Don’t fall into the trap of considering the winter months to be lazy ones. Just because the temperature has dropped just a bit doesn’t mean the excitement has to be frozen over as well. In fact, all across the country there are unique adventure opportunities all thanks to the winter forecasts. Whether it’s exploring climate-controlled caves or soaking in some hot springs, there’s a long list of engaging winter adventure outings; here are a few great places to start.
Mega Underground Bike Park—Louisville, Kentucky
Touted as the largest indoor bike park on the planet, the Mega Underground Bike Park is something you have to see for yourself. Located 100-ft. underground in a former limestone cavern, this newly renovated, amazing underground space now hosts over 320,000 square feet of trails, jumps and a naturally climate controlled area for you to bike all winter long. Rentals are available, and whether you borrow one of theirs or bring your own, you’ll find plenty dirt to push around down here.
Breitenbush Hot Springs—Detroit, Oregon
Located smack dab in the middle of the Willamette National Forest in the Oregon Cascades, Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center is the perfect place to put your mind in order after too many cold nights shuttered inside. Featuring workshops, personal retreats and replenishment for mind, body and soul, the actual hot springs and steam saunas is what keeps Breitenbush a popular winter destination.
Maine’s Hut-to-Hut Cross-Country Ski Trails—Kingfield, Maine
For those that thrive in colder conditions, the extensive 45 miles of trails that connect the different huts found in the wilderness of Southeastern Maine is the place for you. While the skiing is fun, the real adventure lies within the four different huts operated by Maine Huts & Trail, each equipped with hot water showers, heated bunk rooms and all the amenities you need to have a good winter time. All the huts operated in the area are communal, so you can expect to meet some other avid winter adventurers, adding a little body heat to the winter warmth.
Lake Superior Ice Caves—Bayfield, Wisconsin
As part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, all along the shoreline of Mawikwe Bay in Wisconsin are some amazing winter marvels waiting for you to explore. While it is possible to pop into a sea kayak and approach the caves by paddling, additional road and trail access make these dazzling ice caves a popular spot all winter long. Proper footwear and winter apparel is strongly recommended, and with these natural attractions comprised entirely of rock and ice, it pays to always keep your head on a swivel and know that conditions are always changing within the Lake Superior Ice Caves.
Ouray Ice Park—Ouray, Colorado
Standing as one of the most prominent hand-made ice walls in the nation, the Ouray Ice Park in Colorado not only holds one of the biggest ice climbing festivals around every January, but the world-class climbing is open to participants all winter long. What that means for you is access to over 200 named climbing routes and an entire winter season to push your limits and improve your ice climbing skills. Adjacent to the tourist-friendly city of Ouray, and completely free and open for public use, for your next visit to the Ouray Ice Park it’s worth considering becoming an Ouray Ice Park Member and/or staying in the friendly town that helps manage this exhilarating winter attraction.
Introductory Winter Mountaineering Courses
If you thought exploring high alpine areas and mountains was a task in the summer, add in some freezing temperatures and heavy accumulations of snow and you have yourself a real adventure. It’s not advised to explore mountains in the winter if you’re inexperienced and alone, but rather to go with a guide before you venture out on your own. Most intro classes are relatively affordable.
The Lost Sea Cave Tour—Sweetwater, Tennessee
For a winter-ready retreat underground, the Lost Sea Cavern in Sweetwater, Tennessee has enough for the whole family to explore. Serving as a Registered National Landmark, the Lost Sea is America’s largest underground lake, and within your visit you can explore this magnificent natural wonder in one of two ways. Daily tours will take you into the cavern and across the lake on a glass-bottomed boat, but for the true adventure, it’s worth your while to form a group and take part in the multi-hour Wild Cave Tour, which will get you on your hands and knees to explore all the nooks and crannies the guides can get you through.
The American Birkebeiner—Cable, Wisconsin
Registration to participate in the world-famous American Birkebeiner in February closes November of the previous year, but even if you missed your opportunity to sign up for this grueling 50 kilometer cross-country ski race from Cable to Hayward, Wisconsin, it’s still quite the party to spectate. Whether you take part in the race itself, or watch the other events including a Junior Birkie and Barkie Birkie Skijor competition, there’s plenty of hot cocoa and good cheer at the American Birkebeiner to go around.
Fat Bike in the Tetons—Grand Targhee Resort, Wyoming
Setting a high bar for winter fun and exploration, Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyoming was one of the first ski resorts to welcome fat bikes onto their Nordic trail systems. While many other ski resorts followed suit in recent years, Grand Targhee still stands as one of the best places to blow up your tires and cruise through the snow. With access to over 15km of Nordic track available, as well as an additional seven miles of singletrack trails, you won’t be left with a lot of energy come the evening after pedaling your fat bike (or rental) around Grand Targhee all day.
Sea Kayaking off the Baja California Peninsula—Baja, Mexico
Forget the feeling of wiping snow off your car every morning and head on down to Baja this winter. Filled with fresh air and warm weather, the best way to explore a vibrant aspect of this environment is to rent a kayak or bring your own and explore the crystal-clear waters of the Pacific Ocean. Complete with mountain views, amazing weather and wildlife including enormous humpback whales, the hardest part about visiting Baja and paddling around the Baja California Peninsula will be packing up your bags to go back home.