What are your most memorable adventures in the U.S.? We’re willing to bet they involved a bit of adrenaline, a healthy dose of new experiences, and a wallop of visual impact. Whether you’re jumping out of a plane, sweeping down a mountain, or zipping along the prettiest stretches of highway, you live for the thrill of living life to the hilt. That’s why we’ve curated a list of places too beautiful to miss, flush with activities to get your heart racing.
To find these towns, we combed more than 54 million social media posts, looking at conversations on topics like #adventure and #goexplore, and picked the most talked-about and hashtagged. From one corner of the country to another, here are some of the most beautiful places for adventure.
Scenically situated at the northern tip of the Chilkoot Inlet, this gold mining town is rich in natural features. Take the scenic Alaska Marine Highway between Haines and Skagway, or drive the whole 360-mile Golden Circle.
Adventure: The enticing Chilkoot Trail is a 10-mile drive from Skagway, and has an overnight parking area at the National Park Service campground if you plan to camp.
Tip: Whether adventuring or driving (or both!), coming prepared with emergency kits, tools, and extra fuel (both food or gas) is essential.
Take the 14-mile scenic drive from the visitor’s center in town to the mountain. Views from the Old Ski Bowl area are sweeping and grand, so park and stay awhile.
Adventure: Shasta Mountain Guides will take you on a mountaineering journey to suit your fancy—choose from expedition, slow and steady, or alpine style.
Tip: Make sure your rental car is roomy and well-stocked because you’ll want to take time to explore charming surrounding towns, Dunsmuir and McCloud.
With several nearby ski resorts, miles of hiking trails, Lake Superior, and all the natural assets of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Ironwood is a year-round adventure destination.
Adventure: Conquer Copper Peak at the Red Bull 400, which sees runners attempt a demanding 400-meter uphill sprint, or on the adrenaline-stirring Adventure Ride, where you can view the surrounding land from 26 stories up. Drive about 62 miles northwest to kayak the sea caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Tip: To tie a kayak to a car rack most effectively, use cam straps and crossbars.
Within an hour drive of Glacier National Park, Polson features valley views and a great seat on the southern shore of Flathead Lake.
Adventure: Adrenaline seekers should choose the whitewater trip with Flathead Raft Company. Stick to calmer waters on Flathead Lake when you pick up a pontoon at Polson Boat Rentals.
Tip: Take the highly drivable Kerr Dam Road and descend the stairs to the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ landmark dam for inspiring sights.
All seasons bring something special to the pretty capital city, though autumn leaves are a special draw. The Kennebec River offers thrills, and wildlife watching is a cherished state-wide activity.
Adventure: Take a 40-mile drive north to Pittsfield. From here you can jump out of a plane with Vacationland Skydiving.
Tip: Rent a roomy car and make your way up the eastern seaboard—Maine is a great final destination on an East Coast road trip.
This sleepy university town is infused with fresh mountain air and filled with places to escape into the wilderness, like Logan River and nearby Tony Grove Lake.
Adventure: Rock climbing opportunities are plentiful in Logan Canyon, or, if you prefer to stay indoors, head to Elevation Rock Gym.
Tip: Take the road to Wellsville, then park the car and step back in time at American West Heritage Center to pet baby goats and learn to milk cows and spin wool.
Inviting and highly explorable, this New York gem has much to offer adventurous travelers, from nearby skiing to water sports on Chautauqua Lake.
Adventure: Chautauqua Backroad Adventures has unforgettable experiences at a slower pace, with experts taking you on birding, nature, or culture quests.
Tip: Store sightseeing equipment like binoculars, walking sticks, and other tools in accessible spots, keep them free from luggage, and pack them in the car last to avoid having to remove everything to reach them.
Glenwood Caverns is part adventure park, part cave exploration, and nearby Hanging Lake Park is a hike with remarkable views in every season. Also, Glenwood Hot Springs can help to soak away the pains of the day.
Adventure: Take your pick of action with Glenwood Adventure Company. Psst: paragliding offers the right vantage point to take in the striking scenery.
Tip: Drive the Flat Tops Scenic and Historic Byway to camp in the White River National Forest.
Kauai’s capital is completely surrounded by adventure opportunities most people only see in movies. Want to take a helicopter ride around a verdant island or drive straight up to a rainbow-making waterfall? You can from Lihue.
Adventure: Let Wings Over Kauai take you on a personal tour in a Cessna or Air Van 1 plane.
Tip: Take the Kaumualii Highway and Waimea Canyon Drive to the Waimea Canyon Lookout, where the views are jaw-dropping even from the car window.
High desert mountains offer some of the best places for adventure. Situated a comfortable driving distance to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff’s full of can’t-miss sights.
Adventure: Great weather through many of the seasons make this area perfect for mountain biking. Absolute Bikes will set you up with equipment and advice on the best local trails.
Tip: Rent a car with enough trunk space to fit a bike, and check to see if your rental company also rents bike racks.
Adventure is all the more exciting when it comes with a side of eye candy. So head to one of these gorgeous places on your next excursion, or check them all off your list as you go.