February Active/Adventure Travel Guide
|Couple Hiking in Death Valley National Park, CA (Comstock)|
Mountain Bike in Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ
Mountain bikers frozen out of their fat-tire fix due to inclement winter weather should look toward the dust-strewn terrain in and around Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona. Literally hundreds of miles of single- and doubletrack lie within a 60-mile radius of this desert oasis resort town, including routes up cardiac hills, across landscapes scattered with cacti, and through trails carved specifically for mountain bikers. But to do it right (read: lots of riding, not a lot of logistics) hook up with Arizona Outback Adventures' new Sonoran Desert Singletrack trip, which offers five days of cycling in 75-degree weather along with desert camping, gourmet campfire cooking, and tours suited to all skill levels.
Sea-Kayak the Galapagos National Park, Ecuador
There's really no bad time to visit the Galapagos Islands. It's a year-round paradise. But February is a great time to escape the lingering winter in the northern hemisphere and head for warmer locales. Enormous tortoises, including the legendary Lonesome George, the last of his species on earth, roam the islands. And marine iguanas linger on the ocean-side lava rocks. The best way to see the mind-boggling array of distinctive wildlife here is to get up close, which is exactly what kayaks allow. Go with an operator such as Lindblad Expeditions, whose 80- and 45-passenger boats stock sea kayaks for passenger use, and let them handle the tricky permit stuff.
Climb Mount Washington, NH
Mount Washington, at 6,288 feet, is the most recognized and tallest peak in New England, towering above the rest of the Presidential Mountains and the valley below. Getting to the summit isn't easy. Even summer hikers are warned about the dangers of changing weather conditions and high winds. Winter climbers on this legendary mountain are sure to experience arctic temperatures, high winds, and deep snow. These conditions make Mount Washington an ideal training ground for anyone who's heading off to Mount Rainier or other high-altitude climbs. But the experience of summiting Washington can certainly hold its own.
Scuba Dive the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
Summer is raging down under, and the water's definitely the place to be. But with this ideal scuba weather come the crowds. The trick is to explore parts of the reef that are inaccessible to the day-tripper. Hop on a live-aboard dive boat for a multi-day trip, and you're sure to discover the most beautiful and solitary coral the Great Barrier Reef has to offer. Mike Ball Dive Expeditions is one of the most well respected live-aboard operators in Australia. Mike even runs PADI certification courses for beginners.
Hike and Bike Death Valley National Park, CA
If you want to experience the striking low-elevation portions of Death Valley, including the country's lowest point (282 feet below sea level), winter is the only time to go. The extreme heat of summer keeps hikers off all but two of the park's trails, but during the winter you should have no problem scaling 11,049-foot Telescope Peak for panoramic views of the High Sierra and the valley floor. Bikers will appreciate the hundreds of miles of paved and dirt roads through the park; remember, though, the hiking trails are off limits to bikers.
Waterfall Ice-Climb the Canadian Rockies, Canada
Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, and Waterton Lakes national parks offer an unparalleled experience for the ice climber. A combination of good access, reliable conditions, and a long season has earned the Canadian Rockies the distinction of being a premier waterfall ice-climbing destination. Be aware that ice climbing in the Rockies requires avalanche skills. If your understanding of avalanches is minimal, then stick to the park's Class 1 terrain.
Go Caving in Belize
Belize is well known for world-class diving, but its less known inland territory has an allure all its own. Drive 20 minutes south of the capital Belmopan and meet up with master caver Ian Anderson at the Caves Branch Adventure Company. He'll take you to Actun Loch Tunich, which he calls "the mother of all caves," where a 300-foot rappel into Black Hole awaits. Camp in the basin at the entrance to the Actun Loch Tunich river cave system, then trek down another 400 feet along cave cliff walls on routes of the ancient Maya to the Actun Loch Tunich underground river, with some 15 miles of mapped passageways. After exploring to your spelunking-heart's content, hike out through the foothills back to the lodge, where Ian promises a cold beer will be waiting.
Fly-Fish the Seychelles
The Seychelles, off the east coast of Africa, is an intoxicating Indian Ocean cocktail of 115 islands, where it's easy to slip into a deep relaxation each day on the beach. But beyond the rhythmic wave breaks, out on the flats, some of the best fly-fishing in the world awaits. Fishing season here is governed by the trade winds, generally from September to May, and during February, when the winds blow from the northwest, the fishing conditions are excellent. Bonefish are particularly abundant this time of year, though you might also hook dorado, wahoo, yellow tuna, and marlin. Guides are plentiful and relatively inexpensive.
Ski or Snowboard Sugarloaf, ME
In the heart of the Carrabassett Valley sits Sugarloaf ski resort, surrounded by Maine's Western Mountains. The mountain's summit, at 4,237 feet, is the second highest peak in the state and offers the only above-treeline skiing in the East. Sugarloaf has 1,400 acres of terrain, and there's something for every level. Advanced skiers will appreciate the 20 glade runs and the mountain's 2,820-foot vertical rise, the most continuous in New England. Bonus: Sugarloaf's proximity to both Portland and Bangor makes getting there a snap. See our photos of Sugarloaf Ski Resort.
Rock Climb in Joshua Tree National Park, CA
With more than 400 climbing formations and 8,000 climbing routes on wonderfully sticky, rarely crumbly granite, Joshua Tree has earned its reputation as one of the world's premier trad-climbing spots. The fact that it's climbable year-round is a sizable bonus, not to mention the pristine, high-desert views that reward you at the top of each route. But come in February to avoid the winter chill blanketing the most of the U.S. Since routes are generally short, you'll log quite a few climbs in a single day. It's a great opportunity to mix it up, as most areas offer enough variety that you can practice every skill you know. And if you've never climbed before, this is definitely the place to start.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication