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Kay Rodriguez

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Kay Rodriguez is the Chicago-based travel writer and photographer behind Jetfarer and Skyline Adventurer. When she's not blogging furiously on her laptop or editing photos, you can find Kay running, hiking, or paddling in a new city.

For outdoor lovers, no gift is better than the opportunity to get outside. However, when it comes time to choose a present for your outdoorsy friends and family, the best gifts are those that make being outside for long stretches of time easier and more comfortable. To help you choose the absolutely perfect present for your adventurous loved one, we’ve created this complete guide to the 50+ best, most practical gifts for outdoor lovers that they’ll be sure to love and use for years to come.

Overall Best Gifts for Outdoor Lovers

Hydro Flask Water Bottle

Hydration is a very important part of staying healthy while outdoors, as hours in the sun and can really dehydrate you. To keep water ice cold, a Hydro Flask water bottle is the perfect adventure companion. Hydro Flask boasts that its bottles keep water cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours…definitely enough for a cold morning or a full day out on the trails.

SteriPen Ultra

Having access to clean water while outside is a must, so a water purification system is one of the most helpful gifts for outdoor lovers that you can give. We recommend the USB-rechargeable SteriPen Ultra, which is must lighter than the other products in the SteriPen line, and purifies water using UV light.

Merino Wool Baselayers

Many people who go outside often, especially at higher altitudes, need warm baselayers, and they make for some of the most practical outdoor gifts out there. Smartwool’s Merino 250 baselayer line offers extra-warm, cozy layers that wick sweat and moisture seamlessly on the trails and slopes.

Buff

For outdoor lovers, there are few things as versatile as a Buff. They advertise that it can be worn in 12+ different ways, and it’s touted as 4 times warmer than microfiber. A Buff is great to wear as a scarf, to tie hair back, or to protect your face from dust and wind.

Black Diamond Head Lamp

Sometimes, the best times to be outdoors are in the early morning and late in the afternoon. However, if your loved one plans adventures in non-optimal daylight, it’s critical to bring a lighting source. Needless to say, a head lamp is one of the best gifts for hikers because it’s truly an essential item. Our favorite head lamp is the Black Diamond Spot – it’s lightweight, durable, and isn’t too expensive.

Keen Hiking Boots

Truly the only item that someone needs to get out on the trails is a good set of shoes, and a waterproof set of hiking boots is the perfect companion for an intrepid hiker that loves to be outdoors, rain or shine. Keen waterproof hiking boots are durable and waterproof, with thick treads and fabrics that will keep your feet safe and dry, no matter the conditions. They also come in styles for both men and women.

Sunglasses

Don’t underestimate how powerful sun exposure can be on a long day outdoors. One of the most useful gifts for hikers is a pair of high-quality, polarized sunglasses to keep their eyes safe and protected while exposed to the sun. There are tons of polarized sunglasses ranging in style and price available, so you’ll have to choose based on your favorite hiker’s preferences.

The North Face Venture Rain Jacket

Every hiker knows that conditions in the mountains can change in an instant. That’s why a rain jacket is one of the smartest and most practical gifts for hikers. The North Face Venture Jacket (for women and men) is a versatile, waterproof jacket for rainy and wet hiking conditions.

Patagonia Down Sweater

While outdoors in colder temperatures, it can be important to bring some extra layers, especially if you’re going to be at altitude. The Patagonia Down Sweater is our favorite compressible puffer because it’s a sustainably-made, warm, and cozy thermal layer for cold conditions. When paired with a rain jacket, it can keep your adventurer warm even in light snow!

Osprey Day Pack

Often for outdoor adventures, people need to carry gear, water, snacks, and extra clothing. Having a day pack that feels comfortable and distributes weight evenly is absolutely critical. Osprey day packs are hands down the best and more durable option for day packs – we recommend a size between 18 and 30 liters for daytime adventures.

Waterproof Day Pack Cover

In addition to a day pack, another great outdoor gift is a weatherproof, waterproof day pack cover. This will not only keep your loved one’s backpack dry, but will protect all of the contents inside in case of bad weather out in the trails or on the mountain.

Quick Dry Towel

A towel can come in handy on any hiking trip. From humid, sweaty trails to impromptu swimming sessions, outdoorsy people can always use a towel that’s small and thin enough to carry around in a day pack. Youphoria Outdoors makes an affordable quick-dry microfiber towel that comes in a lot of fun colors and is perfect for shoving in your bag on the way out to the trails.

Cheap Gifts for Outdoor Lovers on a Budget (Under $25)

Smartwool Wool Socks

It might seem obvious, but think, durable socks are a must-have item in any intrepid person’s wardrobe. Smartwool’s hiking socks are great companions out on the trails! They’re warm, quick drying, and are super cushioned and comfortable. Give one pair or a few for an extra special outdoor gift!

Darn Tough Yeti Mountain-Themed Socks

What’s better than regular wool socks? Wool socks with mountains on them, duh. Outdoorsy people love to show off their love for the mountains, and these Darn Tough Yeti wool socks will surely come in handy on the slopes and trails, and is one of the most relevant gifts for outdoor lovers.

Snacks

Snacks are a gift that keeps on giving, especially out on the trails where you’re expending energy and burning calories left and right.

From our own experience, some snacks that hikers like include:

  • Clif bars
  • Kind bars
  • Gu gels (caffeinated and uncaffeinated)
  • Trail mix
  • Jerky (vegan and meat varieties)

Sawyer Products Permethrin Spray

Often, regular bug spray can be oily, greasy, or uncomfortable. That’s why we’d recommend Sawyer Products Permethrin Spray to bug-proof your clothing and bags, instead! This spray is light and fabric-friendly, meaning you can spray it on any clothing to make it bus-resistant.

Sun Bum Sunscreen

Sunscreen is another must-have for any outdoor lover to protect your skin from the harsh UV rays of the sun. We use and recommend Sun Bum sunscreen because it’s a) PABA-free and b) reef safe. Generally, this means that it’s free of harsh chemicals and is safe for marine life, including coral reefs.

Carabiners

Carabiners are literally the most useful and versatile item for hikers. Use them to strap things on your bags, to your pants, or onto trees. Hook your bags to your tent while you’re sleeping, or hang dry wet clothes. You can buy a set of 10 colorful carabiners for cheap, and they’ll last your loved ones for a long time.

Hiking Trowel

When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go…and a trowel can help you cover up when you’re doing your business in the woods. The best, most useful trowels are lightweight and have a small loop to hook to the outside of your backpack (with a carabiner!). This hiking trowel is a great, inexpensive gift option for the serious hiker.

Beanie

In colder or windy conditions, a beanie is one of the most practical gifts for outdoor lovers because it can help keep them safe and warm. For outdoor adventures, you don’t need anything fancy, so something like this affordable beanie from Neff is a perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite hiker, biker, or runner.

The North Face e-Tip Gloves

While only really relevant for colder climates, a good pair of gloves can help hikers stay outdoors later in the season, and in higher altitudes where the air tends to be chillier and windier. The North Face e-Tip Gloves are a great hiking companion because they work with touch screens like phones and tablets…meaning you don’t have to take them off for anything, really.

Sneaker Balls/Boot Fresheners

Nothing says “I love you” more than giving someone a gift to freshen their stinky shoes, right? Well, for people who spend a lot of time outside, a gift like this is totally welcome, because those shoes get muddy, damp, sweaty and downright disgusting somethings. Scented Sneaker Balls are an inexpensive, kind of hilarious option for a stocking stuffer or gift for your favorite outdoor lover.

Waterproof Phone Case

For people who spend lots of time in the water, a waterproof phone case is an easy and affordable gift that will go a long way. This case can protect a phone in the event of immersion in the water, and has a strap that users can clip onto a life jacket or a kayak for easy access.

Dark Skies by Valerie Stimac

Many people don’t think of night-time as the best time to be outdoors, but Dark Skies by Valerie Stimac will show you otherwise. This vibrant book of beautiful spots for stargazing will definitely pique your interest about the night sky, and inspire you to get out more when it’s dark and clear out. (Plus, Valerie is a friend of ours and is an expert on the space tourism world over on her blog, Space Tourism Guide!)

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

There’s no story more famous (or infamous) than that of Christopher (Alexander “Supertramp”) McCandless. Jon Krakauer documents this bittersweet tale about a suburban young man who hitchhikes across country and travels to Alaska to embark into the wilderness alone. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is one of the most famous outdoor books out there, and is a stark reminder of the sheer force and power of nature vs. humanity.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

For a great fireside book or a read for the hammock after a long day on the trails, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is a quintessential read. As an intimate, detailed, entertaining journey into the backwoods of the Appalachian Trail, it’s a fantastic and memorable read for anyone who is passionate about exploration, hiking, or seeing the world and nature from a different lens.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

There are few novels in the hiking genre than Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This popular hiking novel is a classic, especially for adventurous female hikers who are looking for an emotional and physical journey through the Pacific Crest Trail with renowned author Cheryl Strayed.

Practical Gifts for Outdoor Lovers

Swimsuit

A swimsuit is a must for anyone who loves the water and especially the outdoors, and is one of the best gifts for outdoor lovers. Here are our recommendations for swimsuits:

  • Women’s Swimwear: While there are tons of women’s swimsuit companies out there, our favorite for kayaking (and other water sports) is Summersalt. They’ve got tons of cute, colorful styles that stay put if you’re fighting rapids or taking a dip in the water. Click here to browse Summersalt swimsuits.
  • Men’s Swimwear: Original Penguin has some fantastic options for men’s swimwear – our readers love them because they’re comfortable and durable, and they have tons of different styles to choose from. Click here to browse Original Penguin swim styles.

Dry Bag

Water sports lovers will need a bag to put them in. Instead of a traditional canvas backpack, we recommend packing stuff into a dry bag, which will keep valuables dry and safe in the water. Dry bags come in lots of shapes and sizes, but the best ones have a top that rolls up and buckles to keep water out. We strongly recommend a waterproof dry bag as a gift for kayakers, canoers, paddle boarders, and swimmers!

Helmet

A helmet can come in handy for a lot of outdoor activities, from rock climbing to biking to skiing and snowboarding. While the helmets for each of these activities are slightly different, you may want to consider doing some research into sport helmets for your loved ones’ favorite outdoor activities.

Trekking Poles

Hikers often face trails and conditions where extra support is extremely helpful. That’s why one of the most useful gifts for hikers is a set of durable, portable trekking poles. Leki Foldable Trekking Poles are perfect for traveling hikers, as they’ll fit into a standard suitcase and are extremely light weight.

Binoculars

For wildlife watching just about anywhere in the world, a good pair of binoculars is essential, and makes a great gift for outdoor lovers. These affordable, lightweight binoculars are a great starting point for hikers or bird watchers who enjoy getting a closer look at wildlife, but there are several types of binoculars that come in a variety of zoom lengths and quality.

Sweat-Wicking Cap

When you’re outside for hours in the hot, direct sun, it’s really easy to get a sunburn, and a hat can help prevent that. Any hat will make a great gift, but this one by TrailHeads comes in a bunch of colors and is super lightweight and breathable.

ENO DoubleNest Hammock

When you’ve been outside for hours and are ready for a rest, there’s no better feeling than setting up your hammock between two tall trees and relaxing with someone you love. An ENO DoubleNest Hammock is one of coolest gifts for outdoor lovers that you can give to a person or couple…especially hikers and campers. It’s super portable, lightweight, and easy to set up basically anywhere with trees.

Helinox Ultralight Chair

Most outdoorsy people find pleasure in simply hanging out in the woods, and one great way to do that in comfort is with a Helinox Ultralight Chair. This foldable chair is super light and easy to carry, making it a perfect hiking or camping companion so you can sit and savor the best views along the way.

YETI Hopper Backflip Cooler

Before you freak out about the price of a YETI cooler, we’ll say one thing: these things last FOREVER. They’re heavy-duty and durable, made to be your cooler companion for life. If your loved one enjoys toting food and drinks to their favorite trails and parks, the YETI Hopper Backflip Cooler is a backpack-style cooler that’s perfect for adventures.

Big Agnes Tiger Wall Ultralight Tent

This is obvious, but outdoor lovers will need something to protect them from the elements while camping. The Big Agnes Tiger Wall tent is lightweight and easy to set up, perfect for backpacking trips or walk-up campsites. While they’re not cheap, think of this as a big splurge that will (hopefully) enable you and your loved ones to make great outdoor memories for years.

Kelty Cosmic Down Sleeping Bag

Even in hotter climates, campers will usually want something to cover their body while sleeping. A good, versatile sleeping bag and inflatable mat will come in handy for any outdoor lover. For use in different climates, you’ll want to give your loved ones a thermal, zippered sleeping bag like the Kelty Cosmic Down.

Jetboil Sumo Camping Stove

While hiking or camping, it is a LOT easier to cook things on a stove than on an open fire. The Jetboil Sumo camping stove system is small, lightweight, and compressible, perfect for backpacking or road trips for your favorite outdoor lover.

Complete Mess Kit

Not going to lie, we think this is one of the coolest gadgets on our list: a camping mess kit that folds out into a 10-piece dining set! Your loved one can use it to cook and clean while hiking or camping, and it all collapses into one easy-to-carry piece they can use again and again.

Reusable Snack Bags

Leave No Trace is a big movement in the outdoor industry right now, and that includes trash from snacks and drinks. One of the best ways to support this great movement and the people who believe in it is by enabling good behaviors, and reusable silicone snack bags are a super simple and impactful gift that does so.

Hiking Dog Harness

If your adventurous loved one has a dog (or IS a dog…), a hiking harness is a perfect gift for adventurous pups. This hiking dog harness has two small pouches for things like treats and toys, and is a comfortable alternative to a collar for long hours on the trails.

Foam Roller

Outdoor sports and activities can cause all kinds of muscle aches and pains. A foam roller is often a runner’s favorite tool for post-run stretching, massage, and relieving tension after hours of racing through the streets and trails. If you’re looking for something that will get used by your favorite runner all the time, a good, solid foam roller like this one is one of the best gifts for runners.

Outside Magazine Subscription

Outside Magazine is the go-to magazine for outdoor sports and adventures, and it’s an industry favorite for inspiring and moving stories about nature and outdoor feats. An Outside Magazine annual subscription is a fantastic gift for anyone who loves the outdoors and spends a lot of time outside on adventures.

National Geographic Magazine Subscription

National Geographic is THE magazine for adventure lovers, with a history of exploration that dates back to the 1880s. Your loved ones can find some of the best, most inspiring landscape photography and adventure stories in every issue of National Geographic, making an annual subscription a fantastic gift that keeps on giving.

REI Co-Op Membership or Gift Card

REI is any outdoor lover’s paradise, with awesome, durable gear and clothing for any adventure outside. They’re a co-op, meaning that you can pay to be a member and get discounts and dividends based on the purchases you make in-store. You can buy your loved one a lifetime co-op membership or a gift card to let them choose their own adventures.

Technology Outdoor Gifts

Garmin Watch

Garmin watches are basically the smartphones for outdoor people. Garmin’s GPS capabilities are some of the best out there, and their Forerunner watches help thousands of runners, hikers, and skiers track mileage around the world. Their newest version, the Garmin Forerunner 245, comes in a music and non-music version, and has a screen that shows you your stats for each run or hike and over time.

Apple Watch Series 5

For those wanting a more integrated running watch that syncs with an iPhone, an Apple Watch can definitely do the trick. It can track your distance and speed through apps like Runkeeper, and can also sync with the music, messaging, and calls on your phone. It’s definitely a more expensive option, but it’s a great all-in-one splurge for your favorite runner that they’ll definitely wear all the time.

GoPro Hero Black

A GoPro Hero Black is an excellent gift for the avid adventure lover who wants to document their time on the trails and in the water. Portable, weatherproof, and high-quality, a GoPro will help your favorite outdoor lover capture and relive their favorite moments on the trails again and again.

Sony a6400 Mirrorless Camera

If your loved one is into photography or video and wants something that takes higher-quality images than a phone, a Sony a6400 mirrorless camera is a perfect companion for outdoor lovers. It’s light, compact, and durable, making it great for windy or dusty conditions. The Sony mirrorless line is the best in class for compact, professional-grade cameras, and the a6400 is the newest, most robust iteration of their a6000 line.

Additional Resources


If someone you love is a runner, you know how dedicated they can be to their sport. Whether that means running at 5 am on cold winter mornings or hanging around the treadmill for miles at a time, runners are often headstrong, dedicated, and ambitious. The perfect running gifts will help runners perform better and continue to hone their craft. In this comprehensive guide, we’ve got a list of the absolute best gifts for runners, from runners, including recommendations for all budgets, big and small.

Overall Best Gifts for Runners

Running Shoes


The one and only things that runners actually need is running shoes. When it comes to shoes, every runner is different, so it’s probably a good idea to take them to a local store and take a treadmill test before they try on a few pairs.

At Skyline Adventurer, we personally like Asics running shoes (the Dynaflyte for women and the Kayano for men), as they’re comfortable yet flexible and feel like pillows on our feet for miles.

Trail Running Shoes

For runners who prefer the forest to the road, trail running shoes are also a fantastic option. Designed specifically for uneven surfaces like hiking trails, trail running shoes are one of the best gifts for hikers who want to experience nature while they’re out on a run. While no one shoe is perfect for everyone, we’ve found that Merrell has fantastic trail running options for any trail runner out there.

Running Shorts

For warmer seasons, runners can never have enough pairs of shorts, making for a fantastic running gift. The best running shorts are loose, airy, and don’t ride up. There are tons of brands that offer them, but running shorts from Under Armour (for women and men)are a fantastic value and come in a bunch of fun, bright colors.

Nike Running Tights

In colder climates or for extra compression, many runners prefer to run in leggings or tights. The best kinds of running tights have good compression and storage areas like pockets or zippers to keep small items in. The quality of tights can vary greatly, so we’d recommend picking up a pair from a reputable brand like Nike so you can be sure they’ll last for miles on the road.

Under Armour Running Jacket

A durable running jacket is a must for any runner who lives in a temperate or cold climate. The best running jackets are made of sweat-wicking material and have a zipper to adjust for different temperatures. Under Armour has a fantastic selection of jackets that are great for runners – we especially like this one for men and this one for women.

Sweat-Wicking Running Tops

No runner will ever say no to more running clothing, which is why running tops make one of the greatest gifts for runners. Every runner will have their own preferences about their favorite types of running attire, but we really like PrAna t-shirts and tank tops for running because they’re extremely breathable and sweat-wicking.

Warm Beanie

In colder or windy conditions, a beanie is one of the most practical gifts for hikers because it can help keep them safe and warm. For hiking, you don’t need anything fancy, so something like this affordable beanie from Neff is a perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite hiker.

The North Face e-Tip Gloves

As most runners know, the first thing to get cold are your extremities, especially your fingers, which are often exposed to the elements. A good pair of gloves can help cold weather runners run in comfort and warmth. We’ve run in e-Tip gloves by The North Face for years now and we strongly recommend them, especially since they’re super durable and you can use your phone’s touch screen without taking them off.

Running Sunglasses

Even when you’re running, it’s still critical to protect your eyes. A pair of polarized, UV-resistant running sunglasses is incredibly important for keeping a runner’s eyes safe on long runs (so, basically, it’s one of those awesome AND practical running gifts). There are tons of varieties of running sunglasses out there, but runners love these sunglasses by JOJEN which are high quality and come in a bunch of different colors.

Breathable Baseball Cap

Just like sunglasses are important for protecting runners’ eyes, a hat is helpful for protecting their faces. When you’re running for hours in the hot, direct sun, it’s really easy to get a sunburn, and a hat can help prevent that. Any hat will do, but this one by TrailHeads comes in a bunch of colors and is super lightweight and breathable.

Cheap Gifts for Runners On A Budget (Under $25)

KT (Kinesiology) Tape

Runners often get aches and pains in various parts of their body, and one way to alleviate them is to provide additional support through kinesiology tape. There are several brands of kinesiology tape out there, but the most popular with runners is KT Tape, which is super soft and comfortable and comes in all kinds of colors, from neutral to bright and fun.

Buff

For people who spend a lot of time outside, there are few things as versatile as a Buff. They advertise that it can be worn in 12+ different ways, and for runners, it’s a great headband or scarf substitute for colder climates.

Energy Gels or Chews

Energy supplements are essential for distance runners who are often running for hours at a time, and are affordable gifts for runners who do half and full marathons. The most popular brand of energy gel for runners is Gu Gels, which come in all kinds of crazy flavors in both caffeinated and decaffeinated varieties. However, you can view a lot of different kinds of gels and chews here.

Saucony Running Socks

Socks are something that runners truly cannot run without, and a good pair of socks can help runners feel more comfortable and strong out on the road or trail. Running socks are a fantastic, affordable gift for runners, and we recommend these running socks from Saucony (for women and men) as a fantastic, well-cushioned option.

Body Glide Anti-Chafe Balm

Reality check: most runners chafe somewhere on their bodies, and it can hurt a LOT. Applying Body Glide Anti-Chafe Balm is the best preventive measure that runners can take to reduce or minimize the painful effects of chafing. While it might seem like a weird present to give someone, if you’re looking for gifts for runners on a budget, your runner will be thankful for some Body Glide.

Run the World by Becky Wade

Believe it or not, runners aren’t always running. When they’re off the road, indulging in stories about running and athletes is a great way to recover. Run the World by Becky Wade is a beautiful, funny, heart warming memoir of her year spent abroad through the Watson Fellowship learning about training styles, running norms, and new cultures along the way. It’s a perfect gift for the travel-loving runner!

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Run the World by Christopher McDougall is a fascinating story about running and superathletes who can run for several miles at a time. Part running story and part anthropology, this inspiring read is a fantastic gift for sitting by the fire and learning more about what the human body is capable of.

Runner’s World Subscription

Runner’s World is the best magazine for running-obsessed folks, with monthly editions that have tons of cool stories, photos, and tips for road running, trail running, cross-training, and more. If you want to give your runner a whole year of inspiration, a Runner’s World annual subscription is a fantastic option.

Practical Running Gifts

FlipBelt Running Storage Belt

Runners usually like to run as minimally as possible, without any bags or bells and whistles that will drag them down. That’s why the seamless FlipBelt Running Storage Belt is a perfect gift – it allows runners to store their IDs, credit cards, gels, and other items in a comfortable, lightweight waist band.

Phone Arm Band

Many runners enjoy running with their phones, either for music or for safety (or both). However, lugging around a phone in your hand doesn’t always work for every runner, so an arm band that fits a phone can be a fantastic and practical gift for runners who like to jam to music. While there are a ton out there, this one on Amazon is extremely affordable and is waterproof, to ensure rain or sweat won’t damage your electronics.

Nathan Handheld Water Bottle

For long runs, there’s no feeling more terrifying than not having access to drinking water. Many distance runners will bring a handheld water bottle with them to ensure they always have access to water when it’s needed. The Nathan Handheld Water Bottles are great because they have a hand strap and a small pocket where you can keep things like energy gels, chews, IDs, and keys.

Reflective Running Vest

Many runners prefer to hit the road in the early mornings or evenings, which can pose dangers to them if they’re crossing streets or are in areas with lots of bikers. A reflective running vest can help ensure that your loved one stays safe and visible while running at night. Giving the gift of safety is the best way to tell someone you love them!

No-Bounce Running Head Lamp

Not only do night runners need to be seen, but they also need to be able to see the road for obstacles that may trip them. A head lamp is one safety item we recommend for any runner who goes out at night, and it’s one of the most welcome gifts for runners because a good one isn’t cheap. The BioLite No-Bounce Headlamp is a compact, light option that’s perfect for runners because it’s tiny and stays put with an elastic, grippy headband.

Foam Roller

Long distance running can cause all kinds of muscle aches and pains. A foam roller is often a runner’s favorite tool for post-run stretching, massage, and relieving tension after hours of racing through the streets and trails. If you’re looking for something that will get used by your favorite runner all the time, a good, solid foam roller like this one is one of the best gifts for runners.

Handheld Muscle Roller Stick

Another tool for post-run massage, this handheld muscle roller stick helps to target specific areas where there’s more soreness and aching. It’s also the most affordable option of the three massage gadgets on this list, and it’s one that thousands of runners swear by as a fantastic tool for recovery and muscle tension relief.

Road ID Wristband

It can be scary to think of something happening to your loved ones when they’re out running, but unfortunately, it does happen. A Road ID Wristband is a silicone wristband that provides identification and emergency contact information if a runner gets injured or hurt during a race or while out running on their own. While it’s somewhat morose to think about dangers, a Road ID is a great gift for runners to help keep them safe in an emergency situation.

Compression Socks

Compression socks are a must for many runners because they help with recovery and promote increased blood flow. As a stocking stuffer or a small gift, compression socks are a perfect option. While there are tons of options for every price range, a simple pair that doesn’t slide is more than enough for most runners. You can view tons of options on Amazon.

Bib and Medal Display

Don’t let those medals sit in a closet collecting dust! Give your runner the gift of showing off his or her accomplishments to the world. A bib and medal display is the perfect place to mount a runner’s prized race paraphernalia in a home or office, and is one of the most thoughtful gifts for runners that you can give.

Technology Gifts for Runners

Garmin Forerunner GPS Watch

Garmin watches are basically the smartphones for runners. Garmin’s GPS capabilities are some of the best out there, and their Forerunner watches track thousands of runners’ mileage and speed around the world. Their newest version, the Garmin Forerunner 245, comes in a music and non-music version, and has a screen that shows you your stats for each run and over time. Plus, you can sync it with an app to see all of your runs, distances, stats, and more detailed reports.

Apple Watch Series 5

For those wanting a more integrated running watch that syncs with an iPhone, an Apple Watch can definitely do the trick. It can track your distance and speed through apps like Runkeeper, and can also sync with the music, messaging, and calls on your phone. It’s definitely a more expensive option, but it’s a great all-in-one splurge for your favorite runner that they’ll definitely wear all the time.

Aftershokz Headphones

Bluetooth headphones are the new trend in music, and running is no exception. Aftershokz Bluetooth Headphones are specifically designed for runners! As no-slip wireless headphones for runners, the Aftershokz are a fantastic way for runners to avoid wires and listen to their favorite pump up songs while running, and are a great running gift to upgrade from traditional headphones.

Intellopia Massage Gun

“I hate deep tissue massages,” said no runner, ever. For a true deep tissue massage experience right at your fingertips, the Intellopia Massage Gun is an incredible new technology that delivers powerful massage through vibrations. There are various different tools you can add onto it for different levels of focus on specific muscles and areas to relieve pain and tension, especially after long runs and races.

Runkeeper Go

Runkeeper is a beloved running app for iPhone and Android that can help runners keep track of their runs, speeds, and more. It’s a fantastic tool for training or keeping up general fitness. Runkeeper Go is a paid app upgrade that provides coaching plans and personalized reports on your progress, with a live tracking function that’s great for safety and races!

Strava Summit

Strava Summit is another beloved fitness program that can help your runner reach their goals, whether it’s completing their first race or reaching a PR. Strava Summit provides Training, Safety, and Analysis features, depending on your runner’s needs, goals, and preferences. These packs include a ton of tracking, reporting, and analytics tools that can increase your performance and keep you safe as you run.

Additional Resources

Where to Go Running


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Hikers are a funny breed: they’re always outdoors, they love weird obstacles like chains and scrambles, and they are usually OBSESSED with gear. Ask any hiker what their favorite pair of boots are and they’ll probably spit out a recommendation that has at least 4 words in it. Needless to say, choosing gifts for hikers can be challenging, because whatever you give needs to be able to withstand many, many miles of adventures.

Luckily, as avid hikers ourselves, we’ve compiled this guide to the best hiking gifts that your loved ones will actually use out on the trails. Trust us – we’ve used every single one of them ourselves!

Overall Best Gifts for Hikers

Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots

Truly the only item that a hiker really needs to get out on the trails is a good set of shoes, and a waterproof set of hiking boots is the perfect companion for an intrepid hiker that loves to be outdoors, rain or shine. Keen waterproof hiking boots are durable and waterproof, with thick treads and fabrics that will keep your feet safe and dry, no matter the conditions. They also come in styles for both men and women.

Leki Foldable Trekking Poles

Hikers often face trails and conditions where extra support is extremely helpful. That’s why one of the most useful gifts for hikers is a set of durable, portable trekking poles. Leki Foldable Trekking Poles are perfect for traveling hikers, as they’ll fit into a standard suitcase and are extremely light weight.

Hydro Flask Water Bottle

Hydration is a very important part of staying healthy while hiking, as hours in the sun and on the trails can dehydrate you. To keep water ice cold, a Hydro Flask water bottle is the perfect hiking companion. Hydro Flask boasts that its bottles keep water cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours…definitely enough for a cold morning or a full day out on the trails.

Osprey Day Pack

Hikers need to carry gear, water, snacks, and extra clothing for longer hikes, and having a day pack that feels good and distributes weight evenly is absolutely critical. Plus, they definitely don’t want to carry all their stuff in your hands while they’re scrambling up rocks, right? Osprey day packs are hands down the best and more durable option for day packs – we recommend a size between 18 and 30 liters for day hikes.

The North Face Venture Rain Jacket

Every hiker knows that conditions in the mountains can change in an instant. That’s why a rain jacket is one of the smartest and most practical gifts for hikers. The North Face Venture Jacket (for women and men) is a versatile, waterproof jacket for rainy and wet hiking conditions.

PrAna Hiking Pants

Comfy clothing is an important piece of gear for any hiker, and pants are no exception. The best hiking pants are sweat-wicking, breathable, and flexible. PrAna’s pants for men and women are the best hiking pants we’ve found – they’re lightweight, stretchy, and durable for day hikes and multi-day treks.

Merino Wool Base Layers

Many hikers, especially those who hike at higher altitudes, need warm baselayers, and they make for some of the most practical hiking gifts out there. Smartwool’s Merino 250 baselayer line offers extra-warm, cozy layers that wick sweat and moisture seamlessly on the trails.

Patagonia Compressible Puffer

When hiking in colder temperatures, it can be important to bring some extra layers, especially if you’re going to be at altitude. The Patagonia Down Sweater is our favorite compressible puffer because it’s a sustainably-made, warm, and cozy thermal layer for cold conditions. When paired with a rain jacket, it can keep hikers warm even in light snow!

Merrell Trail Runners

Not all trails warrant wearing big, bulky waterproof hiking shoes. In some cases, lightweight, breathable trail runners can be a much better option, especially in hot climates. Merrell Trail Runners are some of the best trail running shoes on the market, and they make styles for men and women in a variety of different colors.

Cheap Gifts for Hikers on a Budget ($25 and Under)

Smartwool Hiking Socks

It might seem obvious, but think, durable socks are a must-have item in any hiker’s wardrobe. Smartwool’s hiking socks are great companions out on the trails! They’re warm, quick drying, and are super cushioned and comfortable. Give one pair or a few for an extra special hiking gift!

Quick Dry Towel

A towel can come in handy on any hiking trip. From humid, sweaty trails to impromptu swimming sessions, hikers can always use a towel that’s small and thin enough to carry around in a day pack. Youphoria Outdoors makes an affordable quick-dry microfiber towel that comes in a lot of fun colors and is perfect for shoving in your bag on the way out to the trails.

Neff Beanie

In colder or windy conditions, a beanie is one of the most practical gifts for hikers because it can help keep them safe and warm. For hiking, you don’t need anything fancy, so something like this affordable beanie from Neff is a perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite hiker.

The North Face e-Tip Hiking Gloves

While only really relevant for colder climates, a good pair of gloves can help hikers stay outdoors later in the season, and in higher altitudes where the air tends to be chillier and windier. The North Face e-Tip Gloves are a great hiking companion because they work with touch screens like phones and tablets…meaning you don’t have to take them off for anything, really.

Hiking Snacks

Snacks are a gift that keeps on giving, especially out on the trails where you’re expending energy and burning calories left and right.

From our own experience, some snacks that hikers like include:

  • Clif bars
  • Kind bars
  • Gu gels (caffeinated and uncaffeinated)
  • Trail mix
  • Jerky (vegan and meat varieties)

Carabiners

Carabiners are literally the most useful and versatile item for hikers. Use them to strap things on your bags, to your pants, or onto trees. Hook your bags to your tent while you’re sleeping, or hang dry wet clothes. You can buy a set of 10 colorful carabiners for cheap, and they’ll last your hiker forever.

Hiking Trowel

When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go…and a trowel can help you cover up when you’re doing your business in the woods. The best, most useful trowels are lightweight and have a small loop to hook to the outside of your backpack (with a carabiner!). This hiking trowel is a great, inexpensive gift option for the serious hiker.

Emergency Blanket

What better way to show your loved one you care than by buying them something that will keep them safe? An emergency blanket is a must for hikers, and while its one of the more ‘boring’ gifts for hikers on our list, we truly believe every hiker should bring an emergency blanket with them on hikes, every time. In the event of a natural disaster, or if hikers get lost or injured, an emergency blanket as a thermal insulation tool can mean the different between life and death.

Duct Tape

Duct tape is a hiker’s best friend. Hikers are notorious for destroying their stuff (myself included, no shame!), and duct tape is something we always bring to help mend tears, holes, and animal bites in our stuff until we can get it properly fixed (or, sometimes, forever). If you’re looking for one of the cheapest and most useful gifts for hikers, why not grab a roll or two of Duck Tape duct tape? They come in all kinds of fun colors and will definitely be used at some point or another on the trails by your favorite hiker.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

There are few novels in the hiking genre than Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This popular hiking novel is a classic, especially for adventurous female hikers who are looking for an emotional and physical journey through the Pacific Crest Trail with renowned author Cheryl Strayed.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

For a great fireside book or a read for the hammock after a long day on the trails, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is a quintessential read. As an intimate, detailed, entertaining journey into the backwoods of the Appalachian Trail, it’s a fantastic and memorable read for anyone who is passionate about exploration, hiking, or seeing the world and nature from a different lens.

Epic Hikes of the World by Lonely Planet

For a more visual read, Lonely Planet’s Epic Hikes of the World is an inspiring book to have around any hiker’s home. While it’s a hardcover book and not really suitable for taking on the trails, this book is one of the most memorable and fun gifts for hikers in their homes. Leafing through this book is like taking a hiking adventure around the world, with some of the most fun, beautiful, and treacherous treks all over the globe (and world-class photos, too!).

Super Useful Gifts for Hikers

Buff

For outdoor lovers, there are few things as versatile as a Buff. They advertise that it can be worn in 12+ different ways, and it’s touted as 4 times warmer than microfiber. A Buff is great for hikers to wear as a scarf, to tie hair back, or to protect their faces from dust and wind.

ENO DoubleNest Hammock

When you’ve been hiking for hours and are ready for a rest, there’s no better feeling than setting up your hammock between two tall trees and relaxing with someone you love. An ENO DoubleNest Hammock is one of coolest gifts for hikers that you can give to a person or couple who loves being outdoors…especially out on the trails. It’s super portable, lightweight, and easy to set up basically anywhere.

Black Diamond Head Lamp

Sometimes, the best times to hike are in the early morning and late in the afternoon. However, if your favorite hiker plans to hike in non-optimal daylight, it’s critical to bring a head lamp. Needless to say, a head lamp is one of the best gifts for hikers because it’s truly an essential item. Our favorite head lamp is the Black Diamond Spot – it’s lightweight, durable, and isn’t too expensive.

Polarized Sunglasses

Don’t underestimate how powerful the sun can be on a long day of hiking. One of the most useful gifts for hikers is a pair of high-quality, polarized sunglasses to keep their eyes safe and protected while exposed to the sun. There are tons of polarized sunglasses ranging in style and price available, so you’ll have to choose based on your favorite hiker’s preferences.

Foldable Wide-Brimmed Hat

For hotter or sun-exposed hiking, a brimmed hat is a must to protect hikers’ eyes and faces. As one of the cheaper and more practical gifts for hikers, this wide-brimmed hat is a packable companion for any hiker, especially in places like Zion or Joshua Tree where shady spots can be few and far between.

Platypus Water Reservoir

The only thing better than a sturdy water bottle is not having to bring a water bottle at all! With a water reservoir, a hiker can simply stuff the water bag into their day pack and sip from it as needed from the nozzle throughout the day. The Platypus water reservoir is generally well-liked and durable, and it comes at a reasonable price point, too.

First Aid Kit

While it’s not glamorous, a first aid kit can be one of the best gifts for hikers because it’s a must-have for safety on the trails. A small, portable pre-assembled first aid kit, which includes a small bag to hold everything, is a great starting point for a hike. This one is small and light enough to carry anywhere, including a day pack on the trails.

SteriPen Ultra UV Water Purification System

For hikers, having access to clean water is a must, so a water purification system is one of the most critical gifts for hikers that you can give. We recommend the USB-rechargeable SteriPen Ultra, which is must lighter than the other products in the SteriPen line, and purifies water using UV light.

Solar Rechargeable Battery Pack

It gets harder to keep your phone charged the longer you’re out on the trails, so you can probably imagine this being a big challenge for hikers. If you give the gift of a waterproof solar battery pack, your favorite hiker can recharge the battery as they’re hiking. Pretty nifty, eh?

Technology Gifts for Hikers

Garmin Instinct Hiking Watch

Like many other athletes, hikers are often obsessed with tracking steps and logging their trails. The Garmin Instinct watch does exactly that and was designed specifically for outdoor adventures, and is one of the more innovative gifts for hikers out there.

Garmin Foretrex Hiking GPS

For passionate backcountry hikers, a GPS is a must. While mostly used by adventurous hikers and backpackers, a GPS can come in handy for navigation for any hiker out in the wild. This Garmin Foretrex GPS is wearable and works anywhere, so you don’t need to worry about having “service” of any kind.

Rechargeable Hand Warmers

While we mentioned some disposable hand warmers earlier in this guide, we’d be remiss if we didn’t offer a zero-waste solution as well. Like we said earlier, keeping extremities warm while out on the slopes is a real challenges for skiers and snowboarders, and a rechargeable hand warmer can be the perfect solution for long days out in the snow.

GoPro Hero Black & Head Mount

A GoPro Hero Black is an excellent gift for the avid hiker who wants to document their adventures. Portable, weatherproof, and high-quality, a GoPro will help your favorite outdoor lover capture and relive their favorite moments on the trails again and again.

Additional Resources

Places to Go Hiking


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When you’ve got someone close to you who’s constantly longing to strap on skis and hit the slopes, it might be difficult to think of an appropriate gift. A LOT of snowboarding and skiing gear is a) expensive, b) size-dependent, and c) not intuitive for people who don’t do those sports, so buying a present for these folks can be tricky. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back – this massive guide has 30 incredible gifts for skiers and snowboarders that they’ll use on the slopes and remember for years to come.

Most Practical Gifts for Skiers & Snowboarders

Smith Ski Goggles

Goggles are a snowboarder or skier’s best friend: they keep snow, water, and wind out of your eyes, plus they make you look pretty freaking awesome. Smith ski goggles are very durable and come in a variety of colors, styles, and sizes.

Wildhorn Ski Helmet

A helmet is one of the best gifts for skiers and snowboarders because it will come in handy every time they’re on the slopes. While prices for these range substantially, we’ve found that Wildhorn helmets are well-respected as their ski helmets are comfortable, practical, and come with a built-in goggle strap.

Smartwool Base Layers

All snowboarders and skiers need warm baselayers, and they make for one of the most practical snowboarding and skiing gifts. Smartwool’s Merino 250 baselayer line offers extra-warm, cozy layers that wick sweat and moisture seamlessly on the slopes.

Burton Ski & Snowboard Jacket

A warm, waterproof ski jacket is essential to a fun day on the slopes. While there are tons of brands that make outerwear, Burton ski jackets are designed especially for winter sports, making them perfect gifts for snowboarders and skiers.

Rossignol Ski Pants

Like a good, durable coat, waterproof ski pants are essential because, as everyone knows, skiers and snowboarders spent plenty of time sitting in the snow. Rossignol makes some of the warmest and most durable ski pants that are perfect for a full day of shredding the slopes.

The North Face Montana Gore-Tex Gloves

Insulated gloves are a skier or snowboarder’s best friends, and these Montana Gore-Tex Gloves by The North Face are excellent additions to any skier’s or snowboarder’s gear set. They come with cuffs so you won’t lose them, and they have e-tip functionality so you can use your touch screens while wearing them!

Epic Pass

While neither cheap nor durable, an Epic Pass is the ultimate gift for the travel-loving skier. Usable at over 60 ski resorts all around the United States, the Epic Pass is one of the best gifts for skiers and snowboarders that money can buy.

Cheap Snowboarding & Skiing Gifts ($25 or Less)

Smartwool Hiking Socks

Yes, yes, we know this isn’t a gift guide about hiking, but Smartwool’s hiking socks actually make great companions out on the slopes! They’re warm, quick drying, and are super cushioned and comfortable. Give one pair or a few for an extra special skiing or snowboarding gift!

Darn Tough Yeti Mountain-Themed Socks

What’s better than regular wool socks? Wool socks with mountains on them, duh. Skiers and snowboarders love to show off their love for the mountains, and these Darn Tough Yeti wool socks will surely come in handy on the slopes and for apres-ski.

HotHands Hand/Foot Warmers

When you’re out on the slopes on especially cold days, it’s so easy to get cold in your extremities. That’s why we recommend HotHands hand and foot warmers as one of the best gifts for skiers and snowboarders. They’re inexpensive and are perfect to tuck into gloves or boots for a blast of warmth in otherwise arctic conditions.

Packable Clothesline

You know what happens if ski/snowboard gear doesn’t dry properly? It starts to STINK. Luckily, for ski trips and winter getaways, a packable clothesline is a great tool to hang damp clothes after long days on the slopes. It is a cheap and practical gift for snowboarders and skiers that they’ll use every time they’re at a ski resort.

Snacks for the Slopes

Snacks are a gift that keeps on giving, especially out on the slopes where you’re expending energy and burning calories left and right.

From our own experience, some snacks that skiers and snowboarders like include:

  • Clif bars
  • Kind bars
  • Gu gels (caffeinated and uncaffeinated)
  • Trail mix
  • Jerky (vegan and meat varieties)

Hertel Super Hot Sauce Ski/Snowboard Wax

Once you’re a more advanced skier or snowboarder, you’ll most likely want to wax your gear to optimize your speed on the slopes. Hertel Super Hot Sauce Ski & Snowboard Wax is an all-temperature wax that lasts for three days and doesn’t require an iron (though you can use it that way if you’d like). It’s one of the most useful and budget friendly gifts for skiers and snowboarders that they can use every time they hit the slopes.

The Art of Fear by Kristen Ulmer

There’s nothing better than retreating back to your cabin after a day on the slopes and spending the evening reading a good book…about hitting the slopes! The Art of Fear was written by professional skier Kristen Ulmer about embracing fear and how that applies to snow sports and life in general. This easy, inspiring read is fantastic for those who love snow sports as well as people wanting to understand how to handle fear better.

Fifty Places to Ski and Snowboard Before You Die by Chris Santella

If your loved one is a person who prefers books with photos and gorgeous visuals, Fifty Places to Ski and Snowboard Before You Die by Chris Santella is a fantastic book to leaf through and get inspired. You’ll learn about the most incredible, jaw-dropping, and challenging trails in the entire world, with some stunning photos to boot.

Under an Arctic Sky by Chris Burkard

Chris Burkard’s Under an Arctic Sky is an epic film about surfing under the northern lights. It isn’t exactly about skiing or snowboarding, but it’s a really spectacular story about chasing waves and winter sports in some of Iceland’s most gorgeous landscapes. It’s a great gift to give your winter-loving friends and family…then watch it with them.

Powder Magazine Subscription

What’s more inspiring or entertaining than leafing through an award-winning magazine on your favorite topic? (Answer: nothing.) Powder Magazine is all about skiing and snowboarding, and a subscription is one of the most unique skiing and snowboarding gifts you can give to your favorite winter sports lover.

Useful & Clever Skiing & Snowboarding Gifts

Thermal Buff

For outdoor lovers, there are few things as versatile as a Buff. They advertise that it can be worn in 12+ different ways, and it’s touted as 4 times warmer than microfiber. A thermal Buff is great for skiers and snowboarders to wear under a thick coat, to use as a scarf, or to hold their hair back under their helmets.

PHOOZY Thermal Phone Case

If you’ve ever been out in the cold for an extended amount of time with your phone, you’ll know that the batteries tend to die much more quickly. A PHOOZY Thermal Phone Case can keep your phone warm when you’re not using it, maintaining the battery for longer and ensuring it doesn’t get soaked in the snow.

Hydro Flask Water Bottle

Hydration is a very important part of staying healthy while participating in winter sports, as the action can definitely still dehydrate you. Whether your skier/snowboarder likes their water hot or cold, a Hydro Flask water bottle can keep it that way. Hydro Flask boasts that its bottles keep water cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours…definitely enough for a full day out skiing or snowboarding.

Foam Roller

Spending a day (or several) out on the slopes can be fun, but can also cause all kinds of muscle aches and pains. A foam roller is a great tool for stretching and relieving tension after hours of active winter sports, and is one of the best gifts for snowboarders and skiers.

Ski or Snowboard Boots

One of the things that’s most uncomfortable about rental gear is the footwear. You can partially solve this problem for your favorite winter sports lover by purchasing them a pair of their own ski or snowboard boots. Rossignol is a good, durable brand for ski gear, and boots are no exception.

Note: ski boots and snowboard boots are different, so make sure you buy the correct kind for your loved one’s preferences!

Athletico Boot Backpack

Once your beloved skier or snowboarder is more seasoned, they’re going to need a place to put all their awesome gear (like the stuff in this list!). The Athletico Boot Backpack is the perfect all-in-one bag for skiers and snowboarders. There’s space for a helmet, boots, goggles, and extra gear, all in a lightweight and breathable fabric.

Black Diamond Ski Poles

While lots of ski resorts do offer pole rentals, if you’d prefer some that are more lightweight and better customized to your size, these Black Diamond Razor Carbon ski poles are a fantastic companion for skiers anywhere. Unfortunately, these aren’t relevant for snowboarders, but they work well as a gift for mid-level to advanced skiers looking for a gear upgrade!

Technology Gifts for Skiers & Snowboarders

Rechargeable Hand Warmer

While we mentioned some disposable hand warmers earlier in this guide, we’d be remiss if we didn’t offer a zero-waste solution as well. Like we said earlier, keeping extremities warm while out on the slopes is a real challenges for skiers and snowboarders, and a rechargeable hand warmer can be the perfect solution for long days out in the snow.

Waterproof Battery Pack

It gets harder to keep your phone charged the longer you’re out in the cold, so you can probably imagine this being a big challenge for skiers and snowboarders. If you give the gift of a waterproof solar battery pack, however, your skier or snowboarder can recharge while they’re in the sun/snow, and plug in while they’re on the lifts. Pretty nifty, eh?

DryGuy DX Forced Air Boot Dryer

Full disclosure: this is a totally unnecessary item, but a really cool and useful one for skiers and snowboarders, especially if they’re planning to hit the slopes several days in a row or throughout the course of a season. The more someone skis or boards, the more damp their boots end up – this DryGuy DX Boot Dryer ensures that they’re fully dry before the next use.

Garmin Tundra Watch

Like many other athletes, skiers and snowboarders are often obsessed with tracking stats and logging their trails. The Garmin Tundra watch does exactly that and was designed specifically for winter sports, and is one of the more useful gifts for skiers and snowboarders out there.

GoPro Hero Black

A GoPro Hero Black is an excellent gift for the avid skier/snowboarder who wants to document their adventures. Portable, weatherproof, and high-quality, a GoPro will help your favorite winter sports lover capture and relive their favorite moments on the slopes again and again.

Psst…If you decide to get a GoPro as a skiing/snowboarding gift, don’t forget a helmet mount so they can use it hands-free!

Additional Resources


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Despite year-round warm temperatures in the Bay Area, you don’t need to travel far from San Francisco to find some of the best ski resorts in the country. Snowboarding and skiing near San Francisco is accessible to people of any experience level, from first-timers to expert-levels snowboarders and skiers. We hand-curated this list of the absolute best ski resorts near San Francisco so you can plan your best winter getaway yet!

From the massive mega resorts to the locally-run hidden gems, read on to learn more about the best spots for snowboarding and skiing near San Francisco.

A quick note: most of the places on here are most easily accessible by car. As city dwellers, we always use and recommend Avis for any car rental needs. For those who don’t drive or prefer public transportation, we’ve also included the easiest ways to get to each resort via bus, train, or shuttle where possible.

Best Places to Go Skiing Near San Francisco

Photo Credit: JSGraustein (Flickr CC)

Dodge Ridge Ski Resort

  • Location: Pinecrest, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 164 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site; nearest hotel is the Pinecrest Chalet
  • Experience levels: All levels

As the closest of the ski resorts near San Francisco, Dodge Ridge is a gem of a spot without the crowds (or high prices) of Tahoe’s resorts. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned expert, if you want to go snowboarding or skiing near San Francisco, Dodge Ridge is a local favorite. With a wide variety of trails, ranging from bunny hills to expert-level trails, it’s a very well-rounded resort with a lot to offer families, groups, and even solo skiers/boarders.

While there’s no lodging on-site, there is a large lounge area and lodge with dining options, gear rentals, a snow sports school, and relaxation areas. Beginners and first-timers have tons of resources here when it comes to learning how to snowboard or ski, while more experienced folks can head to the top of the mountain for a variety of different trails and terrain.

How to get there: The only way to get from San Francisco to Dodge Ridge is to drive, and it takes approximately 3 hours.

Photo Credit: Basker Hariharam (Flickr CC)

Sierra-at-Tahoe

  • Location: Twin Bridges, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 176 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site; nearest lodging is the Sierra at Tahoe Cabins
  • Experience levels: All levels

Sierra at Tahoe is one of the many ski resorts near San Francisco that’s located at Lake Tahoe. The views from the mountain are absolutely stunning, and there are 47 trails of varying difficulty. Local skiers and snowboarders love the well-groomed terrain, and the fantastic support for beginners as well as trails for the more advanced snowboarders and skiers. Many reviewers call it a great place to learn to ski!

At Sierra at Tahoe, you can find a sizable lodge with gear rentals, lessons, and food available, as well as tubing and snowshoeing for when you’re not on the downhill trails. For the adrenaline junkies, there are 6 terrain parks of different sizes with all kinds of obstacles to play on.

How to get there: You can drive ~3 hours or take the Tahoe Ski Trips bus from the Bay Area to Sierra at Tahoe.

Photo Credit: Colleen Proppe (Flickr CC)

Sugar Bowl Resort

  • Location: Norden, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 177 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at the Sugar Bowl Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels, with focus on intermediate and advanced trails

Sugar Bowl Resort is a well-maintained 1650-acre ski resort located northwest of Lake Tahoe. This ski resort is beloved by those familiar with the scene for skiing near San Francisco because it boasts smaller crowds and more affordable prices than some of the massive Tahoe resorts. With 4 peaks and 100 trails, you could ski here for several days without ever getting bored or having to repeat trails.

Although only 17% of trails are marked as beginner-friendly, there are lots of resources for learning to ski here. Reviewers are often pleased with the friendly, supportive ambiance, small crowds, and beautiful scenery at Sugar Bowl Resort, plus a family-friendly resort that’s great for a winter getaway.

How to get there: You can drive to Sugar Bowl Resort in ~3 hours, or you can book a round trip bus trip with Sourced Adventures or NacSki.

Photo Credit: zemistor (Flickr CC)

Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort

  • Location: Soda Springs, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 177 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? You can stay nearby at The Hotel at Sugar Bowl
  • Experience levels: All levels

If you’re looking for a change of pace from the thrill of the ski slopes, Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort may just be what you’re looking for. Royal Gorge is one of the more unique ski resorts near San Francisco, which offers a different experience – cross-country skiing through forested areas. This is technically part of the greater Sugar Bowl Resort area, but consists solely of cross-country trails. It’s one of the few places you can go cross country skiing near San Francisco.

On a visit here, there are a whopping 92 cross country trails you can ski through for a completely different winter sports experience than many of the other resorts on this list. An advantage of Nordic skiing is that it typically tends to be cheaper than traditional downhill skiing due to the lack of lifts and expensive machinery. For beginners to Nordic skiing, there are lessons and rentals available at the resort.

How to get there: You can drive to Royal Gorge and Sugar Bowl Resort in ~3 hours, or you can book a round trip bus trip to Sugar Bowl with Sourced Adventures or NacSki and then take a shuttle to Royal Gorge.

Boreal Mountain Resort

  • Location: Soda Springs, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 177 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site; closest hotel is Donner Village Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels; plenty of intermediate and advanced trails

Boreal Mountain Resort is a ski resort located roughly 3 hours from the San Francisco. While it’s a smaller resort with just 34 trails, it’s a family-friendly destination that’s great for intermediate and expert snowboarders and skiers, as well as beginners. It does have many resources for learning to ski, as well as thrilling terrain parks for a bit more of an adventure.

Boreal Mountain Resort has a Take 3, Ride Free program that’s a great value for Bay Area beginners who want a supportive learning experience, plus a season pass to sharpen their skills. There’s also a kids ski free program with an adult season pass, which is a wonderful value for families that live nearby and want to ski or snowboard for the entire season.

How to get there: You can drive in ~3 hours or take a Sourced Adventures bus from San Francisco.

Photo Credit: Gordon (Flickr CC)

Bear Valley Resort

  • Location: Bear Valley, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 182 miles (3 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at the Bear Valley Lodge
  • Experience levels: Intermediate and advanced

As a smaller ski resort, Bear Valley Resort is a hidden gem located in the Sierra Mountains. Local skiers and snowboarders love it because of its accessible size, relatively fewer crowds, and very responsive staff. With 58 trails and 10 lifts, there’s more than enough transportation to get people up the mountain quickly and efficiently. And, to top it off, the on-site lodge is an incredibly picturesque place to spend a long weekend getaway curled up in blankets in between thrilling runs down the slopes.

How to get there: There’s no direct bus from San Francisco to Bear Valley Lodge, and driving takes just over 3 hours.

Photo Credit: jcookfisher (Flickr CC)

Heavenly Mountain Resort

  • Location: South Lake Tahoe, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 190 miles (3 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Heavenly Mountain Resort
  • Experience levels: Intermediate and advanced

Heavenly Mountain Resort is probably one of the most thrilling and picturesque ski resorts near San Francisco. With stunning views of Lake Tahoe and a magnificent spread of 97 trails over 4,800 skiable acres, Heavenly Mountain should definitely be on your California skiing bucket list.

Beginners should note that Heavenly Mountain has a heavy focus on intermediate, advanced, and expert-level runs. Only 8% of the trails are beginner-friendly. However, if you’ve gotten several trails under your belt as a beginner and you’re ready to level up, Heavenly Mountain is a beautiful and fun place to do so.

How to get there: You can drive there in just over 3 hours, or book a round trip ticket on a Tahoe Ski Trips bus.

Tahoe Donner

  • Location: Truckee, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 190 miles (3 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site
  • Experience levels: Beginner and intermediate

Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort prides itself as being “the best place to begin” skiing. Beginner skiers will find a ski park that is less crowded than the neighboring Tahoe resorts. Additionally, there are several wide-open bowls that allow skiers and snowboarders plenty of space to practice and maneuver. The park is small, with 17 runs, and is mostly made up of green and blue slopes.

How to get there: Driving is the best method as there is no public transportation option between Truckee and the ski resort. Take I-80 from San Francisco to Truckee. Get off on exit 184 towards Northwoods boulevard and continue north until the resort.

Photo Credit: UnofficialSquaw.com (Flickr CC)

Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows

  • Location: Olympic Valley, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 196 miles (3.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at The Village at Squaw Valley
  • Experience levels: All levels

Alpine Meadows and its sister park Squaw Valley make up a massive ski complex near Lake Tahoe – the largest of the ski resorts near San Francisco. This park is made up of 170 trails across 6,000+ acres of skiable terrain.

There are 3 different peaks between the two resorts. “Snow Ventures” is a small hill primarily for junior skiers and snowboarders. “Big Blue” is comprised of gentle slopes and is made up of 60% green trails. KT-22 is for the experts; it includes 2,000 feet of cliffs and near vertical drops. 

Lift tickets are on the more expensive side compared to others on this list, but you get access to a large and well-run park. This resort is also partnered with the Ikon Pass

How to get there: Tahoe Ski Trips offers shuttles from several places in the Bay Area. You can even buy a lift ticket along with your bus ticket.

Photo Credit: Ryan Grimm (Flickr CC)

Kirkwood Mountain Resort

  • Location: Kirkwood, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 184 miles (3.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Kirkwood Mountain Resort
  • Experience levels: Mostly intermediate to advanced, with trails for all levels

As a Northern California gem, Kirkwood Ski Resort is a gorgeous, evergreen-laden ski area that has something for every level of skier or snowboarder. Located south of Lake Tahoe, it’s one of many ski resorts in the area that offers a mix of thrilling, challenging terrain and family-friendly ski opportunities. While it’s a somewhat popular spot for California skiers and snowboarders, it’s well worth the trek from Southern California if you’re seeking challenging terrain in a beautiful spot.

Kirkwood’s trails largely consist of intermediate and advanced runs, but there are 86 total runs that span from beginner hills to expert-level terrain parks. As part of the Epic Pass program, passholders can get admission to Kirkwood’s ski areas included in their membership.

How to get there:  You can drive to Northstar in about 3.5 hours. Click here for directions to Kirkwood Ski Resort. However, if you’d prefer not to drive, you can also book a bus via TahoeSkiTrips or NacSki.

Photo Credit: Udi (Flickr CC)

Northstar California Resort

  • Location: Truckee, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 195 miles (3.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Northstar Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels

With its 100 trails, Northstar California is a large, family-friendly resort on the shores of Lake Tahoe that’s a fabulous winter getaway spot. A whopping 60% of the resort’s trails are rated intermediate, meaning it’s a fantastic place for beginner skiers to start tackling tougher terrain or for more experienced skiers to get more runs under their belt. Northstar is also part of the Epic Pass network, so if you’re a passholder, you’re in luck!

For non-skiers, there’s also tubing, ice skating, and a full set of resort amenities, including a spa and several dining options. We personally enjoyed the dining options around the ski resort – the poutine at the french fry food truck is to die for.

How to get there: You can drive to Northstar in about 3.5 hours (click here for directions). However, if you’d prefer not to drive, you can also book a bus via TahoeSkiTrips or NacSki.

Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area

  • Location: Yosemite National Park, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 200 miles (4 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodation available? 
  • Experience levels: 

When planning a winter visit to Yosemite, why not pair it with an absolutely epic day of skiing? Yosemite has its own Ski & Snowboard Area that caters to all levels of snowboarders and skiers in one of the most beautiful parks in the country.

The only place to ski if you are spending a few days in Yosemite is Badger Pass, which is the oldest skiing area in the country. While this ski resort is small, at 10 runs in size, it has wonderful views of the national park and surrounding mountain areas.

Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area is geared more towards beginners, as 35% of the runs are classified as easy, and 50% are intermediate. Compared to Lake Tahoe, lift tickets are reasonably priced, and there are gear rentals and lessons available.

How to get there: You can drive to Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area in just over 4 hours.

Without a car, you can get to Yosemite with public transportation. Take the BART to Richmond, then an Amtrak train to Merced. From Merced, take a YARTS bus to Yosemite. Once inside, there is a free bus that operates around the park and can take you up to Badger Pass.

Mt. Shasta Ski Park

  • Location: McCloud, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 283 miles (4.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Mount Shasta Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels

Experience one of California’s best ski parks close to an enormous stratovolcano. Mt. Shasta is located a couple of hours north of San Francisco in the Cascade mountain range. The park is on the smaller side, with 32 runs (20% green, 55% blue) and 2 terrain parks. Prices range from $45 to $65 depending on the week day and time.

This park allows you to escape the crowds of Lake Tahoe’s more popular resort. If you are truly looking for seclusion, rent a cabin in the backcountry for a night and enjoy scenic views of Mt. Shasta.

How to get there: Driving is the best way to get to Mt. Shasta. Take I-5 straight north from San Francisco until Mt. Shasta.

June Mountain

  • Location: June Lake, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 248 miles (5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site, nearby options include Double Eagle Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels

Mammoth Mountain’s sister resort is a California favorite: June Mountain. Slightly farther from LA than its sibling, June Mountain caters a bit more to the intermediate and advanced crowds, with the majority of trails falling into these two categories. It’s also much smaller than its Mammoth counterpart, with just 41 runs. While it’s not the closest place to go skiing near Los Angeles, it’s certainly a crowd favorite.

While there are beginner learn to ski programs at June Mountain, the resort definitely attracts a more experienced crowd. According to past visitors, it’s also significantly less crowded than some of the bigger resorts in the area, making for a much calmer and more fun winter getaway experience.

How to get there: Click here to get directions to June Mountain.

Photo Credit: L. K. (Flickr CC)

Mammoth Mountain

  • Location: Mammoth Lakes, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 265 miles (5.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at The Village Lodge
  • Experience levels: All levels

If you’re looking for the full “ski trip” experience, look no further than Mammoth Mountain. This ski resort and ski town combination make for a fabulous family-friendly snowboard and ski combination that’s about a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles. There are a whopping 154 runs in the resort, ranging from bunny hills and learning areas to double black diamond expert terrain.

Here at Mammoth Mountain, there’s an atmosphere that’s totally welcoming and supportive of beginners, which means you’re in luck as a first-timer, with plenty of daily ski lessons and gear rentals available. The vast majority of trails here are beginner to intermediate level, but there are a handful marked as advanced and expert for more experienced skiers.

How to get there: Click here to get directions to Mammoth Mountain.

Skiing Near San Francisco: Additional Resources

What to Pack

  • Waterproof outerwear – Possibly the most critical pieces of clothing for your ski trip packing list is durable, waterproof outerwear. Burton and Helly Hansen are famous ski brands for having best-in-class clothing that will keep you warm in the coldest, snowiest conditions. Click here to shop ski jackets and compare prices.
  • Thermal layers – Thermal baselayers are absolutely critical for a smooth skiing experience, as these will keep you warm and dry underneath your outerwear. The best kinds of thermal baselayers are made of Merino wool, which is moisture-wicking and comfortable. Our favorite brand of thermal layers is SmartWool – their tops and leggings are soft, lightweight, but warm and durable for all kinds of outdoor activities, including skiing. Click here to shop thermal tops and leggings and compare prices.
  • Ski goggles – No ski trip packing list would be complete without a pair of fog-resistant ski goggles, especially if you’re going somewhere that makes artificial snow. Ski slopes often have snow blowing into the air several times a day and it can be hard to keep freezing snowflakes out of your eyes, even during clear days. We use and recommend these ski goggles. However, you can shop ski goggles and compare reviews/prices here.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list of things to pack, head to our Ultimate Ski Trip Packing List to view our full packing list and gear recommendations for the slopes!

Related Pages & Links


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