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8 Bright Ideas for Your Next Spring Adventure

Snorkel with sea lions in Mexico
8 Bright Ideas for Your Next Spring Adventure
As flowers know, warming temps are a cue to step out of winter hibernation and stretch into spring’s return. But rather than simply soaking up the rays of sunshine, why not make the most of the season by getting outside and exploring? Whether you’re savoring wildflower blossoms in the Alps or ogling fall foliage on the other side of the equator in Patagonia, many of nature’s glories are at their finest in March, April, and May. With the season’s dazzling backdrop, now is it the time to prepare to venture out on these eight coastal and mountain adventures.
By Kelly Bastone, AFAR Contributor
Courtesy of Breakfree Adventures
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    Snorkel with sea lions in Mexico
    Snorkel with sea lions in Mexico

    La Paz, Mexico
    The seas surrounding Espíritu Santo are teeming with life: More than 890 fish species and representatives of some 40 percent of all marine mammal species flourish in these tropical waters off the Baja Peninsula. To swim and snorkel among the underwater inhabitants of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, join Baja Adventure Co. on a 30-minute boat ride from La Paz. Year-round, snorkelers can explore kaleidoscopic coral reefs and stretch out on talcum-soft white sand beaches. But spring is the best time to swim with sea lion pups: Newborns suckle their mothers on shore, while inquisitive yearlings prefer to frolic with the islands’ strange mask-and-fin wearing visitors. In March and April, you may even spot 50-foot-long gray whales—some swimming alongside their calves (mating and birthing occurs from January through early April). —$120/adult

    Courtesy of La Paz Tourism Board
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    Mountain bike in the Alps
    Mountain bike in the Alps
    Sospel, France 
    The maritime Alps that border the French and Italian Riviera are lower in elevation than the inland peaks, so in spring—when Chamonix remains buried in snow—the growing network of mountain bike trails in Sospel are delightfully dry. To crank among honey-scented forests rife with spring blooms, hit the Fighetta Trail or Bois de l’Agaisen (which ends in downtown Sospel). Save yourself the uphill effort by booking with Cool Bus, which offers trail shuttles. Be sure to ask your driver for advice on the best riding: Some of the company’s bike enthusiasts have helped to build and maintain Sospel’s trails. —$55/person (minimum four riders)
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    Celebrate spring skiing in Alaska
    Celebrate spring skiing in Alaska
    Anchorage, Alaska
    Most ski areas around the world ring in spring with silly stunts and parties, but the Alyeska Resort and Hotel takes this ritual to the next level. Alaskans are particularly eager to uncork after their notoriously long, dark winter—so when warm, sunny days grace these slopes, locals cut loose with costumes, dancing, and loud music. Every lift station becomes a party hub, and the slopes offer close-up views of the massive Chugach Mountains rising from the blue waters of Turnagain Arm. Add that to the long days (lifts run till 6 p.m., and by the end of April, sunset is at 10 p.m.) and you get some of the most delightful turns you’ll find anywhere.
    Photo by Ralph Kristopher
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    Hike through a Nepalese wonderland of wildflowers
    Hike through a Nepalese wonderland of wildflowers
    Pokhara, Nepal
    From March to May, the world’s largest rhododendron forest bursts into bloom, framed by the snow-cloaked peaks of the Himalayas. To wander among the thousands of flowers, use Pokhara as your launchpad for the Ghorepani Poon Hill trek, which slices through the thickest patches of flowers. Most hikers take four to six days to complete the round-trip journey; Breakfree Adventures offers flower-targeting guided trips starting from Kathmandu.
    Courtesy of Breakfree Adventures
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    Ride the rapids of California’s Tuolumne River
    Ride the rapids of California’s Tuolumne River
    Tuolumne County, California
    Just a three-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, these 18 miles of nearly continuous Class III-V rapids are wild at any time of the year. But in May and June, snowmelt from the Sierra Nevadas sends a surge of water through the Tuolumne’s remote, roadless canyons (which have earned Wild and Scenic designation from the National Park Service). O.A.R.S. offers one-, two-day trips in the spring. Both let paddlers plumb Clavey Falls, a fearsome staircase rapid punctuated by Dinosaur Rock in its center. Surviving that makes every trip feel like a jubilee. —From $269
    Courtesy of O.A.R.S.
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    Paddle the Galápagos
    Paddle the Galápagos
    Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
    April marks the end of the Galápagos’s rainy season and the start of some exciting wildlife activity. Green sea turtle and iguana hatchlings emerge, some penguins start their breeding season, and flocks of waved albatross will have returned to Española Island for their annual courtship. Plus, the March rains generally produce a flood of white and yellow wildflowers that bloom through May. Book with Galápagos Unbound, which eschews the typical yacht-based tours for sea kayak excursions to less-visited islands. —From $4,995
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    Conquer the Grand Canyon from rim to rim
    Conquer the Grand Canyon from rim to rim
    Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
    Sure, you can hike in and out of the Grand Canyon in a day, and some endurance runners tag both rims in 24 hours. But the largest U.S. canyon merits an extended look—and overnighting at Phantom Ranch, situated along the Colorado River beneath soaring red sandstone cliffs, lets you savor sunset and sunrise on the canyon’s famously orange walls (dorms from $51 per person, cabins from $149 for two). Bookings at Phantom Ranch fill 13 months in advance, so if you’ve missed that window, hike with Arizona Outback Adventures. Their three- and five-day trips start at the untrammeled North Rim and descend through myriad eco-zones to the river before overnighting with hearty dinners and beers and Phantom Ranch and ending with the South Rim’s grand finale panoramas. —From $1,595 plus $41 permit for three days; $2,445 plus $63 permit for five days
    Courtesy of Arizona Outback Adventures
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    Hike in Patagonia’s fall foliage
    Hike in Patagonia’s fall foliage
    Chile
    In March, Patagonia’s infamous winds ease up and offer hikers uncharacteristically calm weather for hiking the W trek through Torres del Paine National Park. Not only that, but the southern beech trees that fill the French Valley also turn brilliant shades of amber. Complete the W’s five-day, 53-mile version for incomparable views of red-rimmed Lago Skottsberg beneath the snaggled Torres. Guided and self-guided options are available through Fantastico Sur.
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