Feature photo by ccate. Photo above by DanieVDM.

Over the years, certain places with particularly good access to rivers, mountains, surf, and other natural features have cultivated entire communities based on outdoor recreation.
These towns are the best in the world for adventure!

Photo by LizMarie.

Valdez, Alaska

One of the premier heli-skiing locations in the world, Valdez offers access to the snow-drenched steeps and spines of the Chugach Range.

For mellower adventures, Prince William Sound offers sea kayaking and tours into surrounding glaciers. Check out Points North for heli-skiing packages.

Photo by Michael Scheltgen.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver’s North Shore invented freeride mountain biking. Huge drops. Crazy, winding wood bridges and planks. Sick jumps. This is the North Shore’s bread and butter.

Haven’t gotten enough? Head two hours north to Whistler and drop into backcountry via helicopter and bike your way out.

When the snow begins to fall, Vancouver offers access to many ski resorts including Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, Mt. Seymour, just minutes from downtown, and Whistler, North America’s largest resort, to the north.

Also, check out Matador’s complete guide to heli-skiing in British Colombia.

Photo by woodleywonderworks.

Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson Hole is a name that produces an automatic tingle down the spine of anyone who’s ever ridden planks or boarded down a snow-covered slope.

Jackson is home to some of the most serious riding, both in-bounds and backcountry, in the lower 48. The town is less-known for the multitude of other sports it offers year-round, including mountain biking, backcountry hikes and paragliding.

Jackson is also a jumping off point for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, offering the most diverse wildlife viewing in the lower 48.

Photo by JasonRogers.

Moab, UT

Moab’s 4 x 4 roads, rock-strewn trails and slickrock have given it the reputation as “Mountain Biking Capital of the World.”

The rugged, high desert is a breeding ground for any off-road adventure—ATVing, dirt biking, buggying, jeeping And the hoodoos rising above the desert floor and canyons that cut through acres of red rock are ideal for climbing and canyoneering.

The Green and Colorado Rivers also offer whitewater excursions. Try a Moab multi-sport package.

Photo by uLe @ Dortmund.

Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Puerto Escondido is famous for its break off Zicatela Beach, dubbed the Mexican Pipeline. It is one of the heaviest barrels on the Pacific Coast, a classic surf destination in Mexico.

In addition, adventure-seekers can enjoy kayaking, scuba diving and eco tours into the surrounding jungles and mountains.

Turrialba, Costa Rica

With a reputation as a whitewater paradise for its local rivers, the Reventazon and Pacuare, Turrialba is also a key hub for multi-day mountain biking, hiking, and backpacking trips.

Mountain bike or raft through lush rainforests and volcanic valleys. If you’re on an adrenaline binge, bike from Turrialba to the Pacific Coast and pick up a board for some of Costa Rica’s world class surfing.

For the foot traveler, summit the Turrialba Volcano or take a look 3000 years in the past at the Guayabo National Monument. Check out costaricaadventures.net.

Photo by sancho_panza.

Arequipa, Peru

With its location in the shadow of 19er volcanic peaks such as El Misti and Chachani, Arequipa is a mountain climber’s dream town.

If climbing mountains isn’t your game, Arequipa also offers whitewater paddling through the depths of the Cotahuasi Canyon, arguably the world’s deepest gorge (over 2 miles) and mountain biking treks from high in the Andes down into the Amazon Jungle.

Check out peruadventures.com for these and other epic options.

Photo by ccate.

Futaleufu, Chile

The small town of Futaleufu in Patagonian Chile accesses the river by the same name–a river many lifelong kayakers consider the most beautiful and challenging in the wold.

This alone would earn it a place on the list, but with access to Andean Peaks and treks through Patagonia, the town is ripe for multi-sport adventures like few other locales in South America. Many companies run trips down the Futaleufu; here’s one: earthriver.com.

Grytviken, South Georgia Island

Antarctica needed to be on this list—the continent possesses elements of frontier and adventure exploration like nowhere else on earth. So although Grytviken is not a traditional town, it earns its rank.

Grytviken offers an historical look back into great Antarctic excursions of the past, housing the gravesite of British explorer Ernest Shackleton, a museum and remnants of an early 20th century whaling colony.

South Georgia is a popular stop on many Antarctic trips and is home to hundreds of thousands of penguins, several species of seal and albatross. Prepare for your Antarctic excursion.

Photo by DanieVDM.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is revered worldwide for the huge swells off its white-sand beaches. In addition to killer surfing, the waters that surround the city are great for kite surfing and sea kayaking.

If you prefer to stay dry, pick up a sandboard and head out to the white sand dunes of Atlantis, a nature reserve about 40 minutes outside of Cape Town. Or, if you’re tired of just staring at Table Mountain, climb to the top by foot or cable car and repel or mountain bike down.

Check out Cape Town’s Downhill Adventures for these and other packages.

Photo by travellingtamas.

Interlaken, Switzerland

One ski pass for the Jungfrau Top Ski Region will earn you access to over 128 miles of ski trails across 3 resorts, connected to Interlaken by mountain railway.

Not enough? Jump in a helicopter and ride a remote slice of the Alps. Also try ice climbing or glacier treks. Summertime brings sports like mountaineering, bungee jumping from gondolas, sky diving and zorbing—rolling down a hill inside a big plastic ball—to the fray.

Canyons such as Grimsel and Saxeten offer thrilling canyoning—repelling and leaping into canyons— amidst cascading waterfalls.

Find out more on your own: alpinraft.com or swissalpineguides.ch.

Photo by kennymatic.

Voss, Norway

Voss’s setting amidst the peaks and fjords of western Norway has earned it a rep as a world capital for the fringe sport of BASE jumping.

After landing, kayak or raft Class III-V rapids on the Stranda and Randaul Rivers. If you’d prefer running rapids via riverboard, try it out under close professional supervision at Voss Rafting Senter. The Center also offers repelling on the 500-foot Tvinnefossen waterfall and canyoning/cliff jumping options.

Once dry, be sure to try out para-bungee, in which you’re hoisted 600 feet into the air on a giant parasail platform to bungee 300 feet below. Oh, and Voss is also one of Norway’s largest ski towns.

Shegar, Tibet

It would be difficult to complete this list without including the most revered, infamous adventure of them all—Everest. The tiny town of Shegar, Tibet is the last stop on the northern route to Everest Base Camp.

Although Shegar may be a small, one-trick pony; the trick is pretty huge and significant. Himalayan scenery doesn’t hurt either.

Photo by showmeone.

Queenstown, New Zealand

The mountains and waters surrounding Queenstown are home to many classic outdoor sports: whitewater, heli-skiing, climbing, jet boating and mountain biking, to name a few.

Queenstown decided that its natural endowments weren’t enough and helped craft some of the world’s more insane sports. AJ Hackett, one of bungee’s pioneer jumpers and entrepreneurs, founded a bungee operation in Queenstown on the Kawarau Bridge back in the late 80’s.

Since then, bungee jumping has flourished in the city. Apparently, bungee was a little too one dimensional— Queenstown’s 359-foot Shotover Canyon Swing allows you to swing out over the canyon after dropping nearly 200 feet. Pretty sick. Check out Queenstown adventure for more information.

COMMUNITY CONNECTION

For first-timer recommendations about adventure sports in the great outdoors, check out Dana Ranill’s “A First Timer’s Guide to Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding.”

For a classic profile on the pioneers of today’s gravity sports, check out David Miller’s article “Feeling Gravity’s Pull.”

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