The Best Outdoor Adventures in Every State

A woman paddling in a red kayak in a clear body of water and the words

Maybe you live somewhere that's world famous for its outdoor recreation (ahem, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and California...). Or perhaps your home state seems to lack many impressive natural features. 

Either way, adventure is out there and you don't necessarily have to travel to find it!

We did tons of research, polled our amazing social media communities, and drew from out team's personal experiences to bring you the best outdoor adventures in every state.

Believe us, it was hard to pick just one outdoor activity per state. This is clearly just a sampling of all the adventures to be had across America — but hopefully it inspires you and serves as a starting point. 

Top Outdoor Adventures in All 50 States

From iconic hikes to remote national parks and even dog sledding, the U.S. holds some truly epic outdoor adventures. 

Alabama

Head to Gulf Shores on Alabama's coast for an outdoor lover's playground.

The pristine white sand beaches at Orange Beach are some of the best in the country and the fishing is world-class, too. Prized species here include red snapper, flounder, and speckled trout.

Alaska

You probably know you can experience mushing, or dog sledding, in Alaska...but did you know you can do it in Denali National Park, home of the tallest mountain in the United States?

Book a trip with an authorized guide or if you're fortunate enough to have your own mushing dogs, just head to the park! It's free and a permit is only required for overnight trips.

A dog sled being pulled by several dogs in Alaska

Arizona

Havasu Falls combines several of the most epic outdoor adventures, including the majestic Grand Canyon, waterfall chasing, and hiking. 

Note that you need to secure an extremely hard-to-get permit about 18 months in advance to hike Havasu Falls, and the hike itself is strenuous. It's 10 miles one way and remember, Arizona is known for brutal heat!

Arkansas

Central Arkansas' Ouachita Mountains run east-west instead of north-south, which is highly unusual. The unique formation means that something very literally lies beneath the surface  an abundance of gems and minerals.

Head to the small mountain towns of Mena or Mount Ida, where you can hunt for quartz and many other gems at dozens of mines. And don't miss Crater of Diamonds State Park, the only public gem mine in the world!

California

Channel Islands National Park is one of only a few that you can't drive to, and it offers endless outdoor adventure. 

Take an Island Packers cruise from Ventura to the islands, then spend your time hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, birdwatching, or camp overnight.

Colorado

Colorado has a whopping 58 "14ers" (mountains at least 14,000 feet tall), so it goes without saying that this state's best outdoor activity is summiting one or two!

Some of the easier-to-tackle 14ers include 14,110-foot Pikes Peak, Mount Evans (14,264 feet), and Quandary Peak (14,265 feet).

Pikes Peak above Garden of the Gods in Colorado, one of the 14ers that's the best outdoor activity in the state

Connecticut

Whether you have your own boat, rent one, or book a guided excursion, sailing is one of the best outdoor adventures in Connecticut. Head to the quaint, storied seaside village of Mystic or cruise the shoreline along the Long Island Sound.

Delaware

Spanning about 30 miles between Delaware City, Delaware, and Chesapeake City, Maryland, the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (C&D Canal) is one of the best outdoor adventures in America's very first state.

Some sections are paved, some are dirt, all are scenic. It's a multi-use trail, but we recommend biking it so you can easily experience the the whole length.

Florida

Water recreation reigns supreme in Florida, but one of its most unique outdoor experiences is kayaking or swimming alongside manatees in the winter months.

Some of the best (and incredibly beautiful!) places to do this are Ichetucknee Springs State Park in northern Florida and Crystal River, on the gulf.

Kayaking Ichetucknee Springs State Park, one of the best outdoor activities in Florida

Georgia

Hike, bike, or rock climb at Tallulah Gorge State Park, about two hours from Atlanta. Tallulah Gorge itself, nearly 1,000 feet deep and spanning two miles, is one of Georgia's 7 Natural Wonders

Hawaii

Affectionately known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," Kauai's Waimea Canyon spans over 14 miles, and is one mile wide and 3,600 feet deep. Cruise the scenic Waimea Canyon Drive, hike or bike one of the many epic trails, or take a helicopter flightseeing tour for a birds' eye view. 

Idaho

Fun fact: Idaho has over 130 natural hot springs! Soaking in at least a couple of them is one of the best things to do outdoors in the "Gem State."

To experience truly natural, undeveloped springs, check out Kirkham or Rocky Canyon Hot Springs. For a more resort-like experience, head to Gold Fork

Illinois

Kayaking the Chicago River through the heart of downtown Chicago is one of the most epic outdoor adventures in Illinois. The views are unbeatable, a combination of towering sky scrapers, dense woods, and depending on which direction you're paddling, Lake Michigan and the iconic Navy Pier. 

Kayakers on the Chicago River with the city skyline in the distance

Indiana

Indiana's outdoor recreation will likely surprise you. It has a small stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline and even Indiana Dunes National Park.

Most unique, though, are the Parke County covered bridges. Dubbed the "Covered Bridge Capital of the World," the county has an impressive 31! Plan a road or cycling trip around seeing the bridges and stop in the surrounding quaint towns.

Iowa

It may be more than a bit surprising, but the world's oldest, biggest, and longest bicycle touring event is held in Iowa every year. RAGBRAI, which stands for Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, is an epic seven-day ride that covers nearly 500 miles. 

Kansas

Bouldering is probably not exactly what comes to mind when you think of Kansas. Yet, it's one of the best (and certainly most unique!) outdoor activities in the Sunflower State!

Rock City has about 200 large, almost perfectly circular boulders made of calcium and carbon. The "problems" here are primarily rated V1-V5, so Rock City is excellent for beginners and those looking for a quick workout. 

Several boulders at Rock City, one of the best outdoor activities in Kansas

Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park is the longest cave in the entire world and it's located just outside Bowling Green. The only way to get into the cave is via a guided tour, so be sure to book yours well in advance.

Louisiana

Kayaking through a swamp is a uniquely Louisiana experience. You'll find countless options down near New Orleans, but don't overlook the Lake Chicot Water Trail in central Louisiana or Bayou Macon (technically not a swamp, but incredibly scenic and geographically similar) up north.

Oh and yeah, you'll probably see alligators

Maine

Acadia National Park holds countless wonders, but one of the best is America's first sunrise. Pack a Thermos of coffee and hike up Cadillac Mountain for the best views.

Sunrise over the ocean at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, the best outdoor activity in Maine

Maryland

There's a place in coastal Maryland where you can hike, bike, kayak, fish, go crabbing, and camp  right alongside wild horses.

This place is Assateague Island National Seashore. There are also several swimming beaches in the area, as well as designated areas where you can drive on the beach.

Massachusetts

The World Wildlife Fund consistently names Gloucester, Massachusetts, one of the top whale-watching destinations in the world. There are two major feeding grounds off the coast, attracting humpback, Minke, and finback whales from April through November. 

Book a half-day whale-watching cruise with Cape Ann Whale Watch, one of the few outfitters permitted to go into the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Michigan

The Great Lake State has no shortage of outdoor adventures. In fact, did you know there are several national parks in Michigan?

Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior is one of the most remote and challenging to access. It's only open from mid-April through the end of October, and accessible only via boat or seaplane. 

The trek is worth it, however, for once-in-a-lifetime hiking, backpacking, paddling, fishing, and camping experiences. 

Minnesota

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is considered "one of America's most beautiful and remote places," spanning over one million acres and encompassing more than 1,100 lakes. 

Rent a canoe or book a guided trip with a local outfitter, but either way, plan to stay up late. This is one of the best areas in the U.S. for spotting the Northern Lights.

A canoe on a lakeshore of Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the best outdoor adventure in Minnesota

Mississippi

Tucked into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in northeast Mississippi, Tishomingo State Park is full of natural wonders. The unique moss-covered rock formations, wildflower-blanketed trails, and numerous waterfalls beg to be explored by hiking, climbing, paddling, or camping. 

Missouri

Missouri is a venerable outdoor enthusiasts' playground, with infinite opportunities to enjoy Mother Nature. One of the best, hands-down, is Lake of the Ozarks

Boating and fishing are, of course, some of the top outdoor activities at the lake, but those are just the beginning. You can also hike the surrounding bluffs, golf, or tour nearby Bridal Cave

Montana

In a state centered entirely around The Great Outdoors, picking the best activity is especially difficult. We ultimately went with Glacier National Park because here, you can enjoy just about every outdoor adventure imaginable. 

Hike, paddle around one of the many lakes, watch for wildlife (in particular, bears, moose, and mountain goats), stargaze from Lake McDonald, and drive Going-to-the-Sun Road, which crosses the Contintental Divide.

An alpine lake and mountains in Glacier National Park, the best outdoor adventure in Montana

Nebraska

Cattle ranching is deeply rooted in Nebraska's history, which means so is cowboy culture. It should come as no surprise, then, that horseback riding is one of the top outdoor activities here.

There are hundreds of miles of trails and many scenic places to see on horseback, whether you have your own horse or book a guided ride.

Nevada

Nevada may be best-known for the glimmering lights and neon of Las Vegas, but for an epic outdoor experience, head just one hour outside of the city to Valley of Fire State Park

In this otherworldly landscape of red sandstone rock formations, you can hike (don't miss the Beehives and Fire Wave!), rock climb, camp, and view ancient petroglyphs. 

Rock formations in Valley of Fire State Park, one of the top outdoor activities in Nevada

New Hampshire

Year-round, New Hampshire's White Mountains provide a wide range of recreation opportunities. In the winter, there's skiing, snowshoeing, and even ice castles.

During the summer, biking, fishing, rock climbing, and hiking are popular. In fact, one of the most challenging sections of the Appalachian Trail is in the White Mountains!

New Jersey

Separating New Jersey from Pennsylvania, the Delaware River holds some of the best outdoor adventures in the state. Spend a day leisurely floating or paddling the river, whether it's in a tube, raft, kayak, or canoe.

New Mexico

Although its name is technically a misnomer (the "sand" is actually gypsum), White Sands National Park is the best outdoor adventure in New Mexico.

Buy a plastic sled from the park gift shop or bring your own and sled down the dunes, ideally around sunrise or sunset.

New York

Less than an hour from Rochester in upstate New York, Letchworth State Park is consistently named a top park in the U.S. The park's multiple waterfalls are the star attraction, but there are also hiking trails, as well as opportunities to go kayaking, whitewater rafting, and camping.

A bridge and waterfall in Letchworth State Park, one of the top outdoor activities in New York

North Carolina

There's no shortage of adventure in this stunningly beautiful mountain state, but waterfall chasing is one of its best activities. Western North Carolina alone has hundreds of waterfalls, and many of them can be accessed year-round via short hikes. 

North Dakota

It's probably the least-known in the country, but Theodore Roosevelt National Park is nestled into southwestern North Dakota. Hike or bike, camp, and watch for wildlife — and stars. This is one of the best national parks for stargazing, as well as spotting bison. 

Ohio

Ohio has a national park — Cuyahoga — situated close to two major cities. However, it's the Cleveland Metroparks that offer some of the state's best outdoor adventures.

Just outside Cleveland, Go Ape! at Mill Stream Run Reservation has an aerial ropes obstacle course, ziplines, axe-throwing, and an outdoor escape "room."

Oklahoma

You've probably heard of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and Badwater Basin, the one in Death Valley. But how about Oklahoma?

Tucked in a remote section of the northern part of the state, Salt Plains State Park has opportunities for hiking, biking, wildlife watching, and digging for selenite crystals. 

Oregon

Most people think of the foggy, moody coast when they think of Oregon. But head a few hours inland and the landscape will surprise you. 

The red rocks of Smith Rock State Park have been a climbing mecca for decades, offering literally thousands of routes for every skill level.

Crooked River in Smith Rock State Park, one of the best outdoor activities in Oregon

Pennsylvania

Stargazing is such a big deal at Cherry Springs State Park that there's a dedicated astronomy field and all the lighting has been converted from white to red bulbs. There are telescope platforms and reservable campsites for meteor showers, plus special astronomy events throughout the year. 

Cherry Springs State Park also has excellent hiking and biking trails, and it hosts the world-famous Woodsman Show every August. 

Rhode Island

Strolling the 3.5-mile Cliff Walk in Newport is one of the best outdoor adventures in Rhode Island. The easy walk along the coast is designated as a National Recreation Trail, highlighting both the rocky coastline and famous Newport mansions.

South Carolina

One of the most unique outdoor adventures in South Carolina is crabbing. There are a variety of ways to experience it both onshore and off. You'll find educational catch-and-release programs at many South Carolina State Parks, and guided blue crab trips in most coastal cities such as Hilton Head and Charleston.

South Dakota

Want to actually get away from it all? Head out to Badlands National Park and marvel at the unique formations and wildlife.

Hike the Notch Trail, with its one-of-a-kind ladder, keep your eyes peeled for bison and bighorn sheep, and watch the sunrise or sunset over the badlands.

The "yellow mounds" on a blue sky day in Badlands National Park, one of the best outdoor adventures in South Dakota.

Tennessee

The Great Smoky and Appalachian Mountains create a host of geological wonders in Tennessee, including caving. One of the most unique nature experiences is the Lost Sea, the largest underground lake in the U.S. and one of the biggest in the world. 

Book tickets ahead of time to experience this enormous lake and cave system on a boat tour. 

Texas

Make the trek to Big Bend National Park, one of the most underrated and remote parks in the country. We mean trek and remote literally  Big Bend is over 160 miles from the closest airport!

Hike, look across the Rio Grande at Mexico, and after dark, enjoy one of the clearest, darkest skies on Earth.

Utah

Utah has several of our most iconic national parks, but if you want to get away from the crowds and traffic, go explore some slot canyons instead. There are several accessible slot canyons all over the state, as well as some lesser-known ones.

The inside of a slot canyon, one of the best outdoor adventures in Utah

Vermont

Scenic Vermont offers year-round outdoor recreation, but one of the best adventures is skiing. Vermont's skiing is legendary, with the mountains getting an average of 25 feet of snow each year. 

Killington is one of the best ski resorts, with an ultra-long season that generally doesn't end until mid-May.

Virginia

The Blue Ridge Mountains are home to spectacular scenery and natural features  especially waterfalls.

Head to Shenandoah National Park and do some waterfall chasing! There are over a dozen named in the park, plus dozens of other smaller ones.

Washington

There aren't many places where you can literally hike on a volcano, but Washington happens to be one of them.

Mount St. Helens, less than two hours from Seattle, is one of the most iconic and beautiful places to hike in the country. Over 200 miles of trails caters to hikers and backpackers of all skill levels. 

West Virginia

One of America's newest national parks, New River Gorge, is also home to one of the most unique outdoor activities in the entire parks system: the Bridge Walk

This guided tour takes adventurous souls 3,030 feet across a catwalk on a trestle 25 feet below the New River Gorge Bridge itself  and 876 feet above the river.

The New River Gorge Bridge and river, the best outdoor adventures in West Virginia

Wisconsin

Situated on pristine Lake Superior, Apostle Islands National Seashore is home to the best outdoor adventures in Wisconsin. Explore the eight historic lighthouses on land, or kayak and explore the amazing natural sea caves surrounding the island.

Note: Conditions on Lake Superior are notoriously brutal and change quickly, so it's recommended that even experienced paddlers go on guided excursions.

Wyoming

Last but certainly not least is Wyoming. Although outdoor recreation abounds, it's hard to top the magic or uniqueness of Yellowstone National Park. 

In the summer, hike or take a scenic float down the Yellowstone River. In the winter months, book a bucket list-worthy Snowcat tour to get deep into the snowy backcountry!



Whew, what a list! What do you think of our pick in your state? Tag us on social media and show us your adventures!

While we're on the topic, did you know The Wander Club makes Travel Tokens for all 50 states, plus iconic landmarks, national parks, and much more? 

Check out our selection and rep your home state! Hint: they make excellent gifts and souvenirs, too! 

 

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