When it comes to outdoor adventure, the United States has a wide variety of offerings to suit almost everyone. Whether you’re looking for skiing, hiking, or camping, this vast country can surely accommodate your every whim.
Here’s a look at some of the best destinations for those looking to spend their time in the great outdoors and enjoy all that nature has to offer. Pack your bags, grab your travel pillow, and get ready for adventure!
Top 7 Destinations for the Outdoor Adventurer
1. The Columbia River Gorge
If waterfalls are your thing, the Columbia River Gorge is a gorgeous location. Spanning both sides of the Washington-Oregon border, the Gorge offers some of the most stunning scenery in the country. Brimming with 77 waterfalls on the Oregon side alone, hiking here transports the enthusiast to a magical place.
Multnomah Falls is arguably the most famous, nestled in an old-growth forest, but check out some of the lesser known trails like the Dry Creek Falls hike and Wahclella Falls Hike, which is a great one for families due to its lower elevation and ease on the trail. It’s the best place to see all that the Pacific Northwest is famous for.
2. The Great Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the States and for good reason: it offers the most classic examples of the beauty of the South in an unforgettable setting. The mountains themselves exude an ancient feeling and the diversity of scenery is unbeatable.
Cades Cove is famous for its wildlife, with bears, coyotes, and deer roaming the area, making for an exciting hike for animal lovers. Bicyclists and hikers get preference on the trails as it is closed to motor vehicles during certain hours, so you can get up close with nature. Camping is popular in Cades Cove and there are plenty of sites for RV rentals and tents.
3. Mad River Glen
If skiing is your passion, you may first think of Vail or Aspen, but don’t forget to look at Mad River Glen in Vermont. It’s legendary among devout skiers for its natural beauty and unchanged terrain. With 2,000 foot vertical drops, Mad River Glen has runs to challenge even the most experienced skier, but there are also trails that are just right for families.
It’s a true ski mountain with no snowboarding allowed, but its difficulty has been ranked as the most challenging on the East Coast, making it a prime destination for those who are serious about skiing on pure snow. The famous Single Chair Lift limits the number of skiers on the mountain, making for uncrowded trails throughout the season. It’s a destination you won’t want to miss.
4. The Rio Grande River
The big skies of New Mexico are famous and rightly so: the stunning blues and wide expanses are unique and have attracted visitors from all over the world. (And some say visitors from other worlds!) What you may not expect to find is gorgeous bodies of water, but New Mexico will surprise you. For those looking for the unexpected with their water adventure, look no further than the Rio Grande River.
Some of the most beautiful scenery in the world envelops rapids that offer varying levels of challenge, from novice to expert. Shooting the rapids while in the presence of ancient petroglyphs and wildlife viewing that is second to none makes for a thrilling trip with an unforgettable backdrop.
5. Joshua Tree
Nothing says “outdoor adventure” like rock climbing and no location is more iconic for climbers than Joshua Tree National Park in California. With over 8,000 routes to climb and multiple boulders to scale, Joshua Tree has opportunities for everyone from the beginner to the seasoned pro to experience climbing in an environment that is famous the world over for its natural, untouched beauty. Highlining is popular there, too, for those who want an extra thrill.
And don’t rush away as soon as the climbing is over: Joshua Tree offers magnificently dark skies with low levels of light pollution and developed campsites so that campers can view the true majesty of the stars in a largely unobstructed setting. It can get crowded, so make sure to check ahead for camping availability if you’re wanting to stick around for a while. The landscape of Joshua Tree has been described as surreal and there’s an almost otherworldly vibe to it, making for physical challenges in one of the most unique environments on Earth.
6. Lookout Mountain
There’s no better way to take in the scenery of the Rocky Mountains than from the air above and hang gliding is an adrenaline-pumping way to do it. Golden, Colorado offers tandem flights from Lookout Mountain at an elevation of 7,000 feet and views of the town and the mountains that are unbeatable. The Rockies are destination worthy on their own, but seeing them from above makes for a truly memorable experience. Lookout Mountain also offers great hiking trails so feel free to check them out while you’re there for an aerial adventure.
While in the area, take advantage of the other outdoor adventures near Golden like ziplining and enjoy the thrill of riding the longest, fastest ziplines in the state, just a 30 minute drive from Denver. It’s a great area to take in not only hang gliding and ziplining but hiking, snowshoeing, rafting, or snow tubing. Colorado is never short on opportunities for adventure and the Golden area has it all.
If your interests are vast and you want a variety of adventures in one place, there’s no place like Kauai, Hawaii. Kauai is a diverse island with opportunities for any outdoor enthusiast, no matter what you’re looking for. Lihue is the most traveled town on the island and offers surfing and swimming, as well as an amazing hike to view Wailua Falls.
The Wailua River itself offers kayaking and waterside views of the cliffs that are certainly photo worthy. For even more hiking, check out Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, with its stellar views of crags and canyons. Kauai is famous for its clear waters and draws snorkelers who come to see the dramatic underwater scenery.
If you consider yourself an outdoor adventurer, don’t pass up these incredible destinations!