway 1 from San Francisco up to Point Reyes National Seashore, one of the prettiest natural areas with tons of hiking trails. From there keep heading north through Point Reyes Station, Point Arenas and Mendocino, all the way up to Eureka, making sure to stop and explore the coast and forests as much as possible. This route is perfect for people who want to take their time and explore the beautiful, lush landscapes, and maybe do a bit of tidepool searching. So if you are ready for a Northern California Expedition then click below. route guide OLYMPIC PENINSULA start: seattle | end: aberdeen Take your time and really soak up the beauty and wonder that is the Olympic Peninsula. Spend a couple of days checking out lighthouses, cute coastal towns, hot springs, and of course, the rainy Washington coast. This route is perfect for those who want to really experience the natural beauty that beckons so many to the Pacific Northwest. So if you are ready for an adventurous Olympic Peninsula road trip then click below. route guide AMERICAN SOUTHWEST start: yuma, az | end: marathon, tx The American Southwest is a stunningly beautiful area of the United States. With various biomes, natural wonders, cute off the beaten path towns and lots of national parks (you hit 5 on this route alone), it is the perfect spot to get a tiny bit lost. So if you are ready for an adventurous American Southwest road trip then click below. route guide
- destinations | BACKROAD PACKERS
WHERE SHOULD WE GO NEXT? COUNTRY BETA: LAOS OFF THE BEATEN PATH PLACES . . . north america south america asia national parks 72 Hours in Moab, Utah BETA: Laos 5 Things to Know About Riding the Reunification Express in Vietnam BETA: El Salvador Exploring Khao Sok National Park in Southern Thailand 9 Most Adventurous Bike Rides in the World Chiang Mai, Thailand | Urban Exploration Quito, Ecuador | Urban Exploration BETA: Oman Surviving Giardia While Overseas 72 Hours in Pagosa Springs, Colorado | Winter Edition Banos, Ecuador | Urban Exploration Machu Picchu is Overrated Monterrey, Mexico | Urban Exploration BETA: Mongolia BETA: Guyana Potrero Chico Adventures Escaping the Cold in Baja California Dreaming of 2021 Can’t Miss Winter Destinations in the American Southwest BETA: Jordan BETA: Finland 72 Hours in Fort Collins, Colorado Wait, Colorado has 4 National Parks?
- urban exploration | BACKROAD PACKERS
URBAN EXPLORATION stories + guides Oftentimes, cities are places we journey through not in. We prefer being out in nature compared to being in a busy metropolis. But even so, sometimes a city just catches our heart and makes us stay a day or two (or even longer). These are a few of our favorite cities - both large and small - that we believe have that perfect balance of authentic culture and exciting things to explore. MONTERREY A huge metropolis that totally took us by surprise, Monterry is a true hidden gem in northern Mexico - complete with culture, cuisine and national parks. QUITO One of the tallest capitals in the world - and one with 12 hours of sun 365 days a year (!) - Quito is one of the few big cities we could actually see ourselves settling down in. BANOS A small town in the mountains of Ecuador that definitely lived up to our expectations. Full of exciting adventure, this little village is a must-visit. CHIANG MAI One of the most exciting and culturally rich cities in Southeast Asia, this metropolis captured our hearts and adventurous spirit. 72 hours in... crested butte, co fort collins, co pagosa springs, co moab, ut