Our third-annual rundown of the best new places—as determined by people lucky enough to have exploration be part of their job description.
WILSON, UNITED STATES
Nat and Rachael Lopes: Cofounders of Hilride, a mountain-bike park and tourism consulting firm that's based in Berkeley, Calif. (hilride.com).
In 2004, die-hard mountain-bike riders Nat and Rachael Lopes got married, quit their day jobs, and began assessing trails all over North America and Europe as spokespeople for the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Last year, the couple founded Hilride, which offers consulting services to destinations interested in creating mountain-bike parks. Though officially based in Berkeley, Calif., the Lopeses now travel year-round searching for the best trails—and helping others find them, too.
Just off I-70, which cuts through America's heartland, Wilson, Kans., is admittedly "the last place you would ever think of for an epic mountain-bike ride," says Nat, who nevertheless trusted a local's tip and gave Wilson State Park's Switchgrass bike path a try. He and Rachael made an exciting discovery: "The 13-mile trail is fun and challenging," says Nat. Adds Rachael: "It runs through grasslands, sagebrush, and small stands of trees, and along sandstone and limestone ledges that ring a lake." Fishermen love the 9,000-acre Wilson Reservoir for its striped bass and walleye, but the lake has an additional appeal: Native American petroglyphs that were submerged when the reservoir was created in the 1960s.
Information: Wilson State Park, 785/658-2465, kdwp.state.ks.us, $4.25 per vehicle, cabin rentals from $60.