If you’re the kind of person who is hardwired for adventure, vacation planning probably looks a tad different than someone searching for, say, a leisurely tropical getaway. The thrill and excitement that comes with exploring new landscapes and terrain in unfamiliar destinations is a pillar of outdoor travel and if you’re in the process of crafting your next great escape, adventure travel ideas abound right here in the U.S.
There are two routes to figuring out how to choose a trip that’s best suited for outdoor enthusiasts: by destination or by activity. If there is a part of America that’s been on your bucket list for a long time, you can research national parks and wilderness areas to decipher what the area is known for. Alternatively, if you’re a die-hard mountain biker or have always wanted to try something like horseback riding or canoeing, look into the regions that are best known for that. From there, you can build out an itinerary that will deliver on a rewarding, memorable experience in the great outdoors.
Ahead, 10 wanderlust-inducing adventure travel ideas to get you started. Whether you’re a hard-core hiker or fly-fishing aficionado, there’s sure to be a getaway for you. Get ready to hit the road.
Canoeing In The Boundary Waters
In Northeast Minnesota, in one of the most remote and breathtaking parts of the United States, lies the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness located within Superior National Forest. It extends 150 miles along the Canadian border and covers approximately 1,098,000 acres with over 1,100 lakes and 1,500 miles of canoe route. If you’re a paddler, this adventure will check off that trip of a lifetime box rather nicely. And one of the best aspects of choosing this getaway is the isolation — no one lives here and it’s easy to spend several days on the routes with only seeing a handful of other visitors in the waters. If you plan to make it a multi-day trip, there are more than 2,000 designated campsites to pitch a tent at. Leave the phone behind, soak in the sounds of nature, and enjoy the sensation of being tuned in with your surroundings.
Hiking In Bryce Canyon National Park
The largest concentration on planet earth of Hoodoo rock formations are found in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. It’s an otherworldly landscape that’s zenith peaks at the top of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (not a bad place to watch the sunset). If Bryce has been on your list for awhile, book a three-day hiking weekend trip with REI Co-op Adventures for a thorough and guided adventure that includes a stay at their private basecamp, hikes to waterfalls and other must-see trails, plus mesmerizing views of these towering spires. As a heads up, park elevations reach 9,100 feet so it’s strongly advised to physically train and prepare ahead of time for the altitude change and always make sure you’re drinking enough water.
Mountain Biking in Scottsdale
While Sedona may be Arizona’s most well-known destination for mountain biking, nearby Scottsdale is another landscape that has excellent terrain for this adventure sport; especially in the picturesque McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Begin your adventure by checking in at Andaz and book the mountain biking package that offers a guided tour on high-performance bikes. The property is situated on 23 acres in the heart of the Sonoran Desert and surrounded by plant life like cacti, yucca, prickly pear, and mesquite.
Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
The Pacific Northwest is a treasure trove of outdoor activity and the San Juan Islands, an archipelago known for its world-class whale watching, should be on your bucket list. Position your trip around kayaking, an activity that will let you get up and close and personal with the marine environment found here. Since the Salish Sea currents can be strong here and often oppose with the winds, it’s best to sign up for a guided tour for your first trip out to make sure you’re acquainted with how to stay safe. Also, it’s not uncommon to encounter whales here so brush up on their Be Whale Wise guidelines.
Zip Lining in Kauai
Often referred to as Hawaii’s ‘Garden Island’, Kauai is the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain and is characterized by its tropical rainforests, majestic waterfalls, jagged cliffs, and lush valleys. Unsurprisingly, it’s a destination that’s best appreciated through outdoor activity and one of the most exhilarating things you can do is go ziplining. Outfitters Kaui is the longest zipline on the island and their tours take you over landscapes spotted in iconic movies like Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Indiana Jones. Soar through the trees strapped in à la Superman for a memorably immersive experience.
Fly Fishing in Montana
If ever there were a destination that was well-suited for a tranquil day of fly fishing — it’s Montana. With its crystal clear lakes and babbling streams, ‘Big Sky Country’ is a prized location for casting your line. There are countless spots for finding fish because of the state’s clear, cold water, which creates a strong habitat for these aquatic animals (and anglers, too); two of which being Paradise Valley and Flathead Lake. To help keep the environment free from invasive species, be sure to follow three steps: clean, drain, and dry (learn more here).
Forest Bathing in the Ozarks
If 1.2 million acres of hardwood and pine forests accented by clear mountain streams sounds like something your blood pressure could make use of at the moment, it’s time to book a forest bathing adventure to the Ozark-St Francis National Forests. Located in northwestern Arkansas, this natural wonderland is about as scenic as it gets and activities like hiking, camping, kayaking, horseback riding, and fishing are all within arm’s reach. For more ideas, visit the forest service’s site that allows you to discover different areas in the forest based on activity.
Backpacking California’s Lost Coast
Another one of REI Co-op Adventures’ guided trips takes outdoor enthusiasts on a backpacking trip from Mattole Trailhead to Black Sands Beach, covering 25 miles in four days along The Lost Coast. This is an isolated stretch of California’s coastline not typically experienced by the masses. Traverse challenging terrain like sand, rock cobbles, and streams as you head south with the wind on your back. It’s the kind of backcountry experience that, despite the rigorous physical demands, will leave you recharged and reinvigorated.
Horseback Riding in New Mexico
Most people adventure outdoors to commune with nature, but if you want to take it a step further and also interact with animals in a way that’s safe for both you and the wildlife, why not head to New Mexico for a horseback riding adventure? At Bishop’s Lodge in Santa Fe, you can ride out from their historic stables for a one- to six-hour excursion complete with a packed picnic and a lesson from their wranglers on how to feed and groom the horses.