From ice luging and snow kiting to base jumping and highlining, the United States is brimming with extreme sports destinations – and with a varying landscape of steep canyons, towering mountains, and rushing river waters, it’s no wonder why the nation is deemed one of the best places for getting your adrenaline on. Thrill seekers, adventure enthusiasts, and action sports lovers, for a tour of America’s prime extreme sports destinations, read on.
Las Vegas, Nevada
There’s more to Vegas than casinos, nightclubs, and pool bars. Here, visitors can take part in an array of adventure sports – go ATV riding or land sailing; free fall over the bright lights of the city; head to the outdoor shooting range; drive an exotic car at racing speeds; or book a helicopter tour. For the ultimate adrenaline rush, opt for one of the city’s most famed activities: the zero-gravity flight. Once in flight on the aerobatic plane, the pilot will take you through a series of maneuvers called parabolas – twirling, looping, and dropping through the Nevada air.
The Grand Canyon is a breathtaking natural marvel, fit with hiking and mountain biking trails, campsites, stunning canyon views, and memorable golden sunsets. It’s also a gem for outdoor sports, with white water rafting as the most popular venture – tackle the legendary rapids of the Colorado River as you travel through the steep, rugged terrain of the Grand Canyon. If you’re an experienced rock climber, you can opt for an aerial view of the blue waters from the ridges of this desert wonder.
Jackson Hole, tucked below the towering peaks of the Grand Teton National Park and a short drive from Yellowstone National Park, is an adventurist haven, known for its prime location central to a long list of outdoorsy activities – many of which are best fit for thrill seekers and experienced extreme sportsmen/women. For serious rock climbing and backcountry hiking, head to Grand Teton – a stunning mountain region that requires ropes and safety equipment for successful scaling of its 13,700-foot summit; there’s also camping, horseback riding, mountain biking, canoeing, white water rafting, fly fishing, and kayaking on the Snake River.
Save traditional skiing for the mundane, and go for heli-skiing. In Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, visitors can book a helicopter flight that drops you directly on top of fresh, ungroomed powder in the Chugach Mountains, one of the largest state parks in the US. Meant for the experienced skier, heli-skiing is one of the most sought-after adventure sports today, allowing mountain-goers to get their hands on miles of untouched terrain and steep descents.
Idaho, a northwestern state known for its mountainous landscapes and vast wilderness, is also home to a small town, Twin Falls, that boasts a colossal lineup of outdoor sports, including rock climbing, camping, fishing, hiking, swimming, mountain biking, auto racing, motocross, SUP, kayaking, canoeing, snowmobiling, skiing, and snowboarding. But what most visitors come here for is the base jumping – part skydiving, part cliff jumping rolled into one. Jump from the Perrine Bridge, 486 feet above the Snake River, and see what this extreme thrill is all about. Plus, there’s no need for a permit.
Yosemite National Park is one of the best rock climbing destinations in the world, with its mighty peaks rising over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There are plenty of rock formations to scale – such as the most popular Half Dome or Three Brothers – along with easier summits, including Washington Column. Plus, the park also makes for a great place to highline (walking on a tightrope stretched between two cliffs); there’s also hiking, camping, biking, fishing, horseback riding, rafting, and cross-country skiing.
Home to pristine white sand beaches, aquamarine waters, and a rich sea life, Maui isn’t just for sun worshippers and relaxation seekers – with its lush, tropical landscape, mountainous terrain, and volcanic peaks, this island makes for the perfect destination for adventurists. Get your hands on typical outdoor activities such as canoeing, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, sailing, and ocean rafting. You can also kick it up a notch, and take on zip lining, scuba diving, rainforest rappelling, parasailing and paragliding, helicopter rides, or hike up the Haleakala Crater – a four-mile hike through Maui’s volcano; visitors can even bike down the to the base of the volcano.
Defined by its steep canyons, grueling landscapes, and natural desert beauty, Moab has become the ultimate destination for mountain biking, but it also boasts unreal canyoneering routes that make their way through carved sandstone to ancient ruins, an unusual – but thrilling – experience. Plus, Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park play host to world-class hiking, water rafting, rock climbing, rappelling, mountaineering, motocross, and highlining.
It’s unusual to dedicate a destination to an entire state, but Michigan is teeming with outdoor sports, most of which are bound to have your adrenaline pumping in no time. During the colder months, extreme sports enthusiasts can embrace ice climbing, which involves scaling a frozen waterfall (Lake Superior is the best for this), ice luging at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, snowmobiling, and ice diving, snow kiting, and ice sailing on Lake Michigan. During summer, get your hands on the best shipwreck diving in the world, kiteboarding, kayaking, parasailing, flyboarding, and surfing.