Ron Griswell and Linea Johnson, of HBCUs Outside—an organization started by Griswell to provide more outdoor opportunities for HBCU students—exploring Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest
Ron Griswell and Linea Johnson, of HBCUs Outside—an organization started by Griswell to provide more outdoor opportunities for HBCU students—exploring Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest
Ron Griswell and Linea Johnson, of HBCUs Outside—an organization started by Griswell to provide more outdoor opportunities for HBCU students—exploring Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest (Photo: Cliford Mervil)

The Best Long Weekend Summer Getaways

We’re for an official mandate: make this the season of long weekends. To help you out, we found the most fun new summer adventures.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

To pack a ton of action, good grub, and comfy base camps into three blissful days, we tracked down the ultimate 72-hour itineraries in emerging adventure destinations across the country. Here’s to an awesome summer.

Grand Tour Scenic Bikeway
Grand Tour Scenic Bikeway (Russ Roca/Path Less Pedaled)

Find Your Flow in Oregon’s Blue Mountains

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About 260 miles from Portland, the eastern town of La Grande is one of the state’s best-kept outdoor secrets. Here, rivers, singletrack, and lonely wilderness footpaths weave through the Pacific Northwest’s lesser known mountain ranges. On day one, grab your hardtail and head to the Mount Emily Recreation Area, which boasts 45 miles of trails that are perfect for hiking, running, and riding. Find your flow on the MERA Loop, a six-mile-long intermediate option with some 1,500 feet of vertical gain. Come evening, soak in the 106-degree springs at the Lodge at Hot Lake Springs, a 15-room, 158-year-old hotel that reopened last year after extensive renovations (from $160). The next morning, order a walnut-pesto sausage breakfast sandwich at the Liberty Theatre Café, then beeline it to Minam State Park, 40 minutes northeast, to catch the stone-fly hatch on an all-day float down the Wallowa. Eastern Oregon River Outfitters provides all you need to land big rainbows on dry flies, as well as lunch (from $550 for two people). Then hit the state’s newest long-distance hike, the 530-mile Blue Mountains Trail, which takes in seven wildernesses and three state parks. The area’s de facto through-hiker laureate, Renee Patrick, who helped create the route in 2020, recommends the eight-mile loop along Elkhorn Crest for spectacular views of the surrounding Elkhorn and Strawberry Mountains. Set out from Anthony Lakes toward Dutch Flat Saddle before circling back past 8,646-foot Angel Peak. Reward yourself with a peanut butter bacon burger (yup) and a pale ale at Side A Brewing. —Tim Neville

Sagamore Lake
Sagamore Lake (Glenn Clark/Adirondack Hamlets to Huts)
Great Camp Sagamore
Great Camp Sagamore (Glenn Clark/Adirondack Hamlets to Huts)

Paddle Lodge-to-Lodge in Adirondack Park, New York

Adirondack Park isn’t like other public parks. It protects six million acres of pristine wilderness packed with some 3,000 natural lakes, 30,000 miles of streams and rivers, and 46 high peaks. But it’s also home to more than 100 small villages interspersed between all those ridges and bodies of water. The contrast of backcountry wilds with front-country amenities makes the area ideally suited to a new series of multiday routes from Hamlets to Huts, a nonprofit that encourages local economic growth, conservation, and community. These trips will have adventurers paddling lakes and hiking mountains by day and eddying into small towns at night (from $525). Despite the name, huts are not part of the package here; instead, you’ll grab dinner from local restaurants and hit the pub before calling it a night at a mix of historic lodges, hotels, and motels. The company books your accommodations, gathers all the gear you’ll need, and shuttles any extra baggage so you can travel light by day. Route options range from the 32-mile Kunjamuk Circuit, which will see you traversing logging roads on a mountain bike and paddling along the Kunjamuk River and across an oxbow lake, to the five-night Fulton Chain Circuit, which will have you paddling and portaging a string of remote lakes, cycling gravel roads, and summiting peaks. Yeah, it sounds tough, but don’t forget that you’ll tuck into a hot meal and a real bed at day’s end. —Graham Averill

The Tree Haus at the Green O
The Tree Haus at the Green O (Courtesy of The Green O)
On horseback at the Green O
On horseback at the Green O (Courtesy of The Green O)
The Flathead River in Montana
The Flathead River in Montana (Antonio Ibarra)

Explore the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex in Montana

From Yellowstone’s 150th anniversary to Glacier’s soaring visitor numbers, summer 2022 promises big crowds in the Mountain West’s most beloved outdoor spaces. But between these two national parks, an oft overlooked stretch of less trodden nature awaits: the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, better known as the Bob. Pack trips, the quintessential way to experience the backcountry, require at least a week. But it’s possible to get a sense of the 1.5-million-acre getaway over a long weekend. Splurge on a stay at the Bob’s newest neighbor to the west, the glass-walled Green O cabins (from $1,940). Here, adventure concierges plan hot-air-balloon trips, plus hiking, biking, and rafting across the property’s 37,000 private acres. For a DIY front-country excursion, pitch your tent at South Fork Campground, accessible from the eastern side of the wilderness, or rent the historic six-person Kenck Cabin, a short walk from the campground. Head south for a day hike on the Continental Divide Trail, just steps from camp. The following morning, rise early for a 13-mile out-and-back along South Fork Sun Trail #202. The reward is its turnaround point: Gibson Reservoir, a dam-formed stretch of water nestled among undulating peaks. On your last day, pack up and motor 90 miles north for a final adventure, a 6.2-mile scenic route near the town of Choteau to Our Lake, which features spruce-fringed switchbacks, stunning waterfalls, and mountain goats grazing along the lake’s edge. —Stephanie Vermillion

Thunderhawk Wide Open
Thunderhawk Wide Open (Chad Coppess)
North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park
North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park (Chad Ziemendorf)

Grind Gravel in South Dakota

On the windswept plains of South Dakota, Lemmon is a town full of legit chaps-wearing cowboys who didn’t expect their ranching town to be transformed into a cyclist’s dream by the inaugural Thunderhawk Wide Open. But there’s nothing gravel riders love more than an authentic challenge, and with its 25-, 50-, and 115-mile routes, some with sections of wet “gumbo clay,” the race was so successful that Lemmon is staging it again this year, on August 20. Named, with permission, after Hunkpapa chief Thunderhawk, a warrior and respected friend of Sitting Bull, the race is a partnership between the town and the neighboring Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The longest route, Grand Cedar, has river crossings, 3,150 feet of elevation gain, and a few miles of cow-pasture trail. It also passes Shadehill Reservoir, site of the grizzly-mauling scene in The Revenant. The reward for finishing: an after-party at the funky Kokomo Inn sculpture garden, with local craft beer and smoked carnitas. For the after-after-party, wander to the Wild Oats Steakhouse, lauded for its locally sourced fare and live music. Stay at the Shadehill Recreation Area south of town; options range from a group lodge that sleeps 12 (from $280) to tiny cabins (from $55) to RV and camping sites (from $26 and $22, respectively). If you still have legs after the event, drive 127 miles northwest into North Dakota to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where you can hike within healthy distance of where bison roam, or south 217 miles to the rock-climbing and mountain-biking mecca of Custer State Park and the surrounding Black Hills. —Stephanie Pearson

Rocky’s Grill and Soda Shop
Rocky’s Grill and Soda Shop (Cliford Mervil)
Hiking near Pisgah’s Looking Glass Falls
Hiking near Pisgah’s Looking Glass Falls (Cliford Mervil)
Cycling in Canton
Cycling in Canton (Cliford Mervil)
Asheville Glamping
Asheville Glamping (Cliford Mervil)

Take It Easy in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest

Pisgah National Forest’s technical singletrack may make you wonder why you ever wanted to ride bikes in the first place. But the small town of Canton to the southwest is partnering with mountain-biking YouTube star Seth Alvo to create something different for the area: a bike park focused on fun. Alvo worked with trail builders on the ten-acre Berm Park, scheduled to open in April. Featuring five downhill trails of varying difficulty, the project is all flow and jumps. The standout of the system might be Clickbait, a black-diamond challenge full of big tabletops and wooden drops with a long double-black alternative line that’s hefty on wall rides. Berm Park is set inside 450-acre Chestnut Mountain Nature Park and slated for up to 18 miles of backcountry trail development, complete with overnight shelters. And don’t forget your other bike: Canton is just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the best road-riding destinations in the U.S. —G.A.

Mount Abram
Mount Abram (Andy Gagne)

Ride Maine’s Deep Woods

The tiny town of Bethel (population 2,500) has a rep as a ski destination, thanks to its copious cross-country trails and quick access to downhill resorts like Sunday River and Mount Abram. But it’s poised to become a summer recreational hot spot. A group of locals came together in 2011 to form the nonprofit Inland Woods and Trails, snapping up 1,500 acres of land and taking over management of the area’s nordic skiing trail system and a nearby 2,500-acre forest. The organization has since built and connected up 50 miles of biking trails in five different systems scattered around town. You can currently rack up 17 miles of riding in Bethel alone. Or pedal the short distance to Mount Abram, where a freshly minted lift-served downhill park awaits. It won’t be long before riders can travel in the other direction, to Sunday River, where Inland Woods and Trails is starting to lay out 40 miles of fast and flowy singletrack, with the help of a grant from the International Mountain Bicycling Association. —G.A.

Higgs Beach in the Florida Keys
Higgs Beach in the Florida Keys (Jörg Modrow/laif/Redux)
Key West
Key West (David Hanson/Cavan)

Protect Marine Environments in the Florida Keys

Visiting the 125-mile string of islands known as the Florida Keys is like traveling to the Caribbean by simply driving south of Miami. But the region has become increasingly fragile as ocean temperatures and levels rise, so recreating here means doing so conscientiously. This summer there are plenty of ways to engage with the unique ecosystem that are both fun and eye-opening. Take a trip on Honest Eco’s new boat, the Squid, one of the country’s first plug-in hybrid crafts, and learn from a biologist about what’s happening on the barrier reef while snorkeling above it (from $109). If that inspires you to effect change, register with Mote Marine Laboratory’s Bleach Watch program and report on stressed coral sites after you snorkel, or contribute to the Reef Environmental Education Foundation’s fish-survey project and record the species you see while diving. Spend a Saturday with the Conch Republic Marine Army, a volunteer organization that restores mangrove habitats, and paddle into scenic backcountry settings, removing trash that washed ashore during Hurricane Irma. The group has picked up more than 408,000 pounds of debris to date. Your good deeds done, retire to an oceanfront room at the new Isla Bella Beach Resort (from $800), a family-friendly, Mediterranean-style property. —G.A.

The Winnipesaukee River
The Winnipesaukee River (Jon Bilous/Alamy Stock)
Laconia, near Franklin
Laconia, near Franklin (Jon Bilous/Alamy Stock)
Kettlehead Brewing
Kettlehead Brewing (Hayden Peterson)
A recommended pairing
A recommended pairing (Hayden Peterson)
Mill City Park
Mill City Park (Tiffany Eddy)

Run Rapids in Franklin, New Hampshire

Last summer Judie Milner, the city manager of Franklin, 20 miles north of Concord, used a kayak paddle instead of a shovel to break ceremonial ground on a new construction project: New England’s first whitewater center, Mill City Park. Three rivers meet in Franklin—the Pemigewasset, Winnipesaukee, and Merrimack—so prepare to get wet on your first day out. You can pass hours kayaking or boogie boarding the new whitewater area on the Winni. Looking for more action? Upstream and outside the park are ten Class II–IV rapids formed by the remains of old mills that collapsed into the river; Outdoor New England rents kayaks and can arrange lessons to get you acquainted. Camp in the park or spend the night at the 19th-century Aiken Manor, a three-room inn (from $155). Day two is for biking. Fuel up at the Franklin Café with some Brothers doughnuts, often hailed as the best in the state, before exploring 13 miles of trails in Mill City Park, which are perfect for riding and running. Or set your sights on the 58-mile Northern Rail Trail, the longest in New Hampshire, which will take you all the way to Lebanon following the historic roots of the country’s Northern Railroad. On day three, it’s back into the water. This time pick up an inner tube from Outdoor New England and enjoy a mellow two-hour float from Riverfront Park to Cross Mill Road, watching for bald eagles and herons as you drift. Come sunset, hit Griffin Beach on Webster Lake for a paddleboard session. Afterward, if you’re visiting on the weekend, grab a blanket and head over to Black Bear Vineyard to enjoy live outdoor music. —T.N.

Liberty Bell Mountain in Washington’s North Cascades
Liberty Bell Mountain in Washington’s North Cascades (Brooke Fitts)

Skip the San Juans for Washington’s North Cascades National Park

An hour north of Seattle on Interstate 5 sits the historic downtown of Mount Vernon, hub of the Skagit Valley, known for its springtime tulip festival. While most treat the bustling town as a gateway to the San Juan Islands, the jagged mountains of North Cascades National Park to the east make the latter an ideal weekend destination. Start with a scenic drive or stout bike ride up Highway 20, the stunning roadway into North Cascades, which is usually open for the season by late May. Afterward, return to town and check in to your tiny cabin at Getaway (from $149), which opened an outpost here last year, and head out for a dinner of fried oysters and Swinomish Channel views at Nell Thorn, in the nearby town of La Conner. The next day, it’s breakfast at Tweets in neighboring Edison, followed by a hike in Little Mountain Park, where you can take in sweeping views of the San Juan Islands. That afternoon, stroll Skagit Riverwalk Park downtown before beer and burgers in the garden at Fairhaven in nearby Burlington. Your final day kicks off with a Whidbey Island bagel at Ristretto Coffee in Mount Vernon, then a visit to Deception Pass State Park, where you can gawk at the iconic bridge, hike four miles to the overlook at Goose Rock, or rent a kayak and paddle Cranberry Lake. On your way back, stop at Snow Goose Produce, a seasonal market, for a scoop of Skagit strawberry ice cream. Wind down that evening at COA Mexican Eatery over enchiladas drizzled with the best mole in town. —Megan Michelson

Smith Falls State Park
Smith Falls State Park (Courtesy of Nebraskaland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission)
Niobrara National Scenic River
Niobrara National Scenic River (Chuck Haney)

Try This Peaceful Paddle in Nebraska

The 76-mile Niobrara National Scenic River snakes through six ecosystems and past hundreds of waterfalls. But the main appeal to the adventurers who seek it out is a rare feature in today’s natural world: minimal noise pollution. In fact, Quiet Parks International, a nonprofit that works to protect earth’s quiet spaces, is evaluating a canoe route on the Niobrara for inclusion on a new roster of trails and waterways. Start in Valentine, the northern terminus of the 200-mile Cowboy Trail. In town, rent some two-wheeled transportation from Valentine Bike Share (from $10) and pedal 2.4 miles southeast to the Valentine Bridge, which soars 150 feet above the river, offering expansive views. The next day, launch your boat from Cornell Bridge in the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge, home to elk, bison, and over 230 bird species, and paddle through thick deciduous forest for roughly seven hours to a riverside campground like Wildcat or Sunny Brook before settling in for a night of calm beneath the cosmos. On your final day, paddle four more hours to Smith Falls State Park for a gander at a 70-foot waterfall, the tallest in the state. Arrange for a shuttle back to Valentine with Graham Canoe Outfitters. —S.V.

Running the rapids on the Arkansas River near Salida
Running the rapids on the Arkansas River near Salida (Beth Johnston)

Get Your Adventure Fix in the Underrated Rockies Hub of Salida, Colorado

Throw a dart on a map of the southern Rockies in the vicinity of Salida and there’s an adventure waiting to happen, whether it’s riding the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Epic-designated Monarch Crest Trail, paddling or fly-fishing for trout in the Colorado Wildlife Commission gold-medal-designated Arkansas River, summiting one of 12 fourteeners in Chaffee County, or practicing your roll at the Salida Whitewater Park downtown. There are plenty of exciting pre- and après-adventure hangouts to pack into a long weekend, from Rama’s Bread, a Turkish and Kurdish bakery with outstanding baklava, to the High Side Bar and Grill, which serves the decadent Adult Grilled Cheese and has a dog-friendly patio right on the river. The Amigo Motor Lodge (from $132), a mile from downtown, is a newly rehabbed 1960s-era motel with 17 stylish rooms; it also offers retro Airstream accommodations in the parking lot (from $115). In between the food and activities, soak in one of the area’s ample thermal baths, both human-made and wild. End your trip with a sunset dip in the mineral pools at Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa, 32 miles south of town, where you can watch the evening light play off the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. —S.P.

From May/June 2022 Lead Photo: Cliford Mervil

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