7 Weekend Adventure Trips for Nature Lovers

Many great outdoor adventures are so far off the beaten path, they may seem unattainable in a long weekend. However, given some advance planning, even the wilderness will offer itself up in convenient bite-sized chucks.

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Photo By: By Tony Webster from San Francisco, California (Superior Hiking Trail) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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San Juan Islands (Washington)

Sea kayaking tours off the San Juan Islands in Washington state, like those offered by Sea Quest Expeditions, are designed to visit the favorite feeding, traveling and play areas of resident pods of orcas -- easily among the most awe-inspiring creatures you'll ever likely encounter close up and personal in the wild.

Slickrock Bike Trail (Utah)

The highly technical 9.6-mile Slickrock Bike Trail is considered by many to be the ultimate mountain-biking experience. However appealing Moab is to the seasoned rider, it also offers a wide assortment of easy to moderate biking trails that expose casual riders to classic high-desert scenery along cacti-lined single-track, primitive jeep roads and patches of slickrock.

Youghiogheny River (Maryland)

To cap off a long weekend in the wet wilderness of the East, you might want to try the Upper Yough. Pronounced "Yock," it refers to the Youghiogheny River, which springs from the highest ridges of the Allegheny Plateau in western Maryland. For 7 miles, this pristine river is virtually one long rapid cascading through a lush hemlock forest. Not that you're likely to have time to notice the wildflowers and wildlife as you navigate blind chutes and ledges, dropping an average of 116 feet per mile.

Green Mountain National Forest (Vermont)

The Moosalamoo region of Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest is a New England destination reputed for outstanding local heritage, nature conservation and tourism stewardship. Whether on your own self-guided tour, or through an operator like R.E.I. Adventures, you can wander through more than 20,000 acres of forest, cliffs, vistas, lakes and streams.

Superior Hiking Trail (Minnesota)

Lodge-to-lodge hiking along the Superior Hiking Trail, which, aptly named, really happens to be one of the continent's finest hiking trails, is always a great adventure. It winds for 200 miles, from Two Harbors, MN, to the Canadian border along the ridgeline of the ancient Sawtooth Mountain Range, high above Lake Superior.

Cheat River (West Virginia)

The Cheat River Watershed is the largest free-flowing watershed in the Eastern United States. As one of few rivers that flow northward -- its origins are in West Virginia's highest mountains -- the Cheat is a boulder-strewn river big on beauty and personality, ranging from nice and easy riffles to raucous and raging rapids. Rafting the mighty Cheat is one wet and wild way to spend a day.

Red River Gorge Geologic Area (Kentucky)

There are countless crags for climbing in the gorgeous Red River Gorge Geologic Area of eastern Kentucky, but perhaps none is as easy to get to and varied in difficulty as those at Torrent Falls Resort. With more than 42 acres of majestic cliffs and three waterfalls (the highest is 165 feet), this wilderness resort maintains more than 50 different routes, ranging from 5.2 to 5.13. An expert staff caters to both novice and experienced climbers.

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