Three rafts approach a set of rapids with rock wall behind them.
The Colorado River has some intense whitewater rafting that is sure to give you thrills (and get you soaked).
Photo Credit: Getty Images

8 Incredible Adventure Travel Experiences You Can Have Without Leaving the USA

How Daring Are You?

Racing along at breakneck speeds, falling from thousands of feet in the air — these are just a few of the adrenaline pumping experiences felt during adventure travel in the U.S.A. When ordinary vacations just don’t cut it anymore, an adventurous vacation that pushes the limits of your body and mind while letting you enjoy the outdoors can be just what the doctor ordered.

Take a look at some of the best adventure travel activities offered in the U.S.A.

Whitewater Rafting

Often one of the first U.S. adventure travel experiences that comes to mind, whitewater rafting has been a popular vacation choice for thrill-seekers since the 1950s. While the sport has been enjoyed the world over, the most popular rafting trips in the United States are within national parks.

In particular, the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River ranks as a bucket list-worthy spot for its challenging rapids and breathtaking scenery. California also boasts two favored whitewater rafting destinations — Yosemite’s Merced River and the North and South Forks of the American River near Sacramento.

Day trips or week-long tours are available and are often combined with additional adventure sports like hiking or mountaineering.

A man wearing a red jacket mountain bikes down a single track trail in a hilly landscape.The Colorado Trail is a top mountain biking location in the US.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Mountain Biking

Mountain bikers are hard-pressed to find better single-track or back road trails than the ones scattered across the United States. Incredibly diverse landscapes abound along the Colorado Trail where you’ll travel across multiple mountain ranges and wilderness areas on either self-guided or scheduled tours.

If booking via a travel company, accommodations will include either camping or inns along the way depending on how remote the locations are. Trails may run smooth or include natural obstacles like roots and pebbles so proficiency in handling all kinds of terrain will come in handy.

Ultimately, mountain bike adventures are coveted for their combination of technical proficiency and skill, with thrilling turns and hills that’ll have you flying along with a grin on your face.

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A man in a harness hangs from a wire with trees in the background.Zip-lining in Hawaii will give you an exhilarating ride through forests, mountains and ravines.Photo Credit: Getty Images


Adventure parks have become popular the world over, particularly near the Bavarian Alps, but have also sprung up across the United States in the last decade. If you’re looking for a way to experience flying, while safely hooked in via harness and cable, zip-lining provides an exhilarating ride among forests, mountains and ravines.

Multiple long-form zip lines — with speeds reaching up to 100 miles per hour — are popular on both coasts of the United States. Many adventure parks also feature obstacle course style zip lines, with varying degrees of difficulty and features.

Aside from the actual zip lines themselves, experiences can include rigorous hikes, ATV rides and walking among the canopies of forests via sky bridges. Day passes for up to three hours are typical in addition to half-day trips when booked through an adventure travel tour.

A diver with flippers up swims to the bottom of the ocean.Scuba diving allows you to get up close and personal with incredible marine life as well as explore old shipwrecks.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Scuba Diving

Although there’s nothing quite like experiencing the Great Barrier Reef, you don’t need to travel to Australia to experience some truly amazing dive sites. Some of the best scuba diving in the world is found right in the United States: off the coast of North Carolina, in the Gulf of Mexico, and amid the Pacific Ocean near both California and Hawaii.

Aside from natural kelp forests and coral reefs, there are plenty of unique experiences exploring shipwrecks, enormous aquariums and even a flooded abandoned mine in Missouri. Scuba tours in the United States will take you up close and personal to tiger, leopard and nurse sharks along with hundreds of fish species and other sea life.

In addition to multi-day tours, many travel companies also team up with local resorts to provide an all-inclusive experience.

Two hikers with poles traverse rocky ground with a mountain peak in the distance.Mount Rainier is the perfect place for some multi day hiking and camping.Photo Credit: Getty Images


Both rock climbing and mountain trekking fall under the mountaineering umbrella. Multi-day climbing trips are organized by specialized tour companies, providing mountain guides and much of the necessary equipment.

REI and RMI organize treks on Mount Shasta, Mount Rainier and Mount Denali alternating upward hikes of several miles a day with rest days at predesignated camping locations. Glacier hiking, ice climbing and ski mountaineering are also popular adventure travel activities during the winter in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

In general, mountaineering requires much more experience, fitness and thorough understanding of equipment and safety than a lot of other adventure travel experiences.

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An underground cave with stalactites hanging from the ceiling and reflecting in a shallow pool of water.Explore caverns and underground tunnels at the Luray Caves.Photo Credit: Getty Images


If you have a strong spirit for exploration, caving, or “spelunking” as it’s sometimes called in the United States, provides an unrivaled adventure among uniquely challenging spaces. Many of these natural caves were created by ancient volcanic lava tubes that formed underground tunnels.

While some caves are accessible without any equipment (providing lighting and railings in large open areas), most caving experiences are sought for the thrill of venturing into unexplored territory with alien-like landscapes and fascinating geological qualities.

You’ll find underground lakes, waterfalls and cavernous rooms on half-day or even overnight tours. If the thought of navigating small crawl spaces with only a headlamp or getting lowered into a wide open abyss excites you, you’ll love spelunking through U.S. caves.

A person rides in a sailboat with wheels across the sand of a beach.Soar across desert sands and beaches using the power of the wind.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Land Sailing

Sailing isn’t just reserved for the ocean anymore. Like something out of “Mad Max,” land sailing allows riders to soar across the desert sands in a wheeled vehicle propelled by wind and is one of the most fun thrill-seeking activities in the United States.

Learn how to sail on your own or with a friend while racing across the desert in timed loops. If you’re fast enough, Omega Land Sailing will present you with a certificate of achievement for completing one of their courses.

Half-day sails and multi-day adventures are popular in Nevada, CA and across Oregon’s dry lakes. All-inclusive trips will shuttle you to a remote location, provide lodging, and prepare meals for all reservations.

Some land sailing adventures are even themed with trips near Area 51 that feature blow-up aliens and visits to a local UFO museum.

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Two sky divers with red and white parachutes open against a clear blue sky.Does it get more adventurous than jumping out of a plane at 3,500 feet or higher?Photo Credit: Getty Images


If jumping from a plane at heights of 3,500 feet or more sounds appealing, there are two ways to embark on a skydiving adventure. Beginners can try tandem diving with an instructor or take a static line class where your parachute is opened automatically.

Advanced or licensed skydivers can participate in free fall jumps after logging a certain number of beginner jumps and completing the required training. Although medical professionals recommend waiting 12 to 24 hours after scuba diving to go skydiving, there’s no rule about performing multiple jumps in a row.

Plus, if skydiving isn’t enough of an adrenaline rush for you, certain travel air schools can package it along with fighter jet rides or zero gravity experiences for the ultimate in extreme travel.

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