10 epic American adventure vacations
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fly: United Airlines flies direct to Minneapolis/St. Paul.
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.
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.
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.
On March 19, 2020, United operated its first flight carrying cargo without passengers on board. While the passenger cabin was empty, its cargo hold was completely full, carrying more than 29,000 pounds of commodities from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA).
A year later, United Cargo has operated more than 11,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 570 million pounds of freight. To support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, United Cargo has also transported more than 113 million pounds of medical and pharmaceutical products on both cargo-only and passenger flights as well as approximately 10 million COVID-19 vaccines, providing global communities access to the items they have needed most.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, we knew we were uniquely positioned to utilize our widebody aircraft and our network to keep commodities moving, so we quickly mobilized various departments throughout the airline to launch a cargo-only network of flights that would keep commodities moving," said United Cargo President Jan Krems. "Thanks to those efforts, United Cargo has delivered millions of items to countries all around the world. We would not have been successful without the steadfast support of our employees, industry partners and our customers."
Since last March, United Cargo has transported almost 850 million pounds of freight on cargo-only and passenger flights. The airline will continue to monitor market trends adjust its cargo-only flight schedules to help ensure we are meeting our customer's evolving shipping needs.
Whether you haven't flown with us for a while or just need a quick refresher before your spring trip, read this list of tips to know before your flight and arrive at the airport travel-ready:
1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, travel assistance and more
Before your flight, download the United app to view your flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, locate departure gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. We've also updated our app with new features that can make your trip a little safer, including contactless bag check.
Don't forget to use Agent on Demand for help with any and all questions you may have before your flight. This new capability is available at all our U.S. hub airports and allows you to use your own mobile device to contact a customer service agent via phone, video or chat to help with day-of-travel questions while you're at the airport. Learn more about Agent on Demand here.
2. Check out the Travel-Ready Center
Our Travel-Ready Center makes it easy to get a personalized overview of everything you need to do in preparation for your flight. Just enter your confirmation number or MileagePlus® number and you'll find detailed information on all the documents, tests and more that you'll need for your trip.
3. Read and sign the Ready-to-Fly checklist
Before completing check-in, all United travelers will need to read our Ready-to-Fly checklist and confirm that they understand and agree to our policies. These include:
Acknowledging that you haven't had any symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
Agreeing that you will not fly if you have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 21 days
Confirming that you will follow all policies regarding face masks, social distancing and other health and safety measures we've adopted
4. Arrive early; avoid the stress
Airports can be busy, especially during peak travel periods like spring break season. The TSA advises arriving at the airport two hours before your flight for domestic travel and three hours for international travel in anticipation of long security lines. This can help ease the stress when navigating busy check-in areas, security lines and crowded boarding gates.
5. Get familiar with CleanPlus
United CleanPlus℠ is our commitment to delivering industry-leading cleanliness as we put health and safety at the forefront of your experience. We've teamed up with Clorox to redefine our cleaning and disinfection procedures and Cleveland Clinic to advise us on enhancing our cleaning and disinfection protocols, like:
Disinfecting high-touch areas on board and in the terminal
Using electrostatic spraying, Ultraviolet C lighting wands and more advanced measures to clean aircraft cabins before boarding
Redesigning our mobile app to allow for touchless check-in and contactless payment, along with enhanced travel assistance features
Implementing high-efficiency (HEPA) filters on our aircraft that completely recirculate cabin air every 2-3 minutes and remove 99.97% of airborne particles, including viruses and bacteria
Studies show COVID-19 exposure risk is minimal when air filtration systems and masks are in use, so you can rest assured that the steps we've taken to keep you safe truly make a difference.
6. Wear your mask
Federal law requires all travelers to wear a face mask in the airport, including customer service counters, airport lounges, gates and baggage claim, and on board during their entire flight. Make sure you review the requirements for face masks, including what an acceptable face mask looks like.
7. Get ready for a safer boarding process
To make boarding even safer, we now have travelers board their aircraft from back to front. At the gate, just listen for your row number to be called – we'll ask a few rows at a time to board, starting with the last row of the plane. This helps everyone maintain a safe distance from each other during boarding without slowing things down. As you step onto the plane, flight attendants will hand each passenger a sanitizing towelette, which you can use to wipe down your seat to ensure it's extra clean.
8. Pack smart
Before packing your bags, check to see what exactly you can carry on and what you should plan to check. You can also copy your confirmation number into our Baggage Calculator tool to learn about the bag allowance included with your reservation, as well as the cost of checking any additional bags.
9. Check your flight status, important notices and weather
Check the United app regularly for the latest updates on weather conditions, flight status, gate numbers and seat assignments. You can also visit our Important Notices page to find essential information and updates about travel waivers, international travel, TSA and security, airports and United Club locations.
10. Relax and enjoy your flight
Once you're on board, it's time to sit back and enjoy your flight. Our flight attendants will be happy to help you with anything else you need.
This week, we were honored to become the first U.S. airline to join the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by transporting the vaccine and other critically needed supplies to underserved areas of the globe.
"We are committed to helping the global community in any way we can, and we all must work together to do our part to bring this health and humanitarian crisis to an end," said Director of Cargo Specialty Products Manu Jacobs.
We will leverage our expertise to transport these critical pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments around the world safely, efficiently and expediently. We are proud to partner with the United Nations to support this global effort and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.
Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Take your next video call from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude with United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Newly added to our collection is a background encouraging our employees and customers to vote. Our mission is to connect people and unite the world — and one of the most important ways to do that is to engage in the democratic process. No matter which party you support, we know our democracy will be stronger if you make your voice heard and vote.
So for your next meeting or catch up with friends and family, download the app to either your computer or mobile device to get started.
To use on Zoom:
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
To use on Microsoft Teams:
- Start by downloading your favorite United image to your computer. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- C:\[insert your device user name here]\AppData\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads
- If you're using a Mac copy the images to this folder on your computer:
- /users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- Once you start a Teams meeting, click the "…" in the menu bar and select "Show background effects" and your image should be there
Watch our most popular videos
This is why we fly.
20 UCSF Health workers, who voluntarily set aside their own lives to help save lives, are on their way to New York City.
We are humbled by your selfless sacrifice.
In celebration and appreciation of all first responders and essential workers. 👏🏻👏🏼👏🏽👏🏾👏🏿
This is the story of Jason and Shantel. You see, Jason and Shantel love each other very much. They also love traveling and they love the classic Adam Sandler film, The Wedding Singer.
It all began when Jason reached out to United's social media team, hoping for assistance with his upcoming plan to propose. Some phone calls and one borrowed guitar later, the stage was set for Jason. Put all that together, mix in some helpful United employees and, voila, you have a truly memorable marriage proposal. Congratulations to this fun-loving and happy couple, and here's to many more years of making beautiful music together.
A big thank you to Chicago-based flight attendants Donna W., Marie M., Karen J. and Mark K. for making this proposal come to life.