Girlfriend Weekend Getaways: Adventure Edition

Posted by
Emily Pennington
May 30, 2024

Emily on Endless Wall Trail
Emily on Endless Wall Trail - Photo: Emily Pennington

Planning a girls getaway, but want to go light on the typical city, bars, and pool scene? Luckily, the U.S. is about as diverse as can be, when it comes to choosing an adventurous, nature-filled locale for your next ladies getaway.

As a full-time travel writer who specializes in the intersection of luxury and adventure, I’ve been on my fair share of girls’ weekends in the wild. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the (sometimes) ugly when it comes to planning a successful trip. I’ve wine-tasted in Napa, mountain biked and hiked to vortexes in Sedona, taken ski lessons and gone wolf spotting in Jackson Hole, and trekked across an active volcano in Hawaii.

We’ve included a few more splurge-worthy trips on this list for those of you who want to go all out, but most are intentionally in a price range that many of us “regular folk” can afford. Want to plan an epic backpacking trip, national park vacation, or houseboat adventure with your girlfriends? We’ve got a trip for that.


Sedona, Arizona

Emily and her friend hiking in Sedona
Emily and her friend hiking in Sedona – Photo: Emily Pennington
  • Best for: Spa treatments and red rock hikes
  • Nearest airport: Flagstaff or Phoenix

As famous for its quirky, new age scene as it is for its incredible red sandstone canyons, Sedona is a girls trip classic. Last year, my friend Farry and I ventured to this fabulous destination for some much-needed R&R. Every day we spent in Sedona was a new adventure. We hiked to one of the area’s famous vortexes, trekked for 2.5 miles along the Fay Canyon Trail, and embarked on a guided mountain biking trip.

When we weren’t lounging around on our balcony or in the hot tub at our resort, we splurged on chakra-balancing spa treatments and posh dinners at Cress on Oak Creek. Got even more time to kill? Sedona is a mere two-hour drive from the Grand Canyon.

Where to stay: If you’re going to splurge, do it right and stay at Enchantment Resort, which offers phenomenal red rock views, an on-site adventure concierge, hot tubs, restaurants, and the best spa in town. On more of a budget? The Wilde Resort & Spa is a great middle-of-the-road option.


The Big Island, Hawaii

Emily on the Kilauea Iki Trail
Emily on the Kilauea Iki Trail – Photo: Emily Pennington
  • Best for: Beaches and volcano viewing
  • Nearest airport: Kona or Hilo

Okay, okay: venturing to Hawaii is probably going to be a larger endeavor than a weekend — but it’s worth the extra time. When I was venturing to every U.S. national park in 2020, I struck out from Los Angeles with my friend Ave to visit Hawaii Volcanoes, which is easily one of the most impressive in the country. 

Apart from numerous scenic hiking trails through lush rainforests and across dried lava fields (Crater Rim Trail and Kīlauea Iki are must-sees), the island is home to loads of great HipCamps, van rental companies, and vacation rentals, so you can sprawl out in style, no matter your budget. 

Though the national park isn’t the best place for ocean swimming and beach lounging with your bestie, the Big Island is home to loads of local state beach parks where you can view sea turtles and get your tan on. Richardson Beach Park was my favorite on the island’s eastern side. 

Where to stay: Rent a van from Campervan Hawaii and road trip your way around the island, staying at various state beaches and campgrounds along the way, so that you can witness both the black sand coastline, as well as the island’s impossibly green northern rainforests. Thinking of staying near the national park but prefer something with four walls? Volcano Village Estates rents great, modern bungalows.


Joshua Tree, California

Emily bouldering in Joshua Tree National Park
Emily bouldering in Joshua Tree National Park – Photo: Emily Pennington
  • Best for: Stargazing and desert hikes
  • Nearest airport: Indio, Palm Springs, or Los Angeles

The town of Joshua Tree is an amazing desert enclave that’s equal parts bohemian and cowboy. When I was still living in Los Angeles, it became one of my quintessential winter getaways, so that I wouldn’t go stir crazy. 

But it’s also home to Joshua Tree National Park, which is an awesome place to find adventure. You can go for a scenic drive, try rock climbing with a guide for the first time, or hike to an abandoned gold mine (the Lost Horse Mine trail is fantastic). If the mining days don’t strike your fancy, there are still tons of hikes in the park that will get you moving in the sunshine.

Where to stay: If you prefer a more traditional-style hotel stay, The Bungalows by Homestead Modern offers dreamy mid-century desert vibes.


Rocky Mountain National Park/Estes Park, Colorado

Emily hiking on the Bierstadt Lake Trail
Emily hiking on the Bierstadt Lake Trail – Photo: Emily Pennington
  • Best for: Mountain hikes and alpine lakes
  • Nearest airport: Denver

Rocky Mountain National Park and its gateway town, Estes Park, are simply stunning in every season. In fact, proximity to the park is one of the primary reasons I relocated to Boulder last year, trading LA traffic for Rocky Mountain vistas. 

It’s also a great spot for a cabin-style getaway with your girlfriends, boasting loads of rentals in every conceivable price range. Spend a day in awe as you drive up and over Trail Ridge Road and then lace up your boots and venture out on the uncrowded Ute Trail or the Instagram-famous trek up to Emerald Lake.

Where to stay: Got a larger group or simply want a chic stay? Mountain Village at Lake Estes offers a handful of waterfront cabins, decked out in stylish décor. Looking for a more traditional cabin-style vacay? YMCA of the Rockies is a Rocky Mountain mainstay, with loads of on-site activities and lodging options for those on a budget.


Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Emily and her friend skiing in Jackson Hole
Emily and her friend skiing in Jackson Hole – Photo: Emily Pennington
  • Best for: Park hopping and skiing
  • Nearest airport: Jackson Hole

A couple of years ago, I went on a girls’ ski trip in Jackson Hole with my buddy Farry. In short, it was a totally unforgettable weekend. Not only did we see our first-ever wolf in the wild (thanks, Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures), but Farry upped her beginner ski game on the slopes of the Tetons. In the evenings, we dined at some of the area’s top restaurants. 

Of course, this area is spectacular in the summer months, too. Spend an afternoon floating down the Snake River trying to spot a moose, or go hiking and geyser gazing in one of the region’s two national parks: Grand Teton and Yellowstone. A few of my all-time favorite Wyoming hikes are the jaunt to Bearpaw and Trapper Lakes, the Taggart Lake Loop, and the journey to Imperial Geyser in Yellowstone. Just don’t forget the bear spray.

Where to stay: We hung our hats at The Cloudveil, situated in the center of Jackson Hole. Of course, if you wanna pitch a tent, you could always try your luck at snagging a coveted Jenny Lake Campground site.


New River Gorge, West Virginia

Emily Rappelling in New River Gorge
Emily Rappelling in New River Gorge – Photo: Emily Pennington
  • Best for: Whitewater rafting and rock climbing
  • Nearest airport: Charleston

My trip to New River Gorge proved everything about West Virginia’s Wild and Wonderful state slogan true. Not only is this new national park a hub for world-class rafting and rock climbing (visit in September or October for your shot at descending the notorious Gauley River), but it’s also home to some surprisingly beautiful trails for hiking and mountain biking. 

Take a trek to panoramic gorge views on the Long Point Trail or get up close to the area’s Nuttall sandstone on a shady hike along the Endless Wall Trail. Cool off with a swim in Summersville Lake State Park when you’re done sweating.

Where to stay: Adventures on the Gorge is, hands down, the best lodging option for this area. Choose between spacious cabin rentals, plush glamping tents, or campsites. Best of all — you can have their adventure staff assist you with climbing or rafting tours.


Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Voyageurs National Park Houseboat
A houseboat in Voyageurs National Park – Photo: Emily Pennington
  • Best for:  Houseboat adventures and lakeside lounging
  • Nearest airport: Falls International Airport or Minneapolis-St. Paul

Voyageurs is one of those lesser-known sleeper parks that totally wowed me when I visited in 2020. Best known for its boating and fishing opportunities, the park is also a fantastic place to set out on a new kind of adventure — a houseboat one.

 Given that the lakes within the park are massive, it’s a great place to boat around and park at your very own private island campsite for the evening. When I wasn’t water sliding into Lake Kabetogama or marveling that I could cook full meals on my boat’s stove, I set off with my partner to hike around the Ellsworth Rock Gardens, which are impressive and historic.

Where to stay: Rent a houseboat with your mates from family-owned Ebel’s and cruise around for a long weekend, pausing to hunt for bald eagles and moose along the shoreline. Pro tip: rent a boat with a water slide.


Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Hoh Rainforest Hall of Mosses Trail
Hoh Rainforest Hall of Mosses Trail – Photo: Emily Pennington
  • Best for: Forest bathing and coastal hikes
  • Nearest airport: Seattle-Tacoma

Some of the most impressive old-growth forests on the planet can be found in the temperate rainforests of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Both Hoh and Quinault Rainforests are fantastic places to unwind and go forest bathing with your friends (I’d recommend the Hall of Mosses Trail and the Quinault Loop). 

Though these woodlands are the main draw for tourists, the area is also home to some sincerely awesome beaches, hot springs, and tide pools. Consult a tide chart, and, when the ocean is at its lowest, trek to Hole-in-the-Wall. Afterward, soak your tired bones in a natural hot spring at either Sol Duc or Elwha.

Where to stay: Not only is the Lake Quinault Lodge gorgeous and waterfront, it’s also nestled in the middle of the rainforest. Stay in one of the hotel’s historic rooms or in the pet-friendly annex building, and enjoy paddling sports, an on-site restaurant, and hiking paths that leave right from the front door. Want to camp instead? I recommend the tranquility and otherworldly green of the Hoh Rain Forest Campground.


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