Owning a private jet or mountaintop villa may be out of the budget for most—but there are other ways to experience the epic views of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Beyond the typical hiking trails and skyline drives, those looking for the ultimate birds-eye views will want to check out the experiences below that feature rides in vintage planes and hot air balloons, train tours, rock climbing experiences, and more.
Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas, California has partnered with San Diego Sky Tours to offer aerial tours and—most unique of all—air combat experiences. Guests will be able to glide over the Pacific Ocean to see all of San Diego in one hour or less or enjoy a romantic sunset ride. For those looking for a truly once-in-a-lifetime trip, visitors can also book a thrill-seeking adventure in a vintage open-cockpit biplane with a military-trained pilot. While these kind of aviation experiences understandably come with a price tag (rates for experiences start at $400), budgeting around this unique activity can easily be done thanks to relatively cheap domestic airfare into California and plenty of other affordable accommodations and dining options to round out the rest of a trip in the area.
For experiential ways to take in the New England foliage hop aboard a Hoosac Valley Train Ride and embark on a scenic train route through the Berkshires, take in the autumn allure from above with a Worthington Ballooning Hot Air Balloon ride or drive out to Western Massachusetts and wind along the famed foliage streets of the Massachusetts stretch of U.S. Route 7, Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway and Mount Greylock Scenic Byway.
With access to more than 400 miles of scenic and iconic hiking and biking trails, Enchantment Resort serves as the ideal base camp for exploration and uncovering trails throughout the destination’s soaring sandstone cliffs, striking canyons and pinyon-juniper forests. Guests are encouraged to connect to Sedona’s surrounding landscape through the property’s new Trail House, an adventure hub where expert guides help guests uncover which nearby trails, whether on foot or through world-class mountain biking equipment, are ideal for them based on skill level, terrain, scenery and elevation gains. The property recently partnered up with Arizona Climbing Guides to take guests to an epic rock climbing location at The Granite Dells, just ten minutes outside the city of Prescott, and offer outstanding rock climbing opportunities for all abilities (details here).
The Inn at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards in Bristol, Virginia invites guests to take in the views with the new The Wine Flight Package, where majestic mountain terrain and lush forest greenery are paired beautifully with the property’s award-winning, homegrown wines. The package offers guests a private helicopter tour of Bristol’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and a private wine tasting and picnic on property, in addition to luxury accommodations, amenities, and daily breakfast.
An unforgettable journey, travelers can take in the breathtaking sights from a luxury train with Rocky Mountaineer as they ride from Denver, Colorado to Moab, Utah on the “Rockies To The Red Rocks” route, filled with highlights best seen by train, including Ruby Canyon, Mount Garfield and crossing the Continental Divide.
Once in Utah, complete your adventure with full day or multi-day rafting trips through some of the most legendary whitewater rivers, camping overnight under bright stars, next to stunning red rock formations and remote sandy beaches. Guide services such as Adrift Adventures, Mild to Wild Rafting and Jeep Tours or Sheri Griffith Expeditions can lead even new rafters through an incredible adventure, organizing everything from meals to bathroom stops. In addition to rafting, visitors can also take in much of Utah’s scenery not accessible to cars and RVs. There are thousands of miles of trails open to off-highway vehicles, making off-roading one of Utah’s most popular pastimes. Trails include Arapeen OHV Trail, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Paiute ATV Trail and many more.
Cavallo Point in Sausalito, California sits on more than 350 acres complete with trails for running, hiking, and biking, but also offers unique and once in a lifetime tours of San Francisco. See the Bay Area from every angle from sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge to getting a bird’s-eye view of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks in a seaplane or private helicopter.