Outside Traveler - Summer 2004


National Parks 2004

By Mike Grudowski and Amy Marr

Canyonlands, Utah

RENAISSANCE FUNHOGS, BRACE YOURSELVES: This trip, combining three days of mountain biking with five days of whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, may be the tastiest pairing since chocolate cabernet. It takes you straight into the heart of Canyonlands' high-desert rock garden, defined by the goosenecking canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers and an almost hallucinogenic symphony of spires, buttes, mesas, hoodoos, fins, arches, and slickrock. Phase one: a two-wheeled thrill ride on most of the 100-mile White Rim Trail, a celebrated track that requires a four-wheel-drive support vehicle to tote food and gear. Aim counterclockwise, along the Green River in the Island in the Sky district, and take a side trail at Lathrop Canyon or Potash to your prearranged meeting with your rafting guides. Here you embark on phase two: epic Southwest whitewater. A few miles below the confluence of the Green and the Colorado roars Cataract Canyon, a chain of about 25 Class III-V rapids that some claim trump to those in the Grand Canyon, at least in the high water months of May and June. O.A.R.S. Moab, Guides raft trips ($1227, return flight from Lake Powell included; 800-346-6277,.

Stanislaus National Forest, California

HUGGING YOSEMITE'S northwest shoulder is the strikingly similar terrain of the Stanislaus National Forest, with more than 800 miles of rivers and streams, 1,470 designated campsite, and plenty of wilderness access points for sublime rafting and mountain biking. Allow two hours to drive from Yosemite to a choice stretch of unpopulated whitewater, the North Fork of the Stanislaus, a steep, narrow canyon best run in May and June. Here await six miles of relentless whitewater, California's longest continuous Class IV stretch. En route to this trove, spend a night at Murphys Historic Hotel in Murphys, a charismatic Gold Rush town of Highway 4 (doubles, $65-$100; 800-532-7684, www.murphyshotel.com). Then start the wild ride at Sourgrass Crossing, about 20 miles from Murphys, navigating massive drops, boulder slaloms, and stair-step waterfalls, into Calaveras Big Trees State Park. O.A.R.S. offers day-long rafting adventures ($117-$143 per person; 800-346-6277, www.oars.com). Next up: Continue on Highway 4 to Bear Valley, trade your paddle for knobbies, and tackle the Bear Valley/Lake Alpine route, ten miles of rock-hopping singletrack. Bear Valley Adventure Company (209-753-2834) has maps, guides and rentals. With a sunset-facing deck and knotty timbered cabins, Lake Alpine Lodge (one bed-room cabins from $120; 209-753-6358, www.lakealpinelodge.com) is your serene base camp. Don't dawdle: Highway 4 could be the state's next scenic byway.