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.

Whether you pre­fer the pad­dle strokes from a white­wa­ter kayak, a raft, or you stand-up instead, the dif­fer­ent white­wa­ter cours­es around the U.S. can pro­vide many avenues for enjoy­ment. Whether it’s your first-time front surf­ing or you’re an expe­ri­enced pad­dler, all the best white­wa­ter parks across the coun­try also inhab­it adven­ture-rich sur­round­ings, lend­ing fun on both land and water.

U.S Nation­al White­wa­ter Cen­ter, Char­lotte, North Carolina
Home to the world’s largest man-made, recir­cu­lat­ing white­wa­ter riv­er, the U.S. Nation­al White­wa­ter Cen­ter (USNWC) pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ties for every type of pad­dler. Kayaks, canoes and guid­ed rafts can enjoy the class II-IV rapids and chan­nels at the USNWC, and flat water is eas­i­ly accessed from the adja­cent Cataw­ba Riv­er. Out­side of the water, the USNWC also offers plen­ty of land activ­i­ties includ­ing a deep water solo climb­ing wall, a high-ropes course and plen­ty of trails to explore by foot or bike. Throw in all the annu­al cel­e­bra­tions that hap­pen through­out the sea­son at the USNWC, and this adven­ture endowed facil­i­ty isn’t just a mec­ca for white­wa­ter rapids, it’s a bea­con for all the adven­ture sports found in the region.

Potomac White­wa­ter Rac­ing Cen­ter, Potomac Riv­er, Maryland
For recre­ation­al wave users, the Potomac White­wa­ter Rac­ing Cen­ter pro­vides two oppor­tu­ni­ties to hone your skills. The Potomac River’s Feed­ers Canal has been help­ing Potomac White­wa­ter Rac­ing ath­letes train since the ear­ly 1970s, and these class I‑II nat­ur­al rapids are still a great place to prac­tice your slalom tech­nique. The Potomac White­wa­ter Rac­ing Cen­ter also lends to the unique NRG Dick­er­son White­wa­ter Course, which fea­tures a straight, 900-foot chan­nel cre­at­ed by NRG Ener­gy as an out­put for cool­ing water from the Dick­er­son Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion. The white­wa­ter course was installed in 1992 as an Olympic train­ing grounds, and pad­dlers must have a PWRC mem­ber­ship to ride the Dick­er­son White­wa­ter Course, and as a bonus, the water is always heat­ed when it’s time to ride.

Bend White­wa­ter Park, Deschutes Riv­er, Oregon
The Bend White­wa­ter Park of Ore­gon offers three dis­tinct chan­nels on the Deschutes Riv­er, two of which are designed for riv­er rid­ers, with the third exclu­sive­ly des­ig­nat­ed for wildlife trav­el. The two chan­nels designed for humans vary between a pas­sage­way chan­nel that adds a lit­tle froth to anyone’s float, and the white­wa­ter chan­nel specif­i­cal­ly designed for white­wa­ter kayak­ing, surf­ing, and stand-up pad­dle board­ing. The white­wa­ter chan­nel at the Bend White­wa­ter Park fea­tures four waves of vary­ing dif­fi­cul­ty, all cre­at­ed by under­wa­ter pneu­mat­ic blad­ders and nat­ur­al riv­er fea­tures, and caters towards all skill lev­els of white­wa­ter athletes.

Kelly’s White­wa­ter Park, Cas­cade, Idaho
Locat­ed an hour and a half from Boise, Kelly’s White­wa­ter Park is a nation­al­ly rec­og­nized play space for kayak­ers and riv­er enthu­si­ast of all kinds. Home to The Payette Riv­er Games, Kelly’s White­wa­ter Park brings ath­letes and the com­mu­ni­ty to the river­bank through­out the sea­son and caters towards all lev­els of rid­ers with the vari­ety of waves, fea­tures and sep­a­rate chan­nels to nav­i­gate. Even for those not real com­fort­able in the water, the charm­ing back­drop of Cas­cade Ida­ho is worth the vis­it, and the adja­cent 2,600 square foot wel­come cen­ter can add a real extra lay­er to the white­wa­ter experience.

whitewater

River­sport Rapids, Okla­homa Riv­er, Oklahoma
Serv­ing as the num­ber one adven­ture des­ti­na­tion in Okla­homa City, River­sport Rapids offers great white­wa­ter oppor­tu­ni­ty and so much more. Rafters, kayak­ers, tubers, stand-up pad­dle board­ers and even Drag­on Boat pad­dlers can find some fun in the recir­cu­lat­ing water of River­sport Rapids, and for those only inter­est­ed in the waves, River­sport Rapids offers clin­ics, class­es and pass­es for expe­ri­enced rid­ers to ride on their own. Between tack­ling the class II-IV rapids that define the facil­i­ty, adven­ture options for the whole fam­i­ly are abound, includ­ing high-speed slides, height-defy­ing obsta­cle cours­es, and a bicy­cle pump track.

Clear Creek White­wa­ter Park, Gold­en, Colorado
Per­haps some of the most fun to be had in the adven­ture-endowed region of Gold­en can be found at the Clear Creek White­wa­ter Park locat­ed in the heart of the munic­i­pal­i­ty. Fea­tur­ing a quar­ter-mile run, the Clear Creek White­wa­ter Course is split into a top, bot­tom and mid­dle sec­tion, with each area offer­ing its own unique waves and drop-offs. Admis­sion and park­ing is always free to the Clear Creek White­wa­ter Park, and it can be a pop­u­lar place to pad­dle dur­ing the warmer months of the year. Serv­ing as a great place for begin­ner and long-time pad­dling enthu­si­asts, the Clear Creek White­wa­ter Park is also a great com­mu­ni­ty gath­er­ing place for out­door enthu­si­asts of Gold­en and beyond.

Truc­k­ee Riv­er White­wa­ter Park, Reno, Nevada
The Truc­k­ee Riv­er White­wa­ter Park of Reno is an aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing engi­neered space full of adren­a­line-pump­ing adven­ture. Com­pris­ing of a half-mile of fea­tures, includ­ing 11 drop pools, a vari­ety of class II-III rapids and a con­stant 50–70⁰ tem­per­a­ture, the Truc­k­ee Riv­er has some­thing for all pad­dling enthu­si­asts to enjoy. Sur­round­ing the water is a beau­ti­ful­ly man­i­cured space that’s a com­mon place for pedes­tri­ans to spend the day, and whether you hop in the water to prac­tice your pad­dle strokes, or sim­ply stand by and watch some­one nav­i­gate the waves, the Truc­k­ee Riv­er White­wa­ter Park is sim­ply an excit­ing place to be.

Watch as Red Bull ath­lete Rafa Ortiz trades his kayak for an inflat­able lob­ster and then sends a 70 foot water­fall as if it was super casu­al. Most peo­ple would prob­a­bly con­sid­er send­ing a water­fall in a kayak to be enough, for Ortiz it’s just anoth­er day in the office.

 

british columbia paddle

british columbia paddleThe British Colum­bia coast is one of the world’s best sea kayak­ing des­ti­na­tions: long fjords, a rugged out­er coast, off­shore reefs that pro­vide a mea­sure of pro­tec­tion from the full brunt of the Pacif­ic and a thriv­ing ecosys­tem where whales abound, wolf tracks criss­cross near­ly every beach and sea otters float in adorable rafts. And the B.C. coast is eas­i­er to access from the low­er 48 than Alas­ka. But plan­ning a self-sup­port­ed sea kayak jour­ney takes some knowl­edge. Here’s how you can plan your own awe­some and safe wilder­ness jour­ney in one of the best parts of the world.

Know Your­self
As with any trip, start by know­ing your­self. What are your kayak and expe­di­tion skills? Be bru­tal­ly hon­est. Can you land a loaded kayak through surf? Nav­i­gate through the fog? How many miles or hours in the boat do you tend to put in? Do you get grumpy if it rains for three days?

Know Why
Be equal­ly clear about your goals. Are you look­ing for a relax­ing trip with loung­ing in camp? Cov­er­ing a lot of ter­ri­to­ries? Play in rock gar­dens and coastal surf? Are you will­ing to wake up ear­ly to catch a tidal current?

Know the Weather
A marine VHF radio with a weath­er func­tion is an essen­tial piece of gear for pad­dling B.C. waters. As you spend more time at sea, you’ll learn how to inter­pret patterns.

Wind: On sun­ny days, expect the wind to rise in the after­noon from the north­west. Don’t be caught out in a strong blow by this pre­dictable pat­tern. When the wind blows from the south­east, expect rain and cold­er temperatures.

Inlets: In the steep fjords, tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ences between the moun­tains and sea lev­els cre­ate an out­flow-inflow pat­tern. In the morn­ing, air flows out to sea as cold air tum­bles down the moun­tains. In the after­noon, the pat­tern reverses.

Fog: Coastal morn­ing fog can hap­pen any time of year, but morn­ing pea soup is most com­mon on the out­er coast in August, which the locals call Fogust.

Swell: The most com­mon swell comes from the north­west in sum­mer, but it can vary to come from either south­west or west depend­ing on what’s hap­pen­ing far out at sea. On the out­er coast, look for head­lands and off­shore reefs that block the swell for pre­dict­ed land­ings. When you set up camp, pay atten­tion to whether the swell fore­cast is ris­ing in the next cou­ple of days.

Doubtful Sound, New Zealand

Wher­ev­er you are in the world, there’s a fine place to pad­dle your kayak. Whether close enough to your urban area for a week­end trip or halfway around the world, these beau­ti­ful water­ways offer hid­den delights.

Doubtful Sound, New ZealandDoubt­ful Sound, New Zealand
Doubt­ful Sound is also called the “Sound of Silence,” and you’ll under­stand why as you cruise these waters rich in forests and rarely seen black coral. As a bonus, you’ll like­ly encounter New Zealand fur seals, pen­guins, and amaz­ing water­falls around almost every corner.

Chattahoochee RiverChat­ta­hoochee Riv­er, Geor­gia, USA
Thrill seek­ers who arrive in Colum­bus, GA can’t help but be excit­ed when see­ing the Chat­ta­hoochee Riv­er for the first time—frothing and churn­ing the thun­der of fast-mov­ing water falling some­where in the dis­tance. Kayaks can now be rid­den over some of the biggest and most thrilling white­wa­ter rapids in the Amer­i­can East.

The white­wa­ter on the Chat­ta­hoochee can reach up to 13,000 cubic feet per sec­ond in vol­ume dur­ing high water release lev­els. The speed of the rapids on the Chat­ta­hoochee makes them the largest white­wa­ter rapids south of Cana­da and east of Colorado.

©istockphoto/AneeseSea of Cortez, Mexico
This rich body of water is only a short dri­ve from the US bor­der and is one of the top kayak­ing des­ti­na­tions in the world. You can take your boat through coves and caves and pull up on an emp­ty beach to watch dol­phins play or whales make their jour­ney south. With 2000 miles of coast­line, the Sea of Cortez is one of the lush­est waters on the plan­et with more than 900 vari­eties of fish. The warm weath­er is also on your side when you’re pad­dling this sea, mak­ing it an ide­al des­ti­na­tion for a win­ter adventure.

Zambezi river in ZimbabweZam­bezi Riv­er, Zam­bia, Africa
Sure, Africa is known for its safaris, but this is where you can find the best Grade 5 rapids in the world—along with a hip­po thrown in. This leg­endary big-water riv­er doesn’t skimp on excite­ment. The Zam­bezi Riv­er below Vic­to­ria Falls has been clas­si­fied by the British Canoe Union as Grade 5—“extremely dif­fi­cult, long and vio­lent rapids, steep gra­di­ents, big drops, and pres­sure areas.” Mas­sive tow­ers of water plunge into the riv­er year-round and it’s over a mile wide. Steam ris­ing from the falls can be seen over ten miles away. The views are spec­tac­u­lar and the waves are so excit­ing you won’t even wor­ry about the lit­tle croc­o­diles float­ing past your boat.

CalanquesCas­sis, France
The Proven­cal writer Fredric Mis­tral once said, “Any­one who has seen Paris, but not Cas­sis, hasn’t seen anything.”

Sea kayak­ing is the best way to dis­cov­er the fab­u­lous coast of Cas­sis, pad­dling on the turquoise waters of the Mediter­ranean. Hemmed in by high white cliffs, the fish­ing vil­lage of Cas­sis is one of the best-kept secrets of the Cote d’Azur. There are no tacky cabanas, no blar­ing dis­co beats, and no surf side cock­tails at this paradise-by-the-sea—only the purr of a pass­ing yacht or the sound of the waves lick­ing the pic­ture-per­fect beach. As you kick back on the calm sea in your kayak (unless the Mistral—a mean wind—comes up), you can cruise beneath the Calan­ques (kah-lahnk), the nar­row inlets cre­at­ed by sharp cliffs that bor­der the shore.

NahanniThe Nahan­ni Riv­er, Canada
The Nahan­ni, a true Cana­di­an icon, winds through canyons more than half a mile deep and plunges over the Vir­ginia water­fall, which is twice as big as Nia­gara. This beau­ti­ful riv­er is sit­u­at­ed in a moun­tain­ous land­scape and glacial waters flow through Canada’s deep­est canyons, past hot springs, and tow­er­ing rock walls. Pad­dling on this riv­er you’ll quick­ly under­stand why it was declared the first World Her­itage Site by the Unit­ed Nations in 1978.

camp kayak

camp kayakThe blue water beck­ons. Some­where out there is a remote island with a beach, some­place you can only get to by pad­dling. You’ve rent­ed a kayak or bor­rowed a friend’s. Before you just load up and go, here’s what you should know: some essen­tial gear for kayak camp­ing, and how to make it easy and fun.

Dry Hatch­es
Those com­part­ments inside sea kayaks keep out most of the water if the boat cap­sizes, but not all. If you want to keep your gear dry, but it in dry bags inside the hatch­es. Things that absolute­ly need to stay dry, such as elec­tron­ics and cam­eras, should go into dry box­es with O‑ring seals.

Lots of Small Things Pack Easier
Don’t pile things in big dry bags as canoers and rafters do. It’s far eas­i­er to cram gear in a kayak when it’s in lots of small dry bags (5–10 liters and small­er) than a few big ones. This lets you use the near­ly infi­nite small spaces between items. Hard objects, like pots and pans and big dry box­es, are the hard­est to pack, so pack those first or find small­er versions.

Bal­ance and Access
Just like a back­pack, you’ll want to make sure your kayak floats even­ly. Too much weight in the ends will make it hard to turn. Bal­ance fore and aft will make it pad­dle nor­mal­ly, instead of tilt­ing to one side or wan­der­ing across the water like a drunk stum­bling down the side­walk. And think about what you want access to eas­i­ly: lunch, jack­et, gloves, etc. and what you won’t need until camp.

Keep a Clean Deck
You’ll be tempt­ed to strap lots of stuff to the deck. Don’t. Gear on the deck makes the kayak unsta­ble, catch­es the wind, and com­pli­cates res­cues. A fright­en­ing num­ber of acci­dents and coast guard res­cues involve pad­dlers who had moun­tains of gear strapped to the deck. Kayaks are designed to be pad­dled with gear inside, not on top.

Bring Less Than You Want
Kayaks can car­ry a lot—more than you need unless you’re head­ing out for weeks on end. Resist the urge to bring fire­wood, tons of extra camp gear, or a boc­ce ball set. You’ll have to car­ry every­thing you bring up and down the beach twice every day. You’re there to have fun, not to lug stuff back and forth.

Try Pack­ing First
Try pack­ing your gear in your back­yard to make sure it fits. There’s noth­ing more embar­rass­ing than being the guy every­one’s wait­ing for on the beach, only to have to ask your pals to bail you out by car­ry­ing your sleep­ing bag.

The Sur­face Moves
Unlike hik­ing or climb­ing, a kayak moves on a sur­face that’s always mov­ing. Tides rise and drop, reveal­ing hid­den rocks and suck­ing away kayaks left unse­cured overnight, and some­times even swamp­ing tents that are too low on the beach. Cur­rents cre­ate a tread­mill that can either stop your progress or speed you along. Learn how to read tide and cur­rent tables.

Go Ear­ly and Watch the Weather
The wind is an equal­ly big fac­tor that applies far less when you’re back­pack­ing. Learn the pat­terns and lis­ten to the fore­cast. On the west coast, most sun­ny days will have a north­west wind that ris­es short­ly after noon and builds in strength. Don’t be caught unawares by this famil­iar pattern.

Know Your Route
It’s easy to get lost on the water. Unlike hik­ing, where your per­spec­tive changes as you climb ridges, in a kayak you’re always about 3 feet off the water. Islands can look like penin­su­las and bays dis­ap­pear against vast shore­lines. Learn how to read a chart, which is dif­fer­ent from a topo­graph­i­cal map. And in the US, most chart data is free online.

Have Fun!
There are few joys like trav­el­ing self-sup­port­ed on the sea. Don’t be sur­prised if you get hooked.

©istockphoto/Donki13Fair warn­ing: once you vis­it the San Juan Islands, you’ll nev­er want to leave. Nes­tled into the north­west cor­ner of Wash­ing­ton State, this Pacif­ic North­west arch­i­pel­ago is known for pas­toral land­scapes, breath­tak­ing wildlife encoun­ters, and some of the best organ­ic bak­eries around.

Horse­shoe-shaped Orcas Island, one of the biggest in the chain, is home to 4,000-odd res­i­dents who live on tiny laven­der farms, water­front homes, and the occa­sion­al yurt. The only town is East­sound, and the east side of the island is dom­i­nat­ed by Moran State Park’s old-growth for­est and Mount Con­sti­tu­tion (2,398’). Every­where you turn, the glis­ten­ing Pacif­ic flash­es light through the trees.

Direct­ly north of Orcas Island is Sucia Island, a tiny atoll that boasts a 564-acre marine park with 77,700 feet of shore­line. The island is con­sid­ered the crown jew­el of Wash­ing­ton State’s marine park sys­tem, and is con­sis­tent­ly ranked as one of the top boat­ing des­ti­na­tions in the world. Orcas, sea lions, and curi­ous seals fre­quent the island’s coast­line. Vis­i­tors can hunt for fos­sils, scour tide pools for col­or­ful sea life, and explore the island’s hik­ing trails. It’s an easy day trip from Orcas, and for vis­i­tors who want to spend the night there are plen­ty of beach­front camp­sites ($12/night). There’s even run­ning water to refill bot­tles. And here’s the best news of all: you don’t need a yacht to explore! With a free week­end, a sea kayak, and a sense of adven­ture, Sucia Island is yours to explore.

Get­ting There
From Seat­tle, dri­ve two hours north to the Ana­cortes fer­ry ter­mi­nal, where you can either walk or dri­ve onto a boat to Orcas Island (reser­va­tions are rec­om­mend­ed). The scenic ride takes rough­ly an hour, and you’ll dis­em­bark on the west side of the island. Dri­ve or catch a ride to East­sound, then hit the local organ­ic food coop or Brown Bear Bak­ing for lunch.

Where To Stay On Orcas
There are a vari­ety of lodg­ing options on Orcas Island. The best is Doe Bay Resort, a 38-acre water­front retreat that offers camp­sites, yurts, and cab­ins. Ameni­ties include a salt­wa­ter beach, a café whose menu fea­tures local­ly grown ingre­di­ents and fresh­ly caught fish, and cloth­ing-option­al salt­wa­ter hot pools.

Kayaks
If you’ve brought your own boat, make sure it’s a sea kayak with a spray skirt, bilge pump, and pad­dle float for self-res­cue. If you’re rent­ing a boat, try Out­er Island Expe­di­tions, who will hook you up with a Necky kayak—and while you’re there, go ahead and sched­ule your water taxi to Sucia Island ($45/person.) Intre­pid kayak­ers some­times pad­dle across the 2.5‑mile chan­nel, but cur­rents and tides can be unpre­dictable. Don’t try it unless you’re an expe­ri­enced paddler.

What to Bring
In your kayak, you’ll want plen­ty of fresh water, snacks, sun­screen, lip balm with SPF, a wide-brimmed hat, rain gear, and plen­ty of warm lay­ers. If you camp on Sucia, pre­pare to be self-suf­fi­cient for at long as you’ll be on the island. And don’t for­get your camera!

Courtesy of California Women's Watersport Collective“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Melis­sa DeMarie wasn’t the first kick­ass lady who said these words—I believe that was Eleanor Roo­sevelt. But as she stood in front of a bus full of 50 white­wa­ter women who had just charged down a stretch of Class III rapids, I knew that I wasn’t the only one who felt the words resonate.

All over the coun­try women are mobi­liz­ing into out­door adven­ture orga­ni­za­tions that cater specif­i­cal­ly to females, cre­at­ing a safe and fun space for them to learn from one anoth­er and test their lim­its. Last sum­mer, Melis­sa orga­nized and insti­gat­ed a women’s only water­sport coali­tion to get more girls out on the riv­er and con­nect­ing with each oth­er.  The group is called Cal­i­for­nia Women’s Water­sport Col­lec­tive, or Cali Col­lec­tive for short. Sev­er­al small­er events through­out the sum­mer cul­mi­nat­ed in the 2 day mul­ti-lev­el clin­ic, which was host­ed with the sup­port of She­Jumps on August 1 and 2.

Stu­dents ranged from expe­ri­enced boaters to girls who had nev­er even sat in a white­wa­ter kayak before. On the first day, we met at the Cal­i­for­nia Canoe and Kayak out­post in Colo­ma, Cal­i­for­nia, on the banks of the South Fork of the Amer­i­can Riv­er. We gath­ered our gear and split up into our class­es for the day. The 101 group was made up of the begin­ners who prac­ticed basics on flat­wa­ter, the 201 girls refined core tech­niques and skills on class II rapids, and the 301 crew took on the more chal­leng­ing III+ Chili Bar section.

Cali-Collective-4As I round­ed up my bor­rowed gear and cir­cled up with the rest of the 201 ladies, I noticed that the instruc­tors were just as stoked as the stu­dents. Every­one I met was just so hap­py to be there, to meet women who shared the same pas­sions for adven­ture and action regard­less of skill lev­el. There were about 1–2 teach­ers for every 4–5 stu­dents, mak­ing it a super safe envi­ron­ment to chal­lenge our­selves and try new things.

That evening, all skill lev­els recon­vened and set up camp along the riv­er, stretched out our bod­ies with a relax­ing yoga ses­sion, and gath­ered for a safe­ty talk and some good ol’ lady bonding.

The next morn­ing start­ed off with anoth­er split of skill lev­els. The more advanced group took a crash course in slalom rac­ing while the rest of us worked on our rolls.

For those of you who haven’t had the plea­sure of being upside down in a kayak, with your knees and hips wedged in the boat and water rush­ing up your nose, let me just assure that it’s as chal­leng­ing to prac­tice as it sounds. Know­ing how to roll your­self up when you flip, how­ev­er, is an impor­tant part of pro­gress­ing as a kayaker.

After strug­gling with my roll all morn­ing, I was still deter­mined to boat the Class III sec­tion of the South Fork in a hard shell. The oth­er option would be to hop in an inflat­able kayak, which you don’t need a roll to pad­dle down the riv­er. I.K.s don’t allow you near­ly the same amount of con­trol as a hard shell kayak that cov­ers your legs, how­ev­er, and I want­ed to be able to prac­tice the skills that I had worked on the day before. Also, I felt like I had some­thing to prove. Not to any of the women out there that week­end, but to myself.

Melis­sa, who had been help­ing me work on my roll, seemed sur­prised when I told her my plan to boat the Gorge, the class III sec­tion that all skill lev­els were doing togeth­er that day in a vari­ety of water crafts. She and my instruc­tor for the week­end, the incred­i­ble Sara James, only gave me pos­i­tive encour­age­ment, how­ev­er. The next thing I knew, I was fol­low­ing Sara’s expert moves that set me up per­fect­ly through rapids with names like Bounc­ing Rock, Satan’s Cesspool, and Hos­pi­tal Bar.

Cali-Collective-2I was push­ing my com­fort zone, but I don’t think I have ever been more com­fort­able in my own skin.

“Our main objec­tive is to build com­mu­ni­ty, which is some­thing that I real­ly feel we have lost in our cul­ture and soci­ety,” explains Melis­sa. She and co-founder Tra­cy Tate have cre­at­ed a wel­com­ing and sup­port­ive envi­ron­ment that mir­rors trends in women’s out­door sports nationwide.

“I believe there is such strong inter­est in what we’re doing from women, not only in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia but across the coun­try, because what we are offer­ing extends beyond pad­dle sports,” she adds.  “I feel women are attract­ed to the idea of being a part of a group where they feel sup­port­ed and accept­ed. We have adopt­ed a holis­tic approach by incor­po­rat­ing things such as yoga, Pilates and nutri­tion into our clin­ics which is appeal­ing as well.”

Cali Collective’s 2 day event was a huge suc­cess, but the orga­ni­za­tion doesn’t plan on stop­ping with that. 2016 events include mul­ti-day trips in Ore­gon and Ida­ho, surf kayak­ing clin­ics on the Cal­i­for­nia Coast, and a 10 day white­wa­ter trip in Chile—all women only.

“Being a new orga­ni­za­tion, we have the whole world ahead of us and the pos­si­bil­i­ties of what we can build and cre­ate is lim­it­less,” Melis­sa con­tin­ues. “I think the thing that I’m most excit­ed about is that it’s already working—meaning women are con­nect­ing with oth­er like-mind­ed indi­vid­u­als, mak­ing new friends and learn­ing in a non-com­pet­i­tive and friend­ly environment.”

As female ath­letes in high adren­a­line sports, most of us are famil­iar with over­com­ing our fears in one way or anoth­er. It’s a great time to be a woman involved in out­door adven­ture. Orga­ni­za­tions like Cali Col­lec­tive are pop­ping up left and right, cre­at­ing a unique cul­ture of women who under­stand that fear can be a beau­ti­ful thing. With­out fear and self-doubt, I wouldn’t real­ize my own awe­some and empow­er­ing abil­i­ty to over­come them.

cali-collective-3About CWWC
The goal of Cal­i­for­nia Wom­en’s Water­sport Col­lec­tive is to help fos­ter a com­mu­ni­ty of women by using pad­dle­sports as the medi­um. They pro­vide clin­ics and trips in white­wa­ter, lake and sea kayak­ing, standup pad­dle­board (SUP) and surf­ing, as well as com­mu­ni­ty events such as yoga and nutri­tion. The founders, Melis­sa DeMarie and Tra­cy Tate, are both pro­fes­sion­al guides and instruc­tors and have a com­bined 30+ years of expe­ri­ence in the out­door indus­try and have trav­elled and worked around the world in such loca­tions as New Zealand, Africa, Nepal, Cos­ta Rica, Colum­bia, Chile and Nor­way. They offer many col­lab­o­ra­tive events with com­pa­nies through­out Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon, Ida­ho and Chile, which extends their reach con­sid­er­ably. Begin­ning in Feb­ru­ary 2016 they launched their “Col­lec­tive Out­reach Pro­gram” aimed to bring demo­graph­ics of women to the out­doors who do not nec­es­sar­i­ly have access, be it due to phys­i­cal or finan­cial lim­i­ta­tions. Their first Out­reach project is with Images of Hope in El Dora­do Coun­ty, which is a non-prof­it ded­i­cat­ed to pro­vid­ing alter­na­tive ther­a­pies to can­cer patients such as art, music and move­ment. CWWC is also involved with var­i­ous kayak and surf fes­ti­vals through­out the Northwest.

All Pho­tos Cour­tesy of Cal­i­for­nia Wom­en’s Water­sport Col­lec­tive and Melis­sa DeMarie

©istockphoto/CarrieColePhotographyClay­oquot Sound is lit­er­al­ly the end of the road. Canada’s High­way 4 up the west coast of Van­cou­ver Island sim­ply dead-ends at a small park­ing lot over­look­ing the Clay­oquot Sound in the surf town of Tofi­no. The park­ing lot is often full of peo­ple pack­ing kayaks to con­tin­ue their jour­ney north by the only way they can. Boat and float­plane docks sit in front of the icon­ic moun­tains of Clay­oquot Sound: Lone Cone and Cat­face Mountain.

A com­bi­na­tion of rain­for­est, rich marine life, a rugged out­er coast full of surf beach­es and wilder­ness­es where wolves and bears roam—and a birth­place of Canada’s rich con­ser­va­tion heritage—make the sound an ide­al destination.

There are more remote places on Van­cou­ver Island. But those require long dri­ves on dif­fi­cult log­ging roads, and few have the com­bi­na­tion of intact rain­for­est, a per­fect kayak­ing envi­ron­ment and a thriv­ing native cul­ture. “It was obvi­ous that Clay­oquot Sound was the last great rain­for­est that was left, and also the best pad­dling,” said Dan Lewis, recall­ing his arrival in Clay­oquot Sound in 1990 on a kayak cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion of Van­cou­ver Island. “That’s when I real­ized I’m mov­ing here.” Lewis, now the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Clay­oquot Action, and his wife Bon­ny Glam­beck have been pro­tect­ing Clay­oquot Sound ever since.

The Sea
The sea dom­i­nates Clay­oquot.  The sea is in the salt that fills the air, the fog that lingers over the coast and the fish that’s sold in restau­rants in Tofi­no. A mile west of the dock, the pro­tect­ed inlets give way to the vast sandy beach­es and rugged off­shore islands begin. Past them, there’s noth­ing west until Japan.

The best way to explore these out­er waters is with a sea kayak. No oth­er craft has the ver­sa­til­i­ty to han­dle these waters, cov­er dis­tance, nose into secret coves, land on surf beach­es and pack your camp­ing gear for a week or two. The west coasts of Var­gas and Flo­res Island and the Hes­quiat Pen­nin­su­la offer easy beach camp­ing. Vast beach­es like Ahous Bay, White­sand Cove, Whales Island and Cow Bay (named not for bovines but for the moth­er gray whales that loi­ter there in the sum­mer) can accom­mo­date large groups with room to spare. Whales, wolves and bears are com­mon, and sea otters are expand­ing their range into Clay­oquot Sound after a rein­tro­duc­tion fur­ther north. Kayak­ers can choose between the surf zone, play­ing in rock gar­dens and off­shore jour­neys. The out­er coast of Flo­res Island, between Rafael Point and Sharp Point is ful­ly exposed to the Pacif­ic, and should only be attempt­ed by skilled pad­dlers in good conditions.

The oth­er way to expe­ri­ence the out­er coast is with a surf­board. Tofi­no is a surf town, and the com­bi­na­tion of beach cruis­er bikes and surf bums around town can make the first-time vis­i­tor won­der if they’ve stum­bled into a fog­gy Cana­di­an ver­sion of San­ta Cruz or Encini­tas. Beach­es close to town like Chester­man Beach, Cox Bay and Long Beach are pop­u­lar spots, and class­es abound. But even the remote beach­es of the wild islands appeal to board-surfers, who take water taxis out to wild surf beach­es and camp.

Clayoquot_SoundThe Inlets
When the out­er coast is too fog­gy or rough, it’s time to explore the glac­i­er-carved fjords that slice deep into Van­cou­ver Island’s moun­tains. Inlets like For­tune Chan­nel, Tofi­no Inlet, Shel­ter Inlet, Syd­ney Inlet, Her­bert Inlet and Bed­well Sound bring you deep into the tem­per­ate rain­for­est. Riv­er mouths like the Kennedy and Megin rivers are eco­log­i­cal­ly vital estu­ar­ies for salmon and the bears and wolves that feed on them. Camp­ing spots in the steep-walled fjords and dense forests of the inlets are few­er and far­ther between than on the out­er coast.

The Islands
The islands them­selves are a rich com­bi­na­tion of dense rain­for­est and oppor­tu­ni­ties to explore. You’ll need to take a boat of some kind to get to them. Mear­es Island includes the Big Tree Trail, a dif­fi­cult hike that leads to the top of Lone Cone for a stun­ning view. On south­ern Flo­res Island, the Ahousat tribe man­ages the Wild Side Her­itage Trail, which runs 11 kilo­me­ters from the native vil­lage of Maaq­tusi­is to Cow Bay on a series of pris­tine beach­es, trails and board­walks through­out the Sit­ka Spruce rain­for­est. It’s best done as a mul­ti-day back­pack­ing trip with great beach camping.

The Future
Not sur­pris­ing­ly, Clay­oqout Sound is pop­u­lar and get­ting more so. Whale watch­ing tours, fish­ing char­ters and hotel rooms get crowd­ed in the sum­mer. But the area is large, and big beach­es make it easy to find soli­tude. Remem­ber to use leave-no-trace camp­ing. Pop­u­lar sites have out­hous­es and bear box­es for food stor­age. Use them! Don’t store food in your tent or in open cool­ers. The area had prob­lems with accul­tur­at­ed wolves and bears in the past. Clean fish and build camp­fires below the high-tide line.

And sup­port con­ser­va­tion. As Lewis notes, the fact that the area’s a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for eco­tourism does­n’t mean that it’s pro­tect­ed. Min­ing pro­pos­als on the Cat­face Range, fish farms and indus­tri­al log­ging still threat­en part of the sound. Con­tribute your time and mon­ey to keep­ing Clay­oquout wild.

©istockphoto/thinair28

©istockphoto/thinair28It’s only the begin­ning of 2016. The snow is deep. But when that snow melts in a few months, it will come flow­ing into the rivers and rush its way out to sea. Now’s the time to use those long win­ter nights to plan some pad­dle trips. From white­wa­ter to flat water, to play­ing in Poseidon’s den, here are some places to dip a pad­dle in the com­ing year.

 Green Riv­er, Utah
Still­wa­ter Canyon, despite the still water, is far from bor­ing. It winds through 60 miles of inde­scrib­able rock for­ma­tions in Canyon­lands Nation­al Park. Dip your blade in Utah’s Green Riv­er and pad­dle past its con­flu­ence with the mighty Col­orado. Still­wa­ter can be many things: a pleas­ant relaxed pad­dle, a way of access­ing dif­fi­cult-to-reach back­pack­ing routes into the maze dis­trict, a photographer’s par­adise, and a side-hike and rock-scram­ble Olympics.

Put in: Min­er­al Bot­tom (Green River)
Take out: Span­ish Bot­tom (Col­orado Riv­er) via jetboat
Per­mits: Required but usu­al­ly easy to get. Plan­ning the shut­tle is the tricky part.
The Pad­dler: Suit­able for begin­ners as long as you avoid upriv­er winds.

Nuchatlitz Inlet, British Columbia
One sec­tion of the end­less immen­si­ty of British Columbia’s coast, Nuchatlitz Inlet, is a series of islands and inlets on the north end of Noot­ka Island. The dif­fi­cul­ty of get­ting there means you won’t have crowds on the many islands that offer spec­tac­u­lar camp­ing and great pad­dling (con­di­tions per­mit­ting) for expe­ri­enced sea pad­dlers. Adorable sea otters float in big rafts (they were rein­tro­duced to this sec­tion of the B.C. coast years ago). Spend as long as you can explor­ing the intri­cate rocky coastline.

Put in: Lit­tle Espinosa Inlet, accessed via rough log­ging roads across Van­cou­ver Island.
Take out: Same, or the small down of Zeballos
Per­mits: None
The Pad­dler: Out­er coast routes require ocean pad­dling skills, nav­i­ga­tion and good judge­ment. Inter­me­di­ate pad­dlers should stick to the exten­sive glacial inlets that are more pro­tect­ed from ocean swell, but can still be quite windy.

The Colum­bia River
Fol­low Lewis and Clark—and the route of a water molecule—from the Colum­bia Gorge 144 miles to the Pacif­ic Ocean. Start in the cliffs of the Colum­bia Gorge, pad­dle through the urban metrop­o­lis of Port­land and the island refuges of the wide low­er riv­er. Then start to feel the sea’s influ­ence, end­ing at either Astoria’s salty piers or the cliffs of Cape Disappointment.

Put in: Hamil­ton Island near Bon­neville Dam
Take out: Either the West Moor­ing Basin in Asto­ria, Fort Clat­sop in War­ran­ton, OR or Fort Can­by, WA
Per­mits: None
The Pad­dler: Able to han­dle con­sid­er­able mileage and fick­le con­di­tions, espe­cial­ly in sum­mer when west winds can pick up.

The Salmon River
Pad­dlers flock to The Mid­dle Fork of Idaho’s Salmon Riv­er, but the Main Salmon, just below, packs its own charm: deep canyons through the wilder­ness, old home­steads and great camp­ing. You’ll pad­dle across a chunk of the largest con­tigu­ous wilder­ness in the low­er 48, and it will feel like you’re away from the world. The rapids, scenery and an added hot spring are a potent combo.

Put in: Corn Creek, Idaho
Take out: Vine­gar Creek
Per­mits: Lot­tery from June 20 to Sep­tem­ber 7.
The Pad­dler: Able to nav­i­gate class 4 rapids in a wilder­ness environment.

Three Arch Rocks, Oregon
Three Arch Rocks—a short dis­tance off Oregon’s Cape Meares—is one of the most stun­ning places to pad­dle on earth. Mas­sive cliffs and arch­es to pad­dle through, sea caves, pel­i­cans and water­falls cas­cad­ing into the sea line between Ocean­side, Maxwell Point and Cape Mear­es. It doesn’t get much more dramatic—or exposed to the full brunt of the Pacific—than this.

Put in: Ocean­side, Oregon
Take out: The same
Per­mits: Kayak­ing with­in 500 feet of Three Arch Rocks is closed dur­ing the sum­mer months to pro­tect marine life. Maxwell Point to Cape Mear­es is open year-round.
The Pad­dler: Skilled ocean pad­dlers in good con­di­tions only.

The Grand Canyon
The short­est pos­si­ble trip on the Grand Canyon winds 225 miles through some of the most famous and spec­tac­u­lar land­scapes on earth. It’s a jour­ney that’s often life chang­ing: mas­sive rapids, bil­lion-year-old rocks, an infi­nite set of trea­sures to be dis­cov­ered down each side canyon and a deep dive into riv­er time, where the rest of the world falls away amidst evenings watch­ing light play on the canyon walls. A lot of plan­ning, skill-build­ing, and group effort goes into this trip. You won’t for­get it any time soon.

Put in: Lee’s Fer­ry, Arizona
Take out: Dia­mond Creek
Per­mits: Year-round weight­ed lot­tery, and very hard to come by.
The Pad­dler: Knows what they’re get­ting into. The names Crys­tal, Lava Falls, Horn Creek and Gran­ite are leg­endary for a rea­son. The water’s mas­sive, and you’re in a very, very remote place.

Your Back Yard
It’s not all dream­ing about the ide­al pad­dling trips in dra­mat­ic land­scapes. Love for mov­ing water and the skills to nav­i­gate it are built on what­ev­er water you have near­by, even when you can only get in your boat for a few hours.

Put in: The clos­est you can find.
Take Out: The same.
Per­mits: Nope
The Pad­dler: You