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Southlake Style

Fill Your Canteens

Jun 07, 2016 11:35AM ● By Dia

Pack your paddles and lace up your boots; resort vacations are so last season. Poolside cabanas and beachfront villas are for the rest of the herd, right? Take the road—or river—less traveled this summer and embark on an adventure vacation. Hiking, biking and kayaking are just a few ways to sightsee without setting foot on tourist-laden soil.

Hiking the Bend

If thoughts of climbing mountains or trekking through the desert send shivers up your spine, then 

  take your pick of climates within the Lone Star State borders to experience the ultimate in adventure vacations. And we say, if there’s hiking to be done in Texas, go Big Bend or go home.

Located in the southwestern region of the state, near the United States/Mexico border, Big Bend Ranch State Park is more than 300,000 acres of desert, mountain and river wilderness. Part of Big Bend National Park (the 15th largest national park in the U.S.), the state park offers hiking and backpacking options for a variety of skill levels. We picked a trail suited for an expert hiker. 

The Rancherias Loop trail is a two-night, three-day camping and hiking experience that is 19 miles of true roughing it. The adventure starts 21 miles west of the city of Lajitas and loops around back to Highway 170 at the west Rancherias sign within the state park. Before you start the loop, you’ll need to check in at the Barton Warnock Visitor Center, located near Lajitas. This center serves as the eastern entrance to the state park. Once you’re checked in and you’ve paid your fees ($3-$5 per person), you’ll go through a hiking/backpacking/camping orientation. This is an important step since you’ll be making your way through the Chihuahuan Desert along trails that are often not marked. There is a lot of climbing involved, but the views are well worth it. Stargazing at your campsite each night reminds you just how rewarding adventure vacations can be.

Mountain Biking in Brevard

Take a look at the natural wonders surrounding the community of Brevard, North Carolina—think mountains and waterfalls—and it’s easy to see how the small town gives you access to big adventures. The rugged terrains of Transylvania County (where Brevard is located) make for some pretty awesome mountain biking trails that range from easy to intermediate. 

The Bracken Mountain Trail is a four-mile intermediate loop starting at the base of Bracken Mountain. Bikers gain an elevation of more than 900 feet, and the trail can take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours to complete. There are also a number of state forests surrounding Brevard that offer more amazing mountain biking experiences, such as the DuPont Fawn Lake Trail (nine-mile moderate loop in DuPont State Forest) or for experts, the 22-mile Avery Creek/Black Mountain Loop in Pisgah National Forest.

Now that you know where to spin your wheels, you should unsaddle and explore the nature of the forests along the way, and perhaps catch a glimpse or two of one of the 200 waterfalls in the Brevard area. Looking for indigenous wildlife? If you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a famous Brevard white squirrel.

Kayaking the Coast

If you are seeking an adventure-worthy vacation outside the United States, the blue coastal waters of New Zealand are perfect for kayaking. One of the most sought-after experiences in kayaking is traversing the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, located at Abel Tasman National Park in central New Zealand. Navigating the 38-mile track via kayak will take you approximately eight hours and can be divided into three legs. You’ll embark from Marahau and end at Onetahuti, first stopping at Anchorage and then at Bark Bay. Since it is not a round-trip excursion, you’ll need to arrange transportation back to Marahau. It is highly recommended that you book a guided kayak tour and reserve your intended campsites/huts ahead of time. Actually, it is required that you have camping permits in place before you set out. This can all be done upon arrival at the national park when you pay your fees to stay the night. However, if you only plan to kayak the coast for the day, there are no fees.

You’ll want to disembark from your kayak at times throughout the trek for up-close appreciation of the native flora and wildlife. Snorkels and goggles should be your exploration gear of choice, as most of the action is just below the coastal water’s surface. From periwinkles and pink algae to sea urchins and live bryozoans (these help make coral reefs), all sorts of plants and creatures live in distinct bands along the coast. When you come up for more air, be sure to notice the fur seals often found along the coast sunning on the rocks.