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This is about outdoors destinations on the cheap. Normally that’s code for unpleasant, so let’s qualify that: This is about outdoors destinations on the cheaper. In the four instances here, cost savings come from the less trammeled destinations (our contribution) and the creative way you choose to get there (your contribution). Buckle up, and let’s roll!
Colorado Springs has Boulder’s altitude, nonstop purple mountains’ majesty and outdoorsy vibe, fresh local eats, and a vibrant craft beer scene without Boulder’s rocky prices. For example, a night in late May in the historic Mining Exchange Hotel will only set you back $134.
Go: April through October
Swim: Manitou Pool & Fitness Center is indoor, ozone-treated, and caters more to adults wanting to work out rather than kiddies doing cannonballs. Day pass is $7.50.
Bike: You can blast down Pikes Peak Highway at speeds that render gravity irrelevant, but there are also plenty of routes that are neither widowmaking nor singletrack. The road through Garden of the Gods Park, for example, has 600-800 feet of climbing over a roughly six-mile loop with postcard POVs of iconic red sandstone rock formations.
Run: While everything is at elevation, you can get in three or four flat, bucolic miles on the dirt trails of Monument Valley Park, right in downtown COS. Bring it, you say? The Barr Trail is brag-worthy—it’s the course of the Pikes Peak Marathon—climbing 7,500 feet over 12 miles. Bonus: If you make it to the summit, you’ve bagged yourself a 14er.
Recover: Try Bristol Brewery and Pub in the 1916 Ivywild School building; or pull into Colorado Mountain Brewery in the historic Midland railroad roundhouse.
In 2017, Chattanooga was the only city in the world to host four Ironman events (including 70.3 World Championships). This mid-size city has a river, a canyon, mountains, 50 trailheads within 30 minutes of downtown, and a temperate climate all year. Stay in a Chattanooga choo choo—vintage pullman car or a room in the 1880-built Terminal Station—for $100/night.
Go: Year ‘round
Swim: Triathlete and Barkley Marathons- finisher John Kelly, gets a kick out of swimming in the Tennessee River. Check out the Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers (COWS) website for workouts.
Bike: Whether you’re looking to grind on intermediate-to-advanced IMBA- designed singletrack or cook your quads on backcountry roads (8-percent to—wha?—18- percent grades), nearby Raccoon Mountain answers with spectacular forest and city views.
Run: If “Grand Canyon of the Tennessee River,” “swinging bridges,” “waterfalls,” and “upchuck” all come up in one sentence, then you’re probably talking about a run on the network of trails on Signal Mountain. Try the 12-mile Pot Point Trail overlooking the Tennessee River Gorge. It’s dope.
Recover: Beast + Barrel = Southern-style satisfaction. Surf (whole stuffed trout) and turf, lubricated by top shelf cocktails. Brunch. Mercy.
Of Bend’s 91,000 residents, 90,000 or so are pro outdoor athletes—triathlete Jesse Thomas, ultrarunner Amy Sproston, human all-terrain vehicle Max King, road cyclist Chris Horner, climbers, and kayakers all call Bend home. The other 1,000 brew beer. Bunk + Brew hostel de nes Bend’s budget-friendly ethos with bunks for $24 or a private two-person room for $43—that comes with a free local beer, free shuttle to Mount Bachelor or Smith Rock, breakfast, and WiFi. But, say you’re summering in the back of your truck and just want to freshen up before dinner: Bunk + Brew’s Dirtbag Deal gives you a towel and a brew, and lets you use the shower, laundry, and WiFi for $10.
Go: June through October
Swim: Juniper Swim & Fitness Center has pools indoor and out, including a 50-meter lap pool, and a huge outdoor water park for the kids. Day passes are $7-8.
Bike: “Up to Mt. Bachelor, down into the valley next to Sparks Lake. Go all the way to Elk Lake to refill with water, and ride back,” says six-time Wild ower champ Jesse Thomas. That’ll put you at more than 3,300 feet of climbing and 60 miles of riding from Bend as you wind through the Deschutes National Forest and take in views of the Cascades. Also check out the McKenzie River Trail: 20-plus miles of flowing, mostly downhill singletrack that winds through verdant old- growth forest, waterfalls, and brilliant blue pools of water.
Run: Thomas likes the Deschutes River Trail from Dillon Falls to Benham Falls and back. Think: forest, river, falls, and 12 miles meandering through the heart of Bend.
Recover: Three words from Max King: Crow’s Feet Commons. It’s a bike and ski shop with coffee, tea, beer and wine, and free speakers, music, and movies. And other people who like those things.
Bust out the map, put your finger on Venice, Italy, and trace it around the top of the gorgeous cerulean Adriatic ‘til you get to the other side of the gulf. Welcome to sun-drenched Koper, Slovenia, host to a brand-new Ironman 70.3 this September. With the help of cheap transportation, you can ski in the morning and dip in the sea in the afternoon. Furnished rental apartments are the way to go: A quick search on EuroCheapo.com (yes, it’s legit) netted a lovely one-bedroom apartment on the Adriatic—eight nights for $761. There were plenty similar.
A generous prixe fixe lunch runs about $10; a glass of wine at a sidewalk cafe, about $4. Make sure you get to the capitol, Ljubljana, and to hot spring-fed Lake Bled, just outside Triglav Nature Park.
Go: May through August for temps in the 70s to low-80s and lower rainfall
Swim: Get salty. Dive right into the Gulf of Trieste from any of the beaches in Koper, or the nearby villages of Ankaran, Izola, Portorož, and Piran.
Bike: The hilly 40 kilometers from Koper to Piran and back along the coast is part paved, part gravel, all eye-popping.
Run: The Ironman running segment, like the bike, hugs the coastline but is fairly flat. For a bit more vert with your views, go to Italy. Slovenia’s border with Italy is only 3 miles from Koper, located along a ridge that’s crisscrossed with trails.
Recover: Do you like parking your lycra- upholstered bum at a seaside cafe, knocking back inexpensive local wine, and noshing on seafood hoisted out of the gorgeous nearby waters? Eat pretty much anywhere; you can’t go wrong.