Adventure trips is something we do quite well...it's in our name! So if you're graduating soon or just enjoy vacationing (who doesn't?) and want that last trip with your high school or college friends to be adrenaline pumping, crazy scenic, or otherwise out of the ordinary, then follow us on some of our top picks for adventure student travel.
Of course this frontier tundra state would be on our list with its grand expanses of impassable snow and ice, glaciers that date back millennia, and an insane number of natural, over-sized wildlife like grey and humpback whales. Of course, you can see the state's most scenic areas, plus the wildlife, from the decks of a cruise ship but if you're wanting an adventure among the pines, head into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the largest in the United States. As the park is in south-central Alaska, warm-er weather lasts longer than it does in the north so hike your way through the miles and miles of trails, outfit yourselves for a kayak or canoe trip on the water to get up-close to the whales and seals, or do some backpacking and camping up towards the two remnant volcanoes.
The second destination that we recommend in Alaska is the Kenai Fjords National Park, home to over 40 ancient ice flows including the Harding Icefield. You can hike on the ice, discover some of the most diverse populations of wildlife in the state, and finish up by visiting the iconic and glorious Exit Glacier. Camp, fish, kayak with the seals, hike, and become a mountaineer!
Move a little south and hit the states of Washington and Oregon, home to some of the best and brightest animal conservation practices, natural landscapes, and Olympic National Park. Several organizations in the area have worked tirelessly to protect the wild population of wolves, bears, cougars, mountain caribou, and a number of other species threatened by human civilization. You can even help out with these organizations in a volun-tourism vacation, volunteering to monitor or track animals, restoring native vegetation through planting, and much more.
If volunteering isn't what you pictured for your vacation, take a sea kayak eco-tour out to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Seattle, one of the best places in the country to whale watch for orcas. Olympic National Park, too, is a fabulous destination for any trip, adventurous or otherwise. With four major ecosystems including glaciated mountains and a temperate rainforest, the park is at once a wholly lush, green wonderland and a frozen beauty. Hike through the Olympic Mountain ranges, observe elk feed on grass in the Hoh Rainforest, and see the amazing size of the massive redcedar trees.
Drive the Pacific Coast Highway
We are going to keep going south on the major highway connecting Portland to Los Angeles, the PCH, otherwise known as California State Route 1. All along this trip you'll see some of the most beautiful scenery known to man, certainly some of the most gorgeous in the United States. Head from the Pacific Northwest into northern California, passing through the grand redwoods and quaint seaside villages, Victorian logging towns, and further down into mountainous regions and Mt. Shasta, a dormant volcano. Squiggle your way along the coast to central California wine country, through the valleys of Napa and Sonoma and swear that you're in Tuscany. Hit up San Francisco and its lovely attractions before you continue on through Monterey (make sure you stop by the Monterey Bay Aquarium) and Carmel-by-the-Sea, a quaint seaside village where Clint Eastwood was once mayor. Still south you finally touch Big Sur and its magnificent views even outside your windshield as you drive. After a few more hours you'll find yourself in L.A. and a few hours more will take you to San Diego. This is considered to be the single most beautiful drive in America, and for good reason.
You may think that the Keys aren't quite adventurous but you'd be sorely mistaken. The southernmost point of the United States, the Keys are a collection of over 1,700 islands created solely from exposed coral reef, not volcanic eruptions like their Caribbean sisters. However, you don't have to worry about visiting over a thousand islands as only 43 are connected by bridge and are civilized to maintain some of the most beautiful, wildlife and recreational intensive attractions in the U.S. If you enjoy fishing, Islamorada is your best bet with some of the most rewarding fishing adventures in the States, both deep sea and from the shore. This small collection of islands holds the record for the highest concentration of fishing tournaments and you're unlikely to catch bluegill, bass, or crappie here but sportfish like tuna and mahi.
Wildlife will get you even more attractions all over the Keys from the Everglades in the Upper Keys and Southern Florida to Big Pine Key holding two wildlife refuges and a marine sanctuary, all open to the visiting public. Finally, diving is perhaps the number one reason to come to the Keys, aside from the spectacular year round weather. While some Keys offer more underwater attractions than others, all of the Keys have magnificent underwater adventure opportunities. For the best, start in Key Largo in the Upper Keys, the dive capital of the world, and see Christ of the Abyss in only 25 feet of water off the coast, a sunken sculpture of Jesus raising his hands in supplication to the heavens. Also dive the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to see an abundance of picture-perfect creatures, reefs, and underwater structures.
Other Adventure Trip Ideas:
- White water rafting in Colorado
- Canoe on the Yellowstone River
- Hike through the Grand Canyon and raft on the Colorado River
- Kayak the Channel Islands or Apostle Islands
- Hike through the Hawaiian islands
- Camp under the stars in Arches National Park in Utah