Yes, the weather is getting a little chillier this time of year. (Unless you live in Arizona, in which case: Congratulations, you can now step outside without fear of spontaneously combusting.)
But even though a gnarly gym session might feel easier than a morning run in subzero temperatures, there's no better time to venture into the wild than in December, when all the random people from your neighborhood rediscover their dormant gym subscriptions and crowd you out.
So book some cheap tickets, lace up your trail runners, and put your fitness to the test with these six outdoor adventures.
Bozeman Ice Festival
Bozeman, MT; Dec. 9-13.
Each winter, Bozeman’s Hyalite Canyon transforms into one of America’s richest, most accessible ice-climbing playgrounds, with more than 250 natural ice and mixed climbs. During the Ice Fest, world-class climbers like Conrad Anker, Steve House, and Kyle Dempster turn this outdoor cathedral into a classroom, teaching five-plus-hour, take-all-comers clinics in which you can learn from the best while testing the latest, greatest gear.
Battle for Black Rock Trail Run
*Mountain City, GA; Dec. 5.
“The beauty will mask the pain,” says organizer Sean “Run Bum” Blanton of this technical, up-and-down trail race through Black Rock Mountain State Park, Georgia’s highest. Don’t count on it—but at least the course’s gorgeous 12-mile loop (which runners tackle up to three times) features spectacular, end-of-the-world views.
Paddle Among Giants
*Loreto, Baja, Mexico; Dec. 5, 12, 19, 26.
Endangered whales migrate here in winter looking for savory crustaceans. The best way to see the massive creatures? Bobbing alongside them in a sea kayak. Row Adventures’ eight-day kayak camping trips offer unparalleled access to Loreto Bay National Marine Park, where dolphins play among bright tropical fish.
Rendezvous at the Methow Trails
*Winthrop, WA; All month.
The 120-plus miles of groomed Nordic trails at the nation’s largest cross-country ski area are far more than you can ski in a day. No worries. Cozy, woodstove-heated huts—many with spectacular views of the Cascades—are scattered throughout the system so you can put together an epic multi-day backcountry trip.
Fish the Florida Keys Smorgasbord
*Florida Keys, FL; All month.
Sure, winter northerlies tend to drive prized tarpon and bone-fish from the Keys’ famous flats. But they also push smaller bait-fish inshore—and right behind them are huge barracuda, sea trout, redfish, snapper, and other trophy fish. Pair up with the right guide, and you can reel in dozens of fish in a hard-hitting half-day charter.
Ride the Red Rocks
*Sedona, AZ. All month.
With hundreds of miles of technical singletrack, a gorgeous Mars-like landscape, and daytime temps in the 50s and up, Sedona’s the perfect place to get your winter fat-tire fix. Then bundle up and head an hour north (and 2,500 feet higher) to Flagstaff’s flowy trails—winding through aspen and pine forests—to double down on your adventure.