Recently, I went on a weeklong journey with Backroads, the world’s #1 active travel company. Their California Winter Fit Multisport Trip took our small group from the snowy mountains of Tahoe (Sugar Bowl Ski Resort) to the wine country of Sonoma to the idyllic marina town of Sausalito ending our adventure in sensational San Francisco. I am not one for group travel, unless they are my friends. This trip forever changed my mind of how nice an organized trip can be where you don’t have to worry about a thing and you aren’t locked in to doing everything with the group.
Highlights of my five and a half day excursion that some might like to call ‘winter boot camp’ were not only the like-minded people I met on this trip, but the daily exercise and peace I felt being outside with nature. I won’t ever forget cross country skiing and snow shoeing in Royal Gorge in the Sierras, exploring Jack London Park where the esteemed author’s house and gravesite remain, touring the sustainable Benziger winery, enjoying the thermal baths and spa at the Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, practicing yoga in a church at Cavallo Point Lodge, gazing at the Golden Gate Bridge from my room view at Cavallo Point Lodge, hiking from Muir Woods to Stinson Beach and back, and biking in the rain from Mill Valley to Sausalito. A perfect way to end this outdoor adventure was taking the ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco, where our group had one final lunch at the Ferry building in San Francisco. What also stood out to me about this trip was how well researched every day was – from the best choice in restaurants to the lunches sometimes prepared for us in a park or vineyard. The organized earthy athletic tour guides who ran our trip even created a spread of endless snacks that we could pack up before every hike!
Top 10 Reasons of Why You Should go on a Backroads Trip – Biking, Walking, Hiking, and Multisport
1. You don’t have to think about a thing.
Every detail is planned – from the bags being delivered, to the bikes being fitted to your specifications and ready, to an array of incredible snacks laid out for you by the trip leaders before you head out. Every day is full and every bit is planned – best accommodations, best restaurants, best outdoor activities. Each day you receive a one page synopsis of the day’s agenda, which you can opt out of whatever you like. Also, the sheet provides the Inside Scoop or a little bit of history of the area. Backroads has perfected the trips so they are flawless with countless options. So, if it rains, there are backup options. If you don’t want to do the 10 mile hike, you can do the 5 mile hike. If you want to leave dinner early because you are wiped out, you don’t have to wait for everyone to finish or the check to come, the leaders take care of it. Each trip has been thoroughly researched, so the planning on your end is not needed.
2. The leaders are knowledgeable and experienced.
Our leaders Courtney and Melissa were hysterical, laid back in a good way, and so knowledgeable about wherever we went. They were so organized and catered to our every whim. They whipped out some of the most elaborate lunches I have ever had when we were not dining at a restaurant. We never once got lost in the van. The girls seemed to be jack of all trades and would spare no effort to make sure we had a good time.
3. Backroads, the World’s #1 Travel Company has been around for a long time.
Started over 30 years ago, this company has learned to get every detail right. Their tours all over the world are led by 2-3 people who are trained to make your trip seamless. When I say seamless, I mean they will do just about anything you like. The trip leaders were laid back, super organized, and took care of every detail. Once we had a picnic with dessert, lunches, hot chocolate, tea, or coffee, in the middle of the wild at a warming hut in Tahoe because our guides had expertly taken all of the food, snacks, and beverages out and set them up via a sled. What a nice treat after hours of skiing or snowshoeing! Also, the best routes for mixed ability levels are mapped out everywhere you go. One family on my CA Winter Fit Trip has been on over ten trips from Spain, Italy, to Costa Rica, and they had such great experiences and memories to share.
4. The food is incredible.
The food was beyond exceptional in every place we went. Backroads selects award-winning cuisine – the best spots in every place. Memorable meals included breakfast and dinner at The Lodge at Sugar Bowl. I was surprised by how amazing the food was here at this rustic lodge hotel which we had to take a gondola up to. Highlights: French onion soup, duck, filet mignon, and everything on the breakfast menu. Dinner at the Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa was another spot not to miss with their fresh served ingredients and dessert (cake in a basket with caramel popcorn ice cream). The food continued to far exceed my expectations as we dined at Cavallo Point Lodge with their hearty seafood bouillabaisse, delectable cheeses, and endless dessert options. Almost all meals were provided on the trip, except for one dinner. Backroads also provides a list of recommended restaurants when dining on your own. I was happy to try my own choice sushi restaurant called Sushi Ran in Sausalito, that was just outstanding! The sushi was melt in your mouth fresh.
5. The trips are carefully designed.
Backroads carefully selects not only unique restaurants and food experiences, but chooses properties with character that perfectly suit the region. Their high standards include choice Premier Inns or Casual Inns. Charm, authenticity, location, service, comfort, elegance are what they are all about. There is also a nice blend between outdoor exercise opportunities and cultural events, like spending time at the Jack London park and touring the Benziger Winery in Sonoma. Also, if you want to leave a group dinner after you have eaten, you can. You don’t have to wait for the bill or the whole group to finish. I found this wonderful, especially nights that I was just plain beat from skiing. In some locations we had the local experts come talk to us, whether it be how the Benziger Winery functions solely off the land around it, or an expert guide in the forest at Jack London State Park. Their knowledge enhanced the experience.
6. Seeing places through nature in an ACTIVE way (biking, hiking, skiing, kayaking) is the best way to travel.
Backroads originated with biking excursions, then went to hiking/walking, and now multisport. Other excursions may include skiing, cross country skiing, yoga, kayaking, and so on. You can select a trip anywhere in the world that includes an active lifestyle experience and select from trips that are for families, singles/solo, or private trips.
7. The size of the groups are manageable, so you can see and do more.
Groups sizes are typically less than ten, so the experience is more relaxed and intimate versus a carnival cruise atmosphere of too many people being shuffled from here to there. You are not traveling in some obnoxious crowded bus, but a comfortable van. All trips have at least two vans, one for the gear and food, and one for the people or to support the wide range of route options for the group. Backroads is the ultimate in flexibility.
8. The pace is up to you and the trip schedule is flexible.
The experience was so much better than I anticipated. Some nights you could do your own thing for dinner, and sometimes Backroads picked up the check, and other days you may have an afternoon free to do what you like – a massage, explore a town on your own, or ski or hike more. I love flexibility, especially important if you don’t want to be stuck with the group the whole time. There was a family on my trip who did everything offered each day. If there was an extra 5 mile hike, they did it. If there were 2 yoga sessions offered, they did it. I loved having the option to opt out if my body was tired, it was raining, or I wanted to go back and eat breakfast. I hadn’t worked out in a long time before this trip, except for the week leading up to this experience. I think I am in decent shape, but there were many people much older than me doing much more than me on most excursions. I was fine with it. I wasn’t about to kill myself on my vacation, but greatly enjoyed the intense exercise I did get.
9. You are with like-minded people.
I realized that it was really nice to be with other people who wanted to enjoy nature, exercise, and have nice dinner conversation. There were only seven of us on the trip with two leaders. There was a loving family that loved working out together, an older couple with a daughter in college, and a single older lady with two kids in college, so she and I had dinner together one night. It gave me perspective on different areas of the US as well as their lives and what brought them on this trip.
10. The overall travel experience is priceless.
You will only enhance your life with an adventure through Backroads and make memories that you will have for a lifetime. If you enjoy mixing adventure with culture as well as exercise and nature, this company has a trip for you in almost every part of the world. To learn more about Backroads and how you can order a catalogue, click HERE.
Spa at Cavallo Point Lodge – outdoor heated pool and Jacuzzi with a tea bar. (Photo credit: Melissa Curtin)