“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Did Robert Frost consider the adrenaline rush that would accompany the road less traveled if he were tearing down the path on a snowmobile or ATV? He didn’t, but travel planners should. Incorporating an off-road excursion provides groups the gift of adventure, unique vistas and the excitement of a truly new experience. And for multigenerational trips or groups with more novices than experts, this sampler proves off-road adventures are for folks of all ages and skill levels.
Snowmobiling Around Lake Tahoe
The peaks around Lake Tahoe are renowned the world over for powder-fresh skiing — and where there’s skiing, there’s snowmobiling.
“Snowmobiling is one of the prime wintertime activities up here,” said Bart Peterson, director of sales at Travel North Tahoe Nevada. “It’s not only cruising through the forest and seeing the pristine and beautiful snow-covered landscape. You can take in this big body of water from an outlook you can access only by snowmobile. It’s a winter wonderland out there when everything is blanketed in a fresh coat of white.”
Snowmobiling for beginners can be a challenge, but there’s good news. Riding with a guide, like the ones at Lake Tahoe Snowmobiling in Tahoe Vista, makes it very approachable.
“The guide reviews the safety session beforehand, you ride single file, you wear a helmet,” Peterson said. “And with the guide, it eliminates risk so you can try something new and different.”
Tours with outfitter Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours range from two- to four-hour excursions and are tailored to group skill level. Book online for groups of up to 12 and make arrangements over the phone for larger groups.
Peterson’s recommendation is to view the massive lake from the center of the north shore.
“Off Highway 267, right above Tahoe Vista, is probably the best spot to take in views of Tahoe,” he said. “The scale of it speaks to the soul. To go somewhere to take in the views is soothing, peaceful and tranquil, so you’re combining the rush of flying through the forest with the peacefulness of the area. That’s what sets this operator and this destination from other alpine winter environments.”
For nearby lodging options, look into North Star Village or the Hyatt Regency. Thanks to its location on the lake, the Hyatt is in its off-season in the winter, which may be a boon to planners.
Off-Roading in Park City
Planning a trip to the greater Salt Lake City area? Neighboring Park City boasts two distinct ways to explore the craggy Wasatch Mountains that hosted the 2002 Winter Olympic Games: E-bikes and UTVs.
“One of the cool things about Park City is e-bikes have taken off,” said Scott House of the Park City Chamber of Commerce. “E-bikes, or electric bikes, have an added battery-operated propulsion system. “It’s a great way for multigenerational groups to explore. Anyone from 14 to 50, 60 and 70 and older can get on an e-bike and really have an awesome experience.” Plan for an itinerary in town for the morning or venture all day into the mountains to see the Utah Olympic Park.
House likes to start on historic Main Street and hit up Park City Museum, and along the way, numerous restaurants accommodate groups. Leave town on northbound State Route 224 and riders end up in Kimble Junction, the main entry corridor to the Olympic Park, where groups can view the ski jump, aerials and bobsled track.
“The vistas on the way are just … stop and look,” House said. “You turn around and it’s another amazing mountain view. It’s limitless in that sense. The e-bike lets you travel that distance without being fatigued.”
Ready to up the ante? Research UTV — utility task vehicle — tours in the area.
“UTV tours are really fun,” House said. “The vehicles are bigger than an ATV and allow for up to four passengers in a car. From a group perspective, you can mix up family or business units, put people in those different cars and they can have different conversations.”
UTV tours are suited for the off-road enthusiast, as the vehicles are designed for rough, untamed routes. Groups can use them to access the hundreds of miles of mountain trails around Park City.
“The Uinta Mountains are for the more adventurous crowd,” House said. “They are more remote, with less infrastructure, but they are an absolutely unreal mountain range.”
For planning, groups should look into outfitters like Park City eBike Tours, White Pine Touring or All Season Adventures.
Key West Jeep Tours
The archipelago forming Key West and the Keys spans 126 miles, providing endless opportunities to get in the water, explore destinations and enjoy beautiful Florida views. Why not cover the gamut with a mini road trip via the Jeep group tour. Of all the options in this sampler, this is the most accessible.
“The destination speaks to so many people in so many ways,” said Ashley Serrate, representative for the Florida Keys and Key West. “Some people love the architecture in Key West; some people love the vibe and people; others love access to unbelievably clear vistas. It’s hard to say what one thing speaks to people but it does. Most people take a direct flight to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. They head to Key Largo and from there, hop in a Jeep and road trip through the destination.”
Outfitter Key West Adventures provides topless or convertible Jeeps at the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce.
“You’ll have the salt breeze on your face, the Atlantic Ocean on one side, Port Bay on the other,” Serrate said. “Through the entire destination, there are 42 bridges that you’ll drive across. It’s definitely one of the best road trips you can take. Once you hit the stretch of highway known as the overseas highway, you feel as if you’re in the Caribbean, but you haven’t had to stamp your passport.”
The first destination on the southward route is Key Largo, a snorkeler’s paradise and home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first one of its kind in the country. Park the Jeep and take a dip. Then head farther south to Islamorada for sport fishing and its burgeoning arts community.
“Continue the Jeep road trip in Marathon,” Serrate said. “Marathon is family friendly with great attractions like the Turtle Hospital, the aquarium and larger resorts with accommodation types for multiple types of travelers.” Her recommendation is to enjoy driving across Seven Mile Bridge and explore Pigeon Key, a tiny, five-acre island whose history goes back to the turn of the 20th century. “You can spend the day there, explore the museum, check out the island, and they also do group picnics as well,” she said.
Awe and adrenaline await in the almost-heaven mountains of West Virginia — and the best way to experience them is on an ATV.
“A big reason groups like to come to our area is the Hatfield McCoy Trail,” Visit Southern West Virginia’s Sam Brackenrich said about the historic trail system. The offroad mecca cuts 1,000 miles of interconnected trails in the coal-formed mountains with sights and experiences that reward the brave. Interesting landmarks, like the cemetery where members of the warring Hatfield clan (of Hatfield and McCoy notoriety)s, including Devil Anse Hatfield, are buried, and vistas only nature could perfect dot the trails. “There are high rocky walls that you ride beside, tunnels you ride through,” Brackenrich said, describing some of the terrain.
“Lots of multigenerational groups come,” Brackenrich said. Typically, outfitters can accommodate riders as young as six. To operate the street-legal vehicles, drivers must be 18 with a valid driver’s license. A brief training will equip riders with rules, operation know-how and navigational skills. ATV tours can accommodate large groups, making them popular with families.
Plan ahead and pack picnics for lunches at waterfalls, or eat at restaurants in the small mountain towns sometimes accessible only by ATV.
“Some outfitters do guided tours, where they can ride ahead of you or you can ride on the ATV with them,” Brackenrich said. “They give you a trail map or you can download it once you’re there. Just take off and enjoy the day.”
Plan to stay in Princeton or Beckley, small towns with hotels and amenities within an hour and a half from the trails.