Pick a quest, find a trip, get the gear. Go!Life should be awesome; stop burning it up on Facebook. Wouldn't you rather be out doing the amazing things your friends are posting about, anyway? Our 2014 Adventure Bucket List lines out 30 inspiring ideas, including scenic pilgrimages, adrenaline-pumping peaks, and expeditions that push the boundaries of self-discovery. Want more? How 'bout the latest gear to get you there, along with fitness tips to pump you into serious shape. We'll even guide you to the best places to relax and toast your achievements. It's time to be the envy of Internet, not the other way around.
Carve Tracks Under a Full Moon
Night skiing in the old days meant skinning to the top of Loveland Pass, Colorado, at midnight to carve fresh tracks under a full moon. Though we’ve recklessly done that, we now know better. We do, however, endorse the euphoric rush of night skiing inbounds, the best outer-body experience you’ll have without introducing foreign substances into your system. Do it with experienced, well-equipped friends on a stable slope.
Ride a European Gran Fondo
There’s no better country than Italy for a big ride. Roads close, entire towns shut down, cowbells clang, and wine flows. A faster, more upscale version of a century, gran fondos are timed (riders wear chips) and the finish line food is fancier—think artisanal bread, cheese, and exquisite local wine in abundance. Best of all, there’s always a killer view. Gran fondos often climb the same thigh-searing passes and ramble through the same stunning European countryside as the world’s most iconic bike races.
Rent a Cabin, Any Cabin
Your cabin fantasy might be hiding out in a log house in a pine forest with a significant other, splitting wood next to a shack on a mountainside, reading in a light-filled cottage on a lake, or sharing a Montauk beach house in the Hamptons. Whatever your idealized summer digs, make that magic vacation happen. Life is short and summer lasts a nanosecond—so secure your cabin now, if only for a weekend.
Test Yourself on a SUP
Stand-up paddleboarding is the fastest-growing sport on water. The ultimate test is Hawaii’s 32-mile Molokai2Oahu race in July. “Extreme adversity is one of the best ways to learn about yourself, what your mental fortitude is made of, and how far you can go past your physical limits,” says legendary waterman Dave Kalama, a top contender in this year’s race. “Are your will and heart unbreakable? Does your soul have the depth of character to succeed? All of these questions will be answered when you cross the finish line of Molokai2Oahu.”
Of more than 500 annual marathons around the world, Boston is the world’s oldest and most prestigious. Founded in 1897, the Boston Marathon the pinnacle of elite road racing, with more than 500,000 spectators and 27,000 entrants who earned the right to be there by qualifying at a previous race. The iconic event holds even more meaning after the 2013 bombing, in which three people were killed and 264 were injured. Racing Boston is the perfect way to honor them.
Unplug—And We Mean Completely
In 2014, active cell phone accounts will exceeded the number of people on the planet. If you don’t live in France (where a new labor agreement forbids some employees to check work emails after 6 p.m.), it’s time to find your own digital escape route. A deserted island in Indonesia where wireless isn’t an option offers the ultimate digital detox.
Suffer Through a Skimo Race
Alpine skiing used to be all about the downhill. No longer. It’s slightly masochistic, but it’s supremely satisfying to skin up a mountain fast. Self-propulsion also cuts down on lift lines, and as 2014 Gore-Tex Grand Traverse co-champion Bryan Wickenhauser says, “Racing in the cold winter night through avalanche terrain with your teammate for 40 miles and over 8,000 vertical feet of climbing makes you really appreciate your arrival in Aspen.”
Crush a Century
Centuries celebrate a noncompetitive, laid-back community vibe and are open to everyone, so obsessing over your time might be considered bad manners. But such is life in a Strava world, this obsession with the clock. So, if you’re going to ride a century, hammer one out in the dream time of four hours, preferably in a pack of skilled riders so you can practice your paceline.
Tame a Wild River
Few skills are as counterintuitive and difficult to master as an Eskimo roll, which allows a kayaker to right a capsized boat. Once you’ve got it down, there’s no going back. “It’s profoundly satisfying to execute a roll,” says Peter Sturgis, founder of Otter Bar Lodge Kayak School on the banks of California’s Salmon River. “Beyond the safety issues, it enables one to visit hidden and magical places like the Grand Canyon. It’s all a bit of Zen and is certainly a metaphor for our struggle to overcome obstacles in life.”
Tag the Top of a 14er
For an aspiring mountaineer, a fourteener, of which there are 58 in Colorado, 12 in California, and one in Washington, can be just as challenging and rewarding as any of the world’s most epic climbs. “We consider these peaks as the approachable Everest,” says Lloyd F. Athearn, executive director of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, a nonprofit that helps build trails. And they can be just as dangerous. “In late June through August, there are thunderstorms almost daily that can be incredibly violent,” says Athearn. “By noon you definitely want to be off the summit.”
Survive an Obstacle Course Race
Obstacle course racing is the fastest-growing sport in the United States, with an estimated three million people crossing an OCR finish line in 2013. Join their ranks in one of many race options, from the beginner-friendly 5K Warrior Dash series, which involves mud, beer, and wild hats, to the 10- to 12-mile Tough Mudder courses that include ominously named obstacles like the “Electric Eel” and “Kiss of Mud.” No matter the distance or difficulty, all are designed to bring out your primal beast. As Outside correspondent and Spartan Beast competitor Gordy Megroz says, “It certainly doesn’t get any more primal than the monkey bars.”
Kill, Dress, and Eat an Animal
“If I’ve learned anything about hunting and eating meat, it’s that it’s even messier than the moralist thinks,” writes Michael Pollan in Omnivore’s Dilemma. “Having killed a pig … and now looking forward to eating that pig, I have to say there is part of me that envies the moral clarity of a vegetarian.” If Pollan’s quandary is your quandary, try stalking, killing, dressing, and eating an animal. It’ll either solidify your status as a carnivore or turn you into a vegan.
Ride Bottomless Powder
Skiing resort powder—the kind that falls on a groomed slope and holds no surprises—is mindlessly sublime. But out-of-bounds powder, the kind you find with an AStar helicopter on a remote slope in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, exponentially amps the high. “It’s like you’re swimming in the ocean by yourself on a deeply personal mission,” says Tait Wardlaw, general manager of Chugach Powder Guides. “It’s the closest thing to flying you can do without leaving the ground.”
Bike to Work Once a Week
Make one four-mile round-trip by bike a week. You’ll be healthier. And much happier. “I love it,” says Stephen Regenold, the “Gear Junkie” who has bike commuted in Minneapolis year-round for the past 15 years. “We’re a one-car family, and I have to get to work in any weather, so it’s my little time to be active and commune with some sort of nature thing in the city—even in 30 below.”
Float an Endangered River
Gone are the days when we can take for granted a free-spirited float down a free-flowing river. Between water shortages, dams, pollution, and diversions, rivers are under siege. See the crisis firsthand by paddling one of American Rivers’ 10 most endangered waterways of 2014. Topping the list is the San Joaquin River, Central California’s largest, which originates in the Sierra Nevada and flows through the fertile San Joaquin Valley. The river is so endangered that it runs dry in stretches, making it hard to float.
Hike the Haute Route
There are plenty of multiday treks in the world, but few are as challenging and beautiful as the 119-mile Haute Route, which connects Chamonix, France, to Zermatt, Switzerland, and Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn. “The Haute Route is a scenically spectacular, physically challenging, and incredibly rewarding journey,” says Bill Abbott, founder of Wilderness Travel, the company that pioneered trekking the Haute Route in style by using inns along the way. But it’s still not easy even without a 50-pound backpack—daily elevation change is 5,000 to 6,000 feet.
Run an Ultra
Technically, an ultramarathon is anything longer than 26.2 miles, which includes everything from the Rut 50K in Big Sky, Montana, to the 205-mile Tor des Geants, a point-to-point race in the Italian Alps. Check out the International Association of Ultrarunners’ calendar for more than 1,000 races in countries as far-flung as Qatar and Uruguay. What makes these uber-distances so attractive? Most of the world’s estimated 100,000 ultrarunners would likely say it has everything to do with testing your limits and conquering a new frontier. Training five hours at a time is also a brilliant escape from the mundane realities of life.
Sip from the Source
A recent discovery of Stone Age beer jugs from the Neolithic Period (10,000 BC) has led some scientists to believe that beer preceded bread as a dietary staple. Whether this finding is entirely factual or not, one thing is still certain: Alcohol has played an essential role in human history as a thirst quencher, source of nutrients, medicinal beverage, and miracle healer for centuries. It’s time to go beyond buying a bottle of artisanal spirits at the local liquor store and instead head straight to the source.
Take a Summer Ski Trip
Some years, the skiing is so good (or so bad) that, come May, you can’t bear to lock the boards away in the storage closet for five months. That’s why there’s a Southern Hemisphere. Somewhere on the planet, the powder is dumping right now, and it’s likely in the Chilean Andes. Olympic athletes regularly pilgrimage to resorts like Portillo to extend their training season. You can, too. And, unlike an Olympic athlete in training, you can drink carmenere with lunch.
The Trip: Heli-ski in Chile.
The Gear: Salomon's X-Pro 120 Boots will give you a custom fit.
Rip the Highest Mountain Bike Race
The Leadville 100, with a course that starts at 10,152 feet and climbs to 12,424 feet, tops the pain-o-meter. “Leadville can chew you up and spit you out,” says two-time racer Janine Sieja. Fun? Hardly. But still, “There’s something extraordinary about Leadville that you can’t fully appreciate unless you actually participate,” adds Bahram Akradi, six-time participant and founder of Life Time Fitness, which owns the Leadville 100. “It’s one of the most difficult athletic events ever created, and yet there’s a powerful camaraderie in so many bodies moving together on a focused path.”
Snorkel with Whale Sharks
A few fun facts about whale sharks: They average 20.6 tons (roughly the weight of a dinosaur), can be up to 40 feet long (about the length of a school bus), and, as a species, are 60 million years old. Whale sharks also swim with their five-foot mouths wide open. Lucky for humans, their preferred menu is plankton, which is why it’s such a thrill to swim alongside the largest fish in the sea.
Outfit a Camper and Take It Somewhere Beautiful
If tacky “McMansion on Wheels” comes to mind when you think of camping in anything more luxurious than a tent, think again. Campers these days come in all sorts of beautiful designs—with most of them kitted with a bed and cooking equipment. And check this out: In the United States, there are 29,000 campsites in 401 national parks, 221,000 campsites in 7,800 state parks, 4,300 campgrounds in 155 national forests, and 264 million acres of BLM land. That’s a lot of open space to explore.
Try an Off-Road TriXTERRAs are triathlon’s raw, off-road cousin, take place in stunning landscapes like Maui, and involve open-water swimming, mountain biking, and trail running. “XTERRAS are unpretentious, honest, and true,” says 2013 XTERRA East Champion, South African Dan Hugo. “I love how varied the experience can be. Uncertainty is always in the script.”
Cleanse Your Body and Mind
Who doesn’t want to hit reset and completely detoxify the body from coffee, margaritas, Snickers bars, and the myriad other junk we dump into our system? The ways to do this are many and controversial, from medically supervised water fasts to colonics to juice cleanses. Experiment with whatever works for you, but we recommend starting with a full-body detox for the heart, soul, mind, and spirit, focusing on nutrition, exercise, and plenty of time outside.
Tackle a Big Nordic Ski Race
The rest of the world doesn’t always get it, but Scandinavians and Midwesterners have always understood the grace and athleticism of Nordic skiing. In winter, it’s a warm and invigorating way to be in the wilds, from the Maine woods to Washington’s Methow Valley. It’s also a killer workout. The noblest Nordic skiing competition on U.S. soil is the American Birkebeiner, a 50.25-kilometer sprint through the Wisconsin woods, often in subzero temperatures.
Tease Gravity on a Mountain Bike
There’s a decadent rush to riding a mountain bike downhill, with the ever-present terror of an endo always close at hand. But if you’re a skilled rider with sound judgment and state-of-the-art body armor, the chances of a major crash are diminishing. Mountain biking has never been safer and more enjoyable. “The latest technology in downhill mountain bikes is truly incredible,” says Chris Winter, founder of Big Mountain Bike Adventures. “It’s like riding an F1 race car meets monster truck bombing down a mountain while teasing gravity.”
Raft Whitewater in the Wilderness
Rafting whitewater—in a boat with a highly skilled guide—is a relatively easy way to get big thrills with little experience. But once you’ve committed, there’s often no way out. Start gradually on a one- to two-day trip in Class I–III whitewater. If that feels right, eventually work your way up to Class IV–V whitewater in a wilderness setting. The beauty of being on a raft is that space isn’t nearly as limiting as a kayak, so you can eat and sleep like a king even in remote places.
Take a Winter Hut Trip
The payoff for all those early morning dawn patrols is a hut trip booked with a half-dozen buddies somewhere in a sublime high-alpine setting. There’s a hut for everyone, from rank backcountry beginner to extreme rider. Some huts require entering a lottery system, others charge stiff fees, and some need a helicopter assist. It’s hard to go wrong with any hut in any mountain range, even if you’re snowed in for a day or five.
Race a Beer Mile
It sounds like the perfect recipe for hurling, but beer milers have been surreptitiously running around tracks while simultaneously downing brews for the past 20 years. The drink-and-run race format has become so popular worldwide that the first-ever Beer Mile World Championship will be held sometime this fall in Austin, Texas. What, exactly, is a beer mile, you ask? Each competitor alternates drinking a can of minimum 5 percent-alcohol beer and running a lap around a track. The time to beat: 4:57, the world record set by Canadian James Nielsen.
Eat an Invasive Species
Of the 7,000 or so introduced species that have arrived in the United States, about 1,000 are trashing the country at an absurd rate. Rather than sit around and fret about the havoc invaders like nutria, zebra mussels, Asian shore crabs, and Asian carp are wreaking, pick up a fork, adjust your taste buds, and dig in to the brave new world of braised Burmese python.
- Start over
Vote for America's Best Town! →
News from the Field
Every day you give your best. Now get ours.