Get Out of Town and Stay Out: Top 5 Outdoors Cities

By Aefa Mulholland

Originally published on Advocate.com July 10 2008 11:00 PM ET

Who says that you
can’t have the best of both worlds? Check out these
hot, fit cities that offer fantastic accommodations,
thrilling restaurants, and pulsating nightlife, as
well as a surfeit of outdoors opportunities within
city limits and on their doorsteps.

Seattle

Like its outdoors
adventure-focused neighbors, Portland and Vancouver,
Seattle is a city obsessed with going out to play. Local
papers run Hike of the Week columns, mountain bike
ownership is practically obligatory, and when summer
fades, Seattleites gamely swap their trail running shoes
for snowshoes and hit the slopes.

What to Pack: Running gear, hiking boots,
climbing gaiters, skis, snowboard, snowshoes, mountain bike,
fishing rod, deck shoes, PFD.

Make Tracks: Run or bike in the fresh Pacific
breeze along the city’s 75 miles of trails through
parks and across sandy beaches. Kayak or sail Lake
Washington or Lake Union, or head out into the Puget
Sound for stunning skyline views. Head north to Mount Baker,
east to Snoqualmie, or south to looming Mount Rainier for
incredible hikes and climbs among alpine flowers in
summer. In winter, Mount Baker and Snoqualmie offer
spectacular slopes for skiing, snowboarding, and
snowshoeing.

Going Clubbing: It’s no surprise that Seattle
has a slew of LGBT outdoors clubs. If you want to join other
like-minded types, contact Out
Ventures
and head out hiking, climbing, backpacking,
horseback riding, kayaking, biking, and scuba diving.

San Francisco

San Francisco is
a perfect urban playground with a plethora of parks to
play Frisbee in, an abundance of natural wonders within easy
reach, and think of the exercise you’ll get
just by hiking up those hills.

What to Pack: Wetsuit, running gear, hiking
boots, climbing gaiters, chalk bag, mountain bike, fishing
rod, deck shoes, PFD.

Make Tracks: Pedal over the Golden Gate Bridge
and head left for the three-mile climb up to the headlands
to glorious city views. Also across the bridge, Mount
Tamalpais is the perfect spot for hiking, running, or
just picnicking. Ocean Beach, in Golden Gate National
Recreation Area, is a top spot for surfing.

Going Clubbing: The city has dozens of gay
sports and outdoors clubs. Contact San
Francisco Gay Hiking Club
, Different
Spokes
, or San Francisco Gay Outdoors
Club
and hit the road.

Phoenix

Among its
dramatic red buttes and striking rock formations, Phoenix
offers some utterly spectacular outdoors opportunities.

What to Pack: Running gear, hiking boots,
mountain bike, chalk bag.

Make Tracks: Home to petroglyphs and a natural
rock crevice, South Mountain Park is the world’s
largest city park. Hike, bike, run, climb, or
horseback ride its 16,500 acres. For cliffs, caves,
and Dr. Seuss-esque rock formations, head to Camelback
Mountain. The views from the summit make the arduous
2.32-mile climb worthwhile. The glowing red volcanic
mountains of Papago Park, on the border of Phoenix and
Tempe, make excellent options for less experienced
hikers.

Going Clubbing:
Desert Adventures organize
camping, hiking, and other outdoors adventures for the LGBT
community.

Las Vegas

Beyond the neon,
the brash bray of the 24-hour strip, and the hordes of
buffet-hogging out-of-towners lie some of the world’s
most spectacular outdoors adventures options.

What to Pack: Running gear, hiking boots, chalk
bag, mountain bike, fishing rod, deck shoes, PFD.

Make Tracks: Within easy reach of wonders such
as red Rock Canyon, Lake Mead, Valley of Fire, and Mount
Charleston, the colors of the desert far outshine the
neon of the strip and downtown Vegas.

Going Clubbing: The all-inclusive Nevada Outdoors has a packed
calendar of skiing, lake excursions, climbing and hiking
expeditions.

Austin

Over a hundred
swimming holes, a gay-adored beach, and impressive
climbing crags beckon from the star of Texas.

What to Pack: Running gear, hiking boots, chalk
bag, mountain bike, fishing rods.

Make Tracks: Enchanted Rock, about 90 minutes
from the city, offers great climbing crags and bouldering
areas. Take the dog to Red Bud Isle Trail for a bit of
a workout, head to little known Commons Ford Waterfall
Trail or Pedernales Falls, join the hot bodies at
gay-popular Hippie Hollow on Lake Travis or head to one of
the 101 swimming holes in the
vicinity.

Going Clubbing: To find out more about outdoors
activities in the areas, contact Austin Gay Outdoors Club.