Ready to tackle some world-class outdoor adventures this year? The following U.S. destinations are perfect for thrill-seekers of all types, whether you’re looking to barrel down a mountain on your bike or strap on your backpack for some long-distance hiking. Here are our picks for the top 10 adventure destinations in the United States.
For four seasons of adventure in Red Rock Country, you can’t beat Moab, Utah, especially if mountain biking is your sport of choice. Not only is Moab extremely close to both Canyonlands and Arches National Park, but the rocky terrain surrounding the town also features more than 1,000 miles of marked trails suitable for biking. When visiting Moab, be sure to ride the world-famous Slickrock Trail. If you don’t have a bike of your own, you can rent one at the Chili Pepper Bike Shop for between $60 and $100 per day.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
The best way to explore the Grand Canyon is to leave the tourists behind and head out on a backcountry adventure into the canyon. Covering 44 miles, the Rim-to-Rim Trail is the longest within Grand Canyon National Park, taking approximately five to seven days to complete. Be sure to enter the Phantom Ranch lottery for your chance to stay at a rustic lodge next to Bright Angel Creek on the canyon floor. Cabins at Phantom Ranch start at $155 for two people.
The small mountain town of Telluride is known for its exceptional views and epic terrain for skiers and snowboarders. It’s one of the top ski destinations in the United States for good reason. Telluride Ski Resort features high-alpine skiing, with 148 trails, more than 300 annual inches of powdery snow and 2,000 acres of terrain. Telluride is nestled in the southwest corner of the state, so even though the skiing is beyond awesome, you won’t deal with the crowds that the resorts closer to Denver experience. Lift tickets at Telluride start at $139, but there are vacation packages available that make it more affordable.
Oahu’s North Shore, Hawaii
The ancient tradition of surfing began in the 4th century when Polynesians migrated to Hawaii from Tahiti and Marquesas, and while the tradition was almost completely lost by the early 20th century, it has made an amazing comeback. The North Shore of Oahu is one of the best places in the world to catch a wave. If you’re new to the sport, head out to Puaena Point or Chun’s Reef to get your sea legs, and hire a private instructor to help you get started. North Shore Surf Girls provides one- and two-hour lessons starting at $60.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
As an adventure destination, Yellowstone National Park has it all — rugged backcountry hiking, amazing wildlife, cascading waterfalls, pristine lakes and incredible geothermal activity. The park covers 3,500 acres and sits on top of a volcanic hot spot. Wildlife in Yellowstone is prolific and easy to spot, with grizzlies, wolves, bison, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, moose and black bear all sharing the ecosystem. Visiting in the fall, winter or spring will keep you from getting frustrated in traffic, and it will give you more time to enjoy the scenery.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Minnesota
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is one of the most visited wilderness destinations in the United States, but you wouldn’t know it. Encompassing more than a million acres, 1,100 lakes and hundreds of miles of rivers and streams, it’s easy to find solitude and adventure. The land is located within the Superior National Forest and includes 150 miles of the U.S.-Canada border. The largest population of wolves within the contiguous United States call this area home, as do moose, bear, deer, beaver and bobcats. The best way to explore the Boundary Waters is with a canoe. You can use one to explore more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes and more than 2,000 backcountry campsites. The cost to visit is just $16 per adult, per trip, no matter how long you stay.
Denali National Park, Alaska
A mountaineering expedition in Denali National Park is not for the faint of heart, but if you are willing to train and prepare for the arctic conditions on the mountain, it could be the adventure of a lifetime. Denali is the highest peak in North America, and more than 1,000 climbers attempt to reach the summit each year. You must obtain a permit to climb Denali, as well as pay the $10 entrance fee. If summiting a 20,000-foot peak is out of your league, there are still many opportunities for hiking and mountaineering within the park that are suitable for novice trekkers.
Key Largo, Florida
The only living coral barrier reef in the United States can be found just off the coast of the Florida Keys. For extraordinary snorkeling and diving, head to Key Largo, where you can spend days in the water exploring rare archaeological sites and more than 6,000 marine species in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Private campgrounds are available near Key West starting at $25 and there are more than 22 dive operators available for snorkeling and SCUBA expeditions.
The Adirondack Mountains, New York
The well-trodden paths through the Adirondacks wind through deep, ancient forests, along windswept ridges and across thousands of gurgling streams. It is a hiker’s paradise, with more than 2,000 miles of scenic trails, hundreds of glacial lakes and ponds and countless rivers, streams and waterfalls. Within this part of New York, you will find the famous Forty-Sixers — 46 mountains that make up the Adirondack High Peaks. Hikers who summit all of these peaks can join the Adirondack 46ers club. The Adirondacks have lots of options for lodging at every price point, from campgrounds and glamping sites to famous Adirondack lodges.
Red River Gorge, Kentucky
This geological wonderland has enticed rock climbers from around the world for decades. It is consistently rated as one of the top ten climbing destinations in the world and is suitable for all types of climbing, including bouldering. Red River Gorge is located within the Daniel Boone National Forest, and there are lots of other recreational opportunities in the area. If you are a novice climber, check out Kentucky Rock & Adventure Guides, which offer group and private guide services and lessons, starting at $65 for a half-day excursion.