5 awesome adventure holidays in America

Climber on the summit of a rock monolith in Yosemite National Park, California
Climber on the summit of a rock monolith in Yosemite National Park, California

One of the great joys of the US is its massive size – if you’re daydreaming about having a grand adventure, you can take your pick from mountains to deserts and canyons to icebergs. But it doesn’t have to stay a fantasy. We’ve rounded up our favorite five adventure vacations in America, from extreme outdoor adventures to more peaceful, scenic pastimes. Now you just have to muster up the courage to book that ticket!

1. Camping in Joshua Tree, California

Who says adventure has to be high-octane thrills and spills? Seeing the sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park is a truly jaw-dropping sight, and exploring the desert and its boulders makes for a great scramblers’ playtime. There are nine camping areas at 794,000-acre park, and once you’re situated you can take in the delights that Joshua Tree has to offer: early-morning climbs, afternoon horseback rides, night-time star-gazing. And of course, fantasizing about all the great rock ‘n’ roll stories that played out in this legendary desert, from Gram Parsons to U2 and beyond. Note: Temperatures soar in the summer, so check the National Parks site and plan accordingly.
Joshua Tree National Park. Photo: Jorg Hackemann/Shutterstock

2. Overnight Caving in Tennessee

Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, TN, are a marvel of underground rock formations: besides 32 miles of passages and caves, there are waterfalls and perfectly clear pools to discover here. For the truly brave (or the non-claustrophobic), you can even take one of Cumberland’s Overnight Adventure Trips, which include cave tours and camping, plus breakfast in the Vocano Room. For those seeking something lighter, check out one of the monthly Bluegrass Underground twangy music sessions. 

Overnight Caving in Tennessee.

3. Climbing in Yosemite National Park, California

Set in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Yosemite National Park is a climber’s paradise with a rocky smorgasbord of beautiful, challenging rockfaces to explore. Unless you’re planning on tackling the mighty 3,000 foot rock formation known as El Capitan (vertical wall climb and all), a good idea is to take one of Yosemite Mountaineering School’s daily rock-climbing classes (yosemitepark.com/rock-climbing-lessons.aspx). Offered at all levels, each session lasts seven hours, and if the urge to explore gets too much, you can book a climbing guide to join you..
The El Captain Rock in Yosemite National Park.

4. Dogsledding in Anchorage, Alaska

Make like you’re in Narnia or an episode of Game of Thrones by cutting a trail through perfect white snow on a glorious dog sled. You can either stand on the rails and drive the sled yourself – Mush! Mush! – or cozy up in the sled’s basket while a team drives for you. The best part is that if you visit in summer, you can take a helicopter ride to the snowy mountains for sledding and then make your way back to sunny Anchorage to bask in the rays. You can even visit the kennels and cuddle with puppies. Yes, really. Go to the Anchorage visitor’s guide for more info .
Dogsledding in Alaska.

5. Rafting in Grand Canyon, Colorado

Running 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep, the Grand Canyon in Colorado is a true scenic marvel. You’ll want to gawp at the view from the top of the canyon, of course – but the truly adventurous will make their way down to the Colorado River which cuts through the canyon, for some breathtaking white water rafting. If you’re not completely absorbed in the rafting (and frankly, we hope you are concentrating), you might also like to consider that the river you’re navigating first established its course some 17 million years ago. Right now, there are around 15 notable white water companies offering rafting, and you’ll want to choose the trip that suits you best – some offer hikes and meals, others will even helicopter you to the site! Advantage Grand Canyon is a great place to start.

Rafting in Grand Canyon, Colorado.

Discover more amazing trips in the United States here