Hiking, boating, climbing, biking: they’re all great ways of getting out and seeing the world. But when you want to be force fed a dose of adrenaline and elevate your experience from Reese Witherspoon to Harrison Ford, what you need is an adventure. Not just any adventure, mind you — extremes. Getting as close to the edge as possible without going over it. The ideal is surviving and coming back to a comfortable room, a good bite to eat and a chance of reprieve to mull over all the near-misses, risks taken and tomorrow’s danger. Here are three great places to do it, from nearby to around the world.
Hike Through The Maze, Canyonlands, Utah
The Maze region of the Canyonland National Park has a fitting name: it’s easy to get lost in the winding passageways carved out by the tall red rocks. That’s if you can get there. All you need is to register with the park, and there is no entrance fee — but that’s only because it is the least accessible and most rarely visited district in the park. The park is dry and hot much of the year, but when it rains, it pours, and the harsh terrain of slot canyons, rock faces and roads can flood suddenly and dramatically. If you’re driving into the park, make sure your car can drive on just about anything; the website describes the roads in The Maze as “extremely difficult, present considerable risk of vehicle damage, and should not be attempted by inexperienced drivers.” Your trunk will also need to hold all the supplies, including water, that you’ll need for at least three days of camping, which is how long you’ll need there to make the trip worth it. While inaccessibility and safety precautions have kept fatalities in the Maze to zero, the rest of the Canyonlands takes the lives of unprepared travelers every year, so be prepared and bring a map if you’re going to take on the most dangerous area Utah has to offer.
Eat: The Canyonlands themselves aren’t home to too many eateries, but nestled in the Grand Staircase National Monument to the west is Hell’s Backbone Grill. They serve up classics from the Wild West like blue corn pancakes for breakfast and steelhead trout with sides of vegetables, many of which are grown on their farm. It’s also one of the only place for booze in the area, serving up wines, spirits and some craft brews from Wasatch Brewing Company.
Stay: Remember, we’re dealing with one of the most remote spots in the country. So when you’re not pitching a tent among the rocks, post up a couple hours to the southwest at the Amangiri resort. The unbelievable setting is in beautiful contrast to the luxurious experience you’ll get as you enjoy the steam room, pool, spa and yoga. After a few days lost in the desert, you’ll need the amenities.
Do: Utah hosts thousands of gorgeous hikes, fishing spots and rock scrambles, but not to be missed is The Wave just over the Arizona border. You’ll have to register in advance, but a chance to see the incredible, swooping rock formation should not be passed up.
Mountain Bike Down the North Yungas Road, Bolivia
You can actually drive a car down this western Bolivia mountain road, but what’s the fun in that? Cruise down “the most dangerous road in the world” on two wheels to feel the mountain wind in your face and get that much closer to the steep, steep ledge along the winding gravel path. It all starts in La Paz, which is the highest capital city in the world at over 12,000 feet. From there, the road climbs an additional 3,000 feet or so. Hop on your bike at this point and fly down 11,000 feet of elevation, one of the longest continuous downhills in the world, until you get to the rainforest town of Coroico. Careful around the turns though, because most of this descent is only 12 feet wide. If you’re not one of the estimated 200 to 300 people that die on the road each year, you’ll finally be able to catch your breath.
Eat: Whether or not you’re into vegan food, Red Monkey has the best food in La Paz. The menu changes every week, so account for the freshest ingredients and keep things creative.
Stay: La Casona Hotel Boutique is in a 17th-century colonial-style building and associated with the Franciscan Order, but the accommodations are way more comfortable now than they would have been for the monks. It’s located in the historic center of La Paz, so you’ll have no trouble getting out to the Yungas.
Do: When you’re sick of riding on the edge of death, head over to Lake Titicaca. The beautiful body of water sits on the border of Peru and Bolivia and supports one of the world’s strangest creations: floating islands. The human-made islands are constructed of reeds that need to be replenished every month or so; they are always sinking slowly into the water.
Dive the Antarctic Peninsula
Every year, tons of people head to their nearest swimming hole for the local “polar plunge”. But the catchy name is a clear misnomer. The water might be cold, but it’s not a true polar plunge unless you’re at the pole. So head down to Antarctica and dive in. The remote and icy waters will be your home for a week spent living on a boat reinforced for polar expeditions. Each day, pending conditions, you’ll dive an area around the Antarctic Peninsula, swimming between ice formations and leopard seals. While kicking through the water, try not to think about the temperature around you, which only reaches the freezing point for about a month each year and otherwise floats between -5 and -25 degrees Celsius. (Compare that to the surface temperature of the Great Lakes in the winter, which dips to about 4 degrees Celsius.) Basically, this isn’t scuba diving in the Caribbean. You’ll be in the trustworthy hands of a team of trained experts, but you’ll also be relying on equipment, planning and ice-cold calm to keep you alive as you slip deeper into the abyss.
Eat: Let’s be honest, you didn’t come all this way expecting coffee shops and fine dining, but you’re not totally out of luck either. Onboard your vessel, the Ortelius, you’ll find a pair of restaurants as well as a bar and lounge to keep you fed and hydrated between dips.
Stay: Sleeping on the boat isn’t all that bad either. Choose from a twin, triple or quad with a porthole or upgrade to a twin with a window. To really do it right, and forget that you’re on a boat all together, there’s always the deluxe and superior double with windows.
Do: Other than swimming amongst the whales and penguins, try camping out on the snowy shores of Antarctica. Once the boat engine is killed, there isn’t a wink of sound pollution. Same goes for light, so the starry skies are stunning as well.