Graduation trips are often predictably mundane: Mexico or Europe, usually involving lots of drinking and sun. That’s all well and good, but how about moving outside your comfort zone and experiencing something unique? If you like being outdoors, we’ve got five great graduation trip ideas for you — sure to leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.
1: Camping in Yellowstone (Wyoming)
We know; touring the great Yellowstone National Park is something of a cliché graduation trip idea, but it is one for a reason. If you haven’t experienced it for yourself, now is the time. Take a week (or more) and hike/camp in this magnificent 3,500-square-mile reserve. We recommend starting in the southeast and moving slowly northwest; this provides access to several campsites, while giving you a chance to see breathtaking gray wolves, bison, Old Faithful and other steamy geysers, and various other natural sites. At the center of the park is a “beltway” that you can circle to hit key fishing spots, picture-perfect vistas, and educational outposts. A few things to note before you come, however: There’s an app to download that’s extremely helpful, so look for that in your app store; bears are around, so keep food high and camp only in designated areas; and cell phone service is limited so bring paper maps and alternate communication devices.
2: Tree Peeping at Tongass National Forest (Alaska)
For a graduation trip idea that’s a little more exotic, consider a graduation trip up in the frosty wilderness of Alaska. Truth be told, the state boasts some beautiful natural havens in the summertime, including Tongass National Forest. Threaded with rushing streams and dotted with evergreens, this 17-million acre expanse houses multiple indigenous tribes, as well as major cities (like Juneau). While the forest has suffered damage from logging over the centuries, preservation efforts have helped retain the natural beauty of the area — which you can enjoy while camping or simply hiking. If you’re keen on seeing tree varieties beyond the evergreen (primarily spruce and western hemlock), look for breathtaking western red cedar. Entrance fees for a seven-day pass run about $35 per vehicle.
3: White Water Rafting on the Arkansas River (Colorado)
For a wetter adventure, head to Colorado’s Arkansas River, where dozens of rafting companies have set up shop to guide thrill-seekers through the foamy zig-zag of rushing water. Tops on our list is Noah’s Ark, located in Buena Vista. The main rafting trips include full, half-day, and overnight “rides” in Browns Canyon, though other rafting trips are offered via the Narrows (narrow passages along the river) and in the Royal Gorge. Fees run $73 to $295 for adults, with lower pricing for children six to 12. The best part about Noah’s Ark is that they offer packages that pair rafting with other quintessential Colorado adventures, like hiking and rock climbing, for one low, all-inclusive fee.
4: Glamping at Westgate River Ranch (Florida)
Looking for a more amenity-rich natural adventure? That’s why glamping was invented — and why, more specifically, Westgate River Ranch Resort offers some glorious glamping-ness. Sleep underneath the glistening stars surrounded by majestic oaks as you lounge on plush beds with high-end linens and, necessarily, air conditioning. You’ll also get a private bathroom and shower, microwave, mini-fridge, fire pit, and morning coffee service. If you feel like getting your hands dirty on the ranch, you can always do a little fishing, take a pony ride, or go rock climbing. Heck, you can even zip line. The world’s your glampy oyster at Westgate.
5: Horseback Riding at Gunstock Ranch (Hawaii)
Hawaii is a popular beach-nesting destination for any occasion, but have you considered settling in at Gunstock Ranch and enjoying some horseback riding instead? Take an ambling, leisurely ride through the 900-acre ranch, soaking in the majestic mountains and verdant fields, then stop to plant a tree. Or, stick to the scenic tour with a one-and-a-half-hour horseback ride that takes you by all kinds of vistas and wildlife – including feral pigs, cattle, and mammoth island birds. In the distance, you’ll be able to see the mesmerizing blue of the ocean. When you’re done with horses, then head to the beach and down a couple of Mai Tais.
Have a great nature-centric graduation trip idea we missed? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may add it to this article.