Winterplace Ski Resort- Skiing & Snowboarding

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Intro

There's no better place for you to learn the ropes of the slopes. Winterplace Ski Resort has a comfortable teaching environment with eager instructors ready to help make your introduction to skiing or snowboarding fun. Boasting 27 trails, 9 lifts, 2 terrain parks, and the state's largest snowtubing park, Winterplace has something for everyone.

If you would like to spend a day or a weekend, you can stay at the resort’s on-site lodging, which includes cabins. The resort also has agreements with other fine lodging partners in the area. There are plenty of dining options as well, including Mountain Mama's Food Court, The Mountain House, Mickey's Mountain Cafe, and The Snowdrift Lounge, where you can try your hand at karaoke on Saturday evenings, and maybe even win prizes.

What Makes It Great

Winterplace is inviting and family-friendly. It’s ideal for beginners wanting to learn the fundamentals without feeling intimidated or overwhelmed. In fact, it was voted “The Best Place to Learn How To Ski and Snowboard in the Southeast” by Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine.

It’s also very affordable. You can join their 5-week program, which includes an all-area lift ticket, equipment, and a 90-minute lesson for 1 weekday evening per week, for only $109. The goal is to give you everything you need to get started. So, no more excuses; it’s time to hit the slopes.

Winterplace has one of the most elaborate snowmaking systems around, so even when Mother Nature is not dependable, the slopes here will still be ready and waiting for you. And, they have the longest skiing day in the southeast—slopes are open 9am–10pm weekdays and 8am–10pm weekends.

Who is Going to Love It

Winterplace is committed to developing lifetime skiers. No matter your age, this is the ideal place to hone your skills. Though some trails may not meet the level of more seasoned skiers and snowboarders, mountain veterans will still enjoy the clean lines and smooth runs.

There is also a focus on family fun. With terrain that is not too technical, you can ease your way in. A day of skiing or snowboarding is very affordable, especially during the week, when you can sometimes get specials for up to 50% off. Buying online also saves money and time. Rentals are available.

If you have people in your group who may not be interested in skiing or snowboarding, then perhaps the largest snow tubing park in the state will pique some interest. There are 20 lanes of tubing at an affordable rate.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The resort is easily accessible, located immediately off of I-77 in Ghent, and within a few hours’ drive of many metropolitan areas. There is plenty of free parking.

Written by Angela Sundstrom for RootsRated in partnership with West Virginia .

Featured image provided by Winterplace Ski Resort

6 Must-Do Adventures in New York’s Southern Finger Lakes Region

Stonybrook State Park Couple on Bridge

Verdant rolling hills, shimmering waters, and a lively culture make New York’s Southern Finger Lakes the perfect adventure destination. Soak up the sun while lounging on the shores of Keuka Lake, spend an afternoon sampling craft beverages, or get out in nature—you really can’t go wrong when it comes to how you spend your time here.

Known for its sprawling vineyards and wishbone-shaped lake, the Corning and Finger Lakes area is the perfect summertime playground for water sports, fishing, biking, hiking, and so much more. Start exploring with this list of the most iconic outdoor adventures and things to do in the region. (Don’t be surprised if you find a new summer tradition!)

1. Get on the Water at Keuka Lake

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Keuka Lake is perfect for stand-up paddleboarding.

Photo courtesy of Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes

Almost endless opportunities abound on the clear, cool waters of Keuka Lake. Rent a motorboat and cruise the 22 miles of undulating shoreline or get the family out on water skis, boogie boards, or in a tube. For a more hands-on experience, kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards are all widely available for rent. While not exactly a watersport, another not-to-be-missed Keuka Lake experience is a seaplane ride that offers an overhead look at the famous Y-shaped lake as well as views of the vineyards stretching into the horizon.

2. Cast a Line in the Chemung, Cohocton, or Tioga

The fish are jumping and the waters are flowing year round for both experienced and novice anglers alike on the Chemung, Cohocton, and Tioga rivers. More than 30,000 stock trout are released into area waters, helping create some of the best fishing in the northeast. The Chemung and Tioga Rivers are known for their muskie fishing, but the jewel of Steuben County fishing is the Cohocton River, which is home to both wild and stocked trout. A nice stretch of the waterway where you can drop a line is off State Route 415 and Wentworth Road, where there is a special angler footpath for river access.

3. Cycle Through the Countryside

Breathe in the crisp air as you explore the lush, vine-covered hills while biking through the Southern Finger Lakes region. Of course, a couple of winery stops and a picnic along the way is always a popular option, but for a real heart-pumping adventure, try the Hammondsport Circle Tour. This 36-mile route takes you through some of the most breathtaking scenery in Steuben County.

If riding for a cause is appealing, sign up for the Tour de Keuka, an annual charity bike ride around the lake region in July that benefits the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. There are several scenic routes and distances to choose from including 16-, 45-, 60-, or 100-mile rides.

4. Chase Waterfalls at Stony Brook State Park

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Take a hike through Stony Brook State Park for some of the prettiest views in the region.

Photo courtesy of Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes

Stony Brook State Park in Dansville is a go-to destination for waterfall lovers, and three moderately challenging trails are the best way to explore the park. The Gorge Trail is the easiest, following Stony Brook as it winds past picturesque rock formations and three waterfalls, ending at a stream-fed pool at the North Entrance. Wear brightly-colored clothes during your visit to attract the grey petaltail dragonfly, often seen landing on arms and hats.

5. Tour the Craft Beverage Scene

It’s well-known that the Finger Lakes region produces great wine, period. But the area also has a thriving—and growing—craft brewing and distillery scene. With almost 30 brewers to choose from, you’re sure to find a beer, cider, vodka, gin, or whiskey to suit even the most discerning palate.

Four Fights Distilling in Corning is Steuben County's oldest distillery. This "one-man show" produces small-batch vodka, gin, bourbon, and a variety of specialty products, including the intriguingly named Imperial Apple Pie. Find out first-hand just how many options you have on the self-guided Craft Your Adventure* *tour and sip into some of the most innovative craft brews and spirits on the East Coast.

6. Explore the Finger Lakes Trail System

A true labor of love, the Finger Lakes Trail system was born in the 1960s and has grown to almost 580 miles of trails winding their way across the Finger Lakes Region. (When you consider neighboring trails off the FLT, the total system reaches close to 950 miles.) About 70 miles of the trail twists across Steuben County, with the expanding network growing thanks to a dedicated band of volunteer helping to create and maintain trails. You’ll find multiple access points for getting onto the trail, including many hikes starting at most of the area state parks.

The trail system is perfect for day hikes or weekend-long adventures, and highlights include crashing waterfalls, treks through vineyards, a wide range of diverse habitat and ecosystems. The well-maintained and marked trails make access easy—the biggest decision will be where to start! One of the more unique places is the Huckleberry Bog Nature Trail on the Bristol Hills Branch Loop near Hammondsport, which is great for families and anyone interested in the history of the area.

For even more ideas of things to do on your next trip to the Corning and Finger Lakes region, download our Experience Guide and start planning!

Written by Lisa Collard for RootsRated Media in partnership with Steuben County CVB.

Featured image provided by Photo courtesy of Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes

An Ode to Alabama’s National Wildlife Refuges

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Long before groups like the Nature Conservancy were established to protect lands and waters in the United States, the federal government set up agencies and programs to protect fragile landscapes, wildlife and wildlife habitats.

The first “reservation” was established in 1869 in the Pribilof Islands of Alaska to help protect fur seals. That reservation led to the birth of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), which now includes more than 560 refuges, 38 wetland management districts, and other protected areas that total over 150 million acres, all managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

In Alabama there are 11 National Wildlife Refuges, and they protect a great diversity of wildlands, from the deep caves in the northern sector of the state to the barrier sand dunes on the Gulf Coast. Thanks to these refuges, Alabama remains one of the most ecologically diverse regions in the South, and in the country. Plus, the refuge system ensures that the state’s abundant forests, streams, lakes and coastal ecosystems will be enjoyed by generations of Alabamians. If you’re not familiar with the various refuges in Alabama, this quick guide will get up to speed on the wildlife and landscapes they protect, and what you’ll encounter when you visit them.

Protecting the Geology

In north Alabama, where the geology is primarily made up of limestone, you’ll find a remarkable geologic phenomenon called karst topography. Because limestone is very soft, wind and water dissolve it easily. What’s left behind is what cavers will tell you is a fascinating labyrinth of sinkholes, caves, and underground streams.

Alabama is part of the TAG Area (Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia), which has an extensive karst topography. In 1997, in aptly named Limestone County near Florence, the 1,060-acre Key Cave NWR was established to protect this fragile geologic area and in turn the habitat it provides for two species of sightless crayfish and the Alabama cavefish, a small, sightless fish that can only be found here. The cave is also the home of 40,000 endangered gray bats.

Protecting Gray Bats

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The Sauta Cave NWR was created in Jackson County in 1981.

Alan Cressler

Gray bats were placed on the endangered species list in 1976, but their numbers began to dwindle long before that. The reason for the decline? Gray bats tend to live in large numbers in only a few caves. Because of this, they are highly sensitive to any disturbance, which causes them to use a lot of energy during hibernation, and many die because of it. In recent years, gray bats have also faced the deadly virus known as white nose disease.

Shortly after being placed on the endangered list, USFWS established the Fern Cave NWR near Gurley, Alabama. This 199-acre refuge is the gateway to an intricate underground cave system that is the home of the largest wintering colony of gray bats in the country. The refuge gets its name from the rare Hart-Tongue Fern that grows here.

In addition to Fern Cave, the Sauta Cave NWR was created in Jackson County in 1981. It was once a Civil War saltpeter mine, then a prohibition nightclub, and then a 1960s fallout shelter. Now, the cave is the summer home and breeding habitat for more than 300,000 gray and Indiana bats. It’s an awesome sight to see hundreds of thousands of these nocturnal creatures swarm out of the caves around sunset en masse.

Protecting Fish, Reptiles, Birds & Mammals

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Established in 1938, Wheeler NWR near Decatur and is the oldest wildlife refuge in the state.

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Among Alabama’s 11 NWRs, five really stand out, including the state’s largest, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Located near Decatur, Wheeler is the oldest NWR in the state, having been established in 1938. The location was selected because it’s on a major waterway, the Tennessee River, but also because it’s on the eastern boundary of the Mississippi Flyway, a major migration route for birds. Thousands of wintering birds call the refuge home each year, including the rare Whooping Crane.

The watercress darter, a colorful but small, 2-inch long fish can only be found in a few natural springs in the state. In 1988, USFWS opened the Watercress Darter NWR near Bessemer to protect the quarter-acre Thomas Spring.

On the Gulf Coast in northern Mobile County, more than 4,200 acres in the Choctaw NWR have been set aside to protect a winter habitat for migrating wood ducks.

On the eastern side of the state, the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge has over 11,000 acres of what has been called a “mosaic of habitat” – impoundment ponds, wetlands, streams, and, of course, Lake Eufaula – that hosts an incredible 300 species of birds, including wood storks, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons, as well as 40 different species of mammals

And then there is the Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge in West Blocton. The Cahaba River is arguably one of the most ecologically significant rivers in the South, and perhaps the entire country. In fact, the Cahaba has more species of fish in its waters than in the entire state of California.

The Cahaba NWR protects five federally listed species of fish, snails, and darters, plus 64 endangered animals and rare or imperiled plants like the famous Cahaba Lily that grows in only a few places in the world.

Protecting Habitats

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Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge protects many migratory songbirds and endangered or threatened species.

Stephanie Pluscht

Since President Theodore Roosevelt established the first National Wildlife Refuge in 1903, the refuge system has served one main goal—to to protect wildlife habitats.

Three other NWRs in Alabama showcase that effort nicely, including the Mountain Longleaf NWR near Anniston. This refuge was created to restore the region’s longleaf pine ecosystem so it can regenerate and return to Alabama the prime habitat for many of the birds and mammals that live in the state. The refuge also provides scientists and educators a chance to study this intricate ecosystem first-hand as it matures.

On Alabama’s Gulf Coast you’ll find the Grand Bay NWR, which protects one of the last remaining expanses of Gulf wet pine savanna. And just down the road from Grand Bay across Mobile Bay is the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, which protects the state’s natural barrier sand dunes and in turn the home of many migratory songbirds and endangered or threatened species of wildlife, including the Loggerhead and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.

Opportunities for You to Explore

The best part of the National Wildlife Refuge System is that it’s yours. USFWS has opened many areas so you can hike, canoe, bird watch, or do photography. Visit each of the NWR websites for information on planning your visit to Alabama’s amazing wildlife refuges.

Written by Joe Cuhaj for RootsRated Media in partnership with BCBS of AL.

Featured image provided by Stephanie Pluscht

6 Most Instagram Worthy Spots in Salt Lake City

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Utah is filled with some of the most scenic landscapes in the country. But you don’t need to travel to the national parks to find some wow-worthy spots for taking pictures. Salt Lake City has plenty of destinations that are sure to impress those on your Instagram feed. Here are six of our favorite spots in close proximity to the city that provide excellent opportunities for great photography.

1. Bonneville Shoreline Trail

A quick jaunt from downtown puts you on this incredibly scenic hiking trail with views of the skyline, lake, and mountains. The full route is more than 100 miles, covers a variety of terrain, and offers endless photo-ops. The short section just east of the city is simple to access and perfect for cityscape and landscape photos. Access the trail from any one of many trailheads, including Dry Creek Trailhead at the Jewish Community Center, Red Butte Garden on Red Butte Creek Road, Emigration Canyon at Hogle Zoo, and Arcadia Trailhead on Devonshire Drive.

2. Temple Square

As one of the most-visited attractions in the entire United States, Salt Lake’s historic center is of course worthy of more than a few photo posts. The magnificent architecture and gardens make it easy to take good pictures here. The Salt Lake Temple is one of the most iconic church buildings in the world. Inspired by medieval Gothic cathedrals, its arched windows and pointed towers are reminiscent of any age-old European city, though it was erected right here in the American West, over the course of 40 years in the 1800s.

In this 10-acre complex at the heart of downtown, there are plenty of other photo spots you won’t want to miss. The 26th floor of the ChurchOffice Building includes a public observation deck with fantastic views of the temple and outstretched city. The Conference Center supports one of the most unique gardens, which is found on the rooftop. The Tabernacle, home to the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, also houses a beautiful 11,623-pipe organ that begs to be photographed.

3. Great Salt Lake

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Peter Pan, man.

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Any spot along the lake’s shoreline is picture worthy, especially at sunset. Westward views from the city are famous for prismatic sky and iridescent water as the sun sinks behind the distant mountains. Many spots along the shore are picturesque, but a few specific locations deserve mention.

The Great Saltair is a former luxury resort and current music venue off I-80 that stands as a prominent outpost on an otherwise featureless landscape. It’s the most recent iteration of several, and ruins from past buildings are still evident as wooden pilings extend out into the lake in some places.

Antelope Island is a preserved state park just outside the city, where wildlife like pronghorn antelope and bison still thrive. Rocky outcrops dot the shoreline and textured hills form the skyline. Flowers bloom brilliantly in summer and the desert tinges orange in fall. Explore any of the numerous hiking trails to find many different viewpoints and search for animals.

4. Capitol Hill

Utah’s State Capitol dramatically overlooks downtown from atop a low hill. Visit the grounds during open hours to photograph the building inside and out. The building itself is a beautiful subject for photos, but if you can capture the backdrop along with it you’ll have a truly stunning image—skyscrapers and urban streets juxtaposed with snow-capped mountains in the winter. The secret to gaining this panoramic view is to head for the hills just north of the capitol. Be respectful of private property, but look for the perfect vantage point from Capitol Boulevard, 11th Avenue, or any of the other streets in this area.

5. The City Library

The public library’s main branch, located downtown, is a surprisingly photogenic and lively building. At the front, a huge curved atrium fills with sunlight, illuminating spiral staircases, balconies, and of course rows upon rows of books. Businesses on the first floor add to the variety with art stores, gift shops, and cafes. Don’t miss out on the rooftop terrace, which provides peaceful seating and a 360-degree view of the city and Salt Lake Valley.

6. Big Cottonwood Canyon

Many people drive Highway 190 through Big Cottonwood Canyon on their way to ski resorts, but this scenic gorge is worth a trip any time of the year. Anywhere along the road is spectacular for fall colors, when aspen trees turn gold. Big Cottonwood Creek babbles among verdant foliage and dappled sunlight, with many hiking trails that follow alongside it. Donut Falls is a pretty waterfall that drops through an inexplicable hole in the rock. Shadows and moving water make this a tricky photography endeavor, and the 3.5-mile round trip means you have to work a bit to get the perfect shot.

Now that you have a taste of what Salt Lake has to offer your photo appetite, check out the rest of Utah in our 7 Most Amazing Views in Utah blog post. Make sure you have plenty of room on your camera for all the pictures you’ll be taking because you won’t be able to stop. Enjoy!

Written by Jesse Weber for RootsRated in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.

Featured image provided by Andrew Smith

A Hiker’s Guide to American River Canyon

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The allure of Placer County, California, comes in part from its friendly locals, rural charm, and growing foodie scene. But before people settled in places like Auburn and Foresthill, the area was known for its oak and manzanita laden hills. Here, the sun shines brightly on tall grasses and shade trees offer welcome respite on a hot day. At the heart of the region, you’ll find the American River Canyon. Home to hundreds of miles of trails, it’s one of the region’s most loved hiking destinations, with scenic vistas and challenging climbs. The American River Canyon is filled with great options for every level of hiker—and plenty of opportunities for enjoying your time off the trail as well.

Where to Fuel Up

Before hitting the trails, get a good breakfast at Awful Annie’s in Auburn. Known as a comfort food hotspot, it has a name that couldn’t be less true. This breakfast-and-lunch spot is the local favorite for folks looking to dine on eggs bennies or huge breakfast scrambles to fuel them up for a day outside.

Where to Hike

The American River Canyon is a dry, riparian landscape. If you meander along the river, expect cool breezes, shade from oak trees (and the occasional ponderosa pine), and the sound of fresh snow melt tumbling through rapids. Or opt for a hike in the hills above the river, where you’ll find sweeping vistas of the snakelike American as it winds its way through yellow and green grasses. Regardless of where exactly you travel in the American River Canyon, you can always expect panoramic views that look out over the horizon without a building in sight for miles and miles. Here are some of your top trail options:

Auburn State Recreation Area: A classic destination in the greater Sacramento area located just outside Auburn on your way into the canyon, the Auburn State Recreation Area features more than 35 trails and is popular for trail running, hiking, fishing, swimming, and mountain biking. It's a must-see in the American River Canyon.

Stagecoach Trail: A moderate 3.6-mile trail with sweeping views of the American River and the world famous Foresthill Bridge, the Stagecoach trail features 744 feet of elevation gain and is used by hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers. It was initially a gold-rush era toll route that connected miners to the Foresthill area.

Lake Clementine Trail: The Lake Clementine Trail is a mellow path that offers panoramic views of the North Fork of the American River. It’s an ideal hike on a hot day thanks to the shade provided by the conifers and oaks that line the trail. You’ll also find easy access to the river for a quick dip via several side trails. Be cautious of the current here, however, as it’s colder and swifter than it looks. Hikers who stick with the trail will be rewarded with views of a deep pool beneath the North Fork Dam, where they can admire the cascading water over the dam’s rim from below.

Western States Trail: Famous for the iconic 100-mile race from Squaw Valley (elevation 8,500 feet) to Auburn (elevation 2,000 feet) that draws world-class ultramarathon runners each year, this trail is a great place to log many miles. But you don’t have to be a long-distance hiker to make this route worth your time. Several parts are very manageable for shorter day hikes, including the Railroad Bed Section. The lower elevation part of this trail is accessible year-round. From Auburn, the trail crosses the Middle Fork of the American River several times as it ascends up toward Foresthill.

Foresthill Divide Loop Trail: The Foresthill Divide Loop Trail is a longer route, totaling 8.2 miles, but shorter loops are possible. The scenery is beautiful, especially in the spring when wildflowers cover the rolling green hills and oak trees offer an occasional respite in the shade. Farther along the loop, the manzanita and shrubs thicken as the trail becomes more wooded. It’s common to see bikers and horseback riders here as well as hikers.

Where to Eat

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Find the best places to eat in Placer County.

Brenna Huff

After some time on the trails, there’s nothing better than sitting down to a good meal. Here are some of your best dining options in the region:

Maker’s Mountain Eatery, Foresthill: For those ending their exploration of the American River Canyon closer to Foresthill than Auburn, this fun tap house and wine bar is where the locals will steer you if you ask for a recommendation. Try the beer batter fries—you likely deserve a hearty and filling reward after hiking along the American River.

Old Town Pizza, Auburn: If you are looking for a cozy, classic pizza parlor, you would be hard pressed to find a better fit than Old Town Pizza. It’s located in the heart of historic Auburn, a place that’s as fun to explore as well, so save some energy after your hike to stroll up and down the street. And be sure to try their breadsticks at Old Town Pizza—you won’t regret it.

Tre Pazzi Trattoria, Auburn: Another fantastic place for local fare that will fill you up post-hike is this casual but classy Italian restaurant. The warm, brick-wall establishment has a fun atmosphere, excellent entrees, and classic pasta dishes.

Where to Stay

Day trips are nice, but you can’t see everything that Placer County has to offer without spending some time here. Spend the weekend (or more) and enjoy a good night’s rest at these area lodging options:

Park Victorian, Auburn: The Park Victorian is, in short, a gem. If you want plenty of character, class, and comfort, you’ll find it here. As its name suggests, it’s located in an old 19th-century villa. The rooms are bright and offer a surprising modern vibe that will have you falling in love with this tried-and-true establishment at first glance.

Holiday Inn, Auburn: If you want a comfortable place to stay that’s low-key and friendly, the local Holiday Inn in Auburn fits the bill. It offers all the charm of the city’s small-town vibe with all the amenities you could want.

Miner’s Camp, Foresthill: A nostalgic retreat center, Miner’s Camp offers a wide variety of cabins, which are rustic, quaint, and full of charm. The camp plays up the area’s gold rush history, and the cabins are named after local mines like Blue Eyes Mine, Bogus Thunder, and Hidden Treasure. It’s popular for weddings, retreats, or simply fun family getaways.

Written by Jill Sanford for Matcha in partnership with Visit Placer County.

Featured image provided by Ray Bouknight

Tips for Helping Your Lawn Survive the Winter

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We need to tuck our lawns in for their long winter’s nap so that they will wake up lush and healthy in the spring. While we are doing that, we can also do right by our planet by employing eco-friendly methods and products. The following tips ensure that our lawns bounce back with the least possible damage to the environment.

Clear Up the Lawn

Rake up the leaves and add them to your compost pile. If left on the grass, they prevent sunlight from reaching the grass and allow patches of mold to settle in. The dead leaves also adversely affect water quality. The phosphorus and nitrogen run off, feed algae that kill fish and contaminate our water.

For the same reasons, it’s not okay to let leaves go down storm drains. Those nutrients go right to the nearest body of water. You might as well dump a chemical fertilizer directly into the river.

Dethatch and Aerate

Thatch is that layer of shoots, stems, and roots on the surface of the soil. It prevents the grass roots from getting the water and nutrients they need for the winter. You may be able to rake the thatch up with a garden rake. If it’s especially thick, use a thatch rake or a vertical mower. The good part of thatch is it makes for more material for your compost pile.

Aerate a lawn that had too much traffic in the summer, is now compacted and, like the thatch, is creating a barrier between nutrients and grass roots. Punch plugs of soil from your lawn with a tined garden rake or a rented self-powered aerator.

Weed

Dig up invasive weeds completely, or else they will sprout again in the spring. Don’t add them to the compost pile like they are or they will grow and spread. You first have to “cook” them to death, or practice hot composting. Seal them in a black plastic bag and put the bag in a sunny spot off by itself. In a couple of months, you will see that the weeds are mere vestiges of their former selves, and you can toss them into your compost pile.

Note: Most chemical herbicides are toxic to animals and the environment in general.

Overseed

This tip is region-specific. If you live in a warm region, overseed with cool-season grassseed, such as Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass. As the warm-season grass types go dormant, the cool-season grasses will keep your lawn green throughout the winter. In the cooler regions, overseeding prevents weeds from attacking. Thin lawns are open invitations to invaders such as crabgrass and dandelions.

Tend to Your Compost

Material composted over the summer should be ready. Use that “black gold” that is brimming with nutrients to amend deficient soils or improve the fertility of your lawn. The compost gives your lawn a jump-start for the springtime.

For new compost, add a layer of straw or leaves. It needs to be alive and active even in winter, and the additional layer keeps up the internal temperature. Do not put any diseased or insect-infected plants into your compost pile, or else you’ll be returning the diseases and pests to the soil in the spring. Destroy the plants instead.

Written by Katie Marie for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Gus Ruballo

7 Reasons Redding, California Needs to Be on Your Travel Radar

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Redding is an absolute bullseye for outdoors adventure. This Northern California city is surrounded by seven National Forests and is about an hour’s drive from Lassen Volcanic National Park. The Sacramento River flows through the city and the Cascade Range foothills provide the beginnings of a mountainous landscape that extends north to Canada. Redding is more than just an adventure hub though, as hiking, biking, and paddling are all accessible in-town. Looking for something more exotic? Explore geothermal features, caves, and rock climbing, or simply enjoy the friendly vibe in-town. There’s something for every adventure style from technical, hardcore pursuits to letting the kiddos rip it up in the Junior Bike Park.

1. A Wealth of Trails

Redding boasts over 225 miles of multi-use trails within a 15-mile radius. It’s no coincidence that the American Trails Association calls the city home. All trails are free to the public and the majority of them are dog-friendly (and plenty are horse-friendly as well). Whether cycling along paved trails like the Sundial Bridge or hitting sweet singletrack at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, bikers have a full range of options. Of course, there are plenty of hiking trails as well, designed to maximize vantage points of deep pine forests, rolling rivers, and the surrounding foothills. And it’s only a short drive east of Redding to Lassen Volcanic National Park, where trails explore boiling mudpots and steaming pools heated from magma deep below the Earth’s crust.

For the more daring enthusiasts, Redding also has an extra 200+ miles of trails for Off-Highway Vehicles in the Chappie Shasta OHV Area, giving motorcyclists, all-terrain vehicle and four-wheel drivers the challenge of shredding the rolling and brushy hills with views of Shasta Lake, Shasta Dam and the Sacramento River.

2. More Adventure, Fewer Crowds

UpStateCA has all the natural beauty the Golden State is known for—minus the frustrating traffic snarls, chaotic cities, and urban attitude famously generated from the southern half of the state. The Shasta Cascade region comprises 20 percent of California’s land mass but a mere 2 percent of the population. The upshot is that there is more wilderness and less bustle. The expanse and variety of adventure potential in UpStateCA means outdoors enthusiasts organically spread out, giving more room for nature’s authentic tranquility.

3. So Many Waterfalls

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Between Redding and Mount Shasta are dozens of pristine, rushing cascades.

Don DeBold

What do you get when you combine volcanic topographic with a water-rich region that includes California’s longest river and largest lake? Waterfalls! Between Redding and Mount Shasta are dozens of pristine, rushing cascades and many of them are family-friendly outings. Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is a marquee area for waterfalls hikes, so much so that the National Park Service has a webpage dedicated to visiting them all with their “Waterfall Challenge and Passport” program. The region is home to many different types of falls, from rushing vertical veils over 100-feet tall to less-urgent, moss-covered walls graced by misty forks that feed placid pools. Plus, Burney Falls in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is an UpStateCA icon that you can’t pass up.

4. World-Class Fishing

Anglers from all over the country come to Redding, particularly for its trout-filled waters. In fact, Forbes named the city of the top 10 trout fishing towns in North America. The Lower Sacramento River features California’s top trout fishing, with some of the world’s most powerful rainbow trout to put your skills to the test. It benefits from extracting colder water from the depths of Shasta Lake, which helps it maintain the cool water temperature that allows rainbow trout to feed and grow year-round. You’ll find rainbows an average of 16 inches long there, with 20-inchers common.

Excellent fishing is also found on the McCloud River (known for its leaping rainbows), Hat Creek, Fall River, Manzanita Lake, and the Trinity River. Redding’s iconic Sundial Bridge was built with the salmon spawn in mind—it was built as a suspension bridge to preserve their natural habitat underneath. All of these rivers are not only great, but they’re convenient—you can fish year-round and all of these choices are easily accessible just a short drive from town. For more information, check out The Fly Shop, the largest fly fishing specialty shop in the country. The 40-year-old business is a Redding landmark, and it can provide you with guide services and instruction as well as any gear you could need.

5. Dog-Friendly by Design

Dogtrekker.com has named Redding one of the top pooch-friendly adventure destinations in America. For those who loathe the concept of leaving their dogs behind, Redding is the perfect getaway. There are hundreds of miles of dog-friendly trails, including many to the aforementioned waterfalls, and there are even dog-friendly houseboats you can rent to share a few days on the water with man’s best friend. Dog-friendly lodging and restaurants abound and there are several enclosed dog parks as well.

6. Year-Round & Winter Fun

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Get into winter snowshoe or skiing at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

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Access to the Mount Shasta region means the fun goes on year-round. Mt. Shasta Ski Park has 435 acres of ski and snowboard fun (and in the summer, the mountain has downhill and cross-country mountain bike trails). The Mt. Shasta Nordic Ski Center has 15 miles of groomed trails plus plenty more backcountry tracks to enjoy. Snowmobiling is a popular pursuit through the many forest roads that transform into perfect sub-alpine touring grounds. And if you’ve never snowshoed across a volcano, you get to do just that at Lassen Volcanic National Park! Free ranger-led tours are offered on Saturday’s from January through March and provide the snowshoes for only a $1 donation.

7. Great Food, Drink, & Lodging

Eventually, you’ll need to find your way back to civilization for a warm shower, a cold beer and a comfy hotel bed. Redding features a range of cuisine from high-end seafood to laid-back brewpubs. There are plenty of locally operated restaurants and yes, many of them are dog-friendly. Stay in-town at a hotel or ramble out to one of the many clean, well-maintained RV parks.

Redding is truly the epicenter of outdoors adventure—it has some of the very best California wilderness, with the added benefit of more than 300 sunny days per year, laying claim as the sunniest city in the Golden State. Mountain hikes, vast freshwater lakes, craggy foothills, vanilla-scented pine forests, and the timeless Sacramento River add up to an outdoor playground where the only limit is your imagination.

Written by Ry Glover for RootsRated Media in partnership with Redding CVB.

Featured image provided by Don DeBold

10 Easy & Fun Things to Do in Bozeman’s Outdoors for the Whole Family

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Bozeman is surrounded by nature, bracketed by the Gallatin and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forests and a short drive from Yellowstone National Park. It’s no surprise that most families in southwestern Montana spend a significant amount of time outdoors in all four seasons of the year. From summertime fly-fishing and hiking to wintertime skiing and snowshoeing, this outdoor community offers adventure for all ages. Here are a few local favorites:

1. Fly Fishing Day Trip

The Bozeman area is reputed around the globe for its blue-ribbon trout fishing. From the nearby Gallatin River to the famous waters of the Yellowstone and Madison Rivers, a seemingly endless supply of fly-fishing water is within striking distance of the mountain town. Many anglers bring their own fishing gear—kids equipment included—and head out on their own to great success. Those looking for a guided fly-fishing trip can choose from either walk-wade or drift boat fishing trips with local outfitters. The River’s Edge Fly Shop and Montana Troutfitters are favored shops of Bozeman locals.

2. Ski Bridger Bowl

Dedicated skiers in the family find plenty to love at Bridger Bowl.
Dedicated skiers in the family find plenty to love at Bridger Bowl.

John Eckman

An easy 20-minute drive from downtown Bozeman, Bridger Bowl is the preferred local’s ski area, and it offers runs suitable for skiers of all skill levels. A vertical rise of 2,700 feet and 2,000 skiable acres of terrain, including a terrain park, is coated with an impressive annual 350 inches of snow. Lucky visitors will have the chance to experience Bridger’s famous "cold smoke" powder days.

3. Cross-Country Ski Bohart Ski Ranch

Just down the road from Bridger Bowl is the cross-country ski haven of Bohart Ranch. A family favorite, the complex offers more than 30 kilometers of regularly groomed trails over varying terrain, including both classic and skate-style tracks. Friendly instructors offer lessons tailored to both children and adults, and rental gear is readily available. Relaxed ski excursions through the hills often result in wildlife sightings.

4. Ride the Lone Peak Tram at Big Sky

Big Sky Resort’s famous Lone Peak Tram ferries skiers to intermediate terrain in the winter, but in summertime it’s a favorite diversion for families. The 360-degree view from the comfortable tram offers views of two national parks, three states, and surrounding mountain ranges, even as far south as Wyoming’s Tetons on a clear day. The tram takes riders to an impressive 11,166 feet summit while a guide points out mountainside features and helps keep an eye out for goats.

5. Raft the Gallatin River

Enjoy rafting on continuous whitewater and stunning scenery.
Enjoy rafting on continuous whitewater and stunning scenery.

Visit Bozeman

The Gallatin River may be best known for its fly fishing (famously recorded in the movie *A River Runs Through It) *but it’s also a haven for whitewater enthusiasts. Thanks to rolling, continuous whitewater and stunning scenery, a whitewater rafting trip down the river is a must-do during a visit to the Bozeman area! Friendly local guides lead the way and ensure rafter safety while on the water. Most local guides will take accompanied children as young as age five.

6. Hike Sacajawea Peak

Enjoy excellent family hikes around Bozeman.
Enjoy excellent family hikes around Bozeman.

Visit Bozeman

The Bridger Mountains line the eastern side of the Gallatin Valley, forming an impressive barrier visible from anywhere in Bozeman. One of the most prominent peaks, Sacajawea, is a favorite of local hikers, and for good reason — the 4.1-mile out-and-back is rated as a moderate hike and is best suited for teenaged children and older, but the view from the top is well worth the climb of 1935 vertical feet. Mountain goats dot the rocky trail, offering convenient distractions during the climb! Those with smaller children can seek the nearby "M" trail, suitable for all ages.

7. Stand-Up Paddleboard on Hyalite Reservoir

Most outdoor shops in Bozeman offer stand-up paddleboard rentals. Smaller kids enjoy sitting on the board while being propelled by a paddler, and there’s hardly a better way to take in the scenery! Hyalite Reservoir, located 10.5 miles up Hyalite Canyon south of Bozeman, is a favorite location for stand-up paddleboarding. Fishing and picnic areas help break up the day, and the reservoir offers easy access with paved parking areas.

8. Wildlife Watch in Yellowstone National Park

Prepare to see plenty of roadside Bison at Yellowstone.
Prepare to see plenty of roadside Bison at Yellowstone.

Mark R Frye

It’s hard to imagine a family vacation to the Bozeman area without a slight detour to nearby Yellowstone National Park. An hour-and-a-half drive will transport visitors to the national park’s plethora of activities, including wildlife watching, hiking, boardwalk-strolling, and scenic drives. Children delight in making a list of species sighted and keeping count of how many bison are on the roadway.

9. Stroll the Gallagator Trail

Running more than 1.5 miles through the east side of Bozeman, the Gallagator Trail is well-utilized by locals looking for an evening stroll with their dog or a quick post-work run. The largely-flat, crushed-stone trail is easy for users of all ages and can accommodate a stroller. Climbing rocks are dotted throughout the trail. It connects easily to downtown, offering the perfect opportunity to top off a stroll with a coffee or ice cream.

10. Tube the Madison River

Summertime in Montana means hot weather, and there’s no better way to escape the heat than to get in the water. Local outdoor shops offer float tube rentals and shuttles to the nearby Madison River, where a popular stretch through Bear Trap Canyon sees steady tuber traffic throughout the busy summer months. The river’s slow, meandering course offers a relaxing escape on the steamiest days.

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

Featured image provided by Visit Bozeman

6 Tips for Planning the Perfect Overnight Canoe Trip in Alabama

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There is absolutely nothing more soothing than the sound of water lapping on a shore, canoe, or kayak, or the beautiful white noise of water roaring through a tight rocky chute or crashing on the shore of a pearly white beach.

If you’ve experienced these sounds, whether by kayak or canoe, you know how they can make a might outdoors especially tranquil. Now, imagine being lulled to sleep by these soothing sounds as you camp next to those waters.

Camping near a slow-moving blackwater river, beside a rushing stream, in dark and mysterious bayous, or along a sandy shore is truly a remarkable experience. Whether you’re a beginner looking forward to your first paddle campout or a seasoned boater, there are some important steps you need to take to ensure that your overnight paddling trip goes smoothly. Here are six of the most important things to consider.

1. Choose a Suitable Trip

The key to experiencing the perfect overnight canoe trip is selecting a destination that matches your desires and abilities. Of course, you want to select a journey that has plenty of natural beauty, history, wildlife, and maybe even a few challenges—but, it should be reasonable. It’s thrilling to dream of paddling among alligators in the dark bayous of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta (aka “America’s Amazon”), but that dream involves certain risks that are suited to only the most seasoned paddlers.

Choosing the perfect trip boils down to picking a route that fits your skill level. If you’re a beginner, you should consider trying your first paddling campout with an experienced group or outfitter.

It’s also important to factor in time requirements. Consider how much time you have for a trip, taking into account travel times to the put-ins, take-outs, breaks for lunch, swimming, etc. That will help determine the length of the trip.

Start slow and work your way up to more challenging trips, and always keep it simple. Shorter trips on smaller bodies of water are just as fun and exciting as paddling larger waterways.

2. Consult the Experts

Pull out that old trusty paper map or guidebook or consult online maps to find a waterway to your liking. Then, use the internet to find local clubs and outfitters in the area of the waterway you want to paddle.

“The knowledge of an outfitter allows you to experience everything from whitewater to the salty waves of the Gulf of Mexico and everything in between,” says Jim Felder with Alabama Scenic River Trail (ASRT). “They can show you things it could take you a lifetime to learn otherwise.”

Outfitters can offer insights on the best times of year to paddle the waterway, and they’ll point out possible launch sites and takeout locations. Plus, they can inform you of possible campsites and identify areas prone to log jams and portages.

Another consideration is the weather. It’s not only important to be aware of storms so you can stay warm and dry, but it’s also important to know how weather affects the waterways. Heavy rain hundreds of miles north of a river will dramatically affect the river’s water levels farther south. Without warning, paddlers downstream of a storm could find themselves in swift, rising water. And keep in mind that it’s dangerous to paddle a river that has reached flood stage.

Many streams and creeks in the Southeast are seasonal, and rain greatly affects their water levels. During periods of heavy rain, waterways can reach flood stage and become too hazardous to paddle. During a drought, there might not be enough water to allow your boat to float, and you’ll end up dragging it frequently.

Before you launch, consult an outfitter, American Whitewater, or another resource to determine the current water flow of your destination and whether the conditions are safe.

You also need to identify quick escape routes in case of emergency. “With Google Earth and all the other satellite mapping resources these days, there should be little chance that you run out of places to get out of the water,” says Felder. “Anywhere a road crosses a creek, you can probably get out.”

3. Choose Campsites Carefully

Ok, so you’ve found the river you want to paddle. Now, what about camping? Many people think that any river, creek, or stream is publicly accessible. You may be just fine paddling that waterway, but unless designated campsites have been established, you may find yourself stepping out of the boat and trespassing on private property.

If land in the river—like a shoal or sandbar—has trees growing on it, it's probably part of the adjacent landowner's property. If there aren’t trees on the land, you're likely OK.

Once again, this is where contacting local outfitters and paddling clubs comes in handy. You can also turn to ASRT, which has made things easier by logging hundreds of campsites along the state’s waterways.

4. Keep it Simple When Gearing Up

As you’re gathering your camping gear and supplies, remember the mantra “keep it simple.”

There’s no need to go fancy and invest in a lot of expensive gear. In general, you should try to carry a relatively lightweight load. Remember, you have to bring all of it with you. The size of your canoe or kayak will limit your load, and if you have to portage, you have to physically carry all of that gear with you. And, of course, extra weight and how it’s loaded can play havoc with the balance of your boat.

While it’s good idea to go light, don’t leave behind important essentials. Bring (and wear) your PFD, and be sure to pack food, water, a fire source, first-aid kit, flashlight, sunscreen, maps, and navigation devices. If you paddle during mosquito season, or if rain is a possibility, consider bringing a tent. Otherwise, you can choose to just sleep out under the stars.

REI has a very useful and complete list of “possible” items to take on a paddling campout, so check it out and make adjustments to suit your particular needs.

Before you depart for your camping trip, do a shake down by loading your boat to find the perfect balance when stowing the gear. Then, eliminate any items that you decide you don’t really need.

Be sure to use watertight bags or containers to protect items that shouldn’t get wet, such as clothes, sleeping bags, electronics, matches or other fire-starting supplies.

5. Food and Water

The adventurer in all of us dreams of paddling down a river, dropping a line, and catching our meals fresh from the river. It’s a dream, friends. With luck you can, but it’s not something you want to rely on. So, do a little meal planning, and bring your own provisions. Most paddlers like quick and easy breakfasts to get the day started, a more substantial lunch, and a larger dinner.

Avoid carrying perishables like eggs, and keep things simple. Breakfasts can be as easy as oatmeal, cereal with dry milk, fresh fruit, bagels, or muffins. Lunches can be anything from PB&Js to tuna and crackers to summer sausage and cheese on crackers. For dinner, you can’t beat the latest freeze-dried meals. They’re tasty and quick, with easy cleanup. And, be sure to pack along your favorite snacks, too.

As for water, if you’re paddling freshwater that can be treated, bring the proper water-treatment system or a stove to boil water. Even if you’re prepared to treat water, you should still carry a minimum of one gallon of water per day per person.

6. Fire it Up

There’s nothing like sitting around a campfire after a day on a river. Before you shove off, check fire regulations to see whether or not campfires are allowed, where you can build them (sometimes they’re only allowed on sandbars), and if there are any burn bans in effect.

Organizing an overnight paddling trip for the first time can be a challenge, but it’s also pretty exciting. With all of the things you need to consider, it can feel like you’re planning a great expedition. By mapping out things carefully and gathering information from knowledgeable sources you’ll ensure smooth days on the water, and you’ll finally experience every paddler’s dream—a peaceful night where the lovely sound of lapping water lulls you to sleep.

Written by Joe Cuhaj for RootsRated Media in partnership with BCBS of AL.

Featured image provided by Jordan Bauer

8 Reasons Charlotte is an Awesome City for Outdoor Lovers

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Not that long ago, mentioning you were from Charlotte led to an inevitable lesson in Southeastern U.S. geography. What state is that in? Did you say Charlottesville? Charleston? But that’s all changed as the Queen City’s rocketed to third place in the list of fastest-growing U.S.cities.

Abundant four-season outdoor recreation opportunities and a focus on healthy, active living are major contributors to the Queen City’s newfound notariety. Here’s our list of the top reasons why you need to get outdoors in Charlotte.

1. It’s Home to the World-Class U.S. National Whitewater Center

An Olympic kayak and canoe training center, multisport mecca, concert pavilion, and gastropub all rolled into one at the USNWC, the epicenter of Charlotte’s outdoor adventure scene. At the center you can raft Class I-IV whitewater, climb, zip, navigate high ropes obstacles, paddle the Catawba River, and run or bike on more than 40 miles of singletrack. Then, you can relax with a craft beer and burger on the River’s Edge Grill patio at sunset.

2. Charlotte is Close to the Smokies, Appalachians, and Blue Ridge

The tallest peaks east of the Mississippi reside just a couple hours west of Charlotte, offering lush day hikes through thickets of rhododendron, mountain laurel, and wispy Smoky Mountains mist. The Blue Ridge Parkway winds its way from Cumberland Knob to Cherokee, with miles of easy out-and-back routes to spectacular 360-degree vistas. For backcountry hikers, there’s no shortage of challenging weekend loops traversing Smoky Mountain balds and Appalachian valleys.

3. The City Embraces Cyclists and Runners

Every few months, we celebrate the opening of yet another section of urban greenway connecting neighborhoods with parks and community spaces. The bike- and pedestrian-friendly movement that’s sweeping the city is great news for road-weary cyclists and runners looking for scenic training routes. Little Sugar Creek Greenway is evolving into one of the most popular segments of the future XCLT Trail that will extend 30 miles from Pineville to University City. South End’s Rail Trail is ground zero for happy hour runs, and cyclists own the Booty Loop, where they gather for evening and weekend rides through the shady streets of Myers Park.

4. Neighborhood Gear and Bike Shops Abound

From Davidson to Waxhaw, local bike shops and gear outfitters offer expert advice to keep Charlotteans peddling, paddling, and pitching tents. Stores host group rides and give route recommendations, with service bays for maintenance and repairs. Check in with Performance Bicycle and The Bike Gallery downtown; Spirited Cyclist to the north; South Main Cycles in Belmont; and NC Velo south of the city.

Great Outdoor Provision Company has been outfitting North Carolina hikers and paddlers for more than 30 years. Then there’s the USNWC Outfitter, a virtual trip to candyland for outdoor enthusiasts. Major retailers like REI, North Face, and Trek have set up shop in Charlotte as well, another sign of Charlotte’s love affair with adventure.

5. The Outdoor Community is Passionate and Welcoming

Much of the credit for Charlotte’s outdoor awakening goes to local advocates who have worked tirelessly for change. And the best news—there are plenty of ways to get involved. The Carolina Thread Trail offers trail master certification classes, the Tarheel Trailblazers expand singletrack with trail work days, and Sustain Charlotte is bringing issues like clean air and water, public transportation, and local food systems to the forefront of the community conversation.

6. Bikes, Brews, Bouldering — We’ve Got a Festival for That

Nothing whips up enthusiasm like a good party, and every month brings new opportunities to celebrate the outdoors in the Queen City. Open Streets 704 closes downtown streets to cars for a four-mile street festival. At Biketoberfest, businesses and breweries line the route to welcome cyclists, and the Charlotte Marathon has grown into a weekend party and the city’s signature running event.

USNWC festivals draw thousands for equipment demos, sports competitions, live music, food trucks, and craft beer. In addition to holiday celebrations (think paddling a neon green river for St. Paddy’s Day and running a 5K with Santa), there’s Flowfest’s yoga and bouldering; an outdoor gear market every October; and Tuckfest, four days of multisport competitions and clinics that opens the summer season in April.

7. Plenty of Waterfalls and Swimming Holes

There’s only a couple months when the Charlotte weather’s too cold to get your feet wet. You can relax beside some of the most scenic aquatic spots in the Southeast, all an easy day trip from downtown. The best spot include High Shoals Falls at South Mountains State Park, Carrigan Farms Quarry; Hooker, Triple, and High Falls in DuPont State Forest; Eno Quarry in Eno River State Park; the summit and waterfall loop at Stone Mountain State Park; and Pisgah’s thrilling 60-foot natural waterslide at Sliding Rock.

8. Epic Climbing Surrounds Charlotte

Charlotte is home to a solid climbing community, and beginner to expert climbing destinations are within easy reach of the city, adding up to great year-round cragging. Close to home, Inner Peaks has two locations for instruction and training, while Crowders Mountain State Park offers beginner to intermediate sport and trad routes minutes from downtown. USNWC has everything from belay classes to private instruction on its 30-foot rock wall, 46-foot spire, and free climbing Deep Water Solo routes. More experienced climbers drive two hours north to quality quartzite routes at Moore’s Wall, Pilot Mountain, and Sauratown, or head west into Linville Gorge, one of the southeast’s premiere climbing destinations.

Written by Ann Gibson for RootsRated Media in partnership with OrthoCarolina.

Featured image provided by Better Bike Share/Michael C. Hernandez Photography