In our region, the great outdoors offers countless opportunities for leisure. But what if your idea of fun includes maxing out your heart rate while risking injury and performing daring acts of skill and finesse? We’ve got you covered.
Some of us like a healthy shot of adrenaline in our dopamine hits. For the thrill-seekers, here are five extreme outdoor activities in the Hudson Valley that everyone should try at least once, provided they have the guts and the physical prowess:
If you haven’t gone “paintballing” yet, let’s get the most frequently asked question out of the way first: Yes, getting hit by a paintball often hurts. You will likely leave the field with enormous bruises, especially from paintballs that fail to break on impact. These will be your “battle scars,” and you will be proud of them. Getting hit stings just enough to make your pulse quicken and your senses heighten on the playing field.
This is the closest the average person will get to fighting in a war, thankfully. Paintball injuries are rare and usually the result of failure to navigate terrain. At most fields, safety is taken very seriously, and rules are firmly in place to prevent serious injury. As with many items on our list of extreme outdoor activities, be prepared to sign a waiver indemnifying management from responsibility for injuries.
Paintball is best played as a team sport, so bring a large group. Depending on the field, you may get paired up with other players, pitted against another team, or even pitted against members of your own team. It’s a full-day affair, and while many fields offer some food and drink options, it’s best to bring your own.
Bring a bunch of cash, too. Unless you have your own gear, you’ll be renting paintball guns, face masks and jumpsuits. And then there’s the paintballs themselves – again, you can bring your own, but the field will have them for sale. If you’re doing a decent amount of shooting, you’ll need hundreds to make it through the day.
Besides the heart-racing feeling of projectiles whizzing by your head, paintball is extremely social, with opportunities to meet new characters and reconnect with your own clique. The pressures of (fake) war will bring you and your friends closer together, give you a solid workout, and provide great stories at your post-paintball hangout.
Most of the other folks at the paintball field are likely to be serious players with serious equipment. It’s not uncommon to see folks dressed in full army fatigues with $1000 paintball guns and the skills to use them. The referees will usually make sure teams are balanced. Don’t be surprised if you’re looked at as fresh meat when teamed up with others.
Since paintball typically requires large swaths of cheap land, you’ll likely need to take a bit of a drive to reach the local fields. We recommend Paintball Sports New York in Clintondale for its wide variety of outdoor playing fields, friendly staff, decent prices and amenities. HornetsNest Paintball in Ancramdale has an interesting indoor course for those wishing to experience an urban shooting environment. Roadrunner Paintball in Arlington is another good option.
Skydive The Ranch in Gardiner is a regionally-known mecca for folks who love to plummet from the sky. Billed as “the highest skydive in New York,” the ranch’s frequent fliers are happy to facilitate your first jump and every jump thereafter.
Skydiving is not as simple as throwing on a parachute, getting on a plane, opening the door, and shouting “Geronimo!” (On second thought, it’s probably not okay to say that any more).
On your first jump, you’ll need to go through some training. Your instructor will run through all safety procedures, teach you proper diving posture and form, familiarize you with equipment, and prepare you for any contingencies. And yes, you’ll need to sign a waiver.
You’ll need to make sure you come dressed appropriately, avoiding baggy clothes for more athletic wear. And come mentally prepared as well: You still pay full price whether you jump or chicken out.
The last thing to know: You’ll be strapped to the front of another human being who has lots of experience skydiving. That might come as a relief and a shock at the same time, but safety is paramount, and skydiving is not without risk. If you truly love the experience, you can make another two tandem jumps to qualify for their accelerated freefall program, which trains you to become a licensed skydiver allowed to make solo jumps without supervision.
Ready to fly? Consider yourself lucky to live in an area with such a well-renowned skydiving facility in Skydive The Ranch.
Oh, falling from the sky wasn’t enough for you? You want to be able to literally fly around? Head to Ellenville Flight Park, where local hang gliders are born.
In a gorgeous location in the Shawangunk Mountains, certified instructors at this flight school will train you to leap from ledges and glide gracefully to the ground, experiencing the world through the eyes and wings of a bird.
As you might expect, hang gliding is not something to get the hang of (sorry) overnight. Ellenville Flight Park offers a $150 introductory lesson which includes everything you’ll need to know to get your foot in the door (foot in the air?) of this hobby.
For more serious aerial adventurers, a full ten-to-twelve-day course is available for $1250, which should develop your skills enough to qualify you as a beginner with the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA), which is necessary to start pursuing hang gliding in earnest.
Let’s be honest: Few reading this will make the leap and feel the freedom of this one-of-a-kind extreme activity, but those who do will have a transcendental experience.
If flying through the air appeals to you as much as being secure and safe, try the extreme outdoor activity that’s low-risk enough that even kids can do it.
Here again, the Hudson Valley lucks out, this time with one of the longest and highest zipline tours in North America: New York Zipline Adventures at Hunter Mountain. This attraction features two paths over and through the treetops. The Mid-Mountain Tour has six ziplines and four suspension bridges, and is the family-friendly option for all ages (over ten years old recommended) and courage levels.
The more adventurous Skyrider Tour is accessed by chairlift or off-road ride to Hunter’s Summit Lodge, includes a training session, and features five spectacular ziplines spanning 4.6 miles. You’ll reach speeds of up to 50 m.p.h. while you’re up to 600 feet above the ground below. Oh, and there’s a 500-foot-long Burma bridge. If you’ve never seen one of these rope bridges, search it up on Google and feel your stomach drop.
All these thrills come with experienced safety instructors to guide you through every zip of the way. The Mid-Mountain Tour starts at $99, and the Skyrider Tour at $149. Keep in mind there are weight, height and mobility requirements to ensure the safety of all riders. Check their website to make sure you qualify.
The Shawangunk Mountains are a world-class climbing destination, so it’s no surprise a rock-climbing cottage industry has sprung up around them.
Anyone can get started rock climbing in an indoor facility – BC’s New Paltz Climbing Gym is one of the best in the state. The gym offers equipment rentals and climbing lessons to all ages.
There are several sports climbing schools and instructors in the New Paltz area, all highly respected and rated. Most importantly, these local experts can match outdoor climbs with your skill level, allowing your experience to grow and giving you access to tougher and tougher climbs.
Along the way, you’ll meet other enthusiasts including locals in love with the Gunks and travelers whose wanderlust bounces them from cliff to cliff. New Paltz has a real culture of rock climbing, and is the perfect place to fall in love with the heart-pounding beauty of being one with nature while defying gravity.