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Elle Ossello | 01.17.2019

There’s a reason why so many New Year's resolutions fervently set on New Year's Day are abandoned by March or even sooner: They have a way of getting us to put so much undue pressure on ourselves that we lament goals unachieved even before the glimmer of NYE celebrations fade.

That's not to say that we’re not proponents of setting goals and striving to better ourselves. But let's focus on the long haul. Let's shift all resolution-making energy into bucket-list energy.

Creating a longer bucket list inspires a resolve to get out and explore the natural world. It inspires reaching out to friends and acquaintances to get beta on trails, rivers, and skin tracks. It inspires a more prepared gear list, a sharper-trained dog, a smarter snack arsenal, a tougher weekday gym regimen, better communication and logistics planning with adventure buddies, and a tougher mental game. So, in the end, perhaps this is just resolution-making in disguise. Either way, if 2019 comes to a close and more people have had a chance to experience the breathtaking adventures listed below, we’ll call it a win.

A quick side note about a real resolution we’re making this year: we resolve to shout about the principles of Leave No Trace from the rooftops and make sure that every time we embark on a new adventure we leave it better than we found it. This, to us, means tossing in an extra small trash bag to grab micro trash when we see it, never cutting off a switchback, leaving flowers, animals, and rocks alone, camp only on durable surfaces, and more. The onus is on all of us.

The Southwest

The Nambe Lake Trail: Day hiking the Southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico

  • Situated just a half hour outside of Santa Fe, this out-and-back trail winds through the Sangre De Cristo subrange of the Southern Rockies and meanders through national forest to earn access to an alpine lake. It’ll completely reframe your concept of the southwest in the best kind of way.

The Bright Angel Trail: Day hiking the Colorado River Grand Canyon, Arizona

  • This might just be the most challenging/sustained hike you’ve ever done. It might just also be the most spectacular. Though you’ll begin the day surrounded by throngs of tourists vying for a quick picture and an ice cream cone, the further you descend, the fewer people you’ll see, and the more primordial you’ll feel. For a challenge like this, brush up on Grand Canyon Tips for Beginners and Experts.

The South

Canoe Cane Bayou: Greater New Orleans, Louisiana

  • Though outdoor adventure might not be the first thing you think of when the topic of conversation turns to New Orleans, taking an afternoon to explore on a trip to the big city can totally shift your perspective on the bustling metropolis. No shuttle is necessary on this trip, and you can expect jaw-dropping natural beauty and a surprising array of wildlife.

Hot Springs National Park: Road tripping in the Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas

  • This is one of the hidden treasures in this southern state. From its history of the bathhouses to the national park, this place has so much to offer. While you are there you can stay in the historic Arlington Hotel, which sits right on the edge of the park. In the morning, you can take a mile round-trip hike to the top of the mountain, and more.

The Northwest

The West Coast Trail: Test your thru-hiking mettle on Vancouver Island, BC

  • Not all of us are driven to the trail by our inner demons, and for those of us who simply want to enjoy the beauty of the backcountry rather than seek its distractions—in the form of bottom-sole blisters and big-mountain vistas—a soft introduction to the long-distance format is best. The West Coast Trail is busy and beautiful. That means a lot of friendly faces. If you need friendlier terrain, try its sister trail to the south, the Juan de Fuca Trail, and pack aloe vera.

Tilly Jane Trail: Backcountry skiing the Mt. Hood + Clackamas River area, Oregon

  • If 2019 is your year to get into backcountry skiing, this is an excellent, well-traveled adventure that will help get your legs beneath you. If you can, try and snag a reservation in the incredible little a-frame so you can hunker down overnight. If not, a day trip is excellent and best topped off with a warm beverage at nearby Cooper Spur.

The Midwest

Griffy Lake Nature Preserve: Hike in Greater Indianapolis, Indiana

  • Consider 2019 the year you explore the adventures that are less posted about on Instagram and hyped in Outdoor Magazine. Especially in the fall, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and simply picnicking at Griffy Lake Nature Preserve is a breathtaking experience. Trust us on this one.

Elephant Rocks State Park: Road tripping to Ozark Mountains + Highlands, Missouri

  • Elephant Rocks State Park is off the beaten path, but once you arrive you will be amazed at what you find. The park received its name from the giant boulders that stand end-to-end like a train of circus elephants, and whether you’re hiking or simply road tripping through the park, you’ll stumble upon shockingly beautiful scenery around every turn.

The West

Capitol Reef National Park: Road tripping to Escalante - Grand Staircase area, Utah

  • Utah is renowned for its stunning landscapes and fantastic geologic formations, but most of the hype is focused on Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches. Capitol Reef is a bit off the beaten path, making it all the more fantastic. Spend a week there and visit the Fruita Petroglyphs, Cassidy Arch, and the Hickman Natural Bridge while you’re at it.

Going-to-the-Sun Road: Drive the highroad in Glacier + Northern Lewis Range, Montana

  • If you haven’t already done it, chances are this is already on your bucket list. But the sweeping vistas, incredible geology, prevalence of wildlife, and richness of history make this a trip that you’ll never forget.


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