9 of the Best Adventure Destinations in the U.S. for an Action-packed Getaway

It’s all about outdoor thrills.

Man rows raft down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon

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The whole point of a vacation is to get away from the humdrum of daily life, right? Nothing supplies adrenaline-boosting thrills like an outdoor adventure. Whether you’re seeking downhill action at one of Colorado’s best ski resorts, thigh-burning hikes around the Grand Canyon, legendary surf breaks in Oahu, or seaplane flights high above Alaska’s final frontier, the domestic options are endless. Scroll on for nine rugged, outdoorsy destinations across the United States to scratch that adventure travel itch. 

01 of 09

Vail, Colorado

A skiier in a red jacket on top of a mountain in Vail, Colorado

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Colorado certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of adventure. For the ultimate mix of snowy and summery recreation, look no further than Vail. Set within White River National Forest, this celebrated mountain town provides access to the largest ski resort in the Centennial State with over 5,000 acres of shreddable terrain, plus hiking and biking trails, fly fishing in Gore Creek, and the high-flying thrills of the seasonal Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster. Located just steps from Gondola One, the family-owned Sonnenalp Hotel is a long-time favorite that’s beloved for its Bavarian charm, cozy accommodations, and proximity to the slopes.

02 of 09

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

A heard of elk in a snowy valley in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

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Wyoming’s most well-known adventure destination, Jackson Hole puts travelers in proximity to three winter resorts — Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Mountain Resort, and Grand Targhee Resort — for epic skiing and snowboarding in the frosty months. Visitors can do a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the herds at the National Elk Refuge and drive to both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park for even more wildlife peeping and incredible hiking. It also has high-end hotels to retire to after all that exploration. Western heritage, warm hospitality, and 55 rooms designed to help guests recharge await at Hotel Jackson.

03 of 09

Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada

Aerial shot of highway 50 winding around the east shore of Lake Tahoe

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Bestriding the California/Nevada border, Lake Tahoe is the dazzling destination centered around the largest freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevadas. Besides all the watersports — kayaking, paddle boarding, water skiing, jet skiing, sailing, and fishing — there’s ample recreation on dry land. The area boasts many challenging hiking trails with a payoff of unparalleled views. Don’t forget about the ski resorts to rip through powder in the winter. Perfect for full-throttle travelers who like to retire somewhere plush after adventuring, The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe is an ideal slope-side home base with direct access to Northstar California and a posh spa.  

04 of 09

Homer, Alaska

Eagle flying over beach with snow capped mountains in the background in Homer, Alaska

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Homer has some stiff competition for the best adventure destination in Alaska. But what really sets this small bayfront city on the Kenai Peninsula apart is the show-stopping combination of old-growth forests, ocean, and wildlife. Its status as the halibut fishing capital of the world draws anglers from near and far. If you don’t feel like casting a line, consider a horseback, four-wheel vehicle, or boat tour. The best way to soak in all the rugged beauty? A thrilling helicopter ride. The ultimate basecamp, Tutka Bay sits at the edge of the Kachemak Bay State Park and delivers activities like kayaking as well as cozy corners to kick back in between expeditions.

05 of 09

Moab, Utah

Man sitting on bicycle looking at magnificent view in Canyonlands National Park, Moab, Utah.

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Folks heading to Moab don’t have to choose between the dramatic scenery and outdoor odysseys in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park — because both pilgrimage-worthy destinations are just minutes away. That means trekking through thousands of natural sandstone arches, jaw-dropping geological formations, hectares of desert landscape, and buttes carved by the Colorado River. Under Canvas Moab offers tricked-out tents, s’mores, and next-level stargazing, while the new ULUM elevates things even further with suite-style glamping tents, sustainable Southwest-inspired cuisine, and a dedicated adventure concierge. 

06 of 09

Oahu, Hawaii

People surfing at the Nort Shore of Oha'u, Hawaii

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A true surfers' paradise, the North Shore of Oahu boasts some of the most iconic breaks in the world. The enormous waves of Waimea Bay often reach 25 feet high in the winter months. Carving the huge barrels of the Banzai Pipeline is a must-try adventure for many hardcore surfers. Newbies can take lessons with a pro before paddling out solo. There’s also ziplining, skydiving, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing, waterfall treks, and ATV excursions on the island. With everything from hiking through the tropical forest to horseback riding along the beach to SUP yoga sessions, Turtle Bay Resort very much caters to activity lovers. 

07 of 09

Yosemite National Park, California

View of top of mountains at dusk in Yosemite

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The opportunities for communing with nature in California never end. To experience an unparalleled range of outdoor adventures, head to Yosemite National Park. The sheer granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome lure rock climbers from around the world. Chasing the tallest waterfall in North America, biking the valley floor, summiting sharp peaks, watching the sunrise from Glacier Point, trekking through sky-grazing sequoia trees, and swimming in alpine Tenaya Lake also guarantee adrenaline rushes. Built in 1927, The Ahwahnee welcomes park goers with stone fireplaces, beamed ceilings, and hand-carved wood furniture.

08 of 09

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Man rows raft down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon

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Few places on the planet have the power to take the breath away of everyone who visits like the Grand Canyon. One of the seven natural wonders of the world, this awe-inspiring, 277-mile-long Arizona landmark showcases millions of years of red-rock scenery. In addition to countless hiking paths — including the popular Bright Angel Trail — thrill seekers have the choice of unforgettable helicopter flights, mule rides, scenic drives, and expert-level white-water rafting. El Tovar Hotel, long considered the crown jewel of historic national park lodges, puts intrepid travelers steps from all the action.

09 of 09

Whitefish, Montana

Group of hikers at the bottom of mountains in Whitefish, Montana

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Tucked away in the northwest part of Big Sky Country, Whitefish — the gateway to dramatic peaks, valleys, sparkling lakes, and alpine meadows in Glacier National Park — is a cold-weather sports destination that also shines during the warmer months. Snow bunnies love skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. When the temps rise, hiking and biking take center stage. More thrilling things for adrenaline junkies to do in this Montana town include kayaking, hot air ballooning, and ziplining. Designed with adventurous travelers in mind, Après Whitefish blends the style of a modern boutique hotel with the soul of a nostalgic mountain lodge.

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