'No-one will hear you scream': Ten terrifying activities in the US

Canyoneering in Zion, Utah

Southern Utah boasts the highest number of slot canyons in the world, deep fissures in the earth's crust formed by erosion. Located just outside Zion NP, Eye of the Needle is a privately-owned canyon accessed only by Zion Adventure Company, which means no-one will hear you scream as you rappel through waterfalls over the sheer, 140-metre cliff. The ascent is up a 472-step Via Ferrata, a fixed ladder anchored to the cliff wall: don't look down. See zionadventures.com

Raft the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Every year, about 20,000 adventurers take on Colorado River as it surges through the Grand Canyon, with rafting expeditions lasting from a day to two weeks. This is not for the faint-hearted, with wall-of-water, washing machine rapids that inevitably knock you from your rubber perch into swirling oblivion, before you surface, gasping but alive. Book well in advance for this ultimate bucket list experience. See oars.com

Night Snorkelling with Mantas, Hawaii

Forty years ago, a hotel inadvertently created a tourist attraction by installing powerful lights illuminating Keauhou Bay on Hawaii's Big Island. As plankton are drawn to the beam, so too is a resident family of hungry manta rays, who put on a nightly show for crowds gathered at Sheraton Kona's bar. You can also snorkel with the mantas on various tours, coming eye-to-eye with the majestic beasts as they perform their underwater ballet. See sheratonkona.com

Hike Angel's Landing, Zion, Utah

"Best hike ever" says everyone, bar none, so who am I to argue? "Hike" may be a stretch – it's more a scramble at times, clinging to chains bolted into the cliff, your only protection from sliding into the void. Vertigo-inducing switchbacks and sheer drop-offs are a constant mental challenge, though anyone of average fitness should manage the 450-metre ascent. The last kilometre is where things get interesting – stick with it! See nps.gov/zion

Kayak Glacier Bay, Alaska

Paddle into a fantasy world where icebergs bob and glaciers glisten in this 1.3 million-hectare national park near Juneau. Individual rentals are available, or join a multi-day guided kayaking tour to pristine John Hopkins Inlet, watching for wildlife on shore and in your liquid surrounds. Go before global warming makes glaciers a melted moment. See alaskamountainguides.com

Hummer Adventure, Moab, Utah

You'll be glad someone else is driving on this thrill ride in a custom Hummer through appropriately-named Hell's Revenge on Moab's outskirts. This recreational area of petrified sand dunes is also popular with mountain bikers and ATVs, but the loudest screams come from Moab Adventure Centre's open-back 4x4s as they scale impossible red rock slopes ... for what goes up must come down. See moabadventurecenter.com

Cycle Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier NP, Montana

During spring, Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed to vehicles – except for bicycles, that is. Without the stress of traffic, this famous road is all yours as you pedal 24 kilometres through snow-capped peaks individually or on a guided tour, with the steady, calf-burning climb rewarded with sensational views, a sense of isolation and fun downhill freewheeling. See glacierguides.com

Ride America's highest zipline, Catskills, NY

The Zipline New York canopy tours are the highest, longest and fastest in the US, crossing more than seven kilometres of Catskills forest and reaching speeds of 80km/h. Time your flight to coincide with the autumn change of foliage for the ultimate leaf-peeping experience, or try night-zipping under the stars. See ziplinenewyork.com

Operate heavy machinery, Las Vegas

While not a wilderness experience, Dig This fulfils every big kid's dreams about operating heavy machinery – because who doesn't want to drive a bulldozer or excavator? You'll be given instruction, then left to your own devices to build a tower of tyres, or create your own rollercoaster track in the best adult sandbox in the world. See digthisvegas.com

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Hike The Narrows, Zion, Utah

Getting wet is part of the fun as you hike through the ankle-to-waist deep Virgin River beneath soaring 300-metre cliffs in Zion's most legendary slot canyon. Dry suits are available to rent when the water is chilly, and walking sticks recommended for balance on unstable rocks. Starting from Temple of Sinawava, hike as far as you like before retracing your steps, with the dramatic, narrow Wall Street the most popular goal. See nps.gov/zion

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