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50 Great American Adventures

The Trip Bike in El Paso's 37-square-mile Franklin Mountains State Park. With peaks topping out at 7,192 feet, it's a towering Chihuahuan Desert landscape.
Why One hundred-plus miles of trail will be accessible when construction concludes this year. Already finished is the Sierra Vista Trail, a 28-mile backcountry route connecting El Paso with nearby Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Don't Miss Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, just outside town, with more than 5,000 Native American pictographs dating back to A.D. 1000.
Franklin Mountains State Park; 915/566-6441; www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/franklin.

The Trip Mountain biking on a ranch at the edge of Texas Hill Country.
Why The Rocky Hill Ranch—not far from Austin—was recently bought by bike enthusiasts. Knock yourself out on miles of single-track on 1,200 acres: the aptly named trails range from EZ Pickens to Fat Chuck's Demise.
Don't Miss A burger and a frosty Shiner Bock at the on-site saloon.
Rocky Hill Ranch, Smithville;512/633-8778; www.boomersrockyhill.com.

CLASSIC The Trip The 185-mile C&O Canal towpath from the U.S. capital to Cumberland.
Why Mules stopped pulling coal barges in 1924; now bikers pass locks, lockhouses, and aqueducts while looking for bald eagles. The Monocacy Aqueduct, at milepost 42.2, has just been restored to its original grandeur, and there are trailside campsites, or you can stay at inns along the way in towns like Williamsport and Hancock.
Don't Miss Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and Antietam National Battlefield—you don't have to be a history buff to love them.
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal; 301/739-4200; www.nps.gov/choh.


The Trip A course in drag racing.
Why You'll go a quarter-mile in eight seconds—and hit 150 mph. After two days of instruction, you'll be wearing a fireproof suit behind the wheel of a big-block Chevy dragster. And it's more than just fantasy camp: good students can get an NHRA license and begin racing for real.
Don't Miss Frank Hawley's Alcohol Course, where you can ignite a 200-plus-mph, alcohol-burning funny car.
Frank Hawley's NHRA Drag Racing School, La Verne, Calif., 888/901-7223; Gainesville, Fla., 866/480-7223; courses from $159.

The Trip River-boarding the rapids of Colorado's Clear Creek.
Why You'll swim through rapids (in fins, a life jacket, and a wet suit) on a torso-length boogie board-type contraption, popping through or ducking under waves. The boards look skimpy but in fact provide riders with good control and maneuverability.
Don't Miss Golden, Colorado's Clear Creek Whitewater Park, one of the sport's epicenters. RipBoard Inc. offers beginner lessons daily there from May through September.
866/311-2627; www.ripboard.com; equipment rental and lesson $95.

The Trip Training with a professional Hollywood stunt team.
Why Thrillseekers Unlimited, the stunt team behind 2 Fast 2 Furious and MTV's Road Rules, puts together one- to five-day "Extreme Getaways" from its Las Vegas location. These build-your-own adventures are designed for groups of four or more, so grab three friends and do stunts like bungee jumping 180 feet, fire walking, racing hovercrafts, mountain-boarding, skydiving, or any of 40 other forms of madness.
Don't Miss Throwing yourself into a wind tunnel for indoor skydiving.
866/497-8868; www.thrillseekersunlimited.com; from $350 per person for a one-day trip to $2,545 for five days.

The Trip Land sailing across dry lake beds.
Why When a breeze fills the small sail attached to a three-wheeled cart, hang on. Solo or tandem with an instructor, a most effortless way to tour the desert.
Don't Miss Catered trips by Landsailing Tours out of Reno or Las Vegas, including all necessary equipment and your own first-timer regatta.
Landsailing Tours, 877/217-1820; www.landsailingtours.com; one-day trip $149.

The Trip Diving with sandtigersharks and gathering scientific data on them.
Why These protected fish grow to a length of nine feet and are found hovering above the ocean floor. Beginning this summer, those with Advanced Open Water certification can become the first handful of Sandtiger Specialty Divers—a designation that will allow them to help with hands-on tasks like photographing tagged sharks.
Don't Miss The many wrecked ships that serve as a shark habitat.
609/921-3522; www.sharks.org; from $250 per day.

The Trip Powered parachuting for beginners.
Why Unfold your chute, buckle into a go-kart-like seat with a powerful propeller at your back, taxi down a makeshift runway, and off you go in what has been referred to as the safest form of modern flight. It's like parasailing without the tow rope. The rigs have a range of 90 miles, and newbies can fly in a two-seater with an instructor. SkyTrails Ranch offers three-day courses over gorgeous Utah desert and canyon country.
Don't Miss The Powrachute Extravaganza (www.powrachute.com), a massive annual rally, in September in Columbus, Kansas.
SkyTrails Ranch, 435/656-0800; www.skytrailsranch.com; three-day course $1,075.


The Trip Study fly-fishing at the Redoubt Bay Lodge.
Why The lodge, 50 minutes by floatplane from Anchorage (and the only place to stay in this 171,000-acre wilderness area) provides expert guides, along with the culinary touches of chef-owner Kirsten Dixon.
Don't Miss Joining the local grizzlies fishing for salmon.
Within the Wild Adventure Co., Anchorage; 907/274-2710; www.withinthewild.com; $1,845 per person for a three-day stay.


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