From the frozen wilderness of Canada’s far north to the imposing desert scenery of the US’s southern states, North America could almost have been designed for adventure holidays.
The destination’s incredible diversity is a huge selling point. Toby Butland, marketing manager at US adventure specialist Trek America, says: “Mountains, deserts, rivers, canyons, exciting cities, rich culture and history, spectacular monuments, beaches and theme parks: an adventure tour in North America offers a bit of everything.”
The US and Canada are also great starter destinations for those new to adventure tours. There’s no language barrier; activities are well set up and safety paramount; and the standards of travel, food and tour leaders are very high.
The Adventure Company has just started featuring North America, with both adult and family tours on offer in the Canadian Rockies and in the iconic national parks of the western US.
Intrepid Travel introduced five North American itineraries this year, including a 29-day tour of Alaska, a 15-day itinerary of US national parks and three, three-day tours of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Yosemite and Tahoe.
Exodus reports that two of its new North American itineraries – its Yellowstone Wildlife Trek and a hiking itinerary in Alaska – are performing particularly well.
On May 20 next year, the western US will be the perfect spot to watch the annual solar eclipse. In response, both Explore and The Adventure Company will offer tours led by astronomers to make the most of this opportunity.
For those with a more passing interest in star-gazing, why not suggest an itinerary in the area over that date, providing a real extra bonus to an already exciting trip.
Where to go
A huge proportion of adventure trips in the US head to the west of the country, where the massive variety of scenery across a high number of national parks provides the perfect setting for trekking and activities.
Arizona’s Grand Canyon is an obvious highlight, and is frequently packaged up with other stunningly vast rocky moonscapes, such as those in Utah’s Zion, Bryce Canyon and Canyonlands National Parks, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and Death Valley, which straddles Nevada and California.
California itself is hugely popular, with Yosemite National Park providing mountains, forests, lakes and rivers outside San Francisco, and Joshua Tree on the way inland from LA. The beautiful California coastline also makes up part of many trips.
Itineraries also travel north from San Francisco, visiting Jackson Hole, Yellowstone and Seattle.
The East Coast has far fewer adventure tour itineraries than the West Coast, but there are a handful from operators with wide US programmes, such as Trek America and Intrepid Travel.
Grand American Adventures, the sister brand of Trek America aimed at an older and family market, offers two 12-day trips in the southern states of the US, a Texan itinerary and a tour of the Deep South visiting New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville.
In Canada, the West Coast is also a hotspot for adventure. The Rockies form the backbone of most trips, with the potential to trek, bike, raft, ski, cycle and even heli-hike among other options. Some itineraries also visit Vancouver Island and Inside Passage, where clients can spot whales and bears.
Extremely adventurous tourists can head further north. Exodus has a Yukon Canoe Expedition that travels far into the wilderness. Operators also often package up the north of Canada with Alaska, where glaciers and icebergs provide the wow factor.
In October and November, special tours depart for Churchill in Manitoba, where nearly 1,000 polar bears make their way past town to get to the freezing shores of Hudson Bay.
For those with time on their hands, choose a cross-country itinerary in either the US or Canada; there are many coast-to-coast options. Or, if they’ve even longer, something circular taking in all the highlights.
Choosing the right trip
The destination is only the start of selecting the right trip for your client. The term adventure tour can encompass very different styles of travel. Most operators now rate tours depending on levels of activity and comfort, so it’s easy to see how much running around and roughing it each itinerary involves.
Some tours focus very much on getting active. They may involve a considerable amount of trekking or a multi-activity itinerary with other elements such as rafting, kayaking, biking and so on involved too.
These trips tend to spend longer in an area than the taster-style trips that cover more ground more quickly, and often intersperse trekking with jeep tours, city sightseeing and less-strenuous activities.
Accommodation will also differ. One key decision facing clients will be whether to camp. None of the trips will involve luxurious properties, but some will stay at comfortable hostels or hotels rather than in tents. Others mix and match, camping in remote areas where sleeping in the wilderness is part of the experience, but retreating to somewhere with rooms the rest of the time.
As with any group tour, fellow travellers can make or break the trip, so it helps to have an idea of the types of guest your customers will be joining so they don’t feel out of place.
In particular, families may be most comfortable travelling on the specially tailored family tours run by the likes of Explore, The Adventure Company and Grand American Adventures.
Many clients will have questions about the age range of the other travellers on their tour. It’s a difficult one to answer, as most operators report a wide spread across most itineraries, plus a variation from tour to tour.
It’s worth putting a call in to find out who has already booked into a certain departure. This can also put clients’ minds at rest if they are travelling solo or as a couple, and want reassurance that they won’t be the only ones.
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