Autumn Is the Best Season to Play Outdoors

Rates at the Chateau Lake Louise and Banff Springs Hotel drop 20 to 40 percent (depending on occupancy). Across the United States, backcountry lodges, hotels and resorts offer lower rates to attract off-season travelers. Don't dismiss lodging that usually would strain your budget—chances are good that you can get an affordable room if you avoid prime time.

For the flip side of the seasonal coin, there are many places in North America where summer segues into winter without a blink. Say you're planning on a big ski trip to the Tetons, or an ice-climbing pilgrimage to the Canadian Rockies, but work and warm weather make early season training impossible. No worries—there are plenty of places where there's some snow and ice by October and November—so you can strap on your skis, snowshoes or crampons and tone both technique and muscle for winter.

Cannon Cliff and Crawford Notch in northern New Hampshire sometimes have early season ice climbing; there's usually skiing at Sunday River (Maine) by November. In the Rocky Mountain region, ice forms on Colorado's Mount Lincoln by mid-October, which is when the first real snow begins to accumulate in Rocky Mountain National Park. On the West Coast, check out the Oregon and Washington Cascades for an early glimpse of winter.

Tips for the Wise Fall Outdoor Adventurer

Be prepared for everything. Chances are the sun will shine, but don't be surprised by a sudden pre-season snowstorm. The best way to pack for fall adventures is to bring plenty of layers. Bring along gloves, hat, a fleece pullover, a lightweight set of long underwear and a water-resistant jacket in case the good weather doesn't hold.

Ask about off-season rates. Many lodges don't quote lowered rates unless specifically asked. Also, off-season dates vary, depending on geographic location.

More: Fall Family Hiking

Check the weather before you leave home. WeatherNet and weather.com are excellent sources. To make sure you are armed with the most recent data, remember to always check the time and date of any forecast. Also, double-check the location of the forecast issued, to ensure that it is the closest one to your destination.

Get in shape for your planned trip. A hiking or camping trip is more enjoyable if your muscles are limber and your lungs are in shape. Begin a light stretching program at least a week before your departure. Concentrate on calves, quads, hamstrings and upper body.

More: Test Your Endurance at the Incline

Start thinking of cardiovascular fitness: Take the stairs at work instead of the elevator; Try to get out on your bicycle, or take brisk walks or slow-paced jogs. Ten minutes a day, three or four days a week of easy exercise will make your pack feel lighter and those trails less steep.

Prepare your essential gear. Keep an equipment log from season to season, so you know in advance what you'll need to bring. Then you'll be ready to go at a moment's notice.

More: Gear Tips for the Trail

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