Three Top Conservancy Destinations for Adventurers
Have a taste for adventure? Whether your idea of a good time is scrambling over rocks, extreme birding or whitewater rafting, these three places The Nature Conservancy helps protect give you the chance to test yourself in the great outdoors.
1. CANYONLANDS COUNTRY, UTAH
The name Moab has become synonymous with outdoor adventure on the Colorado Plateau. A high-desert hub for mountain biking, hiking, rafting and rock climbing, the city is in a geologically striking region that is home to Arches and Canyonlands national parks, as well as Nature Conservancy projects such as the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve, a rare oasis and birder’s paradise in the desert.
What to Do
The Colorado Plateau is an open-air gallery of masterpieces crafted by nature and people. You can see 1,500-year-old rock drawings at Newspaper Rock or Horseshoe Canyon, as well as colorful creatures like the male common collared lizard, whose yellow and blue-green markings make it stand out against the area’s red rocks. End the day at Dead Horse Point State Park, where sunsets cap vistas of the Colorado River’s twists and turns.
Insider Tips from Sue Bellagamba, Canyonlands regional director for The Nature Conservancy in Utah and a former river ranger
· Raft the Colorado River at Westwater Canyon: “Westwater Canyon is one of the most beautiful places on Earth and has some of the plateau’s only exposed pre-Cambrian black rock,” Bellagamba says.
· Watch sunrise or moonrise at Delicate Arch: Hike early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the crowds at this iconic natural wonder.
· Backpack in the Needles District: “In the Needles section of Canyonlands, a 5-mile trail ends at a view of the conﬂuence of the Green and Colorado rivers,” Bellagamba says.
Start your journey at nature.org/Utah
2. TIETON RIVER AND YAKIMA VALLEY, WASHINGTON
On the cusp between the emerald forests flanking the Cascade Range and the arid shrubland-steppes to the east, the Tieton River is well known to whitewater enthusiasts, who flock here each September for high-water flows from a dam release. Come October, the river valley is quieter but no less enchanting, colored by the turning leaves of oaks and cottonwoods.
What to Do
The Conservancy has protected 20,000 acres along the river, including 10,000 added to the state’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area. Hiking trails pass among basalt columns where eagles nest. A boon to thirsty adventurers, nearby Yakima Valley is the source of most of the hops grown in the United States and a renowned wine-growing region.
Start your journey at nature.org/tietonriver
3. WARM SPRINGS MOUNTAIN PRESERVE, VIRGINIA
The first tourists ventured to Hot Springs and the Warm Springs Valley seeking the reputed healing powers of thermal springs fed by water from the mountain above. The famous springs still provide relaxation and rejuvenation.
What to Do
Warm Springs Mountain forms Bath County’s natural backbone, an ever-present and instantly recognizable ridge running along its center. It also shares a 13-mile boundary with the George Washington National Forest near the historic resort villages of Warm Springs and Hot Springs. For hikers, there’s the Ingalls Overlook Trail or the Sandy Gap Trail, which connects with Douthat State Park, a popular mountain-biking destination. nature.org/warmspringsmountain.
Start your journey at nature.org/warmspringsmountain
For more travel resources, visit nature.org/travel