November Active/Adventure Travel Guide

White Sand Dunes
SUMMER SNOW: New Mexico's White Sand Dunes National Monument (PhotoDisc)

Ski Wolf Creek, CO
Bear costumes and pink bunny suits are often Wolf Creek locals' early-season attire, since ski season comes early to this southwestern Colorado area, which sees some 465 inches of snow annually. Snag some early turns off Wolf Creek's expert Alberta lift, then drive a half hour west to Pagosa Springs, where the Pagosa Brewing Company serves brews like Wolf Creek Wheat and Powder Day IPA and the Springs Resort's steamy natural hot springs welcome weary skiers.

Go Bouldering in Flagstaff, AZ
After Chris Sharma's impressive contortions on Priest Draw's boulders were immortalized in the film Rampage, the Flagstaff bouldering area was swamped with imitators. Though the Draw is now officially on the map, it's by no means a scene, and you'll often have the area, ensconced in aspens and situated around a long valley meadow, largely to yourself. Start at the triangle boulder to warm up, then move on to progressively more difficult overhanging boulders, riddled with moon-like pockets, further down the path.

Kayak the Suwannee River, FL
The Suwannee River harkens to a bygone Florida: Instead of theme parks and boardwalked beaches, picture thick, misty forests of pines and cypress and vestiges of Florida's past, like Civil War earthworks, a 19th-century steamboat paddle-wheel shaft, and historic cemeteries. By canoe, trace a part of the 170-mile Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, which leads from White Springs, Florida, to the gulf, or pick a plum section in Suwannee River State Park for a day trip.

Ice Climb in Valdez, AK
Late November and early December often bring cold temperatures but little snow to Valdez, Alaska—bad news for skiers and good news for ice climbers. This deep-water fjord off Prince William Sound sucks moist air from the coast and chills it with cool temps from the nearby Chugach Range. Don't miss Bridal Veil and Horsetail Falls in the famed Keystone Canyon.

Hike and Sled Down Sand Dunes in White Sands National Monument, NM
The lunar expanses of white sand in southern New Mexico's White Sands National Monument are best explored under the mild, sunny skies of winter. Hike the 4.6-mile Alkali Flat Trail by following the trail posts through the endless dunes. Since the dunes act as sight and sound buffers, it takes about 50 paces to find yourself in splendid isolation. After hiking, snag a sled from the visitor's center and find the steepest dune you can.

Road Bike Saguaro National Park, AZ
Tucson is a city of white-lined bike lanes, and with predictably balmy weather during the winter, it's a mecca for training cyclists. Some of the best routes run straight out of town into nearby Saguaro National Park. Spot the park's namesake saguaros and mountains in the distance while pedaling the twisting, eight-mile Cactus Forest Drive in the eastern section of the park, the Rincon Mountain District.

Kayak the Galapagos, Ecuador
Blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises, and languid iguanas are a few of the unusual critters that draw thousands of camera toters to the Galapagos every year. Recently guide services like Lindblad Expeditions (800.397.3348; started offering more intimate and active tours of the islands—by sea kayak. Nose into coves, paddle around sea lions and curious penguins, and listen to naturalists' explanations of this remote archipelago as you contemplate creation.

Climb Orizaba and Iztaccihuatl, Mexico
Mexican volcanoes Orizaba and Iztaccihuatl are a relative hop from home but a giant leap in adventure quotient. Seattle-based Mountain Madness (800.328.5925; runs trips up the two peaks—some of the continent's tallest—throughout the colder months. From the top, gaze over Popocatepetl, a still-feisty volcano, and picture the landscape as the Aztecs might have when they inhabited it for some 300 years.

Cross-Country and Downhill Skiing in Lillehammer, Norway
Norwegians are virtually born on skis, and no wonder: Here, winter is more of a way of life than a season. Head to Lillehammer, home of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games, which has plenty of pistes perfect for giant slalom turns. Outside of the buzzing town lie dozens of frozen lakes prime for cross-country skiing and options for dog sledding, sleigh rides, and ice skating. In Scandinavia, saunas aren't so much a post-ski luxury as a daily necessity; by no means should visitors miss out on the tradition.

Trek Nabji Korphu in Bhutan
Bhutan's Nabji Korphu trek, opened in November 2006, is best hiked between October and March, when temperatures in the central Bumthang region are mild. The path leads through low, tropical broadleaf forests of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, full of endangered golden langurs and rufous-necked hornbills, and tiny mountain hamlets, including an indigenous Monpa community. Money from the visitors who trek the seven-day route go to community projects like renovating monasteries, building irrigation ditches, and organizing community festivals.

Published: 25 Apr 2007 | Last Updated: 21 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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