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Top U.S. Summer Outdoor Adventures

By Gisel Habibnejad

The world is our playground and it’s waiting to be discovered. So put down your cell phones and gadgets, because the outdoors is calling your name. The U.S. has plenty of hidden gems; all you need is the perfect map to guide you in the right direction. We scoured the country in search of some of the most overlooked destinations in America. What better way to celebrate the beauty of our country than with the great outdoors?


Photography Courtesy of The Gorge & Green River Adventures

Opened in 2006, the youngest destination on our list might also be the most adventurous one. Securing its #12 spot on National Geographic’s Ultimate Adventure Bucket List last year, The Gorge and Green River Adventures, located in Saluda, North Carolina, gives vacationers lots of fun activities to choose from; zip lining and white river rafting are among the many. However, the most unique attraction includes waterfall rappelling. What began as a kayaking staple rapidly turned into a full-blown water adventure park. The 200 foot waterfall will leave you soaked but is sure to give you all the experience you need to fulfill your rappelling skills. You might even be lucky enough to have a helping hand from a salamander that can be seen clinging to the wall. Now, for those interested in zip lining, this attraction has a special treat for you. Home to the steepest and fastest zip line canopy in America, their zip line drops 1,100 feet, landing in the Green River.

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Photography Courtesy of Ithaca CVB

Ithaca, New York has much more to offer beyond Cornell University. It houses beautiful and jawdropping
waterfalls with a lovely green backdrop. This destination is comprised of the perfect getaway if you are looking to relax. Waterfalls here come in all shapes and sizes. The beauty of it all is that anywhere you turn, an alluring scenery is waiting to take your breath away. Take long walks, climb hills, or just watch the waterfalls in their majestic setting. The history behind its natural charm comes from ice 15,000 years ago. When the glaciers separated and disappeared, the waterfalls came into existence. The exposed rocks that can be seen all around are actually considered to be evidence of the sea that once covered the landscape half a million years ago.

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Photography Courtesy of Arizona State Parks

In 1974, local cavers discovered Kartchner Caverns hidden away between Benson and San Pedro River in Arizona. The cave passageways were kept a secret for fourteen years in order to prevent vandalism. The cavers decided the best way to preserve the caves was to make it property of the state park. In 1999, it finally opened to the public. The two main attractions featured here are the Big Room and the Throne Room. The Big Room houses the world record of largest formation of brushite moon milk. For those who are not speleologists, these are pale prismatic, creamy crystals found in limestone caves. The Throne Room contains the world’s longest soda straw stalactites, which are long, thin tubular stalactites that leak water. However, these are blocked where it would normally leak and therefore form stalactites. As for the animal life, thousands of bats nest during the late spring and summer in the Big Room.

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Watkins Glen_JR-8778comp4-2_sm
Photography Courtesy of NYS Parks/J Rozell

Watkins Glen State Park, located in New York, has been in business since 1924. The park’s center attraction is given to a 400-foot deep gorge which has a stream of waterfalls and rapids running along it. This beautiful sight was caused during the Ice Age by glaciers that deepened and later formed what we see today. Here, visitors can climb the waterfalls from mid-May until November. The park contains three trails that extend along the gorge where you can set up picnics, shop at the gift shop, and adventure through the playground.

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Photography Courtesy of Above & Beyond Alaska, LLC

The 12-mile long Mendenhall Glacier located in Alaska is able to do something only a few other places in the world can do. This destination allows you to experience every stage of the water cycle at once. The spectacle of it doesn’t end here; the hollow glaciers contain running water while being surrounded by ocean-blue walls and ceilings. Words and photographs will never do justice to such a natural wonder. Visitors can even kayak through the ice caves until they reach the glacier. Then, they can climb over the caves. Unfortunately, this magical destination is rapidly retreating due to global warming. It has been closely monitored since 1942 and since then has decreased in size by 2 miles.

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From gorges to glaciers, adventure can be explored in our very own backyard – you just have to discover it!

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