What do single-track, bat colonies and stargazing have in common? They’re the things you can find on this round of REI’s favorite outdoor places. Check out why we love these places and meet the nonprofits working hard to maintain them.
Carpenter Bypass Trail – Oregon
With more than 25 miles of pure trail fun, it’s easy to see why Carpenter Bypass Trail draws mountain biking thrill-seekers of all levels. Considered Nirvana to visitors because it offers the best singletrack around, this space is maintained by the mountain bike club, Disciples of Dirt, who received an $8,000 grant from REI.
Lady Bird Lake – Texas
Known as Austin’s playground, Lady Bird Lake is a paddler and hiker’s paradise. More than 10 miles of trail loop over and around the lake, which allows trail runners to experience the water. At night, the world’s largest urban population of Mexican free-tailed bats appear around the Congress Bridge. Just watch out for the guano! REI awarded a $16,000 grant to the volunteer-driven organization, Keep Austin Beautiful, for making this place a hit.
Wissahickon Valley Park – Pennsylvania
Blurring the lines between nature and suburbia is the Wissahickon Valley Park. With 1,800 acres to ride and play, Pennsylvania’s version of Central Park is a welcome contrast to the hustle of downtown Philadelphia. Even though the park’s 1.5 million visits are greater than most national and state parks, hikers and horseback riders all agree: you rarely feel crowed in this vast space. In order to continue to expand the park, REI awarded a $10,000 grant to the organization driving this project, the Friends of the Wissahickon.
Galisteo Basin Preserve – New Mexico
The best stargazing happens at the Galisteo Basin Preserve. Local mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians love recreating on over 25 miles of publicly accessible trail networks. Here prominent ridgelines provide spectacular, 360-degree views on the trails to make you feel like you are truly in the backcountry even though you are only 20 miles from downtown Santa Fe. REI has supported this outdoor recreation haven with a $15,000 grant to the Commonweal Conservancy to build new trail.
Chicago Lakes Overlook Trail – Colorado
Chicago Lakes Overlook Trail in Summit Lake is arguably the highest and most accessible recreational trail in the U.S. Beyond the 2,000-year-old Bristlecone forest on the way up to the trail, you can find live fish on the glacier-made lakes at more than 12,000 feet above sea level. Wildlands Restoration Volunteer community program director Jarret Robert’s favorite thing about the trail is the people you find. From the most hardcore alpinists to families pushing a stroller, it’s not uncommon to see both groups of people all on the same hike. In order to continue improving these trails REI awarded Wildlands Restoration Volunteers with $20,000 grant.