Unique Winter Adventures to Beat the Cold

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.

©istockphoto/SitikkaMaine’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.

©istockphoto/blueyeOuray 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.

©istockphoto/GibsonPicturesFat 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.