Guide's Choice: Hiking, Biking, Paddling, and Sledding Adventures
From paddling Lake Superior to glacier-hopping in Alaska: 6 hair-raising, lung-busting adventures from America's top outfitters
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Rocky Mountain Three-Way
Raft, summit, and pedal your butt off in an action-packed weekend.
Colorado’s Arkansas Valley has it all-14,000-foot peaks, wild rivers, endless mountain biking-and Bill Dvorak’s multitalented guides will push you to conquer all three. Day 1: Kayak or raft the class III whitewater of Browns Canyon on the Arkansas River, dropping 30 feet a mile through Zoom Flume, Big Drop, Widowmaker, and Raft Ripper. Day 2: Huff your way up 14,119-foot Mt. Yale out of the Denny Creek trailhead, a 4,286-foot elevation gain in 6 miles. Day 3: Finish it off-if you can-with a 21-mile (2,100 feet of climbing) gonzo mountain bike trek on Trail #11 from Buena Vista to Frontier Ranch.
Contact: Bill Dvorak’s Kayak & Rafting Expeditions, (800) 824-3795; www.dvorakexpeditions.com
Lake Superior Spin-Cycle
Paddle through deserted islands on the world’s largest lake.
The Apostle Islands are a huge maze of water and rock, 21 islands of all shapes and sizes in the sky-blue waters of Lake Superior off Wisconsin’s north shore. Connect the dots on a weeklong sea kayaking trip that pits your paddling skills against the largest lake in the world. There will be wind. There will be fog. There will be waves rising like crystal-blue mountains and miles of paddling between each island. For a break, try hiking the 14 miles of trail on Stockton Island past the old shipwreck on Julian Bay Beach.
Contact: Adventures in Perspective, (715) 779-9503; www.livingadventure.com
Adirondack High Tops
Run the table on the East’s biggest peaks.
This 5-day hammer will quash the idea that mountain adventure happens only in the West. From a basecamp at John’s Brook Lodge, you’ll scramble up more than a dozen rugged peaks, including Gothics, Haystack, Armstrong, Pyramid, and the pinnacle of the range, Mt. Marcy, the tallest peak in New York. This one has it all-classic slide climbs, hiking the Klondike Trail, bushwhacking streams, and some of the most beautiful mountain views in the East.
Contact: Adirondack Rock and River Guide Service, (518) 576-2041; www.rockandriver.com
Alaskan Glacier Hopping
Sink your pick into something a little steeper.
Trail-less and ice-carved, the Hanagita Peak region of the Chugach Mountains is wild country, even by Alaskan standards. Without a guide, you’d be toast. With the mountain-savvy folks from St. Elias Alpine Guides, you’ll blitz the wilderness in 5 adrenaline-packed days. Start with a 40-minute bush-plane flight to an old mine site, climb an alpine pass between the Chitna and Bremner Rivers, and then descend a roped route along a steep glacier, with awesome views of 16,390-foot Mt. Blackburn. Once down, you’ll explore the valleys around Hanagita Peak, then head for the Klu River and your bush plane out.
Contact: St. Elias Alpine Guides, (888) 933-5427; www.steliasguides.com
Dogsled into the heart of a Northern winter.
Ten below zero, stars as sharp as sparks, sled dogs howling back to the wolves-just another soul-stirring moment among many on an 8-day, 75-mile dogsled traverse of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Ontario’s Quetico Wilderness Park with Arctic explorer Paul Schurke. You couldn’t do this trip alone, so harness up the dogs at French Lake and let Schurke teach you how to mush. You’ll cross a series of iced-over lakes, pass frozen waterfalls and ancient pictographs, and camp in heated tents on quiet bays. Need a break from the dogs? The skiing and snowshoeing potential is endless.
Contact: Wintergreen Dogsledding, (218) 365-6022; www.dogsledding.com
Play Lewis and Clark in a sea of stone and light.
Anonymity adds to the adventure on this outfitter’s creative treks. The routes vary according to your interests, but many climb one nameless ridge after another, reminding you just how little traffic Utah’s 1.9-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument sees. One sweet 5-day outing begins with a difficult 6-mile scramble and 1,200-foot drop into your basecamp along the Wingate section of the Escalante River. From there, you can explore trail-less canyons, hike to Anasazi sites, and search for mountain lion tracks.
Contact: Escalante Canyon Outfitters, (888) 326-4453; www.ecohike.com