It’s the start of a new year, when people make plans and resolutions to try new things. And while resolutions to lose weight or save more money are great, we think that healthy adventures and quality time with friends and family should be at the top of your list!
We’ve put together a list of epic adventures for all 50 states that will get you out of your comfort zone and into the wild.
Find your state to discover fun, local activities… or challenge yourself to a road trip and try several!
Jackson County, Alabama is well-known to cave enthusiasts as a top destination for its expansive limestone caverns. Among the friendliest for veteran and novice explorers alike is Stephens Gap. Stephens Gap is a short hike from the trailhead that ends at a large cave and waterfall. You can enter the cave by either hiking or rappelling about 150 feet down.
If you choose to rappel down, you will land on a natural pedestal, which is a popular spot for pictures.
Pro Tip: The land is now owned and maintained by Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc (SCCi), so make sure you complete and print the free permit online before heading out.
As America’s largest state, Alaska offers a seemingly endless menu of outdoor adventures. Glacier Bay National Park is among the most impressive, with over 50 glaciers and several mountains. The West Arm of the bay offers the opportunity to see tidal glaciers, whales, moose, bears, and tons of unique wildlife.
For a truly unforgettable experience, you can take a kayaking trip throughout the bay, camping at the beautiful inlet beaches along the way. You’ll get to hear the glaciers calving [when chunks of ice break off of the glaciers] and experience a landscape that many will never see in a lifetime. Permits are required, and you’ll be given an orientation and bear vaults at Bartlett Cove. Permits to camp in the park are free.
When you think of outdoor adventures in Arizona, you probably conjure images of the Grand Canyon, or perhaps kayaking on the Colorado River. For something a little different, check out the confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River. The hike is about 16 miles round trip, but you’ll want the whole day to take in the views and stop to swim. The creek runs a deep turquoise color, bordered by bright orange canyon walls.
You’ll hear the roar of the mighty Colorado River long before you see it. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll be able to see a stark line where the turquoise creek ends, and the brown river begins.
Pro Tip: Be sure to give yourself plenty of time so you can enjoy the swimming and scenery along the way!
With massive waterfalls, lush forests, and the sprawling landscapes of the Ozarks, Arkansas is a wonderful place for camping, hiking, and photography. It’s also home to the longest pedestrian bridge crossing the Mississippi River. Spanning the river between West Memphis, AR and Memphis, TN, this bridge allows for cyclists and pedestrians alike to cross the river with breathtaking views. The trail continues from West Memphis along the river to Marianna, and cyclists can enjoy over 70 miles of scenic riverbed.
Pro Tip: For a fun addition to your trip, stop by Horseshoe Lake along the way! For those looking for something different, be sure to check out Mighty Lights, where the bridge is illuminated with dazzling light shows every hour from sunset to 10pm.
We love California, and for good reason: you can find nearly everything here. From mountains to deserts, coastal bluffs, and the redwood forests, there’s no end to what you can discover in California. For those looking for a quiet place to fish, relax, and reflect, there may not be a better place than Weaver Lake.
Located in Sequoia National Forest, the subalpine lake is just under a 4-mile hike in, making it a great location for first-time backpackers, or an easy day trip for more seasoned campers. It’s dog-friendly, and campsites have established fire rings for cooking, light, and warmth. While there are a good number of day hikers in the summer, the space between campsites allows for rare isolation without hiking too far from the main road.
Colorado is the home of excellent winter sports, hiking, snowshoeing, mountain biking, and more. For those who love the water, a rafting trip in Dinosaur National Monument along the Yampa River offers several days of scenic rafting and camping, complete with wildlife, fossils, and excellent hiking. Dinosaur National Monument is loaded with history.
You can find dinosaur fossils, petroglyphs, and other artifacts left behind by those who called this area home hundreds of years ago. There are several campgrounds along the way, and you’ll want to check out Signature Cave – a beautiful hanging garden covered in pictographs just off the river.
Known for beautiful hiking trails, winter sports, and quaint coastal towns, Connecticut is an old state with plenty to offer. For an activity the whole family can enjoy, consider a trip to Gillette Castle State Park. Built by thespian William Hooker Gillette, the castle, which looks like a medieval fortress, is a beautiful piece of architecture.
The 24-room mansion is available to explore, and the surrounding park includes a picnic area, campgrounds, and hiking.
Pro Tip: Be sure to check out the Connecticut Art Trail while you’re there.
Delaware is a peninsula state, featuring miles of coastal beaches and the Delaware Bay. America’s first (and second-smallest) state is largely agricultural, though the northern county is more urban.
For a fun change of pace, plan a few days of oceanside camping at Delaware Seashore State Park. Located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Inlet, this barrier island offers campgrounds for tents as well as large RVs. With parasailing, yoga centers, and several beaches nearby, you’ll have plenty to do with the whole family.You can even bring your dog!
Another peninsula, Florida offers a wide range of activities and includes hundreds of miles of both ocean and gulf coastline. The South Lido Mangrove Tunnels are a unique series of waterways enclosed by a thick canopy of tangled mangroves. Kayaks and stand up paddle boards are perfect for navigating this beautiful ecosystem, and the calm waters are great for beginners. You can rent gear or bring your own, and there are kayak tours available for those less keen on exploring solo.
The best part? You’ll have a chance to see manatees and dolphins up close!
Georgia is teeming with waterfalls, wildlife, and history. One place you don’t want to miss is the Blue Heron Nature Preserve, located just north of Atlanta. The dog-friendly preserve has four separate trails that wind through seven acres of meadows and wetlands. You’ll see a wide array of wildlife, ranging from beavers to butterflies.
With six main islands, volcanic rock, and abundant pacific marine life, Hawaii may be the most unique U.S. state for those seeking adventure. One of the things you absolutely can’t miss while you’re there is snorkeling and scuba diving. Turtle Town, located on Maui, is a great spot for the whole family and the best snorkeling happens in Maluaka Beach. The pristine beach has bathrooms and showers, and its location protects it from trade winds, providing clear, calm water… perfect for snorkeling!
You’ll have a chance to see Hawaiian green sea turtles up close. Be sure to head to the south side of the beach, where the reef begins.
If you visit Idaho, you have to visit the potato farms. Just kidding – there’s actually an abundance of hiking, waterfalls, and even mountains. For the more adventurous travelers, Mount Breitenbach is a great climb. It’s challenging, but a good summit for intermediate mountaineers.
Pro Tip: You’ll want to arrive early and keep an eye on the weather, but the views from the summit are worth every drop of sweat. From the top you’ll be able to see 4 of Idaho’s 12k peaks.
America’s 6th most populous state, Illinois has a little bit of everything. And I don’t care what you say; Chicago has the best pizza in the world. But for something a little more exciting, you can backpack the Yellow Trail in Sand Ridge State Forest. Nearly 15 miles, the Yellow Trail loop offers several campsites along the way.
Ancient glaciers have created a micro ecosystem that is unique to central Illinois.
Pro Tip: That delicious Chicago deep dish pizza is about a 3 hour drive from the site. Still worth it.
The midwestern state best known for the iconic Indy 500 auto race, Indiana also provides a plethora of outdoor adventures. For a fun excursion, take a trip to the Turkey Run trail system. You’ll get to experience 14 miles of riverside trails that can accommodate runners of all levels. The trails all pass points of interest in the park, so you’ll have plenty to see and do along the way.
If running’s not your thing, you can rent canoes and kayaks just a short distance from the park entrance and spend your day floating past 2 historic covered bridges and a suspension bridge.
Nestled between 3 rivers, Iowa has a little bit of everything. For a fun trip with awesome photo ops, check out the Columbus Junction swinging bridge. Known by locals as the “Lover’s Leap” swinging bridge, the crossing sits over eight stories above the ravine. The bridge is aptly named, as you’ll feel the boards swaying back and forth as you cross. If you’re afraid of heights, disregard this recommendation.
Pro Tip: It’s much easier to cross one person at a time.
The heart of the heartland, Kansas is a rural state known as “the breadbasket of America,” producing more wheat than any other state in the country. It’s also home to Geary Lake Falls, a beautiful waterfall that is relatively unknown to those who don’t live nearby; there’s a good chance you’ll have this 30-foot waterfall all to yourself.
The mile-long hike, which crosses over a dam, can be muddy and treacherous but is absolutely worth the work to find one of the most beautiful and secluded falls in the Midwest.
Known for its bourbon and bluegrass, Kentucky is nestled between the Ohio River and the Appalachian Mountains. And while the Kentucky Derby horse races at Churchill Downs are one of the most exciting events in the state, you’ll be equally mesmerized by the Diamond Caverns in Park City.
With carvings that date back to the civil war, the caverns offer awesome opportunities to photograph the extensive stalactites located in these caves.
A melting pot of French, Creole, Cajun, and African culture, Louisiana is best known for its largest city: New Orleans. But if relaxed open container laws, street jazz, and an excessive number of beaded necklaces isn’t your scene, you may want to explore Avery Island.
The home of Tabasco hot sauce, this island sits on a salt deposit that is thought to be deeper than Mount Everest is high. You’ll want to check out the Jungle Gardens, a semitropical landscape spanning over 170 acres. You’ll get to see giant oaks, flower gardens, and a bird sanctuary.
Pro Tip: There are plenty of alligators, so keep an eye out!
Maine is the most northeastern state in the union, with miles of coastline bordered by over 4,600 islands.Otter Cliff is an absolute must-visit if you find yourself in this part of the country. Located in Acadia National Park, Otter Cliff is a 110-foot bluff offering outstanding views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding coves. Rock climbers will have a unique experience, as the cliffs are only accessible from the top. You’ll need to rappel down to the base before you can begin the ascent.
Pro Tip: The truly adventurous will make the ascent before dawn, when the sunrise bathes the cliffs in a golden glow that you may not see anywhere else.
As the birthplace of the national anthem, Maryland is abundant in history. But the Old-Line State has more to offer than crab cakes and football. Its geography offers everything from bustling urban centers to sprawling agricultural lands, but for a truly unique experience, it’s absolutely essential that you camp on Assateague Island.
Located on the eastern shores of Maryland, Assateague Island offers beach camping with the added bonus of wild horses!!!
These feral animals are specially adapted to survive on the island and are not unlikely to explore your campsite for leftover food. Assateague National Seashore is dog friendly, and offers campgrounds, showers, swimming, crabbing, and paddle boarding.
Pro Tip: The wild ponies WILL invade your tent in search of food, so make sure your perishables are locked in a bear box or car to avoid an unexpected interaction.
Massachusetts offers an abundance of history, including the Boston tea party and the midnight ride of Paul Revere. Though this next recommendation isn’t as “outdoorsy” as the rest, we still think that it makes the “must-see” list.
The Freedom Trail is a brick-paved trail more than two miles long that winds past numerous historically significant sites, including the Old South Meeting House, where the Tea Party began and the USS Constitution, America’s oldest commissioned warship.
You’ll also see the Old State House, which is Boston’s oldest surviving public building, and the Paul Revere House, which housed the namesake American patriot. This trip is great for the whole family and offers one of the most well-preserved historical journeys in the country.
Known for its lakes, automotive industry, and the Motown music label, which featured superstar artists like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and The Jackson 5, Michigan has a rich cultural history. The home of president Gerald Ford and the first university established by any of the 50 states (Michigan University), Michigan is home to the longest freshwater shoreline in the world. For those fond of the water, a kayaking trip to Turnip Rock is a can’t-miss.
The natural wonder is not visible by land as it is surrounded by an historic, private community. Unless you’re fortunate enough to know someone who lives there, you’ll need to make the several mile kayak trip to this natural wonder. The journey can be challenging but is well worth it for the spectacular and unique rock formation.
On the western shore of Lake Superior, Minnesota is home to all sorts of winter sports. Whether it’s skiing, ice fishing, fat biking, or ice climbing, this is the state for snow and ice. In the heart of Minneapolis, you’ll find Minnehaha Falls Park. This urban waterfall is over 50 feet tall and surrounded by trails and picnic areas. And while people visit all year round, we recommend that you go during the winter.
Pro Tip: In the coldest months, the falls turn completely to ice creating a stunning landscape in the middle of the park. Bring your camera and shoes with good grip!
Known as the birthplace of blues music and bordered on the west by its namesake river and on the south by the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi is one of the country’s southernmost states. Mississippi is also the home of the late, great King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. If you don’t want to stay at the Heartbreak Hotel, That’s Alright – slip on your Blue Suede Shoes and head on down to Deer Island.
Originally part of the mainland, Deer Island is home to 10 different endangered species. Grab a kayak and your camping gear and you’ll be able to enjoy over 400 acres of undisturbed white sand beaches and marshes.
Known for its grassy plains, Ozark Mountains, and the Mark Twain National forest, Missouri has lots to offer travelers. And while the state offers bustling urban centers in Kansas City and St. Louis, we’re guessing our readers will be much more interested in the Bell Mountain Wilderness. Located in the National Forest, this 11.6-mile loop is a moderate hike and dog-friendly! It’s about 7.5 miles from the trailhead to the summit of Bell Mountain, where you can set up camp.
You’ll enjoy beautiful sunset and sunrise views, followed by a relatively easy 4-mile hike back to the parking lot. It’s the perfect trip for first-time backpackers looking for an easy introduction to backcountry camping.
Montana may be one of the most diverse landscapes in the U.S. With the Rocky Mountains in the West, the Great Plains in the East, and Glacier National Park in the North, Montana has a diverse ecosystem with activities for everyone. The experience you must prioritize is a trip to Glacier National Park, because soon, there may not be any glaciers left. Since 1890, the park has gone from 150 glaciers to merely 25.
Pro Tip: Due to global warming, scientists estimate that by 2030 there will be no glaciers left. So, make your travel plans now, before it’s too late!
Nebraska is a midwestern state known for its rolling hills and grassy plains. At 321 miles, the Cowboy Trail is the largest railroad conversion trail in the country. Perfect for hiking, biking, or horseback riding, you can attempt the whole stretch or just jump on the trail for a few miles.
With massive stretches of desert, Nevada is best known for its resort city Las Vegas. If 24-hour casinos and miniature replicas of the Eiffel Tower aren’t your thing, check out Pastel Canyon. Located in Valley of Fire State Park, these uniquely colored rock formations can be found along an easy 2-mile loop just off Mouse’s Tank Road.
The park service now offers guided tours through the wash, so you should have no trouble finding it. Bring a camera!
#29: New Hampshire
Located in New England, New Hampshire is known for its quaint towns and mountainous terrain. And if you’re a Bill Murray fan (and how could you not be?), you must take a trip to Lake Winnipesaukee. That’s right. Think of it as a vacation – FROM YOUR PROBLEMS! Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire and a popular place for boating and canoeing.
There’s also swimming, fishing, hiking, and plenty more to do, but if I don’t move on soon, I’m just going to start writing down more “What About Bob?” quotes. Baby steps away from the computer… Baby steps away from the computer…
#30: New Jersey
New Jersey is a state on the eastern seaboard that lies just across the Hudson River from New York City. For those interested in wildlife, take a trip to the Lakota Wolf Preserve. The non-profit preserve houses wolves, foxes, and bobcats, and gives visitors a chance to see these animals in their natural environment.
Pro Tip: Reservations are required for the tours, so make sure you call to plan your trip before heading out.
#31: New Mexico
Sitting between Texas and Arizona on our southern border, New Mexico is known for its art scene and vineyards. One of our favorites is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Located in the Chihuahua Desert, the park boasts over 120 caves.
Pro Tip: Bring warm clothes – it gets chilly!
#32: New York
Known for its 5-borough city, skyscrapers, and the iconic Times Square, New York State’s rural treasures are often underestimated. At 260 feet, Kaaterskill Falls is New York’s tallest waterfall, and worth the short but strenuous hike. Located in the beautiful Catskill Mountains, you’ll find plenty more to do while you’re there.
#33: North Carolina
With everything from beaches to mountains, it’s hard to pick just one recommendation for North Carolina. But if we must choose, then the Appalachian Trail is our suggestion. The Appalachian trail stretches from Georgia all the way up to Maine, but for those not interested in a months-long journey, check out the Standing Indian Loop. It’s about 24 miles round-trip and features several campgrounds and lots of time along the river.
Pro Tip: This is an excellent loop for backpackers who are just getting started.
#34: North Dakota
Consisting largely of the Great Plains, North Dakota has a rich Native American history. Located in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the Petrified Forest Loop will give you access to a beautifully fossilized landscape. You’ll also have a good chance to see unique wildlife, including bison.
Home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ohio boasts the Ohio River and Lake Erie. For adventurous travelers, Mad River Gorge is an excellent place for rock climbing. The land was recently purchased by the Clark County Park District, and the 40 to 50-foot cliffs offer climbing routes for beginners and experts alike. There are also picnicking and camping sites available, making this a great new destination for climbing enthusiasts.
OOOOOOOOklahoma where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain! This central state offers mountains, forests, mesas, and prairies, and Turner Falls is a local favorite for hiking and swimming. At 77 feet, Turner Falls is the largest waterfall in all of Oklahoma. It’s an easy day trip from Dallas or Oklahoma City, and a beautiful place to swim and picnic. There are even safety barriers a short way off the beach, so this is a great trip for the whole family.
Oregon is known for its beautiful pacific coastline, abundant forests and mountains, and unique farm-to-table cuisine. Located in the Mount Hood National Forest, Bagby Hot Springs is a popular destination about 90 minutes outside of Portland. The beautiful 3.5-mile hike will take you past 3 different bathhouses with hollowed-out cedar and log tubs to soak and relax. The elevation is over 2,000 feet, offering stunning views of the surrounding Cascade Mountains.
Pro Tip: The natural hot springs are clothing optional, so bring your swimsuit – or don’t!
One of America’s original 13 colonies, Pennsylvania offers forests, mountains, rural farmland, and bustling urban centers. A looping section of the Appalachian trail leads to The Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock, 2 outcrops that offer expansive views of the surrounding countryside. The hike can be done as a day trip, or you can find campsites and truly take your time to explore the rocks, caves, and creek located along the way.
#39: Rhode Island
The smallest state in the union, Rhode Island still has much to offer anyone seeking beauty and adventure. Beavertail State Park, located in Narragansett Bay, is a recreation area spanning over 150 acres. The park offers cliff jumping, swimming, secluded beaches, and stunning views of the New England coastline. Its tide pools offer an abundance of marine life and is home to a museum and small aquarium.
#40: South Carolina
With a rich and extensive history and subtropical beaches, South Carolina is a popular vacation destination for many southerners. In the northwestern part of the state, you’ll find Devils Fork State Park, which provides the only public access to Lake Jocassee.
The park offers everything from backcountry camping to RV hookups and is a great location for just about anyone looking for a peaceful retreat. There are boat ramps in the park, and the lake is a great place for kayaks and stand up paddleboards.
Pro Tip: There are no swimming restrictions, and if you take a kayak or canoe, you may even come across a waterfall.
#41: South Dakota
Home to Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, South Dakota is known for the Black Hills National Forest. Once in the forest, you’ll find Black Fox Campground, a rustic campground in a remote part of the forest on South Fork Rapid Creek. There is said to be excellent fly fishing on the creek, as well as limestone cliffs and ample hiking. Take time to explore the area and you’ll find several large beaver dams and waterfalls.
Tennessee is a mecca for country music fans and artists alike. Nashville has a long tradition in the honky tonk scene, and at least one writer believes that Tennessee has the best barbeque in the world. But when you’ve had your fill of brisket and songs about dirt roads, take a trip to the Hatfield Knob Elk Viewing Tower.
You’ll want a 4×4 vehicle to navigate the muddy road in, but once you arrive it’s only about half a mile to the tower. Once you’ve made the climb, you’ll have a 360-degree view of the Knob and a great chance to see wild elk in their natural habitat.
Home to deserts, forests, NASA, the Rio Grande, and Austin’s bustling music scene, Texas is a massive state with tons to offer. Mountain biking enthusiasts will love Flat Rock Ranch. A little under 50 miles from San Antonio, the ranch provides more than 27 miles of trail systems ideal for mountain biking.
The ranch raises cattle and goats and offers camping sites for those looking to get the most out of the trail system.
Pro Tip: If you stay at Flat Rock Ranch, be sure to call Comfort Pizza in the nearby town of Comfort to reserve your dough. Thank us later.
A mecca for winter sports, Utah offers a wide range of landscapes and outdoor activities. But no trip to Utah is complete without a visit to the Great Salt Lake.
The largest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere covers over 1,500 square miles and provides the most unique swimming experience in the world. Its extremely high salinity and shallow waters create a warm, buoyant pool where visitors float rather than swim. You’ll also have a chance to see the unique shorebirds and waterfowl native to the lake.
Although it is well-known for its forests and maple syrup, Vermont’s greatest claim to fame is its skiing. Thousands of acres of mountainous terrain and cold, wet weather have made skiing a way of life for natives, and there are several great ski towns where you can relax and truly shred the gnar.
Pro Tip: For a quaint town with great food and craft beer, head to the southern end of Mad River Valley to the town of Warren, which is nestled in the Green Mountain ranges and a beautiful place for skiers to unwind.
Bordered by the Chesapeake Bay in the east and the Appalachian Mountains in the west, Virginia has a rich revolutionary history and a wide array of adventures to be had. For perhaps the most beautiful, take a trip to the Shenandoah Valley. You’ll find rivers, caverns, mountains, and more in this epic national park. Be sure to explore Skyline Drive, a 150-mile road that runs the entire length of the park along the Blue Ridge Mountains.
There are plentiful campgrounds, and you’ll want to allow several days to enjoy the hiking, horseback riding, waterfalls, and bike trails.
Pro Tip: Go in the fall when the leaves begin to change for a truly majestic experience.
The most northwestern state in the lower 48, Washington is famous for its coffee, grunge music, and booming tech industry. For a hike-in camping experience, consider a visit to Goldmyer Hot Springs, located in North Bend. Located in the Cascade Mountains, these natural hot springs remain at a toasty 104 degrees and offer stunning views.
Pro Tip: You’ll need to call ahead for reservations and to make sure the road is accessible, but the journey will be 100% worthwhile.
#48: West Virginia
I’ll save you from my rendition of “Mountain Roads” by John Denver, but if you try to tell me that you didn’t just sing “West Virginiaaaaaaaa, mountain mammaaaaaaaa!” then you’re a fibbing scoundrel. But the song is right – West Virginia is situated squarely in the Appalachian Mountains and is the perfect place for backcountry adventures.
Take a hike through the Monongahela National Forest to High Falls, named for its status as the highest elevation waterfall in the state. The hike is strenuous but rewards you with stunning views and a refreshing swimming hole beneath the falls. Once there, you can choose to camp and take advantage of the dark night sky for stargazing.
Pro Tip: Be warned that you’ll be following railroad tracks that are active along the way. Spare us the trendy Instagram pics and stay off the tracks!
Known for football, beer, cheese, and motorcycles, Wisconsin is also home to Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. For the experience of a lifetime, make the trip to the Lake Superior Ice Caves. The largest lake in the world, much of Lake Superior is frozen, providing an opportunity to walk out onto the lake and spend the day exploring icy caves, sliding down waterfalls, and taking in the beauty of this winter wonderland.
Wyoming is the home of Yellowstone National Park, which is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, rivers, geysers, and canyons. At 3,500 square miles, it would be impossible to explore the entire park in a single visit, but while you’re there, be sure to check out the West Thumb Geyser Basin.
You’ll see impressive water and clay hot springs as well as geysers shooting over 20 feet into the air.
Pro Tip: For an extra treat, stay after dark, when you may be able to see the milky way and even the aurora borealis if conditions are right.
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