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4 Tips for Finding Adventure in Your Own Backyard

By Heather Anderson

In a perfect world I’d be able to string together ambitious adventures in far-flung places year-round. However, in addition to being exhausting, it’s also financially untenable. But that doesn’t mean that in between “big” adventures I am moping and wishing. Instead, I’ve learned to find adventure in my backyard. This keeps costs low, increases my number of nights outside per year, and helps me avoid two extremes: burnout and boredom. Below are four methods for optimizing opportunities for adventure!

The first step is to set aside time. The best part about doing backyard (or regional) adventures is that you don’t need to spend a lot of time getting to and from your destination. You also don’t need to worry about things like jet lag either. Instead, you can maximize the amount of time you spend doing. This means you can set aside long weekends to tackle mini adventures that need less than four days without taking any extra time off work. You can also use your annual vacation to stay local and squeeze in more adventure than you would if you flew across the country (or world).

Next, look for locales. This may mean expanding your definition of backyard to include destinations within a day’s drive (or maybe even a little more). After defining your backyard, start researching your preferred form of recreation be it crags, trails, or waterways, joining local online or in-person sport specific clubs, and getting maps from public land management agencies. These will help you curate lists of adventures local to you. From there, sort them into categories based on time needed and seasonality. Having a ready-made list can be useful when other plans fall through, as well. If you’re really an overachiever, you can create a folder with the research already done and ready to implement at a moment’s notice!

“All too often, we try to pack all of our adventure into the fleeting summer months. The reality is that many adventures are equally enjoyable (and perhaps preferable) in the spring and fall.”

Now that you’ve got your list, it’s time to gear up for all conditions. All too often, we try to pack all of our adventure into the fleeting summer months. The reality is that many adventures are equally enjoyable (and perhaps preferable) in the spring and fall. Depending on your skill and comfort level, even the winter can be a good time to explore. The key is to have more than a summer kit and understand what additional gear and skills will be needed to be out in the less perfect weather windows. Having a good layering system (alpaca hoodie anyone?), a warmer sleeping bag or a liner for your summer bag, and a more stormproof tent than you might take in high season can help make for a pleasant experience even if conditions aren’t ideal.

If you’re set on a big adventure such as the Appalachian Trail, but the practicality of taking several months off to thru-hike is non-existent, consider a section hike. If some of a long-distance trail falls within your backyard parameters, you have the perfect opportunity to section hike those backyard segments. Start piecing it together by investing your vacation time each year there and work outward toward completion of the entire trail. This method not only guarantees a series of great backyard adventures, but it also provides you with the flexibility to see the trail at the time of year that is best for each segment—a luxury not afforded to thru-hikers.

No matter where you opt to adventure or how you plan to do it, the key is to work it into your lifestyle in a fulfilling and sustainable way. Spending time in nature doing what you love is the ideal form of self-care.

Heather Anderson is a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, three-time Triple Crown thru-hiker, and professional speaker whose mission is to inspire others to “Dream Big, Be Courageous.” She is also the author of two hiking memoirs Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home and Mud, Rocks, Blazes: Letting Go on the Appalachian Trail and a preparatory guide to long-distance hiking Adventure Ready. Find her on Instagram @_WordsFromTheWild_ or her website wordsfromthewild.net
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