Top 9 Best Adventure Vacation Destinations

The sun is out, lockdowns are largely over for the majority of us, and it’s time for some adventure vacations! One of the only good things about lockdown was the ability to get out walking and enjoy some fresh air. However, it was pretty limited, with many of the national parks and major adventure vacation locations closed. Now that the tide has turned, there’s never been a better time to grab your hiking boots, bike, surfboard, or skies and get your adventure on.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend is one of the least explored parks in the National Park Service. That’s not because it’s not incredible, but rather because it’s so far from civilization. It is one of the most remote destinations to visit in the country, located along the Mexican border and separated only by the Rio Grande.

Big Bend National Park

The vast curve of the Rio Grande in faraway southwest Texas is known as the Big Bend. It is a stunning natural area with a fascinating and intricate history. On paved and improved roads, over a million acres of public land, which include Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, offer camping, hiking, mountain bicycling, horseback riding, jeep touring, and plentiful sightseeing opportunities.

Appalachian Trail, North Carolina

The Appalachian Trail is one of the most famous hiking trails and adventure vacations on earth – and one that’s featured on many a bucket list since its official inception in 1937. The AT runs through 14 states in the eastern US and, although there’s much debate, its total length is approximately 2,200 miles from start to finish. The trail officially starts in Springer Mountain in North Georgia and stretches all the way up to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail can be done in one continuous trek (known as a thru-hike), or in partial sections (known as a section hike). If you and your family or partner love hiking, it’s one of the top adventure vacation destinations in the US for outdoor exploration.

Appalachian Trail

Given the fact the AT runs through most of the southeastern states, all the way up the eastern seaboard, it can be picked up at any point along the way. A full hike of the entire trail takes an estimated 165 days. For most people, summer adventure vacations don’t last that long. This generally means smaller sections are chosen for shorter holidays. Depending on your level of fitness and what you may want to see (highest point, lowest point, a state you haven’t visited yet, etc.), this will determine your best place to kick off everyone’s adventure vacations.

If you have no real preference, take a section hike along some of the most beautiful parts of the trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, the Blue Mountains in Pennsylvania, the Presidential Range in New Hampshire, or Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. To be honest, anywhere along the AT makes for some unforgettable adventure vacations.

Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

The Palo Duro Canyon is a unique geological gem situated in the Texas Panhandle. It is the nation’s second-largest canyon, after Arizona’s magnificent Grand Canyon. This Texas marvel is 120 miles long and more than 20 miles wide. It is more than 800 feet deep at its deepest.

1:28 / 9:18 Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas

For years, the Palo Duro Canyon has been about getting more people out there to explore the canyon’s interior. However, a new attraction, distinct from Palo Duro State Park, focuses on soaring above the canyon rather than descending into it.

A new zip line is taking adventurers sky high above the Palo Duro Canyon floor – 469 feet high to be exact. It is the only zip line that connects Dallas and New Mexico, and it runs through Palo Duro Canyon. The adventure begins with a harness and helmet. After a 15-minute ride down to the zip line, you walk up a suspension bridge and prepare to fly.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most famous parks and top vacation destinations in the US for people who crave outdoor fun. Yellowstone straddles the western states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The park covers more than 3,500 square miles and is a haven for camping, hiking, mountain biking, boating, and chilling out in hot springs. The sheer number of summer outdoor activities here is endless.

Yellowstone Planning Tips

For outdoor vacationers who love boating and fishing, Yellowstone Lake offers 136 square miles of water and 110 miles of pretty shoreline. It’s the largest lake in the park and the largest high-elevation lake in North America. Whether you wish to drag along your own boat or hire facilities while you’re there, Yellowstone Lake is a water bunny’s dream spot and a dream destination for an adventure vacation. If you do decide to bring your own boat, you will be required to show a valid permit before you can take it to the water. You can also kayak or hang around in a float tube, as well as book a scenic cruise of the lake on one of their dedicated sightseeing tour boats. Yellowstone Lake is also a very popular spot for trout fishing, although specific species, when caught, must be released without harm.

Also Read: Yellowstone Highlights

If fishing ‘ain’t your thing, there are plenty of camping spots, hiking trails, and the chance to take adventure vacations to the next level by getting up close and personal with the park’s furry inhabitants. Yellowstone is famous for its bears but is also home to a number of wolves, lynx, and other four-legged creatures. For walkers and cyclists, there are a number of must-see key attractions within the park that usually attract the majority of tourists.

One of the most popular attractions in the park is Old Faithful. Old Faithful is a giant geyser that can be viewed erupting around 20 times each day with spectacular results. In addition, Grand Prismatic Spring is a hot spring and volcano, displaying an incredible array of colors, and the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River is an elegant waterfall with nearby trails for exploring. For adventure vacations and some of the best summer outdoor activities, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the amazing Yellowstone National Park.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

You can’t think of nature vacations or the beautiful outdoors without thinking about the Grand Canyon. If you need a fun-filled place for vacation this year and you adore being in spectacular scenery, the Grand Canyon should be at the top of your list. Stretching out for 277 miles, mostly across Arizona, there are many entry points along its length and breadth.

Grand Canyon North Rim

If your nature vacation is short, say over a single day or weekend, hiking the South Kaibab Trail on the South Rim is a good place to start. It’s consistently listed as one of the best trails in the Grand Canyon. If you have more time to spend in the beautiful outdoors at the Grand Canyon, there are numerous options to spend your time. Other options include walking the South Rim Trail, Bright Angel Point Trail, or walking to Havasu Falls. Alternatively, if your nature vacation involves doing your own thing, you can walk wherever you want and there’s no need to follow a prescribed trail at all.

Also Read: Grand Canyon North Rim Activities

Adventurous Couples can also enjoy the incredible sunsets along the Grand Canyon after a hard day’s walking. The viewpoint at Horseshoe Bend in Paige, Arizona constantly attracts visitors looking to take in the breathtaking color palette of a Grand Canyon sunset or sunrise.

Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage might not instantly spring to mind when considering the top vacation destinations in the US for outdoor pursuits, but stick with me. This Alaskan city and its surroundings are full of great places to vacation in the beautiful outdoors. In the colder months, it’s one of the best mountain vacation spots in America, due to its location and low temperatures. In Summer, you can make the most of adventure vacations by enjoying the many hiking, walking, and biking trails that surround the city.

Anchorage Alaska

If you’re in the market for a family adventure vacation, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is perfect for introducing little ones to the joys of nature vacations. Kids will love exploring the Alaska Railroad or checking out the locals on an Alaska wildlife tour. Adventurous Couples will enjoy the sights and sounds of Flattop Mountain, Thunderbird Falls, or driving the stunning Turnagain Arm. Just don’t forget to take your camera.

The Big Island, Hawaii

The Islands of Hawaii truly offer the best of all worlds in terms of great places to vacation for outdoor enthusiasts. From spending days on the water surfing, water skiing, or swimming, to hiking up the side of active volcanoes, anything goes on the Big Island. Given its location, summer outdoor activities you can do elsewhere in the US are pretty much year-round here.

Honolulu Attractions

If you’re up for extreme thrills on your adventure vacations, hire an ATV and take a day out to explore the wonders of the Kohala Coast. As many of the areas here are wild and can be difficult to reach, an ATV is a perfect way to check out the beautiful outdoors on this part of the Big Island. One of the best outdoor places to explore on Hawaii’s largest island is Volcano National Park. The park is based around two active volcanoes and is the perfect spot for those who like to inject a touch of danger into their summer outdoor activities.

Also read: Best Beaches Big Island

The volcanoes – Kilauea and Mauna Loa – can be visited on your own or as part of a tour group. Although hiking through the park is best done during daylight hours, one of the reasons this is one of the top vacation destinations in the US is because of the view of the molten lava from the volcanoes when the light fades in the evenings. It’s a truly unforgettable end to an adventurous day on the Big Island. It’s difficult to think of a better nature vacation than seeing the world at its most beautiful and most terrifying at the same time.

Vail, Colorado

Vail is one of the most popular skiing cities in the US. Here, there are ample opportunities to take to the slopes and it’s one of the best mountain vacation spots in the US. Alongside Vail, the areas of Aspen, Telluride, and Breckenridge, also rate among the top skiing destinations in America. Colorado’s premier ski resorts are mainly nestled in the Rocky Mountains, with high altitudes that make them perfect for putting on your ski boots and gliding down the snowy peaks on adrenaline-fueled adventure vacations.

Vail Resorts

Vail Ski Resort covers more than 5,000 acres of prime mountain land. Its top elevation is more than 11,500ft high, with a base of 8,000ft. It’s an incredibly popular location for couple adventurers but you do have to book well in advance to get the best accommodation and slots for skiing or snowboarding.

Although Vail is generally a place for vacations through the winter months, there are other things to do there besides skiing. Being located in the Rocky Mountains means it’s also a great bet for a nature vacation. Visiting in the summertime, when things are much quieter, gives you the opportunity to see the area in a completely different light. Hiking trails, such as Village Loop and through Piney River Falls are great summer outdoor activities for those who like to travel up and down mountains a little more slowly.

Malibu, California

The coast of California has been drawing surfers out west for adventure vacations since the dawn of time. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, there’s no better place to enjoy the beautiful outdoors than Malibu. This pretty coastal city is one of the top vacation destinations in the US for water sports and is a popular choice for a couple’s adventure. Malibu might not be the cheapest vacation you could choose, but it’s certainly one of the best. Spending your days on the water with the Californian sun beating down on your back is a touch of heaven on adventure vacations.

USA adventure vacations
Malibu, CA

On days when the water might be calmer, you can take to walking in the nearby hills, or take a quick trip south to Los Angeles. It would be wrong to travel to Malibu and not take the chance to have a look at one of the great places to visit in the US in terms of glitz and glamor. However, if Tinseltown doesn’t float your boat, there are plenty of opportunities for excellent nature vacations in the surrounding mountains and trails.

Conclusion

The US is crammed full of incredible adventure vacations. Luckily, for those of us up for the challenge, it’s easy to combine a couple’s adventure or family holiday in the beautiful outdoors at thousands of locations across the length and breadth of the nation.

Adventure Travel

We’ve written about some of the best and most popular vacation locations to pique the interest of many different outdoor pursuits, but the only restriction on what you can find to enjoy outside in the US is your own imagination. Wherever you choose for your adventure vacations, make sure you abide by the rules and regulations so you and your party stay safe.

FAQs on Adventure Vacations in the US

How will I know if I can travel to my vacation area? Chances are you will be able to travel anywhere across the US on adventure vacations this year. However, given some local lockdowns (parts of California, for example), it’s always safer to check the locality you’re traveling to. This will give you the details of Covid restrictions and anything else you need to be mindful of. One of the best things about adventure vacations is that they tend to be primarily based outdoors. This automatically reduces your risks of being in overcrowded areas and allows you more freedom than you would find at indoor attractions.

Will it be safe at my vacation accommodation? Yes. The vast majority of accommodations across the likely states people choose for adventure vacations will have measures in place to ensure the safety of their guests and their staff. Although things will vary from business to business, you can be assured that everyone is working towards reducing the spread of illness, social distancing, hand washing, and, in many cases, mask-wearing. If you have any concerns, you can contact the accommodation ahead of time for details of their current policies.