Spring Break Ideas If You Need to Get Outside. Like, Now.
National parks, ATV destinations, hikes galore, and more!
We get it, you’ve been inside for a long time. Like, a long time. So, it’s understandable if you’re searching for ways to get outdoors. Hiking, walking, biking, moving—anything. Spring break just so happens to be the perfect time to do just that.
Here at Sunset, we look forward to travel for just about any reason, so we are wanderlusting right along with you. Whether it’s checking another national park off our bucket lists, pitching a tent somewhere that isn’t our backyards, or canyon bathing—yes, you read that right, canyon bathing—we’re ready to get out there again this spring.
We gathered up a few of the destinations across the West that we’ve been dreaming about visiting—whether you’ve got a week or you’re just looking for an overnight trip. Below, you’ll find a few classics, some unexpected towns, and a bunch of activity options for every adrenaline level and adventure-inclined interest of an “outdoorsy type.”
We consider both camping and glamping in this category, not to mention hot springs and outdoor spas. (Think body clay wraps next to a bubbling creek.) You don’t have to be a rock climber to find something special on this list, though we’ve got that, too. It’s never been a better time to stargaze, fish, off-road, via ferrata, and more. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and explore this vast and varied landscape that we call home.
For even more inspiration, check out our latest travel coverage from across the West.
Denali National Park & Preserve
Alaska’s Denali National Park & Preserve claims the tallest peak in North America—”the Mountain.” Hikers can go off-trail in this park, but make sure you heed local warnings (and wildlife).
Pair outdoor experiences with modern luxury at Castle Hot Springs resort. For those who can afford an escape to such an oasis, a wellness getaway can quite literally be whatever you need. Spa treatments can be traditional, such as a tourmaline clay wrap in a creekside cabana, or totally touchless—think via ferrata climbs and meditative hikes meant to target stress and fatigue.
AutoCamp Joshua Tree just opened, and there are plenty of local alternatives for camping outside the park. You’ll discover an otherworldly oasis of boulders, yuccas, and, of course, the iconic Joshua trees. Grab dinner at La Copine, and stop in to try the high desert’s newest bar, The Tiny Pony. There are plenty of other pit stops along the way.
Palm Springs is the ideal destination for a split group—some want to hike, some want to relax by the pool, some want to eat and drink their way through the week. Stock up on beer and wine at Dead or Alive bar and shop, mosey through the palm oases and myriad trails at Indian Canyons, and grab a vegan sandwich at Chef Tanya’s Kitchen.
First time camping but really want to have a go at it? New hotel Kinship Landing will teach you how to camp from the ground up before sending you on your adventurous way. You’ll be taught how to pitch a tent, make a bonfire, roast s’mores on that fire, and more. Then you’ll head out to a nearby campsite—yes, in the actual outdoors—to test out your newfound skills.
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
This national forest is one of the most popular destination for RVers, and for good reason. As national parks get crowded at the same speed that the weather gets nicer, consider nearby alternatives like this one—or the many national forests the West has to offer.
White Sands National Monument
National Geographic lauded this 275-square-mile expanse of pure white sand in the Chihuahuan Desert due to its accommodations for people with disabilities. Everyone, including people who use wheelchairs, can explore the 8-mile one-way Dunes Drive, and the quarter-mile Interdune Boardwalk.
Bend is well-known as an outdoorsy haven, but did you know it’s also one of the top 10 destinations for ATVing? The off-road options are endless, but make sure to note local rules and regulations before you rev that engine. If you’re more into the exploring this emerging foodie destination, kick it old-school at Deschutes Brewery or see what all the cool kids are talking about at Boss Rambler Beer Club. Don’t forget a stop for a pale ale at Cascade Lakes Brewing Co.
Head an hour east of Portland and you’ll find Hood River, with water activities galore, from boarding to canoeing to kayaking and beyond. After a full day of biking, hiking, and rowing, leave time for tasting at the taprooms and wineries nearby. We’re partial to Analemma Wines, Hiyu, and Savage Grace.
Head up Highway 101 for bivalves at JAndy Oyster Co. in Tillamook, and stop along the way for a short hike. “If you’re looking for fresh crab, it doesn’t get any better” than Kelly’s Brighton Marina right off Nehalem Bay, where you can hop in the boat to crab yourself, says chef Maylin Chavez, who gave us her inside tips for a trip. From there, head to The Salmonberry restaurant in Wheeler. End your journey in Astoria, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean and spirits flow at Blaylock’s Whiskey Bar.
This 1.35 million-acre national monument plays host to all manner of outdoor enthusiasts. You can hike, bike, or do some canyoneering. Take a raft down the San Juan River, or take in world-class rock climbing.
What if we told you there’s a city in Utah that’s within a few hours’ drive of a dozen of the state’s most beautiful natural wonders, and smack dab in the middle of not one, not two, but four national parks? Located just a half-hour from the east entrance of Zion National Park and just under 90 minutes from Bryce Canyon National Park, Kanab is the ideal basecamp to explore Utah’s Canyon Country. Of course, there are plenty new glamping options coming online this year, too.
Olympic National Park
With so many folks flocking to popular national parks, our favorites this year are on roads less traveled. Olympic National Park’s old-growth rainforests and coastline offer a peaceful respite.
Yellowstone National Park
There are plenty of new lodging options to check out, whether you’re a camper, spa-goer, and everything in between. If you’re planning to camp, be sure to score a campsite early; here’s how to book, along with some of our favorite spots.
Grand Teton National Park
“The Grand Teton mountain range springs up from the earth and towers over pristine lakes and rivers,” says Stephanie Housley, the designer behind Coral & Tusk textiles who shared with us top picks for a weekend getaway in Wyoming. “You can hike to a glacial lake or spend time oohing and ahhing over the peaks from the valley floor. With over 200 miles of trails and the Snake River flowing through Grand Teton National Park, there is so much to see and do.”
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