Outessa Retreats: What to do While You’re in Town

Editor’s note on April 9, 2019: Our commitment to create unique experiences for women, by women is steadfast. We will not be announcing 2019 Outessa dates. We hope the expanded local and REI Adventures trips will allow us to continue to come together as women, growing and learning from each other in the outdoors for years to come. Learn more about other experiences designed for women from REI.

Lake Tahoe, California, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire have a bottomless variety of outdoor adventures, creating the perfect settings for the 2018 REI Outessa retreats.

Your call has been heard. The Outessa multi-day retreats for women are back this year in two iconic destinations: California’s Squaw Valley Resort and New Hampshire’s Waterville Valley Resort. Both areas are rich in experiences for outdoor dabblers and experts alike, and in the spirit of Outessa, allow an array of women to personalize their journey while they connect with a spectacular place and new friends, learn a new skill or something about themselves.

“The Outessa events cater to a variety of attendees who love to be outdoors,” said Ladan Yalzadeh, operations manager for REI experiences and the events team. “For instance, you won’t see me at the crag but on a beautiful hike and communing with nature. I’m more comfortable on the trail than putting myself in an intimidating place. Both of these locations offer diverse experiences.”

These mountainscapes are steeped in rich history and recreation, which make them perfect hubs for travel and adventure. If you plan to extend your stay before or after an Outessa retreat this summer, we rounded up some of the top spots to visit while you’re in town.

White Mountains, New Hampshire

Waterville Valley Resort

Nicknamed “The Granite State,” glacier-carved cirques, lakes and dense forest canopies define New Hampshire’s landscape. With its blend of solitude and recreation, the state has been home to renowned writers Robert Frost and E.E. Cummings, and to the East’s first-ever ski chairlift. And Mount Washington—the country’s third tallest peak east of the Mississippi River—has held the coldest, windiest records on earth, according to the Mount Washington Observatory and Travel and Leisure.

Play Outside

There’s a reason it’s called America’s Bike Park: Highland Mountain Bike Park is among the top-choice mountain biking locations in the country, according to the annual rider’s choice awards for MTBparks. Highland is apparently the world’s first—and possibly the only—lift-access mountain park that’s dedicated to biking, according to New England Mountain Bike Association, Pink Bike, and World Bike Parks. The trail network stretches 15 miles with a mix of downhill and cross-country rides for everyone from beginners to experts. Highland’s Find Your Ride program allows newbies to get experience through an all-inclusive day with a bike, safety equipment, lift pass and lessons from a coach.

Sculptured Rocks

Sculptured Rocks Natural Area (Photo Credit: NH State Parks)

Those looking to explore New Hampshire by foot should visit Flume Gorge: a narrow 800-foot-long slot with fern-covered walls that reach 80 feet high. Hikers can follow the 2-mile walking loop, which features a boardwalk through the gorge, and stand beside Avalanche Falls. For trail and ultrarunners, consider all—or a portion—of the Pemi Loop Hike, a 30-mile route that pings eight summits with magnificent views of the Pemigewasset Wilderness and 8,000 feet of elevation gain. To cool off, dip into the swimming hole at Sculptured Rocks Natural Area, a locals’ favorite spot with fantastic river-carved potholes. Or, hop on the Cog Railway to relax as you climb Mount Washington for a stunning panorama of the White Mountains.

Mount Washington Cog Railway trains

A Mount Washington Cog Railway steam locomotive and a biodiesel train cross Jacob’s ladder trestle, at 37.4 percent grade, climbing Mount Washington. (Photo Credit: Mount Washington Cog Railway)

Eat & Drink

You’ll need to refuel after romping around New Hampshire’s mountains and streams. Following a trip to the Flume Gorge or Pemi Loop, grab a table at the Woodstock Inn Station and Brewery, a historic train depot that’s home to the state’s third-ever brewery. Today, the historic Woodstock has a 37-barrel production facility and crafts more than a dozen year-round and seasonal beers. For a cool local vibe and made to order subs stop by Biederman’s Deli and Pub, home of the legendary Balboa Sandwich.

Local History

New Hampshire is one of the oldest states in the country and chock-full of awesome history. One of the best off-trail ventures is the Canterbury Shaker Village, where you can learn about the religious community’s 200-year legacy through 29 original and reconstructed buildings.

Lake Tahoe, California

Squaw Valley California in the Springtime

Tahoe’s stunning turquoise water and the Sierra Nevadas are a quintessential mecca for exploration. After the expansion of the transcontinental railroad, Tahoe Basin picked up steam as a region for excursionists. Then following the 1960 winter games in Squaw Valley, the area became a hot spot for winter sports.

Play Outside

Tahoe’s unparalleled beauty is in every direction: crystal clear bodies of water, rugged peaks and high-elevation views. Take a hike to Emerald Pools, a 2.3-mile out-and-back journey along the South Fork Yuba River. The frigid swimming holes are famous for their aquamarine hue, the interwoven waterfalls and granite boulders, which are fun for scrambling and—given the right conditions—cliff jumping. Another not-to-miss hike is Secret Cove and Chimney Beach Loop, a 3-mile circuit with boulder-speckled coves, segments of sand and a freestanding chimney, the sole remains of an old lakeside cabin. Fair warning: The east shore beaches are naturist-friendly and have been for more than 75 years.

Squaw Valley ski hill during summer season.

Eat & Drink

After a hike or swim, reboot at Alibi Ale Works with the locally-applauded Nachos Redefined and delicious rotation of beers on tap. Alibi is Tahoe Basin’s first-ever production brewery, made locally by Kevin Drake and Rich Romo. For meat-eaters, go for the Mediterranean with za’atar spiced lamb.

For dinner, head to the Drunken Monkey for a delicious sushi roll or Asian noodles.

Local History

Tour the Vikingsholm, considered to be one of the greatest displays of Scandinavian architecture in the country. Known as Tahoe’s hidden castle, the landmark estate is preserved within Emerald Bay State Park. The original owner, Lora Knight, commissioned the Vikingsholm  to be constructed, because Emerald Bay reminded her of fjords she had seen during her travels to Scandinavia.

Outessa is a series of outdoor events designed for women who long for a life of discovery. Whether it’s committing to a 3-day weekend retreat on a mountain top or an energetic 1 day outdoor fest featuring female artists, music, speakers, Outessa has your outdoor aspirations covered. These events are made possible thanks to our amazing sponsors: Subaru of America, Garmin, Osprey, Sea to Summit, Smartwool, The North Face, Hydroflask, Probar, Salomon, Maui Jim, Black Diamond, Yakima, Olukai, Roxy, Igloo and Leatherman.

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