Recreational Vehicle Rental Tips for RV Rookies
Most of us have dreamed about it. Some of us have already given it a try and loved it. Hitting the open road in a recreational vehicle (RV) can provide a unique combination of comfort, thrills, practicality, and affordability. But, like most of us, you probably have questions before taking that first step into the driver’s seat of an RV.
I spoke with Megan Buemi, Sr. Content Marketing Manager at RVShare, the first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace (sort of like Airbnb for RVs), for her tips for “RV rookies,” plus some suggested destinations and itineraries. Our suggestion? Read Megan’s tips, then get ready to hit the road!
What’s the best way to start planning an RV rental? Choose a route, then an RV? Or vice versa?
Megan Buemi: When it comes to beginning your RV travel plans it can sometimes feel like what comes first, the chicken or the egg - should you book your RV or your campground first? We like to recommend booking your RV first so that you can find the perfect option for you and your travel companions, whether you need a larger Class C for the whole family, or a small pop up camper for a romantic weekend getaway. Then you can find a campground that will accommodate your RV type, including the right hookups and available amps. We do suggest booking your campground as soon after your RV as possible, especially in the busy spring and summer months or if you plan to visit a popular location, like a national park.
What's the biggest mistake an RV rookie makes in planning a trip?
MB: The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to renting an RV for the first time is being unprepared. This encompasses several things: not having a budget, not having a destination/campground planned, and not learning about the RV or asking the owner questions before you take off. RV trips can be fun and sporadic, but if you don’t plan ahead you might miss out on some of the best parts. For example, no one wants to waste time searching for a new campground because the one you arrived at is all booked up! Keep in mind all of the extra costs, such as gas and generator usage, campgrounds, and food. Book your campground in advance and don’t hesitate to ask the owner questions and read any user manuals they provide you thoroughly. Being prepared will make it much easier to enjoy your trip stress-free!
Are there any RV models that are especially well-suited to the beginner?
MB: Choosing the model of RV you wish to drive is all about your comfort level. Many people are surprised to learn there is no special license required to drive an RV, even the big Class A’s. The most popular option is a Class C. They are spacious and provide the comforts of home, and are easier to maneuver. But if you wish to have your own vehicle on hand and tow a trailer instead, there are also a variety of options there, from a small popup camper that can be towed by ordinary passenger vehicles, to 5th wheels that typically need to be hooked up to a truck. If driving an RV at all makes you uncomfortable, RVshare has many RVs available that can be delivered to your destination, all you have to do is show up!
How much time does it take to learn to drive an RV or trailer RV?
MB: You’ll be on the road in no time in your RV or trailer rental. The owner of the vehicle will happily give you a walkthrough and any advice on driving their vehicle. If you are apprehensive, you can practice a bit in a parking lot, but once you hit the road you’ll be surprised that it’s not nearly as difficult to drive as you thought.
Do you have any packing advice for an RV trip?
MB: Before you start loading up your suitcase with linens and silverware, read the RV rental’s listing closely. Many owners will provide you with some basic items, saving you from having to pack extra. But if they don’t, plan on needing bedding, towels, cooking utensils and cutlery, clothes for all weather types (check the weather before you go - part of being prepared), a first aid kit, toiletries, outdoor gear, and food. Cooking on your RV is a major cost saving perk to RV travel!
What advice do you have about hook-ups?
MB: The hookups you’ll be looking for include water, power, and sewer. These all may or may not be available, depending on what kind of park you’re staying at. For example, privately-owned, resort-style campgrounds usually offer the full suite, while public campgrounds may offer some, but not all amenities, or only offer 30 amps of power (as opposed to the 50 amps a large Class A motorhome might draw). With this in mind, it is always a good idea to check with the campground to see what hookups they have available, and most of them will indicate it on their websites as well.
What kinds of destinations are ideal for RV rookies?
MB: Planning your first RV trip is exciting, but many people aren’t sure where to go. Luckily there are all kinds of easily accessible places across the country, perfect for your first RV adventure. A few of our favorites include:
- National Parks. We love the national parks so much, we created guides on traveling to them. Many offer RV accommodations but some are not accessible by RV, so do your research first. You can park your RV and enjoy the day hiking, swimming, and exploring, with a campfire and a nice comfy bed to return to once night falls.
- Southern Charm. Try connecting a few popular southern cities, each offering its own unique brand of charm: Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; and St. Augustine, Florida. Plus these states offer plenty of RV campgrounds.
- California’s Pacific Coast Highway. Whether you start in Eureka (way up north) or San Diego (at the border with Mexico), you’ll be treated to some of the most beautiful byways in the country — a crashing ocean on one side and majestic redwoods on the other. Potential stops include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, San Luis Obispo, and a whole host of others.
California Glamping From $92/Night
With such an incredible variety of landscapes, California is the perfect place to reconnect with nature. But what if you just don't like to tough out chilly nights in a sleeping bag on the ground? We've rounded up five of the best glamping sites for the perfect combination of the great outdoors and a good night's sleep. 1. Caravan Outpost, Ojai The hip little oasis of Ojai, just a two-hour drive from Los Angeles and nestled amid lush, green hills, has a fittingly cool, chilled out glampsite. The 11 vintage airstreams at Caravan Outpost sit in a lovely garden space and are fully decked out – they even include their own record players. A community fire pit beckons friendly gatherings where you can exchange stories of your favorite cycling trail or surf spot and enjoy the famous pink-hour where the sunset adds a magical hue to the atmosphere. Best for: City break Cost: $179/night 2. Costanoa, Pescadero The family-friendly Costanoa resort in Pescadero has everything from luxury suites to camp sites for your own tent. However, glamping in the tent bungalows provides the perfect combination of outdoorsy and comfort. The fire pits are the perfect place to roast marshmallows after a day of hiking, sea kayaking, biking, or horseback riding, and the lush beds are exactly what your body needs to rest up for the next day's adventures. Best for: Families Cost: From $92/night 3. Ventana, Big Sur The epitome of luxury camping is a fully decked-out safari tent nestled on the forest floor beneath towering redwoods – this is glamping at its finest. The babbling stream and gently rustling leaves lull you to relaxation as you dose under your heated blanket. The tents have hot and cold running water, which is amazing while camping, but there is also a tap that spits out tea-ready water, perfect to brew a cup to wrap your hands around while you sit back in your Adirondack chair around a fire. The rest of the Ventana resort has a luxury spa, swimming pools and a fabulous restaurant to enjoy up on the cliff overlooking Big Sur's stunning coastline. Best for: Romantic getaway Cost: From $225/night 4. Dome in the Desert, Joshua Tree While this isn't a tent, we think a tiny wood dome in the desert counts as glamping. And if stargazing in Joshua Tree isn't on your bucket list yet, it should be. Staying in this bohemian geo-dome just a short drive from town takes contemplating the cosmos to a whole new level. The dome is equipped with personal telescopes to get up close and personal with the solar system from the comfort of your two-room abode – there's even a glass panel in the roof. Go in the spring when the wildflowers carpet the area in brilliant violet and yellow. Pro-tip: do the 20-minute drive to Joshua Tree National Park at sunset for the best views and to avoid the crowds. Best for: Stargazing Cost: $406/two nights 5. Half Dome Village, Yosemite National Park It's unlikely you will find a view to wake up to that is more spectacular than being greeted with Yosemite's impossibly huge sheets of rock face. It's nothing short of life changing. While these tents are a bit more rustic than the other glamping sites on our list (there is just a simple camp bed inside), the jaw-dropping location more than makes up for the lack of creature comforts. These well-appointed tents in Half-Dome Village, right at the heart of Yosemite National Park, are the perfect landing spot for exploring the many wonders of the park. Best For: Adventure Cost: $133/night Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with Lonely Planet's weekly newsletter.
Explore the U.S. Space Program: 8 Places to Celebrate the Apollo 11 Moon Landing
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and what better way to pay tribute to the U.S. space program than by planning an epic adventure? From informative exhibits and spacecraft on display to activities that bring visitors closer to the stars, here are eight destinations across America that offer an out-of-this-world experience. 1. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex: Merritt Island, Florida (Thomaskelley/Dreamstime) Spread out along Florida’s Space Coast, the Kennedy complex (kennedyspacecenter.com) is organized into mission zones, with attractions and tours arranged in chronological order. The Heroes and Legends exhibit honors pioneers in space exploration, while another tour gets up close and personal with the space shuttle Atlantis. Nearby, the American Space Museum and Walk of Fame in downtown Titusville is staffed by former space-center employees and has exhibit halls dedicated to the Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo missions. At Port Canaveral, wander the Exploration Tower’s seven-story museum, then head up to the observation deck for a bird’s-eye view of the Cape’s launch pads and the entire port. Cap off the day at the Cove’s restaurant row for an alfresco meal at casual spots like the Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar or FishLips Waterfront Bar and Grill. 2. Space Center Houston: Houston (Bambi L. Dingman/Dreamstime) Playing an iconic role in NASA history since 1961—who could forget Apollo 13's ominous message, “Houston, we have a problem”?—this Texas metropolis has more than earned its Space City moniker. The Space Center Houston (spacecenter.org) serves as both visitors’ center for the NASA Johnson Space Center and home to a massive collection of moon rocks and multi-flown aircraft in various galleries. Take a NASA tram tour of the JSC, then step inside a replica of the shuttle Independence, which is mounted on the NASA 905 shuttle aircraft. Visit the Starship Gallery to see the Skylab training module and the command module of Apollo 17, plus a fragment from its 1979 Earth reentry and JFK’s “We choose to go to the moon” speech podium. Across the main plaza at the Astronaut Gallery, scope out the space suits worn Wally Schirra and Kathryn Sullivan plus Sally Ride’s shuttle coveralls, then check out the Houston Museum of Natural Science for some stargazing at the George Observatory. Back on earth, Houston also has the Downtown Aquarium, the zoo, and the Museum of Fine Arts, and plenty of prime foodie options too. Try Truth BBQ’s 18-hour smoked brisket and the venison sausage spiked with black pepper and garlic at the Pit Room, or split a few things at Nancy’s Hustle, a modern bistro and bar with a plate-sharing theme. 3. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum: New York (Tomasz Wozniak/Dreamstime) On the western edge of Manhattan's Hell’s Kitchen, docked at Pier 86, this aircraft carrier turned museum (intrepidmuseum.org) not only has an incredible aircraft collection representing all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, but it also holds the Enterprise, the prototype NASA orbiter that paved the way for the space shuttle program. At the Space Shuttle Pavilion, immersive exhibit zones with films, audio, artifacts, and photos tell the story of its legacy. Once you’ve had all the space you can handle, head four blocks south to Lucky Strike for some friendly competition over bowling and billiards. Add on six more blocks, and you’ll arrive at Hudson Yards, a high-end restaurant and retail enclave with an eye-catching, ticketed-entry spiral staircase called the Vessel. For even more meal choices, Gotham West Market has a small mix of artisanal food stalls, and Hell’s Kitchen’s Ninth Avenue is lined with dining options. 4. Arecibo Observatory: Arecibo, Puerto Rico (Ivan Kokoulin/Dreamstime) A facility of the National Science Foundation, Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory (naic.edu/ao) is the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, covering an area of about 20 acres. Self-tour the Science and Visitor Center or opt for the VIP version to see the 1,000 feet reflector up close from a vehicle; you can also take in the astronomy exhibits and check out the observation deck. Outside of the observatory, the Arecibo Lighthouse and Historical Park journeys through five eras of Puerto Rican history, and also has a mini-zoo, restaurant, and play area for the youngest aspiring astronauts. Other must-see spots include Cueva Ventana, which overlooks Rio Grande de Arecibo Valley and offers guided tours that touch on the cave’s ecosystem; Cueva del Indio, featuring impressive cliffs, petroglyphs, and a naturally formed rock bridge; and Arecibo’s La Poza del Obispo, a remote but popular beach spot. 5. U.S. Space & Rocket Center: Huntsville, Alabama (Leonardospencer/Dreamstime) Huntsville is true to its nickname, Rocket City, not least because the museum at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (rocketcenter.com) displays one of only three authentic Saturn V moon rockets in the world. Catch an astronomy show at the INTUITIVE Planetarium, take on the challenge of a Mars climbing wall, and experience a motion-based flight simulation on the HyperShip. You can also tour the Redstone Arsenal—home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center—by bus. And aim for the stars with hands-on astronaut training at Space Camp (spacecamp.com), the center’s anchor program. Back on earth, the Huntsville Botanical Garden houses an aquatic garden, herb garden, children’s garden, and an education center with amphibians and reptiles along with an open-air butterfly house. For dinner, opt for Cotton Row Restaurant, an upscale surf-and-turf establishment, or try Humphrey's Bar & Grill for traditional bar food. Thirsty for more? The city’s brewing scene is pouring over with Salty Nut Brewery, Straight to Ale, and Yellowhammer Brewery. 6. National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution: Washington (Zhi Qi/Dreamstime) Centrally located on the National Mall, D.C.’s Air and Space Museum (airandspace.si.edu) takes flight with 22 exhibition galleries covering aviation, spaceflight, astronomy, and planetary science. In 2022, the museum will add to its roster with Destination Moon, which chronicles the race to the lunar landing. Craving more time with the cosmos? Take in a planetarium show or catch a movie on the museum’s five-story IMAX screen. Outside, the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory offers a closer look at the sun, planets, and double stars. A short walk or a free Southwest shuttle-bus ride will get you to the Wharf, a new and evolving entertainment destination on the Potomac River, and you'll also want to stop by the Washington National Cathedral to view the Space Window, a stained-glass symbol of our connection to the stars. Pro tip: To see the Discovery space shuttle, head across the river to the the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the museum's companion facility, located 30 minutes away in Chantilly, Virginia. 7. Great Lakes Science Center: Cleveland (Daniel Hancock/Dreamstime) Home to the NASA Glenn Visitor Center, one of 11 in the United States, the Great Lakes Science Center (greatscience.com) goes in depth on how astronauts eat, sleep, and learn via its Living in Space exhibit. Peek inside the real-life 1973 Skylab 3 Apollo Command Module and go on a multi-media trip through significant moments in space history, take your photo in a spacesuit and see a moon rock along with artifacts from John Glenn’s February 20, 1962, Friendship 7 mission. (Later, you can experience another kind of rock at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame). The accomplishments of female scientists and astronauts take the spotlight at the International Women’s Air & Space Museum at Burke Lakefront Airport, an essential stop. For refreshments, the Terrestrial Brewing Company has stellar suds and food trucks. 8. Museum of Science and Industry: Chicago (Cmlndm/Dreamstime) From Sputnik to SpaceX, the Windy City’s Museum of Science and Industry (msichicago.org) goes into orbit with visual and virtual presentations on space. Its Henry Crown Space Center's Space Is the Place exhibit honors stories of exploration through artifacts and interactives: Hear tales recounting the missions that brought us to the moon, see the actual Apollo 8 module and the Aurora 7 capsule, and try a docking simulation in the walk-in mockup of the International Space Station. For an additional ticket fee, you can step into the role of an astronaut working outside the International Space Station via a VR Spacewalk ride. Near the museum, Hyde Park has lunch spots such as Jolly Pumpkin, a pizzeria and brewery; Medici on 57th,, with yummy Angus burgers, milkshakes, and baked croissants and pastries; and Piccolo Mondo, a white-tablecloth Italian eatery. Further north, near the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium is all about astronomy. For travel inspiration, know-how, deals, and more, sign up for Budget Travel's free e-newsletter.
If you’re keen to enjoy the great outdoors but not interested in roughing it, then glamping is for you. Thanks to upgraded accommodations and actual beds, glamping is a more luxurious experience, with amenities that may include running water, electricity, personal chefs, fine linens, and en suite bathrooms. Plus, you don’t have to worry about packing toiletries, bedding,and towels – it’s all part of the package. From deluxe safari tents to small cabins and bungalows, this classy getaway not only lets you gently commune with nature, it also allows you to participate in activities you may have missed if you were staying at a hotel. Ready to upgrade? Here are six top picks for when tents and sleeping bags just won’t do. 1. Wild Lotus Camp, Antigua (@wildlotuscamp/Instagram) This family-owned glamping business offers large, sturdy upscale tents on Valley Church Beach, just steps from the Caribbean Sea and protected rainforests. The tents, located in a private garden surrounded by exotic flowers and plants, feature a double bed, a seating area, and solar-heated shower and lighting. The secluded Deluxe tent comes with a rum-stocked minibar, a Bluetooth speaker, fold-away bikes, and snorkel gear. But the real draw here is wild turtle season. At its height from July to October, you can watch turtles hatch on the beach outside your tent, then swim with them in the clear turquoise water. Or take in the landscape with a climb to the peak of Mount Obama (named after the 44th US president), the island’s highest point in the Shekerley Mountains. The Nest Beach bar, located on the shoreline, serves meals and cocktails, and a short walk takes you to Sheer Rocks and Dennis’s Cocktail Bar for romantic dinners, especially during sunset. wildlotuscamp.com 2. Sandy Pines Campground: Kennebunkport, ME Located near Goose Rocks Beach and Dock Square, this seaside campground is the epitome of high-low accommodations. Meant to evoke an old-school tableau of New England communal camping, Sandy Pines is a family-friendly destination teetering on the Atlantic. For true glamping, 16 luxe safari tents are available; each has a different design theme and includes a king-size bed, deck, mini-fridge and beverage cooler, and a combination heater/fan. For something more low-key, check out one of the 12 wooden A-frame Hideaway Huts, each equipped with a full-size bed and fire pit. This year, Sandy Pines unveiled six unique retreat options, including a decked-out Airstream, a glass house, and a Conestoga wagon. Entertainment, like bocce and badminton, movie nights, and even a Kid’s Kamp, ensures that everyone keeps busy. Resort-style amenities like the heated saltwater pool and laundry facilities add to the sense of luxury. The property’s Grand Lodge is a hub for the glamping community, while the General Store sells groceries and essentials like bug spray, sunscreen, charcoal, and propane. Make your way to the snack bar for freshly baked goods and sandwiches, plus local beer and wine. sandypinescamping.com 3. Eastwind Hotel & Bar: Windham, NY (Courtesy Eastwind Hotel & Bar) A lively and welcome addition to New York’s Catskill Mountains, Eastwind deftly straddles luxury and nature with design-forward glamping accommodations alongside a boutique hotel. The three Scandinavian-inspired Lushna wood cabins are standalone A-frame units with insulation and a glass window for panoramic views. Built on stilts, these tiny cabins include a queen-sized bed, private bathroom with sauna, posh Frette linens, and Wi-Fi. A BBQ kit is available on request to use at the fire pit on the property. Glampers also have access to all the hotel’s amenities, such as the Salon, a cocktail and coffee bar set in a sprawling living room–like space with huge windows, couches, a dining area, and an expansive outdoor deck. Seasonal prix-fixe Saturday Evening Suppers and a bar menu with small plates are available. Eastwind also has a year-round calendar of programs and activities, like concerts and foraging walks. To explore the surrounding Catskills, take a refreshing hike to Kaaterskill falls and Saugerties Lighthouse, or hang out at one of the plentiful water holes like Woodstock’s Big Deepa. eastwindny.com 4. Leanto Orcas Island: Washington Orcas Island’s modest glamping grounds are situated near the south-end loop of Moran State Park. An ferry ride from the port city of Anacortes lands you on the 5000-acre island, which boasts five freshwater lakes and more than 30 miles of hiking trails. Sunrise Rock and Cascade Falls are walking distance from each other, but if you want to catch a panoramic view, the summit of Mount Constitution is about five miles away. There are five glamping sites to choose from, the smallest featuring one tent with a queen-size bed and the largest offering two tents, one with a queen-size bed and the other with two twin daybeds. All accommodations also come with a table and chairs, dresser, and luggage rack. Outside there are Adirondack chairs, a grill and fire pit, a picnic table, and tents are equipped with flashlights and lanterns. There is no running water on the site, so you’ll be sharing the grounds’ toilets and coin-operated showers with the visitors on the old-school camping grounds. Meals are not included, though grilling utensils are available for loan, and you can add the “morning coffee” option when you book if you need that initial shot of caffeine. There are plenty of restaurants and markets on the island if you want a night out or need to replenish supplies. stayleanto.com. 5. Collective Governors Island, a New York City Retreat: New York, NY (Courtesy Collective Retreats) Just a few minutes by ferry from both Manhattan and Brooklyn, Collective Governors Island, a New York City Retreat, lets you escape the bustle of the city and sleep under the stars – albeit in a luxury tent inspired by Scandinavian minimalism. Governors Island, a former military base that opened to the public in 2004, is filled with historical buildings, pop-up art and cultural exhibits, and green space like the Hills, which feature four giant slides and British artist Rachel Whiteread’s permanent installation of a New England-style concrete cabin, not to mention dazzling skyline vistas. The Collective is nestled on the western side of the island, and its accommodations are contained on a central lawn. All tents include plush beds, electricity, WiFi, and a French press for coffee; Journey tents are the basic option, but you can upgrade to the higher-end Summit tents, which come with 1,500-thread-count sheets, private decks, and en-suite bathrooms. At the highest end are the Outlook Shelters, non-tent shelters that feature larger floorplans and stunning views of the NYC skyline. Have dinner at the quaint Three Peaks Lodge, a restaurant offering a farm-to-table cornucopia, or opt for something more casual and grab the BBQ-in-a-Box or a wrap, salad, and juice from Magic Mix Juicery. Nighttime brings campfires, s’mores, and the knowledge that you’re safe from run-ins with bears or moose in this urban enclave. collectiveretreats.com. 6. Under Canvas Grand Canyon: Valle, AZ (Courtesy West Elm) A 25-minute drive into the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Under Canvas is the perfect way to get up close and personal with one of the Seven Wonders of the World. An extravagant campsite with nearly 100 safari tents offers access to varied activities, like horseback riding and hiking through the campgrounds, which cover 160 acres of juniper forest. The two main tent styles – the Deluxe and the Stargazer – are furnished with a king-size bed and feature ensuite bathrooms, wood stoves, and private decks, but the Stargazer stands out for its groovy viewing window. A third option, the Suite Tent, has an additional lounge area with a queen-size sofa bed for a family or group. Package options include guided tours by foot, bike, helicopter, and jeep, plus meals served at the camp’s fast-casual restaurant. (Boxed lunches are available for those planning to spend the day out and about.) The communal firepit offers gratis s’mores and a prime view of the stars. undercanvas.com.
A Locals' Guide to Outdoor Adventures in Durango, CO
Ask anyone who lives in Durango, CO, and they’ll tell you that it’s a place where you can get more: More trails within city limits than any other town in the state, more time with family, more time on the trails, rivers, and ski slopes. Just a short drive from the airport, visitors can find nearly infinite vacation opportunities right in town and in the surrounding area, from natural wonders like the San Juan Mountains to rich culture encompassing traditional Native American and Southwestern traditions, a dose of “wild west” history, and a deep culinary scene that will satisfy any appetite. That array of vacation options is one of the reasons that Budget Travel named Durango one of our 10 Coolest Small Towns in America 2018. When we take a look at Durango’s “sweet spot” on the map—on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, offering awe-inspiring 360-degree views, Southwestern sun, and hundreds of miles of trails—we’re inspired to ask some locals for their best outdoor adventure recommendations. With that in mind, we turned to three exceptional Durango outfitters for their “locals know best” secrets—where to bike, paddle, and ride, then grab a bite to eat in and around this mountain paradise. Adventure at Your Doorstep “We’ve got exceptional trailhead development right in town,” says John Glover, manager of Mountain Bike Specialists. “That means you can easily reach trails that cover hundreds of miles in the surrounding mountains—visitors don’t usually have that back home.” With the San Juan National Forest to the north and the Animas River running right through city limits, Durango delivers adventure right to you. All you have to do it step in. Road & Mountain Biking Plenty of visitors come to Durango just for the incredible cycling opportunities, and the town is home to one of the oldest cycling advocacy groups in the U.S. Whether you’re into road biking or fat tires or you’re still a beginner, the Durango area offers plenty to keep you busy. “We recommend that newcomers start out on the Horse Gulch Trail system right in town,” says John Glover, because it’s an easy system that allows cyclists to evaluate their skills and comfort level before trying other local trails. “More experienced cyclists may want to try the Colorado Trail, which starts up in the nearby mountains and ends in Durango.” When I asked Glover where an inexperienced cyclist might start (asking for a friend, of course), he suggested the Animas River Trail, a paved trail that runs from the north end of town to the south, a great way to get to know Durango on two wheels. Watersports Durango and its surrounding area offer ample opportunities for hitting the water, from family-friendly lakefront such as Vallecito Lake to thrilling whitewater rafting on the Animas River. Guided tours of the Animas River range from one hour to most of the day. “The Animas is a great place for people to experience whitewater for the first time,” says David Moler, owner and guide of Durango Rivertrippers & Adventure Tours, which offers two- and four-hour guided river tours. The Animas is rated Class III rapids on a scale of I to V. “It’s a good all-around family-friendly rafting experience,: says Moler. His trips “put in” on the north side of town, near City Market, and “take out” on the south side, near Home Depot, but because Durango Rivertrippers & Adventure Tours has a tribal permit, they are also allowed to continue rafting downstream all the way to beautiful Basin Creek. The whitewater rafting experience is safe and fun, and some paddlers like to navigate the river via whitewater kayaks, which are shorter than those used on lakes or open water. Horseback Riding With San Juan National Forest as its backyard, Durango plays host to some of the finest horseback riding in the U.S. With old west heritage and history at your elbow and great riding outfitters around the corner, you’ve got to hit the trail! A guided horseback tour of the San Juan National Forest is unforgettable. We caught up with Anne Rapp, of Rapp Corral, and asked her to share her favorite place to send visitors on horseback. “Pine River Trail,” she says. “It’s in the wilderness without mountain bike usage,” meaning the horses will feel that they have the trail to themselves. If you’re not quite up for riding but want a classic western horse-related adventure, book a carriage ride that begins at the front steps of Durango’s classic Strater Hotel and takes you up into the mountains. More Outdoor Fun With so many miles of trail accessible from town, hiking is, of course, always a good idea. Most of the areas mentioned above for cyclists and horseback riding are also popular with day hikers and backpackers alike. Climbing is also popular up in the San Juan Mountains, and sportsmen prize the opportunities for fishing and hunting in the greater Durango region. Some visitors just want to pile into the car and explore the San Juan Skyway from Durango to Ouray. Others will want to hop a ride on the coal-fired, steam-driven Durango & Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad through San Juan National Forest, originally built for the cowboys and miners who populated the towns. Book a scenic Jeep tour in Silverton, and don’t miss Mesa Verde National Park, a little over a half-hour outside of Durango, where you can take a ranger-led tour of the Ancestral Pueblo people’s cliff dwellings and other important sites. Anne Rapp offers some practical suggestions for outdoor adventurers visiting Durango: “Be prepared for different weather conditions, bring layers everywhere you go, a good pair of walking shoes, a change of clothes in the car, and ample snacks and water in case the road or the trail draws you farther along—after all, nothing is holding you back!” Food & Drink When your day’s outdoor adventure is done, you’re going to want to tuck into some great chow and raise a glass, right? More than 100 local restaurants serve up a wide variety of cuisines, something for every taste. John Glover recommends Carver Brewing Company (everyone in town calls it “Carver’s”) for craft beer and affordable, cosmopolitan cuisine that uses local greens and meats. Moler is partial to Diamond Belle Saloon, at the Strater Hotel, not just because of the great food but also because “it feels like stepping back in time.” Anne Rapp heartily recommends Serious Texas and Zia for their affordable prices and great fare. Lodging Whether you’re looking for an iconic hotel experience such as the Strater, or a home rental, cabin, RV hookup, or traditional campsite, Durango has something to suit your needs. Visit Durango.org to start planning your outdoor adventure in one of the Coolest Small Towns in America! Budget Travel has produced this article for Durango, Colorado. All editorial views are those of Budget Travel alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.