Planning a vacation around wine is great because it almost always ends up being about so much more. Because so many wine regions reside in beautiful patches of the American landscape, an extended stay becomes an opportunity to not only enjoy great wine, but explore nearby wild places in the form of forests, trails, rivers, and parks.
Sometimes, the best views are just outside the tasting room. Many wineries allow you to stroll through their bucolic vineyard grounds, but be sure to inquire beforehand for courtesy’s sake.
Here are some loose itineraries for wine country travel that marries good sipping with enjoying the great outdoors.
Napa Valley, California
The internationally acclaimed Napa Valley is not without its share of outdoor opportunities. Bothe-Napa Valley State Park resides right in the heart of wine country, outfitted with tons of amenities and oak-studded campsites. For hiking, check out nearby Robert Louis Stevenson State Park and ascend the highest peak in the area. The Archer Taylor Preserve is a great option as well, fit with a fine trail, waterfalls, and the possibility of wild berries en route.
Snake River Valley, Idaho
A bona-fide up-and-coming wine region, the Snake River Valley is vast and enticing. Nampa, Idaho is the appellation’s hub, with scores of producers operating in the surrounding landscape 20 miles outside of Boise. It’s a short trek from 110-year-old Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, a tremendous spot for birding. The Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area is also within striking distance, home to dramatic riverside bluffs and a huge concentration of hawks, owls, eagles, and falcons.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pinot Noir and tree-lined excursions go hand-in-hand in the Willamette Valley. Silver Falls State Park resides just outside of Salem in the core of the valley. Dubbed the crown jewel of the Beaver State’s park system, it boasts 24 miles of trail, including the outstanding Trail of Ten Falls loop.
Champoeg State Park is great for camping and absorbing the valley’s namesake river. Minto-Brown Island Park in among the biggest in the mid-valley, a 1,200 acre expanse of trails and wooded areas.
For those looking to venture out a bit farther, the Columbia River Gorge is as impressive as natural landscapes come. Moreover, it’s riddled with fantastic trails, campgrounds, and a burgeoning wine scene in and around the towns of Hood River and The Dalles.
Walla Walla, Washington
Set amid the beautiful Palouse, the Walla Walla Valley covers a stretch of both Oregon and Washington. Away from the many beautiful Syrahs, Merlots, Cabs, and more are endless horizons of natural beauty. Day treks can easily be made to the nearby Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests. In town, floating the Walla Walla River is highly advised, especially in midsummer when temperatures flirt with triple-digit territory.
Texas Hill Country
Situated outside of Austin, Texas Hills Country is rife with rolling hills and barbecue-friendly wines. Garner State Park boasts 11 miles of trail and towering stone cliffs. Lost Maples State Natural Area is a scenic gem set along the Sabinal River. Fish, hike, camp, or do all of the above in this verdant locale. The Hill Country State Natural Area is another prime spot, especially if you wish to go fully Texan and rent a horse for an equestrian hike.
Long Island, New York
Rural Long Island is increasingly known for its wines and just a brief drive away from the colossal beehive that is New York City. The quieter atmosphere allows for great hiking, especially in the North Fork region. The Mill Road Preserve is a small but inviting spot for a stress-free walk through the woods. The Mashomack Preserve is a sprawling coastal escape, with trails through wetlands and wildlife-rich water to explore by paddle board or kayak.
Being an island, there’s also plenty of beach to savor in between tasting room appointments.
Where wine started in the states, Virginia boasts some serious enological history. The Monticello Wine Trail is a great way to dip your toes in the scene. It’s also near some great natural areas, like 89-acre Kemper Park, with its great views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Ragged Mountain Natural Area is another convenient option (near Charlottesville) that feels a world away. Check out the Misty Mountain Camp Resort for an overnight stay full of fresh air and starry skies.
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