In Colorado, it's easy to go to extremes. So this summer, do something crazy. Ride your mountain bike down a steep, rocky path. Graduate from hiking to climbing. Paddle through a class V rapid. Hurl yourself from an airplane. Soar over a forest while dangling from a steel cable. An entire playground awaits in your back yard; it's time to unleash your inner adrenaline junkie and head out into the truly great outdoors.
The summer mountain sport season kicks off June 5-8, when adventure athletes from around the world converge on Vail Mountain to compete in kayaking, bouldering, climbing, trail running and mountain-bike races, including free-ride and big-air competitions. Mountain-bike course designer John Bailey is a former World Cup Championship Course designer, so you can bet the route will be competitive. Since Vail's ski season ended in April, Bailey and Vail Resorts have been moving snow off the mountain to make way for the race, as the event's organizers have promised that this year's high snowpack won't get in the way of the games. Whether you want to compete yourself or sit this one out while you watch and learn, the Teva Mountain Games should be just the inspiration you need to launch into an adventurous summer.
Three hours south of Denver, the Royal Gorge stretch of the Arkansas River not only screams below the famous Royal Gorge Bridge, but its class IV and V rapids feature steep technical drops and waves throughout the narrow canyon. In the early summer, when the water level is high, these rapids are meant for experienced rafters — but as long as you're in good shape, your guide should manage to keep you from getting into too much trouble. On a group trip a couple of years ago — over Labor Day, when the water was tame — I fell out of the raft on one of the bumpiest stretches, and another boat in our group tipped completely. But the knowledgeable guides with Arkansas River Tours made sure everyone escaped unscathed.
If you feel silly climbing on an indoor wall when there are actual mountains close by, Colorado Mountain School will help you learn how to climb the real thing. Club guides lead both group climbs and private trips in Eldorado Canyon and on the Boulder Flatirons, as well as at Lumpy Ridge in Estes Park. Prices range anywhere from $75 to $475 depending on how many people are in the group and how long you want to spend on the rocks. And every Saturday through September, guided group climbs at the Flatirons in Boulder will run you a flat $150.
Looking for a rush? Nothing beats freefalling at 130 miles per hour from 18,000 feet. Mile-Hi welcomes first-time jumpers, setting up tandem skydives in which the novices are strapped to nationally licensed instructors, who know precisely how and when to open the parachute. The center is in Longmont, only a few miles from Longs Peak, so the view for that one minute of freefall and five minutes of gliding is spectacular. And even with all the training, equipment, licensed tandem buddy and a one-way plane ride included, the whole experience will only set you back about $200.
This one-mile zip-line course through and above the aspens in a remote valley of the San Juan Mountains near Durango has been called one of the Top 10 Sky-High Thrills in the country by National Geographic Adventure. In fact, it's the only course of its size and kind in the country, and even getting there is a thrill: You access the course via the historic Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad or by helicopter. From there, you strap on your harness, get clipped to a stainless-steel cable and then soar through the sky, over a scene that looks like something out of Rivendale or Neverland. The trip takes all day and runs $329, but that includes your train ride (a helicopter is extra), guides, equipment and a four-course gourmet lunch on a platform in the trees.