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The Ultimate Thrill-Seeker’s Bucket List

Do you love a good rush of adrenaline? Are you always chasing a thrill? There’s no better place to get your fix than national and state parks. From zip lining and steep hikes to bungee jumping and sleeping on the side of a cliff, there’s certainly no shortage of thrill-seeking activities in our parks.

And if those suggestions make you excited (and not breathing into a paper bag like some of us), well, do we have the adrenaline junkie’s bucket list for you.

Whitewater rafting at Yellowstone National Park

A wet and wild adventure awaits you when you hop on a raft in the Yellowstone River. Yankee Jim Canyon, just 13 miles north of Yellowstone National Park, is known for its Class III and Class IV rapids – the largest rapids on the river outside of the park (rafting is not allowed in the park).

This one is not for the faint of heart. It’s recommended that you’re in good physical shape to take on the rapids. Yankee Jim George, who the canyon is named after, was an early settler who built a toll road through the canyon, but once the railroad took off Yankee Jim was out of business. Maybe that explains the particularly raging “Yankee Jim’s Revenge” rapid.

Early summer is the best time to try your hand at Yankee Jim Canyon. May and June are when the river swells with snow melt and the flow can reach 30,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) or even higher. For reference, low flow is often below 500 cfs.

Rock climbing at Yosemite National Park

Where better to expand your rock-climbing resume than at the birthplace of rock climbing itself?

If you’re an experienced climber searching for your next challenge, look no further than El Capitan at Yosemite National Park. El Capitan has been called “one of the world’s ultimate challenges for climbers” and stands at more than 3,000 feet, the largest continuous wall in the U.S. In 2015, two climbers free-climbed El Capitan’s Dawn Wall for the first time in history. It took them 19 days, using only their hands and feet.

Or go for Half Dome – the most iconic symbol of the park. Rising 4,737 feet above Yosemite Valley, Half Dome was carved by glaciers and actually never had a matching half. There are several routes you can take, depending on your skill level.

Not ready to tackle a big climb on your own? There are guides and lessons available, as well as equipment rentals to make your climb the best and safest (but still exhilarating) experience.

Helicopter Tour at Grand Canyon National Park

One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is one that’s best seen by air. Sure, you might have flown over it in an airplane, but helicopter tours can fly 1,000 feet lower, giving you a better look at the amazing details of the canyon.

When you take off from the South Rim of the canyon, you’ll get to see the most dramatic, widest, deepest parts. The heart of the canyon, 5,000 feet below you, is home to the Colorado River. You’ll also see Imperial Point and Dragon Corridor, the most photogenic parts of the canyon.

Go all in if you opt for the helicopter tour. The longer tour (45 minutes) lets you see even more spectacular views and gives the pilot extra time to describe what you’re seeing out your window.

WhiRlpool Jet Boat Tour - Niagara Falls

If you’re wondering, “Am I going to get wet?” you might want to stay home for this one.

There is absolutely nothing like getting soaked by the legendary waters of Niagara Falls. This Whirlpool Jet Tour is the closest you can get in the water to the power of the Niagara. The trip is located down river from the falls, travels into the Niagara Gorge, through the famous whirlpool and then through the Devil’s Hole rapids.

This 45-minute roller coaster ride on the water isn’t for anyone with back, neck, or heart issues – and if you’re pregnant, you’ll have to skip this adventure. Devil’s Hole rapids isn’t something to mess around with. You’ll be met with 15 to 20 foot waves and a non-negotiable Class V rapids rating. Get ready to be in knee-deep water – while you’re in the boat.

The Wet Jet boat, a custom-built commercial jet boat that holds 48 to 62 passengers, traverses the waters unlike any other vessel and is sure to leave you soaked (and smiling) from ear to ear.

So… Which adventure are you headed for first?

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