U.S. News has created a list of thrilling adventure vacations in the U.S. with input from experts and travelers. Whether you want to climb mountains or explore the ocean, vote below to help rank next year’s options and start an exciting journey into the wild.
1. Yellowstone National Park
For over 11,000 years, Yellowstone has served as the ancestral homeland for Native Americans, with 26 distinct tribes having historical ties to the park. Additionally, the park’s awe-inspiring natural wonders attract visitors from across the globe. Extensive hiking trails traverse the park’s sections in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, leading to remarkable sights such as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs. If hiking does not align with your preferences, there are various alternatives to choose from. Biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and kayaking are all viable options. For those seeking a more daring experience, camping is available at designated sites within Yellowstone or in its untamed backcountry.
2. Grand Canyon National Park
Arizona’s Grand Canyon offers a wide range of thrilling experiences, with hiking and whitewater rafting on the Colorado River being the most prominent. To escape the crowds, it is advisable to explore the hiking trails on the North Rim. The North Kaibab Trail, in particular, presents a challenging route where you are less likely to encounter a large number of individuals. While independent exploration is an option, opting for a guided excursion in a Jeep, on a mule, or via a helicopter can provide unparalleled views of the breathtaking scenery.
3. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park, located less than 170 miles east of San Francisco, boasts a diverse landscape of mountains, meadows, and massive sequoia trees, as well as numerous waterfalls. Visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities, including bird-watching, stargazing, snowboarding, and biking. Climbers can take advantage of the park’s bouldering and slacklining opportunities, while hikers of all skill levels can explore the many trails that wind through the mountains and valleys. However, it’s important to note that the famous Half Dome hike is only recommended for experienced hikers.
4. Jackson Hole
Throughout the year, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, presents a plethora of thrilling activities. During the winter and early spring, ski resorts provide ample opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing on the abundant powder. For a more laid-back experience, consider a sleigh ride. In the warmer months, kayaking, whitewater rafting, or hiking in Grand Teton National Park are essential activities. And during the fall, leaf peeping and listening to the bugle calls of wild elk in the National Elk Refuge are a must-do.
5. Lake Tahoe
The undeniable allure of this lake, which spans the border between California and Nevada, cannot be overlooked. The scenic mountain peaks provide unparalleled opportunities for skiing, both cross-country and downhill, making it one of the premier destinations in the nation. Additionally, the pristine lake, with its crystal-clear waters, offers an idyllic setting for engaging in activities such as kayaking, canoeing, and boating. Moreover, a plethora of other recreational pursuits await, including disc golf, parasailing, hiking, and golfing. For those seeking a different kind of excitement, the nearby casinos or the vibrant city of Reno, Nevada, present enticing options to test one’s luck.
Explore the vast expanse of Kauai’s misty rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and breathtaking oceanside cliffs for an adventure of a lifetime. Embark on a thrilling tube ride down the island’s waterways, glide over the treetops on a zip line, or trek through the lush rainforests and along the rim of Waimea Canyon. Don’t miss out on the exhilarating surfing experience, with Poipu’s gentle waves perfect for beginners and the North Shore’s challenging waves ideal for seasoned surfers.
Maui, similar to its fellow Hawaiian Islands, presents an abundance of invigorating activities that are sure to ignite your adventurous spirit. Engage in thrilling pursuits such as sea kayaking, helicopter tours, and volcano hiking, among others. However, this is merely the tip of the iceberg. Embark on a journey to Maui’s northeast coast, where you will be captivated by the awe-inspiring sight of cascading waterfalls, powerful blowholes, and rugged peaks. Moreover, immerse yourself in the tranquil waters that surround the island. Delight in the vibrant and exotic underwater world by visiting Molokini for an unforgettable snorkeling experience, or embrace the opportunity to explore the ocean’s depths through a scuba diving excursion.