A few of my favorite adventures in 2017 were truly adventurous, but not so adventurous that “non-adventure” travelers couldn’t try them, too. From downhill mountain biking in Santa Fe to hiking a sacred mountain in Tokyo, below are ten great adventures in New York State, New Mexico, Tokyo and France that I’d recommend to you. Consider adding these to your 2018 adventure travel bucket list.
#1 Soaring Above New York’s Southern Finger Lakes
You might want to add riding in a glider to your adventure agenda in 2018. I did it for the first time in 2017 at Harris Hill, one of the earliest destinations for soaring in the United States. Located in Elmira, travelers can glide above Mark Twain Country and depending on your pilot, enjoy a few roller coaster-like moves in flight. I definitely recommend doing this during the fall when the leaves are changing. It’s likely one of the best ways to enjoy fall colors and get your adrenaline pumping, too.
We filmed this experience in 360! Check it out on AOL.
#2 Hiking New Mexico’s Continental Divide Trail
Hiking the Continental Divide Trail, a National Scenic Trail, may sound like a challenge and it can be, but luckily we can suggest portions of the trail that are accessible for a few hours or a few days for outdoor adventure in New Mexico. In North America, the Continental Divide follows the peaks of the Rocky Mountains through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. The Continental Divide National Scenic trail roughly follows this Divide, making for many routes at high altitudes with much of the trail at over 8,000 feet in elevation.
A few accessible portions are located near Chama at Skull Bridge in the Santa Fe National Forest, near Grants along the Gooseberry Trail at Mount Taylor in the Cibola National Forest and many locations outside of Silver City, including the Middle Fork in the Gila National Forest in the Gila Cliff Dwellings Area. If you want to bike part of the trail, head just outside of Silver City to the Gomez Peak – Little Walnut Area. You can rent bikes and get more information on biking here from Gila Hike & Bike in downtown Silver City.
2018 is the 50th Anniversary of our National Trails System and great trails like the Continental Divide Trail, a reason to take this adventure on this year. The Continental Divide Trail Coalition has more information and resources on the trail.
#3 Stand Up Paddle Boarding on Keuka Lake
My first time stand up paddle boarding was filming it for our New York’s Southern Finger Lakes episode, debuting this spring on PBS stations. I was able to try this adventure on the calm waters of Keuka Lake in Hammondsport with Robyn Locey of Keuka Watersports, which rents paddle boards, kayaks and boats to travelers. Keuka Lake was not only a stunning place to learn, but because the waters are calm, I felt pretty secure trying it for the first time on this lake.
#4 Hiking to a Temple in Tokyo
The Yakuo-in Temple was first established in the 8th century and today’s traveler can reach it by taking a train, cable car and then a short hike at Mt Takao, a scared mountain with a variety of hiking trails accessible by car or train from the center of Tokyo. You will need to be comfortable hiking uphill and taking on some stairs, but the views and experience of visiting this Buddhist temple are worth it.
After working up an appetite hiking, dine at nearby Ukai Toriyama. Set amid traditional Japanese gardens, Ukai Toriyama specializes in charcoal grilled, skewered chicken, called yakitori, paired with menu items you might not find at your sushi restaurant at home, like carp sushi.
#5 Mountain Biking the Santa Fe National Forest
Again, this sounds like it could go way wrong, but if you can ride a bike, you might like to try mountain biking in the Santa Fe National Forest. While there are plenty of trails for intermediate and expert mountain bikers not far from downtown Santa Fe, like La Tierra Trails, Dale Ball Trails or the Winsor Trail, more novice cyclists may want to try part or all of Pacheco Canyon Road. I opted for a guided ride with Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe Biking Guides Mikey Fong and Ismar Uzicannan, who gave me confidence on the ride down. It was a lot of fun and just remember, you’re riding downhill, not up!
#6 Driving on a Racetrack in New York State
If NASCAR dreams call you or you just like to drive fast, sign up to Drive the Glen at Watkins Glen International. You’ll be driving in your own vehicle and behind a pacecar, but that doesn’t quell the exhilaration of driving where Formula 1 stars and motorsport greats like Mario Andretti and Jody Scheckte have made history.
#7 Exploring an Underground Battlefield in France
This sounds utterly unfeasible, but along the Chemin des Dames, a strategic plateau where around 200 underground quarries would be used by soldiers during World War I, travelers can actually go inside an old quarry used as soldiers’ barracks and eventually the site of battles between French and German troops in 1917. To tour Caverne du Dragon, you must be on a guided tour, as there are still areas that are off limits and pose a variety of dangers. A chapel, first aid station, command post and No Man’s Land movingly testify to the lives of these men – both French and German – who fought and lived, sometimes even side by side, in the obscurity of these underground spaces.
#8 Driving Classic Car in Cote d’Azur
Driving an expensive, classic car along the French Riviera may sound… well, expensive, but travelers who book through Rent A Classic Car have cool choices at prices that can be a little more than what you’d pay for a regular rental car… depending on your pick. I drove a 1972 Jaguar convertible from Antibes to Grasse and was not disappointed. Actually, I was elated. If you’ve ever wanted to pretend you’re Grace Kelly with Cary Grant in the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock film “To Catch a Thief,” this is the place to do it.
#9 Off Roading in West Virginia
I’ve never driven a UTV or Utility Task Vehicle before. These four wheel drive off road vehicles are tough, built to drive over rocks, careen through mud and beyond in backcountry settings. At Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia, you can rent a UTV and drive yourself to a spot with mountain views that will take your breath away. You will definitely get muddy on this rugged adventure.
#10 Stargazing at the Cosmic Campground
Located about an hour and a half from Silver City, New Mexico in the Gila National Forest, the Cosmic Campground was designated as the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary in North America, meaning it’s one of the rare places where light pollution is almost non-existent and you can actually see a sky full of stars. One of the reasons why the Cosmic Campground is so good for stargazing is that there’s a 360 degree unobstructed view of the sky. If you’ve never seen the Milky Way or had the privilege to see multiple shooting stars in one stargazing session, you need to visit this campground and spend one night or more for sure.
Looking forward to sharing many, many new adventures with you in 2018 and beyond. To see what else may be good for your upcoming travels, check out our Travel Itineraries to see where we’ve been and what we’ve liked and watch our adventures on your local PBS TV station, AOL and MSN.