Traveling solo is something every woman should do at least once. But going it alone needn't be lonely or uncomfortable. These tour outfits will cover the logistics for you (and provide a safety net), freeing up your time to enjoy a personal adventure and maybe even discover a new you.
Transportation is not included in rates unless otherwise noted. Tour dates (where specified) are subject to change.
California's Ansel Adams Wilderness With Mountain Travel Sobek
Just an hour northeast of Fresno on the southern border of its more famous cousin, Yosemite National Park, the Ansel Adams Wilderness offers a serene, scenic respite. The 230,258-acre stretch features granite monoliths, wildflower-carpeted meadows and sparkling alpine lakes--the hallmarks of this stark landscape, photographed by its namesake to stunning effect. Just bring your camera and a desire for exploring the High Sierra scenic wilderness.
Who goes A group of six to 12 women and men (typically, there's close to a 50-50 ratio), ranging in age from the 30s to the 60s. This trip is suitable for weekend warriors as well as gung-ho outdoorswomen.
The lowdown On Day 1, you'll check into a bi-level condolike chalet at the Pines Resort and Conference Center in the town of Bass Lake. While you'll have a kitchen and small grill, you may want to treat yourself to a gourmet supper at Ducey's on the Lake; order vegetarian Wellington--grilled veggies and feta wrapped in a puff pastry--or the tender New Zealand rack of lamb ($20-$31).
After a continental breakfast (complimentary), your two Mountain Travel Sobek (MTS) guides will drive your group to the Yosemite Trails Pack Station 45 minutes northwest in Fish Camp, where they'll load mules with your gear. With the pack animals trailing, you'll hike six stress-free miles from the station to Staniford Lake campsite in the heart of the Ansel Adams Wilderness (4,764 feet above Yosemite's floor); there, you'll spend four nights. Family-sized tents, which you'll share with another woman, are provided, as are sleeping bags and floor pads.
Calorie blasters You'll hike five to seven moderately paced miles daily through stretches of indigenous lodgepole pines led by two MTS naturalist guides experienced in mountaineering, fishing and hiking.
Sustenance Your multitalented guides will whip up everything from pecan-banana pancakes in the morning to veggie sushi rolls with coconut curry for lunch and basil-garlic pasta with artichoke hearts for supper.
Me-time If you're too pooped to keep up with the troops, sit it out for a day or try trout fishing at Lillian Lake. But if you're up for a challenge, Day 5 includes an optional summit of 10,693-foot Gale Peak for unobstructed views of Yosemite's most recognizable monolith, Half Dome, which stands 4,000 feet above the valley floor.
Details From $1,590 for six days from July-September (private tent available for an extra $200) includes all meals except dinner your first night at the lodge, plus use of all camping gear: sleeping bag, ground pad and camp chair (888-687-6235, mtsobek.com).
Paddle Baja, Mexico, With REI Adventures
Girl power runs high on this no-boys-allowed adventure through Mexico's Baja California Sur, Gulf of California and the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range. And if this is your first time dipping your toe in foreign waters, you're in for a treat: authentic meals, mariachi music and a margarita fiesta polish off a classic maiden voyage.
Who goes Four to 10 women ranging in age from the 20s to the 60s. Perfect for first-time kayakers and seasoned paddlers alike.
The lowdown You'll start and end your eight-day journey with a night's stay at La Pinta hotel in the coastal town of Loreto, about 700 miles south of the U.S. border (you'll fly into Loreto International Airport). After your orientation with REI, you're free to explore the quaint cobblestone streets. Dinner is on your own tab, but it offers you an opportunity to bond with new friends and your two female REI guides at any one of several local watering holes, including El Chile Willie for chicken stuffed with nopal cactus (entrees range from $4-$16).
You'll rise early on Day 2 to meet your group for a complimentary breakfast and then drive to the put-in. After a brief how-to in paddling, you'll push off. You'll make camp (weather permitting) at a different beach the rest of the week. Expect to share a spacious tent and spot wash from water pumps. Portable toilets are available.
Calorie blasters A few strokes through the Gulf of California's turquoise waters will take you to nautical nirvana--you'll be one with the gray whales, dolphins and 800 species of colorful fish that play peek-a-boo with you and your tandem kayak partner.
Days 3-7 will pepper your paddling with onshore enchantments, such as hikes along white beaches and past towering cardon cacti and into the Sierra de la Giganta foothills--home to pronghorn antelope. You'll barely notice how long you've traveled each day--an average of four hours!
Sustenance With the exception of your first and last nights (the latter features a celebration supper complete with margaritas and sometimes mariachis), you'll enjoy campfire-cooked cuisine a la REI guides-cum-chefs. They'll dole out hearty fare including pancakes, burritos, chili and cornbread.
Me-time Break away to beach-comb with a pal and bargain with Loreto craft vendors for silver jewelry, paintings and ceramics.
Details From $1,199 for March 5-12 (plus $150 for private accommodations) covers all lodging, gear use and meals (except dinner the night of arrival and final breakfast) and ground transportation, including airport transfers to and from Loreto (800-622-2236, reiadventures.com).
Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc in France, Italy and Switzerland With Ryder-Walker
Say bonjour, buon giorno and gruezi to fellow hikers as you tread through all three nations--France, Italy and Switzerland-of this legendary Alps circuit. You'll encounter a challenging mix of steep ascents and descents punctuated with alpine streams, snowfields and lush meadows.
Who goes A coed group of up to 12 hikers and adrenaline junkies in their early 30s-50s
The lowdown You'll start and end your vacation in Geneva (three miles from Geneva International Airport). While this trip is more strenuous than the others--you'll spend six to eight hours a day crossing a variety of challenging terrain at an average elevation of about 6,000 feet--there's no roughing-it factor beyond the trail. Accommodations include charming inns, an upscale four-star hotel, an immaculate Swiss chalet, a family guesthouse and a spartan backpacker's hut. You'll have your own room for seven nights.
Calorie blasters Daily hikes are epic--seven to 14 miles on average--but the spectacular surroundings and camaraderie you develop with your fellow trekkers will help you conquer the complete 68-mile circuit.
Sustenance One evening your palate might enjoy an amusebouche of duck canape, followed by rabbit fricassee in white wine and then creme brulee for dessert; another dinner could be family-style pasta or traditional fondue. Start your mornings with a complimentary continental breakfast, and shop the local market for fresh produce, baguette, prosciutto and Camembert cheese to prepare your hiker's sack lunch ($12-$15 per day). Your guide will tempt you between meals with Swiss chocolates.
Me-time If the changes in altitude become too taxing, you can hitch a ride on the luggage van (although it's usually reserved for emergencies), which travels paved roads. Take a day off to explore the next village with a friend or simply draw a bubble bath back in your posh hotel room.
Details From $2,850 (single traveler price) for 10 days (July) includes doubleoccupancy lodging, breakfast and dinner. Lunches are not included (888-586-8365, ryderwalker.com).
Cycle the Tulip Fields of Holland With Untours
If you're not one for groups or tours, but you want access to guides and local information, consider Untours. Once you reserve, you'll get a guidebook of attractions and useful phrases. An English-speaking representative will meet you at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. She'll escort you on the train ride to Leiden Station and hail you a cab to an 18th-century apartment in the canal-laced university town of Leiden--the birthplace of Rembrandt and your home base for two weeks.
Who goes At any given time, there could be as many as 13 "Untourists" at one of five private university-area apartments, so you're bound to find a companion if you so desire.
The lowdown A gift basket filled with bread, cheeses, juice, coffee, milk and eggs welcomes you at the apartment. Unpack once and daytrip out with your rail pass (included) via the Netherlands Railways to explore ancient Haarlem and Delft as well as modern Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Holland's compact size makes it easy to navigate, and most Dutch people speak English. But if you have any concerns, your host is only a phone call away.
Calorie blasters Forget tiptoeing through the tulips! Bike past fields of red, orange and yellow in early spring; Holland's population of 16 million owns some 13 million bicycles. You can rent a bike at any Dutch train station for about $7 a day and pedal along 11,000 miles of generally flat scenic paths dotted with picnic-perfect stops.
Sustenance Once you've emptied your gift basket of staples, you can shop the market or hit a restaurant recommended in your Untours guidebook.
Me-time A visit to the renowned Kroller-Muller museum in Hoge Veluwe, one of Holland's largest national parks, is a must (about $15; kmm.nl). There you'll find an extensive collection of rare paintings by van Gogh and works by Auguste Rodin.
Details From $1,652 for 14 days (March-October) covers round-trip airfare from New York, Newark or Boston and rides to and from Schiphol airport, housing, a rail pass and support (888-868-6871, untours.com).
Lori Mayfield is a Los Angeles-based writer.
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