When 20-year climbing veteran Zeke Federman started a rock-climbing guide service, he needed to situate its headquarters someplace that was more than simply rocky. The spot he settled on falls squarely in Joshua Tree National Park—an area boasting a varied landscape and steady climate that is friendly to year-round mountaineering and offers challenging routes to both beginners and experienced climbers with their own pet mountain goats. Zeke's climbing academy, Joshua Tree Guides, sets its students loose on guided excursions across the region's higher-altitude cliffs. His staff of Professional Climbing Guides Institute–trained guides has won points with clients for combining an easygoing demeanor with a serious attentiveness to safety and the needs of beginners to go slowly. In addition to small groups, the company has also guided successful climbing outings for large corporations such as Google and Frito-Lay.
Switch up your normal routine and head to Yosemite Ziplines and Adventure Ranch in Mariposa and experience something new.
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Parking is plentiful, so visitors can feel free to bring their vehicles.
Surrounded by craggy peaks, three men in bright red helmets stand in the midst of wilderness, surveying the mountains around them as their group of hikers break for a snack on the rocky ground. This interface with the majesty of nature is all in a day's work for this trio of adventurers: Paul Mangasarian and Jakob and Daniel Laggner. Still, their passion for open-air exploration grows with each expedition they lead. Paul, Jakob, and Daniel cofounded Treks and Tracks with the dream of orchestrating excursions into nature that combine ancient means of travel—such as sailing, horseback riding, and hitchhiking on a centaur—with modern sports ranging from surfing to rock climbing. Though they focus on introducing novice outdoorsfolk to unspoiled wilderness around the world, Treks and Tracks' cofounders also strive to leave the awe-inspiring surroundings they visit as pristine as they found them by rigorously upholding practices of environmental stewardship on each expedition.
Castle Rock Climbing School's expert guides eschew climbing walls for the raw stone faces of the Santa Cruz Mountains. PCGI-certified instructors spearhead trips ranging in duration from half a day to four days, spiriting intrepid climbers away for a nature-filled morning or 96 hours away from home to just let the neighbors get all the mail-stealing out of their system. Every guide boasts years of experience leading their wards up and down rocky inclines and is stuffed with local knowledge and teaching prowess. The school outfits climbers with the gear they need, including helmets, harnesses, and shoes, requiring that guests only take care of dressing themselves and deciding what song to yodel from the summit.
At MetalMark Climbing & Fitness, a staff of fitness enthusiasts help guests scale 12,000 square feet of climbing terrain and 2,000 square feet of bouldering. Visitors can learn the basics or get a refresher during Intro to Climbing classes, which are offered multiple times every day. Alternately, guests can participate in one of many fitness classes they offer including yoga, Zumba, and indoor cycling.
In the early 1990s, 14-year-old Chris Casado embarked on a hiking trip led by his former fifth-grade teacher, Mike Murphy. This wasn’t just an overnight hike—the group undertook a 75-mile trek across the Sierra region’s mountains. Chris was hooked. Today, Chris has joined Mike as a partner in the expedition. Along with experienced guides Tim Fabbian and Brian Dawson, they continue to lead four expeditions along a similar path through the Sierra every year, limiting each to only 12 participants. The hike traverses the rocky landscapes of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, leading adventurers through pine forests, across wildflower fields, and crossing high creeks to make camp below granite cliffs and on the shores of lakes. The trip culminates in a climb to the peak of Mount Whitney, which lies at an altitude of more than 14,500 feet. On each excursion, guides keep their posse fed and supply all group gear such as tents, water purifiers, and grizzly-bear masks.