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50 American Adventures in 50 States
We've got all the ideas and inspiration you need to embark on the ultimate awe-inspiring adventure trip.
Your state-by-state breakdown of adrenaline-pumping escapes across the country.
With snow-capped mountains, epic trails, captivating coastlines and inspiring national parks, America has long attracted adventure-seekers itching to explore to its otherworldly landscapes. While a few classic adventure destinations stand out to outdoorsy thrill-seekers – from the Grand Canyon's iconic rock formations to Yellowstone's mesmerizing prismatic hot springs – unexpected adventures abound in remote corners of the country. Whether you want to raft along Idaho's Salmon River or hike the spellbinding cliffs along Hawaii's Na Pali Coast, America teems with striking and diverse settings that appeal to every skill level and passion. Keep reading to discover 50 one-of-a-kind adventure trips across the country.
Alabama: Mountain bike along Little River Canyon.
Tucked into the Southern Appalachians and flowing above Lookout Mountain, Little River Canyon Natural Preserve offers sandstone cliffs, striking waterfalls and canyon cliffs to explore. Straddling the state's Cherokee and DeKalb counties, Little River Canyon offers ample opportunities for outdoor adventure, from climbing to swimming to whitewater paddling. For a trip to remember, enjoy a scenic mountain bike ride in the backcountry, which features 23 miles of dirt and gravel roads. After working up a sweat, check out the 45-foot waterfall, perched off of state Highway 35 at the northern entrance of the park, and enjoy a picnic before taking a scenic stroll along the boardwalk.
Alaska: Glacier trek in Anchorage.
Whether you want to heli-ski along the snow-capped Chugach Mountains, hit the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail or enjoy prime wildlife-viewing in prized national parks, there are plenty of allures for trailblazers in Alaska. "Adventure is practically Alaska's middle name, and in and near Anchorage you can angle in the world’s largest urban fishery, hike to a glacier, surf the bore tide along Turnagain Arm and spot grizzlies from a floatplane," says Amy Alipio, senior editor at National Geographic Traveler. Another must-do experience is watching grizzlies snatch salmon at nearby destinations like Katmai National Park and Preserve, says Alex Howard, managing editor of the U.S. edition of Lonely Planet magazine.
Arizona: Hike Red Rock State Park.
Striking crimson rock formations draw hikers, New Age enthusiasts and photographers to Sedona. And there's no better way to experience the iconic ochre structures in all their glory than at Red Rocks State Park. Cathedral Rock is a particular highlight in this 286-acre nature area, which boasts a network of hiking trails catering to all skill levels and families. Stroll along the Apache Fire Loop, Eagle's Nest Loop and the Coyote Ridge Trail to soak in the scenery before enjoying a picnic at Oak Creek. For a memorable visit, consider joining a naturalist-led moonlight trek or geology hike.
Arkansas: Float along the Buffalo National River in the Ozarks.
Follow your bliss in the Ozarks as you explore the tranquil, wildlife-filled Buffalo National River. You can tube, kayak, hike, bird watch or join ranger-guided programs, among other activities. A popular way to experience the area is floating along the river with a reputable outfitter, such as Buffalo River Float Service or Ozark Mountain Takers Hiking Adventures. During your adventure, keep your eyes peeled for elk and herons, and admire the area's unique sandstone and limestone rock formations, cliffs, caves and springs. Best of all, there are a variety of campgrounds and cabins available at the park, along with budget-friendly bed-and-breakfasts and inns nearby.
California: Paraglide over San Diego's Black's Beach.
Ever dream of taking in dazzling sea vistas as wind and gravity propels you in different directions? "In San Diego, you can soar above Black's Beach in a paraglider with outfitters like Torrey Pines Gliderport," Alipio says. If you're a novice, you can learn about paragliding, get a P1 certification (a beginner pilot paragliding certification) and enjoy five to eight flights over Torrey Pines' striking cliffs. During the aerial expedition, you'll learn about landing aerodynamics and risk management before launching off on your own. You can also opt to enjoy tandem instructional flights, where you'll whizz over Torrey Pines' sea cliffs and mansions on a 20- to 25-minute flight, followed by a scenic hike along the beach.
Colorado: Shred powder in Aspen.
If you want to race down snow-capped mountains and enjoy an après-ski rosy glow, consider alpine-skiing in Aspen, says Everett Potter, a columnist for Forbes and author of "Everett Potter's Travel Report." Whether you want to glide down black-diamond slopes at Aspen Mountain, snowboard on challenging terrain at Snowmass or strap on skis for the first time at Buttermilk, there are plenty of ways to embrace top-notch skiing and an off-the-slope winter wonderland. After checking out iconic ski runs like Bell Mountain, explore the sophisticated ski town's resorts (Viceroy Snowmass and The Little Nell are crowd-pleasers). And cap of your visit with a memorable post-ski cocktail at Ajax Tavern.
Connecticut: Hike the New England National Scenic Trail.
Immerse yourself in striking natural scenery – with dramatic 500-foot craggy cliffs and sweeping views of Long Island and Hartford – at Bluff Head Preserve on the Mattabesett Blue Trail. The preserve is managed by the Guilford Land Conservation Trust and is a sliver of the sprawling 215-mile New England National Scenic Trail, which runs across Connecticut and Massachusetts. After raising your heart rate and snapping a few scenic photos along the Mattabesett Blue Trail, unwind and refuel in Guilford, Connecticut. In this inviting New England village, explore the quaint Town Green common area, low-key bed-and-breakfasts (check out The B&B at Bartlett Farm) and quintessential seafood restaurants like The Place Restaurant.
Delaware: Paddle through Delaware Bay.
Cape Henlopen State Park is a prime summertime spot for swimming, sunbathing and year-round biking and hiking. But for a unique outdoor activity and beautiful scenery, glide into Delaware Bay on a canoe or kayak. Along the journey, keep your eyes peeled for horseshoe crabs, osprey, dolphins and other wildlife. There are also a variety of tour operators, from the Outbound Collective to Quest Kayak, offering guided expeditions and rentals. Start your journey at the beach, then head to the Henlopen Lighthouse or the Point at Cape Henlopen State Park, where you'll spot dunes and migratory shorebirds. After taking in the area's lighthouse vistas, head to Lewes, Delaware, for a sweet scoop at Hopkins Farm Creamery.
Florida: Explore Everglades National Park.
With rare and endangered marine life, from alligators to manatees to blue herons, the Everglades is a dreamland for nature lovers looking to explore the area's excellent biological diversity, Howard says. No matter your pleasure – hiking, canoeing, biking, naturalist-led tours – there are plenty of classic adventure experiences in the Everglades. Enter at Shark Valley, the northern part of the park, located roughly 40 miles west of Miami, to tag along on a naturalist-guided hike, bike ride or tram tour. Rent a bike at the park's welcome center before tracing Tram Road, where you may even catch sight of an American alligator and you can take in sweeping views of the sawgrass marshland from an observation tower.
Georgia: Whitewater raft along the Chattooga River.
For a high-octane adventure filled with enchanting vistas and heart-pounding paddling with an expert, immerse yourself in the Chattooga River's rapids. With outfitter Southeastern Expeditions, you can pair rafting on Class II to Class IV rapids with an overnight camping experience – complete with steak or trout dinners – in Sumter National Forest. You might recognize the scenic 40-mile-long river rapids from the Academy-award nominated 1972 thriller "Deliverance." After getting an adrenaline rush and taking in the river's striking backdrops, explore more of northern Georgia's prized natural attractions, such as the 1,000-foot Tallulah Gorge and Chattahoochee National Forest.
Hawaii: Hike Kauai's Na Pali Coast.
Cinematic coastal scenery. Spellbinding beaches. Pristine waterfalls. This is what attracts adventurers to Kauai's rugged, off-the-tourist-track outdoor lover's paradise. A setting for the "Jurassic Park" films, Kauai offers an otherworldly landscape that's both rugged and "primordial-looking," Alipio says. She recommends immersing yourself in the island's rugged wilderness "by trekking the 5-mile Wai Koa Loop Trail, which passes through the U.S.'s largest mahogany forest," she adds. Along this trail you'll snake past lagoons, a swimming hole and serene picnic areas. Make sure to pack along your camera to take in views of Mount Namahana's staggering 2,600-foot peak and the imposing Kilauea Stone Dam, a tranquil respite with magnificent falls.
Idaho: Whitewater raft along the Salmon River.
With desert scenery and geothermal hot springs, the Salmon River is an outdoor lover's paradise. For a once-in-a-lifetime adventure trip, "raft the Salmon River, which includes Class IV rapids," Alipio says. Even better, step out of your comfort zone on an action-packed whitewater rafting trip. "One of the best things about this adventure is that you won't be getting a Wi-Fi signal, so you can be in the moment," she says. Plus, you don't have to be an experienced whitewater rafter to embrace the great outdoors. With a reputable outfitter, such as O.A.R.S, it's easy to embark on a guided rafting trip before bunking down at campsites and enjoying all-included meals at the end of the day.
Illinois: Rock climb in Giant City State Park.
Get your heart racing by bouldering in this verdant, 4,055-acre retreat in southern Illinois. Along the Giant City Nature Trail, you'll admire striking 12,000-year-old sandstone bluffs. And at Devil's Standtable and Shelter 1 Bluff, climbers looking for a challenge can rappel on grueling routes. Just remember to bring your own ropes and climbing equipment. Adventure-seekers wanting more thrills can push their limits on the rustic, 12-mile Red Cedar Trail, which weaves past striking rock formations and boasts an overnight campsite. During your visit, also make sure to stop and admire the park's unique landscapes, 75 species of trees and colorful wildflowers.
Indiana: Hike along scenic trails and camp at sand dunes.
An under-the-radar park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore stretches the southern edge of Lake Michigan and offers 50 miles of trails to explore. You can enjoy kite-flying, wildlife-viewing, horseback riding and fishing in summertime, plus indulge in snowshoeing and skiing in the winter months, among other pursuits. Find your bliss along the Porter Brickyard and Calumet bike trails in autumn, with peak leaf-peeping around mid-October, or in spring, when beautiful wildflowers speckle the trails. After working up a sweat, unwind at Dunewood Campground, which is open from April to October, or check out nearby areas like Portage and Chesterton, which offers lively restaurants, shops and easy access to the trails.
Iowa: Seek serenity in Coon Creek Wildlife Area.
The Coon Creek Wildlife Area encompasses nearly 1,000 acres and features rugged dirt paths that weave past pristine meadows, verdant oak forests and bucolic landscapes. Make Decorah, Iowa, which is located about 7 miles from the Coon Creek Wildlife Area, your home base. After meandering along the area, you can try trout fishing. The area is home to brook and brown and rainbow trout. Back in Decorah, there are plenty more outdoor diversions, from mountain biking to nature walking. A main draw is hiking, canoeing and fishing along the Trout Run Trail. When you're ready to turn in, Hotel Winneshiek offers a centrally located place to hang your hat.
Kansas: Head for the hills.
Known for its rare tallgrass prairie ecosystem and tucked-away small towns and storied sites, Kansas' Flint Hills region offers much more than a home on the range. Venture to Council Grove, near the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway, to admire eye-catching wildflowers, sprawling prairie grasses and historic attractions, like the Kaw Mission State Historic Site along the Santa Fe Trail. Those interested in agritourism can get their fix with traditional prairie experiences at local homesteads. For more activity, hit the trails along the Konza Prairie Nature Trail or Kings Creek Loop. Then, explore nearby Manhattan, Kansas, to brush up on Flint's unique ecology at the Flint Hills Discovery Center.
Kentucky: Navigate the world's longest underground cave network.
"You don't have to be a hardcore caver to experience the wonders underground," Alipio says. "At Mammoth Cave National Park in south-central Kentucky, you can explore the world’s longest known cave system in a guided tour," she explains. Stretching across 400 miles, the cave system is best experienced on a ranger-led tour. In the autumn, visitors can tag along the Grand Avenue Tour, which wraps around narrow canyons, gypsum-filled passages and dripstone formations. And in winter, you can join the Gothic Avenue Tour, where you can view 200-year-old stone monuments and admire signatures written in the 19th century by candlelight. Afterward, get some fresh air on a backcountry hiking or off-road biking trail.
Louisiana: Walk the Wild Azalea National Recreation Trail.
This 26-mile trail snakes through hardwood forests, pine-laden hills and wetlands and offers ample opportunities for spotting diverse wildlife, including beavers and eagles. Tucked inside the Kisatchie National Forest in Alexandria, Louisiana's southwest corner, the trail is well-suited for hikers of all skill levels. If you don't have it in you to walk the entire trail, you can traverse a section of it – from the town of Woodworth to the Valentine Lake Recreation Area. You can also pedal your way through the forest on a mountain bike. Stop at Castor Creek Scenic Area to admire pristine pine and hardwood trees. And of course make sure to catch a whiff of the area's namesake azaleas.
Maine: Catch crowd-free waves.
Forget the can't-miss waves of Hawaii's Waikiki or California's La Jolla. Instead check out a thriving surf scene just 15 minutes south of downtown Portland, Maine, Potter says. At Ogunquit Beach, Kennebunk and Long Sands Beach in York, Maine, you'll find ideal surfing waves and a dedicated surf crowd. You can take a lesson (and grab necessary equipment) at a nearby surf shop like Liquid Dreams Surf Shop at Long Sands Beach or Wheels N Waves at Wells Beach. Or, if you're already a pro, grab your board and tackle imposing swells at Higgins Beach, where avid riders skim 15-foot waves.
Maryland: Catch oysters along the Eastern shore.
Embracing seaside scenery and catching crustaceans is the perfect way to experience the Eastern Shore. You can try your hand at oystering with captain Ed Farley, "a longtime oysterman who takes visitors on a working skipjack for a two-hour sail on the bay," Alipio says. Farley's company, Oyster Catcher, also offers catered picnics if you would rather take a leisurely sail. After your cruise, Alipio advises eating some delectable oysters (or Maryland's crowd-pleasing blue crabs) at The Crab Claw Restaurant, a St. Michaels institution. Cap off your Eastern Shore adventure by exploring the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, where you can catch sight of bald eagles, snow geese (in autumn and spring) and peregrine falcons.
Massachusetts: Explore Cape Cod on a stand-up paddleboard.
Cape Cod's superb coastal scenery and unspoiled salt marshes and sandy beaches can easily be navigated while balancing on a stand-up paddleboard. And though there are plenty of ranger-led programs worth checking out at Cape Cod National Seashore, a unique way to get moving and enjoy the area's scenery is with outfitter SUPfari Adventures in Brewster and Orleans. Daredevils can even join a SUP Glow Tour after dark to paddle beneath the stars. If you would rather explore by daylight, catch sight of horseshoe crabs and osprey and admire the Cape's thriving ecosystem on a guided adventure with a reputable instructor. After squeezing in a workout, reward yourself with a fresh chowder at Brewster Fish House.
Michigan: Bike, kayak or hike around Grand Island.
In the warmer months, Michigan's Upper Peninsula offers excellent opportunities for escaping the heat and enjoying active adventures, Potter says. A lesser-known gem, Grand Island is a quick jaunt from Munising, Michigan, and is located in Hiawatha National Forest, a nature lover's playground with picturesque trails, craggy cliffs and pristine lakes. Paddle your way through the water to check out beautiful views of Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore, tucked-away beaches, sea caves and sandstone cliffs. You can easily rent a kayak and paddleboard or bike from Muntsing and catch a ferry from the Ferry Dock off of state Highway M-28, from Memorial Day to early October.
Minnesota: Paddle through Boundary Waters.
For a mix of small-town charm and pristine wildlife, embark on an adventure to Ely, Minnesota, an ideal launching pad for exploring Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which offers untouched lakes and streams. You can enjoy peace and solitude as you kayak along the area's remote lakes and rivers, which weave past pine forests, craggy bluffs, imposing rock formations and sandy shorelines, Potter says. You will need a permit to visit the protected area, but if you opt to navigate the lakes with a reputable outfitter like Ely Outfitting Company or Wilderness Outfitters, you won't need to worry about logistics. With about 1,500 miles of canoe routes, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is the perfect place to immerse yourself in nature.
Mississippi: Bike the Homochitto.
The Magnolia State offers plenty of diversions for thrill-seekers, from sailing near Biloxi to biking through lush national forests. For a heart-pounding adventure, grab a set of wheels and tackle the diverse trails in Homochitto's 189,000-acre green space. You can swerve past hardwood forests and unique wildlife – from turkey to white-tailed deer – on a memorable bike ride. The roughly 10-mile Richardson Creek Trail in the Clear Spring Recreation Area is an ideal route for avid mountain bikers, with its steep inclines and diverse terrain. After taking to the great outdoors, retreat to nearby Natchez, Mississippi, roughly 25 minutes west of the forest, where you'll find a variety of affordable inns, hotels and dining establishments.
Missouri: Admire geological wonders at Elephant Rocks State Park.
As its name suggests, this fascinating park features mammoth-sized red boulders created roughly 1.5 billion years ago. The largest granite rock – a 27-foot-tall boulder – carries a unique name, Dumbo. Venture to the 1-mile Braille Rail to explore a labyrinth of the monumental-sized geological marvels, a granite outcrop and a small pond. When you need a break, picnic near the rust-colored boulders. After taking in the striking rock display, retreat to Graniteville, a nearby town off Missouri Route 21, where you can view original granite structures.
Montana: Cross-country ski in Big Sky Country.
Across Big Sky Country, you'll find miles and miles of well-groomed trails to tackle, Potter says. In western Montana, breaks from gliding along downhill slopes can be spent cross-country skiing. At the Glacier Nordic Center, there are plenty of trails well-suited for varied ski levels, from beginner to advanced. And if you're itching to visit Yellowstone in the off-season, head to Lone Mountain Ranch, where there are miles postcard-perfect Nordic paths twisting through the Rocky Mountains. You can even opt for an expert-led tour with a guide from the ranch. After an exhilarating day outdoors, unwind at the ranch's inviting restaurant and soak in the unspoiled forest and meadow scenery from your rustic log cabin.
Nebraska: Canoe or kayak along the Niobrara River.
This free-flowing river lures outdoorsy types, animal lovers and geologist enthusiasts. You can take in striking sandstone bluffs and raft past canyons, valleys and magnificent falls. The Smith Falls, which rise higher than 60 feet, are a top highlight. If you're a novice rafter, consider checking out the Cornell Bridge to Rocky Ford route, with Class I and Class II rapids. Reputable outfitters like Niobrara River Range offer guided expeditions and rentals. After floating along the river, stretch your legs in the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, where you can spot prairie dogs, deer, elk, turtles and bison, among other species along scenic trials and observation platforms.
Nevada: Snowmobile in Lake Tahoe.
For an off-the-beaten-track snowy getaway, head to Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, where you can snowmobile along fresh powder in the area's Tahoe Basin. With towering granite bluffs, snow-blanketed meadows and tall pines, the area transforms into a winter wonderland. Sports lovers can also cross over the border to California to enjoy more cold-weather pursuits, from dog-sledding to cross-country skiing at Squaw Valley – the spot where the 1960 Olympic Winter Games were held. What's more, Zephyr Cove offers a variety of snowmobiling tours and promotions, making it easy to embark on a high-octane lakeside snowmobile tour along well-groomed trails.
New Hampshire: Push your limits on tough trails in the White Mountains.
For a strenuous, but rewarding hike, lace up your boots and venture to Presidential Range in New Hampshire's legendary White Mountains. Potter recommends taking advantage of trail season and hiking during the warmer months (in winter, Mt. Washington State Park shuts down facilities). As you tackle the long route, weaving past towering peaks like Mount Washington, which ascends to nearly 6,300 feet, you'll weave past forests and maple-, beech- and birch-lined trails. Best of all, you'll take in enchanting views of the alpine scenery. The best way to experience the area is on a guided tour. With Cathedral Mountain Guides, you can tackle difficult mountaineering and rock climbing expeditions with a knowledgeable guide.
New Jersey: Hike Cape May Point State Park.
With coastal marshes, sandy dunes, forests and pristine seaside scenery, this charming 235-acre park offers plenty of arresting trails, picnic areas and lookout platforms for admiring the Cape May Peninsula. Take the short, but picturesque Red Trail to reach the lighthouse and gaze over a viewing platform, where you can often spot osprey, swans and wading birds. If you're pining to cast a line, the area is home to striped bass, bluefish and flounder, among other species. And if you want to stretch your sea legs, you can easily rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and embark on a guided nature tour from mid-June to September with a reputable company like Aqua Trails.
New Mexico: Sled along dunes.
If you've ever wanted to sandboard in a surreal desert landscape, make your way to New Mexico's White Sands National Park. Set beneath the San Andres Mountains in the Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico, these striking dunes beckon to adventurers yearning to bike, hike, camp and sled along soft, gypsum dune fields. For an otherworldly adventure, join a guided full moon bike ride or hike. Best of all, you can admire the desert dunes, pines and aspens in this top New Mexico vacation spot year-round, though comfortable temperatures in the spring and fall beckon to hikers. For a memorable stroll, hit the Playa or Alkali Flat trails.
New York: Explore Adirondack Park.
"I think the state parks don't get nearly enough of the recognition that they should," Howard says, highlighting Adirondack Park as a tranquil respite for those looking to escape the daily grind. The 6-million acre region offers diverse areas to explore, untouched natural landscapes and an abundance of ways to soak up the great outdoors. Plus, there are more than 2,000 miles of trails to explore. Plan a trip in autumn to catch sight of blazing colors – from purple to amber to yellow hues. Castle Rock in Blue Mountain Lake is particularly alluring in the fall, when you can admire bright leaves blanketing beech, white ash and cherry trees. Another standout is Mount Haystack, which rises 4,960 feet.
North Carolina: Take a scenic hike in the Blue Ridge Parkway.
A quintessential, can't-miss destination for every intrepid hiker, North Carolina's Blue Ridge Parkway is especially bewitching in autumn, when green, yellow and amber leaves cast a fiery glow across the scenic stretch through the Blue Mountains. Though the sprawling, 469-mile parkway meanders through Virginia and North Carolina, highlights for adventure-seekers can be found near Asheville. Make your way to Mount Pisgah, where you'll find picturesque trails and a picnic area. If you're an avid hiker, don't skip the challenging 16-mile Shut-In Trail. Another must-see is the Craggy Gardens Trail, a self-guided route lined with wildflowers that leads to a sweeping view of the Black Mountain Range.
North Dakota: Take the Petrified Forest Loop in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
With its colorful painted canyons, prairie grasses and cottonwood forests, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is an outdoor lover's playground. You can admire bighorn sheep and deer, float along the Little Missouri River or hit underrated nature trails. Meander along the 10-mile scenic Petrified Forest Loop to stroll past rocky badlands, petrified wood and striking rock formations. For an easier hike, trek along the Wind Canyon Trail, which, as its name suggests, weaves past a wind-carved canyon as you ascend to a scenic lookout of the Little Missouri River. There are plenty of other outdoor adventures to experience in the park, from horseback riding to fishing to canoeing.
Ohio: Hike the foothills in Burr Oak State Park.
There's a lot for adventurers to love about backpacking through Burr Oak State Park, an underrated woodsy Appalachian destination with hickory- and oak-filled paths and ideal conditions for wildlife watching and stargazing. Set in the southeastern part of the state, the state park offers plenty of accommodations, from rustic campgrounds to well-appointed lodges. Plus, visitors can join naturalist-led expeditions, like full moon hikes. Arrive in autumn to catch sight of yellow, crimson and orange hued leaves; in spring, keep your eyes peeled for orchids, violet wildflowers, Dutchman's breeches and other blooms. No matter what time of year you visit, look for white-tailed deer, box turtles and other wildlife.
Oklahoma: Fish along the Mountain Fork River.
If you're itching for a tranquil weekend in the great outdoors, venture to southeast Oklahoma's Mountain Fork River, where you can soak in spellbinding sights and enjoy trout fishing. Take in dramatic views of imposing peaks and pine trees along the 14,000-acre Broken Bow Lake, as you reel in local rainbow and brown trout. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty more ways to embrace quality time in the great outdoors here, whether you want to kayak, raft, float or canoe along the river. If you're not a DIY type, pick up supplies and explore the river beside an experienced fisherman with an outfitter such as DFWflycasting or Four Seasons Fishing Guide Service.
Oregon: Catch the waves at Oswald West State Park.
Spending a trip skimming large swells may seem like a pipe dream in the Pacific Northwest, but at Oswald West State Park's Short Sands Beach, it's easy to swim, surf and boogie board. And though you won't find laid-back clam shacks or tiki huts here, you will find an active surf team, enchanting vistas of Neahkahnie Mountain and Cape Falcon and prime conditions for surfing. Sea temperatures along the northern coastline linger around the cool 40s, making a wetsuit a necessity. If you cringe at the prospect of plunging into icy waters, fret not: There are plenty of other worthwhile diversions at the park, including picturesque coastal hiking trails packed with red cedar, Sitka spruce trees and hemlocks.
Pennsylvania: Reach new heights in Hyner View State Park.
If you've dreamed of soaring over dramatic overlooks, Hyner View State Park offers a scenic and storied spot to try your hand at hang gliding. From above, you can take in sweeping mountain vistas and postcard-perfect views of the Susquehanna River's West Branch. Adventure tour outfitter Hyner Hang Gliding Club Inc. offers paragliding and hang gliding classes. After ascending to inspiring heights, enjoy more relaxing outdoor adventures on terra firma. Stretch your legs along the Donut Hole Trail or enjoy fishing, canoeing, mountain biking, horseback riding and camping in nearby Renovo, Pennsylvania, at Sproul State Forest.
Rhode Island: Glide along Narragansett Bay.
Shingled cottages, pristine beaches and the charming Point Judith Lighthouse are among Narragansett's top attractions. But here's a secret: For superb coastal views, the best way to experience this beach destination is along the water. Set sail on a fishing charter or sunset trip to soak in the scenery. If you want to learn the ropes, take a course at Narragansett Sailing School. If you would rather let someone else steer the wheel, Rhode Island Bay Cruises offers a 90-minute cruise that weaves past 10 storied lighthouses across the state. Afterward, check out Victorian architecture in Narragansett or explore nearby Galilee, a laid-back New England town with kitschy clam shacks (don't skip Iggy's Doughboys & Chowder House.)
South Carolina: Kayak through Folly Creek.
Grab a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and head to Folly Creek to take in the area's unspoiled beauty along its tidal creeks and inlets along the coast. The estuary offers opportunities for expert-led marsh kayaking, where you can spot crabs, pelicans, dolphins and more local wildlife. Plus, you can embrace the low country's superlative landscapes and learn about the unique ecosystem on a kayaking expedition geared toward moderate paddlers, as you weave through the network of tidal creeks behind Folly Beach with a reputable outfitter like Charleston Outdoor Adventures. After admiring the area's unique biodiversity, relax at Folly Beach (or try your hand at surfing), before grabbing a bite at one of the city's crowd-pleasing eateries like Lost Dog Cafe.
South Dakota: Hike and cruise through Custer State Park.
Whether you want to hike, mountain bike, kayak, canoe or test your limits on a high-octane adventure, South Dakota's Custer State Park in the southwestern corner of the state is an overlooked gem for adventurers. Aside from a mix of outdoor activities, you'll find beautiful grassland and buffaloes, Potter says. The park is also home to antelope, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep and coyotes, among other wildlife. Plus, the 71,000-acre retreat in South Dakota's Black Hills, though often overshadowed by Mount Rushmore, offers spectacular scenery-packed drives (don't skip cruising along Needles Highway) and iconic trailheads like Cathedral Spires. If you plan a trip in September, don't miss Custer State Park's annual Buffalo Roundup, when cowboys wrangle about 1,300 buffalo – a rare sight.
Tennessee: Find a peaceful respite at Fall Creek Falls State Park.
Take a quick jaunt to this serene 26,000-acre park to immerse yourself in rugged natural beauty. It's got waterfalls that are truly spectacular, Howard says. In fact, Fall Creek Falls rise more than 250 feet and are some of the tallest waterfalls in the eastern U.S. Captivating waterfalls aside, the park also boasts streams, cascades and gorges and hugs the top of the Cumberland Plateau. Plus, there are more 56 miles of trails to explore. If you're looking for peace and solitude, stroll along the Gorge Overlook Trail or check out the Base of Fall Creek Falls Trail. If you want to raise your heart rate, grab a bike and pedal along the challenging Upper Loop Trail, which snakes along hills, rocky areas and scenic twists and turns.
Texas: Commune with nature in McKinney Falls State Park.
With towering waterfalls, a storied 500-year-old cypress tree named Old Baldy and opportunities for road biking, hiking, bouldering and fishing, this impressive green space offers plenty of outdoor diversions for adventurers. And thanks to its convenient location – 13 miles southeast of downtown Austin – it's easy to hit the reserve's picturesque trails in the Hill Country. For a challenging trek, tackle the Rock Shelter Trail, and for a more leisurely stroll, hit the 2.8-mile Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail. Animal lovers will also appreciate the park's diverse species, from armadillos to painted bunting birds. And with 81 campsites, countless areas for fishing and picnicking and ranger-led programs, the park offers allures for everyone.
Utah: Mountain bike in Moab.
A launching pad to otherworldly red-rock formations at Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park – especially in March – this eastern Utah town offers the chance to hike, raft, bike and stargaze, among other outdoor pursuits. To embrace the area's surreal, eroded sandstone rock formations, get your heart racing as you traverse the 100-mile White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park, which offers picturesque vistas of Island in the Sky mesa's red-rock cliffs and wildflower-filled terrain. Other legendary trails include Slickrock and Porcupine Rim. After working up a sweat on an adrenaline-fueled desert ride, explore more natural attractions in Utah's prized national parks or unwind at one of the town's microbreweries or low-key restaurants.
Vermont: Join a road biking tour.
Vermont may be well-known for its well-groomed slopes, clapboard homes and charming countryside inns, but it's also a playground for cyclists. Vermont is a perennial favorite for road biking – and for good reason, Potter says. You can admire quintessential New England towns like Woodstock, catch brilliant autumn foliage, tackle challenging terrain and delight in the state's world-renowned maple syrup and cheese at crowd-pleasing restaurants, followed by an organized bike tour – a craft beer in hand – through the Green Mountain State. Reputable outfitters such as Backroads and VBT offer organized tours through the state. For more of an adrenaline rush, head to East Burke, Vermont, which is a prime destination for mountain biking along its winding Kingdom Trails.
Virginia: Cruise along Skyline Drive.
For a gorgeous road trip, drive along the 105-mile Skyline Drive, where you can soak in brilliant views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park, Potter says. The trails are easily accessible and a treat for nature lovers, particularly in autumn and spring to catch blazing fall colors or beautiful blooms. Along the drive, you'll weave past rolling hills, oaks and hickories. Breaks along the road can include stops at picturesque overlooks, such as Hazel Mountain Overlook and Old Rag View Overlook. At Old Rag, adventure-seekers will want to tackle the Ridge Trail to catch sight of the iconic granite masses followed by panoramic views of the park. Start your journey from Front Royal, Virginia, off of U.S. Route 340.
Washington: Hike the Hoh River Trail in Olympic National Park.
From backpacking in the wilderness to stargazing on a ranger-led hike to racing through scenic rivers on a canoe or kayak, Olympic National Park is packed with adventurous activities for every interest and skill level. "I really like the Pacific Northwest," Howard says, highlighting the area's unique hikes and rugged and diverse landscapes, especially at Olympic National Park. The spectacular Hoh River Trail to the west of the Olympic Mountain, features mossy, old-growth trees such as Sitka spruce, red cedars, big leaf maple and glacier meadows. Plus, you can keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as Roosevelt elk, eagles and otters. Best of all, this nature lover's playground offers plenty of campsites, available with a wilderness permit.
West Virginia: Trek through the Dolly Sods Wilderness.
If you're searching for serenity and solitude, escape it all in Dolly Sods Wilderness, a 17,371-acre area in the Monongahela National Forest with lovely, high-mountain trails. You can traverse railroad grades and former logging roads as you snake past pristine meadows, hemlock and birch trees and remote wild landscapes along the area's 47 miles of protected trails. The Red Creek Trail is a particular crowd-pleaser for thrill-seekers, with its rugged and often muddy terrain, river crossings, stunning views of waterfalls and pine forests blanketed with huckleberries, blueberries and cranberries in the warmer months. For postcard-worthy vantage points, tack on a side trip to Lion's Head Overlook, which offers striking mountain and valley vistas.
Wisconsin: Cycle along the Gandy Dancer Trail.
Enjoy exploring picturesque forests and serene country roads from behind two handlebars on one of Wisconsin's scenery-filled biking trails. With very few hills, Wisconsin's terrain is ideal for road biking, Potter says. Consider peddling along the Gandy Dancer State Trail, a 98-mile trail that straddles the Minnesota border and yields amazing views overlooking the St. Croix River. A top highlight is the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which stretches for 1,200 miles and traces Gandy Dancer State Park for roughly 19 miles. At Ice Age National Scenic Trail, there are plenty of ways to embrace the great outdoors, from nature walks to wildlife-viewing to stargazing to cross-country skiing. Make charming Polk County your home base, before soaking in Wisconsin's pristine natural allures by bike.
Wyoming: Hike and river raft in Grand Teton National Park.
Strap on your hiking boots and take in alpine scenery, unspoiled lakes and diverse wildlife in Grand Teton National Park. All of America's prized national parks offer unique activities geared toward a variety of traveler interests, Potter says, highlighting everything from guided bike trails to river rafting to hiking with reputable active travel company Backroads. While there are a variety of picturesque trails to take in, exploring Taggart Lake stands out as a memorable hike. The 4-mile trail snakes past the glacially carved lake and verdant forest and affords sweeping views of the Teton range. For more activity, consider rafting along the Snake River on an expert-led tour with an operator such as Backroads or a scenic float trip with Lost Creek Ranch.
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