If you want the most comfortable weather for hiking and adventure traveling, simply follow the birds! When it comes to travel, there is no point in trying to reinvent the wheel. Heed the age-old wisdom of migration patterns and time your trip with the best season for each location. Birds go south toward the equator with the arrival of winter for a reason: Their fragile bodies are only able handle the resource-rich north during the warmest months. Likewise, while I love hiking in cooler weather, any opportunity to break up a big winter with a trip to warmer environments is welcome. This year as you make your travel plans, consider traveling with the seasons and reap the rewards.
The busiest traveling time of year can be a bit tricky, but we know how to keep you away from the hustle while still soaking up some solid sunshine. If you are looking for wildflowers and waterfalls without the crowds of a place like the Tetons, consider the nearby Wind River Range of Wyoming. This remote and rugged mountain chain has out-of-this world granite formations and flies surprisingly low under the radar. The Cirque of the Towers and Lake Titcomb are a few stellar highlights. Further south is the Uinta Range of Utah, which is another great alpine alternative with a ton of lakes to cool off in. Go join the fun at Redfish Lake in Stanley, Idaho, with its Sawtooth Mountains Range looming overhead. Heading here in the summer is smart considering this is town has one of the coldest average annual temperatures in the Lower 48. Consider heading up to Washington State to enjoy some sea kayaking the San Juan Islands. We all know the reputation of the Northwest when it comes to weather, but this once-in-a-lifetime trip is perfectly complemented with the blue skies, fluffy clouds, and warm temperatures that are common in the summer.
When the air begins to cool, it's a perfect time to start hiking the mid- and low-level alpine trails with their phenomenal annual display of colors. Head on over to Maroon Bells in Colorado for a mind-blowing display of autumn foliage reflected off an alpine lake. If you are further west, the Wasatch Mountains boast a terrific moose-laden spot called Willow Heights with giant aspen that burst into yellow each year. Getting there is a show in itself as you drive up the scenic Big Cottonwood Canyon on your way to the trailhead. If you are back East this time of year, you have the world famous New England fall foliage that will rival anywhere you have ever seen in sheer color. Down south the Great Smoky Mountains get painted in an absolute symphony of color. This region is the most biologically diverse in America, and the variety is on full display in autumn.
As a person who lives in an area with a solid winter, there is nothing more exciting than knowing you are headed to the tropics in the dead of winter. You can find airline deals to Hawai'i by avoiding going near Christmas, and you can find some great under-the-radar beaches with barely anyone around. Watching the big wave riders at that time of year is a rare and exhilarating treat. If you are making the journey to a warmer climate by car, Santa Barbara is a Southern California favorite. Not as hot or crowded as most cities in Southern California, the vibe here is more mellow, and the surf is legit. It can be pricey, but finding some camping options outside of town and coming in to play can make it much more feasible. Florida has some incredibly cheap travel options and offers a much wider variety of adventures than most states. It does get busy with the snowbirds during winter, but this giant state is loaded with enough fun to handle the crowds. Whether diving the Keys, kayaking the rivers, checking out the Tortugas, or staying near town to see great wetlands and gardens, you will have no shortage of sun and fun.
Spring and the desert of the Southwest go hand in hand. Alpine meadows do not get their flowers until the summer, but in the desert they pop out in the spring like we expect. The hot climate may still be months away, yet and the winter snow melts into rivers that bring life to the wasteland. The Four Corners region has too many wonderful Native American historical destinations to name, and it also has some of the most fascinating geology in the country. Check out the ruins at Hovenweep and nearby Cliff Palace for a major dose of ancient ruins. The Mighty Five in Utah can keep someone busy for a lifetime, and that does not even include the state parks and national monuments (at the moment, Utah has the largest). The Grand Canyon of Arizona and its Colorado River swell with the mountain runoff, but the biggest crowds don't materialize until summer. You can see the darkest skies in the U.S. at Natural Bridges National Monument, and the soaring Corona Arch outside of Moab further north.