Day 5 — Find your local outdoor gems

Nick GreenDec 17 · 4 min read

sherando lake

Like most, I’ve spent a lot more time playing close to home in 2020 than previous years. In reflecting on my adventures, what really stuck out is that there are a lot of gems (crags, bike paths, MTB/hiking trails, and hidden watering holes in my case) right here in my own backyard that I still haven’t explored.

I also realized that the process of finding and exploring these different areas is what has helped me fend off cabin fever over the past year. While we continue to limit our travel, it’s safe to say that we’re all looking for ways to maintain sanity and get outside for some fresh air. In hopes of helping you spice up your adventure routine, I wanted to share some of the techniques I’ve picked up for discovering my local gems.

Ask for Recommendations

This seems like an obvious one, but I found that having dedicated conversations about wanting to find new places to adventure can be extremely fruitful. One of things that I missed the most was climbing. I was talking to a colleague, someone I work with everyday, about my growing angst of not climbing and asked if he knew little crags around town that no one else would be at. Lo and behold, Jay Paul knew just the spot. This little hidden slab served as the perfect spot to get some quick laps in while the gyms were closed and travel restrictions in place. Jay and I talk climbing all the time, but there’s a good chance this hidden slab wouldn’t have come up unless I asked.

If you don’t have any colleagues or friends to turn to for recommendations, consider connecting with your local outfitter or gear shop. The staff there will know all the decent spots around town, not to mention these shops need our support now more than ever! Mask up, head to the shop, grab some new gear or swag to show your support, and strike up a conversation with folks behind the counter (from a safe distance of course). They’re there to help you have a good time!

Hit the Interwebs

The internet is an easy way to find all of the “go-to” spots in your area. Adventure Projects is a great place to start. Whether you’re looking for places to hike, mountain bike, trail run, ski/snowboard, or a guide for your closest National Park—they’ve got you covered. They also have forums that you can use to connect with fellow adventures and get some beta for your next outing.

Already exhausted the trails on the Adventure Project pages? Heard about a new trail that hasn’t made it’s way to the maps yet? Strava’s heat map shows the paths that other Strava users frequent and can be a great tool to scout out the less popular trails in your area. This is a trick I picked up from our CEO, Charles, as he was telling me about a single track trail that he had heard near where I live. After about 5 minutes on Strava Heat Maps, I knew exactly where the trail started. It’s not quite what I would consider a “gem”, but it is nice to know there’s a loop close by when I get an itch to hit the trails.

Trail found through Strava heat map
Strava's heat map showing of the hidden trail in my neighborhood

Just go

When it comes to finding new places somewhere you lived for a while, it’s easy to run out of options of things to do and see. If you feel like you’ve exhausted all of your list of local gems, or if you need to get out of the house, then just do it! Grab your bike or lace up your running shoes and just start moving. Jay has lived in Richmond for pretty much his entire life. He still loves to hop on his bike and just start riding until he finds a road that he’s never been down. Getting out and finding something new doesn’t always have to entail an epic adventure.

On a random morning while building the motivation to get out for a ride, I decided to explore a few of the streets in my neighborhood that I hadn’t been down before. On my ride, I noticed a little path at the end of a cul de sac that led to a clearing. I naturally followed the path and found that there was an old football field just a couple of blocks from my house. What was more interesting was that there was a track around the field that had different workout stations set up for anyone to use. This was more of a gym than a gem for me personally, but my roommate had just mentioned wanting to find somewhere he could jog and get a little workout in—for him, this was exactly what he was looking for.

Through this process of discovering my local gems, I’ve built up a fresh list of trails, crags, and hangout spots while honing my prowess for quickly finding interesting things to do. When cabin fever starts to get the best of you, start dialing in your own scouting techniques by exploring all of the local gems in your area. Once we get back to our normal travels, we can use these same strategies to get the most out of our big out-of-town trips!

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