10 Epic American Adventure Vacations - United Hub
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10 epic American adventure vacations

By Nick Harper, September 09, 2016

Sometimes, the prospect of idling a week or two of vacation away on a beach can leave you restless. Sometimes, the lure of adventure cannot be ignored. Luckily, America's great outdoors offer options for anyone looking to work up a sweat while expanding their mind. From a supporting cast of thousands, here are 10 we most heartily recommend:

Yosemite National Park, California

Explore Yosemite's extremes, California

If the gods of the great outdoors had drawn up an adventure blueprint, it would look very much like Yosemite National Park. Four hours east of San Francisco lies a whole other world, where waterfalls crash from vast granite cliffs, crystal-clear streams cut through giant forests of ancient sequoias and awe-inspiring views appear at every turn. You can hike, bike and raft in the summer months, or ski once the winter arrives. You can push yourself to the limit or just take it easy and smell the flowers along the way, because with 1,200 square miles, there's enough for everyone to uncover here.

Duration: Flexible.

Fly: United Airlines flies direct to San Francisco.

Everglades in Florida

Go on an Everglades adventure, Florida

The tropical wetland at the tip of Florida is an area prime for easy but rewarding exploration. Dragonfly Expeditions offers a three-night, four-day foray that will lead you to the best the Everglades has to offer. You'll hike past orchids, bromeliads and ancient wonders, bike to the old and untouched Indian trading post, ride a canoe into Chokoloskee Bay and take a boat through the Ten Thousand Islands to explore where the Everglades meet the Gulf of Mexico. Expect sandy beaches, mangrove islands and smiles all around.

Duration: 4 days.

Fly: United Airlines flies direct to Miami.

John Muir Trail in California

Follow the trail of John Muir, California

The John Muir Trail is not to be taken lightly. Traversed on foot for over 225 miles and 23 days, it's considered by many to be America's premier hiking trail; it will put up stiff resistance, but it's worth the effort. Named after the Scottish-American naturalist and early-wilderness preservation advocate, Muir also went by the name “John of the Mountains" — and these are some of those mountains. You'll begin in Yosemite National Park, then venture through the Sierra Nevada mountain range, across three national parks and up to the dramatic conclusion at Mount Whitney — at 14,505 feet, the highest peak in the contiguous United States. It might make you wonder if you've bitten off more than you can chew until you stand still and admire the scenery.

Duration: 23 days.

Fly: United Airlines flies direct to San Francisco and Sacramento.

Mackay Wilderness River Trips in Idaho

Rafting the wilderness, Idaho

For those intrepid enough to sign up, it's possible to raft the canyons of Idaho's mighty Main Salmon River on a five-or-six-day excursion. Also known as “the River of No Return," it is the longest free-flowing river system in the United States —and rest assured, you will return, having come closer to nature than ever before. Run by Mackay Wilderness River Trips, the staff sets up luxury camps along the route so that when the rafting ends each day, you can refuel on high-end cuisine and rest blissfully beneath the stars.

Duration: 5–6 days.

Fly: United Airlines flies direct to San Francisco.

Grand Canyon

Dig deep at the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Should you require a reminder of just how small you are in the grand scheme of things, you may sign up for a four-day rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon that will provide a little perspective. Offered each year from June through August, the hike takes you from an elevation of 8,000 feet down to the very bottom of the Grand Canyon, a mile beneath its rim. The trails are well trodden and beginner-friendly, and you'll rest each night beneath the widest sky you've ever seen.

Duration: 3–4 days.

Fly: United Airlines flies direct to Las Vegas.

Kokopelli Trail in Colorado and Utah

Conquer the Kokopelli Trail, Colorado

Taking its name from the Native American fertility deity, the Kokopelli Trail is a five-day 142-mile mountain biking journey through the most picturesque stretches of Colorado and Utah. Perfect for bikers looking for a challenge, the trail begins near Colorado's Grand Junction, follows the banks of the Colorado River and climbs up secluded trails into Utah's Canyon Country. A number of long and dramatic ascents take you up to over 8,000 feet, pushing lungs and legs to the limit.

Duration: 5 days.

Fly: United Airlines flies direct to Grand Junction.

Apostle Islands on Lake Superior in Wisconsin

Kayak the Apostle Islands, Wisconsin

Comprised of 22 islands in Lake Superior, just a few hours drive from Minneapolis, this national park makes wilderness adventure easily accessible to kayakers of all levels. Paddlers from across the U.S. and beyond are drawn to the natural beauty of Lake Superior where caves and otherworldly rock formations await. Itineraries for all levels of experience are available, from a two-day beginner's option, to the advanced six-night “Lighthouse Tour." And for the truly intrepid, tick the box marked cliff diving and return with full bragging rights. Back on solid ground, nearby Bayfield is a town worth exploring at leisure; Raspberry Island Lighthouse should not — and cannot — be missed, while Madeline Island offers great biking and hiking routes for those whose legs crave a little more action.

Duration: Flexible.

Fly: United Airlines flies direct to Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Big Island in Hawaii

Hike the Big Island, Hawaii

It'd be difficult to find a place better suited to adventure than Hawaii's Big Island, a land of volcanoes, hardened lava deserts, snowcapped mountains and lush tropical rainforests. Akaka Falls State Park, Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historic Park and Waipio Valley offer miles of trails to explore — not to mention Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, home to the active, fire-spitting Kilauea volcano. And if the trails take their toll, the golden, black and (in some cases) green sand beaches are a great place to recharge. America's 50th state should probably be first on your list of adventure vacations.

Duration: Flexible.

Fly: United Airlines flies direct to Hilo.

Bison on the Northern Great Plains in Montana

Explore untouched America, Montana

For more than a decade now, American Prairie Reserve has been working to restore the Northern Great Plains to the untouched condition they were discovered in more than 200 years ago. The result is a 300,000-acre reserve in northeast Montana, the largest wildlife park in the lower 48 states. Home to free-roaming herds of bison, elk and mule deer, these vast lands can be explored on foot, by mountain bike or on horseback. Take a tour by four-wheel drive, enjoy wildlife sightings or paddle a good chunk of the twisting, turning Missouri River. At the end of each day, you can sleep literally under the stars, or lay your head at Kestrel Camp, a collection of luxurious yurts with all the mod cons of home.

Duration: Flexible

Fly: United Airlines flies to Billings, Bozeman and Great Falls.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Be fearless, Las Vegas

If your idea of a vacation involves stunt fighting, fire walking and driving at terrifying speeds, you may like our 10th pick. An increasingly popular alternative to the beach is to sign up for a Stunt Experience and learn the secrets of the Hollywood stunt world under the watchful gaze of trained experts and the Las Vegas sun. Over five days, small groups are put through exercises in an array of skills that may have your beach-bound friends questioning your sanity. Remind them, upon your return, that you only live once.

Duration: 5 days.

Fly: United Airlines flies direct to Las Vegas

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