6 Tips for Mastering the Long Weekend Adventure Trip

72 hours may seems quick, but if you focus on the right aspects, it can yield some unbelievable results.

By: Michael Gabbert + Save to a List

Time is a precious commodity. Yet, exploring many of America’s national parks and all of the incredible destinations found on The Outbound or hell, even on your Instagram feed, takes just that – time and plenty of it. While I’m sure we’d all love to spend months on the road, the reality is that many of us can only afford a long weekend here and there for adventurous travel. Tackling every single place you desire to visit in America in such short stints is impossible. But, if planned properly, I’ve found there are several places where you can see many amazing, surreal landscapes in a short amount of time. 72 hours may seems quick, but if you focus on the right aspects, it can yield unbelievable results. The following are a collection of lessons I’ve learned while trying to tackle & master such trips. 

1. Immaculate Planning

Immaculate might be a strong word, but when planning to maximize 72 hours, knowing exactly what you want to see and when you want to see it is important. A couple key aspects are:

·       Flights - Arriving late night or early morning at your launch city is critical to pack as much in a long weekend as possible (bonus, these flights are typically cheaper as well)

·       Destinations – At times there’s nothing better than winging it and seeing what happens. In fact, I much prefer a trip which goes with the flow and lets the adventure come to me. However, to master the weekend trip you have to tackle and plan the adventure with tenacity. You don’t need to plan every second but knowing where you want to go and, to a degree, what time(s) you want to arrive and depart that destination is imperative to hitting everything you want to see. Simply plugging in your destinations and looking at a multi-stop view on Google Maps can yield the best, most efficient path for your trip. 

·       Permits - A majority of the national parks or scenic areas don’t require permits, however there are several sought after destinations which do. Prior to your trip do plenty of research on the places you plan to visit to ensure you’re all set. There’s nothing worse than getting hyped up and traveling all the way to a destination only to realize you can’t see it without a permit (case in point, myself driving 3 hours out of the way to see The Wave in Arizona without a permit…)

2. Rest, Don’t Sleep.

Let’s assume you have exactly 72 hours to see as much stuff as you’re hoping to. And let’s say of a normal weekend you would get 8 hours of sleep each night. That’s 24 total hours! ⅓ of your total adventure! Assuming you’re outside of major cities on your adventure, being awake in the middle of the night to see the stars & milky way seems prudent. Waking up well before sunrise and watching the sun crest over the horizon at a perfect vantage point seems logical as well. Hell, who knows when you’ll get back to these places. Get enough sleep to still be able to function, drive, etc, but as the old saying goes - you can always sleep when you’re dead (or in this case, back home).

3. Catch every Sunrise & Sunset.

The quintessential image from any of my trips always seems to be an absurdly spectacular sunrise or sunset amongst a unique and gorgeous landscape. There’s something surreal and magical about this time of the day and starting out or capping your adventurous days with such a view should be a no-brainer. The key is to know exactly when the sunrise and sunset are going to occur at your location. Additionally, and this is next level stuff right here, to know exactly where the sun will rise and/or set on the horizon to assist where and when to situate yourself to achieve the most picturesque view possible (note: there are a ton of good apps for this, but my favorite is ‘The Photographer's Ephemeris’)

4. Bring the Right Gear.

Obviously, gear is all dependent on where you’re going, when you’re going, and where you’re staying (hotel/tent/car). No matter what, knowing the exact forecast – high/low temps, chance of precipitation, etc. – is a no brainer. That said, regardless of the season, destination, or forecast, I always find myself with the following go-to gear in my pack:

·       Outdoor Research Down Hoody (Great for sunrise/sunset warmth while being very packable/lightweight)

·       MeFoto Carbon Fiber Tripod (useful for star photography or sunrise/sunset shots)

·       Camera & Wide Angle Lens (With  an add’l lens or two depending on the area)

·       Alite Monarch Butterfy Chair (Packable and easy to assemble)

·       Vasque Talus Hiking Boots (Waterproof and nimble)

·       Starbucks Via (and lots of it!)

5. Food

Immaculate planning for your destinations is certainly key, but this doesn’t necessarily need to feed over to your dining options (pun intended). My favorite meals on trips have always been quick bites at ‘hole-in-the-wall’ restaurants along a country road or within small towns. Allowing yourself to be flexible with food gives you more time to focus on the sites themselves and weave some spontaneity into your trip. Now this plan can certainly backfire if you end up miles upon miles from any options and either your stomach is grumbling or the sun has set, so I’d highly suggest bringing copious amounts of Clif bars, kind bars, trail mixes or snacks with you.  

6. Soak it in

With all of the planning and work that can go into these trips, in the end don’t forget to lay back and let it all weave through. Soak in the surroundings. Soak in the beauty. And fully soak in the experience. There’s some cool shit out there.

Happy Exploring!

FYI, there are some pretty rad 72-hour adventure stories for specific destinations already out there. Give them a read for even more tips and really well written articles on these places.


Lake Tahoe



Salt Lake City  


San Francisco

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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