From rock-climbing to kayaking, there are plenty of incredible outdoorsy experiences awaiting adventurers in the United States. The country’s diverse landscapes ensure that no matter which state you visit, there’s a thrilling adventure waiting for you. Ready to explore? Here are seven of the nation's best cities to see what Mother Nature has to offer.
Asheville, North Carolina
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the city of Asheville offers range of outdoor activities year-round. Visitors can kayak or tube down the French Broad River in summer or hike to one of the area's many scenic waterfalls. Many people make the trip to the Southern city to start or end their journey on the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, a famed drive that also offers access to some of the best trails in the county. One of the most stunning climbs is up Mount Pisgah, a 5,721-foot-tall peak that can be seen from downtown Asheville on a clear day.
This Oregon city is a haven for hikers, mountain bikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Located along the Deschutes River, Bend is lively in the summer, with locals and visitors taking to the water to canoe, raft, or kayak to keep cool. For hikers and mountain bikers, there are plenty of scenic spots to explore, including Smith Rock State Park, Black Butte, and Deschutes National Forest. And activities don't slow down in the winter either. Bend is also an appealing destination for skiers and snowboarders headed to Mount Bachelor resort.
Reverence for the outdoors is evident everywhere you go in Durango. Even the town's main library features an outdoor deck so you can enjoy the relaxing sounds of the nearby Animas River. Situated near the Colorado–New Mexico border, the small mountain city is nestled in the San Juan Mountains and is only a 40-minute drive from Mesa Verde National Park. Durango is an ideal destination for hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, zip-lining, horseback riding, and rock climbing in the summer. And at an elevation of 6,522 feet above sea level, the city is also a popular ski hub, with plenty of resorts nearby.
With jagged peaks, glaciers, and an abundance of wildlife, Alaska has long been a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. But in Fairbanks, visitors can have some truly unique adventures. For starters, the city is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights. During "aurora season" (August 21 to April 21) the lights are typically viewable four out of every five nights. Another popular outdoor activity is dog mushing in which adventurous participants try their hand at basic commands while they sled on snow-covered paths through the forested backcountry.
Not visiting Alaska in winter? Don't worry. Fairbanks offers plenty of popular outdoor pastimes year-round. Whether it’s birdwatching in the Fountainhead Wedgewood Wildlife Sanctuary, fishing for trout or salmon in the Tanana River, or soaking in natural geothermal water at Chena Hot Springs, you'll have plenty of opportunities to get outdoors.
As one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, Missoula received a gold-level rating from the Bicycle Friendly America program in 2012. Nestled in the northern Rockies, Missoula is roughly a 45-minute drive from Lolo National Forest, a popular place to see wildflowers in summer and rent cabins or campsites for an overnight adventure after a long day of hiking or mountain biking. The city is also a great place to start a journey to Glacier National Park, which is only a 2.5-hour drive away and one of the best parks in the country to spot wildlife, such as grizzlies and mountain goats.
Park City, Utah
In 2002, an Olympic training center was built in Park City before the Winter Games kicked off in Salt Lake City, and many Olympians still call the area home. But you don’t have to be a pro athlete to enjoy all that the city has to offer. Park City is a mecca for skiers and snowboarders looking to play in the powder at Park City Mountain, the Canyons, or Deer Valley Resort. In summer, the Uinta Mountains offer nearly 500,000 acres of designated wilderness — perfect for fishing, rock climbing, hiking, and camping.
Traverse City, Michigan
Although Traverse City isn't close to any major mountains, this port city on Lake Michigan is anything but boring. Canoeing, hiking, fishing, biking, and swimming are obvious favorite pastimes in summer, but those in search of an adrenaline rush should climb up the steep stretch of sand at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Since Traverse City gets some serious snowfall in winter, the city is the perfect place to go snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing through the backcountry. Visitors looking for a more leisurely activity in winter can also ride a fat tire bike on the Leelanau State Park Trail, which passes the Grand Traverse Lighthouse and travels around icy Lake Michigan.