How to Elevate Your Backpacking and Camping Food Game

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Food tastes better in the outdoors… we’re pretty sure it’s science. But no matter how delicious your favorite freeze-dried meal is, or how much you swear by tortillas and peanut butter, trying something new never hurts.

It’s easy to enhance backcountry meals without much extra effort. Whether you’re car camping, out for a backcountry weekend, or in it for the long haul, here are a few ways to elevate your food game during your next trip.

1. Car Camping

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chow time

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The sky’s the limit regarding weight/packability when car camping. Get a good cooler, bring a spare fuel canister, and stash a few extra garbage bags to pack out waste.

Prep each meal as much as possible

Prepping meals at home helps eliminate food waste to pack out, keeps the campsite organized, and saves time you’re better off enjoying in the great outdoors. Prepping can include pre-scrambling eggs in a tupperware instead of packing the whole carton, slicing and portioning veggies, and throwing seasoning on your food while you have your whole spice rack in front of you.

Adding protein saves even the most boring meal

Add protein to everything, and cook it ahead of time if you can. Not only does pre-cooking save the ickiness of packing around raw chicken, but it lets you portion and plan better for meals. Adding packaged meat, like tuna or chicken packets, works wonders for generic carb-heavy dinners. Bacon bits on your wrap is a surprisingly delightful addition for lunchtime fuel, and those bacon bits fit in nicely with your morning scramble as well.

Make This: Pesto Pasta with Chicken

At Home:

Season and cook two chicken breasts, cut into chunks, and tuck into your cooler where it’ll stay chilled. Pack a box of pasta, one package sundried tomatoes, and one package dried mushrooms

At Camp:

Bring water to a boil, add pasta, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms. Cook it. Stir in chicken and pesto. Eat the heck out of it.

2. Overnight / Weekend Trips

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setting up camp

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An overnight trip isn’t long enough to worry too much about food weight, but you still aren’t packing cans of refried beans. Trail recipes are fun to experiment with, and you can plan ahead and bring extra ingredients to have something to look forward to at camp.

Season the heck out of generic meals

Mixing up another Alfredo Pasta Side? Spice it up. Tic-tac boxes make terrific portable spice containers—bring a few staples (garlic powder, paprika, cumin) or create your own blends at home and pack your favorites. Adding a cajun or italian spice blend to couscous or pasta brings it up a few flavor notches while hardly adding any weight to your food bag. Packets of soy sauce, mini bottle of Tabasco, and even a travel-size salt/pepper shaker make a huge difference when you’re craving flavor.

Drink your breakfast

You need fuel for the morning miles, but sometimes the desire for another crumbling PopTart or gummy oatmeal packet isn’t there. Enter Carnation Instant Breakfast. Two packets shaken in a liter of water = quick and easy calories. Feeling fancy? Toss an instant coffee packet in the bottle as well. This is a dirtbag mocha and it tastes better than it sounds.

Make This: Overly Indulgent Breakfast Bag

At Home:

In a Ziplock: Mix one cup of your favorite granola with a handful of freeze-dried fruit, slivered almonds, and dried cranberries. Add ½ cup powdered milk (or protein powder for an extra boost) and zip ‘er up tight.

On Trail:

Wake up, take in the view, add enough water to rehydrate the milk, shake it up, and enjoy a surprisingly fancy breakfast-bowl-in-a-bag.

3. Long-Distance Hiking

This is all about the weight-to-calorie ratio. When you’re packing food for up to a week, or planning resupply boxes for a thru-hike, you want to keep your food weight down while your calories sufficient to fuel long miles with a heavy pack. We don’t differentiate as much between extended trips (1-2 weeks) and thru-hikes (3-6 months) because most hikers won’t be out much longer than a 7-9 days without resupplying.

Stoveless? Try cold-soaking couscous

Many long-distance hikers swear by their cold food. It saves the weight of a cookset and fuel, and the effort of washing dishes and gathering extra water. Couscous can be cold-soaked in a Ziplock bag (allow 30 minutes to fully soften) and devoured right on the spot.

Add olive oil… to everything

A thru-hiker can burn up to 10,000 calories a day, so sneaking calories without extra bulk is important to keep energy high and chewing effort low. Olive oil is a fast, easy, and relatively tasteless way to add extra calories to your meals. Choosing the higher-calorie items, like tuna packed in oil instead of water will also add similar calories without having to eat more.

Resupplying during your hike? Pack out heavy food and eat it the first day

In the battle between weight and calories, fresh foods come out on the losing end, which means you’ll be eating a lot of processed foods during an extended hike. But on resupply days, allow yourself to pack out the heavy things, and eat them on the first day. Thru-hikers often pack out fresh fruit, a pack of deli meat, and sometimes an entire pizza, then eat it during the first day back on trail.

Make This: Low-Cash Lo Mein

Dig a Ramen packet, a handful of beef jerky, and a soy sauce packet out of your dilapidated food bag.

Mix it. Cook it. Enjoy it. The whole thing weighs several ounces at most and is an easy way to make your sad instant noodles more palatable.

Written by RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Ry Glover

How to Ride the Chairlift and Other Questions You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask

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You’ve got all the clothing and gear you need, and you’re ready to hit the slopes. Whether this is your first time out or you’ve been skiing a couple times, there may be a few lingering questions that you’re too embarrassed to ask your friends. That’s where we come in. Here, you’ll find a list of the most common questions that we hear from new skiers and snowboarders.

How to walk in ski boots

Let’s be honest, walking in ski boots can make you feel a little clumsy. First, be sure to loosely fasten the buckles and straps to make the boots secure for walking, just don’t tighten them as much as you would for skiing.

Many ski boots have a "walk mode" switch on the back that makes the material flex more comfortably for a walking stride. Take steps as you would normally, raising your front heel slightly as you firmly plant your back foot. Concentrate on the entire sole of each foot making contact with the ground as the opposite heel or toe lifts in stride.

Ski boot soles are generally quite slippery, so be especially careful on icy walkways.

How to carry skis/snowboard

The snowboard is easy. With the base of it facing your body and the top with the binding facing away, hold it perpendicular to your body against your side with one arm over the middle.

Skis and poles, on the other hand, are more cumbersome. Your first inclination might be to hold the four pieces in front of you like a stack of firewood, but don’t do this. Make sure the skis are pushed tightly together with the bases touching one another and the brake stems stacked snuggly. Place both skis over one shoulder. Hold onto the front of the skis with one hand and carry your two poles in the other, with the tips of the poles facing downward so as not to stab anyone behind you. Be aware that as you turn your body, the skis on your shoulder swing wide.

How to get in and out of your ski bindings

This will probably be covered in your first ski lesson, but if you want to practice ahead of time, place the toe of one ski boot into the front of the binding and step down with your heel until the brake bars rise off of the snow and you hear a click. Most skis and bindings are symmetrical, but if they’re not, the right will be marked with "R" and the left with “L.”

If there is snow on your boot it can prevent the binding from locking, so use one of your poles to remove snow from the bottom of your boots by tapping the side of the pole against the boot. To get out of your bindings, use one hand or the end of your pole to push down on the heel of your binding behind your foot until it clicks and unlocks.

How to skate on a snowboard with one foot out

If you’ve ever been on a skateboard, this technique will come much more easily. If not, the sensation of having one foot on the ground and the other on a slippery board can be rather unnatural (once you get your own board, you can get a stomp pad to put on your board for more traction).

But it’s important to get used to it because while your front foot is always strapped to the board, your back foot needs to be free to get on and off the chairlift. To practice, find a flat surface and with your front foot strapped in, practice taking small sideways steps with your back foot as the board glides on the snow.

Some riders prefer to skate with their back foot in front of the board, some with the back foot behind the board, but it’s a matter of personal comfort. The important point is to keep your front shoulder pointed in the direction you want to go and keep your sideways gliding steps no wider than your rear binding. This will prevent you from inadvertently doing the splits.

Once you can take small skating steps, practice placing your back foot just in front of your rear binding as the board glides. The key is taking small sideways steps, keeping your front shoulder aligned with the front of the board and skating in a straight line, just a couple of feet at a time as you become familiar with the sensation.

How to get on a chairlift

Good news! Riding the chairlift is really simpler than you think.

Skiers:

Once it is your turn to get on the chairlift, use your poles to move up to the "load here" line. Place your poles in one hand so you can grab the chair with your other hand. Be sure you are only holding on to the poles, not the straps while you’re in line for or on the lift.

Snowboarders:

Take one foot out of the bindings and skate to the "load here" line. Keep your board straight, and after you sit down, your board should remain somewhat straight. When the lift takes off and you put the safety bar/footrest down and place the board on the footrest, your hips will remain slightly turned to keep the board straight.

For both skiers and snowboarders, just sit down when the chair touches the back of your legs. Always use the safety bar. If you are riding with strangers who have not put the safety/footrest bar down, simply ask or announce that you are pulling the bar down.

How to get off of a chairlift

As you approach the top of the lift, make sure everyone’s feet are off of the footrest and put it up. Stay where you are on the seat until you reach the "unload here" marker.

Skiers:

Keep your skis flat with the tips up as you approach the top of the lift. At the "unload here" marker, once your skis are gliding on the snow, stand up and keep your knees slightly bent and your poles up in front of you. Glide slowly down the ramp to a stop, making sure you are clear of others getting off of the lift behind you.

Snowboarders:

Make sure your board is pointed straight and flat with the tip up as you approach the top of the lift. After your board hits the ground at the top of the lift, place your back foot on the board in front of your rear binding and at the "unload here" marker, stand up with your weight on the center of the board. Keep your front shoulder pointed forward and your back foot on the board as you glide slowly to a stop, making sure you are clear of the ramp. Find a flat area to comfortably strap into your rear binding.

How to get up after a fall

As you may have learned, falling is likely to happen at least once. There are numerous positions you can land in after a fall, but the ticket to getting up is turning so that your skis or board are downhill from you and perpendicular to the slope.

Skiers:

With your skis perpendicular to the downhill slope so they won’t slide away when you stand up, lay with one hip and shoulder on the ground. Use your arms and/or poles to push yourself off of the snow to a standing position, using the edge of your inside ski for traction. If you have lost one or both skis, you’ll have an easier time standing, but make sure you find a flat area of the slope to put both skis perpendicular so they don’t slide as you step back into your bindings.

Snowboarders:

With your board downhill and perpendicular to the slope, turn onto either your stomach and push yourself to a standing position or onto your bottom and use your knees and arms to hoist yourself up.

That should cover the basics. And don’t be embarrassed – if you were wondering, chances are that someone else was wondering, too!

Written by RootsRated for Rent Skis and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by © Vail Resorts

So, When’s the Best Time of Year for a Ski Trip?

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Deciding when you want to take your ski vacation is sort of like choosing dessert. All of the options look scrumptious in one way or another, but you still need to pick just one.

School breaks and when you are able to take time off of work might factor into your selection, but it can still be a tough decision. We put together a list of everything you need to know about each window of the season in order to help you choose the best time for your next ski trip.

Early Season – Mid-November through Mid-December

You want to get out on the hill as early as humanly possible and you’re perfectly okay with the fact that all of the ski terrain is not yet open. With the exception of Thanksgiving weekend, this is one of the most peaceful, uncrowded periods for a ski trip and a wonderful way to usher in winter amid the snowy peaks and falling snow.

While parts of the mountain will still be closed, you’ll have plenty of room to spread out on the open trails, not to mention an easy time getting into your first pick of restaurants, many of which will be eagerly debuting their winter menus.

Another huge allure of an early season ski trip is the lodging deals. Depending on the resort and the dates you book, you could land a sweet deal by checking out the 96-Hour Sale or Cyber Monday Sale at snow.com.

Holiday season – December 20 through January 2

As you might imagine, with schools on winter break, this is the most popular time of year for family ski trips. A key tip for planning a trip during the holidays is to book lodging early. The lights are twinkling, snow is glistening, and ski towns are bubbling with festivities like tree-lighting ceremonies, ski-down parades, New Year’s champagne toasts and fireworks. There is no more magical place to spend the holidays than in a ski town.

While you and your family will not be the only ones embracing this reality, the beauty of the holiday ski crowd is that you are surrounded by like-minded individuals thrilled to be away from the city and tucked into this winter wonderland. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to wait a few extra minutes for a dinner table.

Another upside is that, depending on the resort, many locals’ ski passes are blacked out between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, meaning more room to breathe on the slopes than you might expect.

Other Holiday Weeks/Weekends – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (in January) and President’s Day (in February)

Although the busiest week of the ski season is between the Christmas and New Year holidays, these weeks and weekends are also popular times for ski vacations. Thus, you should book your lodging early and make sure you make restaurant reservations at least the day before.

Also, take a look at the resort map to plan a strategic route during your ski day. By mid-January, most resorts have opened all of their runs and there is ample room to spread out. The snow is deep and deliciously powdery. Again, some resort season passes are off-limits on these weekends, meaning that the crowd is controlled and there can be entire corners of the mountain to call your own if you aim your route higher and beyond the base areas.

Also, even on these popular weekends, the early bird gets the goods. Get on the first chair and you’ll probably have a delightful hour or so to yourself.

Mid-Winter – January through February

This is the snowiest time of the year in the mountains and ski conditions are absolutely divine. Aside from the weeks and weekends surrounding MLK and President’s Day, crowds are generally light and you might very well glide into the magical experience of making turns from one end of the trail to the other with no one else in sight.

Powder days abound, as do one-of-a-kind special resort events, like beer and film festivals, snow and ice sculpture exhibitions, and professional sports competitions. Top resort restaurants still fill up this time of year, especially on the weekends, but you can pretty much meander freely and land a table without a reservation.

Spring Break – March

There is an unmistakable taste of "party" in the air this time of year, but since the nationwide school spring breaks happen on different weeks throughout the month, the ski crowds are still manageable. With warmer temperatures and lots of sun, that celebratory vibe is contagious and this could be the best time of year to make new friends on and off the slopes.

While sunscreen is a must and you might catch a few skiers and riders rocking T-shirts instead of jackets, March is historically a month of bountiful snowfall. In 2016, ski areas across the West were hammered with snow, some getting multiple days of more than a foot at a time. So for anyone who thrives on that savory combination of deep tracks and sun, March is your month to shine.

April

There’s a little secret among ski towns – April can be an amazing time on the slopes. While tulips are blooming and grass is growing at lower elevations, ski resorts are still in full winter mode. Most resorts, especially those at higher elevations (like Breckenridge), still have a thick snow base and the majority of the terrain remains open. Temperatures are warm in the afternoon and chilly in the morning, and powder days are not uncommon in April.

Once you get out on the hill and experience your skis gliding through that fresh velvet blanket of snow, you’d swear it was January. That said, the warm sun can create slush in the afternoon and hard-packed trails in the morning, so be prepared for variable conditions. There are plenty of lodging deals this time of year, not to mention restaurant deals and outerwear/gear sales.

The best part? There will be no crowds.

Written by RootsRated for Rent Skis and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by © Vail Resorts

Social Media Distribution for Content Marketing: A Beginner’s Guide

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“If you build it, he will come.”

Upon hearing that call, Kevin Costner’s character in “Field of Dreams” is inspired to construct a new baseball diamond on his land – because if he builds it, players will show up. And they do. Upon building the field of dreams, ghosts of baseball greats magically arrive to play and recruit others.

It’s a heartwarming story. But aside from being an intriguing Hollywood screenplay, it bears little resemblance to real life.

In reality, Universal Studios spent approximately $15 million dollars to produce “Field of Dreams.” Keeping in line with standard practice, it probably doled out an additional $7.5 million to market the movie to ensure that audiences showed up in theaters. When calculating marketing budgets for movies, studios generally estimate about 50 percent of the production cost – because without marketing and distribution, well, you might just be wasting $15 million!

If we look at content marketing programs through the lens of Hollywood movie production, then your content hub is your theater. You may be showing the most amazing movie ever produced, but if you don’t have a strategy for filling your theater, then your high-cost, high-production value content is going unseen and becoming wasted assets.

Content marketing isn’t “Field of Dreams.” If you build it, they will not come. Every marketer needs to remember this.

For this reason, digital distribution needs to be a critical component of every content marketing program. Investing in distribution can be heavy. It takes time and money to find, develop, and nurture an audience.

But it’s also not that difficult. Here are some actionable ideas for how to think about content marketing and distribution as an inseparable pair that belongs in the same budget.

Why paid social media distribution is necessary for content marketing

Now that we understand why distribution is important to content marketing success, one proven way to secure distribution budget is by having a solid strategy that illustrates how distribution will increase your content marketing ROI. Ready to start crafting your strategy? First, let’s get the lay of the land. When we think about content distribution, a few key digital channels come to mind:

  • Social networks: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn
  • Native advertising: Outbrain, Taboola, Nativo, Sharethrough
  • Media partners
  • Influencers

Today, let’s focus on social media.

Organic reach is dead. Long gone are the days when a brand or business could post something on social media and expect all their fans to see it, let alone engage with it.

Now, organic reach is at an all-time low; through our work with brands, we’re now seeing it hovering around 1.5-2 percent across platforms. It’s safe to say that social media is a pay-to-play world.

In addition, the amount of social sharing is essentially half of what it was in 2015, indicating that it’s a crowded, competitive world of content. So you not only need paid distribution; your content has to be unique enough to break through all the other blog posts, videos, infographics, and interactives vying for people’s attention.

The good news is that social media targeting has improved significantly. Whether you’re going after a lookalike audience by geography or interest, or defining a completely new audience, stronger targeting abilities can help you distribute your content marketing to your desired niche.

The need for mapping content to the buyer journey

It’s important to remember that we’re coming in, uninvited, to our consumers’ worlds. We need to be the best party guest ever! We need to show up and ask questions and tell jokes before we ever start talking about ourselves or what we’re selling. We need to treat our customers like humans and actually get invited into their world to effectively nurture them as leads.

At the end of the day, we’re using content marketing to drive business. But to do this, we need a robust content strategy that takes into account every step of the buyer journey. We need to define the furthest reaches of our brand’s storytelling and align it to what our audience cares about. This way, we’ll have relevant points for building relationships with consumers, no matter where they are in their journeys.

For example, if we’re a beauty brand and all we really want to say is, “Buy our lipstick!” what’s a story one step out from that? Perhaps it’s: “Experimenting with makeup is so much fun!” And what’s a story even further away from our core product message? Maybe it’s, “You are unique and therefore beautiful.” We should be making content against all three pillars. Our goal is to grab the attention of the people furthest away from purchase and nurture them from “You are unique and therefore beautiful” content to “Buy our lipstick!” content.

Lastly, redefine your content marketing funnel. How you would approach a product launch using television and print is not the same as how you would approach a product launch on social media. Remember, when we show up, we can’t just start talking about our product. We need to nurture our audience to a place where they are ready for product content. Everything we create has to have a consumer-first lens on it, especially when we’re vying for attention on Instagram with friends, family, dog photos, other brands, crushes, and Stories.

The competition is fierce.

How to build a social media distribution strategy for content marketing

Step 1: Find your audience

Where, exactly, is your audience? What social media channels are they on? These are all important questions to ask ourselves before we show up to the party.

Begin by looking at statistics to find out if your target is on the platform. Dig into reports and studies. Look at the audience targeting features on each platform. For example, try Facebook Audience Insights to figure out who your current Facebook audience is and where you can find your target audience.

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Once you’ve figured out where they are, determine what they’re doing on that platform. What do they like? With what content and brands do they engage? Who is best-in-class in and out of your category? Make sure you show up to the party ready to add value.

Step 2: Align the story with where your audience is in its journey

Remember, we’re trying to be a good party guest. We should create a range of content that feels in line with our audience’s mindset. If we have content designed to strike up a conversation with our audience, other content to drive trust and consideration, and content designed to drive direct response, our distribution strategy should take the same approach. We need to distribute the right content to the right people at the right time.

For example, if we’re targeting a new audience and we know they’re on LinkedIn, does it make sense to hit them immediately with a direct response product ad? No. Why? Because our audience is there to better themselves professionally, find work, or share content that makes them look smarter. And because they’re a new audience, they’re not familiar with us. How likely are they, really, to click on a bottom-of-funnel product ad? We’d be better off targeting them with a piece of editorial content that offers advice and thought leadership on how they can become more successful in their roles.

Step 3: Match content formats to stories and channels

Once you’ve aligned your story with your audience’s mindset and platform realities, make sure the paid formats you’re using also line up.

For example, if you’re trying to promote brand awareness, make sure you’re using an awareness-driving format like an Instagram story or Facebook Canvas. If you’re trying to drive traffic, use a traffic driver like a Pinterest promoted pin. Looking for direct response? Try a lead generation ad on LinkedIn or an app download card on Twitter.

Most social platforms have ad format guides to help you figure out how to match your business goals to actual ad formats. Taking a portfolio approach to distribution and promoting content across the funnel will help us figure out what our audience actually cares about.

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How to measure distribution success

Forget about “likes.”

Much like building an integrated marketing strategy, it’s important to align distribution tactics with marketing objectives and, ultimately, business goals. Determine which KPIs you’ll track at each stage of the funnel and make sure they’re progressive and building upon the previous ones. Review the analytics on a weekly basis (at a minimum) and determine how to optimize your strategy at each part of the funnel to prompt users toward action.

Here’s one way to look at your funnel: In 2009, Comscore reported that only around 8 percent of people on the Internet account for 85 percent of all clicks on banner ads. In 2016, Facebook found a similar thing happening on its platform: The number of people who were actually engaging with content (with likes, clicks, shares, and comments) was extremely low, compared to the people aimlessly scrolling through their feeds. Through 500 brand studies, Facebook found that when people spent more time with a piece of content or ad on Facebook, the more likely they were to remember it. This resulted in an entirely new metric on the platform: estimated ad recall lift based on time spent with the ad.

We use this example as a proxy, since Facebook is a behemoth and can directionally give us a better sense of what’s happening across the internet. With this reality, plus the rise of video, advertisers are looking to attention-grabbing metrics to build large cookie pools and create starting points for top-of-funnel leads.

Grabbing attention and then retargeting or simply targeting with trust-building editorial content that drives to a hub can be an effective one-two punch to break through the noise and begin the process of getting invited into your customers’ worlds.

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Once a user has come to your content hub, you can target them with more relevant, high-quality content – lower funnel content – and optimize accordingly.

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Finally, once they’ve listened to your jokes and showed that they’re truly interested by engaging with your content, it’s probably okay to bring up your product and drive them to convert.

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After all, you have been the best party guest, ever.

Jennifer Stenger is NewsCred’s VP of Business Development. Lydia Cox is a NewsCred Program Director.

Written by Lydia Cox and Jennifer Stenger for NewsCred and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by NewsCred

Q+A: Can I Mention My Products in My Content Marketing?

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“Ask a Content Marketer” is a column on NewsCred Insights where we answer your questions about content marketing. Got a question? Email us at success@newscred.com or reach out on Twitter @NewsCred and we’ll find the appropriate expert to answer. We won’t include your name or company without your permission.

Q. Is it okay for me to mention my products in my content marketing?

A. Short answer: sometimes.

Long answer: The more you mention your products, the more you run the risk of losing the trust and interest of your audience. The key to successful content marketing is providing customers and potential customers with the information they’re seeking. To build an ongoing relationship with your audience, you need to provide value without coming across as overly promotional.

It’s fine to mention your product or brand in your content from time to time – but always ask whether its primary purpose is to provide value to your customer or to you. If it’s you, then you might be in advertorial realm and you should probably rethink your decision.

Suppose you’re a denim company creating a listicle about the top 10 ways to wear a jean jacket. If you’re including a number of products and one of them is yours, that would be fine. But if the listicle only features your brand’s products and just includes quotes from people in your company, no one will trust it, even if it’s good content.

When in doubt, put yourselves in the mindset of your customers: Would you want to read the content you create? And would you trust it? That should be your ultimate barometer.

Additional resources:

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Meghan Catucci is a Content Strategist at NewsCred.

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Written by Meghan Catucci for NewsCred and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

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Ten Mile Creek White Water Park – White Water Paddling

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Intro

Just an hour and some change from downtown Denver, here’s another man-made playspot that is the ultimate in park-and-play convenience. Plus here at Ten Mile, you’ll paddle under the watch of Mount Royal in one of the coolest mountain towns in the state.

What Makes It Great

If you’re up for it, you can put in up the road below the bridge at Officers Gulch and run the Class 4 creek down to the playhole. Spend some time here soaking in the sun and practice your latest play moves.

Then, turn your bow downstream and finish up the last mile of the creek, emptying out into the Dillon Reservoir. It’s easy to run a shuttle or take the bus back to your car.

This is a sporty little playspot that you’ll often have to yourself, especially during the week. The season is a little finicky…reliant on spring snow melt and varying greatly with temperature.

The public play hole is well marked with great spectator access.

Who is Going to Love It

This is a great place for those able to maneuver Class 4 water and want to practice some moves.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Park in the public parking lot just off exit 201 (second Frisco exit off I-70) or across the street on Forest Drive at Ten Mile Creek Kayaks. Stop in and say "hello" to 'Mountain Matti Wade' and buy something from his shop to help support your local specialty paddlesports retailer! In exchange, he can give you all the beta on flows and hazards.

Written by Aaron Bible for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Aaron Bible

Tradewater River – Flatwater Paddling

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Intro

As a tributary of the Ohio River, the Tradewater River flows from Hopkinsville to Sturgis, Kentucky, and access is available at several points throughout its 136-mile length. The more popular section are the areas closest to Hopkinsville and Sturgis, but there are many, many stretches of river to enjoy if you’re willing to search for ramps or find a bridge to put in at.

What Makes It Great

Western Kentucky is covered in meandering blueways, and while the Tradewater River may not be swift, it’s the perfect river to float on a lazy summer day.

Rising in Hopkinsville near the Tennessee border, the Tradewater flows north/northeast before meeting up with the Ohio River. The geology of the river is mostly Pennsylvanian limestone, so large, exposed cliffs between thickly wooded meadows and pastoral farmland are common sights.

Ecologically, the Tradewater is home to a variety of common game fish, including Kentucky spotted bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, sunfish, and catfish. If you pay attention during your float, you can also see spotted gar and alligator gar, which can grow up to five feet long and surface often.

The Tradewater is navigable with just about any boat. Whether you take a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard, any beginner will be able to negotiate the occasional choppy section with confidence while moving around the river banks to look for deer, turkey, or to catch fish.

Certain sections of the Tradewater can get crowded during summer weekends, but anyone can avoid the crowds by finding a public boat ramp away from the canoe rental companies that set up shop on different parts of the river.

Who is Going to Love It

For anyone who loves a long summer day on the river, the Tradewater is a solid destination to drink something cold and relax down a quiet and scenic river. This float is definitely family and beginner-friendly, as well. It’s easy to find fun rope swings in deep swimming holes, small waterfalls, feeder creeks, and other places to stop and explore.

For conventional and fly anglers, the Tradewater is a great river to target bass, the plethora of brightly colored sunfish species, or just drag live bait on the bottom to pick a fight with a true river monster: the channel catfish.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

A lot of great folks have worked very hard to preserve large sections of the Tradewater, but there are still a lot of private farms and homes, so be careful to responsibly put-in, take-out, and explore on public land only, avoiding the private property.

Written by Charlie Morgan for RootsRated in partnership with Kentucky Tourism and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by forrestvsforest

Top 10 Activities for a Rainy Day

Top 10 Activities for a Rainy Day
Written by Shenandoah County Tourism for Shenandoah County.

1. Tour the local vineyard: Cozy up on the couch near the fireplace on a rainy day as you take in some live music at one of the many local vineyards in Shenandoah County. In fact, Shenandoah County is home to 7 vineyards including Cave Ridge Vineyards, Cedar Creek Vineyard, Muse Vineyards, North Mountain Vineyards, Shenandoah Vineyards, The Winery at Kindred Pointe, and Wolf Gap Vineyards. If wine isn't your thing, the Winery at Kindred Pointe also offers their own ciders or be sure to try one of the area's local craft breweries such as Swover Creek Farm Brewery or the Woodstock Brewhouse.

2. Shenandoah Caverns: No matter the weather outside, Shenandoah Caverns is always a mild, 55 degrees underground. In addition to the world famous "bacon formation" stalactites, admission to the Caverns also includes admission to 3 other attractions: Main Street of Yesteryear, The Yellow Barn and American Celebration on Parade. This kitschy museum features parade floats from former Rose Bowl parades, Presidential Inaugurations, Thanksgiving Day Parades and more.

3. Duck Pin Bowling: Enjoy a little piece of nostalgia with a game of wooden duck pin bowling complete with original stadium style seating and old wooden tracks to return the balls.

4. Lunch at Woodstock Garden Cafe in Fort Valley Nursery: You'll forget it's raining outside with the colorful flowers and garden decor within the Garden Cafe. Enjoy a sandwich or salad made with locally sourced ingredients including their own farm, fresh pork specialties.

5. Woodstock Community Theatre: Where else can you still catch the latest blockbusters for under $10 a person?

6. Shop the O Shenandoah County Artisan Trail: With over 75 sites along the O Shenandoah County Artisan Trail, there is something to suit everyone. Find handcrafted treasures, explore artisan studios, savor locally grown foods and meet some wonderful people along the way.

7. A meal at Southern Kitchen: Nothing warms the soul on a rainy day like some good ol' southern cooking and the fried chicken at Southern Kitchen is to die for! They're also well known for their Virginia peanut soup.

8. Virginia Museum of the Civil War: This museum tells the story of the Civil War focusing on Virginia and the Battle of New Market where 257 cadets from Virginia Military Institute participated in the battle. This story is accounted in the blockbuster film, The Field of Lost Shoes.

9. The Edinburg Mill: The area's best kept secret, this museum features an abundance of history under one roof. Displays range from the agricultural history in the valley, fashion, civil war, and even an impressive collection of Red Cross memorabilia.

10. Route 11 Potato Chips: Visitors can watch as the chips are made before their eyes through the clear glass walls of the factory and sample each of their delicious flavors made from Virginia grown potatoes.

Written by Shenandoah County Tourism for Shenandoah County and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Courtesy of Shenandoah County Tour

A Guide to Marion, Virginia: The Best Place to Spend a Long Weekend Off the AT

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Some of the most scenic sections of the Appalachian Trail run through Southwest Virginia. But sometimes, even the most dedicated hikers need a break from the trail. Marion, Virginia, provides everything a wary hiker could need—and plenty of amenities for those just looking to spend a day or two on the trail. Even if the Appalachian Trail isn’t on your radar, Marion is a unique spot for a weekend escape in scenic Southwest Virginia. From historic charm to first-rate dining, the area makes a great home base whether you’re hiking from Georgia to Maine or simply looking for a quick weekend getaway.

There’s a Shower—A Free One

Mount Rogers is just one of the draws of Southwest Virginia.
Mount Rogers is just one of the draws of Southwest Virginia.

Ryan Somma

For those stepping off the trail and back into society, spiffing up your personal hygiene is probably the first step to take for most hikers. Not only is Mount Rogers, just 15 minutes from downtown Marion, but it sports a free outdoor shower specifically for AT hikers just steps from the trail and a few paces from the visitor center proper. For those staying in Marion for the weekend, the Mount Rogers is part of a pretty and rhododendron-filled segment of the trail, which an excellent option for a challenging day hike. Wondering how you’ll get from Mount Rogers to town? Don’t—there’s a shuttle that runs directly between the visitor center and Marion several times each day and it’ll only set you back 50 cents.

Culture and History Galore

Both history buffs and culture junkies will be happy in Marion. Not far from Marion is historic Saltville, once a bustling company town designed around the area’s salt reserves. Not only can you visit spots where the brine distilling took place and learn all about the process, you can also take a spin through Saltville’s Museum of the Middle Appalachians. Here the entirety of the area’s prehistoric past is at your fingertips.

Once your history-filled daytime adventures are over, catch a show at the architecturally amazing Lincoln Theatre in downtown Marion. One of very few Mayan Revival Art Deco Theaters left in the States, it offers up performing arts programming all year. You can catch everything from renditions of Aladdin to local musicians singing their hearts out on this stage.

A Good Meal

Whether you’re taking a break from dehydrated food on the trail or you’re looking to indulge during your getaway, good grub is essential and Marion delivers. And what would a southern experience be without proper barbeque? Wolfe’s is where you have to go if you’ve got finger lickin’ sauces, steaming mac and cheese, and traditional cornbread on the brain. If you want to cozy up to a little lunch joint alongside Marion locals, Sister’s Cafe is the spot. Owned and operated by longtime residents and serving up delicious coffee and tea to boot, you could easily kick back here for a couple of hours and just watch people go by.

Endless Adventures

The Back of the Dragon route between Marion and Tazewell is one of the area’s most scenic drives.
The Back of the Dragon route between Marion and Tazewell is one of the area’s most scenic drives.

Virginia State Parks

Plenty of places in Southwest Virginia are said to be the sites of paranormal activity. In Marion there’s the Abijah Thomas House, otherwise known as the Octagon House. An architectural feat that was briefly popular in the 1850s, the stop sign-shaped house is composed of bricks build by slaves on the property. There’s said to be ghosts floating around the house, particularly in the storage room that locals refer to as the "dark room."

For those who prefer to get their thrills in the "real world," plan to take a trip along the Back of the Dragon route between Marion and Tazewell—by motorcycle if you can. The twisty and turning road is a fun one to drive and serves up scenic views that are hard to beat all along the way.

Wine and Work

Whether you want to whet your whistle or put a few bucks in your pocket before you get back on the trail, you can do either or both at Davis Valley Winery near Marion. Although hikers can stop by and pick grapes for a few days to earn some extra money, the best thing about the winery is that it’s no longer just a winery these days. They’ve moved into distilling whiskey, vodka, and moonshine as well, so if you’ve got a crew with diverse tastes, anyone and everyone will be able to find something they like here. Even if you don’t drink, the hilltop scenery makes for a pretty place to spend a lazy day.

Supremely Cozy Digs

If you’re going to spring for a weekend off the trail, go ahead and treat yourself to some sweet digs that will put your adored tent to shame. The General Francis Marion Hotel is in a central downtown location and is, of course, titled after the town’s namesake itself. However, if you want something a little more down-to-earth feeling, shack up at the Collins House Inn. This sweet bed and breakfast is run by two ex-Midwesterners and leaves you feeling like you’ve just spent a weekend at your sweet southern grandmother’s house.

Written by Cinnamon Janzer for RootsRated in partnership with Southwest Virginia and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Virginia State Parks

15 of the Most Iconic Hikes in the World

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The planet is crisscrossed with epic trails, from the Alps to the Andes. There are snowy summit trips for fleet-footed peak-baggers, long and leisurely rambles for wildlife lovers, and everything in between. While the options are almost infinite, here are a few epic hikes to add to that ever-expanding life list.

1. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

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Dette er soloppgangen vi fikk i det vi passerte Stella Point på vei til Kilimanjaro i forgårs 13.02.18…😍 Da er vi ca 40 minutter fra Afrikas tak, og det er tungt for folk flest å bare finne fram kameraet… Heldigvis har jeg for vane å fange disse magiske øyeblikkene, så minnene blir foreviget og kanskje havner i en ramme…👍 Dette bildet er rett fra kameraet mitt, helt uten noe form for filter eller justering…👍 Er det rart rart jeg driver med dette? Ps. Ny tur på gang 18.juli og 2.januar😉 . #eventyrturer #kilimanjaro #mountain #mountainlovers #mountainlocals #thegreatoutdoors #mittfriluftsliv #friluftsliv #utemagasinet #hektapåtur #fjelltid #utno #liveterbestute #dreamchasersnature #welcometonature #exploringglobe #properadventure #nature #discoverer #dreambig #earthpix #7summits #turistforeningen #tanzania #africa #machame #machameroute #stellapoint

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One of the planet’s Seven Summits, 19,341-foot Kilimanjaro is the highest freestanding mountain on Earth—and Africa’s loftiest peak. Despite the distinction, the glaciated summit is accessible courtesy of a number of a non-technical routes, leading climbers through five distinctly different climate zones. On the path to Uhuru Peak, trekkers traverse a lowland rainforest inhabited by colobus and blue monkeys, ascend the scrubby montane moorland of the Shira Plateau, cross hulking glaciers, and catch glimpses of the megafauna-loaded grasslands of Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. At basecamp, vividly colored tents dot an unearthly moonscape, and climbers rest in the shadow of toothy 16,893-foot Mawenzi.

2. Table Mountain, South Africa

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While the flat-topped mesa soaring above Cape Town is accessible by cable-car, the climb to the apex of 3,569-foot Table Mountain is one of the planet’s most spectacular treks—and a must-do for a visit to this dynamic city. Routes to the top of the 500 million-year-old massif treat ascending climbers to panoramic vistas of the pointed peaks of the Twelve Apostles, the azure water of Camps Bay, knobby Lion’s Head, and Cape Town’s bustling City Bowl. There are plenty of half-day routes to the mesa’s highest point, Maclear’s Beacon, including the three-hour slog through Skeleton Gorge, allowing hikers to encounter Cape dwarf chameleons, stealthy caracals, and vibrantly colored sunbirds. The climb can also be done as a multi-day trip along the Cape of Good Hope Trail or the Hoerikwaggo Trail, beginning at Cape Point.

3. Te Araroa Trail, New Zealand

Meaning "the long pathway," in Maori, New Zealand’s 1,864-mile Te Araroa Trail is the Kiwi version of America’s Appalachian Trail. Bookended by the Pacific Ocean, between Cape Regina and Bluff, the route runs through the heart of New Zealand, traversing both North and South islands and leading backpackers through a staggering diversity of landscapes: sun-drenched coastlines, subtropical rainforests, snow-dusted alpine passes, and river-braided glacial valleys. The epic trek also showcases many of New Zealand’s geological gems, including the Southern Alps, famed backdrop for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the still-active Tongariro volcano.

4. Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

Besides Everest, the most idolized Himalayan foray is Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit. The nearly 130-mile route horseshoes the Annapurna range’s sea of glaciated summits, capped by 26,545-foot Annapurna I. The high-altitude tour takes hardy trekkers through highlands terraced with rice paddies, across surging whitewater rivers, through shadowy rhododendron forests, over otherworldly mountain passes, and past Buddhist gompas and Hindu shrines. While backpackers on the circuit must tackle challenges like 17,768-foot Thorung La, the route is dotted with cozy tea houses affording creature comforts like brief but heavenly hot showers and steaming plates of dal bhat, a traditional meal of steamed rice and cooked lentil soup.

5. John Muir Trail, California

Named for legendary naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, the John Muir Trail strings together two of California’s most spectacular natural wonders: the Yosemite Valley and 14,496-foot Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States. Tracing the spine of the High Sierra, the 211-mile route moseys through three national parks and two federally designated wildernesses, leading hikers through a landscape of high peaks and passes, glassy alpine lakes, and sun-drenched mountain meadows. The trail skirts Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, and showcases natural wonders like the Devil’s Postpile National Monument and Evolution Basin in Kings Canyon National Park. Plus, hikers have ample opportunity to encounter black bears, mule deer, and curious marmots along the route.

6. Four Pass Loop, Colorado

The most photographed spot in Colorado, the snow-stripped twin peaks of the Maroon Bells are best celebrated on the epic Four Pass Loop through the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness. The aptly amed 26-mile circuit begins at turquoise-toned Maroon Lake, just west of Aspen, and takes backpackers over four alpine passes each higher than 12,000 feet, across airy meadows dusted with wildflowers, through spruce forests and copses of white-barked aspen, and past backcountry waterfalls and peak-framed lakes. Besides the Maroon Bells, the Elk Mountains sampler also provides trekkers the chance to gape at a handful of celestial fourteeners, including Pyramid Peak and Snowmass Mountain.

7. Beara Way, Ireland

Ringing Ireland’s wind-pummeled Beara Peninsula, a 48-mile sliver of land bisected by the Caha and Slieve Miskish mountains, the Beara Way provides a quintessential taste of the Emerald Isle and forms part of Ireland’s longest hiking trail, the Beara-Breifne Way. The 122-mile trek cobbles together bucolic country lanes, highland tracks, and ancient roads, offering a glimpse of the peninsula’s colorful past. Following the path taken by Beara’s last chieftain, Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare, as he fled hotly pursuing Elizabethan troops in 1603, the Beara Way takes trekkers past Neolithic and Bronze Age sites, through charming towns, and over craggy highlands. Fortunately, the lung-taxing climbs and knee-grating descents are greeted with panoramic vistas of the rugged coastline, including the shimmering waters of Bantry Bay, staging point for Theobald Wolfe Tone’s infamous but ill-fated 1786 rebellion.

8. Cotopaxi, Ecuador

One of the peaks in Ecuador’s Avenue of Volcanoes, 19,347-foot Cotopaxi soars above the high Andean páramo of Cotopaxi National Park. Although the peak is the second highest in Ecuador—and one of the loftiest active volcanoes on the planet—Cotopaxi is scalable without prior mountaineering experience. Ropes, crampons, and ice axes are required to reach the snow-capped pinnacle, but with the help of local guides (and after a quick hands-on introduction to mountaineering), the crater-pocked peak is reachable for most reasonably fit trekkers. Along the way to the summit, hikers have the chance to spot wild horses, llamas, and spectacled bears (the ursine species credited with inspiring the fictional character Paddington).

9. Inca Trail, Peru

The most celebrated trek in South America, this Andean excursion takes hikers from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu, the stone-hewn urban center crafted by the Incas during the 15th century, a World Heritage site since 1983. Along the way to Machu Picchu, the 24-mile trek follows paths forged by the Incas more than 500 years ago, meandering through cloud forests studded with 300 types of orchids, over three cloud-shrouded mountain passes, and past pre-Columbian ruins. Stashed away at 7,972 feet, the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is also a biodiversity hotspot, serving as an ecological corridor linking the Andes, Sacred Valley, and Amazon, and affording trekkers the opportunity to spot 370 different types of bird, including mammoth Andean condors.

10. Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia

Soaring above other peaks in Malaysian Borneo’s Crocker Range, 13,435-foot Mount Kinabalu is the loftiest summit in Southeast Asia. Gunung Kinabalu, as the peak is known in Malay, is also the country’s first World Heritage site, a global hotspot for flora and fauna. The mountain’s ecosystems harbor more than 5,000 types of plants, over 300 species of birds, and 100 different mammals. Along the path to the granite-tipped summit, which typically takes two to three days round-trip, lush lowland rainforests give way to cloud-bathed montane and coniferous forests, providing the chance to spot orangutans, Bornean gibbons, and long-tailed Bornean Treepies. The mountain’s six different vegetation zones also support a thousand different orchids and five endemic species of carnivorous pitcher plants, including the largest on earth, Nepenthes rajah.

11. Tour du Mont Blanc, Western Europe

While scaling 15,781-foot Mont Blanc requires extensive mountaineering knowhow, more casual hikers can still get an eyeful of Western Europe’s loftiest summit from three different countries—France, Italy, and Switzerland—on the Tour du Mont Blanc. The 105-mile route rings the entire snow-frosted massif, traipsing over seven alpine passes, past storybook alpine hamlets, along colossal glaciers, and through wildflower-freckled meadows. Besides the spellbinding scenery, the Tour du Mont Blanc also provides a snapshot of regional culture, taking hikers through historic locales like medieval Courmayeur. Best of all, while physically taxing, the route is scattered with cozy alpine huts, affording plenty of opportunity to swap freeze-dried fare for fondue.

12. Torres del Paine Circuit, Patagonia, Chile

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The classic Torres shot #TorresDelPaineCircuit

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Towering above the guanaco-grazed steppes of Chilean Patagonia, the trio of granite pillars dubbed Torres del Paine comprise one of the most iconic massifs on earth. The blue-hued granite cathedral tops out at 10,656 feet and crowns Torres del Paine National Park, a former sheep estancia declared a World Heritage site in 1978. Backpackers can gape at the granite monoliths from every angle imaginable along on a circuit trek on the national park’s non-technical trails. The more heavily trafficked ‘W’ configuration can be done in less than four days, while the more extensive ‘O’ circuit, takes about a week. Despite the rugged landscape of glaciated granite peaks, raging rivers, and iceberg-strewn alpine lakes, the Torres del Paine circuit can be done without forgoing creature comforts by cobbling together a route linking the park’s cozy refugios.

13. Kalalau Trail, Hawaii

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Take me to the mountaintop #kalalautrail #napalicoast #kauai

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Showcasing Kauai’s rugged Nā Pali Coast, where fluted mountains meld into the glistening Pacific Ocean, the Kalalau Trail is among the most spectacular coastal treks on earth. But, the 11-mile trek is no walk on the beach. Between Ke’e Beach and Kalalau Beach, the trail winds through five different valleys, across more than a half-dozen streams, and along precipitous cliff sides, including a vertiginous stretch aptly dubbed Crawler’s Ledge, for the hikers duly daunted by the 500-foot drop. Grit and determination are mandatory, but trekkers are rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the Pacific and gems like the 300-foot Hanakapi’ai Waterfall. While the 22-mile out-and-back trip can be done in a day, the route is scattered with stunning camping spots, like the area near 1,400-foot Hanakoa Falls, about halfway through the trek.

14. Mount Fuji, Japan

Located southwest of Tokyo, the solitary summit of 12,388-foot Mount Fuji is one of the planet’s most recognizable peaks. Dormant for just over 300 years, the snow-dusted stratovolcano has served as an artistic muse for centuries, revered as one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains. Religious pilgrims have been scaling the sacred mountain since ancient times, and the climb remains exceedingly popular. Climbing season for Mount Fuji only runs from the beginning of July to the end of August, but more than 300,000 trekkers make the approximately six-hour trip every year. While there are celestial views on the way to the summit, the trek has the distinction of being one of the few climbs on the planet that is more cultural experience than wilderness excursion. Each of the four routes to the top offers mountain huts peddling food and drinks, and there is even a post office at the summit where you can drop a postcard to a lucky recipient.

15. Sunshine Coast Trail, British Columbia

Rambling along the wild Sunshine Coast in southwest British Columbia, the Sunshine Coast Trail is a less-frequented alternative to the West Coast Trail. Built entirely by volunteers and maintained by the non-profit Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society, the 112-mile trail ambles from Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay, taking trekkers through old growth rainforests roamed by black bears, grey wolves, and cougars. Wildlife watchers also have the chance to spot the blubbery bodies of Stellar sea lions and harbor seals along coastal stretches of the trail, and the route’s highest point—4,821-foot Mount Troutbridge—is a hotspot for seafaring marbled murrelets. Best of all, the Sunshine Coast Trail is Canada’s only free hut-to-hut track, with no reservations or permits required.

Written by Malee Baker Oot for RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Stig Nygaard