When you’re ready to pack up all your belongings and move somewhere more accommodating of your outdoor adventure lifestyle, you can have your pick of destinations. The cities on this list vary greatly in size, location and culture, but all of them offer incredible adventures both in town and just outside the limits. Load up the U-Haul and head to one of these 13 cities for outdoor adventurers.
Best known to the outside world for pristine powder and luxury ski accommodations, locals in Park City know that winter tourists only see a fraction of the town’s overall charm and outdoor possibilities. But with three top-tier ski areas—Park City, Deer Valley and Canyons—within city limits (and several others a short ride away) it’s no wonder Park City is famous for its winter offerings. Though the snowy season steals the show, warmer months are at least as enjoyable. For mountain bikers, Park City’s internationally-recognized trails are pure heaven, rock climbers will find their niche out in the Wasatch Mountains and the ultimate outdoor athletes can train at Utah Olympic Park. Add to that an incredible food scene and a full calendar of cultural events and festivals and Park City is easily among the best cities for outdoor adventurers.
Tucked into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville has made major waves for its downtown revival and population growth, but the real treasure lies off of Main Street, in the great outdoors. With a temperate climate, very little snowfall and an average of 220 sunny days a year, Greenville is a great year-round venue for hikers, bikers and other outdoor adventurers. The city is surrounded by state parks, recreation areas and public land, all of which are home to many miles of hiking trails—some just a 15 minute ride from downtown. Paddle a stretch of the Reedy River, which runs right through town, hone your climbing skills at Chimney Rock State Park or enter one of the best cycling races in the country—the Gran Fondo Hincapie.
A lesser-known gateway to the great outdoors, Spokane is a sizable city with a small town vibe, whose major selling point is proximity to mountains, lakes and protected lands. Paddlers can get their fix on the Spokane River, which runs through the city, or they can head out to one of more than a dozen lakes nearby, like the beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene. Cyclists and mountain bikers can find their own trails either in town or just outside and snow sports enthusiasts can find three mountains within a two-hour radius of the city.
This far-out mountain town is unlike any other place on earth—and that’s the appeal. Bordered on three sides by the towering red peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos is one of the few places that retains its native culture, thriving art scene and connection to the great outdoors. Adventure seekers can climb the tallest mountain in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak; skilled paddlers can take on the Taos box section of the Rio Grande and come winter, expert powder hounds can head to Taos Ski Valley for some serious vertical.
This big city draws in the crowd who wants just the right balance of urban and outdoorsy—in other words, it's easy to understand mass appeal. With all the amenities of a major U.S. city, Boston also offers a lively sports and fitness culture that extends from the professional leagues down to average residents. When the weekend hits though it’s just a short drive to the open ocean or the mountains—Bostonians have easy access to Cape Cod, the Berkshires and the mountains in both New Hampshire and Vermont.
If asked to describe the city of Portland in one word most people would respond with either bikes or beer and they would have made a good point. This super bike-friendly city knows how to serve up a great brew—but that’s far from the extent of the city’s charm. For outdoor enthusiasts, Portland is paradise. On top of the bike culture and trails available, hikers, swimmers, paddlers, climbers, skateboarders, snowboarders and skiers can also find their niche. The city is split by the Willamette River (which is perfect for urban kayaking), Forest Park is a chunk of wilderness within city limits and Mt. Hood is just an hour and a half away for the skiers and boarders.
Finding adventure in this classic western town is as easy as stepping out your front door. With its proximity to National parks like Grand Teton and Yellowstone, access to the National Elk Refuge and it’s placement among practically endless public lands, there’s no shortage of trails, waters and wildlife to discover. Paddle the Snake River, which has sections calm enough for kids and others exciting enough for adrenaline junkies or head out on an epic mountain biking adventure—either way Jackson Hole is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. When the snow starts to fall, the mountains in town are the place to be and even the best skiers and boarders can find some challenging terrain. When you’re ready for a break, there are some incredible art galleries in town, catch some local live music or experience some Wild West nightlife, cowboy-style.
On location alone, Knoxville is a gold mine. With access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Cumberland Plateau and dozens of waterways, there are countless opportunities for outdoor recreation in the area. But even within city limits, outdoor recreation is a top priority. The Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center is set alongside the Tennessee River and offers rentals, maps and information. The Ijams Nature Center is an awesome section of urban wilderness that offers climbing, hiking and paddling opportunities and the greenway gives allows easy access to the city.
This progressive city set on the coast of Lake Champlain may be famous for Ben & Jerry’s (among other culinary wonders) but the outdoors is what truly draws people in and keeps them. From mountain biking in the nearby Green Mountains to kayaking and boating on the lake, it’s easy to maintain an outdoor passion in a city like Burlington. Those willing to travel will find some of the best hiking, skiing and snowboarding in the country close by.
A bike hub unlike any other, Fort Collins has more than trails and tours; it has its very own bike library where locals and visitors can “check out” a bike to explore the town and surrounding areas. But the town that sits just beneath the Rockies isn’t only for bike lovers—hikers will have no trouble finding dozens of scenic trails, those seeking trout need look no further than the Cache La Poudre River and cross-country skiers and snowshoers are in luck for the winter too.
If you were to look only at the area surrounding Missoula, you might wonder how such a place could exist. How such a lively, liberal and adventurous little city could spring up in western Montana amid national forests and farming industries. Well, the university might have helped, but the city has since taken on a life of its own, propelled by the beautiful forests, rivers and mountains that surround it. Hikers and mountain bikers can usually be on the trail, in complete wilderness in less than 10 minutes and paddlers have it even better—the Clark Fork River cuts through the middle of the city and is a hub for activity. Skiers and snowboarders can enjoy the chillier months by driving a few short hours to some incredible mountains—Whitefish and Big Sky.
If you thought that Arizona was all barren desert and spiky cacti, take a deep breath of fresh mountain air and think again. The city is actually set about 7,000 feet above sea level, at the base of the San Francisco Peaks and it’s bounded by national forests, which means it’s chock full of outdoor adventure. Mountain bikers (and fat bike enthusiasts) will fall in love with the seemingly endless amount of trails—many in close proximity to the center of town. Get on the dirt at Shultz Pass, explore an ancient underground tunnel at the Lava River Cave and camp out in the Coconino National Forest. Just be sure to look up and enjoy the magnificent stars.
Sin City—the spot best known for gambling, partying, and general debauchery—has a seriously warped reputation, even among those who have visited. It’s no secret that Vegas draws tourists looking to drink and gamble, but locals know that a short journey off the Strip will put you right in the heart of an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. You name it—hiking, mountain biking, rappelling, sky diving, ziplining and, yes, even snowboarding—Las Vegas and the surrounding area just about has it all. Travel a bit further and you’ll find six national parks, 13 state parks and practically endless acres of public land, within a few hours’ drive. This city masquerading as a tourist town is actually a great gateway to outdoor adventure.