I can still vividly remember the first time I saw a moose. I was on an overnight canoe trip during summer camp in Ontario, Canada. I must’ve been 11 or 12 years old. To be honest, I wasn’t keen on the excursion; it’s not difficult to imagine the frustrations that arise when a gaggle of tween girls have to portage heavy, wet boats and attempt to paddle in sync. But there we were, gliding along, when I turned my head and saw a massive bull standing near the bank, its antlers reflected in the still lake. I was mesmerized. I took a deep breath, snapped a mental picture, and sunk my oar back into the water.

Sometimes it’s challenging to pinpoint when you fall in love with something. But I know for certain that this moment jump-started my relationship with Mother Nature. In the years since, I’ve looked to her for both inspiration and much-needed respite. I regularly flip through my mental photo album—the shocking turquoise hue of Lake Pukaki in New Zealand; the giant trees in Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Forest; the view from the summit of Quandary Peak—when I’m seeking a dash of creative brilliance. And when my mind feels muddled or I’m overwhelmed with stress, I’ve learned nothing centers me quite like immersing myself in the great outdoors.

Fortunately, living in Denver means I don’t have to travel far to find beautiful places that both calm me and fill me with awe. (I’ve even seen a few more moose, including almost walking into one in Rocky Mountain National Park.) And, if you live in Colorado, neither do you. But if you need some recommendations for where to go and what to do to pad your own cerebral scrapbook, this issue of 5280 Traveler—our sixth compilation of the best of the best of 5280’s regional travel coverage*—provides plenty of ideas, from secluded camping spots to bike-cation suggestions to the perfect white-water-rafting trip in Utah.

Whatever it is that draws you outside—adventure, relaxation, a break from routine—I hope you continue to indulge it. As for me, I’ll be adding to my mental photo album (and my digital one) with a trip to Vancouver Island, off Canada’s Pacific Coast, this month.

*Every story has been fact-checked and updated (where possible) with current information.

This article was originally published in 5280 Traveler 2017.
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.