8 Extreme Outdoor Adventures in Washington State

From alpine to zipline, adrenaline-inducing adventures abound in Washington. Here are some activities that will get your heart pumping.

1. Climbing 
Home to more than 100 mountains, the state is a climber’s win for wildflower-encircled lakes and cloud-kissed heights. A-list experiences include technical challenges on Mount Rainier; active volcano Mount St. Helens is more like a (very) strenuous hike. 

2. Surfing
Pacific Ocean storms bring heart-throttling waves right to the coastal community of Westport. Slip into a neoprene suit (water temps here hover at 45–63 Fahrenheit) and try to hold onto your surfboard at Westport Light State Park, Half Moon Bay and The Finger Jetties. Westport’s annual Clean Water Classic brings surfers together to help preserve oceans. 

3. Rock Climbing
On belay! At the 400-foot-tall Frenchman Coulee, hang out in your harness from spectacular columns shaped like feathers, remnants from the last ice age. Today, Central Washington’s warm summer skies provide the perfect backdrop as lithe climbers choose from more than 700 routes and shake their own tail feathers. 

4. Biking
Find epic mountain biking opportunities in Eastern Washington’s Colville National Forest. Enjoy thrills along dozens of routes, including Old Stage Trail #1, the forest trail system’s only wagon trail. 

5. Windsurfing
The Columbia River’s western winds and eastern currents aren’t at odds. Rather, they create a playground for windsurfers and kiteboarders alike. Enjoy views of the Columbia Gorge’s basalt faces from popular water spots, including Bob’s Beach and East Point, near Stevenson

6. Paddling
Family float trips (so calm you can picnic during them) and paddle-for-your-life white-knucklers are both available to experience on the Wenatchee River. Ride the rapids with a guide beneath a sun-blazed sky, take photos of river-visiting wildlife and enjoy the Wenatchee’s roller-coaster drops and pools. 

7. Diving
Nowhere is underwater diving’s otherworldly appeal more strange and dreamlike than in the deep blue-green of Puget Sound. Snoop on giant Pacific octopi, wolf eels, rock fish, anemones and other below-the-surface denizens—along with half of a bridge that sank back in 1979—in the fjord Hood Canal, near Poulsbo

8. Ziplining
Don’t think about it. Just don a helmet, strap into a harness and let go. Zip through a rain-forest canopy above wetlands and understory as the wind whistles past your ears. (Tip: Tuck your knees to increase speed.) Just an hour north of Seattle on Camano Island, Canopy Tours NW offers a breathtaking forest adventure on six ziplines. Meanwhile, down by Mount Rainier, Northwest Trek has five different courses, from kid-friendly lines for ages 5 and up to an extreme course for adults. 

Find more outdoor activities in Washington State.

—LORA SHINN