Quick, quick, it’s already June! If you don’t hurry, summer could pass you by faster than snow melts in the Utah desert. Summer vacations can take some serious planning, especially if you’re hoping to get out on a real adventure, see wild places, or achieve big goals in the wilderness. Whether you have a week off or a month off, there are nearly limitless ways to adventure and places to explore. You’re probably sick of the same old thing every summer. If you take one more trip to the carnival, you’re probably going to be sick. It’s high time to take a break out in nature.
Today, we’ll cover a wide array of options for the adventurous and the outdoorsy. Some of these ideas will push you to budget and plan, and some can be funded by simply turning in your change jar.
Climb to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite
It’s the most photographed piece of rock in the world for good reason. The formation known as Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is truly breathtaking to behold. But it’s even more breathtaking to stand at the top.
Normally, to climb a 2,000-foot wall of Granite, you’d need some technical gear and the skills to use it; however, Half Dome is unique in that it is just easy enough to climb from the backside, so hikers can manage it with no special training or equipment. During the high season, you need a permit to make the climb and the route is marked by cable handrails to help provide a measure of safety.
This hike is not for the faint of heart and will make a great accomplishment to cap off a long journey from home to Yosemite Valley. If you give yourself a couple of extra days, plan to hike any other of the plentiful granite domes and ridgelines that riddle the park. It is truly one of the most unique landscapes on the planet.
Go on a rafting trip
While you’re there, cool off after your hike by getting into the river for a float and soak. Rafting is one of the coolest and most intimate ways to see a new landscape. Rivers allow access to hidden places and virgin terrain that often can’t be accessed by any other means. There’s a reason why so much classic literature has come from rafting guides deep in the canyons of the Southwest.
Although rafting isn’t the easiest sport to jump into without experience, it’s easy to sign up for a guided trip with a professional rafting outfit. Any river with white water will have a number of companies floating along its banks. Going with a rafting guide is great because you can learn new skills while they ensure you stay safe on the river.
Or, if you’re fortunate enough to live near a river with no or little white water, float it yourself. Build your own raft out of coconut shells and sea turtles, or go get a couple of inner tubes from The Home Depot. A lot of people go on day rafting trips with their buddies. But why not turn it into something more? Sure, your doughnut inner tube might not be designed to haul gear downstream. I’m sure you can rig up some sort of way to float all your gear along with you.
Take the ferry to Alaska
I grew up on the northwestern coast of Washington State and the Alaskan Ferry would pass through port frequently in my hometown. It always seemed so big and majestic. I would watch anxiously as it disappeared on the horizon, floating off to its mysterious northern destination.
Alaska is one of the wildest places on our planet. During the winter, for months, the sun stays below the horizon 24 hours a day. Temperatures drop to a bone-chilling low. The state is even home to the largest predators on the continent of North America, the polar and grizzly bears.
The ferry costs a pretty penny, but not any more than driving all the way up there would, and the views are spectacular. You can count on seeing some whales and dolphins, as well as countless seabirds and other marine life. The coastlines leading up Western British Columbia to Alaska are a truly magnificent and a unique habitat, unlike anywhere else in the world.
Ride the train across the country
One of the coolest ways to travel is by train, if you ask me. It just feels… well, cool. Not only is it a truly classic mode of transportation, but it’s also very different from other forms. Unlike driving, on a train you can stand up and walk around. You can read a book or write in your journal. On the train, you can meet new people, play board games, or get work done.
In other parts of the world, it’s very common to travel by train. Even in bigger US cities, the subway is an essential part of daily transportation. However, the interstate passenger railway system is an oft-forgotten gem of the industrial age.
Hike 100 miles
Setting a big goal is one of the best ways to make a memorable trip. One hundred miles makes a great distance for a hiking trip. Plot a course through a nearby mountain range, along the coast, or through a National Park. You could do a thru-hike, which starts in one place and ends in another, far away. Or devise a loop that is 100 miles long. It’s up to you.
One hundred miles is obviously just a suggestion. Try a nice, big, round number to push your limits a little beyond what you might normally try. If you’re hiking, 100 miles could take up to ten days, depending on how fast you go and whether you take any rest days or not. That’s just long enough to settle into the routine of the trail, but not so long it’s going to break the bank or your back.
Build a tree house
It’s not exactly a trip, but taking on a big construction project can be just as adventurous and rewarding. A tree house is a classic way to merge adult proficiency with childhood fantasy. This is an especially great idea if you have kids. Let them plan and build part of the tree house with you.
Over the years, you can add to it, repair it, modify it, or even tear it down if you get sick of it. If you don’t have much experience building, don’t worry. There are a ton of books and online resources out there that can teach you how it’s done.
Travel Central America in the off-season
Normally Central America is best traveled in the dry season between November and April. And although unending sunshine is nice, the rainy season has a lot to offer the open-minded traveler.
First, and most notably, everything will be empty. The hostels will offer reduced rates and special discounts for the off-season. The tourist attractions won’t be swarming with the typical throng of tourists. Furthermore, the rainy months expose landscapes that don’t exist in the dry season and breathe vitality into places that may be pretty parched other times of the year. It’s not like it just rains all day every day during the rainy season, either.
In most places, the rain follows very predictable patterns every day. The mornings are usually clear. By the afternoon it usually clouds up. Rain falls heavily for several hours every evening and is often done before dinner.
Take a road trip down I-5
The United States has some of the best roads in the world, and lots of them. When planning road trips, the options are virtually endless. However, one obvious candidate that sticks out is I-5. If you’re not familiar with it, the highway stretches all the way along the West Coast of the States, from Vancouver, British Columbia to Tijuana, Mexico.
Although the road itself isn’t scenic, the places you will pass through are. Take detours to visit the Hoh Rainforest, Giant Redwoods, Yosemite National Park, and San Diego’s Ocean Beach. Do some research, make some plans, and take lots of detours. By the time you’ve covered the whole coast, you’ll have seen some pretty spectacular sights.
Make a documentary or a movie outdoors
Again, you don’t have to go on what most people think of as a vacation in order to have an amazing experience this summer. Taking on a project like filming a movie or documentary can be a great way to get yourself outside, talking to new people, and learning new things.
Go interview some strangers, ask some hard questions, work out your lighting, and see if you can get the shot just right. Tell a story, share a message, or spread awareness. Taking on big projects that matter are great ways to make the most of your time. Not only that, but it’s also a great way to use your vacation to make something important and give back to the community.
Do a season of music festivals
If you like music, adventure, and travel, why not do all three together? Every summer, the West Coast comes alive with musical gatherings of nearly every nature and size. So plan a road trip that will hit five or six of your favorite festivals.
Start further south where it warms up earlier and the music starts a month or two ahead of summer. Then, work your way up the coast one festival at a time. You can work at them to keep costs down, or just attend them if you’re not concerned about the price. Either way, you’ll come away with countless stories and a whole summer of laughter and wide-eyed wild experiences.
If you’re curious to learn a bit more about volunteering at music festivals, check out this article. In it, I describe the types of jobs you can do at festivals in exchange for your ticket as well as some tips and tricks for each one.
Whatever you wind up doing with your summer vacation, make sure it’s memorable. Don’t waste the most vital and vibrant time of your life indoors all summer. By setting goals, making plans, and taking trips, you’ll set yourself up for good times, powerful lessons and indelible memories which you can keep forever.
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