Here's a sampling of companies that offer escorted adventures and tours, and some suggestions on where to go to enjoy your favorite activities.
Scores of "soft" and "hard" adventure-travel companies have sprung up in recent years. Most travel agents have catalogs that list upcoming trips. More than 500 different tour operators are represented in the Specialty Travel Index Online at www.specialtytravel.com. Another good source of up-to-date information is monthly Outside magazine, available in print and frequently updated online at http://outsidemag.com.
Mountain Travel -- Sobek (tel. 888/687-6235 or 510/594-6000; www.mtsobek.com) is perhaps the granddaddy of adventure-travel companies, guiding its own trips and acting as an agent for other outfitters. It began with river rafting, which is still its strong suit. Backroads (tel. 800/462-2848 or 510/527-1555; www.backroads.com) originally sold bicycle tours but now has walking, hiking, cross-country skiing, trail running, and other trips. It's especially noteworthy for having options catering to adults traveling solo. Bicycle Adventures (tel. 800/443-6060 or 360/786-0989; www.bicycleadventures.com) offers biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing, as well as other multisport options in the West Coast states, the Rocky Mountain states, and Hawaii. Tours are tailored to ability levels; some are designed for families, others for solo travelers. The venerable Sierra Club (tel. 415/977-5522; www.sierraclub.com) also offers a number of trips each year.
These and other operators plan their adventures at least a year ahead of time, so call or e-mail them for schedules and catalogs as far in advance as possible.