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Take the Plunge

Hightail it to the great outdoors, where you can explore trails and pathways on foot, bicycle or horseback. Amp your trip up a notch with adventure sports, such as mountain biking, zip-lining, bungee jumping or riding an ATV over the sand dunes.

Get Inspired

Whale watching, Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego
Cabrillo National Monument,
San Diego

Cabrillo National Monument,
San Diego

Gray whales make the longest migration of any mammal on the planet -- and the western overlooks of Cabrillo National Monument are one of their pit stops. The peak time to see these massive 44-foot-long, 33-ton creatures is mid-January; they’re also visible from mid- to late December through March. 960 1280

Randy McEoin, flickr  

Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara, California

See the migration of the gray whales, as well as spot other marine life -- in fact, more than 27 types of whales and dolphins inhabit these waters at various times of year. The best times to go are February to early April for California grey whales; May to September for blue whales (the largest known animals to have ever existed), minke, humpback and, occasionally, right whales and orcas. 960 1280

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Monterey Bay, California

Monterey Bay, California

Enjoy year-round whale-watching in Monterey Bay. Running alongside California’s central coast, the bay sees humpback and blue whales from April to December, and gray whales from December to April. The coast also attracts killer whales, who hunt gray whales during their migration north. 960 1280

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Kodiak Island, Alaska

Kodiak Island, Alaska

In addition to these cute sea otters, Alaska’s Kodiak Island sees gray whales, in April. In June, minke, sei, fin and humpback whales also visit these waters -- with fins and humpbacks a common sight from June to November. Another great time to visit is April: That’s when the annual Whale Fest Kodiak, a 10-day-long festival, celebrates the return of Eastern Pacific gray whales to Alaskan waters. 960 1280

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San Juan Islands, Washington

San Juan Islands, Washington

Orcas love the San Juan Islands, off Washington State. Three pods, known as the “Southern Residents,” usually make their appearance from mid-April to early October. Gray, minke and humpback whales also visit these waters, as do seals, porpoises, sea lions and otters. 960 1280

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Vancouver Island,
British Columbia

Vancouver Island,
British Columbia

See killer whales, as well as humpback and Pacific grey whales, on a whale-watching tour of Vancouver Island. An estimated 85 orcas live in the waters around southern Vancouver and the southern Gulf Islands. Meanwhile, some 20,000 Pacific grey whales make their annual migration route along Vancouver Island’s west coast. Whale-watching season runs from March to November. 960 1280

Tourism Victoria/Frank Leung  

Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach

December through March is a prime time to see humpback whales at Virginia Beach. Fin whales -- the second largest animals alive today (behind the blue whale) -- also migrate through the area during the winter. In warmer months, from June to early September, see bottlenose dolphins, which frequently travel through the Chesapeake Bay area. 960 1280

Xavier de Jaureguiberry, flickr   

Long Island, New York

Long Island, New York

July through Labor Day are prime times to go whale-watching off Long Island, NY. Fin, humpback, minke, sperm, North Atlantic right, blue and sei whales are drawn to these waters to feast on schools of herring, sand eels and marine crustaceans. Whale-watching trips often leave from the historic town of Montauk, on the tip of Long Island’s south shore. 960 1280

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Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May, New Jersey

Not to be outdone, New Jersey also sees whale action. Beginning in March, humpback and finback whales, mostly 4- and 5-year-old juveniles, circulate in the Cape May Peninsula, at the southern tip of New Jersey, and feast on the waters’ abundant baitfish. Whale sightings continue through December. 960 1280

Alan Kotok, flickr  

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

See one of the world’s most important whale habitats. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary spans 1,400 square miles of diverse marine ecosystems: Between 4,000 and 10,000 North Pacific humpback whales flock here each winter to bear and nurse their calves. 960 1280

Ryan Ozawa, flickr   

Coastal Waters off Florida

Coastal Waters off Florida

Sure, California and New England corner the market on whale-watching, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck in the Sunshine State. Your best bet is to take a dolphin cruise; you may just spot a North Atlantic right whale if you go between November and April. 960 1280

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission   

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine

Enjoy a summer whale-watching expedition in Bar Harbor, ME. Beginning in mid-April, hungry finback, minke and right whales travel to the area’s cool waters -- just 20 miles off the Maine coast -- to feast on sand eels, plankton, copepods and fish. Come October, the whales head south for warmer waters. 960 1280

Maine Office of Tourism   

Provincetown, Massachusetts

Provincetown, Massachusetts

Come spring, head to Provincetown, MA, where humpback, fin, minke and sei whales, as well as the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, frequent the waters off this coastal town through October. Another great spot for whale-watching is Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, just 5 miles north of Provincetown. 960 1280

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Hollister Hills SVRA (Hollister, CA)
Hollister Hills SVRA (Hollister, California)

Hollister Hills SVRA (Hollister, California)

Hollister Hills SVRA (State Vehicular Recreation Area) has 24 miles of trails, including a man-made obstacle course that features a mud bog, which attracts big crowds on the weekends. Located in the mountains dividing the city of Hollister from the Salinas Valley, many of the routes at this off-road course are impassable when wet -- and always a challenge. 960 1280

Peter Kemmer, flickr  

Moab, Utah

Moab, Utah

Moab in Southeastern Utah, is an iconic off-roading destination in the US. The terrain has been a battleground for off-roaders, mountain bikers, hikers and rafters -- so much so that some trails have been fully or partially closed to off-road vehicles. However, there’s plenty of space for 4x4 trucks and other modified off-road rigs. Guided trail tours and Jeep rentals are available in the area. State resident or non-resident Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) permits are required. 960 1280

Cavan Images  

The Cliffs Insane Terrain Off-Road Park (Marseilles, Illinois)

The Cliffs Insane Terrain Off-Road Park (Marseilles, Illinois)

Looking for muddy fun? Head to Marseilles, IL, where off-road enthusiasts converge on The Cliffs Insane Terrain Off-Road Park. This heavily wooded park features large fields, creeks and 1 treacherous mud hole -- you’ll have to ask park personnel where it is. Just a few words of wisdom: Watch out for deep holes disguised as easy mud puddles. 960 1280

Cheryl Lindo Jones  

Whipsaw Trail (South-Central British Columbia)

Whipsaw Trail (South-Central British Columbia)

Close to Coalmont, Princeton, in British Columbia, the Whipsaw Trail should be on your list to visit between July and August, when the rainfall is lowest. Winner of the BFGoodrich Outstanding Trails award, this trail is an active mining and logging road, so watch out for traffic! Some areas of the trail are challenging and may require a winch and tow strap if your 4x4 or rig gets stuck. 960 1280

Travelcedric@flickr  

Redneck Yacht Club (Punta Gorda, Florida)

Redneck Yacht Club (Punta Gorda, Florida)

Welcome to the Redneck Yacht Club Mud Park in Punta Gorda, FL. This is the ultimate destination for mudding and off-roading enthusiasts. The 800-acre park has 3 mud holes, a mud track, drive-thru buggy/ATV wash, camping, food vendors and much more. The Redneck Yacht Club has 4 mud holes to choose from depending on your riding preferences, including Hog Waller and Gator Slough. 960 1280

  

Shiloh Ridge (Alto, Texas)

Shiloh Ridge (Alto, Texas)

It’s known as the first and original off-road park in Texas. Shiloh Ridge is home to the Texas Redneck Games, a 4-day event that includes mudding, camping, live entertainment, wet T-shirt contests and more! Located north of Alto, TX, this park -- open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week -- welcomes owners of ORV (off-road vehicles), ATVs and motorcycles. 960 1280

Charley  

Azusa Canyon (Azusa, California)

Azusa Canyon (Azusa, California)

This is the only state-owned-and-operated mud mecca in Southern California. Fed by the San Gabriel River, the bogs here are deep with silt from the surrounding San Gabriel Mountains, making it a perfect spot for mudding. In order to get in, your rig should be legal to drive on the street. 960 1280

Rodney Wills, flickr  

The Mounds ORV Area (Mt. Morris, Michigan)

The Mounds ORV Area (Mt. Morris, Michigan)

Located in Mt. Morris, MI (near Flint, MI), The Mounds is a large complex with soft, sandy soil and small- to medium-sized ponds scattered throughout the park. High horsepower isn’t recommended; rig with 33-inch mud tires and waterproofed electronics will suffice. 960 1280

Daniel May  

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Off-roading is so big in Las Cruces, NM, that there’s a club, the Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club. We recommend attending the Annual Chile Challenge Off-Road Trail Event that is usually scheduled during the last week in February. Although there isn’t a competition, participants follow an experienced trial leader to complete a challenging run over significant obstacles. 960 1280

Chris Faivre  

Truck Night at Yankee Lake (Brookfield, Ohio)

Truck Night at Yankee Lake (Brookfield, Ohio)

Prepare to go off-roading in some of the most challenging bogs in the US. In Brookfield, OH, Truck Night at Yankee Lake attracts huge crowds who want to watch high-horsepower trucks compete in gritty mud pits with fun activities like the rock crawl, log climb, car crush and tug o' war. Truck Night is on Friday nights from May through September. We recommend off-roading fans check out the season opener event, Trucks Gone Wild. 960 1280

John Hinley of Truck Night  

Pacific Northwest Trail
Pacific Northwest Trail

Pacific Northwest Trail

The Pacific Northwest Trail spans 1,200 miles -- including 3 national parks and 7 national forests. To tackle this route, which runs through Montana, Idaho and Washington, you'll have to keep a pace of 20 miles per day. That'll get you to the trail's end in about 60 days.

Best times to hike:Year-round at lower elevations, summer and fall at higher elevations.
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Andy Porter, flickr   

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

The famed Appalachian Trail spans more than 2,180 miles. A thru-hike usually takes between 5 and 7 months, cutting through 14 states between Georgia and Maine. Along the way, enjoy views of pink rhododendrons along the trail’s Tennessee-North Carolina state line and in southwest Virginia, from late spring to early summer.

Best times to hike: Spring to fall.
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Thinkstock  

John Muir Trail

John Muir Trail

Naturalist John Muir loved this area of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. Today, the trail named in his honor runs 211 miles, from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney (the highest point on America’s mainland). Most hikers start their trek at Yosemite’s Happy Isles or Tuolumne Meadows.

Best times to hike: Generally July to September.
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Steve Dunleavy, flickr  

Hayduke Trail

Hayduke Trail

Uber-hiker Andrew Skurka calls Hayduke Trail “one of the finest ways to discover the Colorado Plateau … and get away from it all.” No wonder. The 800-mile trail running through Utah and Arizona covers the area’s big national parks: Zion, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches.

Best times to hike: Spring and fall.
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Thinkstock  

Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

The massive Pacific Crest Trail covers more than 2,600 miles, from California, Oregon and Washington to British Columbia. The trail is among the “Big 3”: If you hike the Pacific Trail, as well as the Continental Divide Trail and the Appalachian Trail, you’ll get the American Long Distance Hiking Association’s Triple Crown Award.

Best times to hike: Late April to late September.
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Marshmallow, flickr  

Sierra High Route

Sierra High Route

The Sierra High Route is one of pro hiker Andrew Skurka’s favorite trails. The 195-mile trail in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains offers amazing views of meadowlands, lake basins and mountain peaks. Keep a pace of roughly 20 miles per day, and you’ll complete the trail in a little over a week. Also, keep in mind logistical considerations.

Best time to hike: Depends on skill level.
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Getty Images  

Arizona Trail

Arizona Trail

The 800-mile Arizona Trail runs north and south through the state, and showcases some of the region's most unspoiled terrain: ridges, mountains and wilderness areas that have remained untouched since Arizona became a territory in 1863. That remoteness also means hikers must stay current on Arizona Trail conditions.

Best times to hike: Year-round at lower elevations, summer and fall at higher elevations.
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Rick Hall, flickr  

Long Trail

Long Trail

Known simply as the Long Trail, this route runs 273 miles through Vermont -- the whole length of the state. The trail also happens to be America’s first long-distance hiking trail. Construction began in 1912 and continued for nearly 20 years. Today, hikers can enjoy short day hikes and extended treks (including to Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest mountain).

Best times to hike: Late spring through late fall.
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dvs, flickr  

Continental Divide Trail

Continental Divide Trail

At 3,100 miles, the Continental Divide Trail is not for the faint of heart: Only about 25 people a year attempt to hike the entire trail, which runs between Mexico and Canada. Some areas can only be traveled by bushwacking, aka make-your-own-trails, and roadwalking.

Best times to hike: April to October.
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Getty Images  

Superior Hiking Trail

Superior Hiking Trail

Everyone loves Superior: Hiker Andrew Skurka ranks the trail among his 10 favorite US hikes, Readers Digest ranks it among its top 5. The 275-mile footpath showcases scenic views -- boreal forests, rushing waterfalls and the 30-mile-long Sawtooth Mountains are among the attractions -- as well as 81 campsites for a little R&R.

Best times to hike: Late spring to early fall.
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Thinkstock  

Florida Trail

Florida Trail

Alligators are among the wild critters that hikers can encounter along the Florida Trail. The 1,400-mile trail starts at Big Cypress National Preserve (about 45 miles west of Miami) and ends in the Pensacola, FL, area. And if you see a gator along the way? Give it space, circling around its tail end so it doesn’t feel threatened.

Best times to hike: Year-round.
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B A Bowen Photography, flickr  

Colorado Trail

Colorado Trail

Hikers, horse riders and bicyclists, the Colorado Trail is calling your name. The 486-mile trail runs from the Denver area to Durango, CO, with some of Colorado’s most beautiful scenery in between: wildlife (marmots, deer, sheep and more), as well as wildflowers, forests, lakes and streams ideal for fishing. A thru-hike generally takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete -- a feat accomplished by roughly 150 people per year.

Best times to hike: Primarily July and August.
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Kimon Berlin, flickr  

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