Yes, paddling the Grand Canyon, skiing the Haute Route, and climbing Half Dome are all legendary missions. You should totally do those things and other notable bucket-list adventures. But they’re outings that most people already know about and may be crowded when you get there. What are the less known epic trips that few people ever do? We found a few.
Scuba Dive with a Navy SEAL in Oahu
Stephen Kaplan and James Beck are retired U.S. Navy SEALs who were deployed overseas for years as top combat divers. Now they’re teaching others skills, like jumping out of a helicopter into the ocean and scuba diving among deep-sea wrecks, through their outfitting business, Trident Adventures, based in the town of Kapolei on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Sign up for the three-hour Navy SEAL dive (from $589), and you’ll get a crash course in underwater travel from literal veterans in the field. No scuba experience is necessary, and all gear comes included.
E-Mountain Bike Across the Swiss Alps
You can certainly ride a standard mountain bike in the Alps. But if you’re looking to really cover some ground, an e-mountain bike could be just the ticket. H+I Adventures is offering a new eight-day guided e-mountain-bike trip (from $3,988) across the mountains of Switzerland starting this summer. You’ll travel on trains, gondolas, and trams to reach the trails and stop at classic mountain huts for midday meals and overnight stays. A highlight is riding the 25-mile Alps Davos Trail, designated Epic by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. If you’re not into e-bikes, you can book a tour of the Swiss Alps on a regular mountain bike, too.
Snowkite the New Hampshire Backcountry
The International Mountain Climbing School in North Conway, New Hampshire, can teach you traditional skills like avalanche education or mountaineering as well as how to snowkite. Its courses (from $150 an hour) are geared toward newbie snowkiters and held on frozen lakes and fields in the White Mountains. Lessons include kite and harness rentals; you’ll need your own ski or snowboard gear. Once you’ve got the skills, you can head out on your own when the wind is up. The school provides information for experienced snowkiters who want to plan a DIY expedition into the backcountry.
Camp in the Country’s Least-Visited National Park
Let everyone else swarm the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, and head to Isle Royale, one of the most remote national narks in the nation, located in the middle of Lake Superior. This park gets fewer visitors per year than Yellowstone sees in a single day. Isle Royale is closed from November to mid-April, but come spring, you can access it via ferry or a chartered seaplane from nearby Houghton or Copper Harbor, Michigan. The backcountry camping here is desolate and beautiful—it’ll just be you and some moose.
Cycle Idaho’s Route of the Hiawatha
Do this in a day: ride, hike, or run the Route of the Hiawatha, a 15-mile rail-to-trail route near the historic town of Wallace, Idaho, along the crest of the Bitterroot Mountains. You’ll start near Lookout Pass Ski Area and pedal over train trestles and through ten tunnels, including the 1.6-mile-long Taft Tunnel, making for a dark and spooky passage (you’ll need bike lights to illuminate the way). Kids will love it, especially because you can do the whole thing in one direction—and all downhill—then hop the shuttle back to your car. Camp in a nearby fire lookout tower (from $45).
Heli-Paddleboard in Whistler, B.C.
This summer, Blackcomb Helicopters will begin offering a new backcountry stand-up-paddleboard half-day adventure (from $1,171). Here’s how it works: You and your inflatable Red Paddle Co. loaner board will be loaded onto a helicopter in Whistler and whisked to an alpine lake unreachable by hiking. There you’ll be treated to a catered picnic lunch and set free to paddle around a body of water that’s entirely your own (for a couple of hours anyway).
Climb a Sea Stack in Ireland
Off the coast of Donegal, you’ll find over 100 craggy sea stacks, or rock towers, that rise hundreds of feet above the ocean. These are among the tallest sea cliffs in Europe. Book a day of guided climbing with local outfitter Unique Ascent, and it’ll take you to the top of several (from $250). You’ll climb, then do a Tyrolean traverse on a rope over the open water, connecting you to neighboring sea stacks. No previous rock climbing experience is necessary. Stay in the 19th-century Lough Eske Castle (from $215), now a five-star hotel, and staff will arrange the adventure for you.
Paddle the Barrier Islands of Virginia
You don’t need to be a seasoned sea kayaker to handle this scenic 70-mile stretch of the Virginia Seaside Water Trail, which connects the state’s barrier islands. You’ll spend several days paddling from Chincoteague to Kiptopeke, the longest undeveloped shoreline on the eastern seaboard, stopping to collect oysters and crabs and staying at quaint, waterfront bed-and-breakfasts. Burnham Guides offers four-day trips (from $995), where you can stay a couple of nights in an updated 1920s-era fishing lodge called Holly Bluff Island Guesthouse, which opens for the season in March.