Lake Itasca, Minn.
The Mississippi Headwaters hostel, built entirely of logs, is in Itasca State Park, just by the first trickle of the river
--Private rooms (four to six beds) cost $40 a night
To do: Swimming, canoeing, biking, hiking and nature activities sponsored by Parks Department
Crested Butte, Colo.
--The old Rockies mining town is the wildflower capital of Colorado
--Private rooms rent for $65 a night in summer, $75 in winter. A private apartment for six is $180
To do: If extreme mountain biking or extreme skiing is too much, there are hiking, rafting, fishing and horseback riding
--Point Montara lighthouse and its turn-of-the-century buildings are 25 miles from San Francisco
--Private rooms cost $48 a night
To do: The area is popular among surfers and windsurfers, but there are also bike trails, a marine reserve and, between November and April, whale watching
The Eagle Watch hostel, open mid-May to mid-September, sits above the Ninilchik River
--There are 20 beds, no more than four to a room. Private rooms are $35
To do: The hostel has free gear for fishing and clam digging. Its motto is "The view is our TV"