Seven Great Cities for the Outdoors

Not all towns are cre­at­ed equal when it comes to liv­ing that out­door lifestyle. These are sev­en of our favorite cities for amaz­ing access to out­door adventures.

©istockphoto/Left_Coast_PhotographerSan Diego, CA
There’s only one “America’s Finest City,” and it’s San Diego for good rea­son. Sev­en­ty miles of beach­es cre­ate excel­lent oppor­tu­ni­ties for surf­ing and every oth­er water sport imag­in­able, and great weath­er twelve months out of the year means you’ll find some­one to share your stoke in every sea­son. San Diego is also a great base of oper­a­tions for hiking—there are six­ty-five miles of trails in the famed Bal­boa Park alone, and oth­er local trails cut through canyons and across sea­side cliffs. A bit far­ther out you’ll find the Lagu­na Moun­tains, which see reg­u­lar snow­fall, and deserts, includ­ing California’s largest state park, the Anza-Bor­rego Desert, home to slot canyons, mud caves, and the elu­sive bighorn sheep.

©istockphoto/christiannafzgerBoise, ID
Most peo­ple hear “Ida­ho” and think “pota­toes,” and to be fair, the Ida­ho Pota­to Drop is still a thing. But Boise is also home to the 25-mile Green­belt, a tree-lined recre­ation­al space that fol­lows the Boise Riv­er, pro­vid­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for fish­ing and bird­watch­ing. The Boise Riv­er is itself a recre­ation­al site, pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies for its kid-friend­ly flat­wa­ter stretch­es that beg to be float­ed and home to the Boise Riv­er Park, where expe­ri­enced pad­dlers can test them­selves against the river’s waves. For even more thrills, try raft­ing the Mid­dle Fork of the Salmon Riv­er, 100 miles of class IV white­wa­ter run­ning through the Frank Church Riv­er of No Return Wilder­ness, the largest road­less wilder­ness left in the US.

©istockphoto/Maxim KazitovOlympia, WA
Seattle’s prox­im­i­ty to heavy hit­ters like the Olympic Nation­al For­est, the Puget Sound, the Cas­cades, and even Mt. Rainier, makes it a fine city for out­door enthu­si­asts, but less­er-known Olympia is clos­er to those des­ti­na­tions, and it boasts a num­ber of home­grown parks per­fect for fam­i­lies and week­end-war­riors to boot. Priest Point Park and Per­ci­val Land­ing Park pro­vide water­front oppor­tu­ni­ties along the Sound, while Capi­tol State Forest’s 150-plus miles of sin­gle­track and eques­tri­an trails lie just out­side the city. Thurston’s Boun­ti­ful Byway fea­tures 60 scenic miles of loca­vore heav­en, wind­ing between dis­til­leries and farms, and the Chehalis West­ern Trail pro­vides fifty miles of access to over 170 acres of park­land, includ­ing near­ly two miles of frontage along the Deschutes River.

©istockphoto/epanthaChat­tanooga, TN
Chat­tanooga’s nat­ur­al beau­ty is arguably its great­est attrac­tion. Hik­ers and pad­dlers alike take advan­tage of trails in the moun­tains and on its blue­ways, and crush­ers flock from around the nation to the routes along the miles of sand­stone bluffs and myr­i­ad crags and boul­ders. All that rock means Chat­tanooga is absolute­ly rid­dled with caves, from the more com­mer­cial oper­a­tions in The Lost Sea and Ruby Falls to the unnamed, pos­si­bly unchart­ed 7000+ sys­tems through­out the region, best suit­ed for expe­ri­enced spe­lunk­ers. And final­ly, the warm sun on the Ten­nessee Riv­er Val­ley cre­ates some seri­ous­ly pow­er­ful ther­mals over the Cum­ber­land Mountains—hang glid­ers can soar for hours on a sin­gle launch when the winds are just right.

©istockphoto/Brent_1Moab, UT
Sit­u­at­ed between the oth­er­world­ly red rock of Arch­es Nation­al Park and the eerie, com­pelling land­scape of Canyon­lands Nation­al Park, it’s no won­der Moab is pop­u­lar with out­door recre­ation enthu­si­asts. Moab’s got it all. Into moun­tain bik­ing? Spoil your­self with an amaz­ing buf­fet of bik­ing trails, from easy Gem­i­ni Bridges to the tech­ni­cal rock drop descent on Cap­tain Ahab—and of course, you can’t miss the icon­ic Slick­rock Trail. BASE jump­ing? Legal in many places around Moab. Slack­lin­ing? World records have been set here. Canyoneer­ing? Zion Nation­al Park’s just hours away. Kayak­ing? Col­orado Riv­er. Heliski­ing? Those are the Wasatch Moun­tains, and they’re calling.

©istockphoto/LeiengAnchor­age, AK
The peak of Denali is vis­i­ble from down­town, and that’s just the begin­ning of things to love about Anchor­age. Chugach State Park is its back­yard, boast­ing 155 peaks and almost twice that in trail mileage, and locals love Flat­top Peak—an easy hike for the stout-heart­ed and a pop­u­lar spot to spend the sum­mer solstice’s 22 hours of day­light. If you’re look­ing for glac­i­ers, more than five per­cent of the state is cov­ered by them, and they’re close enough to touch in places like Matanus­ka Glac­i­er Park where you can walk right out onto the ice or grab your pad­dle and kayak through a sparkling ice field. Win­ter days are short, but sev­en hours is still plen­ty of time to climb a frozen water­fall or play a game of pick-up ice hockey.

©istockphoto/Fernando-HPort­land, ME
Maine boasts 3,500 miles of coast­line on the Atlantic Ocean and its inland lakes and streams, mak­ing it an excel­lent East Coast des­ti­na­tion for pad­dlers, and Portland’s the per­fect launch­ing point. Take a canoe out on the Scar­bor­ough Marsh, a large salt­wa­ter tidal marsh per­fect for begin­ners and fam­i­lies, or put into Cas­co Bay and explore Peaks Island and the sur­round­ing waters. Mean­while, land­lub­bers can appre­ci­ate the hun­dred-odd miles of walk­ing trails, and more chal­leng­ing treks are just min­utes away in Aca­dia Nation­al Park and Bax­ter State Park, the lat­ter of which is home to the state’s high­est peak, Mount Katahdin.