Don’t have summer plans yet? No worries—it’s not too late to make this summer one for the books! A lot of these summer adventures are easy to plan and are all across the US, from the Northeast to the Southwest and everywhere in between. Which of these should you add to your bucket list for summer 2021? Take a look and see for yourself.
1. Whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon
Sure, you could see the Grand Canyon from the rim like everyone else, or even take a strenuous hike down to the bottom of the canyon walls. Or you could do something really unique and go on a whitewater rafting trip through the Grand Canyon to experience a side of the park others rarely see. From one-day rafting tours to weeklong trips with rafting, hiking and camping, whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon is hands-down one of the best summer adventures in the US.
2. Take flight in a hot-air balloon in Albuquerque
The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (in October) is a great time to watch (and ride in) hundreds of colorful balloons as they take flight over Albuquerque. It’s a magical event, but we promise a hot air balloon ride will be just as magical any time of year. As Albuquerque is basically the hot air balloon capital of the US, there’s no better place to enjoy a birds-eye view of the city and surrounding mountains.
3. Go swimming in a waterfall swimming hole
Want a way to cool off that’s a little less adrenaline-inducing than whitewater rafting? Find a swimming hole near you and jump on in! If you’ve never been swimming in the base of a waterfall—or in any natural swimming hole—you are seriously missing out. Find ones with safe cliff jumping options if you’re looking for a thrill. It’s the perfect day-trip adventure! Since there are swimming holes all over the US, it’s easy to find one within a few hours of most places. Just google “hidden swimming holes near [wherever you live]” and see what you can find!
4. Hiking the Narrows at Zion National Park
The out-and-back river hike through canyons and narrow gorges in Zion is super famous—and it’s one of the best summer adventures you can find in Zion—or anywhere. Summers are best to visit since the cool water you’re hiking through will be refreshing rather than chilly. All hikers need to be prepared with closed-toed shoes that can get wet (you’re hiking through a river, after all). Also, be sure to check in advance for flash flood warnings and don’t head out if there are any! You can hike up through the Narrows for just a few miles, all the way to Big Spring (a 10-mile round trip adventure) or complete the entire 16-mile through-hike (permits required).
5. Go paddleboarding at fjords in Alaska.
Sure, you can rent a stand-up paddleboard at just about any beach or lake in the US, but paddleboarding along fjords in Alaska’s wilderness will definitely be an experience you won’t forget. Bear Glacier is the best place that offers glacier paddleboarding trips. Though it’s quite remote to get to, it’s by far one of the best summer adventures in the US. Take a helicopter or a boat to Bear Glacier. You’ll be able to spot whales, puffins and other animals, and of course, glide through the water past enormous icebergs and glaciers.
6. Get a birds-eye view by going hang-gliding
Hang-gliding is growing in popularity, which is great news because that means the number of places you can learn to fly is growing. Hang glide over the lush rainforests of Hawaii, over California’s coastline in San Francisco or La Jolla or with mountain views in Salt Lake City or Sun Valley, Idaho. If you’re not ready to go at it solo, you can do tandem hang-glides with professionals who will make sure you’re safe so you can simply enjoy the views.
7. Hiking the Na Pali Coast
This long, mountainous hike is best hiked as an overnight backpacking trip. The coastal views and unreal scenery will easily make up for the long miles. The entire trail is 22 miles out and back along the cliffside coast of Kauai, so it’s best for experienced hikers. However, if you’re looking for an incredible summer adventure with surreal views: this really can’t be beat. Keep in mind that it is often closed during some parts of the year or after heavy rains for washouts and mudslides, so check in advance about any closures.
Not up for a multi-day hike? Sail along the coast instead, or check out some shorter hikes in the area that also offer beautiful views.
8. Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip
Spontaneous road trip or planning long in advance? That part’s up to you. Either way, the Pacific Coast Highway (aka Hwy 1) along California’s coast is one of the most beautiful roads in the US. Driving down it makes for one of the best summer adventures. The winding mountain road offers scenic vistas for nearly the entire journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles, along with plenty of places to stop and enjoy the panoramic views, swim, hike, see waterfalls and more.
California too far away for a road trip this summer? Check out our top road trip routes across North America and find something a bit nearer you.
9. Water adventures galore on the North Shore, Maui
For unique water sports and activities, look no further than Maui’s North Shore! (Oahu’s North Shore is known for being a water-sports hotspot too.) Take it easy with a beginner’s surfing class or head out for a few hours of snorkeling. Ready to kick it up a notch? Take on kitesurfing (basically surfing, but with a giant sail), windsurfing, cage diving with sharks and more.
10. Go zip-lining
From the Catskills Mountains in New York to Catalina Island off the coast of California, zipping down a zip-line course will get your adrenaline pumping and give you amazing views. Plus, it’s an easy activity that provides plenty of adventure without requiring you to have any prior training or skill. And it’s available just about everywhere!
11. Go base jumping in Twin Falls, Idaho
BASE jumping is technically a form of skydiving—but the jumps don’t happen from a plane. Instead, you’ll use a parachute to jump from bridges, buildings or other very tall structures. BASE jumping is very popular in the adventurous town of Twin Falls. You’ll find places where you can take a course to teach you how to safely make your first jump or you can tandem jump with a professional.
12. Try waterfall rappelling in the White Mountains, NH
Ever wanted to go waterfall rappelling? It’s a popular activity in Costa Rica, but you don’t have to travel all the way to Central America to enjoy one of the best summer adventures. In fact, you can try waterfall rappelling in New Hampshire’s White Mountains! Experienced guides will show you the ropes (literally) and guide you as you hike up to the top of 100+ foot waterfalls before safely rappelling down to the bottom. For a perfect way to cool off on a humid summer day and an unforgettable adventure, waterfall rappelling is a must!
13. Become scuba-certified in Panama City Beach, FL
For anyone who’s ever wanted to explore our Blue Planet a bit more, scuba diving is one of the best summer adventures. As far as adventure sports go, it’s pretty easy to learn. You can get scuba certified in as little as one weekend! Whether it’s your first dive or you’re already an experienced diver, Panama City Beach, Florida is one of the best places in the US for scuba diving. From undersea wrecks to explore, coral reefs, wildlife and more, there’s tons to explore.
14. Skydive over Niagara Falls
If you’re courageous enough to jump out of an airplane, better have some amazing views as you float back down to Earth, right? Skydiving is definitely one of the most unique ways to see Niagara Falls, and will be an unforgettable experience too! Beginners can do tandem jumps and still get all the amazing views. Since this is an activity that will for sure get your heart racing and give you a solid dose of adrenaline but is available for a variety of physical abilities, it’s hands-down one of our favorite summer adventures in the US.
15. Explore ice caves in Alaska (and beyond)
These otherworldly ice caves are a great way to both cool off during the summer and have an adventure that will make you feel as though you’ve traveled to another planet. From Alaska to Michigan to Washington, you’ll find ice caves around the country that you can explore. Guler Ice Caves in Washington and Castner Glacier Ice Cave in Southeast Fairbanks, Alaska are two of our favorites. Keep in mind: ice caves can be unstable particularly during the summer, so visit with a reputable tour guide and observe all posted signage about safety.
Which of these adventures is on your bucket list for this summer? Get your flights to one of these adventurous destinations and start planning your trip today before summer’s over!