Five extreme US adventures for your 2023 bucket list
From climbing Colorado’s highest peak to kayaking down the Grand Canyon, these high-octane adventures will get the pulse racing.
The US is a country known for doing things to the max. The cars are big, the architecture is imposing, the cuisine is legendary, and the natural landscapes are vast and varied. It goes without saying, therefore, that if it's an extreme adventure you’re looking for — be it a challenging hike or death-defying free climb — the US has got you covered. Read on for five recommendations for an American adventure.
1. Mountain bike in Moab, Utah
Moab is the gateway to Utah’s wildest national parks. Although there are many ways to navigate these wild terrains — from 4WD tours to horseback trails — two wheels (or legs) are better than four for adventurous travellers. This particular experience is not suitable for novice mountain bikers, but those with some experience under their belts can expect some epic backcountry roads. For views across Canyonlands National Park, bike the White Rim Trail, which loops around the park and takes you through slickrock, dirt roads, graded gravel and semi-technical rocky doubletrack.
2. Hike Mount Elbert, Colorado
Despite being the highest mountain in Colorado — higher even than neighbouring Mount Massive — Mount Elbert is relatively unknown outside the climbing community. But you don’t have to be Reinhold Messner to summit this mighty peak. The standard route is a manageable class 1 hike with a round-trip distance of 9.5 miles and an elevation gain of 4,700ft. There are multiple camping options for RVs and tents scattered along the route, so there’s no need to rush. Take your time and savour the scenery, as terrains shift and changing weather brings new perspectives to this impressive mountain.
3. Kayak down the Grand Canyon, Arizona
Both challenging and beautiful, the journey from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek along the Colorado River is a major contender for the best river trip on earth. The full 227-mile stretch takes two to three weeks to complete, and will have thrill-seekers encountering intermediate-level white waters as well as intimidating rapids. Be prepared to have your boat flipped in both Crystal Rapids and Lava Falls, but also prepare yourself for Martian-like landscapes, creek hikes and hidden waterfalls. This is surely the most intimate way to experience the world’s most remarkable geological wonder.
4. Hang glide over Maui, Hawaii
There can’t be many activities more thrilling than hang gliding, and few places are more scenic than the island of Maui. Combine the two and you have a serious adventure on your hands. Both powered hang gliding and fixed-wing tours are common here, so if you’re new to hang gliding but want to see the mountains, lava fields and shores on a more prolonged flight, you won’t be short of options. If you do have the skills to pilot your own set of wings, however, join experienced gliders at Haleakala National Park and take off from midway up the dormant volcano to the valley below.
5. Rock climb in Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite is a adventure playground for climbers of all disciplines and abilities. Beginners take lessons, pros hone their skills, and professionals break records tackling the unforgiving rock faces of its giant cliffs at breakneck speed. There are a wide variety of mountaineering schools to prepare budding climbers for the routes, from the winding crack climbs of Bishop’s Terrace and sunny Tuolumne Meadows’ domes to multiday aid climbs on the big walls of the Yosemite Valley. But what goes up must come down, so be sure to familiarise yourself with the abseiling routes before you get too high.
Plan your trip with Battleface
Battleface travel insurance is geared specifically towards thrill seekers, by keeping adventurers covered for a wide range of activities on their travels.
Battleface travel insurance is underwritten by Battleface Insurance Services Limited, a UK insurance intermediary and coverholder at Lloyd's. battleface is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK (FRN: 774757).
For more information, visit battleface.com
Follow National Geographic Traveller (UK) on social media