Steal Big Sur
A reasonably priced ocean-view room on Big Sur can be as rare as a Big Sur day without fog. But in November coastal murk yields to vivid warm days, and Treebones Resort on the southern Sur coast puts you in an oceanside yurt for a pittance ($155; treebonesresort.com). This being Big Sur, your circular digs come with a hot tub where one can commune with oneness. You also get proximity to Jade Cove for beachcombing and a 3.5-mile redwood hike in Limekiln State Park.
Ski First, Ski Often
The choice is yours: Wait a few weeks for deep snow (and deeper crowds) at Mount Hood's Timberline Lodge, or go now and have the first powder largely to yourself (pre-Thanksgiving rates start at $150 for two people; timberlinelodge.com). The ski area's average opening date is November 18, and this year marks the premiere of a new high-speed quad--ergo, access to eight new alpine trails ($49 lift ticket). And if the snow hesitates, there are far worse places to get skunked: Take a hike, take a sauna, sip a Cloud Cap Amber and bemoan your fate.
Dive With Brainy Octopi
"They're very intelligent," says Captain Michael Block of the giant cephalopods that frolic in the 50-degree (read: dry suit) waters of Puget Sound. Spanning 12 feet from tentacle tip to tentacle tip, they can unscrew a jar of chopped fish to get at the morsels inside. Block's Teal Water Charters guides out of Gig Harbor, leading divers to the crafty octopi, eels and seals ($75 for a two-tank dive; tealwater.com). Make a weekend of it by holing up at the waterfront Maritime Inn ($95; maritimeinn.com) and grabbing a burger at Tides Tavern.
Slot in Canyon X
Top secret Canyon X is the sandstone substitute for Antelope Canyon, the world's most photographed slot. And Charly Moore, owner of Page-based Overland Canyon Tours, is the only outfitter with a Navajo Nation license to guide it ($150 with lunch; overlandcanyontours.com). Shack up in the Page Boy Motel, a renovated classic ($65; thepageboy.com), then take Overland's tour of White Pocket in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument ($250 with lunch). The guides will even pick you up to shoot the sunrise reflected in White Pocket's sandstone pools.
Soak in the Snow
You know you're in the boonies when the nearby Big City is Telluride. Dunton Hot Springs, a revived ghost town in the San Juans, is now haunted largely by Colorado urbanites immersing themselves in luxury solitude--and 107-degree mineral water in natural rock pools ($350; duntonhotsprings.com). Since Dunton usually celebrates a white Halloween, count on hundreds of miles of out-the-door cross-country skiing. The 3.5-mile Fall/Winter Loop has views of four fourteeners, including Mount Wilson--poster peak for Coors beer cans.
Fly in Zion
Fall in Zion is no colder than cool, no warmer than warm and likely to be dry. In other words: It's cycling season. On pavement, the 18-mile round-trip through Zion Canyon is a gradual uphill spin and an effortless return connecting the park's best viewpoints. Use Zion Lodge as a lunch and overnight stop ($150). Next day, don a pair of fat tires and hit nearby Gooseberry Mesa, a red-rock paradise at 5,200 feet. Zion Cycles in Springdale rents LeMond Reno roadies ($35 a day) and full-suspension Trek Fuel EX 7s ($45; zioncycles.com).