10 Wild Destinations for an Adventurous Girls' Weekend
Want to plan a girls’ weekend getaway, but don’t want to stick to the standard spas and cocktails? These destinations will offer more than a little adventure for your next girlfriends' trip.
Photo By: Michael Ciaglo
Photo By: The Boulders Resort and Spa
Photo By: Courtesy of Visit Jackson Hole
Photo By: Costa Rica Tourism Board
Photo By: Joshua Tree National Park
Photo By: Tourism Santa Fe
Photo By: Jordan Curet
Photo By: Martin Laporte
Photo By: Rob Riberia
Photo By: Perrin James
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
City trips can be a great way to get the girls together for a few nights of fun. But these days, getting a chance to disconnect is both rarer and more important than ever. Next year, instead of lobbying for a Vegas or NYC weekend, get everyone to fly into one of these adventurous towns for a few days or a week of prioritizing the outdoors.
For starters, fly to Denver, rent a car, and head to Great Sand Dunes National Park for a unique weekend you won’t find anywhere else in the US. Here, you’ll find North America’s tallest dunes, up to 750 feet high, piled at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Rent sand sleds at Great Sand Dunes Oasis near the entrance of the park and hike 699 feet all the way up to High Dune, to sled down. Camp in the park or reserve a cabin or campsite at the rustic, clothing-optional Valley View Hot Springs, about an hour away, where you can soak in natural springs at all hours of the night and enjoy stunning night skies unmarred by light pollution.
Phoenix may be home to high-end spas, but it’s so much more than its desert oasis resorts. The mountains around the city offer countless hikes, mountain biking trails and rock climbing routes for all levels — not to mention spectacular sunrise and sunset views. Phoenix is also a great basecamp for trips to the red rocks of Sedona, two hours north. There are ample camping opportunities throughout the city and surrounding wilderness, but if a hotel is more your speed, stay at The Boulders Resort and Spa, which is dotted with dozens of species of cactuses and succulents and is mere moments away from the Tonto National Forest, where you can hike trails lined with centuries-old saguaro cactuses. After a hard day in the mountains, relax at the on-site spa, which features a sauna, steam room and hot pools. Make a dinner reservation at Kai at the Sheraton at Wild Horse Pass, where dishes inspired by the Pima and Maricopa tribes take the form of art.
BOOK NOW: Booking.com, Starting at $159
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
You likely know Jackson for Yellowstone National Park and its world-class skiing. But throughout the wilderness surrounding this small Western town, you’ll find scores of year-round adventures. Get the girls together for a day hike, snowshoe, cross country ski or backpacking trip in Grand Teton National Park, watch massive herds of elk at the National Elk Refuge, or, in the summertime, jump on a whitewater rafting or float trip down the Snake River. Be sure to leave time to gorge on food in town, too — Jackson is home to a surprising number of unparalleled restaurants.
Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica
The small town of La Fortuna is your basecamp for adventure around Arenal Volcano National Park, home to a 5,350-foot volcano and lush, enchanting forests. Explore the forest from high at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, where you can walk across bridges strung through the treetops. And after a long day of adventure, you can soak in natural hot springs and hot spring spas near the park.
Road Trip Between Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks
In southern California, you’ll find both Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks, which are filled with otherworldly sights you won’t find anywhere else in the US. Fly into Vegas or Los Angeles and rent a car for a long weekend road trip visiting both places. Plan to go in the winter months, when temperatures are still warm but not deathly hot. In Joshua Tree, you can climb, hike or backpack among the spindly Joshua trees. And in Death Valley, you can climb the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and stand in the lowest point in North America — Badwater Basin, where the salt flats are 278 feet below sea level.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is usually praised for its arts scene, but it’s also an incredible basecamp for a wide variety of outdoor adventure. Start with a visit to Bandelier National Monument, where you can crawl into ancient cliff dwellings carved hundreds of years ago by the Ancestral Pueblo people. Take a day trip to the small, artsy town of Taos, where you can walk across the 650-foot-tall Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and hike in the Kit Carson National Forest. Hike to natural hot springs in the Taos area or, if a spa is more your speed, take a post-adventure dip at the Ojo Caliente hot springs. In Santa Fe, be sure to make time to visit Meow Wolf, as well. This wonderfully weird art installation is an adventure of its own.
British Columbia, Canada
Vancouver is undoubtedly one of North America’s most beautiful major cities. You’re never more than a few minutes away from hikes, the beach, mountain biking, and more, and when you want to get deeper into the backcountry, it's an easy day trip. In the winter months, go heli-skiing with Blackcomb Helicopters. In the summer months, they offer an epic day trip: Take a helicopter up to the turquoise Marriage Lake for a gourmet picnic and standup paddleboarding. They use Red Paddle Compact boards, which pack down small enough to fit into a backpack so that you can easily trek to the perfect place to put in. If a mountain town basecamp and in-bounds runs are your speed, stay at the posh Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
BOOK NOW: Booking.com, Starting at $181/night
Saguenay, Quebec, Canada
Two hours from Quebec City, the small town of Saguenay makes a great basecamp for paddlesports on the Saguenay Fjord. For an adrenaline rush, do the via ferrata in Parc National du Fjord du Saguenay. If you want to totally disconnect and get away from city life entirely, book one of the sphere huts in Cap Jaseux Park, which also offers hiking, camping, high ropes courses and sea kayaking. The Saguenay/Lac Saint-Jean region is known for its blueberries, so when they’re in season, be sure to try desserts with local berries after a day of adventure. Also worth exploring is Val-Jalbert, a historical ghost village that was once home to a thriving pulp mill. Take the cable car for a bird’s-eye view of Lac Saint-Jean and close-up of Ouiatchouan Falls, which is even taller than Niagara.
Moab is most famous for Arches National Park, the likes of which adorn Utah’s license plates. But beyond the most well-worn of tourist paths, the public lands around this quirky little town are hiding exceptional places to set up a weekend basecamp for some blissful girls-only solitude. Canyonlands National Park, for example, in spite of being so close to Arches, is comparatively devoid of crowds, and so are the Bureau of Land Management areas that span much of the space between the more well-known parks — full of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, rock climbing and more. Take extra special care of the land here — southern Utah is full of spaces that are sacred to Native American nations in southern Utah. Both out of respect for them and the archaeological integrity of ruins, it’s essential that you not touch, move or take any artifacts you may stumble upon.
Isla Espiritu Santo, near La Paz, Baja, Mexico
Baja’s Isla Espiritu Santo, part of a UNESCO biosphere reserve, is a serene place to completely disconnect. Head to La Paz, the closest city, and book a trip with OARS to spend a week basecamping on the island in canvas wall tents close enough to the ocean to let the waves lull you to sleep at night. By day, go hiking and sea kayaking and watch pelicans dive for fish in the crystal-clear waters just offshore. Snorkel with sea lions and fish, and keep an eye out for whales and dolphins jumping alongside your boat. By night, take a stroll along the beach in the moonlight or lay out under the stars. There’s no better place to combine relaxation and adventure.