5 More Awesome Day Hikes in Southwest Virginia

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Home to the state’s highest peaks and wildest spaces, Southwest Virginia is a wonderland for trail lovers, from hardened weekend warriors to casual day-hikers in search of a little fresh air. The region is overlaid with some of the country’s best-known trails—like the Virginia Creeper and the Appalachian Trail—in addition to countless regional footpaths in the massive Jefferson National Forest. You don’t have to look far to find amazing hiking opportunities that showcase tumbling waterfalls, cloud-puncturing peaks, and wild ponies grazing in upland meadows. With pristine natural areas, federally designated wildernesses, and family-friendly state parks, there are plenty of awesome day hikes in Southwest Virginia, but these are a few of the best.

1. Elk Garden to Buzzard Rock on the Appalachian Trail

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Follow Elk Garden along the Appalachian trail.

Jason Riedy

Named for the animals that once roamed the highlands, Elk Garden features wind-swirled grasslands on Balsam Mountain, providing a picturesque snapshot of Southwest Virginia’s stunning portion of the Appalachian Trail. From the Elk Garden trailhead located along Whitetop Mountain Road (SR 600) just outside Konnarock, trekkers can embark on some of the most extensive tours of the stunning high country of Mount Rogers. Or you can opt for short excursions, like the hike to Buzzard Rock. Straddling on one of the crests of Whitetop Mountain (the second highest peak in the state) Buzzard Rock offers views stretching all the way to Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. On the 6.6-mile, out-and-back hike to the rock jumble perched at 5,095 feet, trekkers are treated to a taste of high country scenery as the trail meanders through a leafy hardwood forest and over a natural southern Appalachian bald.

2. Cabin Creek Trail

Grayson Highlands State Park might be the most picturesque portal to the high country of Mount Rogers, but the pony-grazed recreation area is also stocked with scenic hiking loops for less ambitious trekkers—like the Cabin Creek Trail. The gradual, 1.9-mile circuit leads hikers through a forest of rosebay rhododendron, mountain laurel, and bigtooth aspens, a rarity in Southwest Virginia. For a spell, the trail parallels Cabin Creek, a hotspot for native trout, and ultimately leads hikers past the stream’s 25-foot twin cascade. All along the way, especially while heading to the trailhead from the parking area at Massie Gap, hikers have the chance to spot the park’s free-ranging wild ponies. The wide-roaming herd of nearly 100 ponies roves both Grayson Highlands State Park and adjacent Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, and are regularly encountered on windswept Wilburn Ridge.

3. Molly’s Knob

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The hike to 3,270-foot Molly’s Knob leads hikers along panoramic ridgelines.

Virginia State Parks

The highest point in Hungry Mother State Park, Molly’s Knob is named for an early settler who perished from hunger on the slopes of the pinnacle. According to local lore, after fleeing a Native American raid on settlements near the New River, a pioneer by the name of Molly Marley starved to death while traveling through what is now Hungry Mother State Park. As the legend goes, the child Molly had in tow could utter only one phrase to rescuers—hungry mother.

While the park’s name may be the result of the a tragic tale, today the hike to 3,270-foot Molly’s Knob leads hikers along the shore of 108-acre Hungry Mother Lake, through mixed forests peppered with Catawba and rosebay rhododendron, and along panoramic ridgelines. A loop through the park linking the Lake Loop, Molly’s Knob, Ridge, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Vista trails—including an ascent of Molly’s Knob—is an approximately 5 miles round-trip. For summer visitors, the hike has an added perk of ending with a refreshing dip in Hungry Mother Lake.

4. Chief Benge Scout Trail in the High Knob Recreation Area

One of the best kept secrets in Southwest Virginia is the High Knob Recreation Area, stashed away in the Jefferson National Forest, above the city of Norton. The lofty recreation area is endowed with a high-elevation lake, amenities constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the loftiest campground in the region, and an observation tower offering views of five states.

For hikers, the High Knob Recreation Area also has a number of options, including short strolls around the 4-acre lake, or longer hauls on the Chief Benge Scout Trail. Named for the Chicamauga warrior Chief Benge, son a Scottish trader who spent time living among the Cherokee, the 18.7-mile trail runs from the High Knob Recreation Area to the Hanging Rock Day Use Area near Dungannon, taking in highlights like tumbling falls of Stony and Bark Camp Lake.

For a bite-sized taste of the distance trail, tackle the first 2.5 mile section skirting High Knob Lake and paralleling Mountain Fork stream. For detailed maps of the route, pick up National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated Map of the Clinch Ranger District, or refer to the series of section maps of Chief Benge Trail developed by High Lonesome Trails, a website created by the Southwest Virginia Citizen Science Initiative.

5. Big Falls

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Scope out Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve’s treasures like Big Falls.

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Located between the towns of Cleveland and Lebanon in Russell County, the Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve might be compact, but the 776-acre protected area is loaded with natural wonders. Spread along the banks of Big Cedar Creek (recognized as a state scenic river), the natural area is punctuated with waterfalls, striking geological formations, and some the rarest plants on the planet, including rock-dwelling species like Canby’s mountain-lover and Carolina saxifrage, which live nestled in the craggy crevices of the preserve’s precipitous limestone cliffs.

Aside from rare plants, eagle-eyed hikers can also spot plenty of unusual animals in the natural area, too, including hellbender salamanders, which can grow to be over two feet long, and Big Cedar Creek millipedes, which are only found in the preserve and a handful of nearby locations. Hikers can scope out the bulk of the preserve’s treasures—including Big Falls and the namesake "pinnacle," a dolomite spire soaring to almost 400 feet—with a short 3.25 mile trek along Big Cedar Creek to its confluence with the Clinch River, linking the Big Cedar Creek and Pinnacle View trails.

If you’re looking for a base camp during your exploration of Southwest Virginia, the town of Abingdon is located at the epicenter of the area’s best trails. The western terminus of the Virginia Creeper Trail is downtown, while it’s a short drive to all the other major trails in the region. Plus you can enjoy abundance of lodging options, restaurants, theater, and all the other amenities you could need for a weekend getaway.

Written by Malee Baker Oot for RootsRated Media in partnership with Abingdon.

Featured image provided by Virginia State Parks

2017-2018 Ski Season Recap

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Is it just us, or did this ski season pass in the blink of an eye? (You know what they say about how time passes when you’re having fun!) From crazy weather patterns to jaw-dropping feats of athleticism on the world’s biggest stage, we can all agree that it’s been a memorable season. Here’s what went down in 2017-2018.

Crazy Snowfall at Whistler Blackcomb

Let’s start with Whistler Blackcomb’s amazing season. Storms and storm totals varied drastically around the Northern Hemisphere this winter, but the Canadian behemoth seemed to exist within its own bountiful snow globe all season. North America’s largest resort has received nearly 500 inches of snow this season and as mid-April approaches, even the lower mountain is still buried in a 120-inch base.

There were a number of instances (particularly at the end of January) when blizzards dumped up to three feet overnight. If you’re brimming with jealousy, you still have time—Whistler’s projected closing date is May 21.

Massive Storms Hit Tahoe

The Sierra Nevada were buried under an otherworldly blizzard that hit at the end of February into early March, dumping so much snow and producing such whiteout conditions that Interstate 80 and several resorts closed for hours at a time.

At first, the storm dumped around five feet on Lake Tahoe Resorts, and then another storm hit overnight on March 15, adding close to 30 more inches in a matter of a few hours at Mount Rose, Heavenly, Northstar, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

March Madness on the East Coast

Not one but four Nor’easters nailed East Coast resorts in March. By the middle of the month, the storms dropped more than five feet of snow on most of Vermont and around eight feet on a handful of resorts in a period of two weeks, burying snow stakes. East Coast skiers and riders rejoiced about the abundance of powder and the best March conditions in years at places like Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont and Whaleback Mountain in New Hampshire.

April Dump in Colorado

A huge storm hammered the Colorado Rockies the second weekend of April, leaving close to three feet in three days at Breckenridge, Winter Park, and Loveland. Everybody loves April (snow) showers!

2018 Winter Games

The spectacles at February’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang ranged from jaw-dropping to superhuman. Standouts included Shaun White ’s insane redemption victory in the halfpipe. The 31-year-old California snowboarder secured the third gold medal of his career in the Winter Games—and a historic 100th for the U.S. at the Winter Game—after landing a show-stopping final run as the last man down the pipe. White’s winning performance included a pair of soaring back-to-back 1440s and his signature double McTwist 1260.

A bunch of other California and Colorado athletes came up big, too. After becoming the youngest female slalom skier to ever win gold in the 2014 Games, Mikaela Shiffrin demonstrated the expansion of her skill set in 2018, landing gold in giant slalom and silver in super-combined. Let’s not forget fellow Vail skier Lindsey Vonn , who, after being sidelined from the Winter Games for eight years due to injury, returned for a spectacular downhill performance to earn a bronze and also wrapping up the season with a few more World Cup victories, edging ever closer to overtaking the record for most winning skier of all time (she has 82 Cup victories and is going after Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86).

Then there was 17-year-old snowboarder Redmond Gerard who secured the first U.S. gold of the Games in men’s slopestyle as fellow Colorado resident Kyle Mack , 20, put some serious oxygen under his board to take silver in the Big Air event.

Fellow 17-year-old Chloe Kim of California surprised no one by easily winning the women’s snowboard halfpipe event while Colorado’s Arielle Gold put it together for bronze, but let’s not forget Tahoe snowboarder Jamie Anderson ’s incredible flying skills. In extremely gusty conditions on the slopestyle course, the Tahoe rider managed to handily defend her gold medal from 2014, even while downsizing her big move 900-degree spin in mid-air as a gale-force wind kicked up. She then went on to take silver in Big Air.

California veteran women’s halfpipe skier Brita Sigourney landed a big bronze in Pyeongchang, and Nevada native David Wise repeated his 2014 gold. After earning his way to the highest step of the podium in the first-ever ski halfpipe event in the 2014 Winter Games, the father of two overcame some technical difficulties and a pair of falls before bringing it all together among stiff competition in his final run while Colorado’s Alex Ferreira threw down for silver. Indiana native Nick Goepper also one-upped his bronze medal Sochi performance, earning silver in the Pyeongchang men’s ski slopestyle.

Perhaps the most startling result on the ski racing circuit was that of the Czech snowboarder Ester Ledecka , who flew out of the backfield to a gold medal in the women’s super G.

Last but not least, sleek dream team Jessie Diggins (Minnesota) and Kikkan Randall (Alaska) truly etched their mark by becoming the first American cross-country female skiers to win a Winter Games medal and the first of men or women to earn gold.

Follow-up Athletic Feats

Proving that those medals were no fluke, Mikaela Shiffrin proceeded to execute dominance in every race she entered for the rest of the season, landing on the podium in each and earning her second straight World Cup overall globe. Chloe Kim followed up her gold with a big win at the 2018 Burton Open in Vail and Jessie Diggins finished the 30-kilometer World Cup cross-country ski race in Holmenkollen Norway in second place on the heels of champion Marit Bjoergen.

The Epic Pass Got Even Better

As if the global options for great slopes on a single season pass weren’t already abundant, Vermont’s Okemo Mountain Resort and Stowe Mountain Resort, Mount Sunapee Resort in New Hampshire, and Colorado’s Crested Butte have joined the Epic Pass mix for 2018-19. This means Epic Pass holders have access to a whopping 64 ski resorts in eight countries around the world.

What was your favorite memory of the 2017-2018 season? Tell us in the comments below!

Written by RootsRated for Rent Skis.

Featured image provided by © Vail Resorts

Demystifying Nordic Skiing at the Frisco Nordic Center

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Could there be anything more peaceful than gliding along on your skis among towering pine trees with views of the Dillon Reservoir glistening in the sunlight and snow-capped mountains in the distance? While downhill skiing or snowboarding is all about getting from Point A to Point B as fast as possible, Nordic skiing is gaining in popularity for those looking for a change of pace. And there’s no better place to soak in the scenery than in the mountain town of Frisco, Colorado.

"Nordic skiing is not only fun, it’s great exercise too," says Linsey Joyce, Recreation Programs Manager for the Town of Frisco. “It’s a great alternative to downhill skiing or snowboarding. The Frisco Nordic Center offers solitude and breathtaking views.”

Located just a few minutes away from Main Street, the Frisco Nordic Center offers options for skiers of all ability levels. "The main goals of the Frisco Nordic Center are to be a community hub for cross country skiers," explains Joyce. “We aim to provide a variety of programs and events for our community while welcoming skiers of all ability levels.”

Whether you’re looking to take a break from a nearby resort or have been inspired by the recent Winter Games in Pyeongchang, now is a great time to try a new snow sport. Here’s everything you need to know about getting started at the Frisco Nordic Center.

What’s special about Frisco?

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Nordic skiing is fun for all ages.

Todd Powell/Town of Frisco

Frisco’s Nordic scene is uniquely situated to make cross-country skiing accessible to all ages and abilities. Unlike most other Nordic centers, Frisco actually produces man-made snow, just as a downhill ski resort would. As a result, even in otherwise low-snow years, Frisco makes considerable effort to open a 2.5-kilometer loop to Nordic skiers.

"They already have the infrastructure there because of the tubing hill," explains Whitney Hedberg, director of the Summit Nordic Ski Club. “But [the ski trails] aren’t in one centrally located place, so they have to take front-loaders and physically move snow onto the trail—it’s a huge operation. The town has gotten behind it and is willing to do that. That’s what makes us stand out.”

The Summit Nordic Ski Club is a huge part of the Frisco Nordic Scene. The club is for kids as young as six on up through post-high schoolers and uses the Frisco Nordic trails. (They also compete nationally under the direction of head coach Olof Hedberg.) In addition to the youngsters, you’ll see plenty of hardened locals hitting up the trails even on the chilliest mornings—these folks are dedicated.

Where do I start?

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The Nordic Center offers lessons and clinics to help you get started.

Todd Powell/Town of Frisco

"The Frisco Nordic Center offers beginner ski terrain right out our back door, creating a welcoming experience for anyone who is new to the sport," says Joyce. “I would highly recommend taking a ski lesson if you really want to learn tips and technique that will create a positive experience for you.”

Luckily, the Frisco Nordic Center offers budget-friendly lessons for new skiers, along with regular clinics and events for those looking to improve their skiing. There’s at least one block of lessons every weekday during the season (two blocks a day on busier weekends), so a knowledgeable staff member will give you the tools to have a great time on your first outing.

"A lesson will make the difference between it being a one-time thing and something you come back to," Hedberg adds.

Once you’ve gotten yourself ready for a day on skis—dress more like you’re going for a run in cold, wet weather than like you’re downhill skiing, since you’ll work up a sweat—it’s time to decide what kind of skis work best for you.

Cross-country skiing encompasses both classic and skate skiing. Classic skiers have slightly wider skis, often with a fish scale pattern on the bottom to help with kick and glide. These are the folks you’ll see in the classic track, which are the two parallel lines on any groomed cross-country trail. It’ll take some time to develop a solid technique, but this is a great way to take in the sights and, if you’re eventually so inclined, explore more backcountry trails.

Then there’s skate skiing, classic’s speedier cousin. Skate skiers are the Olympians you see double-poling and getting a serious upper-body workout on the groomed track. It’s a fantastic full-body exercise and definitely requires some fitness to get the hang of.

Fortunately, the Frisco Nordic Center rents both types of skis.

Where are the best Nordic skiing trails in Frisco?

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Once you get into Nordic skiing you might want to take up racing!

Todd Powell/Town of Frisco

The Frisco Nordic Center boasts 27 kilometers of ski trails. They start making snow as early as November, so even in the early season, you’ll have the 2.5-kilometer loop near the Nordic Center to ski.

Those 27 kilometers include beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails, which are marked like an alpine ski area (green circle for beginner, blue square for intermediate, and one or two black diamonds for advanced and expert trails). On intermediate and advanced trails, you won’t find cliffs or moguls as you would at a downhill resort—more like steeper or more sustained ups and downs and sharper turns. Keep an eye out for one-way signs, too.

Before you head out onto any of the trails, check out the Frisco Nordic Center’s Trail Conditions page.

Fees and Season Passes

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Grab a season pass if you plan to spend a lot of time at the Frisco Nordic Center.

Todd Powell/Town of Frisco

Day passes for the Frisco Nordic Center are $20 per day for adults. If you’ll be hitting the trails ten or more times this season, invest in a season pass or, better yet, pick up a season pass that includes the Breckenridge and Gold Run Nordic Centers. Frisco Nordic also offers discounts for residents and families. Rentals at Frisco Nordic Center are $20 per day for skate or classic setups and include skis, boots, and poles.

Written by Emma Walker for RootsRated in partnership with Town of Frisco.

Featured image provided by Joe Kusumoto/Town of Frisco

Why You Should Travel to Jordan Now

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More than ever, Jordan is popping up on the travel wish lists of savvy globetrotters—and for good reason. In an era of global instability, especially amidst the longstanding turmoil of some of its neighbors, the small Middle Eastern country is making itself known as an oasis of tranquility—and, increasingly, of outdoor adventure. Its rugged landscapes and under-the-radar status as an adventure mecca have caught the attention of active-minded types. In addition, Jordan, whose official name is the Hashemite Kingdom, has recently unveiled new tourism initiatives such as the Jordan Trail, the Jordan Bike Trail, and the Aqaba Marine Park, which provide job opportunities for locals and visitors with new reasons to stop and stay a while.

Of course, the country isn’t without its challenges, including a struggling economy, high numbers of refugees from neighboring regions, and a dearth of jobs. But Jordanians are finding a way to move forward with aplomb, and are more excited than ever to share their country with eager travelers, likely over syrupy mint tea or a celebratory meal of mansaf, the tasty national lamb dish. Here, four reasons to travel to Jordan now.

Gain an Appreciation for Ancient Culture and Traditions

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Jordan's spice markets are a must-do during any trip.

Andrew Moore

The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, or RSCN, as locals call it, was established in 1966 to protect and manage Jordan’s natural resources, including wildlife and wild places. One of the few independent national organizations in the Middle East with this mandate, the RSCN runs the Royal Academy for Nature Conservation near the Ajloun Forest Reserve in the northern part of the country. The center is used for everything from wildlife identification to training for adventure guides to search-and-rescue education, and it’s is developing into a key asset for the Jordanian adventure travel industry.

Part of the Academy grounds are open to the public, and visitors can explore local handicrafts and gourmet goodies made on-site by locals, including a shop that crafts cookies with local, regional ingredients. Grab lunch among staff at the cafeteria-style dining hall, and eat on the expansive porch overlooking the sweeping Mediterranean-like terrain of the surrounding valleys.

Just 40 miles west from the center of Amman lies the small village of Iraq al-Amir, home to the oldest standing building in Jordan: Qasr Iraq al-Amir, built in 164 BC. But while the ruins are well worth a stop, the real draw lies in the small compound of the Iraq al-Amir Women Cooperative Society. The Society provides business and work training for local women as they create handicrafts to sell, marking the first opportunity for many to make a living of their own. Peruse their handcrafted good like pottery, weaving, soap, and paper, and enjoy a delicious traditional lunch under the shade of the sprawling porch (complete with friendly, rather audacious, cats).

And speaking of local cuisine: From remarkable hummus and the ever-present yogurt variations to rich meals like mansaf, a popular dish of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice or bulgur, and kofta, a kebab made of ground beef and lamb mixed with fresh parsley, onions, garlic, and Middle Eastern spices. Jordan-style meals are large and rich. Local spices including the blend za’atar, which is becoming more common on American menus, are heavily utilized, and sweets such as knafeh, a cheese pastry of shredded phyllo, are no joke—they’re simply dripping in syrups. Be sure to sample Turkish coffee, Arabic coffee, and sugary-sweet teas flavored with sage or mint; the teas are a popular offer for visitors, so expect to drink your fair share. They are surprisingly medicinal on a hot day.

Hit the Trails As People Have for Thousands of Years

Those ready for a challenging adventure can test their mettle against the Jordan Trail. The 404-mile long-distance hiking trail traverses the length of the country, from Um Qais in the north to the shores of the Red Sea in Aqaba in the south. Thru-hikers can expect to spend more than 40 days crossing diverse landscapes from the Mediterranean-like hillsides in the north to the sweeping red desert of Wadi Rum further south.

For a less ambitious itinerary, plan to tackle a short section of the trail, perhaps even as a day hike. Hikers experience true Jordanian hospitality as they travel—though the trail itself is new, the tradition of hospitality in the region is not, and visitors can anticipate being welcomed into homes throughout the trek.

Prefer to spend your time in the saddle? Similar to the Jordan Trail, the Jordan Bike Trail crosses the country north-to-south, offering long-distance, mixed-track cycling across diverse terrain that offers a chance to get off the tourist track and explore Jordan as it truly is. Whether you ride for a few days or a month, plan to have overnight support via local families, who often open up their homes to guests, and even Bedouin tribes, who are an excellent resource in the challenging southern sections.

Embrace the Water-Lover in You

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Home to Jordan’s only coastline, Aqaba is quickly becoming a hotspot for recreationalists and adventurers.

David Stanley

Water in the desert? Sure! Canyoneering is a popular and thrilling way to explore the sandstone canyons of Wadi Mujib, nearly 70 miles south of Amman. Under the eye of an experienced guide, expect a challenging day navigating the rugged desert canyons that act as veins through the desert. Come prepared to climb, hike, scramble, wade, abseil, and even swim as you make your way through the canyons. (And be sure to bring a waterproof camera along with your water shoes.)

Home to Jordan’s only coastline, Aqaba is quickly becoming a hotspot for recreationalists and adventurers. Some of the healthiest coral reefs in the world are located just off the coast, drawing divers and snorkelers from around the globe, including more than 12,000 scuba divers in 2017. The Aqaba Marine Park just opened to the public in 2018, housing more than 127 species of hard coral throughout its 4.35-mile length. The site boasts both natural and transplant reefs, and promises to make a mark on snorkeling and scuba enthusiasts’ “to-do” lists.

Bag Peaks, Explore History, and Take a Soak

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Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

Salil Wadhavkar

For most, the idea of Jordan summons mental images of sweeping desert, Lawrence of Arabia-style. But Jabal Um Al Dami, Jordan’s highest peak at 6,083 feet, is here to showcase the diversity of the country. Near the border with Saudi Arabia in Aqaba Governate, the peak is an underrated adventure for summit-baggers. Take the day to summit the peak; the breaktaking views of Wadi Rum’s mountain ranges and northwestern Saudi Arabia’s sweeping deserts at the top is worth the climb.

After summiting the highest peak in Jordan, why not stand at the lowest point on earth? The shore of the Dead Sea lies at 1,378 feet below sea level, and visitors from higher altitudes will find the low altitude has its benefits — oxygen is dense here, and you’ll feel great! You’d be remiss not to float in the Dead Sea; with 34.2% salinity the water is 9.6 times saltier than the ocean. Slather up with mud and float away, but don’t get the water in your eyes! (Though friendly locals are often ready with bottled water to help flush the eyes of over-eager travelers.)

Another recommended stop, the ancient city of Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, showcases history well-preserved in its sandstone canyons. And while you may find yourself battling crowds through the main entrance, those who opt for the longer hike to the rear entrance, dubbed the Nabatean Route, will find solace along the quiet morning trail. This Back Route begins at nearby Little Petra and leads hikers along a winding trail to the Monastery (if you arrive early enough, you may have it to yourself) before descending 900 steps to the “main” part of the site, which boasts famous landmarks like the Treasury buildings and the Siq, the latter of which is a tall sandstone slot canyon made famous in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

It’s just one of the places where, not unlike the globetrotting archeologist, you might find yourself captivated by Jordan’s charms.

Written by Jess McGlothlin for RootsRated Media in partnership with RootsRated.

Featured image provided by David Stanley

Why Visiting Zion National Park In the Off Season Is a Great Idea

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The busy season at Zion National Park, one of Utah’s iconic "Mighty 5" national parks, is full of visitors. Mostly from March through October, more than 4.5 million tourists made the trek to Zion in 2017 alone and the park anticipates continued growth. Over the past decade, there’s been a 70 percent jump in annual visitation, leading the Park Service to consider proposals to protect Zion’s sensitive natural environments while continuing to provide quality visitor experiences.

While the park mulls over ways to manage high visitation during the peak season, the simplest way to avoid the masses and enjoy Zion is to come in the off-season, which runs from December through February. During those months, you’ll avoid traffic jams at the entrance stations, crammed parking lots, streams of hikers on popular trails, and overbooked hotels and restaurants in Springdale, which sits on the southwestern edge of the park.

Instead, you’ll find a quiet Zion where you can still drive into majestic Zion Canyon, hike the Narrows with far less company, watch deer graze in meadows below the Great White Throne, and go mountain biking, hiking, and canyoneering outside the national park. As a bonus, you’ll save cash with affordable lodging and your pick of fine restaurants in Springdale.

Need a few more reasons to come in the off-season?

The Weather is Often Perfect

The park’s off-season weather is a big surprise to visitors, with generally mild winter days. While you see spectacular photos of Zion’s cliffs draped in glistening snow, the fact is that it rarely snows at the lower elevations in Zion Canyon and Springdale, which lies at a modest 3,900 feet. Daytime high temperatures are often in the 50s and 60s, sometimes climbing into the 70s, while nighttime lows dip into the 30s, making perfect weather for driving the scenic roads and hiking Zion’s trails. If that seems a bit too cool, remember that summer not only brings crowds of tourists but also temperatures soaring into the low 100s.

It’s the Best Time to Avoid Crowds

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Find fewer people at the popular hikes in Zion Canyon, like on the Lower Emerald Pool Trail.

Ken Lund

The off-season is the ideal time to hike Zion’s trails as you’ll find fewer people and plenty of parking at trailheads. Even the popular hikes in Zion Canyon like Lower Emerald Pool Trail, Weeping Rock Trail, and Riverside Walk are uncrowded. You’ll see few other hikers on longer trails like Angels Landing, one of the summer’s most popular hikes, and the Observation Point Trail. The lower elevation trails are usually dry on sunny sections with icy patches lingering in the shade, while the high-elevation trails are icy and snow-covered. A good winter hike for snowshoers is the East Rim Trail to the overlook at Cable Mountain. Check in at the visitor center for current trail conditions and bring microspikes for traction and trekking poles for balance if it’s icy.

The Scenic Drive is Still Open—and You Won’t Have to Deal with Traffic

Zion’s off-season brings not only fewer visitors but also less traffic. The waits are short at the park entrance stations, and you’ll have no traffic jams and plenty of parking spaces along roads. The best part of the off-season is that shuttles don’t run up the 6.5-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, so you can experience the park’s most spectacular scenic road from the comfort of your own vehicle. The drive, following the canyon floor alongside the Virgin River, offers gorgeous views of towering sandstone formations and allows quick access to canyon trails. Be sure to stop at designated viewpoints like Court of the Patriarchs, Big Bend, and Temple of Sinawava for postcard views and trailheads for Angels Landing, Emerald Pools, and Sand Bench trails. Afterward, take a drive up the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel and hike the short Canyon Overlook Trail for views into Zion Canyon.

Accommodations Are Easy to Find and Less Costly

Springdale makes the best base camp for exploring Zion in the off-season. Without crowds of tourists, accommodations are plentiful and less costly than the busier months. You can pull in and get a room without a reservation at most hotels and motels in town (although calling ahead is recommended, particularly on holidays, to reserve your accommodations). You also can stay at Zion National Park Lodge in the heart of the canyon, with its spectacular views and quiet ambiance. If you want to rough it, Zion’s Watchman Campground is open on a first-come, first-served basis in the off-season. Campsites are usually available except on busy weekends.

There’s More To See Than Zion National Park

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You’ll find additional hiking outside of the park near Springdale, including the Eagle Crags Trail, Anasazi Trail, Coalpits Wash Trail, and Chinle Trail.

John and Jean Strother

After you’ve explored Zion Canyon and hiked a few park trails, head back to Springdale and discover plenty of outdoor adventures outside the national park. The off-season months are ideal for riding mountain bike tracks with cooler temperatures, few riders, and mostly dry trails. West of town is Gooseberry Mesa, offering some of Utah’s best singletrack terrain, and Guacamole Mesa’s 14 miles of slickrock trails, which are surrounded by breathtaking scenery. For an easy ride, follow an old road to the ghost town of Grafton.

While off-season is too cold for extreme canyoneering, stop by one of Springdale’s outfitters like Zion Guru or Zion Outfitter and see what dry canyons are open for adventure. They also can guide you rock climbing on sunny sandstone cliffs.

Springdale is a big draw for hikers, too, with miles of scenic trails outside Zion. Recommended hikes close to Springdale include the Eagle Crags Trail, Anasazi Trail, Coalpits Wash Trail, and Chinle Trail.

Everything is Still Open in Springdale

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You’ll find lots of restaurant options in Springdale, including Oscars Café, which has excellent outdoor seating.

Jason Rogers

After hiking Zion’s trails and taking in the astounding scenery, head back to Springdale for après hike drinks and fine meals. The town offers a variety of dining options for every taste and wallet, most within walking distance of your hotel, and far fewer visitors in the off-season. It’s a great opportunity get to know the locals and learn more about what you can do in (and out of) the park.

Zion Park Boulevard, the town’s main street, is lined with art galleries, shops, and restaurants serving Mexican, Asian, vegan, pizza, and American cuisine. Local favorites include Barefoot Taqueria, Bit & Spur Restaurant, Spotted Dog Café, Oscar’s Café, Cafe Soleil, Bistro H, and Jacks. For the best pint of handcrafted locally brewed beer and pub food, visit the Zion Canyon Brew Pub at the national park entrance.

Written by Stewart Green for RootsRated Media in partnership with ZionNationalPark.com.

Featured image provided by Zion National Park

Why You Should Bring Your Bike to Chattanooga (and the 11 Best Places to Ride)

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Whether it’s long-distance road biking, singletrack trail riding, or casual urban cruising, there’s a lot to be said for exploring a city on two wheels. And with it’s thriving downtown area, surrounding countryside, and a huge network of nearby trails, Chattanooga is a prime destination for all types of cyclists.

The city was ranked a Silver Level Bike Friendly Community by The League of American Bicyclists, and it plays hosts to several prestigious cycling events each year, including IRONMAN Chattanooga, the 3 State 3 Mountain Challenge, and the Five Points 50. Chattanooga has a huge range of cycling opportunities, whether you’re seeking an epic challenge or a family-friendly outing. To get you rolling, here are a few of the best local spots to go for a ride.

In-Town Adventures

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Chattanooga’s Riverwalk offers a scenic spot for a casual bike ride with many great spots to stop along the way.

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1. The Riverwalk

In its entirety, Chattanooga’s Riverwalk park spans more than a dozen miles from St. Elmo to the Chickamauga Dam. At the center of the Riverwalk are the Art District and the Tennessee Aquarium, two major attractions that are great jumping-off points for the multi-use path. From the Art District, you can follow the Riverwalk east about 8 miles to the dam, with restrooms, picnic areas, and riverfront views along the way. From the aquarium, hop on the Riverwalk in the opposite direction for a flat, less-traveled route to St. Elmo at the foot of Lookout Mountain.

2. Walnut Street Bridge & Northshore Parks

Built in 1890, the Walnut Street Bridge is one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world. Its blue trusses have become a symbol of Chattanooga, and it serves as a link between Downtown and Northshore, two of the city’s most popular areas. The bridge is perfect for a slow, scenic bike ride, and it leads right into Coolidge and Renaissance Parks on Northshore’s riverfront.

3. MLK District

This recently renovated street now offers a wonderful bike lane and a center turning lane, making it ideal for an urban cycling excursion. The MLK District is the perfect neighborhood to create your own bike and brew tour of Chattanooga, with two local breweries and several great bars within just a few blocks of each other. You can also check out the nearby Miller Plaza, which hosts outdoor events like Nightfall, a free summer concert series.

On the Trails

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The 30-mile trail system at Raccoon Mountain is one of the area’s most popular mountain biking destinations.

Kathryn Crouch

4. Raccoon Mountain

This extensive trail system hosts what many locals think of as the best mountain biking in Chattanooga. With more than 30 miles of singletrack trails and endless ways to string them together, you’ll feel like you have the place to yourself even on a busy weekend. While there are a couple of trails suitable for beginners, much of the riding on Raccoon Mountain is technical and challenging, offering an authentic southeastern mountain biking experience.

5. Enterprise South

This nature park on Chattanooga’s outskirts offer the ultimate beginner-friendly trail adventure. Its four bike trails, one of which is brand new in 2018, are well-marked and directional, so you need not worry about rounding a turn into another rider. While it has some elevation change, Enterprise South is known for being fast, flowy, and smooth. It’s easy enough for first-timers, but remains an ultra-fun option for advanced riders as well.

6. Stringers Ridge

Only have time for a quick ride on your visit to Chattanooga? Located just outside of downtown in Northshore, Stringers Ridge is the prime option for folks looking to get outdoors in a hurry. Nearly all of its seven miles of trails are bike-friendly, with the directional 4-mile “blue loop” being the most popular route for riders. Though short, this loop packs a punch with its constant ups and downs. An old paved path bisects the trail system and offers one of the best overlooks of downtown Chattanooga to be found anywhere.

7. Five Points

The newest addition to Chattanooga’s mountain bike scene, Five Points was opened in 2011 after major efforts by Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association and local partners. About 20 miles of trails radiate from a central intersection, and almost any selection will eventually return you to this starting point. One of Five Points’ major draws is that all but one of the trails are bike-only, so riders can be worry-free from hikers and runners.

Long Road Rides

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The quiet roads found near the Chickamauga Battlefield are an excellent option for road cycling.

Kathryn Crouch

8. Moccasin Bend Loop

This ride is one of the most popular and easily accessible road rides in Chattanooga. Starting anywhere in Northshore, this route offers a scenic trip to the tip of the Moccasin Bend peninsula, passing through an industrial area before entering a beautiful forest where wildlife can often be spotted. Many riders use this flat, straight road for sprints and time trials, and you’ll usually find more bikes than cars on this section of the route.

9. Suck Creek Road

Perhaps one of the most scenic rides in Chattanooga, Suck Creek is a 20-mile out-and-back ride with about 1,700 feet of elevation gain. The first few miles are quite flat and follow the Tennessee River into the “Grand Canyon of the South,” offering views of the dramatic bluffs that frame the river. Once the ascent begins, the road’s namesake creek hugs the right side of the pavement and babbles with mini-waterfalls and rushing cascades all the way to the turnaround. For a longer ride, this route can be turned into the 68-mile Henson Gap Loop, which drops down into Sequatchie Valley and takes a scenic, roundabout way back into the city.

10. Flintstone

This 49-mile loop begins downtown and traces the base of Lookout Mountain south to Flintstone, Georgia, before climbing up and over Lookout to descend back to Chattanooga. The climb is a steady, manageable grade, leading to a few rolling hills on the mountaintop. You’ll achieve some well-earned speed on the Ochs Highway descent, but be sure to watch out for traffic and sharp turns.

11. Chickamauga Battlefield

The flat, little-trafficked roads of Chickamauga Battlefield make it the perfect place for both fast training laps and leisurely bicycle trips. A mixture of forests and pastures, this seemingly remote countryside is dotted with restored war monuments and historical markers. Loops range from 6 to 14 miles, so pick up a map at the visitor center to determine which route is best for you.

There are dozens of reasons to let your bike tag along on a visit to Chattanooga, whatever your two-wheeled forte may be. From casual urban exploring to gnarly day-long mountain climbs, there’s no doubt that Chattanooga is home to an array of cycling adventure that will leave you wanting more.

Written by Madison Eubanks for RootsRated Media in partnership with Chattanooga CVB.

Featured image provided by Kathryn Crouch

Can You Lose Weight on Your Next Vacation?

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Wouldn’t it be great if you came home from a vacation in better shape than when you left? Instead of another trip spent lounging on the beach sipping margaritas, use your time off to revolutionize your life—while losing weight at the same time. No, this isn’t your mom’s weight-loss camp. Unlike the sufferfests of yesteryear, modern retreats focus on healthy weight-loss techniques, relaxation, and restoration, and most importantly, having fun. And at Red Mountain Resort in St. George, Utah, the stunning red-rock landscapes are all part of the package.

What is a Weight-Loss Retreat?

Never heard of weight-loss retreat? Vacations typically focus on indulging and spending time with friends or family, but weight-loss retreats shift this paradigm, making it all about you. So much so that it’s recommended you come alone instead of with a partner or friend. Why? Because removing commitments and everyday distractions of people and work allows you to focus on improving your health and happiness.

At these retreats, you’ll kickstart weight loss by adopting healthy eating habits and learning how to focus on more than a number on the scale. Through massive action, you’ll make permanent changes that improve your health, happiness, and longevity—instead of quick fixes where the weight returns as soon as you’re home.

What Makes Red Mountain Resort Retreats Different (and Better)

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Red Mountain Resort has created a weight-loss retreat that focuses on teaching participants techniques that will work in their everyday life.

Red Mountain Resort

Red Mountain Resort has been a premier provider of health and wellness retreats in Southern Utah for 20 years, and its innovative take has netted many awards and accolades through the years. People come to Red Mountain for everything from adventurous getaways to soul-searching journeys, but individualized weight-loss retreats are a unique experience for those looking to improve their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Red Mountain Resort is designed for adult guests, so you’ll have to leave the kids at home, but teens are welcome when accompanied by a parent or guardian.

For those on a retreat, starvation and restrictive diets are out, and self-care and nutritional support are in. Compared to other wellness resorts, Red Mountain guests receive more individualized testing and attention—and a big dose of something else—adventure. The resort property abuts the sprawling Snow Canyon State Park, a red-rock oasis with endless hiking trails. Each day, guests can venture off property and into the park to explore slot canyons, towering sandstone cliffs, and old lava flows.

What Red Mountain’s Weight-Loss Retreats Include

Losing weight isn’t easy, and Red Mountain Resort builds individualized packages that help you reach your weight-loss goals. Participants on the retreat also receive physical, emotional, mental, and nutritional guidance from the resort’s team to keep their progress on track.

You’ll book a seven-day Sunday-Sunday stint (but many guests stay longer), which includes modern accommodations, three meals a day, guided hiking and fitness classes, acupuncture and body wrap for detoxification, nutrition and training consultation, group workshops on fitness and food, and a customized fitness plan.

What You Can Learn at a Weight-Loss Retreat

At this remarkable resort, retreats aren’t one-time experiences that quickly fade from memory. These seven-day getaways are designed to revolutionize your eating habits and help you make permanent, healthy changes in your life. Here are just a few concepts you’ll take with you when you leave:

Mindful Eating

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Dishes at the Red Mountain Resort are creative and flavorful—and designed to help you think about how to eat healthier meals once you return home.

Red Mountain Resort

Red Mountain Resort skips strict, restrictive diets in favor of mindful eating. Flavorful, healthy eats make up every meal, and a nutrition key for each dish shows you its calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber. Example portions are dished out alongside the buffet to guide how you fill your plate. These methods teach you to think about what you eat, appreciating your food and learning to choose it wisely. Chefs also teach cooking classes so you can take your newfound nutrition knowledge home.

Meals are eaten in the beautiful Canyon Breeze Restaurant, which features Utah desert views and a shaded outdoor patio. Choose from a breakfast buffet or a made-to-order menu every morning with dishes like huevos rancheros and multigrain pancakes. A fresh soup and salad bar kicks off every other meal, and a rotating selection of hot buffet entrees keep things interesting. A new dinner menu is posted each day, and options such as mouthwatering tempeh tacos, free-range meats, and roasted wild fish will make you forget you’re on a weight-loss retreat. And you don’t even have to give up dessert.

Red Mountain believes in changing the way you interact with food, letting you make your own healthy choices while enjoying occasional indulgences. This strategy improves outcomes when you return home, paving the way for long-term weight loss success.

How to Get into a Fitness Routine

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You’ll find a variety of different fitness classes to choose from during the retreat.

Red Mountain Resort

Fitness classes are included at Red Mountain Resort and are welcoming to all ability levels. From yoga to Zumba, boot camp to drumming, try everything to find what you love. Work out at different times of the day to see when you perform best. Take your newfound fitness routine with you by finding similar classes at your home gym.

Healthy Habits

Red Mountain Resort advocates whole-body wellness and creating healthy, sustainable habits, like eating three square meals a day, meditating, and making fitness part of your daily routine. Build your own schedule and create new behaviors that will keep you on track to reach your weight-loss goals.

Outdoor Appreciation

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Outdoor adventure is a big part of a retreat at Red Mountain Resort.

Red Mountain Resort

Stunning sandstone landscapes and black lava rocks are Red Mountain Resort’s backyard, and outdoor adventures are a big part of the retreat offerings. The location adjacent to Snow Canyon State Park and near Zion National Park means you can explore trails on daily guided hikes while bonding with others on the same journey. Add other thrilling activities like rappelling, rock climbing, and paddleboarding.

Stress Reduction

Stress can cause you to pack on pounds. Rebalance your life by practicing yoga, developing a meditation routine, and walking the resort’s labyrinth to clear your head and refocus. Go deep with an intuitive reading or chakra balancing, or just lie back in a hammock, read a book, and unwind.

Red Mountain Resort retreats aren’t one-time fixes, but attending one can lead to permanent change by using the lessons learned to reach your weight-loss goals.

Written by Jenny Willden for RootsRated Media in partnership with Red Mountain Resort.

Featured image provided by Red Mountain Resort

5 Kentucky Destinations Where You Can Do More Than One Outdoor Sport in a Day

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During some vacations you just want to relax. But, on others you might like to spend some of the time challenging yourself and packing as much as possible into a day. Maybe you dream of tying into a rope and climbing to new heights to check out the forest you just traversed. Or, you might want to paddle down a the river that you saw while mountain biking.

If you’re interested in a multi-sport day of adventure, you’ll find plenty of options in the wilds of Kentucky. From the depths of dark caves to high rocky outcrops, you can enjoy a wide range of landscapes and activities during a Kentucky day. To help you plan your next heart-pumping journey, we’ve highlighted a few of the best places to do multiple outdoor activities in a day.

1. Red River Gorge Geological Area

Begin your day on the Red River, floating through the heart of Kentucky’s rugged wilderness. As you explore the 8-mile lower section of this National Wild and Scenic River, you’ll pass sandstone cliffs that rise from the forest and encounter deep green foliage that dips into the water. It’s an otherworldly place with beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife. To launch this portion of your multi-sport day, head to Red River Adventure to rent a canoe or kayak and arrange shuttle services. If you have your own boat, you can arrange for Red River Adventure to pick you up at the take-out.

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The high-quality rock climbing in the gorge attracts people from all over the world.

Tina Karle

When you’ve finished floating, get up close and personal with the rock walls you just passed and scale the red sandstone cliffs and giant amphitheaters hidden in the heart of the forest. The high-quality rock climbing in the gorge attracts people from all over the world, and your ascent will provide a bird’s-eye view of the dense forest and the intricate network of cliffs. Southeast Mountain Guides offers guided rock climbing and rappelling, and no experience is necessary. Kentucky Rock and Adventure Guides also offers guided rock climbing as well as classes where you’ll learn climbing basics like knot-tying, belaying, and equipment use.

2. Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area

Flanking the Land Between the Lakes peninsula, Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley form a kayaker’s dream, with endless coves, wetlands, and more than 300 miles of shoreline to explore. For your first adventure of the day, kayak the Ginger Bay Water Trail or any of the many scenic water trails in the area. As you glide past forested shores, bluffs and rocky outcroppings, keep an eye out for bald eagles.

You can rent a canoe, kayak, or fishing boat at the Lake Barkley State Resort Park Marina. Also, the Energy Lake Marina rents canoes, and you can rent a canoe or kayak from the Woodlands Nature Station at Land Between the Lakes. Situated between Honker and Hematite lakes, the Nature Station offers plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities and the chance to kayak away from some of the bigger motorized watercraft of Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. The Nature Station also offers affordable guided tours with a park naturalist. Head out on the sunset tour or the eagle-watching kayak tour for lots of chances to see wildlife.

You can rent a luxury pontoon boat or fishing boat from Green Turtle Bay Resort, beginning at $75 for a half-day on the water. Buzzard Rock Marina, Big Bear Marina, and Shawnee Bay Marina all rent pontoon boats, paddleboats and jon boats, starting as low as $47 a day.

After a peaceful morning, turn it up a notch and mountain bike through the lush forest of Land Between the Lakes. The Canal Loop Trail is the most popular and scenic mountain biking path, traversing 11 miles of singletrack in a large loop, with multiple opportunities for viewing the lakes. There are three different connectors from the main loop, so you can cut it short if it's too long, or just do a 1-mile loop.

The Central Hardwoods Scenic Trail is 11 miles one-way, and the first 2.5 miles are paved, with gentle grades and great lake views, making it a good option for families or beginners. For those who want more of a challenge, continue for the next 8.5 miles of ridges and hills through the hardwood forest.

If you don't have a bike, rent one from Wood-N-Wave Bicycle, a family-owned rental shop that's conveniently located at the northern entrance to Land Between the Lakes.

3. Big South Fork National Recreation Area

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If you want to hike to a waterfall, try Yahoo arch, accessed from the Yahoo Falls Scenic Area.

Tim Adams

Launch your day with a ride among Big South Fork’s sandstone bluffs, pausing occasionally at rock outcrops to enjoy beautiful views of the river below. The mountain biking in Big South Fork is on the rugged side, and it’s a choose-your-own-adventure of sorts. You’ll find rides anywhere from just a few miles long all the way to quad-busting 35-mile loops. A favorite ride is to the John Muir Overlook, beginning at Peter’s Mountain Trailhead. You’ll ride past rock outcroppings with panoramic views of the forest plunging into the Big South Fork River Gorge—a truly memorable sight. From the overlook, turn around to complete the shorter ride, or keep going to continue the whole 35-mile loop.

After an adrenaline-filled ride, relax in the afternoon with an awe-inspiring hike to the sandstone rock arches of Big South Fork. As you stroll through the forest, you’ll get glimpses of these unique formations that seem to rise out of the forest unexpectedly. Some arches are so high and large that they were once used for wagon roads. Check out Wagon Arch, or if you want to hike to a waterfall, try Yahoo arch, accessed from the Yahoo Falls Scenic Area. Another good destination is Split Bow Arch, a high, thin formation that is accessed by a scenic half-mile hike from the Bear Creek Overlook.

4. Cave Run Lake

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Find miles and miles of trails at Cave Run Lake.

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Get your heart rate going with a run on the woodland trails at Cave Run Lake, where a network of trails allows you to complete a loop of almost any distance or difficulty. You can hug the lake on the the 2.5-mile Twin Knobs Shoreline Trail, or ascend the 1.5-mile Knob Overlook Trail to enjoy lofty views. For a more rugged adventure, make your way to the backcountry Sheltowee Trace Trail, Kentucky’s longest trail where you can explore miles and miles of narrow, steep, wooded ridges and quiet creeks.

After your run, grab a paddleboard or kayak, or even rent a pontoon boat, and head out to enjoy a sunny afternoon on the water. Cave Run Lake is large, with 8,000 acres and plenty of shoreline to paddle, and there are lots of places to relax and fish. Bring your rod and cast a line for trout, catfish, bass, walleye, or even the elusive muskie. See if you can break the record for the largest Muskie caught in Kentucky, which weighed almost 50 pounds.

5. Carter Caves State Resort Park

Begin the day at Carter Caves State Resort Park, winding through narrow, subterranean passageways and exploring caverns with fantastic geologic formations. Depending on how ambitious and daring your are, you can choose from a variety of cave excursions.

The 75-minute Cascade Tour is the longest and most difficult, covering three-quarters of a mile of rolling terrain and stairs. It's worth it, though, to see the underground 30-foot-tall waterfall and the unique cave formations.

X-Cave is rated as moderate, as it’s 45 minutes long and only a quarter of a mile. But, there are lots of stair steps, narrow passages, and places where you have to stoop. It's unique in that it takes you through two vertical passages that form the shape of an "X," with lots of stalactites and other cave features.

Saltpetre Cave is 60 minutes long, and is fairly easy, covering only about a half-mile of flat terrain. Along the way you’ll learn about the fascinating history of saltpetre, one of Kentucky's first industries, and a vital ingredient in the gunpowder used during the War of 1812.

After your underground adventure, explore the surface. Carter Caves State Resort Park has a variety of wooded trails, many with interesting geologic features. The Natural Bridge Trail and the Raven Bridge Trail both feature sandstone arches, and the Natural Bridge Arch is so large that it even supports a paved road. Check out three of the main sandstone arches in the park by hiking the 3.5-mile Three Bridges Trail.

Written by Jacqui Levy for RootsRated Media in partnership with Kentucky Tourism.

Featured image provided by Laurel F

What Your Post-Adventure Kentucky Craft Brew Says About You

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The craft-beer scene is booming in Kentucky, with dozens of breweries throughout the state offering a great variety of drinks, from fruit-flavored porters to ales that are aged in barrels. The terrain of the beer scene is as varied as Kentucky’s landscape, and you’re certain to find a brew that suits you perfectly.

They say there are certain “personality types” among craft beer lovers. Your choice in beer could indicate you’re a “geek” or “gourmand,” a happy-go-lucky person, or even a deep-thinker. With that in mind, we’ve highlighted some of Kentucky’s iconic craft beers and the types of people that gravitate toward them. Check ‘em out—do any of these brews match your personality?

Sprockets

Ever since Mike Myers created “Sprockets,” the mock-German TV show on “Saturday Night Live,” America’s view of German culture hasn’t been the same. Gravely Brewing Co. in Louisville created a pilsner beer of the same name, and it won silver in the 2018 World Beer Cup German Pilsner category. If you want to taste the beer in its full, silver-medal glory, you have to wait for the 7-minute pour, which brings out the flavor in more exciting ways.

If Sprockets is your post-adventure beverage, you’re a person who knows good beer. You’ve been to Oktoberfest in Germany and own the craftsman-made lederhosen to prove it. You know all the German beer-drinking songs, and have to sing “Ein Prosit” at least once an hour while drinking. Your collection of steins requires its own room in your home, and you speak fluent German, or at least enough to order the best beer in Munich. You like to tell your friends, “Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance!”

Cold Hard Truth

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In 1937, the Ohio River flooded, causing devastation throughout the state, including Paducah. When the flood covered the Coca-Cola bottling plant owned by Luther Carson, he said that if he ever reached dry ground he’d rebuild his plant. And he did in 1939. Now, that plant is the site of Paducah’s first craft brewery, Dry Ground Brewing Company.

If Cold Hard Truth, a “wee heavy” Scotch ale, is your post-adventure brew, you are a person who doesn’t like to fool around. You don’t sugar-coat your words to save anyone’s feelings. Yes, the tattoo hurt. Yes, skydiving might kill you, but it’s totally worth it. No, that hairstyle is not flattering on you. You’ve traveled the world but never once set foot in a “tourist trap,” preferring to get your experiences more authentically, like sleeping on a roof in Morocco, camping in the Black Forest or couch-surfing in Nepal.

Falls City Classic Pilsner

Falls City was founded in 1905 as one of Louisville’s classic, iconic beer brands and it operated until it was shuttered in 1978. In the late 1990s, a Pittsburgh company revived the brand, but then shut it down in 2007. Then, in 2010 Falls City Beer was brought back to life once again, and a taproom opened recently in Louisville’s Nulu neighborhood.

If you’re drinking a Classic Pilsner, you’re a person with classic tastes. You want high-quality beer, but you don’t need anything too fancy—just something that goes down smooth and easy. While you appreciate a small-batch brewery, you’re not a hipster. If you sport a trucker’s cap and bushy beard, it’s because you actually drive a rig and don’t have time to shave. After a great day of fishing, you get together with friends, pour some cold ones and crank up the classic rock.

Pay it Forward Cocoa Porter

Housed in a building that was once a bakery, West Sixth Brewing offers delicious beer and serves it with a slice of social consciousness. Founded in 2012, the company focuses on environmental sustainability and lends support to nonprofits organizations.

Pay it Forward Cocoa Porter is made with organic, fair-trade cacao nibs. For every six-pack of Pay it Forward, 50 cents is donated to a Kentucky charity. So, drinking this beer is actually paying it forward. If your post-adventure brew is the Pay it Forward, you’re a socially conscious person who wants to help others and protect the planet. You shop with reusable bags and prefer to buy food from the farmer’s market. You recycle everything possible and proudly wear used clothing. When you travel, you avoid tourist traps, get off the beaten path, and spend a portion of your trip volunteering to help a local community. When you gather with friends over beers you discuss the merits of moving your house off the grid or downsizing to a tiny home.

76 Falls

Jarfly is the Appalachian term for the cicada, a chirping bug heard all summer long in Kentucky’s hills and valleys. Jarfly Brewing Co. opened in a location that was once a long-time furniture store in Somerset, and brought the building back to life, similar to the way the cicada hides in the ground for 13 or 17 years before bursting forth.

76 Falls, a blonde ale, is named for a Lake Cumberland waterfall that’s popular among boaters and swimmers. If this creamy brew is your post-adventure drink, you likely love the water and all the fun it offers. You like to swim, boat, water-ski, wakeboard, drive a waverunner, snorkel, kayak, canoe, sail, stand-up paddleboard, play water polo and maybe even do some synchronized swimming. Your cannonball has won first place for highest splash in multiple contests. You almost always have a waterproof video camera attached to your person, and your friends can’t remember what your hair looks like when it’s dry.

Written by Lisa Hornung for RootsRated Media in partnership with Kentucky Tourism.

Featured image provided by Drew Farwell

10 Unique Places to Stay in the Southern Finger Lakes Region

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The landscape of New York’s Southern Finger Lakes region is anything but ordinary. The region’s gently rolling blue hills, shimmering lakes, wildlife-rich forests, and endearing towns offer a whole range of accommodation options, with something for every type of traveler—from off-the-grid adventurers to farm-to-table foodies to artistically inclined culture vultures. Break the mold and plan a getaway at one of these unique accommodation options in the Southern Finger Lakes region surrounding Corning, N.Y.

1. Black Sheep Inn & Spa

Located just outside Hammondsport and within walking distance of Keuka Lake, the Black Sheep Inn & Spa is a truly singular escape. The historic, octagonal-shaped structure is done in an Italian stucco style and offers five uniquely appointed guest rooms, along with plenty of cushy perks, including locally sourced farm-to-table breakfasts, special packages for beer and wine lovers, and an on-site spa offering Swedish, deep-tissue, and hot-stone massages. For the artistically inclined, innkeepers Debbie Meritsky and Marc Rotman create art with creatively repurposed materials at the property’s F.L.A.V.O.R Studio & Gallery.

2. Taylor Farm B & B

Wildlife lovers will adore the bucolic Taylor Farm B & B, located just west of Keuka Lake. Book a room in the homey bed & breakfast or rent the Carriage House featuring two sleeping lofts and master bedroom spread over 1,200 feet (including a massive balcony). The 315-acre farm also features scenic walking trails, providing guests the opportunity to encounter area white-tailed deer, beavers, and pileated woodpeckers.

3. Pleasant Valley Inn

There is plenty to entice traveling foodies in the Finger Lakes, including the Victorian-inspired Pleasant Valley Inn. At the chef-owned inn located just outside Hammondsport in the aptly named Pleasant Valley, guests can take advantage of the daily continental breakfast served al fresco and indulge in gourmet meals at the inn’s in-house restaurant, which even offers homemade ice cream (it’s freshly churned every single day!). The elegantly yet cozy inn also has an on-site pub, the perfect place to linger for a nightcap after a scrumptious dinner.

4. The Gaffer Inn

Check out the cultural offerings of the Southern Finger Lakes at the Gaffer Inn, located on Market Street in the bustling center of Corning’s historic Gaffer District, a hub for arts and entertainment. The stylishly appointed inn offers four spacious guests rooms, convenient to iconic cultural attractions like the Corning Museum of Glass and the Rockwell Museum, which highlights the work of American artists. The trendy inn sits directly above Burgers and Beer of Corning, a character-infused eatery serving classic comfort food and offering 30 different beers on tap.

5. Button’s Creekside Farm B&B

Bask in the charm of the Southern Finger Lakes at Button’s Creekside Farm and B&B, just outside the town of Cohocton. The historic farmhouse dates back to the middle of the 19th century and offers four homey guests rooms, each decorated with tasteful antiques. Relax on the front porch with a riveting book, tuck into heaping, homemade breakfasts (including juice made from local concord grapes), or help out with farm chores, which involves meeting resident lambs and kittens. The bed & breakfast also offers unique packages for guests, including pottery experiences with local artisans and culinary experiences that include a visit to Healing Spirits Herb Farm and Education Center located just down the road.

6. Hickory Hill Family Camping Resort

Located just south of Keuka Lake, the Hickory Hill Family Camping Resort has something for everyone. Outdoor lovers can pitch a tent at one of the resort’s campsites, while visitors craving a few more creature comforts can opt for a cabin, cottage, or loft-filled lodge. The resort also has a handful of options for larger groups, including the Bunk House, which sleeps 18 and offers summertime perks like a spacious firepit for s’mores and a sizeable gas grill. Large groups can rent the historic Lehman House, which dates back to the 1850s but now features modern conveniences like a spacious kitchen and family room. It can accommodate up to 12 guests.

7. Stony Brook State Park

The rustic cabins and family-friendly campsites at Stony Brook State Park provide the ideal base camp for waterfall hikes, sun-soaked picnics, and refreshing dips in the park’s stream-filled natural pool. Take advantage of the easy trail access offered by the park’s leafy campsites, or cozy-up in the one of the dog-friendly cabins (which sleep four), ideal for family getaways. In addition to the trio of waterfalls, natural pool, and woodland trails, Stony Brook State Park also features tennis courts, ball fields, and a playground for young campers.

8. Birdseye State Forest

For the ultimately camping experience, head to Birdseye Hollow State Forest, and spend a night beside the lily-pad covered waters of Sanford Lake. For campers already equipped with gear, the state forest offers shady campsites tucked among the towering pines bordering Sanford Lake, ideal for a weekend of bass fishing or kayaking. Besides Sanford Lake, the state forest has plenty of other outdoor offerings, including a portion of the Finger Lakes Trail, a 558-mile footpath meandering across west-central New York from Allegany State Park eastward to the Catskill Forest Preserve.

9. 18 Vine Inn & Carriage House

History buffs can plan the ultimate getaway at 18 Vine Inn & Carriage House in Hammondsport, part of a 19th-century property once belonging to the country’s first champagne producer, Jules Mason. The historic bed & breakfast offers six uniquely decorated rooms, each named for notable historical figures, tucked away on a property adorned with restful gardens and a pool. Guests can also rent quarters in the adjacent Carriage House, including the two bed Coachman’s Quarters or smaller Coach Suite. Large families can even rent the entire Carriage House, which comfortably fits seven.

10. McCarthy Hill State Forest

Craving a little trail time and a night in the backcountry? Head for the McCarthy Hills State Forest, just outside the town of Addison. Primitive camping is allowed throughout the 794-acre state forest (free of charge), and backpackers can easily craft overnight or multi-day hiking loop on the interconnected trail network, showcasing seclude ponds, woodlands, and wildflower-sprinkled meadows. Visitors can also explore the trail system at adjacent Pinnacle State Park, or hop on the Crystal Hills Trail, a 50-mile long offshoot of the regional Finger Lakes Trail.

Need a few more ideas of what to do on your next trip to the Fingers Lakes? Download our free experience guide here.

Written by Malee Baker Oot for RootsRated Media in partnership with Steuben County CVB.

Featured image provided by Andy Arthur