While bragging isn’t the main reason you get outside and push yourself, you can’t deny it feels pretty good reveling in your accomplishments to close friends and family (or anyone that will listen). All across the country, the natural landscape configures some perfect physical challenges that could leave you bruised, bushwhacked and possibly regretting once boastful intentions.
Hiking: Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, Grand Canyon National Park
Going from Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R) involves just over 40 miles of trekking, with significant elevation change along the way. Typically starting on the south rim, day hikers can take either the South Kaibab Trail or Bright Angel Trail down into the canyon where they converge at the Phantom Ranch Ranger Station. From there, the North Kaibab trail gets you to the north rim, where you then can repeat the whole process to get back to the start.
Obtaining this sought-after adventure achievement should only be done with a deep understanding of your own physical abilities and factors like elevation, exposure, and dehydration. Permits are not required if you can do it without spending the night, but it is heavily advised to contact the Park Service to be sure you’re not only abiding by park rules, but also so you’re accounted for as you make your way on this ambitious adventure.
Hiking: The Triple Crown of Hiking
While completing any one of the three most prominent long-distance National Scenic Hiking Trails (the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail), is worthy of some bragging rights, to really get the most boasting for your buck, complete all three and obtain the coveted Triple Crown of Hiking. Each trail takes a few months to complete on their own, meaning that to obtain the Triple Crown you’re looking at nearly a year and a half of living and traveling by trail.
While that does sound pretty nice in respect to normal day jobs and other responsibilities, it is no easy task completing the arduous journey of one long-distance hike, let alone three of them. While there’s an unofficial aspect of simply claiming to have completed the Triple Crown, the American Long Distance Hiking Association (West) can officially commemorate the experience with a plaque and personalized poster to serve as a symbol and visual bragging cue for your achievement.
Biking: Completing the Leadville Trail 100 MTB, Colorado
The Leadville Trail 100 MTB is an awe-inspiring endurance event that tests the best adventure athletes across the world. Taking place exclusively in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the San Isabel National Forest, the Leadville 100 MTB starts above 10,000 feet and climbs a total of 12,000+ feet within the out and back course. The only thing that makes the it a little easier is the amazing Rocky Mountain view that lines the entire way—plus the extremely gratifying feeling of crossing the finish line after a grueling 100 miles. For those without mountain bikes, the counterpart Leadville Trail 100 Run is an equally arse-kicking adventure worth bragging about.
Skiing: Cross-Country Skiing the American Birkebeiner, Wisconsin
Serving as North America’s largest cross-country ski race, the American Birkebeiner traverses 55 kilometers from Hayward to Cable, Wisconsin, passing by much the of the scenic woodlands and winter beauty that define this Midwestern State. The American Birkebeiner is a well-organized and highly anticipated event that occurs each February. Despite the common bone-chilling temperatures, thousands of people show up each year to watch and participate in the race. But just because a lot of athletes show up to the starting line, it doesn’t mean that the American Birkebeiner is an easy task to accomplish; experience with snow travel and winter endurance will be key to completing the Birkie in a safe and reasonable time frame.
Rock Climbing: 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, Arkansas
No better example of climbing camaraderie can be found outside of the 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell at the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas, not to mention it being one of the most difficult rock climbing challenges found in the country.
Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is a sandstone mecca of sport climbing routes for all levels of climber, and each September hundreds of climbers grab their gear and head to this premiere destination for the challenge that is 24 Hour of Horseshoe Hell. During this annual event and four-day celebration, teams of two have 24 hours to cleanly ascend the most routes they can. If you happen to win this contest, you surely have reason to brag, but even just participating is an extreme accomplishment worth having someone buy you a beer.
Kayaking: Cherry Creek, California
The waters of the Upper Cherry Creek in California, in proximity to Yosemite National Park and Tuolumne City, are not suited for first-time boaters. The rapids and dangers of this Class V+ water system is nothing to mess around in without the proper experience. Serving as a tributary for the Tuolumne River, Cherry Creek is triggered by snowmelt and is regulated by a nearby powerhouse and reservoirs to make this quick-moving water accessible, with most runs taking place between mid-July and into the fall.
To make the 8‑mile run safely down Cherry Creek, you need to have a perfected roll, experience picking lines, and ideally someone to give you some beta on the water. Commercial outfits and guides do run the river as well, which can give you a little extra help obtaining permits and organizing shuttles, as well as someone with experience to lead the way. Once you’ve crushed this California creek in the Sierras though, and you could be ready for just about any paddle challenge out there.
Mountaineering: Summiting Denali, Alaska
Formerly known as Mount McKinley, Denali is the highest peak in North America standing at just over 20,000 feet. The first official ascent of the mountain occurred in 1913, but it wasn’t until 1953 when the West Buttress route opened up did this mountain become accessible to more people.
These days if you want to tackle the typical 17 to 21 days it takes to get up and down the mountain, you are welcome to either go at as a private expedition with the correct permits, or utilize a guide service that can help with some of the logistics. Either route you choose, it takes a healthy combination of experience, stamina and mental fortitude to even consider Denali a viable option. Climbing Denali deserves its bragging rights for good reason.