Ply the Pinnacles
The Pinnacles give no hint of their existence until the volcanic spires, which rise incongruously out of the grassy hills of the Salinas Valley, are upon you. The main drag through Pinnacles National Monument is the rigorous 6.7-mile High Peaks--Bear Gulch loop ($3 for a permit; www.nps.gov/pinn). Climbers will find great intermediate routes, but the rock can be cookie-crumbly; first-timers should go guided with Sanctuary Rock Gym ($175; www.rockgym.com). By night relax, vino in hand, at Chalone Vineyard and the Inn at the Pinnacles ($200; www.innatthepinnacles.com), both outside the west entrance.
Survive Mount Hood
The skills you gain from a course with the Northwest School of Survival ($535; www.nwsos.com) range from utterly pragmatic to impress-your-friends exotic. Bring the right gear, tie the right knots, cook over coals--basic campcraft. But how are you with matchless fire-starting? Baking in a rock oven? Signaling for help without sparking a wildfire? The two-day, two-night sessions take place on the flanks of Mount Hood in mixed hardwood forests between 1,500 and 6,000 feet.
Go Silently in the Cascades
All's quiet on the southern front of North Cascades National Park in October, when even bugs have gone home. Ferry out of Chelan to the head of 50-mile Lake Chelan ($59; www.ladyofthelake.com) and sleep at Stehekin Landing Resort ($119; www.stehekinlanding.com). A shuttle ($5) runs to High Bridge, a launchpad for hikes (7.7 miles to the top of 8,149-foot McGregor Mountain) and rides (11.1-mile valley road). Fuel up at Stehekin Pastry Co. on the way.