Adrenaline Hype: Extreme Adventures to Be Had in USA’s National Parks

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By: Lisa Evans
Published: February 6, 2017
Last Update: Nov 29, 2022

Adventure seekers, look no further than national parks to give yourself the thrill that you have been searching for. From the Grand Canyon to the Everglades, various locations throughout the US will have your pulse racing while keeping you in the midst of an adrenaline-fueled extreme adventure. Make a list and start vacation planning!

Acadia: Grand Tour Bike Route

At 68 miles long, the Grand Tour bike route is not for the faint of heart. For those who love a challenge, it is possible to travel the entire route in one day while taking some of the area’s best sights in along the way. If that sounds like too far a distance to travel in just one day, you can always break the adventure up over the course of a couple of days, spending a little bit of extra time at each of the different landmarks along the way.

Acadia Grand Tour Bike Route

Denali: Dogsled the Terrain

For many adventurers, dogsledding often tops the list of things that they would like to do in the near future. At this national park, you can enjoy single-day adventures or multiday adventures depending on your ability to stand the extreme weather and snow. It is possible to venture out into the wilderness with a guide for up to ten days for anyone looking to test his or her limits on adventure. If this sounds like too much of a challenge, there are lots of opportunities to head out just for one day and experience the Alaskan terrain.

Denali Dogsled the Terrain


Dry Tortugas National Park: Snorkeling

If you are looking for somewhere remote to visit, Dry Tortugas National Park certainly fits the bill. Named for the large number of sea turtles in the area, there is more than just a former defensive bastion and prison. With seven different coral islands all grouped together nearby, snorkeling provides lots of opportunities for exploration and adventure. To add to the experience, consider camping overnight, giving yourself more time to spend in the water. Kayaking is also available to visitors who want to take in the views above the water.

Dry Tortugas National Park Snorkeling

Everglades: Mangrove Swamps

At first, canoeing may not seem like that much of an adventure. It just requires steady movement through the water and not much else, right? However, with countless marshes, the opportunity for exploration is nearly unlimited. The mangroves alone are well worth the visit to the Everglades, but it is the wildlife in the area that adds some extreme to this adventure. It isn’t unusual to see things like dolphins or manatees while making your way around. Of course, alligators are also common residents of this area.

Everglades Mangrove Swamps

Grand Canyon: The Rapids

Rafting is a great way to get up close and personal with adventure. The Colorado River makes its way through the Grand Canyon and can take you on the ride of a lifetime. Trips that focus on the lower portion of the canyon tend to be the most challenging. As a side note, while heading out on this adventure, there is a lot to see along the way. No matter which route you take, the tall sides of the canyon are all around, a sight that most visitors aren’t privileged to see. Multiday rafting adventures are available for true thrill-seekers.

Grand Canyon The Rapids

Grand Teton National Park: Skiing

Looking for an adventure in the snow? Grand Teton National Park is a Mecca for skiers everywhere. With more than 500 inches of snow perfect for skiing and snowboarding, it makes sense that thrill-seekers are desperate to visit the white-powder-covered park. Throughout the area, there are places to skip over the trail and head out following the natural landscape. Even experienced skiers should consider going out with a guide or at least signing up for some training as it can be tricky to get through certain parts of the park alone and without a clear understanding of what to do in case of emergency.

Grand Teton National Park Skiing

Mount Rainier: Skyline Trail

At first glance, the Skyline Trail may not seem like much of a challenge. In fact, it only stretches a little over five and a half miles. During the excursion, hikers will be subjected to a 1400-foot gain in elevation. This means that part of the hike involves some serious climbing - enough to slow down those who may not be in tip-top shape. Despite the challenge, much like some of the other adventures mentioned, beautiful scenery, including a peek at a snow-capped volcano, surrounds you as you make your way through the trail.

Mount Rainier Skyline Trail

Sand Dunes National Park: Sand sledding

Aspen is usually known for skiing, but why take in the white powder when you can take advantage of the sand dunes in a similar way? There are only a handful of places in the entire world where you can get this type of experience. Look for some real challenges at locations like Jean-Claude Killy and Lawrence of Arabia. The experience can be tough for most and it isn’t always easy to get rid of all the sand that makes its way home with you. At night, be sure to check out the sky and maybe even sign up for an astronomy program.

Sand Dunes National Park Sand sledding

Yosemite: Rock Climb El Capitan

El Capitan is often considered a rock climber’s paradise. Throughout the park, there are lots of routes to take and anyone from an expert to a newbie will have the opportunity to experience the thrill. For those with a keen sense of adventure, El Capitan is the way to go. Most of the time, climbers with considerable experience will be able to make at least part of the climb in less than five hours. This is a serious commitment to making your way up the cliffs the hard way. For those looking for something more extreme, there are options for climbing and staying overnight to keep the level of intensity high during a visit.

Yosemite Rock Climb El Capitan

Zion National Park: River Hike

A 16-mile trail awaits anyone interested in taking on this challenge. The entire time, the trail follows along the Virgin River, and it isn’t uncommon to be ankle-deep in water during the whole walk, adding to the challenge. Thrill-seekers might want to head to the park during the rainy season as flash floods will quickly take over the terrain, sending hikers heading for higher ground as quickly as possible. The hike offers a direct competition between the hiker and Mother Nature.

Zion National Park River Hike