15 Best Adventure Vacations In America

What is your idea of an adventure vacation? Do you want to hike an active volcano, rappel down a dangerous rapid or jump off a helicopter followed by skiing down steep hills? Whatever your idea of thrill is you can find a venue to make it come true in the U.S.

Camp in a cave

Exploring caves is a thrilling hobby that is becoming more popular as families seek various ways to stay active and entertained at the same time. Caverns and hollows are fascinating and mysterious. Sleeping in one overnight is in many ways preferable than booking a conventional hotel. The advantages of staying in a cave room are numerous – no humidity, constant cool temperature, serenity and calmness, and no crowds or loud noises.

Hike the Appalachian Trail

Arguably the most famous long-distance trail in the world, the Appalachian Trail runs for approximately 2,200 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin and Maine. Marked by iconic white blazes, the trail attracts 2 million hikers annually, including some 2,000 would-be thru-hikers. You don't have to complete the entire trail. Take your family for a small but spectacular section within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited in the country. Drive to the parking area at Newfound Gap and take the Appalachian Trail to Indian Gap. The 3.4-mile roundtrip will give you a taste of this historic route and allow you to see beautiful fall foliage.

Trek Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

America's largest national park — bigger than Switzerland — stretches from one of the tallest peaks in North America to the ocean. See the enormous volcanoes, incredible wildlife and unique glaciers. Also venture out on the approximately 10 million acres of wilderness area. The park's remote backcountry, which is perhaps why few people go there compared to other parks, is pure wilderness. The park is often referred to as the "mountain kingdom of North America," and it's just a day's drive east of Anchorage.

Ice climb Hyalite Canyon in Montana

Ice climbing is one of the most dangerous recreational activities ever and is no longer just a subset of mountaineering. For 40 years, this canyon near Bozeman has been the backyard winter playground for accomplished climbers, according to Climbing Magazine. The nearly 160 routes in the Main Canyon offer exciting climbing opportunities for people at every grade and level of seriousness.

Sail Florida’s Gulf Coast

There is a much more exciting way to explore the Sunshine State than beach hopping. Sail the Gulf Coast and make the most of a trip around captivating strands of islands that are easily the jewels Florida's southwest shoreline. Relax on sugar-sand beaches and enjoy spectacular sunsets while having fun on a long and leisurely cruise. You may find that the region is Florida's hidden "treasure" that is much more adventurous than hot spots like Miami.

Kayak around the San Juan Islands

Don't go to Seattle; head to the majestic San Juan Islands instead. Paddle your own kayak or go on hours-long tours. The archipelago is known for its rural Pacific Northwest landscapes and wildlife. This is one of the world's best whale watching spots. The majestic killer whales live in there year round, which makes this the perfect vacation escape for both nature-lovers and adventure-seekers alike.

Heli ski in Alaska

For those who can afford it, the heli skiing is totally worth it. They enjoy better snow, tough but thrilling landscapes, and spectacular views from the helicopter. One of the best places for the extreme sport is Haines. It's the state's deep, steep, spine-covered snow heaven. It is tucked at the tip of one of Alaska's great fjords. Another ideal place is Western Chugach Mountains. There are more than 750,000 of skiable acres.

Paraglide over Maui

To truly experience the "rare and sacred landscape" of Maui and Haleakala National Park, go paragliding. See this unique land from high above. Feel the vibe of ancient and modern Hawaiian culture connecting nature and people. You will be flying with a certified instructor, of course, so you can fully experience the thrill of paragliding. ProFlight flies year-round so you can embark upon this adventure anytime you're there, weather permitting.

BASE jump off Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho

This is the only place in the U.S. where you can go BASE jumping if you don't have a permit and want to know what this extreme sport feels like. Leaping off the 1,500-foot structure and opening a parachute midair is one of the best adventures in the state. You can jump off the Perrine Bridge year-round. You will be flying down to the canyon floor under the bridge – the ultimate thrilling feel. You can see what it looks like in this video.

Rafting through the Grand Canyon

This is one of the most popular adventurous activities in the Grand Canyon, and the Colorado River among the best rivers for whitewater rafting. Winding 1,450 miles in total and cutting through the canyon, the river offers waters ranging from class I to class V rapids and some of the best side hikes anywhere. Rafting trips range from three days to more than 20 days—either way the views and the experience as a whole are enthralling.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking is a thrilling experience any time of the year, but the winter presents more challenges. Exploring trails that are perfect for riding through the fresh mountain air, getting some dirt on your spokes, and experiencing some of the best backcountry in the U.S. is an unforgettable experience. No route is ever the same. Some of the best places for this adventurous sport are Lake Ouachita Vista Trail in Arkansas, Black Canyon Trail in Arizona and the Grand Targhee Loop in Wyoming.

Dog-sledding the Gates of the Arctic, Alaska

Exploring one of the last truly wild places on Earth dog-sledding is a magical experience. See glacier valleys scenic trails and the impressive Northern Lights. This is probably the most efficient way anyway because the remote wilderness area, basically untouched, is located above the Arctic Circle and far from any roads.

Swim with whales and sharks

Seeing whales and sharks should be on every adventurer's bucket list of crazy quests. Swimming with these fascinating marine mammals, even looking at them from behind a cage, takes "exploring" to a whole new level. Resorts and tour agencies offer the experience of being very close to the ocean's most captivating creatures. One of the most incredible places to swim with whales is Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii.

Climb Yosemite’s El Capitan, California

El Capitan is one of the most beautiful places in Yosemite National Park. It's also an insane cliff camping destination. Climbing it is described as equally crazy by some. The largest monolith of granite in the world, El Capitan has several designated climbing routes, the majority of which are considered highly challenging. After several failed attempts and a few setbacks, two free climbers conquered the formation's Dawn Wall, which is widely considered one of the toughest ascents in the entire world.

Hike Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park is regal all year-round. It's easy to hike the park's slot canyons – when it's not raining. Hike the paved Riverside Walk for one mile, from the Temple of Sinawava, to reach The Narrows, or for the best view, hike in the Virgin River. Reap the benefits of a lazy lounge in one of The Narrows' swimming holes after a somewhat challenging hike. Angel's Landing is another destination worth the trek. With sheer cliffs on both sides, hikers have a narrow trail to follow to get up to the best views.