cliff diving jumping

The falcon-like sensation of controlled free-falling is historically coveted recreation in the United States, but its origins are more clandestine and archaic. Cliff jumping was first used as a militant loyalty test. In the late 18th century, King Kahekili, the last known ruler of Maui, implored warriors to prove their devotion and moxie by following him off of a 65-foot Hawaii cliff.

Now, cliff jumping is one of the world’s most thrilling and risky sports, attracting hundreds of new jumpers each year. Athletes are beginning to be taken more seriously with events such as the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, where divers perform mid-air acrobatics during jumps from bone-trembling heights. The U.S. is home to dozens of world-renowned diving spots on every coast, offering opportunities for all experience levels. This summer, challenge yourself with an outdoor escapade for the books, one that offers a test of fear complete with rewarding, calm waters.

(Keep in mind that cliff jumping/diving is dangerous, not for everyone, and not allowed in all places; use caution and do your research ahead of time to ensure safety and legality.)


Kahekili’s Leap Kaunolu, Lanai, Hawaii

Skill Level: Experienced

Known colloquially as Warriors Leap, this is the birthplace of cliff diving. This 200-foot jump from jagged orange rocks into shallow waters is a primary bucket list experience for any professional or longtime diving junkie. If you’re not ready for quite a competitive jump, the region is a mecca for ambitious hikers too.


Hippie Hole, South Dakota

Skill Level: Beginner

Although this famous watering hole in the Black Hills of South Dakota is often used as a rookie jump, many have been inured taking the rock for granted. This trailhead is easily accessible from the highway, making it a popular tourist destination for divers passing through. Just a few miles from Rockerville near Rapid City, the jump is right beneath Big Falls along the Battle Creek hike with cliffs as low as 20 feet and as high as 90, with fairly deep waters for safety.


Lake Powell, Utah

Skill Level: Beginner

(Despite the video shown above, keep in mind the National Park Service forbids jumping or diving from any cliff 15 feet or higher from the lake’s surface.) The best (legal) portion of Lake Powell for low level jumping is in the area between the San Juan River and the Escalante River, near the Kayenta Formation, which is ideal for safe climbing and jumping within the legal parameters of the park. This limitation means jumps are fairly safe for a beginner, offering sensational views and warm, clean water.


Lake Havasu, Arizona

Skill Level: Moderate

Just behind the Parker Dam on the helm of the Colorado River is the 45-mile-long Lake Havasu. The lake conjoins California and Arizona in the midst of the Colorado Desert. Getting to the cliffs requires a bit of off-roading, but you’ll be treated to rocks as low as 15 feet and as high as 150, making this jump appropriate for most experience levels.


Crater Lake, Oregon

Skill Level: Moderate

Southwestern Oregon’s Crater Lake was formed as a result of a volcanic eruption ejecting magma and leaving behind a reservoir of ice and snow. If you’re interested in diving into the remnants of an ancient volcano, check out the numerous spots for diving along the Cleetwood Cove Trail. To avoid foot traffic and a check-out line to the dive, go as early as possible.

*If you’re just beginning your cliff diving journey, be sure to check out tips and suggestions to encourage safe and memorable trips, and always verify legality before solidifying cliff jumping/diving plans.