1. Paddling West Virginia’s New River
This is one you can do right away: the Class IV rapids on the New River run year-round, right through the heart of West Virginia. If your traveling companions don’t paddle, the New River Gorge area offers plenty of other activities, including zip-lining and rock climbing.
2. Rock Climbing in Zion National Park, Utah
Zion is the land of big walls, and its sandstone cliffs have routes for climbers of every level, from modest, well-bolted sport walls to inaccessible, multi-day lines thousands of feet high.
If you’re planning to hit up Zion, be prepared: climbing sandstone presents challenges you won’t see on granite. Wait to climb after rains, and make sure to back up any protection you place.
3. Wreck Diving in the Great Lakes
Divers who keep to warm-water destinations like the Caribbean are missing out: there’s world-class diving in the Great Lakes. The main attractions in the Lakes are thousands of perfectly preserved shipwrecks, some of them hundreds of years old.
Beginners looking to get their feet wet can get started at the Wells Burt, a 19th-century wooden schooner that sits in about 30 feet of water off of Chicago’s near north suburbs.
4. Trekking Colorado’s Fourteeners
Colorado has 55 peaks with altitudes of 14,000 feet or more. Some of them, like Mt. Elbert, are fairly straightforward trail hikes; others, like Pyramid Peak, involve difficult scrambling or technical climbing.
Matador Trips co-editor Hal Amen recommends Quandary Peak as a good first fourteener for aspiring mountaineers.
5. Big Wave Surfing in Waimea Bay, Hawaii
Waimea Bay is one of the world’s hottest spots for big wave chasers, with swells topping off at over 30 feet during the winter surf season. The break is famous as the site of the Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau. Held only in years when when waves reach a height of 20 feet or more, the tournament has only occurred seven times since being founded in 1984.
What adventures are you planning for 2010? Let us know in the comments.