Tim Jepson suggests 10 of the best outdoor activity breaks in the US for the intrepid traveller. From rafting on the Colorado River to trekking in Hawaii, here's a collection of things to do if you enjoy getting out and about.
Explore The Civil War Battlefields
Events in the US marking the 150th anniversary of key chapters in the American Civil War (1861–65) are reaching their climax this year. April 14, 1865, for example, was the date on which Abraham Lincoln was assassinated (visit nps.gov and civilwar.org for details of events).
Group tours with Leger visit Appomattox Court House, scene of one of the key battles of that climactic year, and other battlefields at Gettysburg, Antietam and Petersburg. The trip also includes Arlington National Cemetery and museums and other sites associated with the war in Washington, Lynchburg and Harpers Ferry.
Hike The Canyons Of The Southwest
While the US has much fine hiking country, few areas are quite as blessed as the south-west corner. America As You Like’s escorted small-group tour of the region offers full and half-day guided hikes in the most famous parks – notably Grand Canyon and Monument Valley (where you will be led by a Navajo guide) – but also in less well-known parks, such as Goblin and Dead Horse Point state parks and Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands and Arches national parks. By way of contrast, the tour concludes with visits to the Hoover Dam, a stretch of Route 66 and a night in Las Vegas.
Hut-To-Hut On The Appalachian Trail
Grand American Adventures has a new hut-to-hut (shared dorms, sleeping bag required) trip for 2015 along part of the 3,480-kilometre Appalachian Trail in the eastern US, a sister tour to its two other hiking trips on different parts of the trail that offer either camping or hotels as accommodation options. Using huts gets you farther into the backcountry, and allows you to explore the White Mountains National Park north of Boston, one of the finest stretches of the trail: pick a late departure to see the region’s celebrated autumn colours.
Conquer Colorado’s 14ers
In the US they are known as the Fourteeners or '14ers': peaks above 14,000ft (4,270 metres). Climbing them is a key pastime among keen hikers (visit 14ers.com for more information). Colorado has more than any of the lower 48 states – 53, compared with just 12 in California, the next in line – and KE Adventure allows you to tackle eight non-technical summits.
It is not a trip to be undertaken lightly – the altitude can be difficult – but is manageable if you are a reasonably fit and seasoned hiker. Bonuses include the delightful town of Aspen and a variety of lower-level walks.
Watch Wolves In Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park was devoid of wolves, hunted and harried to extinction, for 70 years until they were reintroduced in 1995-96. Responsible Travel offers a dedicated tour devoted to watching the park’s now thriving wolf packs (expert local teams ensure a 100 per cent record of finding wolves on its trips).
An ecologist with 40 years’ experience accompanies the tours, and you will often have the chance to meet other leading experts in the field and watch their pioneering research and conservation work.
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Cycle Big Sur & California’s Pacific Highway
It is one of North America’s most celebrated road trips but just because it is a road trip does not mean you have to do it by car. Exodus offers 10 days’ cycling along the best stretches of the Pacific Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles, starting with a pre-highway tour of Napa and its vineyards before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge for the trip south by way of Monterey, Big Sur and other coastal highlights.
There are plenty of out-of-saddle excursions, with a support vehicle throughout. The cycling is graded moderate, with some hills and around 56 kilometres of all-tarmac riding a day.
See Big Bears In Big Landscapes
The biggest US bears are in Alaska, which is why the state is the focus for the majority of the country’s bear-watching tours. Wildlife Worldwide offers two group tours to the state, one to the south-west, which combines bear and whale-watching, and one to Kodiak Island, the world’s most celebrated bear-watching spot (known for the sight of bears snatching salmon from white-water rivers).
On the latter you will stay in wilderness lodges and spend three days on a private boat that allows you to follow the bears as they move up river. Alternatively, the company can tailor-make 11-day and 15-day Alaskan Bear Odyssey and Alaskan Wilderness Adventure tours.
Hiking & Island Hopping In Hawaii
Key outdoor areas in the US, such as the Grand Canyon, Alaska and Yellowstone, are relatively well served by operators but it is harder to find tours to more unusual destinations. So it is good to see a new trip from HF Holidays to Hawaii, an 11-night tour that offers gentle and varied hiking (five to 13 kilometres daily) within sight of lava flows in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, crater walks overlooking Waikiki Beach, trails through orchid-filled forest and other rich habitats, and general sightseeing visits to Pearl Harbor and other Hawaiian points of interest.
Rafting On The Colorado River
When it comes to rafting in the US, the Grand Canyon section of the Colorado River is the trip most people know and therefore the one they want to do: unfortunately, numbers of boats are limited so places are often hard to come by. American Round-Up offers seven-day trips through the canyon, but also recommends a five-night, 241-kilometre trip on the Colorado’s nearby Westwater and Cataract canyons as an equally exhilarating alternative.
If, like many people, you only want a taste of rafting, go for the company’s two-day, 69-kilometre option through the Westwater Canyon.
Birdwatching In Florida
Florida ’s subtropical climate and varied habitats attract a wide variety of birds, from crowds of waders, warblers and wetland birds to rarities, endemic species and occasional visitors. Limosa has more than 20 years’ experience running birdwatching trips to the US, and offers annual tours with expert guides to the Sunshine State in spring to coincide with the maximum number of winter visitors and resident populations. The tours combine inland habitats with Atlantic and Gulf coast locations, and promise anything up to 170 species over 12 days.
This article was written by Tim Jepson from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.