When budgets and schedules are tight for travelers, it’s time to think micro. Adventure that is. While trips to far-flung parts of the world are incredible and fulfilling, curious adventure seekers can find amazing things to see and do close to home and well within reach. In fact, from red rocks in the desert to crashing waves oceanside and everything in between, these 15 microadventures in the United States will keep your wanderlust spirit alive and deliver maximum thrills.
What is a micro adventure, you ask? The term microadventure originated with Alastair Humphreys, a British traveller named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for his promotion of “fulfilling, challenging and worthwhile” adventures for people to enjoy on a smaller and more local level.
The trend towards smaller-scale adventures isn’t just for hardcore wilderness enthusiasts. The new travel normal will see an increase of microadventure ideas and plans emerging from a population of cautious travelers seeking transformational experiences to stay closer to home. Spending time locally is in.
15 Microadventures in the United States
Phoenix to Sedona
For an immersive microadventure into the natural and the spiritual, head to Sedona. Known as Red Rock Country for its colorful and stunning landscape, Sedona is both laid back and filled with active pursuits for adventure seekers.
Sedona is well known for its vortex hikes. A vortex is an area of concentrated energy where the trees at these magical sites often exhibit swirling or twisting of their trunks because of the powerful vortex energy. People often feel a vibration from the ground in these areas.
There are five vortex locations in Sedona, the most famous being the Airport Mesa. This loop trail trail offers awe-inspiring views of the Sedona Vortex and Red Rock formations. There is no other hike in Sedona that will give you a 360-degree panoramic view of almost every red rock landmark at an elevation of 4,500 feet.
Another famous hike in Sedona is Devil’s Bridge. This trail is 4 miles round trip and fairly flat along the way. It is the most popular hike in Sedona and also one of the busiest.
After time spent among the rocks, I would recommend taking the Sedona Trolley. A scenic city tour on the Sedona Trolley is a great way to see the city and learn about its history.
Food options to refuel from your adventures include the popular Red Rock Cafe (cinnamon rolls!), The Hudson and Cucina Rustica. From Nicole at American SW Obsessed
Distance: 115 miles
Los Angeles to Bishop
Even though Los Angeles has a ridiculously large amount of things to do, see and eat, it can feel good to escape city limits for a couple of days (or a week).
When I want to be in contact with nature and fill my eyes with raw beauty, I head to Bishop, a town located in the Eastern Sierra Nevada area. Bishop is located about 266 miles from Los Angeles. Therefore, it is a plausible option to spend a long weekend.
The most popular attraction in the town’s vicinity is the Bishop Creek Canyon. You can access any of the two forks of the creek using a well-paved road that takes visitors from 4,000 feet to over 9,500 feet. This is a wonderland of lakes (the main ones are North, South, and Sabrina Lakes), granite peaks, wildflowers (summer), and color-changing foliage (fall). Activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, and fishing are popular.
Those interested in bouldering and rock climbing can stop by The Buttermilks or the Druid Stones. Outfitters located in town offer guided tours and sound advice.
The town itself has several points of interest, in particular, for those visiting with kids. You can stop by the City Park, Laws Railroad Museum, and Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center.
And, if we are talking about Bishop, the Erick Shat’s Bakery has to be mentioned. This establishment, founded by Basque shepherds during the Gold Rush, sells a wide variety of bread, focaccia, donuts, pies, cake, sandwiches, and cookies. Be careful since it is easy to go over budget here. Other good places to eat include the Burger Barn, Black Sheep Coffee Roasters, and Mountain Rambler Brewery.
For camping, staying at Brown’s Town is recommended since it has tons of amenities and it is located close to the town’s center. Other nice campgrounds include Brown’s Millpond and Keough’s Hot Springs Resort. From Ruth at Tanama Tales
Los Angeles to Catalina Island
Does a one-hour boat ride to a beautiful island paradise that makes you feel far away from the city sound like a perfect little adventure? Then you should definitely take a microadventure escape from Los Angeles to Catalina Island.
Avalon is the only true town on Catalina Island. The ferry will drop you off just a short stroll away from Crescent Ave, which is the main walkway around Avalon Bay. Known as Front Street by the locals, you’ll find beaches, shops, and restaurants all along the street.
Don’t miss the Wrigley Memorial Botanical Gardens, a 38-acre sanctuary featuring native California plants, and the Catalina Casino, which is not a place for gambling, but is home to a gorgeous theatre and ballroom.
If you want to get a little more adventurous, try a glass-bottomed boat tour or a mini-submarine tour to explore what’s under the water. Or head out into nature and backpack the Trans-Catalina trail, where you can spend a few days hiking the length of the island and camping along the beach to experience stunning sunsets and ocean views.
When it’s finally time to leave the island and head back home, you’ll probably spend the ferry ride dreaming about when you can escape to Catalina again. It’s the perfect mini adventure away from the big city, and one you’ll likely never forget. From Allison at She Dreams of Alpine
Los Angeles to Palm Springs
No trip to Palm Springs in southern California is complete without a journey into to Joshua Tree National Park. Located just 37.5 miles from Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park is a desert park that sits on not one but two deserts: the Sonoran and the Mojave. Famous for its massive boulder formations and namesake Joshua trees, the park’s unique desert landscapes will leave you in awe.
There are many exciting things to do in Joshua Tree National Park, and you can get to many of them on a microadventure trip. First, the drive through the park is a must. While the northern part of the park has the more famous drive past major rock formations and large expanses of Joshua trees, the southern part of the park contains a beautiful palm-filled oasis and patches of striking ocotillo and cholla cactus.
Rock scrambling is fun, and there are boulders for all skill levels in the park. And if you wish, you can even schedule a beginner rock climbing lesson. And if you enjoy hiking, there are numerous trails in the park. On a day trip, stick to a couple of short ones. The Hidden Valley trail or the Barker Dam trail are perfect for about an hour of walking each. Take in the sunset from the Keys View point, which overlooks all of Coachella Valley, before you head back to the city. From Dhara at It’s Not About the Miles
San Francisco to Sonoma
Sonoma County is the perfect destination for a microadventure from San Francisco. The valley is an easy one hour drive north from the Golden Gate Bridge through farmlands along Highway 101.
In addition to beautiful rolling hills, there are lots of things to do in Sonoma, making it a perfect respite from the busy city. Walk among the majestic redwoods at Armstrong Woods State Nature Preserve or savor warm bowls of clam chowder while watching the crashing waves at Bodega Bay’s beaches.
Doran Beach is a calm and safe beach for families and Bodega Head has a coastal trail filled with non-stop views. Patrick’s Salt Water Taffy is a cute, quaint stop for sweets while out at the coast. There are many places to swim and canoe or kayak along the Russian River. Hikers and mountain bikers will not want to miss Annadel State Park or Mt. Hood.
Visitors to Sonoma should plan to visit (via bike rides or by car) at least one of its many stunning vineyards and winery tasting rooms. Truett Hurst, in the Dry Creek Valley, offers lovely picnic grounds along with its delicious wines.
Ferrari-Carrano has beautiful gardens and views and Benziger Winery has picturesque tram rides through its rows of biodynamic grapevines. Farm to table restaurants line the streets of small towns throughout the county, with Girl and the Fig, Costeaux Bakery, and Bird and Bottle being local favorites. From Sierra at Free to Travel Mama
San Francisco to Yosemite
Yosemite is one of the most popular national parks in California. In fact, Yosemite National Park is the perfect day+ trip destination from San Francisco. Known for its beautiful granite mountains and giant waterfalls, Yosemite represents the pinnacle of American microadventures possibilities.
The Yosemite Valley is the most visited area of the Park, due in large part to the amazing views of iconic granite giants like Half Dome and El Capitan. In addition to getting up close to the powerful Yosemite Falls, visitors can view other beautiful waterfalls easily accessible from “The Valley,” including Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and Bridalveil Falls.
There are countless hikes in Yosemite National Park. There are so many trails that take you to different landscapes throughout the park. For waterfalls, be sure to take the aptly named Mist Trail, from here you’ll be able to hike to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls and you’ll even be in their splash zones so be sure to bring waterproof gear. For a less strenuous hike, the Yosemite Falls hike is perfect. The short 1-mile loop takes you to see the lower portion of the waterfall.
If a beautiful view is all you’re after, take in the sight of Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Falls at Tunnel View for the picture-perfect shot that Ansel Adams once famously took. This lookout point is amazingly gorgeous and is one of the most popular views in the park. If you’d like to pitch a tent and roll out your sleeping bags for nights under the stars in the park, be sure to note their reservation schedule. Yosemite is one of the most popular National Parks and National Forests and makes for exciting microadventures in the Untied States. From Constance at The Adventures of Panda Bear
Denver to Manitou Springs
Nestled below the shadow of Pikes Peak, the small town of Manitou Springs has a lot of outdoor and cultural activities to keep active adventurers busy for days.
Being only 1 hr 15 mins, or 75 miles away from Denver, it makes for a great getaway. Just start heading south along I-25 towards Colorado Springs, which has some great activities to do with kids, which adjoins with Manitou Springs.
The Garden of the Gods is a geological marvel that’s made from sandstone. The formations erupt directly out towards the sky, giving visitors an obvious reason as to why this park received its name. There are trails for all abilities in the garden, with the option of getting up close and personal with stalagmite like formations.
If you’d like to step back into the history of the area, you can head over to the Manitou Cliff dwellings, where you can observe how Native Americans once lived in the red stone cliffs.
For the more active, you can check out the infamous Manitou Incline. A 1-mile track that follows an old cable car route with an ascent of 2000 feet! That’s an average gradient of 45%. So be warned, this hike is not for the faint-hearted and makes for a great challenge to go beyond your comfort zone.
There are plenty of other activities in the area, including the penny arcades in Manitou Springs town center, along with cute shops and places to eat. If you want to feel on top of the world, you can also drive (or hike) up Pikes Peak, the most eastern 14er (above 14,000 feet) in the US. From Nick at Illness to Ultra
New Orleans to Jean Lafitte National Park
Escape the crowds of New Orleans and head down to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve. Technically made up of 6 sites scattered throughout southern Louisiana, this Historic Park & Preserve offers visitor nature exploration, battlefields, cultural centers, and wetlands.
While the French Quarter Visitor Center is one of the six sites, the next closest site to New Orleans is only 16 miles from downtown, but it can seem like a whole other world away. The Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte shows off the wild side of Louisiana with over 23,000 acres of swamps, marshes, bayous, and forests filled with alligators, snakes, deer, and a variety of bird species.
Visitors to the Barataria Preserve can explore this area by trails and boardwalks or by canoe or kayak. More adventurous visitors can hop on an Airboat, go fishing, or take a tour around the Louisiana swamps.
The other four sites include 3 cultural centers (Prairie Acadian, Wetlands Acadian, and the Acadian) all located west of New Orleans. The last site is the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery – considered by many to be the last great battle of the War of 1812. This site sits 6 miles east of downtown New Orleans.
An adventure road trip through all of the six of the sites – which have plenty of activities and programs for visitors – is a great way for you to explore the outdoors and learn more about the diverse cultural history of Louisiana. From Ashley at Impact Winder
Las Vegas to Grand Canyon
After spending a weekend in Las Vegas, leave the bright lights of sin city behind for an outdoor adventure at the Grand Canyon. From Las Vegas, there are several options for seeing the different sides of the Grand Canyon, from the ultra popular South Rim to the quieter North Rim. Bonus: the drive to the West and South Rims will take you past Hoover Dam.
The West Rim is the closest and most popular area of the Canyon and a good choice for day trips from Las Vegas, taking just 3 hours to get there. This is where you’ll find the famous Skywalk glass bottom bridge extending 70 feet out over the canyon, as well as ziplining and several hiking trails.
The quintessential Grand Canyon trip involves a visit to the South Rim. Although it also has large crowds during the busy season, it’s for good reason. The majestic Canyon views are unmatched, and there are tons of trails and amenities.
One of the best day hikes is the Bright Angel Trail that takes you down into the canyon. In addition to the hiking and outdoor activities, there are plenty of options for families with younger children from the Jr. Ranger programs to the Grand Canyon Express train trip.
The Canyon’s North Rim is about a 5 hour drive from Las Vegas. This is the place to choose for those looking to microadventure away from the crowds. With plenty of hiking options, a lodge, mule rides, and tours, the North Rim is a great option for a home base. The climate and experience is quite different from what you’ll find at the South Rim.
No matter which rim you choose, the Grand Canyon is unlike anywhere else, and you won’t regret taking the time to explore this natural wonder. From Kristin at That Traveling Family
Las Vegas to Prescott
If you’re looking for a fantastic microadventure in the American Southwest, then you really can’t go wrong with driving from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Prescott, Arizona. While the destination is worth visiting in its own right, the stops and scenery on the Las Vegas to Arizona drive are some of the most spectacular in this region of the country.
Though you can get between these two cities in about four hours on the US-93 highway, it is a far better idea to prolong the drive and enjoy many scenic stop off points along the way. If you detour a bit further Northeast, for instance, you could easily visit the incredible Grand Canyon National Park before joining the I-17 South in the cool city of Flagstaff. Before reaching Prescott, you can also stop in the beautiful town of Sedona — famed for its red rocks, incredible outdoor activities and spiritual vortexes.
From Sedona, there are countless places to stop before reaching Prescott, including Slide Rock State Park (best to visit if travelling in the warmer months so you can go swimming) and even the Verde Valley wine region, which produces some delicious and unique reds, whites and rosés.
About Prescott, make sure to pronounce the name correctly — it’s Press-KITT, not Press-KOTT. Like the name twist suggests, Prescott has different things to offer than what one would typically assume of a town in Arizona. Make sure to take in its historic Whiskey Row saloons and charming downtown area which has a distinct “old west” vibe.
For outdoor adventures, head to nearby Watson Lake to take advantage of lake activities and its beautiful scenery. If you want to learn more about Prescott itself, visit some of the city’s many museums, including the Smoki Museum, the Sharlot Hall Museum or the Fort Whipple Museum.
Prescott has a lovely small-town vibe that you can’t get in a lot of places in Arizona and it makes it a great place to visit on a drive from Las Vegas to Phoenix or vice versa. From Maggie at The World Was Here First
Oklahoma City to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
From Oklahoma City you can escape to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, located in the southern part of Oklahoma near Lawton and the Texas border. The ninety-minute drive is perfect and the two are just ninety miles apart.
The Wichita Mountains offer great options for hiking, climbing, and photography. But the real highlight here is driving around to see the herds of bison and longhorn steers that live on the refuge.
You can go on prearranged tours with a naturalist if you want to hike and learn about the ecology of the refuge while you’re here. There are opportunities for camping, fishing, and hunting, provided you get the right permits ahead of time.
Rock climbers come out for the day to take advantage of the great climbing opportunities here. In fact, it’s one of the most popular climbing destinations in the American Southwest.
For great views, drive or hike to the top of Mount Scott, which offers picture-perfect vistas. From Stephanie at Oklahoma Wonders
Austin to Hill Country
The Texas Hill Country is one of the most beautiful areas in the Lone Star state. Luckily for Austinites, this region is right in their backyard.
Just a short hour and a half drive will bring you to Fredericksburg, one of the most popular places and things to do in the Texas Hill Country. This tiny German town is home to Texas’ wine country (with some surprisingly impressive vineyards) and Enchanted Rock (ideal for hikers and outdoors enthusiasts).
Just fifteen minutes from Fredericksburg is Luckenbach, a historic tiny town that’s now technically a historic district. Its main attraction is the original post office which has been converted into a gift shop and honky-tonk bar famous for live music on its backyard patio.
Another iconic destination in the Hill Country is the small town Gruene, which sits on the cliffs above the Guadalupe River. It’s home to one of Texas’ most famous dance halls that’s hosted all of the Texas greats from George Strait to Willie Nelson. Spend the weekend taking in live music and enjoying the river. Neighboring city New Braunfels is the place to go for water sports with its Schlitterbaun waterpark and floating on the Guadalupe and Comal rivers.
An active microadventure getaway to Texas Hill Country will not disappoint. From Erin at Sol Salute
Las Vegas to Kanab
From Las Vegas, Nevada, the small town of Kanab, Utah, is an easy 3 hour trip. The drive alone leads you through unique and beautiful landscapes, but once you arrive in Kanab it’s an outdoor lovers paradise. With more hiking options than you could possibly complete, you’ll never run out of options.
Many people flock to the famous Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ, but the largest slot canyon in North America, Buckskin Gulch, is just outside of Kanab, and you don’t need a guided tour to hike it. Take the Wire Pass trail to the confluence with Buckskin Gulch for a 3.5 mile hike through a tall and tight slot canyon. For the more adventurous, continue on and even camp overnight in Buckskin Gulch.
Two other can’t miss hikes in the area are Dinosaur Tracks where you can see actual dinosaur footprints in the rock, and the Toadstool Hoodoo Hike that leads you through an otherworldly landscape with giant mushroom shaped rock formations all around.
After days of hiking, head over to Coral Pink Sand Dunes for some play time. Ride dune buggies or horses, sled down the huge dunes, or just run races and build sand castles. Kanab is a small sleepy town right at the center of so many outdoor adventures that it’s the perfect place to get away from it all. From Kristin at Snorkel and Hike
Seattle to Olympic National Park
A mere 154 miles from the busy Pacific Northwest hub that is Seattle, Olympic National Park is a world away in terms of wild west coast beauty. While the United States has many wonderful national parks, there are very few as unique as Olympic.
Begin your adventure from Hurricane Ridge. The drive to the top is full of breathtaking views and there are many short hikes. If you are in luck, you might come across some wildlife as well.
The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic national park has more than 130 species of mosses, lichens, and ferns. Stepping into this mystic rainforest is like stepping into another realm. You can walk inside the forest and discover the Sol Duc Falls, all the while listening to the sound of the Hoh River.
Love beaches? Make sure to visit the Ruby Beach to watch the sunset amid the crash of the Pacific Ocean waves. And if you are visiting in October or November, you could see the grey whales from Shi Shi beach.
On your way to the Ruby Beach, you would come across Lake Crescent, where you will be treated to one of the most beautiful lakeside drives in the park. You can stop for a picnic in the backdrop of the Olympic mountains or even rent a kayak for a lake paddle.
There are many affordable lodging choices as well as camping options all over the park, and in the town of Forks, close to the park. From Deb at The Visa Project
Seattle to Westport
From downtown Seattle, the easy drive to Westport, Washington, takes under 2.5 hours. Westport is both a marina and a beach town because it sits on a peninsula between two bodies of water.
On the Grays Harbor side is the marina area of Westhaven Cove, which is super cute in summertime, with flower baskets along sidewalks, ice cream and souvenir shops, restaurants, and boats selling fresh crab and shrimp, in addition to a fish market. Visitors walk along the docks looking at all the fishing boats.
On the Pacific Ocean side is a long stretch of sandy beach, with a parallel paved easy walkway through the dunes. This Westport Light Trail is 2.5 miles long, with viewing platforms and nature display boards, and sand trails down to the beach. Parking is available at both ends for a daily park fee.
It’s fun to get up high for a panoramic view of the ocean. One place to do so is inside the Grays Harbor Lighthouse, the tallest one in the state. For a small fee, visitors age 5 and up tour the lighthouse and learn about its history and the science of the light lens. Another place is the Westport Viewing Tower. For free, visitors climb the wide steps and walk around the observation level.
For a bit more history of the area, the Westport Maritime Museum has exhibits that include a whale skeleton, fishing and other local industries, the Coast Guard, and shipwrecks and rescues. The small fee includes entry to an entire hall dedicated to a 17’ tall Fresnel lens.
Tip: Bring a kite. The beach area is sometimes very windy and perfect for flying. From Sandy at Sleeps5
Distance: 129.5 miles
PIN FOR LATER
Photo credits: As Captioned; Shutterstock
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support.