Find out about U.S. adventure travel options.
Its diverse geography, excellent infrastructure and variety of national parks make the United States one of the best countries in the world for adventure travel. Whether interested in rock climbing, mountaineering, scuba diving or ecotourism, travels in America deliver a blend of natural beauty and breathtaking adventure.
The United States has a huge number of alluring and majestic mountains for adventure travelers to climb. Although the Southeast has a good selection of places for bouldering (climbing short but difficult rock faces), many of the best climbs are nestled among the big mountains of the west, namely the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada. For breathtaking views and challenging routes, Climbing Magazine recommends the Needles, a series of toothy granite formations perched near the Kern River Wilderness in California. The peaks are relatively easy for climbers to access, and they offer an excellent variety of difficult and rewarding climbs.
Travelers more interested in mountaineering than rock climbing can venture north to Alaska, where they can join an expedition to climb Mount McKinley, the tallest peak in North America. At 20,320 feet in height, the mountain presents a serious challenge to new mountaineers and seasoned veterans alike. Before visiting Mount McKinley and the Denali National Park, travelers should consult the National Park Service for information on climbing seasons, expedition guides, mountain safety and physical preparation.
The Rocky Mountains also provide many great places to mountain bike. Riders interested in tackling single-track, high-altitude trails should head for Salt Lake City, Utah: According to Mountain Bike Magazine, the historically Mormon city has hundreds of miles of trails woven among its breathtaking foothills and mountains. It also has a strong mountain biking community, so visitors should not have trouble finding guides, riding partners and group outings.
For a more challenging experience, riders might consider traveling from Salt Lake City to Moab, Utah, located near the Colorado border in the southeast corner of the state. Its famous Slickrock Trail and other highly-technical circuits have made Moab one of the premier mountain biking destinations in the world.
Though there are a handful of spots on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts that might compete, Hawaii arguably offers some of the best opportunities for diving in the nation. The incredible diversity of its wildlife and its excellent underwater visibility make the state perfect for both snorkeling and scuba diving.
Scuba divers in particular are presented with a dazzling variety of dive sites when visiting the Islands. For example, Scuba Diving Magazine highlights the shallow-water reefs surrounding Oahu, which harbor sea turtles, monk seals, shipwrecks and even accessible underwater lava tubes. Maui, the Big Island and Lanai are also scuba diving hotspots, each with its own unique geologic attractions and species of wildlife.
Dangerous though it may be, cliff diving is a popular sport among adventure travelers. Inland lakes, rock quarries and waterfalls are all possible dive spots, but some states have good spots on the ocean as well. For instance, Hawaii's South Point Cliffs are a great destination for diving. The cliffs are secluded, reasonably high (cliff height ranges between 30 and 50 feet) and surrounded by views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Big Island's rugged volcanic coast. Of course, they are also swept by strong ocean currents and patrolled by sharks, some of which are known to attack humans (e.g., the tiger shark). Travelers should always use caution when deciding where, when and how to cliff dive.
While the United States may not need ecotourism as much as some developing countries to support its economy, it still offers weary travelers a variety of environmentally-friendly places to stay. According to National Geographic, one of the best eco-lodges is the Highland Center, a sprawling complex owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club and located in the heart of New Hampshire's White Mountains. Opened in 2003, the Center was built using recycled materials and extremely energy-efficient windows. To further decrease its carbon footprint, the main boiler generates heat by burning biomass and wood.
Depending on the season, visitors to the Center can go cross-country skiing, climb rock cliffs and ice falls, learn about local wildlife on a nature tour or simply hike through the surrounding hills. The Center also runs special activities just for children, so it makes a good place for a family vacation.