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The Best of 2015 for HikeBikeTravel

It’s been an incredible year of travel. I think my dog – and John – would say that I’ve been gone more this past year than any other. But at least John was able to join me on the majority of the adventures.

Here’s a look at the best of 2015 for HikeBikeTravel.

BEST CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

Chickadee Valley just inside the BC border in Kootenay National Park delivered a stunning day of mountain scenery. Put it on your list to visit – preferably on a blue sky day.

READ: Skiing Chickadee Valley in Kootenay National Park

Cross-country skiing in Chickadee Valley, BC

Cross-country skiing in Chickadee Valley

BEST DOWNHILL SKIING

Last year was not a great ski year in Banff National Park. But Jasper National Park was a different story. I skied Marmot Basin for the first time ever and loved the lay of the mountain.

Read: Winter in Jasper for Adventurous Travelers

Nicely laid out runs at Marmot Basin Resort

Nicely laid out runs at Marmot Basin Resort

BEST ONE DAY KAYAKING TOUR

We spent just over a week in Florida. The highlight by far was our one day kayaking trip through Big Cypress National Reserve (right next to Everglades National Park) on the Turner River. It was a thrill to be kayaking past alligators and the mangrove groves were a lot of fun to navigate. It’s a full day (best done with a guide) with lots of interesting bird life as well.

Read: Kayaking Through Alligator Country on Florida’s Turner River

Kayaking through the mangrove trees on the Turner River in Florida

Kayaking through the mangrove trees on the Turner River

BEST B&B EXPERIENCE

I love it when your expectations are exceeded. That’s what happened when we stayed at the charming Prairie Creek Inn in Rocky Mountain House – about halfway between Edmonton and Calgary. I could easily have spent the entire weekend in the luxuriously appointed room – but there was a surprising amount of good cross-country skiing available nearby – so that’s what we did instead. Next time I’d load up on books and magazines and just park myself.

Read: A Rocky Mountain House Weekend of Luxury & Adventure

Our room at the Prairie Creek Inn, Rocky Mountain House

Our room at the Prairie Creek Inn

THE WINNER OF I’LL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN ADVENTURE

I have decided that I never have to go caving again. I can suck it up and make the best of it but really I don’t enjoy the experience. I think I have a fear of getting trapped underground. I spent the better part of four hours caving in Canmore – rappelling into the dark, slithering on my stomach through narrow places and sliding down the laundry chute. I am finished with caving!

Read: The Canmore Caving Experience

Canmore caving

Slithering through a narrow spot on our stomachs

THE WINNER OF THE MORE FUN THAN I THOUGHT POSSIBLE 

I didn’t think I’d like ice-climbing. From afar it looks cold, dangerous and something best left to the adrenaline lovers. Granted I was not free climbing, placing anchors or any such thing – merely top roping in Jasper National Park’s Maligne Canyon. I had a couple of guides with me and not another soul around on an unseasonably warm February day. The experience rappelling into the canyon and then climbing out was truly magical. I highly recommend it. You can also try it in Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park.

That's me iceclimbing in maligne Canyon

That’s me iceclimbing in Maligne Canyon

BEST SNOWSHOE OUTING

Within 40 minutes of Jasper sits Medicine Lake – a popular spot for snowshoeing in the winter. But what many people don’t realize is that there is a beautiful trail up Watchtower Canyon with superlative scenery – and judging by tracks we were the only ones that were there in weeks. It’s an easy outing and the scenery is truly glorious.

Read: Snowshoeing in Jasper: The Medicine Lake – Watchtower Canyon Tour

Snowshoeing in Watchtower Canyon

Snowshoeing in Watchtower Canyon

BEST CANOE TRIP

Hands down the Milk River in southeastern Alberta is the winner for the best and most scenic canoe trip of the year. Over three days we paddled 73 kilometres – much of it through Class I and II rapids with the occasional Class III rapid. There was a lot of boulder dodging so we were kept on our toes. The scenery was outstanding as was the bird life with multiple owl sightings and more swallows than I’ve seen in my life. You can arrange a shuttle so your car is waiting for you at the end.

Read: A 3 Day Canoe Trip on the Milk River in Alberta

Canoeing the Milk River through Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

Canoeing the Milk River through Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

THE PRETTIEST SUNRISE OF THE YEAR

I hate getting up at 5:30 AM as much as most people do but I figured it would be worth the effort to catch the sunrise at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah. It’s a 45 minute drive from Moab to reach the park – and one where you must be on high alert as deer regularly bolt across the highway. By 7 AM the sun had started to rise and what unfolded in front of us was pure magic. Set your alarm and make the trip if you’re anywhere near Moab. You’ll be glad you did.

Read: A Sunrise Visit to Dead Horse State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park at sunrise

Dead Horse Point State Park at sunrise

THE BEST WILDFLOWER DISPLAY EVER 

John and I planned a three day backpacking trip across Gibbons, Whistling and Healy Pass to finish at Sunshine Village. Although I hadn’t picked dates to coincide with the wildflower display, we ended up catching them at their peak. The trails closer to Sunshine were covered in wildflowers as far as the eye could see. Despite the difficulty of the hike, we felt blessed and ever so lucky to witness such a sight.

Read: A 3 Day Backpacking Trip that Includes Egypt Lake

An outstanding wildflower display on our Egypt Lake backpacking trip

An outstanding wildflower display on our Egypt Lake backpacking trip

BEST KAYAKING TRIP

I’ve wanted to spend more time out on the Georgian Bay so this past year we managed a five day trip which still wasn’t enough especially as you have to allow for windy days. Leaving from Killarney Provincial Park you can head out to the maze of islands around Philip Edward Island and find a slab of granite to camp on – and then move up or down the chain of islands to another equally beautiful slab of granite. It’s a very beautiful part of Ontario.

Read: Unparalleled kayaking & camping in the Georgian Bay

Classic Georgian Bay scenery

Classic Georgian Bay scenery

THE MOST EXOTIC HOTEL EXPERIENCE

Our first stop on our two week tour in Turkey was in Cappadocia. We elected to stay in a cave hotel – and the experience was first rate. The room was simple but beautiful with Persian carpets on the floor and the view out the window was of a fairyland landscape. There are loads of cave hotels in the area but I think this one is one of the best.

Read: What it’s Like to Stay in a Cave Hotel in Cappadocia

The Sultan Suites Cave Hotel in Cappadocia

The Sultan Suites Cave Hotel

THE BEST LONG DISTANCE WALK

Although we only spent six days on the Lycian Way – and did a fraction of the full walk, it was a superlative experience from so many perspectives. The scenery is outstanding, the Turkish people a total delight and the food divine. It’s far more rugged and mountainous than I thought it would be but also more beautiful. Put this one on your bucketlist.

Read: Hiking the Lycian Way (Part I) – One of the World’s Great Walks

Hiking the Lycian Way in Turkey

Hiking the Lycian Way in Turkey

I could literally go on and on as there was something from every trip I did that surprised me in the best way possible – from discovering what a great restaurant scene there is in Winnipeg, to how beautiful and hilly the cycling is in the Peterborough area to how interesting and beautiful the Mendocino area of California really is.

Coming soon to HikeBikeTravel – a brand new website I can be really proud of as well as some great contests and giveaways.

Thank you for joining me on my travels in 2015. I sincerely hope that each and every one of you has a very happy 2016. May you enjoy good health so you can continue to explore this amazing planet.

HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
HikeBikeTravel
Follow me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Google +

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