It’s a brand-new year and with it comes the perfect excuse to sit down and envision the kind of adventures you’d like to have over the next 12 months. There is no shortage of adventures to undertake in our 50 states, but just in case you need a little help building your very own bucket list, we’ve rounded up seven epic adventures that are more than worthy of a top spot.
Visit the Country’s Newest National Park
In December 2019, our country gained a new national park (raising the total number of national parks in the U.S. to 62) when White Sands National Monument was officially redesignated as a national park. Located in southern New Mexico, the country’s newest national park is home to “great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand. Visitors can camp primitively in the park’s backcountry, hike or bike on the park roads and trails or go sledding down the dunes on plastic saucers available in the gift shop.
Take Your Bike on a Rails-to-Trails Path
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former railroad lines. Users can walk, run, bike or skate along the multi-use paths, which can be found in 50 states. Eventually, the organization hopes to have one continuous path that runs the width of the country (and what a bucket list item that will be!), but for now there are over 2,000 rail-trails already on the ground. Possible rails-to-trails adventures include everything from overnight bikepacking trips to packing a simple picnic lunch and heading out for just a few hours on a sunny afternoon. Click here to find a trail near you.
Hike or Backpack One of America’s Long Trails
Everyone has heard of the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, but what about North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Vermont’s Long Trail, West Virginia’s Allegheny Trail or Utah and Arizona’s Hayduke Trail? In the U.S. today there are 11 National Scenic Trails totaling 13,104 miles, 19 National Historic Trails totaling 19,274 miles and 1,244 National Recreation Trails totaling 24,800 miles. In other words, there’s no shortage of options if you want to escape to the woods. In 2020, why not hike five (or 500!) miles on one of our country’s many trails.
Raft the “River of No Return”
Consistently named one of the best rivers to raft in the U.S., the Salmon River, a.k.a. the “River of No Return,” deserves a place on your 2020 bucket list. The middle fork of the Salmon River, specifically, is a hotspot for class III rapids and world-class fishing. Whether you choose to head out for a multi-day trip or just an afternoon, the rugged mountain peaks, steaming hot springs, tumbling waterfalls and granite canyon walls create a stunning backdrop that you won’t soon forget.
Spend the Night in the Highest Guest Lodge in the Eastern U.S.
Perched on top of Mt. LeConte in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is LeConte Lodge, the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States. Accessible only by foot, visitors can choose between five hiking trails that vary in length between 5.5 and 8 miles long. Guests stay in hand-built log cabins, eat hot meals and drink wine served in the lodge kitchen. But it’s the stunning bird’s-eye views of the surrounding Smoky Mountains that really make this trip bucket list worthy.
Ski Lodge-to-Lodge in Maine’s Outback
The wintry woods of Maine are home to a grand adventure that every ski bum will love. There are more than 90 miles of ski trails that connect the Appalachian Mountain Club’s network of eco-lodges (if you don’t want to ski between lodges, there are drive-in options, too.) Spend the day backcountry skiing on groomed, untracked trails, and then spend the night in a private cabin or shared bunkhouse, all of which offer breakfast, a trail lunch and dinner, as well as hot showers. And if you don’t want to lug all of your overnight gear with you, a shuttle service will drop it at your next location.
Slip off on an Adventure in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a region encompassing over 1 million acres of wilderness in Superior National Forest. There are over 1,100 lakes and hundreds of miles of rivers in the wilderness area—and it is one of the most isolated and beautiful places in the country to canoe or kayak. To plan an unforgettable adventure to the Boundary Waters you’ll need to decide your entry point, secure a permit, rent a canoe and head out to explore the never-ending network of lakes. When you’re ready to settle down for the night, look for a lakeside campsite—many are located on their own private islands.