Many hiking and biking tours cost lots of money. But not this one

A bicycle on the beach with people playing beach volleyball in the background.
Bicycle tours can be a budget-friendly way to explore the California coast.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, fellow travelers. After a few weeks of offering virtual destinations — and in light of California’s stay-home order lifting — I’m back with some real-life ways to explore.

Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds and assistant travel editor Mary Forgione are reporting that national parks, hotels and restaurants are hustling to reopen after being surprised by the rollback of state COVID-19 rules.


Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods, because Californians are still urged to stay within 120 miles of home. In the spirit of doing our part as travelers to limit the spread of the virus, have you discovered any safe nearby gems in the last few weeks? Let me know — I would love to feature them in a future edition of Escapes.

🚴 Try a low-cost bike tour

Many organized biking and hiking tours are steeply priced, Times contributor Rosemary McClure found as she reviewed options for touring during the pandemic.

One cost-effective option? Mapping out a bike tour with the help of the Adventure Cycling Assn., an organization that will help novice or experienced bicyclists put together budget-friendly trips.

“Chunks of our Pacific Coast Route, Utah Cliffs Loop up near St. George and Sierra Cascades Route can be great short or long trips,” association spokesman Alex Strickland told McClure. Their maps cost $15.75 per section for nonmembers.

A cyclist cruises past the sand dunes near Monterey, Calif.
(Roy M. Wallack; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

🦕 Cruise this dinosaur drive-in

Do you have dinosaur-obsessed kiddos who can handle a car trip? Consider taking them to Jurassic Quest at the Pasadena Rose Bowl this weekend.

Times arts and culture writer Jessica Gelt recently took her kids to the drive-in experience. Despite waiting in a line of cars to enter, her family ended up having a memorable time gawking at the faux dinos — especially the 50-foot-long megalodon.

The attraction is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Jan. 31. Jurassic Quest will move to the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa and the Fairplex in Pomona in February and the Del Mar Fairgrounds in March. Tickets cost $49 per vehicle.

Children's heads stick out the sunroof of the family car at the drive-in Jurassic Quest exhibits at the Rose Bowl.
A family drives through the Jurassic Quest exhibits at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Jan. 16.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

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⛷️ Attention, snow bunnies

Southern California mountains have seen lots of snow over the last few weeks, Christopher Reynolds reports. But before you rush to book a ski trip to Mammoth or Tahoe, remember that traveling more than 120 miles from home continues to be discouraged.

Although staying home this weekend is safer, Reynolds has compiled a helpful list of ski areas within 100 miles of L.A.

  • Snow Valley
  • Big Bear Mountain Resort
  • Bear Mountain
  • Snow Summit
  • Mountain High
  • Yeti’s Snowplay
  • Mt. Baldy Resort
A skier at the Snow Valley resort
The Snow Valley resort got 19 to 24 inches of snow in a recent storm.
(Snow Valley)

🥾 The Triple Crown of hikes

The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail all in one year? That’s what two Stanford students are shooting for in 2021.

If they’re able to pull off the arduous treks, they’ll be the youngest to conquer the nearly 8,000-mile Triple Crown of hikes. Times staff writer Faith Pinho spoke with Sammy Potter, 21, and Jackson Parell, 20, to learn more about their plan. “It kind of became this fantasy obsession of mine over the spring,” Potter told Pinho. “Eventually, I realized that if this is going to be something that I ever want to do, there is never going to be a better time to do it.”

Potter and Parell are on their way — they began hiking on Jan. 1 at Springer Mountain in Georgia.

Sammy Potter, 21, and Jackson Parell, 20, began the Appalachian Trail from its starting point on Springer Mountain.
Sammy Potter, 21, and Jackson Parell, 20, on Jan. 1 began the Appalachian Trail at its starting point on Springer Mountain in Georgia.
(Jackson Parell; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

  • Lake Tahoe’s western shore partly reopened a few weekends ago. Reporter Susanne Rust describes how this has renewed fears about COVID-19 among locals.
  • COVID-19 restrictions can be a guessing game for airline crews, Times contributor Elliott Hester writes. He provides a look into flight attendants’ experience during the pandemic
  • ICYMI: Disneyland killed its annual pass program. Times writers Hugo Martín and Todd Martens explain what could come next for Disneyland regulars.
  • Pour one for the Standard hotel on the Sunset Strip. Martín reports that it closed last week, 22 years after opening.
  • COVID-19 has caused Dublin, Ireland, to cancel its St. Patrick’s Day parade, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be celebrations. Meena Thiruvengadam, writing in Travel and Leisure, breaks down the city’s weeklong virtual festivities.
  • These photographs by Jasmine Clarke “capture moments of Black joy” at a residency in the Catskills in upstate New York. Read about her experience in the Cut.

💻 Can’t adventure IRL? Here’s one way to expand your horizons

My favorite thing to do when visiting a city for the first time? Explore its streets on foot to hunt for landmarks, food vendors and hidden treasures.

It’s much more difficult to visit cities safely during the pandemic. That’s why I was excited to see the Los Angeles Conservancy team up with architecture organizations in Chicago, Boston, Prague, New York City and Copenhagen to offer virtual tours led by local guides and architecture experts.

The tours will be held Saturday mornings beginning Saturday through at least February 27. Tickets cost $60 for the public and must be purchased as a package. Hat tip to my editor, Anne Harnagel, for the recommendation.

Series of building photos
Explore cities around the world, thanks to virtual tours organized by the Los Angeles Conservancy and national and international architecture organizations.
(Ralph Kayden / Unsplash; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📸 Favorite photo

A man jumps into Lake Tahoe on Aug. 27, 2019.
Benoit Bultel jumps into Lake Tahoe at Sand Harbor, Nevada, in 2019.
(Max Whittaker / For The Times)

🎸 Road song

On your next drive, I recommend indulging your inner road-trip rebel by listening to “Running Red Lights” by the Avalanches. But abide by the rules of the road, please. 😇

Lyric "California Life is alright with me" from the Avalanches “Running Red Lights” displayed with photo of a stoplight.
“Running Red Lights” by the Avalanches is this week’s road-trip jam. But please don’t take the title literally.
(Erwan Hesry / Unsplash; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)