Summer is finally, even unofficially, here. Have you made your vacation plans yet? Do you enjoy adrenaline-pumping adventures? America is full of a variety of iconic landmarks and natural wonders to explore. Each state has an abundance of outdoorsy quests to choose from.
How does rafting down the oldest river on the continent sound? Have you ever been backcountry camping or spent a whole night under the stars? It’s a majestic experience.
Whatever your interests are, the best vacation is likely a road trip away. Take a look at the best active adventure in each state and see which ones suit you.
Almost every kid wanted to an astronaut at some point. This is your chance to be one for a few days. Adult Space Academy was established in 1990. The two-night weekend experience is an adventure that allows trainees to assume roles in hands-on, interactive space missions. Yes, you will wear a flight suit, experience weightlessness, and work on rockets.
Denali, once called Mount McKinley, is the tallest mountain in North America. The 20,320-foot-tall mountain is just one of the national park’s amazing features. The best time to attempt to climb it is in May and June. Most people choose the West Buttress route.
The desert town draws in artists, healers and wanderers, while the surrounding landscape brings active people who love the outdoors. Adventurers are also drawn by its beautiful red rock formations and the energy vortices rumored to exist there. Take to Submarine Rock on a mountain bike, head off the beaten path with ATVs, and hike Red Rock State Park.
The Buffalo River is long, lazy and beautiful—the first-ever nationally declared scenic river. It is one of the few remaining unpolluted, free-flowing rivers in the lower 48 states offering both swift-running and placid stretches. Most visitors come to float the river by canoe, tube, or kayak.
Named for its tendency to be lost beneath California’s tide or for its exclusion from the Pacific Coast Highway, this trail is about as ocean-front as you can get. Don’t be fooled by the beautiful scenery, though, this hike is a tough one. The trail is more than 20 miles, one way, with camping spots throughout, making it the perfect week-long challenge for the extreme hiker.
Colorado is famous for its rock climbing opportunities. The national park is open year-round. Black Canyon has some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. There are no maintained or marked trails into the inner canyon.
Nepaug is a very famous location, especially Nepaug State Forest. Nepaug is known for its variety of mountain biking trails. Regardless of your experience level, there is a route for you. A popular one, New Hartford’s Nepaug State Forest Trail is a moderately trafficked loop trail that runs for approximately 1.8 miles. Capture views of beautiful scenery and gorgeous wild flowers.
The bay extends southeastward for 52 miles from the junction of the Delaware River with the Alloway Creek to the entrance (12 miles wide) between Cape May, N.J., and Cape Henlopen, Del. Kayaking and paddling in Cape Henlopen State Park are popular activities. You have a good chance of spotting dolphins from the park shoreline.
U.S. 1 runs between the beach and Interstate 95 along Florida's east coast. Start with Fort Lauderdale, drive by North Miami and enjoy a few beaches, some of which are more secluded than others, continue to South Beach, following the signs to Key West for more adventures. Enjoy the 120-mile-long island chain of Florida’s Keys.
A vast blackwater bog straddling the Georgia-Florida line, the Okefenokee Swamp is a 38-mile by 25-mile spread of prairie grass, bald cypress, islands, lakes and scrub far from civilization. Nearly 354,000 acres on the Georgia side are officially designated as federal wilderness, and they’re best accessed via canoe or kayak. Watch out for bears, gators and water moccasins.
This is a place you should see by kayak, and the trip is worth it. The 17 miles of ocean shores is one of the most popular attractions on Kauai. The 4,000-foot tall cliffs along the coastline are some of the most dramatic in the world. You’ll see dolphins, seals, sea turtles, sea caves, mangoes, waterfalls, and many stunning and secluded beaches.
Some call it “the Holy Grail” of backcountry trails. The single one-lane trail in north-central Idaho stretches to about 100 miles. This is one of the wildest and most rewarding places to go hikes, horseback, and even trying something new such as dirt-bike rides. The rugged trail will take you through several mountains and dozens of subalpine lakes and rivers.
This is a perfect trip to take this summer. Located on the southern tip of the lake, you’ll get an incredible view of the Chicago skyline from the peaceful shores. Miles of beaches, sand dunes, bog, wetlands, woodland forests, an 1830's French Canadian homestead, and a working 1900 era farm combine to make the national lakeshore a unique setting.
It’s a view like no other. About 100 hot air balloons paint the Iowa sky with bright stunning colors. Skilled pilots compete for points and prizes while you just sit back and enjoy the sight and live music. You can buy a balloon ride for a one-of-a-kind view, and prepare to be awestruck as dark skies come alive with a mystical glow. This year’s event is July 27 - August 4.
The best hike in Kansas is the point to point Elk River Hiking Trail. The trail is accessible year-round. Visitors say that it’s not difficult but it is lengthy. Cross small streams and narrow canyons. Also view forests, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, wildflowers and tons of wildlife. There are also great camping sites nearby.
This is strictly for old enough admirers and anyone who would like to know more about the unique beverage. Explore the bourbon capital of the world – Kentucky. This is perfect guy’s getaway. You will get an idea of the scientific process behind making this native to America spirit. There are plenty of other bourbon experiences in Louisville, Lawrenceburg, Bardstown or Clermont. Some even offer classes on how to make your own bourbon.
Louisiana is a seafood state, and if you like fishing, taking part in this fishing competition should be on your bucket list. Fishing rodeos are big tournaments where participants hit waters throughout the state in battles for big fish, and bragging rights. There are rodeos by themes – for kids, veterans and novices – and on specific dates.
One of the most popular national parks in the country, Acadia is best known for great hikes and coastal views, but the real treasure at this park is the view of the sky after dark. Working with neighboring Bar Harbor, both areas have been able to keep light pollution to a minimum, which helps the stars really stand out. A popular sight is the Milky Way above Maine's shoreline. Go during the annual Acadia Night Sky Festival to take part in the event and learn about preserving views of the night sky.
Maryland is often referred to as the sailing capital of U.S., so, of course, this is one sailing adventure you should at least try. Annapolis is known to have some of the best boating conditions in the country at it’s located in the Chesapeake Bay. There are many boat shows you can enjoy there as well. Schooner Woodwind has weekly sailboat races through the Chesapeake Bay, and you can take professional lessons in Havre De Grace.
Horseneck Beach State Reservation is spread across approximately 600 acres of barrier beach and salt marsh. The regular camping season is from mid-May through mid-October. Take up a new water activity, try wind surfing, and go birdwatching in this premier birding location in New England.
If you can’t afford a vacation in the Caribbean, which has some of the best scuba diving spots in the world, take a road trip to Michigan’s Great Lakes. Four of the five lakes touch state boundaries and had ship traffic for nearly 400 years. That’s four centuries of wrecks underwater waiting for you to explore.
The 296-mile Superior Hiking Trail follows the ridgeline over Lake Superior, through old-growth forests and stunning views of the St. Louis River and Superior’s north shore. Famous for its maple-and-pine beauty and carefully maintained paths, day sections of the trail rank as moderately difficult and are easy to break up from 75 different access points. Watch out for moose, black bears and other wildlife waltzing across the trail into the majestic Superior wilderness. The best time to go is late summer.
A 440-mile footpath that was used for centuries by Native Americans and traders was later developed as a vital corridor between the Mississippi River and what is now Nashville, Tennessee. Commemorated as the Natchez Trace Parkway, a scenic two-lane road from Natchez to Nashville, the route was designated as a national scenic trail in 1983. Although some portions are on the original sunken footpath, only five disconnected segments totaling 65 miles are actual off-road trail.
Horseback riding in Yellowstone? Absolutely! Absarokas is a mountain range that is tucked in the shadow of the national park in southwest Montana. You will probably feel like you have really been transported to about a century ago. Finish the day with a bath in an alpine lake and sleep in an old-school ranch.
At the end of March, 80 percent of the world’s cranes converge upon one 80-mile stretch of land - central Platte River in Nebraska, according to Smithsonian.com. It’s a magnificent spectacle that even people who are so much into birds will appreciate.
This pristine crater of outdoor paradise straddling the California/ Nevada border is predictably the perfect place to learn to SUP, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for the advanced paddler. The calm lake makes a great classroom for first-time paddlers, but the 70+ miles of coastline leave plenty to be explored. Rental shops are located on all sides of the lake and many offer great instruction and if you’re looking to try something new, some of the outfitters in the area offer SUP yoga classes.
Fall foliage is easily among nature’s greatest annual demonstration. The various dazzling hues peak between September and October all across the U.S., but the best shows are in New England. Clean air, panoramic views of bursting bright colors and miles of forests – New Hampshire will take your breath away. Go to Bretton Woods where high-end lodging and top-tier food help make it a stand-out destination. Go on an amazing canopy tour descending over 1,000 feet of elevation. The 3-hour tour takes thrill-seekers across many tree-top zip lines high in the ancient hemlocks.
How many people in your group of friends know how to fly a plane or a helicopter? Don’t you want to be the person who can take anyone on an impulsive trip as long as there is a flying object around? You can learn how to do that at many locations in the Garden State. Companies offer various packages that range from hands-on helicopter experiences to simple photo flights.
Sledding on the soft sand at White Sands National Monument is a popular activity, especially for kids.. Unlike snow, sand is not slippery. You may bring your own sleds. Choose a dune with a gently sloping face and a level run-off at the end so that you can come to a halt safely, according to NPS.
Enjoy what is certainly among the very best wine trails in New York. The Finger Lakes is the largest and most celebrated wine producing region in the Eastern U.S. The spectacular beauty and glacially- deposited soils around Keuka Lake are what make the nearby wineries craft some of the world’s most beautifully balanced and vibrant wines. Most wineries are open daily, year round.
The website of the Mountain Sports Festival says its mission is to promote and celebrate mountain sports, wellness, and community and to provide opportunities for all ages and abilities to participate. The free festival showcases the terrain, environment, and unique culture of Asheville, a city that should already be on you bucket list. What more fun way of exploring?
Bike the Maah Daah Hey, known as North Dakota’s best kept secret. The name means "Grandfather" or "an area that has been or will be around for a long time.” Along the 96-mile singletrack trail you’re likely to see mule and whitetail deer, antelope, wild turkeys, beaver, prairie dogs, golden eagle, red tail hawk, bighorn sheep, and elk.
Hocking Hills will take your breath away. Outdoor enthusiasts go for the trails that take them though forests, caves, and odd rock formations. The especially rugged section marked by cliffs, gorges, caves and waterfalls is a popular recreation area with fewer visitors in the winter. The state park system has over 25 miles of marked trails that are open year-round and a scenery that makes it a rewarding place to hike even in cold weather.
Lake Hefner is where you want to be if you like sailing and you live in Oklahoma. The gorgeous lake is a popular spot in the city. No need to go on a private charter; you can learn how to sail on the lake as well. You’ll know steering, knots and lines, upwind and downwind sailing. Advanced sailing lessons are also available. Lake Hefner is bustling with life – you can find fishing docks, picnic areas, grills, restrooms, playgrounds, nature trails, running tracks, a softball field, golf course, airplane field, and soccer field.
This is a rather remote area, which is actually its appeal. There are few campgrounds to stay and they, too, are rather dispersed. With a little bit of planning you can end up being the only person in miles. Enjoy the solitude and the wide-open skies all to yourself.
This is one of the best kayak fishing destinations in America. It’s largely famous for its large mass of smallmouth bass. The river is also filled with catfish and smaller panfish. Musky, northern pike, pickerel, American shad, and many more are found within the bases of the river, according to Visit Central PA. The smooth flowing water helps for Susquehanna’s rank among the top of rivers in the state.
Stop by The White Horse Tavern in Newport. It opened in 1673, back when the U.S. was a boisterous collection of English colonies. The bar was a regular haunt for Colonists, British soldiers, Hessian mercenaries, pirates, sailors, founding fathers and all manner of early American folk.
The Revolutionary Rivers Trail is 66 miles of untainted time travel. It follows the picturesque Lynches River to the cypress and tupelo-laden stomping grounds of Revolutionary War hero General Francis Marion, whose guerilla warfare and knack for disappearing into these very same cypress swamplands earned him the name of the Swamp Fox and helped turn the tide against the British.
Cedar Pass Campground is the place to be in the summer. Night sky viewing is offered on Friday through Monday nights, according to NPS. After the evening ranger program, you are welcome to stay and continue enjoy the stars. Telescopes are provided. On any given night, you will be stunned by more than 7,500 stars.
Spelunking in the extensive and historic cave system called Craighead Caverns is an incredible experience. They have been known and used since the days of the Cherokee Indians. Take the Lost Sea Wild Cave Tour. You’ll see rooms where ancient jaguar roamed, moonshine was made, and saltpeter was mined for gunpowder by Confederate soldiers.
Want to feel like you’re flying? Kiteboarding, which is basically like skateboarding on water, comes very close. The shallow bays near Padre Island on the southern Gulf Coast of Texas offer perfect conditions. The wind is consistent year round with very few obstacles to hit. The best time to go is in the spring.
Want to go on epic hikes where you may literally have to squeeze to pass through narrow holes between rocks? You may even get stuck. One of the more famous hikes is the Narrows. Trek through soft sandstone that has been carved out by the Virgin River, with towering 1,000-foot rocks on either side. Be sure to cool off in the swimming holes along the way.
Located just outside Stowe, an amazing winter places even for non-skiers, has many remote ski trails that most skiers will love. Bruce Trail is the oldest on the mountain – it’s wide and quiet. The Mt. Mansfield State Park's namesake mountain is the highest point in Vermont.
The Virginia Mountain Bike Trail is taking shape in Virginia’s Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. This epic backcountry voyage will take you through eight major trail systems, fun dirt forest roads, as well as the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
More and more adrenaline seekers climb frozen waterfalls and steep ice since the equipment for this high-risk sport has gotten better and better. Some of the best places for the adventure are Washington, more specifically Leavenworth.
It’s the oldest on the continent. West Virginia’s renowned Upper New River is flowing northward through deep canyons to form what is commonly referred to as “The Grand Canyon of the East,” according to Rafting Info. You will have many opportunities for active adventures suitable for everyone – from novice paddlers and experienced whitewater veterans.
They are located at the western end of the Mainland Unit of the park, in far northern Bayfield County. By February, an ice bridge may have formed to connect Sand Island to the mainland, according to the NPS. The lake surface is usually a frozen white expanse, which is a stunning view in itself. A dreamland of needlelike ice columns forms inside and they change every day.
Catch a rodeo at Cheyenne Frontier Days, the world’s largest outdoor rodeo. The city has been known for decades as the prime location for railroading and rodeo-ing in the country. There are also many steam engines and working dude ranches to check out. Every Friday night, during summer, small towns are lit up with the excitement of rodeo arenas, according to Travel Wyoming.