Further to our guide to skydiving in Europe, we wanted to create a mini series for sky diving in each continent, as we position our travel blog to the ‘adventure travel’ readers. Next up is the best locations for sky diving in the USA.
According to the United States Parachute Association over 500,000 Americans skydive annually racking up three million jumps each year. Are you one of them? Skydiving in the States gets better each year as more locations are added by schools and the technology develops taking you to greater heights and smoothing out your descent improving your experience dramatically. Skydiving is an incredible adventure that everyone should try – once you’ve made your first jump you’ll be hooked by the adrenalin rush and the sheer freedom you experience.
It’s nearly 100 years since Leslie Irvin made the first American free-fall near Dayton, Ohio – let’s see where the best places to skydive are in the States today!
Starting with our only archipelago state, Hawaii, this beautiful group of islands is a dropzone that offers spectacular views and is without compare for many regular skydivers. Here you can jump from lower altitudes like 12,000 to 14,000 feet or you can go more extreme and dive from an eye-watering 20,000 feet. On such a HALO jump you will experience 100 seconds of free-fall as you descend from high altitude with your parachute unfurling at a low opening altitude. Not something for the faint of heart!
If you’re doing a tandem jump with an instructor you will likely reach 120 mph as you head belly-to-Earth. If you are lucky enough to have the chance and accrediation to dive alone you can go head-down, reducing your drag and achieving a speed of 180 mph!
At these heights you will be able to take in the views of Oahu, Hawaii’s third largest island and its most populous. To the northwest lies its lava shoreline of Kaena Point while the southeast is home to Pearl Harbor. Further southeast is the bustling state capital of Honolulu. Seeing the diverse environments of verdant mountains, beaches, rainforests, ocean blues and cities is something pretty special.
Key West, Florida
Florida is a vacation destination for many Americans and tourists but how many think to look up for their entertainment? The Florida Keys to the south of the mainland open up such a panorama you’ll not know where to look first. Do you focus on the Key’s coral reefs with all their marine life majesty of dolphins, sea turtles and colorful fish? Or look to the sugar-white sands of the beaches? Taking it all in is difficult in one jump – glimpse the greens of the Everglades, the translucent blues of the Gulf of Mexico and the thin network of highways connecting our country together. Route One starts here after all.
When you look for a school to skydive with we recommend you checking out their reviews first and your gut instinct when you meet them. They should instill you with a sense of confidence, put you at your ease (pre-jump nerves affect us all!) and be responsive to any questions you may have. We also recommend tandem jumping in a new area for a first attempt to familiarize yourself with the conditions, the air and – of course – the landing zone! Once you get enough experience there’s nothing stopping you skydiving solo next time around.
The skydive itself takes under ten minutes and as your glide down to earth you’ll experience the color variations of the Gulf and the numerous strands of land and mangrove islands that make up the Keys. Definitely one the best places to skydive in the USA.
Still in the State of Florida but this time the east coast mainland. This is the home of the Kennedy Space Center and the only chance you’ll get to see it from altitude! The entire Space Coast is laid out before you as you dive from 18,000 feet and you’ll spot each and every one of the launch sites and the main shuttle assembly building. As you dive you’ll be treated to the most amazing views of the Indian River, Banana River, the Atlantic Ocean (to the east) and the Pine Island Conservation Area (to the west). For American history buffs or space fans this skydive over Cape Canaveral is hard to beat.
One caveat to skydiving in Florida is that its humid subtropical climate tends to produce a lot of cloudy days. This can spoil or put off a dive so it’s always sensible to book your day with this in mind. Winter months are usually the driest. Ask about refunds and their re-scheduling policy before you pay your money.
Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
The best time to skydive in the Pocono Mountains is the fall when the colors of the trees spread out beneath you like an American quilt. You jump from 13,500 feet above the mountain range and, as you descend, you will take in views of the Manhattan Skyline. The skydiving community’s most famous local son is Don Kellner, the co-owner of one of the area’s schools has clocked over 41,000 dives making him the world record holder. For him the green expanse of forests and fields is his favorite scene.
The Poconos lie on a plateau forming an escarpment that overlooks the Delaware River and the water gap that cuts a notch into the Appalachian Mountain range. Here, spread out below you are river beaches and recreation centers catering for the many travelers that come to see the impressive array of birds that live and migrate here. The famous Bushkill Falls with their trails and bridges will become clearer as you descend.
On your dive look to the north and you will see Lake Wallenpaupack. The west gives you a view of the Wyoming Valley and, to the south, the Lehigh Valley.
Regularly being given a nod on people’s favorite places to skydive, Snohomish has a lot to live up to and it does it well! This beautiful location on the Canadian border and North Pacific Ocean is a fabulous vista to behold. Skydiving from 12,000 feet gives you around 60 seconds of freefall where you will feel like you are flying through the cool, fresh air then five or six minutes with your ’chute deployed on a gentle glide back to Earth.
On your descent you will see the San Juan Islands – an archipelago where orcas abound, and Douglas firs make green swathes across the landscape. The bays of Padilla and Samish give way to agricultural patchwork then on to the east and the winding Skagit River then the expanse of the North Cascades National Park and Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest.
As with all of the locations in this guide, you’ll soon realize that the neighborhood you land in is geared up for excursions into the great outdoors. Planning a vacation around a skydive is a great idea and you’ll find all manner of off-roading, camping, fishing and hiking opportunities to explore
On the northwest coast of America is the city of Molalla in Clackamas County on the foothills of the Cascade Range. Skydiving from 13,000 feet gives you an awesome view of The Three Sisters – a three-peaked complex volcano and Mount Hood, both parts of the Cascade Volcanic Arc. As you glide earthwards you will catch sight of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens to the north in neighboring Washington State.
The rural economy is evident with regular rectangles of farming land with their crops of varying colors ripening. Tree farms are a lush green and you may also see timberlands and other evidence of this sustainable arboriculture.
Many schools run accredited skydiving courses preparing you for solo freefall. In Oregon you typically do a half-day ground training then participate in tandem skydiving before progressing on to twin-instructor-accompanied freefalls. Once you deploy your parachute you will get radio assistance from the ground coaching you into a safe landing.
California plays host to three of our top ten best places to skydive. The most northerly one lies on the coast at Monterey Bay, an impressively wide and long inlet with the North Pacific Ocean lapping at the shore. Your descent will take in views of jagged green mountains that make up Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to the south, Santa Cruz to the north and Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area to the east. On the west coast you may catch a glimpse of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a not-for profit business unique in being the only one to successfully look after captive ocean sunfish. It is open to the bay.
Soaring high above the Golden State, the Monterey area is an amazing snapshot of how ruggedly picturesque California can be.
It has a cool summer Mediterranean-type climate which leads to protracted dry spells in summer months making it ideal for skydiving – little chance of cloud or rain to spoil your day.
Santa Barbara, California
The west coast continues its skydiving rivalry with the east coast with Santa Barbara. Here you will jump from over 18,000 feet and join the select group of people who have skydived from these extraordinary altitudes. Panoramic views of the North Pacific conspire to overwhelm you with never-ending blue horizons.
Some of our finest wine is produced here and you will see the lush, fertile valleys and their vineyards.
Swooping through crisp air at 120 mph is thrilling and with views like these you need your camera or video running throughout! If you’re skydiving with a school it’s advisable to make sure you get permission to take your tech with you or add the service to your package – you wouldn’t want to miss out seeing your trip or sharing it with friends.
You’ll find Perris inland in the south of the state. Here your jumps will be from 12,500 feet above less undulating terrain. The school here has its own indoor skydiving wind tunnel to give you the freefall feel without the altitude – great for getting your ‘wings’ prior to your first real-life jump. Even if you’ve skydived before, the chance to do indoor diving is a fun way to hone your skills and get your body back into the rhythm.
Perris is known in the sport’s circles as being the locality where aerial scenes from the 2007 Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson film, ‘The Bucket List’ were filmed.
To the north is Mount St Antonio and San Bernadino National Forest, the east is home to Mount San Jacinta and Palm Strings, the south has the natural freshwater lake of Elsinor and accompanying city of the same name. Of course it’s the west’s attraction of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign that most people come to see from a fresh perspective.
Our last choice is Anchorage – in the colder climes of Alaska in the Arctic Circle. Unlike other jumps in the States, skydiving over Alaska gives you a totally different view of beauty. Awe-inspiring ice floes, gigantic glaciers and snow-capped peaks segue into deeply carved mountainous landscape. The low population density of this area ensures a more natural-looking countryside.
Alaska has many cloudy days but, for the most part, these are high cloud and don’t hinder your chance of skydiving. The short, cool summers typically are best for reducing the risk of snowfall.
Notable sights include America’s tallest mountain, Denali – formerly known as Mount McKinley – at over 20,000 feet. Denali forms the focal point of the expansive, green Denali National Park and Preserve. The crystal-clear blue waters of the Gulf of Alaska reveal whales and porpoises that will melt your heart. The south of your jump holds the mountainous Chugach and Kenai Fjords National Park. The Lake Clark Preserve and Wilderness lie to the west. Skydiving here is to be at one with the natural world and to experience something of the explorer on this most northerly American frontier.
Wherever you choose as your skydiving destination don’t make it your last! Try as many of these places as you get the opportunity to do so. And don’t forget to try and persuade your friends and family to take part – there is something special about you and your friends sharing this exciting journey.
Before you book your Jump
We recommend you visit the drop zone before you jump and see how they operate
Make sure you are insured. Most travel insurance policies will not cover you for adventure sports.
Don’t worry too much about the risks, safety standards for sky diving are extremely high in the USA. See the fatality statistics up until 2015 below.