11 Adventure Festivals for Adrenaline Lovers
Play hard and party hard at these U.S. and Canadian festivals that celebrate the comradery and thrill of outdoor adventure.
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Bridge Day, Fayetteville, West Virginia
For one glorious day a year, West Virginia’s New River Gorge Bridge is opened for (legal) BASE (acronym for things you can jump off of: building, antenna, span and earth) jumping on Bridge Day. Every third Saturday in October an estimated 100,000 people turn out to watch BASE jumpers leap or be catapulted from the bridge that's 876 feet above the New River. If BASE jumping isn't your thing, the general public may sign up to rappel from the bridge or High Line (zip line) from the catwalk beneath the bridge.
Cody Ice Climbing Festival, Cody, Wyoming
Taking place every February since 1998, the Cody Ice Festival conducts clinics including beginning and advanced ice climbing, apinism, women-only classes and a nightly speaker series. Ice climbing gear is available for demo from leading manufacturers. After you’re off the wall and done climbing, there’s bottomless beer with purchase of a pint glass.
Crested Butte Bike Week, Crested Butte, Colorado
Started in 1980, the Crested Butte Bike Week is a four-day June celebration of all things mountain bike. Races, bike films, clinics, free guided rides, kids’ activities, fun tours, costumes and the Chainless World Championships (in which riders race downhill for seven miles without bike chains). The week wraps up with a party and live music in downtown Crested Butte.
World Ski and Snowboarding Festival, Whistler, British Columbia
The World Ski and Snowboard Festival is an epic 10-day ride from piste to party in April during which thousands of snow lovers descend upon Whistler, British Columbia for ski and snowboard competitions, demonstrations, action photography, theater, film and concerts. Freestyle, open slopestyle, big air and other events keep the action going all day, and at night bands and DJs create Canada’s biggest dance club. A 72-hour film competition challenges filmmakers to create a short film shot within a 60-mile radius of Whistler Blackcomb. Skiers and snowboarders shred Whistler Blackcomb’s legendary runs throughout the week, and the family-friendly Whistler Dogfest has exuberant canines displaying their own big air skills with high jumping and dock diving.
Bigfork Whitewater Festival, Bigfork, Montana
Begun in 1975, the Bigfork Whitewater Festival sees kayakers, canoers, and stand-up paddle boarders of all skill levels test their meddle on the last mile of the Swan River, which is notorious for its Class IV rapids. Trails and huge boulders lining the river offer choice spectating sites as whitewater warriors slalom through gates and rapids. Afterward, Flathead Lake Brewing Company keeps the party going.
Downieville Classic Mountain Bike Race and Festival, Downieville, California
This weekend of mountain bike racing and partying in California’s Sierra Mountains takes place every August. The Downieville Classic is a 29-mile cross-country race, and the Downieville Downhill sees cyclists drop a mile over 15 miles making it one of the most demanding races in the nation. A spectator favorite, the Big Air River Jump sees riders huck high into the air before splashing down in the Yuba River. Plenty of live music and festivities round out the party.
24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, Jasper, Arkansas
Climb hard and party harder is the unofficial motto of Arkansas’ 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. This September festival of belays and beer (never mixed) has two-person teams of climbers competing for points based on how well they clean a series of routes over a 24-hour period. Crazy costumes and crazier haircuts (free mullets!) have become standard at the event; and the party after climbing for 24 hours straight cements the climbing community comradery.
Mt. Washington Backcountry Festival, Intervale, New Hampshire
Hone your backcountry skiing skills in New Hampshire’s White Mountains during the Mt. Washington Backcountry Festival in March. Clinics such as how to use location beacons, alpine touring gear such as skins and even how to snowkite are offered, as well as guided tours for those new to backcountry touring. Advanced clinics and tours are available for experienced skiers. Vendors are on hand to explain the newest ski and safety gear, and the Aprés Ski Party includes local beer tastings, gear raffles and live music.
Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival, Cañon City, Colorado
Enjoy a weekend of whitewater and wipeouts at Colorado’s Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival in June. The self-proclaimed “boats, bands and beer” festival has serious and not-so-serious rafting crews navigating the frothing water of Whitewater Park, where spectators line the banks to cheer them on with local craft brews in hand. Food, beer and vendors are available, and the Kids Fun Zone has bounce houses for future rafters. Two stages with live music provide the soundtrack.
Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival, Looe Key Reef, Florida
Celebrate the world’s third-largest coral barrier, scuba diving and music at Florida’s Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival in July. Responsible diving and environmental protection are highlighted during the underwater concert that usually includes a healthy dose of Jimmy Buffett and Beatles’ tunes. Scuba divers and snorkelers are welcome to attend the underwater concert, but if you’re not able to make it under the sea, join the post-party on the surface sponsored by local environmental groups.
Tulsa Tough Cycling Festival, Tulsa, Oklahoma
The three-day Tulsa Tough Cycling Festival takes over the streets of downtown Tulsa in June for racing, tours and a mix of family events and outright street partying. For pros, the criteriums are sanctioned by USA Cycling, bringing some of the best teams in the nation to the event. Gran Fondos and other non-competitive tours take place, as do kids races and “Spandex-free” townie rides that encourage everyone to ride their bikes. Tulsa Tough is getting known for its Cry Baby Hill, a steep climb along which costumed spectators cheer and even hand beers to racers as they crank uphill. Live music, food trucks and related events in downtown Tulsa’s bars and restaurants make this cycling event a blowout.