Gear up and get outside for some heart-pumping fun with these high-octane activities across the USA. From BASE jumping to flying an aerobatic plane, these extreme adventures have thrill-seeker written all over them!
Credit: Visit Ouray
Pick your battles to the top by scaling ice formations, such as frozen waterfalls, with the help of ice axes and other special climbing equipment. The free-to-use, human-made Ouray Ice Park offers over 150 ice and mixed climbs across the Uncompahgre Gorge.
Where to try it: Ouray, Colorado
If you’re all about being in a state of flow, elevate your game by experiencing a FlowRider. This unique water sport involves the art of riding an artificial “sheet wave,” in which water is pumped over a surface that’s engineered to replicate an ocean wave, on an apparatus that looks like a skateboard. Flowboarding gained traction in the 80s and today, “flowhouses” are popping up around the world.
Where to try it: Across the USA
Credit: Skydive Key West
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s you… flying through the air after jumping from a plane at 10,000 feet. Giddy up! Skydive Key West offers tandem skydiving from $245 and is consistently rated as one of the top 10 places in the world to skydive. You can expect incredible views of the turquoise water and tree-speckled islands of the Florida Keys.
Where to try it: Sugarloaf Key, Florida
While a cold-water dip might sound uncomfortable, it can do wonders for your nervous system. The International Ice Swimming Association (IISA) deems an official ice swim as an unassisted swim in water below 5 C (41 F) while wearing a silicon cap, goggles and standard swimming costume. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter bathing club in the United States, founded in 1903. Swimmers plunge every Sunday from November to April at 1pm.
Where to try it: Coney Island, New York
Credit: Paraglide Maui
What better way to experience the world’s largest dormant volcano than by paragliding off its slopes? Daily flights with Paraglide Maui take off from the slopes of Haleakala at 4,500 feet for a tandem 1,000 feet descent for the best bird’s eye view of the island’s lush tropical landscape and lavender farms.
Where to try it: Maui, Hawaii
Also known as canyoneering or river trekking, this sport encourages participants to use a variety of techniques including climbing and rappelling to traverse scenic canyons. If you’re not afraid to get your feet (and knees) wet, Salome Jug is a water-filled canyon in Arizona that takes about 5 to 6 hours to hike.
Where to try it: Salome Creek, Arizona
Fly an Aerobatic Plane
Credit: Sky Combat Ace
Sky Combat Ace gives you the full Top Gun experience by allowing you to take over the controls of a fighter jet. Your pilot demonstrates each death-defying manoeuvre before letting you test your own skills. Sounds crazy, and well, it is a little!
Where to try it: Las Vegas, Nevada
Credit: Visit South Idaho
Part skydiving and part cliff jumping, BASE jumping is one of the most extreme thrills you can pursue. Tandem BASE gives an inexperienced person the chance to experience a BASE Jump. Much like a tandem skydive, you’re harnessed to an experienced tandem BASE instructor. Perched nearly 500 feet above the Snake River, Perrine Bridge is known worldwide for this adrenaline-charged activity.
Where to try it: Twin Falls, Idaho
Credit: Ralph Kristopher
Heli-skiing transports you to slopes only accessible by a chopper. The deep, fresh powder makes it the preserve of very experienced skiers. Set within one of the largest state parks in America, just north of Anchorage, the Chugach Mountains offer miles of terrain, powder bowls and steep vertical descents.
Where to try it: Anchorage, Alaska
Credit: Flickr David Ehringer cc by nd 2.0
Swimming in waterfalls is one thing, but have you ever rappelled down one before? There are few things more exhilarating than lowering yourself down a rock face amid a deluge of foamy spray. Try it at Ripley Falls with Northeast Mountaineering.
Where to try it: White Mountains, New Hampshire
Credit: Rachid Dahnoun / Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is a single-track mountain bike route that heads primarily downhill from the Tahoe Rim Trail—the total descent is more than 2,000 feet. It includes multiple steep drops and sections traversing nothing but rocks. Wanna Ride Tahoe can provide bikes, helmets and shuttles to trails.
Where to try it: Lake Tahoe, California
This action-filled activity involves jumping from a tall structure with an elastic cord attached to your feet. That tall structure can be a building, crane, bridge or even a helicopter. The first modern bungee jump was in 1979, and since then the sport became widely popular. The jump from the Rio Grande Bridge, which stands over 600 feet above the river, is the highest jump in the US.
Where to try it: Taos, New Mexico
Credit: Extreme Zip Line Utah
The Extreme Zipline at the Utah Olympic Park, located just outside Park City, takes you right down and over a ski jump hill that was used as part of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, reaching speeds of up to 50 mph in the process. Get ready to win the extreme adventure gold medal for flying down this line that’ll take you close to the speeds of world-class ski jumpers.
Where to try it: Utah Olympic Park, Utah
Goliath Grouper Dives
Credit: Andrea Whitaker / Pura Vida Divers
Grouper can grow to weigh up to 660 pounds and more and have been seen in groups of 40-plus during their annual aggregation after being nearly extinct some years back. Some may be fearful of large groups of fish this size, but they aren’t aggressive, and are quite a sight. Dive right in with Pura Vida Divers to experience these underwater beasts up close!
Where to try it: Singer Island, Florida
Credit: Flickr cc by 2.0 tsaiproject
The views are extraordinary on this adrenaline-pumping hike that ends with a dramatic climb along an extremely narrow path. On either side is 800 to 1,000 feet sheer drop-offs to the switchback trail below. There are metal chains to cling onto. At least 14 people have died from falling off the cliffs here, so be careful while trekking this infamous trail. Go in the off-season to avoid suffocating crowds and dizzying summer heat. Permits are required.
Where to try it: Angel’s Landing, Utah
Credit: Jackson Hole WWR
Hop into a raft and go for an exhilarating eight-mile river adventure near the town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, about 30 minutes from Grand Teton National Park and about an hour from Yellowstone National Park. This is a very wide and deep river with Class III rapids, so prepare for a soaking good time!
Where to try it: Snake River, Wyoming
Ever dreamed of soaring through the sky like your favourite feathered friend? Hang gliding is an air sport in which a pilot flies a light, non-motorised foot-launched aircraft called a hang glider. The pilot is in a harness suspended from the airframe and controls the aircraft by shifting body weight in opposition to a control frame. Tandem hang-gliding flights enable you to feel like you’re flying like a bird while enjoying the security of a nest.
Where to try it: Middletown, New York
Bouldering is a form of free climbing that is performed on small rock formations or artificial rock walls without the use of ropes or harnesses. Joshua Tree is filled with bouldering options whether you’re a beginner or a bold boulderer with more than 8,000 climbing routes, 2,000 boulder options and hundreds of natural gaps to choose from.
Where to try it: Joshua Tree, California
Rock climbing is physically and mentally demanding, testing a climber's strength, endurance, agility and balance along with mental control. Knowing proper climbing techniques and how to use climbing equipment is crucial. Climbers can try a variety of challenges from the sustained crack climbs of the Merced River Canyon to sun-drenched Tuolumne Meadows domes to multi-day aid climbs on the walls of the Valley.
Where to try it: Yosemite, California
Kitesurfing or kiteboarding involves using wind power and a kite to pull a rider across a water, land or snow. Hawaii’s year-round trade winds attract windsurfers and kiteboarders from around the world. The main kitesurfing season in Hawaii is in the summer months when the wind is most consistent.
Where to try it: Oahu, Hawaii