Soft adventures are some of the fastest-growing portions of travel.
Hiking. fishing, sailing, and birding are some of the adventures that anyone can enjoy throughout their life.
Maybe you’re one of those brave people who love to climb soaring mountains, pedal an off-road bicycle over challenging terrain or venture into ocean caves that have lured divers to their death.
Or perhaps you prefer a gentle stroll through inviting scenery, steering a bike along flat paths or snorkeling to watch fishing swimming below the surface.
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Hard-core adventure travel has its fans, and they wouldn’t want it any other way. But more people participate in what’s called soft adventure, and they range in age from children to others who blow out dozens of candles on their birthday cake.
Soft adventuring is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry. It encompasses a range of activities that people with virtually any physical ability may enjoy. That includes the over-50-year-old crowd, one of the fastest-growing population groups in the United States.
A long list of activities awaits outdoor-minded folks who prefer comfort-seeking to thrill-seeking.
If you can walk, you can hike
As the saying goes, if you can walk, you can hike – and opportunities for inviting walks probably abound close to where you reside and certainly further away.
New York City’s “High Line” is an elevated linear Manhattan park occupying an abandoned railroad track. It offers views of the Hudson River and city skyline and is decorated with colorful plants and art installations.
Further north, people of all ages and hiking abilities may trek to dramatic overlooks above Niagara Falls. They range from easy strolls to challenging scrambles along steep, rock-strewn paths.
Fort Worth, Texas, is interlaced with 100 miles of Trinity Trails that lead to several outdoor gems. One is a waterfall that serves as a stopover for Monarch butterflies during their annual northern migration.
A favorite place for flat hiking among Floridians, and those visiting that state, is the historic Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys. It was constructed (1909-1912) to serve as a railroad span, and since a parallel overpass was built, the original overpass has been popular with those who prefer to travel by foot or bicycle. The bridge is often so crowded with fishermen that it’s called “the longest fishing pier in the world.”
Catching your dinner around the country
Most people can find good fishing not far from where they live. Those seeking the ultimate in angling opportunities have a wide choice of other alternatives.
Lake Tahoe, California, is North America's largest alpine body of water. During warm months its deep holes teem with kokanee salmon, rainbow and brown trout, and mackinaw.
Charleston, South Carolina, sits at the confluence of three rivers and is surrounded by tidal creeks and salt marshes. This Lowcountry region offers an abundance of red drum, flounder, and speckled trout. The Gulf Stream, which flows offshore, attracts billfish, yellow tuna, and other denizens of the deep.
Surprising places for super sailing
If sailing above water rather than fishing in it is your thing, there’s also a wide selection of options. Guests at Presque Isle State Park in Pennsylvania might feel at the ocean because it occupies a sandy peninsula that juts into Lake Erie. Along with motor boating, swimming, fishing, and diving, the lagoon is often dotted by wind-driven boats' canvas.
It may seem surprising to think of Kansas as a good state for sailing, but its location in the flat plains means plenty of prevailing winds. In fact, Cheney Lake near Wichita offers the highest average wind speed in the Continental US. As a result, it’s one of the best lakes in the nation for sailing.
Good snorkeling and diving are nearby. Go to Florida, down the Mississippi, or along ocean marshes.
If floating above the water and occasionally diving down to check out the life below is more to your liking, you’re in luck. Good snorkeling and diving opportunities may exist closer than you thought.
The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Florida covers 178 square miles of coral reefs, mangrove swamps, and seagrass beds. More than 50 varieties of multihued coral, and 600-plus species of fish, greet those who swim above or among them.
When thinking of outstanding snorkeling, Mississippi doesn’t usually come to mind, but the Gulf Islands National Seashore is rich with discoveries. Pinfish, pipefish, seahorses, and other tropical species hide in the seagrass while a sunken tugboat and battleship await sightings.
Soft adventure can be for the birds
Regarding sightings, bird watching combines outdoor experiences with our feathered friends' beauty, sounds, and wonder. The 400-plus sites that comprise the National Park System, located in every state, offer outstanding opportunities to commune with high flyers. Forty of them are recognized by Birdlife International as Globally Important Bird Areas.
Some destinations are mini-continents that provide an array of soft-adventure alternatives. Mother Nature was kind to Myrtle Beach when handing out natural beauty settings.
Perched along South Carolina’s coastline, its cornucopia of outdoor opportunities includes canoe and kayak tours through magnificent marshes and cruises to spot wildlife, including dolphins, alligators, and sea turtles.
Some resorts serve as a microcosm of the country regarding their activity offerings. The list at Mountain Lake Lodge, perched among Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, includes hiking, kayaking, and fishing; treetop adventures and archery; badminton and beach volleyball – and more.
As that list suggests, the soft adventure includes countless activities that appeal to everyone. And they’re available near and far.
Victor Block retains the travel bug after gallivanting throughout the United States and to more than 75 other countries worldwide and writing about what he sees, does, and learns. He believes travel is the best possible education and claims he still has much to learn. He loves to explore new destinations and cultures, and his stories about them have won many writing awards.