Inside Columbia


The Thrill Seekers Guide to Mid-Missouri

By Inside Columbia
Rock climbing

Photos by Ava Kitzi

There’s nothing quite like getting your adrenaline pumping. Suddenly, you’re completely in the moment as a mix of fear and anticipation takes over.

For some people, this particular rush is beyond addicting. So they seek it out in a variety of ways, from scary movies to thrill-seeking activities designed to get your adrenaline going.

If you’ve never been an adrenaline junkie, you may not know that there are a wide variety of ways to get that rush right here in mid-Missouri. Whether you’re eager to try something new or just looking for something to cross off your bucket list, we’ve rounded up just a few of the ways you can seek out the thrills around Columbia.

Just remember, safety first!

Mountain Biking

Trails to Try: Woodpecker Hollow at Hinkson Valley Nature Preserve; Rock Bridge Memorial State Park trails like Deer Run and Karst

Mid-Missouri has so many trails to choose from, whether you’re looking for a leisurely walk or a more intense journey. If you’re ready to try something a little bumpier, it may be time to give mountain biking a shot.

If so, the first thing you’re going to need is a proper mountain bike, says Angela Peterson, co-founder of the CoMo Dirt Dames, a local mountain biking group for women and nonbinary people. It’s important to get a bike that is made for that type of terrain so it can handle it better. “They have suspension in them,” Peterson says. “It absorbs obstacles and bumps on the trail, so it makes it a lot smoother for the rider.” Any local bike shop will be able to help you find something that fits your needs and your budget, she says.

Next, make sure to get a helmet. “It is off road,” Peterson says. “We only get one brain. … Helmets are required.”

Mountain biking

Then it’s time for some basic skills instruction, and that can be done in a variety of ways. One way is to get professional coaching, which Peterson offers through her business, Rainbow Shred Mountain Bike Coaching. Or you can simply learn the basics from another rider so you can get out and try, starting slow and building up. That can be done with friends or by joining a group like the CoMo Dirt Dames or another local group called Columbia Dirtbags. Taking part in a lesson or clinic will help make sure you have the tools you need to hit the trails with confidence, which Peterson says can make all the difference. However you’re able to get started, Peterson says it’s simply important to get the basics down so that you can enjoy the ride. “This is how you can bike safely and confidently, and also learn trail etiquette,” Peterson says, like when to hold off on using the trails.

Hot Air Ballooning

How to Try: Skyview Balloons, Aerial Advantage, BalloonStormers

When the conditions are right, it’s not uncommon to see a hot air balloon moving across the sky over Columbia. For many people, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But for Ben Humphreys, it’s just another day at work. The owner of Skyview Balloons began flying at the young age of 12 and became certified to carry passengers at the age of 18. “It’s not like flying anything else,” he says. “This is so much calmer and smoother.”

Hot air balloons can fly anywhere from tree- top level to thousands of feet in the air, depend- ing on wind and weather. The experience offers unique views and open air flying unlike almost anything else.

Hot air ballooning

For first-time fliers, Humphreys’ biggest piece of advice is pretty simple: Be patient with the weather. “It takes pretty particular weather to fly a balloon,” he says. “Just trust the person who is taking you for the flight and telling you when the weather is best to do it.”

While balloons can be flown year-round in Missouri, it is extremely weather dependent, right down to the launch and land points. Humphreys says he often advises people that while they can fly at the time/date of their choosing, it would be better to wait in order to get the best possible experience. “There’s just better days to wait for,” he says. “Make it really special.”

Rock Climbing

How to Try: COMO Rocks or any beginner-level climbing wall available

Whether inside the gym with 2 feet of squishy mat to fall back on or out in the wilderness with a harness, rope and chalk to keep suspended, rock climbing can give people an exhilarating rush (and a killer arm workout). Daxton Gautreaux, former president of the University of Central Missouri climbing club, has become passionate not just about climbing but about bringing the sport to beginners.

“All these people, they’ve come in and they’re from all different backgrounds, all different states, different majors but they’ve been able to come together at the rock wall and create friendships and I think that’s super cool,” Gautreaux says.

Mid-Missouri is well equipped with both indoor climbing at facilities like COMO Rocks, which opened last summer, as well as scenic outdoor routes at Capen Park and farther south on the Katy Trail.

Rock climbing

While rock climbing can be intimidating, especially for people who have a fear of heights, Gautreaux says that all equipment is tested
for strength and stability before it reaches the market. Plus, outdoor climbing involves a belay system, in which another person is tied to and suspends the climber in the air to keep them from falling.

Nevertheless, any fear you encounter when first starting out can only be remedied by trying, Gautreaux says.

“Just be prepared to get out of your comfort zone,” Gautreaux says. “It’s going to be a little scary at first, and that’s OK, but anybody can do it.”

Roller Derby

How to Try: Any beginner skate class

If you’ve ever wanted to try a full contact sport, roller derby may be for you.

Jennifer Bean, who goes by the name “Deathblök” in the CoMo Roller Derby, says the sport is for anyone who is looking to be part of a team and can handle full contact … and of course, a fall or two. “You can see that we’re all having fun,” Bean says.

To get into roller derby, the first step is fairly simple: “Put on some skates and go roller skating.” Maybe look for some examples of roller derby games on the local level, whether looking at videos online or attending a local bout. And Bean recommends at least starting out with kneepads, wrist guards and helmets, though she notes that the roller derby team typically wears more protection than that.

Roller derby

Bean says anyone can be part of roller derby because they can teach anyone to skate. What can’t be taught is the desire to be part of a team and, in particular, what Bean calls the CoMo Roller Derby’s “group of weirdos.” Plus, she says, there’s a role in roller derby for skaters of every fitness level and body type.

“We are definitely a community,” she says. “Do you need a tribe?”

The CoMo Roller Derby will host a beginners program in September where the fundamentals of skating and roller derby will be taught. To learn more about the eight-week program, visit

What to Know Before You Go

Safety first

Before taking on any activity that might be dangerous, remember to be as safe as possible. 

Do research before you go. Make sure it’s something you definitely want to try and look for others to try it with you or help you learn the ropes. If you’ve had health issues in the past, consider checking with your primary care provider before taking on a thrill-seeking activity to ensure it’s safe for you to try.

Remember to be realistic with your own abilities and fitness level. Know your limits and don’t put yourself, or others, in danger by overestimating what you can do.

Make sure to check and use any provided safety equipment and follow instructions from the professionals — they’re there to keep you safe.

And if you’re going anywhere remote, like with mountain biking, consider bringing an emergency first aid kit just in case.

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