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Soft Adventure: One of the Fastest Growing Travel Trends *ONLINE ONLY*
January 2024
By Victor Block

Maybe you’re one of those brave people who love to climb soaring mountains, pedal an off-road bicycle over challenging terrain or venture into ocean caves that have lured divers to their death.

Or perhaps you prefer a gentle stroll through inviting scenery, steering a bike along flat paths or snorkeling to watch fishing swimming below the surface.

Hard-core adventure travel has its fans, and they wouldn’t want it any other way. But more people participate in what’s called soft adventure, and they range in age from children to others who blow out dozens of candles on their birthday cake.

Soft adventuring is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry. It encompasses a range of activities which people with virtually any physical ability my enjoy. That includes the over-50-year-old crowd, one of the fastest growing population groups in the United States.

A long list of activities awaits outdoor-minded folks who prefer comfort-seeking to thrill-seeking.

As the saying goes, if you can walk, you can hike – and opportunities for inviting walks probably abound close to where you reside, and certainly further away.

New York City’s “High Line” is an elevated linear park in Manhattan that occupies an abandoned railroad track. It offers views of the Hudson River and city skyline, and is decorated with colorful plants and art installations.

Further north, people of all ages and hiking abilities may trek to dramatic overlooks above Niagara Falls. They range from easy strolls to challenging scrambles along steep, rock-strewn paths.

Fort Worth, Texas is interlaced with 100 miles of Trinity Trails that lead to a number of outdoor gems. One is a waterfall which serves as a stopover for Monarch butterflies during their annual northern migration.

A favorite place for flat hiking among Floridians, and those visiting that state, is the historic Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys. It was constructed (1909-1912) to serve as a railroad span, and since a parallel overpass was built the original overpass has been popular with those who prefer to travel by foot or bicycle. The bridge often is so crowded with fishermen that it’s referred to as “the longest fishing pier in the world.”

Most people can find good fishing not far from where they live. Those seeking the ultimate in angling opportunities have a wide choice of other alternatives.

Lake Tahoe, California is the largest alpine body of water in North America. During warm months its deep holes teem with kokanee salmon, rainbow and brown trout, and mackinaw.

Charleston, South Carolina sits at the confluence of three rivers and is surrounded by tidal creeks and salt marshes. This Lowcountry region offers an abundance of red drum, flounder and speckled trout. The Gulf Stream, which flows offshore, attracts billfish, yellow tuna and other denizens of the deep.

If sailing above water rather fishing in it is your thing, there’s also a wide selection of options. Guests at Presque Isle State Park in Pennsylvania might feel that they’re at the ocean, because it occupies a sandy peninsula which juts into Lake Erie. Along with motor boating, swimming, fishing and diving, the lagoon often is dotted by the canvas of wind-driven boats.

It may seem surprising to think of Kansas as a good state for sailing, but its location in the flat plains means plenty of prevailing winds. In fact, Cheney Lake near Wichita offers the highest average wind speed in the Continental U.S. As a result, it’s as one of the best lakes in the nation for sailing.

If floating above water and occasionally diving down to check out the life below is more to your liking, you’re in luck. Good snorkeling and diving opportunities may exist closer than you thought.

The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Florida covers 178 square miles of coral reefs, mangrove swamps and seagrass beds. More than 50 varieties of multihued coral, and 600-plus species of fish, greet those who swim above or among them.

Mississippi doesn’t usually come to mind when thinking of outstanding snorkeling but the Gulf Islands National Seashore is rich with discoveries. Pinfish, pipefish, seahorses and other tropical species hide out in the sea grass, while a sunken tugboat and battleship await sightings.

Speaking of sightings, bird watching combines outdoor experiences with the beauty, sounds and wonder of our feathered friends. The 400-plus sites that comprise the National Park System, located in every state, offer outstanding opportunities to commune with high flyers. Forty of them are recognized by Birdlife International as Globally Important Bird Areas.

Some destinations are mini-continents that provide an array of soft-adventure alternatives. Mother Nature was kind to Myrtle Beach when it came to handing out natural beauty settings.

Perched along South Carolina’s coastline, its cornucopia of outdoor opportunities includes canoe and kayak tours through magnificent marshes, and cruises to spot wildlife, including dolphins, alligators and sea turtles.

Some resorts serve as a microcosm of the country in terms of their activity offerings. The list at Mountain Lake Lodge, perched among Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, includes hiking, kayaking and fishing; treetop adventures and archery; badminton and beach volleyball – and more.

As that list suggests, soft adventure includes countless activities with appeal to just about everyone. And they’re available near and far.

Photo: NYC High Line


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