Where to Travel in 2024: OARS Top Picks
From a floatplane accessed expedition through Canada’s “Grand Canyon” to hands-on rowing instruction on Idaho’s cruisey Lower Salmon River, OARS has you covered for incredible adventure travel ideas in 2024.
“Interest in international travel is still on the rebound and demand for guided adventure experiences, particularly in places like Canada and Costa Rica, has never been stronger. With that in mind, we’ve broadened our selection of trips beyond the lower 48 with exciting new offerings in some of the planet’s most iconic destinations,” says Steve Markle, OARS Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “Adding to our unparalleled portfolio of rafting and hiking adventures throughout the West, travelers now have more options with OARS.”
Travelers can now venture to the edges of the Amazon rainforest, spot guanacos in the high plains of Torres del Paine, and catch waves on the Pacific shores of Costa Rica, all under the OARS umbrella of international offerings. Closer to home, several classic river trips top the list for 2024, but those looking to go off-grid and into the wild for a week or longer will drool over two new wilderness trips that take paddlers through the heart of some of Alaska and Canada’s most breathtaking national parks and preserves. For hikers, new itineraries in the Western U.S. should pique traveler’s interests, including a hassle-free way to explore one of the most popular national parks in the country—Yosemite. Let the 2024 adventure planning begin!
Venture Beyond the Lower 48
Navigate iceberg-filled lakes and drift through grizzly country
Rafting over 160 river miles in the heart of the Yukon, guests on an Alsek River expedition drift past colossal icebergs and witness the raw power of calving glaciers. Marvel at the towering peaks of the Saint Elias Mountains and be wowed by wildlife like grizzlies and playful seals in their undisturbed natural habitat. “Usually the guides are scouting whitewater, but here they’re scouting icebergs,” says OARS Adventure Consultant Caitlin Levitz who’s rafted the Alsek with her dad. “This is a genuinely untouched area. It’s a part of the world that you can’t see any other way, but by raft. The helicopter ride over Turnback Canyon is worth the trip,” Levitz says. “You’re so close to the glacier, you can see down into the crevasses.”
Fly in a floatplane to ultra remote Northern wilderness
Raft the Nahanni River through the staggeringly remote and pristine wilderness of Canada’s Northwest Territories. “The put-in itself, flying into Virginia Falls, is a spectacular experience,” says Jonathan Brunger, OARS International Reservations Manager. Designated a Canadian National Park Reserve, the Nahanni region is vast and rarely visited, often with less than 1,000 tourists per year. Characterized by some of the country’s deepest river gorges, no roads lead to the put-in at Virginia Falls. Guests enjoy an awe-inspiring floatplane flight before embarking on the rafting adventure. Wolves, moose and swirling Northern Lights are common sights on this bucket-list river trip.
Romp with the wildlife of Torres del Paine
Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park’s magnificent and unrivaled flora, fauna, and stunning vistas are at your fingertips with this 4- to 7-day customizable adventure package. “This itinerary allows guests to stay at the eco-lodge the whole time, rather than camping on the “W” Trek,” says Brunger. “Because of that you get to pick from a ton of different activities each day.” Wildlife viewing is a popular choice. Common sightings include wild horses, guanacos, pumas, condors and a variety of other bird species.
Combine the world’s largest rainforest with the Pacific’s most famous archipelago
Experience two of the world’s wonders in one trip—the Amazon Rainforest and the Galápagos Islands. Spend four nights in the Amazon at the Napo Wildlife Center in search of Amazonian wildlife with great opportunities for bird watching and learning about the indigenous communities that call this area their home. After seeing the lush rainforest at the headwaters of the Amazon, head out to sea to begin an island-hopping adventure aboard the Integrity, which offers a luxurious and intimate small yacht experience. “When you go that far, why not hit both of those iconic destinations?” says Brunger.
Play in the the jungle, ride the rapids and hit the beach
This expertly-curated Costa Rica Rainforest & River Explorer combines a nice balance of exciting activities with time to relax and reset in some of the world’s most captivating natural landscapes. Over nine days, this itinerary takes you from the country’s lush rainforests and mountainous volcanic interior to the wildlife-rich trails and beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park along the Pacific Ocean. Venture to a private nature reserve for two days of Pacuare River rafting and ziplining before heading inland to the Arenal Volcano region to explore by foot, soak in magnificent natural hot springs, and frolic in the canopy.
Explore the Western U.S.
Traverse the trails of a legendary red rock canyon
A new spin on a classic OARS trip, the Desolation Canyon Hiker is the stuff of trail dreams. After a scenic flight over Desolation Canyon and a short hike, guests board the boats for a descent into some of Utah’s wildlife-rich deep canyon wilderness. “The Tavaputs Plateau (top of the canyon) is at about 11,000 ft, and the canyon bottom is around 4,500 ft. This means you can see alpine and desert flora and fauna in the same trip,” says Davide Ippolito, an OARS guide who frequents Desolation Canyon. Though the hiking trip is a similar length as the standard Desolation Canyon itinerary, the hiking-focused itineary is all about getting off the water and onto the trails. Guides have greater flexibility for exploring the region’s many hike-accessed landmarks, including Rock House Petroglyphs, Flat Canyon Petroglyphs and Window Rock among others.
Scale granite steps to waterfalls and mystical views
Revamped for 2024, our popular Yosemite hiking program is back. Feel the mist of Yosemite Valley’s raging waterfalls, and stand on top of the world in the majestic Sierra Nevada. The two distinct Yosemite hiking itineraries we’ve put together showcase the best of the best of this dramatic region during two very different seasons within the park. According to Amanda Willis, OARS California Reservations Manager, this is a trip designed with ease in mind. Skip the bottleneck at the park entrance and trailheads from the comfort of a private shuttle, and simply show up ready to hike some of the most awe-inspiring trails in the world. In the evening, return to Rush Creek Lodge, a true Yosemite destination in its own right with a luxurious spa, saltwater pool, and restaurants on site.
Pull on the oars with the best guides on the river
Learn from the best on one of Idaho’s most appealing rivers. The Lower Salmon Rowing Clinic is meant to teach those interested in rafting the skills to navigate a river on their own and expand their knowledge of commercial guiding. Taught by OARS professional river guides, often with decades of experience, guests will gain on-river experience and insight into topics like ropework, boat packing, hydraulics and, of course, rowing. Added due to high-demand for its other popular instructional offerings, the new program is now one of six rowing courses the company offers throughout the West on rivers like the Colorado, Green and Rogue.
Float through wildlife-filled Pacific Northwest wilderness
Among the most popular rafting trips in the world, the Rogue River is a must-do adventure. Launch an inflatable kayak into the splashy fun rapids of the Wild & Scenic-designated section. Swim in the clean clear water of tributary pools and camp under the stars alongside the river. Offering travelers the most flexibility of any river trip OARS runs, the trip is available as a 3-, 4-, or 5-day departure, and also boasts a number of wine, gourmet and all-adult specialty departures to suit traveler interests.
Look up from the deepest gorge in North America
The Snake River through Hells Canyon is one of OARS Idaho staff’s favorite river trips. “Every time of year has something new to offer,” says OARS Idaho operations manager Hillary Mosman. “Our crew enjoys the vivid green canyon walls and waterfalls in the spring, and in late summer they light up when they talk about the amount of water rolling through rapids like Granite and Wild Sheep.” There’s also excellent fishing, camping on sandy beaches and a fun flight to the put-in.