Category Archives: Outdoors Travel

REI Co-op Expands Domestic Adventure Travel Program

Hiking in Death Valley. REI Co-op’s adventure travel program includes Death Valley National Park trips for hiking and cycling. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

SEATTLE – REI Co-op is expanding its domestic multiday adventure travel trips, guided day tours, rentals and adventure center locations as part of a continued multi-year strategy designed to get 3 million people outside each year. Consumer interest in the outdoors and related activities has soared across the country in recent years, and many have turned to spending time in nature for physical and mental well-being during the pandemic. REI has grown its experiences offerings by more than 60 percent in the last 12 months to meet the demand.

“The co-op was founded in 1938 by a group of 23 friends who loved to explore nature and share their passion and expertise with others. REI strives to build on this tradition and community through the expertise of our retail staff as well as our award-winning guides across the country,” said Mark Seidl, REI Experiences divisional vice president. “As the nation’s leading outdoor experience operator, we are working to expand our offering to new locations that will empower all to experience urban and iconic destinations in new and unforgettable ways.”

This month, REI opens the doors of a new Bay Area Adventure Center in Richmond, California with bike, paddling and camping gear rentals. The facility will be a home base for a 50-person guide team that leads day tours and multiday trips in the region. REI also hosts kayaking classes and day tours from the adjacent Richmond Marina and broader programing throughout the Bay Area.

To further complement REI’s regional ecosystem of experience offerings in the Bay Area, REI will soon launch bike and e-bike rentals in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf for urban cycling opportunities along San Francisco’s famed waterfront and minutes from the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge. According to the San Francisco Travel Association, more than 75 percent of the city’s visitors include Fisherman’s Wharf during a planned trip. The location will open in early August.

In addition to the Bay Area facility, the co-op operates an Arizona Adventure Center in Scottsdale that offers gear rentals and day tours while serving as the base for the co-op’s multiday guide teams in the Southwest. REI also has seasonal rentals and programming through two boathouses in Bellevue, Washington and a winter snowshoe rental pop-up at Snoqualmie Pass outside Seattle, Washington.

Adventure travel done right

REI Experiences offers 124 multiday adventure travel trips led by professional local guides. Fully hosted small groups explore the country’s natural places as guests hike, backpack, cycle, paddle, climb, snowshoe and more. So far this year, 22 new trips have been added to REI’s active travel assortment, of which more than half are hiking and backpacking itineraries. REI now operates a new private signature camp adjacent to Bryce National Park that is featured in five itineraries. Other new trips include:

The co-op will continue to add more trips to meet continued demand especially for weekend adventurers, travelers 35 years and younger, women and families.

Day programming in 14 major cities

In addition to multiday adventure trips, REI continues to offer day tours and educational programming in 14 cities through a wide range of expertise for anyone to learn or sharpen their outdoor skillsets for camping, cycling, paddling, climbing and more. The co-op’s most popular classes are Wilderness Survival Skills, Map & Compass, as well as the Wilderness First Aid and Wilderness First Responder training courses from a decade-long partnership with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). The co-op is also a leader in teaching youth and adults how to ride a bike.

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Holiday River Expeditions Offers Alternative Way to Experience Magic of Wild, Untamed Places Overrun With Crowds

By coordinating with other companies and scheduling launches and camps for maximum privacy while limiting the numbers and size of groups, Holiday River Expeditions guests won’t have to share their wilderness river or trail experience with unregulated crowds flocking to similar unpermitted, front country experiences nearby. (photo courtesy of Holiday River Expeditions)

SALT LAKE CITY, UT — It’s sad but true that too many people can spoil the appeal and magic of wild, untamed places, like our national parks. Due to too much love leading to overcrowding – especially in the last two years – many national parks are having to limit entry and trail access through new reservation policies, permits and user limits.
 
In Utah alone, Deseret Media reports, “all-time visitation records were broken at four of the state’s “Mighty Five” national parks in 2021.” Totals reached more than 11 million visitors, far exceeding the 7.7 million recorded in 2020, the year when visitation plummeted as a result of the pandemic. As a result, long lines formed at entrance gates, tailhead parking filled quickly, roads and trails were over-populated and some visitors were turned away altogether.
 
Experts are predicting more of the same, if not worse conditions for 2022 and beyond. So how does one truly enjoy the serenity and wild beauty of the backcountry without having to share it with too many fellow travelers? “This is the year to leave the masses behind and experience the benefits of joining a small group, professionally guided tour,” says Karen Johnson of Holiday River Expeditions, based in Salt Lake City.
 
Offering a variety of whitewater rafting and mountain biking adventures from two days to over a week long, Holiday River Expeditions trips are limited in number of participants and have real Covid-wise appeal; from the small trip sizes, to low ratios of guests to guides on a boat, not to mention the canyon breeze making contagions float farther away than any indoor excursions.
 
By coordinating with other companies and scheduling launches and camps for maximum privacy while limiting the numbers and size of groups, guests won’t have to share their wilderness river or trail experience with unregulated crowds flocking to similar unpermitted, front country experiences nearby.
 
“What we are offering with our trips is an escape into the backcountry without the crowds,” explains Johnson. “You can experience Canyonlands National Park and not have to wait in a line or worry about getting a campsite. Our backcountry trips require federal permits – which regulates the number of people able to access certain areas at any given time, so no unpleasant surprises.”
 
Johnson also points out, “Due to the desire to create a ‘pandemic bubble”, custom and exclusive group outings are on the rise. With this increase in interest in private trips and the ability to secure such permits becoming very difficult, signing onto a scheduled tour departure may be the only good option to still get out on a trip this year.”
 
A guided tour comes with other benefits as well: 

  • Tours are a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors without the hassles and crowds with guides and staff performing all the work and heavy lifting. 
  • Get real! Disconnect from electronics and the “virtual” world.
  • Quiet the noise! Disconnect from the daily barrage of negative news. 
  • Reconnect with friends and family in a setting that you can feel safe in (from the throws of the pandemic). 
  • Clear your mind and soul. Feel the healing power of nature. 
  • Escape civilization! No concrete, paved trails, parking lots, traffic, crowds, lines to wait in, overpriced concessions and inconsiderate tourists. 
  • See the Milky Way in International Dark Sky Parks. 
  • Campgrounds are private. See some of the most beautiful places imaginable with minimal effort exerted. Better chances of seeing wildlife. 
  • Enjoy multiple days’ worth of interaction with knowledgeable and charismatic guides who have worked in these places for years. Better than a single short interaction with a park ranger or curator. 

“The park system was really ahead of its time in setting use limits for commercial operators decades before overcrowding and pandemic contagions were a concern,” Johnson points out. “Thanks in no small part to our founder Dee Holladay’s participation in the creation of ‘Backcountry Management Plans’ in the 1970’s we have a system that works perfectly for the public and for those of us who make a living providing controlled backcountry access to anyone seeking adventure and nature at its purest.”

Holiday River Expeditions began in 1966, when Dee Holladay and his wife Sue took the plunge to become river outfitters. The family-owned-and-operated company has grown exponentially due to its respect for the lands, rivers, guests and employees. Each of its guides is professionally trained in first aid and river safety, and with 50+ years of experience, the company provides guests the opportunity to explore the nation’s wild lands in comfort and security. Holiday River Expeditions has a commitment to protect the environment through education and conservation, and as such, uses oar-powered and paddle rafts exclusively.

For more information, availability, reservations or a copy of the 2022 call 800-624-6323, Email: Holiday@BikeRaft.com or log onto: http://www.bikeraft.com/

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US Tour Operators Mark World Wildlife Day

US Tour Operators Association marked World Wildlife Day on March 3, 2022 by spotlighting programs from its tour operator members that focus on wildlife education and appreciation. Here, Gullfoss Waterfall, visited on Great Value Vacations’ Iceland Escape: Golden Circle and Whale Watching tour © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEW YORK – The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) marked World Wildlife Day on March 3, 2022 by spotlighting programs from its tour operator members that focus on wildlife education and appreciation. From observing endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda to trekking through the rainforest of Bako National Park in Malaysia, each tour program offers up-close-and-personal experiences with abundant opportunities for natural and cultural immersion in each destination. 

“As USTOA turns 50 this year, our tour operator members are looking ’50 years forward’ to provide sustainable and responsible travel experiences,” said Terry Dale, president and CEO. “World Wildlife Day is an ideal way to raise awareness of the fragile flora and fauna that populates our planet, and that our members take great care to preserve and protect.”

Here’s just a sample of programs to inspire travelers in 2022:

Tauck offers a thirteen-day Kenya & Tanzania: A Classic Safari 2022 tour to those yearning for outdoor adventure. This itinerary takes a group of no more than 30 Tauck travelers to visit Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, and the Willian Holden Wildlife Education Center to observe the flora and fauna of Kenya and Tanzania.  Travelers will end their trip activities by floating in a hot air balloon over Masai Mara. Departures are available between May and December 2022 with prices starting at $10,890 for two people. www.tauck.com

Travelers will enjoy excursions to Thingvellir National Park, the mesmerizing Gullfoss Waterfall, and the Geysir geothermal area on a four-to-six-day Iceland Escape: Golden Circle and Whale Watching tour with Great Value Vacations. This itinerary includes traveling to Reykjavik, the northernmost capital of the world, to go whale watching, observe sea birds and other sea life, climb the famous Hallgrímskirkja Church, and more. Departures are available between April 2022 and December 2022 with prices starting at $1,153 per person. www.greatvaluevacations.com   

Travelers will have the opportunity to explore one of the last truly wild places on the planet on a ten-day Wild Sarawak tour with Intrepid Travel. The itinerary includes exploring Southeast Asia’s labyrinthian caves in Mulu National Park, searching for monkeys through the rainforest and jungle stream of Bako National Park, trekking through the jungle of Labuan Island and more. Departures are available between April and December 2022 with prices starting at $1,620 per person. www.intrepidtravel.com   

Abercrombie & Kent offers a five-day Tailor Made Uganda: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest itinerary jam-packed with mountain hikes through Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, trekking through the park’s dense vegetation to observe the endangered mountain gorilla, and more. Departures are available between March and October 2022 with prices starting at $3,995 per person. www.abercrombiekent.com  

Find all itineraries offered by USTOA tour operators at https://ustoa.travelstride.com/trip-list/wildlife

Representing nearly $19 billion in revenue, the member companies of U.S. Tour Operators Association provide tours, packages and custom arrangements that allow 9.8 million travelers annually unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value, and freedom to enjoy destinations and experiences across the entire globe. Each member company has met the travel industry’s highest standards, including participation in the USTOA’s Travelers Assistance Program, which protects consumer payments up to $1 million if the company goes out of business.  As a voice for the tour operator industry for 50 years, USTOA also provides education and assistance for consumers and travel agents. 

For more information, visit www.ustoa.com.   

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New Website Spotlights Guest Ranches That Add Wellness, Spa Dimension to Horseback Riding

Many guest ranches today, in addition to offering horseback riding and a cowboy spirit, are base camps for a host of outdoor adventures, and some are going beyond, with new additions to their offerings of spa and wellness facilities and Mind, Body & Spirit programs.

SONOMA, CA – Gene Kilgore, one of the world’s leading authorities on ranch vacations, has launched a new website dedicated to spa and wellness ranches: https://wellnessranches.com/

“This is the perfect moment to highlight the wellness work that some innovative ranches are focusing on,” said Kilgore. His new website shines the spotlight on 11 such ranches in North America that are breaking new ground in the wellness movement, a multi-billion dollar Mind, Body, Spirit phenomenon.

These properties in Arizona, British Columbia, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Montana and Wyoming represent the best of the best in both traditional ranch activities (life in the saddle) plus healthy wellness and spa-focused offerings.
 
He noted that the personal wellness movement is spurred on, in part, by the desire to recover from life under a pandemic and by a new-found appeal of America’s Wild West, its cowboys and ranch life, as evidenced by the popularity of Kevin Costner’s hit TV series Yellowstone.
 
Originally, ranches offered horseback riding activities for adults and families as the main focus of a ranch vacation, while ranches today are base camps for a host of outdoor adventures.  But some are beefing up what they may have offered in the past with new additions to their offerings of spa and wellness facilities and Mind, Body & Spirit programs. Wellnessranches.com is organized into these categories:

In addition to exploring the wellness-related features each ranch offers, the website provides the following services to potential guests:

  • Check for Availability Form  which is sent to ranches that match search parameters (budget, dates of stay, party details and preferred location). To begin the selection process, visitors to the site are invited to fill out the form with as much information as possible for ranch staff who have committed to respond the same or next day.
  • Personalized Concierge Service assists those who wish a little extra help in trying to choose the right ranch for themselves. Although not a booking service, no fees are charged for this assistance. The only goal is to give the user ideas that hopefully will assist them in finding one’s perfect “home on the range”. To use this service, visitors to the site can call 707-217-5205 or complete the online form provided.
  • Travel Advisor Center provides access to the website to professional travel advisors to help them expand their portfolios and business. There’s a simple interface for viewing select ranches, rates and more. Advisors simply log in or sign up via the online form to get started. 

While there are a host of ranches to consider, here are four examples of properties that combine focused wellness programs matched with traditional ranch activities.
 
Bishops Lodge – https://wellnessranches.com/wellness-ranches/bishops-lodge: Near Santa Fe, NM, Bishops Lodge combines nature’s offerings, such as river floating and hiking, with outdoor mindfulness sessions. The Wellness Lodge offers relaxation massage, deep tissue massage, couples massage, EMF learning, aromatherapy massage, meditation, land dance, CBD massage, botanicals remedy, sound healing, sound healing facial, sacred sound massage, intuitive healing and energy medicine
 
Echo Valley Ranch and Spa – https://wellnessranches.com/wellness-ranches/echo-valley-ranch-and-spa: A small, eco-luxury ranch located near Clinton, British Columbia is known for its warm, sincere and anticipatory service. When guests are not on horseback riding the spectacular backcountry you may find them mountain biking, engaged in Yoga, bird watching, hiking, enjoying some archery, marksmanship, canyon tours, and meditation. Although a major draw is the spa offering relaxation massage, deep tissue massage, couples massage, scrubs, manicures, facials, and pedicures.
 
Bitterroot Ranch – https://wellnessranches.com/wellness-ranches/bitterroot-ranch: Near Dubois, Wyoming, Bitterroot Ranch retains its original commitment to making matches between riders, new and old, and their mounts. The ranch’s yoga program focuses on stretching and conditioning muscles that are most engaged when riding. Resident Yoga instructor Hadley Fox is a certified Vinyasa Yoga teacher and on set weeks offers clinics with instructor Marc Holzman, a certified Ayurveda practitioner with over 18 years of experience teaching Hatha Yoga and Meditation.
 
Rock Creek – https://wellnessranches.com/wellness-ranches/the-ranch-at-rock-creek. This ranch near historic Philipsburg, MT, offers yoga and golf along with such treatments at its Granite Spa as relaxation massage, deep tissue massage, rock treatments, couples massage, scrubs, manicures, facials, pedicures and its signature Saddle Sore Soak.
 
Kilgore also offers these other ranch and western lifestyle vacation-related websites to make the journey from research to booking as informed, fun and easy as possible:

Kilgore (https://genekilgore.com/) began his ranch journey some 40 years ago and has spent most of his adult life and professional career taking the ranch message to the world.

“Our Ranch Vacations websites reconnect travelers with unparalleled natural beauty, hospitality and a goodness that weary city folks are craving,” Kilgore says. “The pandemic has only heightened this demand and for years to come ranches will offer this magnificent way of life for all to enjoy.”

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Tight Window Opens for Booking Grand Canyon Group Rafting Charters

Western River Expeditions opens select booking dates for charter groups anticipating river rafting adventures in 2023 in the Grand Canyon.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT, Nov. 12, 2021 – This month Western River Expeditions opens select booking dates for charter groups anticipating river rafting adventures in 2023 in the Grand Canyon.
 
Groups ranging from extended family to corporate to non-profit can benefit from the advantages of this advance booking window for up to 28 people on prime departure dates.
 
Advance bookings for charter groups are available for select, 3, 4 6, or 7-day Grand Canyon rafting expeditions throughout the 2023 season.
 
“As the popularity of doing an exclusive private trip with just the members of your group has grown over the years, we have found it works best to open up select dates in advance for just these groups. That way they can still find dates with wide-open availability. Doing it this way, we can give our charter guests time to advertise, market, promote and book,” said Brandon Lake, co-owner and CMO. “We still leave several dates wide open for the general public so they have plenty of space to for individual bookings when the season opens for individual bookings on Nov. 30. Once this opens, many departures will sell out online within the first several hours.”
 
Although Mother Nature provides more than enough photo ops on the descent through the Grand Canyon, for these upcoming bookings, Western River Expeditions plans to offer groups the option of custom group t-shirts, adding even more pizzazz to group photos.
 
Group charters are available on all of the rivers where Western River hosts programs: Cataract CanyonDesolation Canyon and Westwater Canyon.  Western River’s experience with charter groups is that people get hooked on river rafting and in the future segue into other river trips. For details please see – https://www.westernriver.com/group-rafting-trips.
 
If an epic river rafting adventure is in your future, Western River Expeditions says don’t delay making reservations for trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and in Utah’s Cataract Canyon and Desolation Canyon.
 
Here are a few good reasons why to act now.
 
Tight controls on inventory through commercial permits make these areas available only to a limited few every year. While Western River Expeditions escorts more people down the Colorado River and Green River on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah and Arizona than any other rafting operator in the country, Western River, as well as other commercial tour operators, has to abide by the limits set by government-issued permits. These coveted seats are being snapped up quicker than ever before by an unprecedented surge of demand following months of COVID lockdown, record-breaking heat waves that beg for water-based recreation, and an exploding demand to visit America’s national parks.
 
As a result, Western River Expeditions filled all Grand Canyon slots for 2021 well in advance. Many departures for 2022 are sold out and others are very close to selling out. 2023 Grand Canyon dates will open for general bookings on Nov. 30 this year. Requests for 2023 group charters are being taken now.
 
For a copy of Western River Expeditions’ 2022/2023 catalog, questions, availability and reservations call 866-904-1160 (Local: 801-942-6669) or visit the website at: http://www.westernriver.com/.
 
Western River Expeditions is an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab, Utah and Fredonia, Arizona. Annually from March through October it escorts more people down rivers on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah, Idaho and Arizona than any other company. It is the largest licensed outfitter in the Grand Canyon and the largest single tour provider in Moab, UT through its division Moab Adventure Center (http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/).
 
Western River Expeditions, providing Grand Canyon rafting, Utah and Idaho rafting, and international multi-sport trips, was founded in 1961 by Colorado River rafting pioneer Jack Currey. It has been named one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by the editors of National Geographic Adventure magazine. The company is the proud recipient of the “Best of State” award through Utah’s Premier Recognition and Awards Program for the past seventeen consecutive years (2004-2020).

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8 Fall Vacations for Foliage, Fewer Crowds & Stunning Scenery

Ziplining at the Red Reflet Ranch, Ten Sleep, Wyoming, just one of the activities at the all-inclusive guest ranch (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Cool weather, brightly colored foliage, and destinations largely free from crowds make fall the perfect time to travel. Here are eight vacation ideas for the months ahead, ranging from the mountains of Montana to the Natchez Trace and even the Galapagos Islands

1. Pacific Coast Cycling: The Pacific Coast Route is one of America’s premier cycling routes and autumn is an optimal time to avoid heavy tourist traffic. Pedal south through the lush forests of western Washington before following the Columbia River to the Oregon coast, then enter California and encounter massive redwoods coastal headlands and sandy beaches with bike paths. Ride the route on your own with maps from Adventure Cycling Association, or join other on a tour.
 
2. Fall Under the Big Sky: A visit to Big Sky, Montana, and stay at The Wilson Hotel offers the opportunity for fall adventures in Yellowstone country, as elk bugle and pockets of aspen trees turn golden against the backdrop of the green forest. Hike and mountain bike trails surrounding town, fish the famed Gallatin River or take one last tour of Yellowstone National Park’s natural wonders and wildlife before roads close for the season.
 
3. Traffic-Free Natchez Trace: The Natchez Trace is a historic travel corridor through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi used by American Indians, settlers, soldiers and future presidents. And with no commercial traffic, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a cyclist’s dream come true. Join Cycle of Life Adventures for a fall tour to enjoy the changing colors of maple, hickory, oak and other hardwood trees, milder temperatures and overnight accommodations in small towns along the parkway.
 
4. National Parks RV Trip: National parks saw record crowds over the summer, but now that fall is here it’s a great time to visit for fewer crowds, less traffic and pleasant temperatures. Blacksford rents fully stocked Mercedes-Benz Sprinter overland adventure vehicles from Winnebago with an all-inclusive pricing model that includes unlimited miles, no generator fees, bedding, kitchen and bath supplies, free Wi-Fi, a free annual pass to the national parks and 24-hour roadside assistance.
 
5. Arizona + Black Canyon Mountain Biking: Explore all the Sonoran Desert has to offer with the Best of Phoenix and Black Canyon Trail Mountain Biking Tour from Escape Adventures. This trip is ideal for close groups of biking friends looking for a warm fall or winter excursion. Highlights include exploring the 21,099-acre McDowell Mountain regional park, riding conservancy lands and ripping more than 40-miles of fast and flowy singletrack.
 
6. Jackson Hole Glamping: Wyoming’s Fireside Resort offers 25 pint-sized, luxuriously outfitted tiny house rental units designed by Wheelhaus. The resort is located a short distance from Grand Teton National Park and the Jackson Hole ski slopes, making it the perfect place to post up for a fall getaway or winter ski trip.
 
7. Play Cowboy at a Dude Ranch: Red Reflet Ranch is a 28,000-acre luxury resort and working ranch on the west slope of the Bighorn Mountains, just three hours from Yellowstone National Park. Guests stay in private chalets and enjoy family-friendly activities like horseback riding, ATVing, ziplining, swimming, hiking, fishing, shooting and feasting on farm-to-table cuisine.
 
8. Autumn Galapagos Adventure: Fall is one of the best times of year to visit Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, particularly when it comes to wildlife and weather. The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel has joined forces with Scalesia Galapagos Lodge to offer a new weeklong program that includes day trips aboard Yacht Sea Lion, glamping in luxury tents on Isabela Island and visits to remote and mysterious places that illustrate the incredible diversity of the archipelago.

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NYS Opens First Nature Trail in US Designed for Autism Spectrum at Letchworth State Park

First Trail in U.S. Designed Specifically for Autism Spectrum Disorder Communities and Families

Project Supported By More Than $3.3 Million in Private Funds

The nation’s first nature trail specifically designed to address the sensory needs of those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities is open at Letchworth State Park in western New York State © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The nation’s first nature trail specifically designed to address the sensory needs of those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities is open at Letchworth State Park in western New York State. Supported by more than $3.3 million in private fundraising, the new Autism Nature Trail is a one-mile hiking loop that includes eight marked sensory stations, each designed to address a different sensory experience in a safe and supportive environment.

“New York State is leading the nation in creating this public trail purposefully designed to bring the benefits of the outdoors to those on the autism disorder spectrum and their families,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “State Parks should be accessible to everyone, and this is a welcoming and inclusive place for an underserved community.”

Activities along the Autism Nature Trail support and encourage sensory perception and integration, while also providing enjoyable activities for visitors of all abilities and ages. The stations engage each visitor’s senses, using nature and natural materials as the tools for skill-building. The trail is set up to allow for safe social distancing and planned interaction.

Sensory stations and other features of Autism Nature Trail include:

  • Sensory Station, where a collection of leaves, moss, fossils, animal fur, acorns and other objects are to be touched, handled, and even smelled;
  • Sunshine Slope, a gentle maze in an opening that includes a viewing platform, three cuddle swings, and an “Alone Zone;”
  • Music Circle, where a variety of nature-inspired musical instruments encourage creativity, either alone or with others;
  • Curiosity Corner, an open space with a gliding seat, ant-shaped boulders, and access to a shortcut back to the beginning of the trail;
  • Reflection Knoll, a quiet point halfway on the trail under a canopy of trees, with etchings of woodland creatures hidden in the boulders;
  • Meadow Run and Climb, a place with paths to run, jump and balance along serpentine berms and an obstacle course;
  • Design Zone, where visitors can manipulate materials from along the trail into patterns and structures;
  • Playful Path, a place of twisting paths with different surfaces including coarse gravel, log rounds, and sand;
  • The Nook, an area of carefully spaced seating set under a natural canopy;
  • The Celebration Station, as the final stop on the trail, this area has a place for visitors to express themselves through writing and drawing about their experiences on the trail.

Located near the park’s Humphrey Nature Center with parking, restrooms and Wi-Fi, the ADA-compliant trail was designed with input from Dr. Temple Grandin, a cattle industry expert who was diagnosed with autism in 1950 at the age of two and is now one of the world’s most well-known advocates for the autistic community.

Support and programming for the trail comes from the nearby Perry Central School District in Wyoming County and Rochester’s Camp Puzzle Peace, an Adirondack summer camp for families living with developmental disabilities. Fundraising for the trail is being managed on behalf of State Parks by the Natural Heritage Trust. The trust is a not-for-profit charitable corporation that receives and administers gifts, grants, and contributions to support public programs for parks, recreation, cultural, land and water conservation and historic preservation purposes.

Last month, Autism Nature Trail supporters marked the sudden loss of one of the project’s most devoted early advocates, ANT co-founder Susan Herrnstein. Her family has requested that any donations in her memory be made to the Autism Nature Trail through the Natural Heritage Trust.

Fundraising will continue to support visitor programming for the Autism Nature Trail. So far, more than 650 separate donations have been made to the project, reflecting more than 430 individual donors, 50 corporate donors, 25 community groups, and 15 foundations.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “The public-private partnership that envisioned and accomplished this innovative project shows what the power of collaboration and commitment can achieve. State Parks values our dedicated staff and partners who have put in countless hours and is grateful for the generous financial support provided by so many donors.”

“Our hope is that the Autism Nature Trail will become an exemplar, widely replicated, taking from what we learned in the seven-year process of creating a first-of-its-kind experience in nature,” Loren Penman, an Autism Nature Trail co-founder and member of the Genesee Regional Park Commission, said. “While others retrofit public places to make them accessible, we have created an accessible place and made it public–and that has made all the difference.”

Gail Servanti, an Autism Nature Trail co-founder and member of the Genesee Regional Park Commission, said, “This is our dream come true and I eagerly await the positive impact a walk on the Autism Nature Trail will have on individuals and families of all abilities.”

“Camp Puzzle Peace was founded out of a desire to share a love of nature and to allow all families to experience the joy of the outdoors in a meaningful way,” Camp Puzzle Peace Executive Director Jen Hackett said. “We are very proud to partner with New York State to expand our purpose by providing programming on the Autism Nature Trail for all families, regardless of ability or diagnosis.”

Perry School District Superintendent Daryl McLaughlin said, “The eyes of the world are on this project.  Everything we are doing has never been done before.  This project represents what is possible when individuals, groups, and municipalities engage with one another to advance a cause.  The Autism Nature Trail will be a powerful instructional space where cutting-edge learning and teaching will occur for all individuals.  This project also will be a paradigm shift for economic development.”

About 1 in 54 children in the U.S. have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and often has a tremendous impact on parents, siblings, and members of the extended family.

Statistics show that young people with autism spend disproportionate amounts of time indoors, often finding comfort in digital activities which results in social isolation. This disconnectedness not only affects individuals with ASD but also can affect caregivers and entire families, who can sometimes feel uncomfortable in outside settings.

For more information on the Autism Nature Trail, visit: https://autismnaturetrail.com/.

Visited by nearly one million people annually, Letchworth State Park covers more than 14,000 acres and is one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. In 2015, readers of USA Today voted it the best state park in the United States. Surrounded by lush forests, the Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs as high as 600 feet in some places. The park features 66 miles of hiking trails, as well as trails for horseback riding, biking, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Letchworth offers nature, history and performing arts programs, as well as guided walks, tours, a summer lecture series, whitewater rafting, kayaking, a pool for swimming and hot air ballooning.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails, and boat launches, which were visited by a record 78 million people in 2020. A recent university study found that spending by State Parks and its visitors supports $5 billion in output and sales, 54,000 private-sector jobs and more than $2.8 billion in additional state GDP. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. Also, connect with us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

See: DRIVEABLE ADVENTURES: HIKING/CAMPING IN THE ‘GRAND CANYON OF THE EAST’ – NY’S LETCHWORTH STATE PARK

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Autumn Fun in Moab: Zip Lining, River Rafting and Hummer Tours

Hummer tours are on Moab Adventure Center’s short list of how to enjoy autumn in the world’s red rock playground of Moab, Utah.

Moab Adventure Center, a division of Western River Expeditions, has a short list of how to enjoy autumn in the world’s red rock playground of Moab, Utah. This region becomes an artist’s dream world when fringed by the Colorado River’s yellow cottonwoods along the Colorado River and the golden aspens of the LaSal Mountains.
 
After the summer rush, daytime temperatures in September and October cool down to around the mid-70s to mid-80s. Fewer people around means more elbow room to be had on every adventure in not just one but two National Parks – Arches and Canyonlands.
 
Here are seven suggested adventures that continue through the end of November, with the exception of rafting which concludes the end of October.

  1. Fall River Rafting Adventures are full or half days, some served up with a BBQ lunch on a world-renowned stretch of the Colorado River, winding through scenes made famous by dozens of popular movies. https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/moab-river-rafting
     
  2. Horseback Adventures come with cowboy-trained quarter horses. A professional wrangler leads the way on trails made famous by John Wayne himself.  Rides are three hours in the mornings and 90 minutes in the afternoons. https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/moab-horseback-riding
     
  3. Hummer Tours are conducted in style and comfort aboard the world’s most serious 4×4. Spectacular backcountry opens up in the hands of professional guides who help visitors explore seldom-seen, awe-inspiring Moab overlooks. Tours are two, three and four hours including a sunset safari. https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/moab-hummer-tours
     
  4. Zipline Tours are always a thrill, but how about skimming over sheer sandstone cliffs and canyons on Moab’s only zip line? The Raven’s Rim Moab zip line tour begins with a spine-tingling ride to the top of the cliff faces overlooking Moab, swooping like a bird of prey landing on each of six gaps.  https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/moab-zip-line
     
  5. Hot Air Ballooning can be likened to riding a magical carpet for 3.5 hours over the astounding red rock landscape of Moab. It’s an unbelievable way to experience the sights of Moab in the quiet of the early morning. https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/hot-air-balloon-rides-moab-utah
     
  6. Arches National Park Tours are stunning, morning or evening. Arches National Park Tours showcase the more accessible of more than 2,000 arches, the highest concentration on the planet, after which the park is named. https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/arches-national-park-tours
     
  7. Mountain Bike Tours requests a commitment of 4.5 hours to experience why Moab has become the undisputed mecca for mountain bike enthusiasts from all over the world. Whether beginner or advanced the Moab Adventure Center offers professionally guided mountain biking tours on all of Moab’s classic rides.     https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/moab-mountain-biking 

America’s red rock playground, Moab, Utah, home of two national parks that are coveted icons to explore in post-pandemic lockdowns, has experienced an unprecedented surge in popularity this summer.

This influx means that visitors should “nail down your accommodations and your preferred guided excursions as soon as possible and certainly before you arrive in Moab,” said Cort Wright, manager of the Moab Adventure Center. This is the go-to outfitter for securing pre-set backcountry and national park access and tours. Moab Adventure Center specializes in all there is to do in Moab and bundles assorted activities and lodging to maximize enjoyment of Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park and the surrounding Colorado River country.
 
“Arrangements made in advance help deliver the peace and privacy you expect when surrounded by this natural playground,” Wright said. In fact, for early bird planners, Moab Adventure Center is offering excursions in 2022 at 2021 rates when booked this season. (www.moabadventurecenter.com/moab-lodging)
 
The company has seen growing demand unleashed by the desire to return to nature and outdoor recreation. Compared to their record 2019 season, programs have seen phenomenal growth through the end of July 2021, including Moab Zipline Adventure, Arches National Park Sunset Discovery, The Ultimate Moab Canyoneering AdventureMoab Hummer Tours, and Full-Day Colorado River Rafting Adventure.

 “Making reservations well in advance of arrival helps assure that we can gear up to accommodate your specific adventure requests,” Wright said. “Now is the perfect time to plan for a fall escape to Moab. Everyone loves autumn in Moab. Just about every trip operates right through the end of October and all land-based tours through mid-November.” 
 
Moab Adventure Center is a division of Western River Expeditions (http://www.westernriver.com/) an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab and Fredonia, AZ. The company is the largest single tour provider in Moab, Utah. The Moab Adventure Center is located at 225 South Main St., Moab, UT 84532. For information and reservations please call (435) 259-7019 or (866) 904-1163. The center also has a 2,000-square-foot retail space selling adventure related gear, clothing, maps and souvenirs. Visit https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/.

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Escape Adventures Introduces 5-Day Mountain Biking Tour Across Bears Ears National Monument

Escape Adventures is introducing a 5-day mountain biking tour across the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument.

(Moab, Utah) — Escape Adventures is introducing a 5-day mountain biking tour across the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument.

The trip starts at Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding, Utah, a 19th century Mormon settlement, and climbs high into the Abajo Mountains. Highlights include an array of archaeological sites and ruins, The Notch, Duck Lake, Sego Flat, Reef of Rocks, Maverick Point Overlook, Skull and Crossbones, The Causeway, and Jackson Ridge. Wildlife is abundant, and views atop the Abajo Mountains extend for 75-miles in all directions. This first-class camping tour starts at $1,299 per person. For more info, visit https://escapeadventures.com/tour/bears-ears-mountain-bike-tour/. View the full itinerary here

“This roughly 80-mile mountain biking tour covers a broad expanse of red rock, juniper forests and high plateau, while exposing riders to early human and Native American historical artifacts,” said Escape Adventures Director, Jared Fisher. 

Named after a pair of monumental 2,000-ft twin buttes, Bears Ears National Monument is a remarkable remnant of 200-million year old sand dunes. Capped in shades of pale orange to light red sandstone, the Bears Ears formation is so distinctive it can be seen, even at great distance, from nearly every direction. Framed by Dark Canyon Wilderness and the Beef Basin to the west, Comb Ridge on the east, the Grand Gulch Plateau and Cedar Mesa to the south and Canyonlands National Park to the north, this mountain bike tour takes riders through the most unique and historical landmarks southeast Utah has to offer. 

All internal land expenses and services are covered in the cost of the tour, including all transportation, food preparation, meals, snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, group supplies and community gear are included. Backcountry permits, licenses, park fees, reservations, and accommodations are also included, along with at least two professionally trained trip leaders, a mobile first aid and mechanic station, spare bikes, and a support vehicle(s). Trip price does not include airfare, lodging prior to trip start or bicycle rental and/or camping gear unless otherwise noted on itinerary or website.

More information at https://escapeadventures.com/

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New York State Forms Partners with Tentrr for Glamping Sites in Four State Parks in Hudson Valley

Tentrr camping site at the Sebago area of Harriman State Park, New York. The tenting service has a partnership with New York State to provide 45 glamping sites at four state parks in the Hudson Valley.

New York State is partnering with a tent camping service to provide 45 glamping sites at four State Parks in the Hudson Valley. Tentrr’s fully outfitted campsites are available to reserve at the Sebago and Silver Mine areas of Harriman State Park in Orange and Rockland Counties; Taconic State Park and Lake Taghkanic State Park in Columbia County; and Mills-Norrie State Park in Dutchess County.

The service provides tents, sleeping accommodations and an array of equipment needed for camping at each site. All items are set up and ready to use upon arrival for added convenience and sites are maintained by Tentrr staff.

All locations include a 10-foot by 12-foot, canvas-walled tent atop a raised platform. Each site is outfitted with a queen-sized bed and memory foam mattress, a propane heating source, a solar-powered “sun” shower, a camp toilet, water container, Adirondack chairs, a fire pit, grill, and a picnic table with storage and benches.  

Guests have the option of single, double, and triple sites. Singles sleep up to six (two occupants in the main tent and four occupants in a provided pop-up tent). Double sites – or buddy sites – sleep up to 12 (two occupants in each of the two main tents and four occupants in each of the two provided pop-up tents) and triples can accommodate group camping. 

“Camping at a State Park is an ideal way to explore the great outdoors with friends and family,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “This partnership continues our work to create diverse and exciting destinations to attract visitors to New York’s great outdoors, enhance our tourism economy, and help people experience all that the State has to offer.”

“The partnership with Tentrr is an opportunity to reach new visitors and encourage more New Yorkers to get outside and be active,” State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said. “We look forward to kicking off this summer and connecting people with the Hudson Valley’s many outdoor offerings. Not everyone has the equipment or the knowledge to enjoy camping in a state park, and this partnership is a great way to introduce this classic outdoor experience to more New Yorkers.” 

“As a New York City-based company, it is great to partner with our home state supporting its incredible park system across the region,” said Todd King, Vice President of Marketing at Tentrr. “Through Tentrr, we hope New Yorkers and out-of-state visitors alike will explore the incredible natural resources and parks the state has to offer. Tentrr makes it easy to find an amazing site to enjoy the state’s vast landscapes and inspiring scenery.”

New York State Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said,”Camping is a terrific way to experience New York State’s great outdoors, and this new service will make it easier than ever to enjoy New York’s unparalleled State Parks. I LOVE NY looks forward to promoting the availability of these extensively outfitted sites as part of the wide variety of camping offerings available across the state to residents and visitors alike.”

While Tentrr’s sites are naturally socially distanced, Tentrr adheres to state guidelines for maintaining and sanitizing the sites. Tentrr will continue to keep sites clean and wiped down with high-grade sanitizers and encourages guests to follow recommended COVID requirements and protocols. For more details on Tentrr’s COVID-19 protocols, visit here

The Tentrr partnership complements Governor Cuomo’s NY Parks 100 initiative, which renews the historic commitment to investing and expanding the State Park system by committing at least $440 million over the next four years. This critical period of revitalization will culminate in the 2024 celebration of the 100th anniversary of the State Park Act, which first created our nation-leading State Park system in 1924 under Governor Al Smith. NY Parks 100 will continue crucial investments in park infrastructure while enhancing opportunities to reach the full range of New York State’s recreational and cultural offerings, including local parks and trails, regional flagship parks and historic sites, and vast wilderness parks. The initiative will focus on creating places to recreate locally, relieving overcrowded parks, welcoming new visitors, and protecting New York State’s environmental and historic legacy. This new plan will ensure people from all communities and across all ages and abilities can fully experience our outdoors, our culture, and our heritage. 

For more information, visit www.tentrr.com.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which were visited by a record 78 million in 2020. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.parks.ny.gov, connect with us on Facebook, or follow on Instagram Twitter or on the State Parks blog.

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