Extreme summer sports (and where to find them in NH)

Extreme sports can turn your family’s summer vacation into a summer adventure

(Updated 6/26/20. Editors’ note: Delayed openings and restrictions are noted below, but some attractions have not yet announced opening dates for summer 2020. Check with each individual business for additional information).

Thanks to Mother Nature, New Hampshire is a natural magnet for thrill-seeking extreme sports enthusiasts. From white water rafting to rock climbing to ziplining and more, could your family use an adrenaline rush this summer? Participating in extreme sports — with your kids — has never been easier. Here’s where to go for pulse-racing summer fun.


Why settle for swimming at the beach, when you can ride the waves? New Hampshire’s coastline boasts some of New England’s best surfing and all it takes to hang 10 is connecting with one of the region’s surf shops. At Cinnamon Rainbows in Hampton families can rent wetsuits and boards, and take group lessons as a family (for children ages 12 and older; children younger than 12 receive one-on-one instruction). Kids-only surf camps are also available all summer long (note: summer camps on on hold in 2020)

Up the coast in Rye, Summer Sessions offers equipment rentals, kids’ camps, and group and family lessons from its location at Jenness Beach. To learn more about the sport, or if you are ready to buy your boards and suits, stop by Summer Sessions’ surf shop location in downtown Portsmouth.

Heading to the lake this summer? You don’t need the ocean if you want to surf. Wakesurfing — aka waterskiing that uses a surfboard — is quickly catching on with extreme sports enthusiasts everywhere. To help Lake Winnipesaukee thrill-seekers catch some surf, Lake Life Lessons in Wolfeboro offers lessons for all ages and coaching for wakesurfing, as well as waterskiing and related water sports.

White water rafting

Where else would you expect to find “white water” than in the White Mountains? Rapids formed as rivers and streams flow through this upland region make the perfect conditions for white river rafting, a sport that’s surprisingly family-friendly.

Mahoosuc Outdoors, located in Milan, offers guided rafting experiences for families of all ability levels, with rafting trips along the Androscoggin River, Magalloway, Rapid River and Ammonoosuc River. For families looking for a calmer time, guides also offer float tours along a quieter stretch of the Androscoggin. (Closed until further notice in summer 2020)

In summer, Great Glen Trails cross-country ski center in Gorham transforms into a summer recreation center, offering guided white water rafting along the Androscoggin River. The center’s trained instructors can teach your family everything you need to know to have a safe day riding the rapids.

The self-proclaimed “adrenaline junkies” from Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Gorham give the dogs a rest and trade their sleds for rafts in another winter-summer switch. Known as RaftNH during the summer months, mushers-turned-rafters specialize in family adventure from float trips for beginners to Class IV whitewater trips for those up for advanced adventure.

Rock climbing

It’s a sport that has somewhat of a daredevil reputation, but with proper guidance and technique, rock climbing is a surprisingly safe activity for all ages.

Lacking experience? No problem. Mooney Mountain Guides in Concord offers family lessons at one of three popular rock climbing spots: Rumney, Echo Crag and North Conway. Lessons focus on fundamental rock climbing skills such as knot tying and proper footing.

To turn rock climbing into the centerpiece of a White Mountains weekend away, Synnott Mountain Guides in Intervale offer full, half or even multiple days of family rock climbing lessons at Cathedral Ledge and Whitehorse Ledge climbing areas.

In New Hampshire, rainy days don’t need to derail your rock climbing plans, thanks to indoor climbing gyms. With locations in Manchester and Nashua, Vertical Dreams provides climbing walls and family lessons to help everyone make it to the top no matter what the weather. Learning the basics at an indoor gym can also be one way to make outdoor rock climbing adventures a little less daunting. (Reopening July 6, 2020)

Mountain biking

What can you do on a ski slope in summer? At Attitash Mountain Resort the answer is simple: mountain biking. In the summer, the resort offers 20 miles of mountain bike trails for all abilities. Beginning off-roaders can try out the eight cross-country trails along the scenic Saco River; more experienced bikers can use Attitash’s extreme, lift-accessed downhill terrain. Bring your own bikes or rent them at the resort’s Dirt Trax Bike Shop. (Limited activities starting July 18, 2020)

If you have always dreamed of taking your family on a back country bike trek, Outdoor Escapes can make this a reality with an expertly guided mountain biking tour designed to match your family’s abilities. Based in Conway, guides meet you in the part of the state you want to explore and provide an itinerary guaranteed to boost skill levels and provide hours of excitement. Day, overnight or week-long guided tours are available.


Soar over the tree tops and finally get a bird’s eye view on the Granite State. One of the most kid-friendly zip lines can be found at Cranmore Mountain’s Mountain Adventure Park where a parent and child can sit in side-by-side seats as they descend the mountain. (Opening June 27, 2020)

Where else can you zip along? Alpine Adventures in Lincoln is home to the first zipline canopy tour in New England and is still one of the most popular for all ages. Tours include instruction and a ride to and from the course on Barron Mountain.

Also in Lincoln, the Loon Mountain Adventure Center offers a zipline ride that spans the Pemigewasset River. The center also offers mountain bike rentals and climbing walls for families who like thrill-seeking — and multitasking. (Open July 3, 2020)

Categories: Summer Fun, Summer Sports