This is the year to try something different instead of traveling. Are you looking for more ways to experience adventure or have a good time without having to spend too much money or go too far? Then you should try going on a mini-adventure or microadventure. Let’s talk about adventure, why go on a mini adventure, and some great ideas for microadventures.
What is Adventure?
An adventure is usually defined as “an activity, experience or trip that is unexpected and surprising, sometimes dangerous, wild or hazardous”. I think that when someone thinks about adventures, they think about wild experiences into the unknown or climbing dangerous mountains or throwing caution to the wind.
For me, an adventure is going somewhere or doing something that is something I wouldn’t normally do or plan. I have been thinking lately about how I want to get outside more and how the world has changed so much, that some of our family’s typical summer adventures changed last year because of COVID 19. And then I thought about how I know the struggle is real for so many people to not only get outside but to do so safely and have fun. I didn’t realize there was a name for it until I stumbled across the book “Microadventures” by Alistair Humphries.
What is a Mini Adventure or Microadventure?
Alistair Humphries lives on experiencing adventure. He has gone on big adventures, but also came up with the phrase “microadventure”. A microadventure is a mini adventure or an experience of trying new things or going somewhere new. It doesn’t have to be climbing Everest or sailing the Pacific Ocean, it can be as simple as going on a night hike or walking home from work instead of driving. Mini adventures can be fun and different and exciting. It doesn’t matter where you live or if you have time or a tight budget. Adventure awaits anywhere and everywhere and for anyone.
A mini adventure or microadventure should:
- Happens close to home
- Be easy and achievable
- Be affordable
- Be exciting
- Occur outdoors
- Be a new experience that you wouldn’t normally try
- Create good memories
- Even better when it’s overnight
33 Ideas for Mini Adventures or Microadventures
Until I read Alistair Humphrie’s book, I didn’t realize this is something that our family does all of the time. Talk about mind blown. I take it for granted that we live this way and it’s our way of spending time together as a family, but I didn’t realize how much other people need adventures and a different way to experience new things. So I have put a list together of some of the “microadventures” that we have enjoyed as a family and other mini adventure ideas, in the hopes that you will be inspired to try something new and get outside more. Many of these ideas are family-friendly and cost nothing or just the price of gas. Some involve very little planning, while a few of the ideas do require more planning and gear. And for the most part, going on mini adventures is great for social distancing. You don’t have to be stuck at home when you could be safe and go on an adventure.
1. Night Hiking
Have you ever tried hiking at night instead of during the day? My first night hike was when I was about 12, and it was an activity that I did with a youth group in Israel. Apparently, it’s a thing there, because I went on so many of them on school trips. It is a different experience because you notice and see things at night that you wouldn’t normally do during the day. I love night noises and enjoy listening to bats and owls in the summertime. Hiking under the light of a full moon is incredibly exciting. If you plan on night hiking, take the right hiking gear with you and a good headlamp.
2. Star Gazing
When was the last time you looked up at the stars and tried to find constellations? Pack a snack and the headlamps and head as far away as can from the lights of your town or city. Download a constellation app to your phone or get a constellation book from your local library. To learn more about the night sky before you go, be sure to look up the monthly night sky stargazer’s guide from the Old Farmer’s Almanac website. It is very helpful.
3. Go Space Chasing
The night sky isn’t just for stargazing. Every year there are special celestial and astronomical events that may not reoccur again for a decade, a century, or a millennia. Where were you during the last solar eclipse? Have you ever glimpsed the Northern Lights? Plan a microadventure to experience the next astronomy event. Grab a bottle or a thermos and go searching for the next heavenly experience. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has good information on what events are going to occur each year and you can find a complete list with dates, times, and places on their website.
4. Wild Camping
Instead of camping at an established campground that has potable water and a pit toilet, try primitive camping instead. I think I can count on one hand the times we have actually been to an actual campground. Personally, I prefer tent camping under the stars as far away from the world as possible. My favorite camping trips have been in the backcountry, with the car parked a few miles away. Take it up a notch and wait until the day before you go to decide where you are going to go camping. Some of our best camping trips have been to places that we have never been to and picked the day before.
5. Backyard Camping
Who says you have to go to the middle of nowhere? Try camping in your backyard instead. Sleep out on the grass or on the trampoline if you have one. No special gear is required. If you don’t have camping gear, use rope and sheets to make a tent and sleep under blankets instead. We have a firepit outside to make it an authentic experience for telling ghost stories and roasting marshmallows.
6. Historical Landmark Hopping
Do you live close to a historical district? Spend a few hours or a whole day hunting down historical markers. I once spent a whole morning just walking around our downtown and hunting for signs. It’s a really small town but very rich in history. I like to take pictures of the signs and then look up the places and buildings later on the internet. Your local chamber of commerce should have more information about local historical sites.
7. Shop Your Local Farmer’s Market
If you’re not an outdoorsy person, going to your local farmer’s market would absolutely be an adventure. Besides it being an opportunity to get outdoors, it’s also a wonderful way to support local farmers and artisans. Who knows what you will find, and you might come home with fresh veggies or new treasures.
8. Visit a Local Farm or Farmstand
One of my favorite adventures of all time was leaving the house early one morning and driving until I hit a farm stand. Lucky for me, it was only a few miles down the road but what an adventure. The sun was just rising but that farm was already busy for the day and I bought the best carrots I have ever eaten. Since then, I make it a point to stop at farm stands that I pass when I am road tripping or driving down the highway. You never know who you will meet or what you will discover. In Montana, it’s pretty much the only way you can buy cherries.
Everesting became a thing last year because of the pandemic. A group of people packed up their gear and “climbed” Everest from their homes, documenting it on social media along the way. Some people have taken it a step further, joining virtual marathons and even cycling. This is on my list of things to do this year. I don’t have the time to do it all in one go, but I think it is something I could do after work and on weekends. Luckily I live on a mountain, but I have stairs too. This is one of the few things on this list I have not tried.
10. Take the Historical Byway
If I drive down to the highway, it doesn’t matter which way I go, there are a million historical markers to stop at. That is one of the perks of living along the historic Lewis and Clark Trail and in an area rich in history. On my last road trip on Highway 93 driving south Utah, I stopped at every historical marker along the way. It would take forever to do it all by walking, but I bet my sister would take a mini bike packing trip along the highway for two days and do this. Maybe I should challenge her to do it.
11. Take the Backroads Instead
One of my favorite things to do is walk, drive or bike the backroads. It is always a fun adventure and I will often drive on the backroads on my way home from work. I have fun stopping and taking pictures from my car and always see or experience something new.
12. Take the Scenic Byway
Much like taking the backroads, taking the designated scenic byways can be just as fun. I got lost one time when I was driving from Salt Lake to Moab and ended up having an unexpected adventure driving the scenic byway along the Colorado River. It may have taken a bit longer but the views were so worth it. It’s nice when you can slow down and enjoy the scenery.
13. Get Lost
What is more adventurous than getting lost? Every time I have gotten lost, it has been a little scary but exhilarating too. Last year, everyone went camping without me and I told them I would catch up with them after I got done with work. Never trust a GPS in Montana. I had never been to this camping area before and there are like five lakes in Montana called Twin Lakes. I saw a sign that said “Turn right for Twin Lakes” but the GPS said I had another mile. I listened to the GPS and ended up five miles down a muddy road surrounded by cows. But, I got one of the most amazing pictures over the Big Hole Valley (the same area as the Battle of the Big Hole). I was by myself which doesn’t often happen for moms, and I got to experience a real adventure in a historically-rich area. So go on a drive or walk or ride with no plan and see what happens. Just make sure you have a map or a GPS…
14. Visit Your Closest Wildlife Refuge
I love wildlife refuges. One summer, my sisters and I took the kids and drove the two hours to the National Bison Refuge. It’s about an hour from Glacier National Park and less crowded. We saw pronghorns, deer, and a bear. It was something that had been on my Montana bucket list for quite a while. Next time I’ll take my fishing pole and stop at one of the fishing holes. Seeing the animals was exciting, but the views of the mountains and the river were gorgeous.
15. Explore a State Park
When was the last time you visited or camped at a State Park? I don’t even know how many state parks Montana has, but I know that State Parks are often overlooked. Because they are usually close to home, visiting any of them would make a great mini adventure. We try to go to at least one new one each year. Last year we went to Painted Rocks State Park and the year before that we went to Bannock State Park. I’m not sure what the plan is for this year, but for camping the plan is usually to have no plan except to have planned time off.
16. Check Out a National Park Site
Everybody is familiar with the National Parks, but how well do you know the other National Park sites? You would be surprised what is in your backyard or even just an hour away. For me, the closest National Park sites are the Big Hole National Battlefield and the Nez Pierce National Historic Park. Both are within a two-hour driving distance.
17. Sleep in a Ghost Town
For those of you that love the paranormal and camping, this would be a fun adventure. I have camped at two ghost towns and let me tell you, it was a little creepy. But there are ghost towns in every state and usually not too far. Go camping with ghosties and come back with a new campfire story to tell around the campfire.
18. Sleep in a Tree, Cave or Other Unusual Spot
Have you ever slept out under the stars in a treehouse or hammock? I have and it’s wonderful to be able to look up and see the stars. I even slept in a cave once but I really didn’t like the fact that there was no natural light. How about sleeping outside while hanging off of a cliff? Now that would be an adventure that would take some skill.
19. Try Geocaching
I’ve only gone geocaching once, but it was a lot of fun. I’ve stumbled across a few geocaches in the mountains, not intentionally, but this might be one activity that I might try again sometime this year. Geocaching is a hidden “treasure” that you locate by using GPS coordinates. The geocache we found had a tin soldier inside an Easter egg and we found it along a creek bed. This is a fun way to get outside and experience an unexpected adventure because you never know where the coordinates will take you. You can find out more at Geocaching.com and by downloading the free app.
Have you ever tried bird watching? Like heading into the hills with a pair of binoculars and just waiting and watching for the birds? Most areas have bird-watching groups and you can find many of them on Facebook. I have bird feeders outside that attract so many different types of birds, but I also enjoy early mornings and evenings down at the river, just watching.
21. Swim in a Hot Spring
There aren’t hot springs in every state, but swimming in one feels so good. If you have the opportunity, you should go to one. Many of them have been turned into resorts, but you can still find a lot of natural ones. One thing to remember, some of the natural ones can be off the beaten path and involve hiking to get to, like Gold Bug Hot Springs in Idaho. Another tip is that if it is a natural hot spring, chances are clothing is optional.
22. Experience Rockhounding
My parents say that they love to go gambling in the desert, that is, they love to go dig for rocks and crystals. They never know if they will find anything or not, but they sure love digging in the dirt far away from people. This is pretty much the only reason they have left their house since the pandemic started, is to go looking for rocks because there is no one else around. Rocks are cool! It can be an affordable hobby because most often than not, it only costs the gas to get there and all you really need a lot of the time, is a shovel, a bucket, and a sieve. One of my favorite memories is going trilobite hunting in Southern Utah and hunting for sapphires in Montana. It’s addicting. There are some places however where a fee is charged, so be sure to check with your local rock hounding group.
23. Hike a New Trail
Discover new hiking trails that you have never tried before. This last year, many of the trails we normally hike have become overcrowded. So, we went to ones that were a bit further out and had never tried before. We discovered new hidden places and enjoyed exploring with our kids.
24. Cook a Camping or Backpacking Meal Outside
If you don’t want to go anywhere, try perfecting your camp cooking skills on a camp stove in your backyard or even on your stovetop. There were several new camping cookbooks that came out last year that are worth trying. Or, check out the MontYBoca website and join as a recipe tester for testing new camping and backpacking recipes.
25. View a Sunrise or Sunset From the Closest Mountain
Even as a kid, I love watching the sunrise and set from the mountains. It is something that I often take for granted, but since I’ve found that I love photography, I go out of my way to check out a great sunset or sunrise. Wake up early or leave the house late, to see the sky painted by the sun. If you don’t live in an area with mountains then find the highest point or a body of water like a pond or a lake.
26. Rent a Fire Lookout or Forest Service Cabin
We planned last year to rent out a forest service cabin in the Frank Church Wilderness, but it was closed because of the pandemic. I’m already waiting for the reservations to open up because I really, really want to spend the night in a fire lookout tower or old roughing-it cabin. If we can’t rent a lookout, we might volunteer to staff one. I think it would be an exciting experience that the kids would remember forever. You can learn more at Recreation.gov.
27. Leave the Car at Home
Instead of driving, try walking or biking or skateboarding or anything else that isn’t a car, to get to work. When I was a kid, it wasn’t uncommon for ATVs, horses, tractors and even snowmobiles to be found in the parking lot of a store or bar. Take an unexpected mode of transportation to work like the bus or a ride share or carpool.
28. Nature Scavenger Hunt
Who says nature scavenger hunts are for kids? I love to explore and it always seems I see more when I am looking for it. There is more focus on being aware and mindful when you think about what is around you. You can find a lot of printable scavenger hunt lists on Pinterest, but you can also start with this one from REI.
29. Follow a Creek or River
Follow a creek or river as far as you can until the sun sets. Walk along the bank or how about kayaking or canoeing or paddle boarding. I have followed many a river and stream on foot, but never on or in the water. I hate getting into the water so much, that it impacts my fishing. Maybe this could be my ultimate microadventure, like on my list of stuff that I want to do but never will. I don’t know what it is, but I hate the feeling of river or lake water on my skin. It gives me the creeps just thinking about it.
30. Photojournal Mini Adventure
This is a fun one. All you need is a phone and to take a walk or hike. You can either choose to take X number of pictures of a certain thing like five heart-shaped rocks or 7 different wildflowers. Or, set a timer, and every five to ten minutes take a picture of whatever is in front of you. If you want, post your pictures on social media so that others can enjoy them. All you have to do is post a picture and no captions.
31. Skinny Dipping in a Mountain Lake
Who has never gone skinny dipping? If you are from Montana, chances are 9 out of 10 that you have. Just make sure no one is around or both of you may be surprised. Remember, natural hot springs are usually clothing optional… so I guess you can mark off two adventures at once.
32. Try a New Outdoor Adventure
Our family does a lot of different things like hiking, camping, fishing, backpacking, off-roading, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, kayaking… But there are quite a few things that I would love to try that I haven’t done before. I want to try dog sledding, rock climbing, skijoring, and maybe even through hiking or spelunking. There are so many outdoor adventures to try, so why not try something new?
33. Start an Outdoor Challenge
I like challenges and have tried a few over the years. There are a lot of different outdoor challenges you can try, and you don’t have to complete them all in a day. Set a goal to complete an outdoor challenge for this year. Some outdoor challenges could be:
- 52 hikes in 52 days or weeks
- Hike to 10 waterfalls
- Camp overnight for 30 nights (our family record is 47 in one year)
- 10 hikes in 30 days
- 30 minutes outside daily for 30 days
34. Practice and Outdoor Survival Skill
Either in your backyard or any place outdoors, choose an outdoor survival skill and practice for a few hours. This could be knot tying, navigation, fire starting, wildcrafting, shelter building, etc. Many of these skills could come in handy on your next big outdoor adventure.
What to Take on a Mini Adventure or Microadventure
Most of these adventures require very little gear, but there are a few things I like to keep with me packed in a day pack just in case I stumble upon the opportunity for an adventure. It might be a great idea to have the following on your next adventure or you can check out my favorite hiking essentials which are practical to have on any outdoor adventure:
- a local map
- field guides such as FalconGuides, that cover a variety of topics like rocks, parks, and animals
- first aid kit
- headlamp or flashlight
- a journal and a pen
- adventure planner
Sometimes it’s about just changing your perspective on the world. In this case, it’s changing the ideas about travel and adventure. You don’t need a big budget or to travel far to have an exhilarating and exadventure. Do you have any ideas for a microadventure? Drop them in the comments below. Let your best life be full of adventure and be outside with no limits.