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Most adventure junkies don’t pursue their passion full time. This is true even if you are a professional adventurer: The real world comes knocking, and there are bills to be paid, emails to be answered, and for many, meetings or presentations that might keep you pinging across the country. But while one could lament the days spent in America’s business meccas as time spent far from the wild, it can also be viewed as an opportunity. Some of the country’s hubs of commerce hide surprising outdoor adventures — a few even go toe-to-toe with the best wild spaces in the country. Here’s where to go in some the busiest cities in the U.S., and essential pieces of gear to fit in even the most cramped carry-on.


PADDLE: Don’t believe the tales of three-eyed fish in the Hudson River. It’s cleaner than ever, and you can see Manhattan’s iconic skyline while battling whitecaps in the river in a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Manhattan Kayakoffers everything from hour-long tours to a full-day circumnavigation of the entire island.


HIKE: Baltimore’s Gwynns Falls Leakin Park is one of the largest urban wildernesses on the Eastern seaboard — but you’ve probably never heard of it unless you listen to Serial. That’s good news, because that leaves 35 miles of quiet, empty trail winding through an oasis of hardwood forest, rocky bluffs, and puttering waterfalls all for you.


BIKE: Water sports are obvious choices for the Windy City, but here’s a shocker: You can find fantastic mountain biking 30 minutes from downtown in the Palos Trail System. Zoom through 25 miles of rolling singletrack in one of Cook County’s finest forest preserves, and rent bikes at  All Spoked Up in Batavia.


FLY: The Bay Area’s wealth of outdoor activities are no mystery; surfing, hiking, biking, and climbing is within a stone’s throw of the city’s seven famous hills. But how’d you like to see all those golden hills at once from the air? Bay Area Hang Gliding gives adrenaline junkies the chance to find their inner condor with classes for beginners. If you’re just starting, it’ll take a bit to get your wings — so this option is perfect for travelers on frequent business to the Bay.


RIDE: Nowhere is Old West culture more alive than Texas — and despite its rep as an oil boomtown full of rhinestone cowboys, riders can access one of the better equestrian trail systems in the state just 20 minutes north of town. Cypress Trails offers lessons for greenhorns and abuts a vast trail riding system where experienced hands can ride from an hour up to a full day.


SKI: Don’t let the winter rain in Seattle fool you: That means it’s dumping up in the Cascades that fringe the Emerald City. Just 45 minutes from downtown atop Snoqualmie Pass you’ll find Alpental, home to some of the steepest, deepest skiing in North America. Best of all, you can clock out of your 5pm meeting, be at the mountain by 6, ski until 10, and be back in bed by 11 for your morning call.


CLIMB: At over 16,000 acres, South Mountain is one of the largest city parks in the country. And while it has plenty of sun-blasted hiking trails, you might be better off spending your time climbing in the shade of one of its famous overhanging boulders. Mormon Boulders and Pima Canyon offer loads of options — and with trails open ‘til 11, you can even bring a headlamp and crush it after hours.


FISH: Just 20 minutes from downtown Atlanta you’ll discover the Chattahoochee River, a rare cold-water haven for trout smack in the middle of the deep south. Fly fishermen can cast for rainbows, brown, and even brook trout, while rod-and-reel anglers can try their hand at nabbing plentiful bass and catfish. If you forgot your rod or want a local to guide you to richest pools, try Deep South Fly Anglers.

What is your favorite adventure stop on business trips? Let us know in the comments!