How does your state add to the Great American “Outdoorsy” experience?
The United States’ incredible landscapes, peaks, valleys, roving rivers, and gleaming beaches make us proud to call this place “home.” We hike; we climb; we wander this great continent, and still: we can’t get to everything, no matter how hard we try.
Many different elements make a state “outdoorsy.” From the number of recreational hiking trails to the number of campgrounds; from fly fishing waters to rock climbing locations to sailing schools — everything was analyzed using critical data sets to determine the most “outdoorsy” states.
So: which states are the most outdoorsy? Which are the least? Take a tour through these incredible states—each with a unique environment, a unique cast of people, all who make each state’s outdoors “home” (no matter the ranking).
1. California (CA)
That vibrant Golden State, arching beneath the bright sun at the edge of the continent, is revving with diverse and awe-inspiring “outdoorsy” locales—in which its 38 million people hike, bike, climb, camp, swim, and even surf. From the Yosemite Great Falls to the Point Reyes beaches; from the glittering stars above Joshua Tree to the towering Sequoias and Redwoods—there’s something ancient and empowering about the great California outdoors. It’s something that assures us that no matter how inward that Silicon Valley, tech universe takes us—the outdoors is truly where we belong.
No time for leisure activities. California has the most number of rock climbing, summer camps, and campgrounds throughout the country. Further, it’s stocked with national trails, has the second highest number of sailing schools, and has the fourth highest number of ski resorts.
2. New York (NY)
Non-New Yorkers may only be able to conjure images of the Big Apple, but residents know that the great outdoors is wild, blossoming, and flourishing year-round. The Adirondacks has over 3,000 ponds and lakes, and the Thousand Islands and its famous five shipwrecks make the state a scuba diver’s dream. These are only a few of the 215 state and national parks located in New York State. The Catskills and Long Island beaches are also famous outdoor getaways for city dwellers.
New York has the most number of national parks across the country and swings into second for the most fly fishing waters. It boasts the third highest number of sailing schools and ski resorts, and the fifth most summer camps and kayak areas.
3. Pennsylvania (PA)
The Keystone State’s blue, smoky mountains, so ghost-like on the horizon, roll evenly into Appalachian hiking trails, yellow farmlands, and roving waterways. This incredible diversity promotes ever-changing climates: springs grow into vibrant, but humid summers, and Septembers fold neatly into orange and red Octobers. Pennsylvania’s gleaming, blue-skied winters allow for long days skiing in the Blue Ridge or Pocono Mountains also this season in 2017. After that, sticky summers fuel long days hiking through the Appalachian Trail, kayaking down the Susquehanna River, or camping at favorite state parks, like Black Moshannon, Hickory Run, or Canoe Creek.
Pennsylvania swings into the second national slot for most national recreation trails. It has the third highest number of fly fishing waters, the ninth most kayaking arenas, and a plethora of state parks, rock climbing locations, and summer camps.
4. Oregon (OR)
Whether you are an ocean or mountain person, relaxed hiker or extreme sports enthusiast, you’ll find what calls you to nature in Oregon. You don’t have to venture far to observe wildlife, find a secluded bay for paddling, or wander deep into a forested trail. The Beaver State is world renowned for its rich landscape of forests, mountains and beaches stretching along the Pacific Northwest. Canon Beach, Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor offer endless outdoor-lovers’ activities year-round, including hiking, skiing, snowboarding, canoeing, rafting, and sailing.
Coastal Oregon offers the second most number of hang-gliding schools, REI stores, and state parks across the country. Furthermore: it offers the fourth highest number of recreation hiking trails and campgrounds.
5. Washington (WA)
The Evergreen State is no surprise on our list, where the diverse landscape is rich with opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Washington State is home to the Cascade Range and the Olympic Mountains, where visitors and residents can enjoy the natural beauty that Washington has to offer. Whether you want to enjoy a peaceful hike through an old-growth forest or hardcore mountain climbing, Washington’s mountains have everything to offer. Not to mention, the state has 3,000 miles of coastline with the amazing scenic views, freshwater lakes, and glacier-fed rivers.
Washington offers the highest number of state parks, and boasts the sixth highest number of sailing schools and campgrounds. Furthermore, it has the fourth highest number of REI stores across the states.
6. Michigan (MI)
That earnest mitten in the center of the country, hugged in great flourish by five of the greatest lakes in the country, is Michigan. Majestic Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes glide into Lake Michigan: waters stretching north, peppered with gorgeous lighthouses that have guided sailors for more than a century. The Mackinac Bridge connects the Lower Peninsula to the Upper, where lesser-known outdoor secrets like Tahquamenon Falls, Pictured Rocks, and glittering, turquoise (ever-cold) waters and beaches reign. Mackinac Island dots just east of the bridge: a glorious outdoorsy destination with no cars allowed, featuring long, forested hikes between magnificent pine trees, essential fishing spots, and a yearly, Chicago to Mackinac sailing race.
Michigan has the highest number of ski resorts throughout the country, the second most number of campgrounds, and, unsurprisingly, the second most number of kayak and canoe locations.
7. Colorado (CO)
If you want to enjoy the great outdoors in Colorado, the perfect time to go is… all year round. For outdoors enthusiasts, there is no shortage of rivers, lakes, mountains, and national parks to explore. Nature-lovers can enjoy a relaxing landscape and scenic view, or throw themselves into the adventure of outdoor skiing, long-distance backpacking, white water rafting, or mountain biking. Colorado is home to 26 ski resorts and recognized world-wide for some of the best skiing in the U.S.
Mountainous Colorado offers the second highest number of rock climbing locations, and the fifth highest number of ski resorts, campgrounds, and REI stores per 1 million people.
8. Alaska (AK)
The Last Frontier can seem like another world: an ice-crusted, snow-covered, and moose-roaming foreign land. It’s dreamlike, with its mountains smothered with drifting clouds, long rivers pulsing with trout and grayling, and grizzly bears and wolves seen by long bus ride through Denali National Park and Preserve. The state’s 20,320-foot Mount McKinley stands grandly over gleaming Wonder Lake. A day spent kayaking over the Chena River (or else bouncing over the Class IV rapids on the Nenana River) is truly glorious—as long as you don’t take a freezing-cold dip.
Alaska has the highest number of paragliding schools and REI stores per 1 mio. people. Furthermore, it comes in ninth for most national parks across the nation.
9. Florida (FL)
There is no shortage of beaches for ocean lovers in Florida, but the outdoorsy appeal of the Sunshine State goes beyond its coastline. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy a wide range of activities including wildlife observation, camping, hiking, birding, scuba diving, or fishing. The rivers, lakes, and oceans make it a prime location for all boating activities, including canoeing, kayaking, and waterskiing, as well as other water sports like windsurfing. The Everglades are famous for wetlands and gators, as is the Biscayne National Park for its coral reef and diving sites.
Sun-drenched Florida has the highest number of national recreational trails, the most number of sailing schools, and the most locations to canoe and kayak. Furthermore, it offers the tenth highest number of campgrounds and the third highest number of state parks.
10. Montana (MT)
Montana’s nickname, “Big Sky Country,” says it all: Montanans don’t spend their days indoors. The glorious, sun-drenched Rocky Mountains of the western part of the state contain the Glacier National Park—a postcard-like scene with cragged, snowy mountains, gleaming waters, and impossible shades of green. Snaking through those northern mountains is the Continental Divide Trail—an age-old path that stretches 3,100 miles from New Mexico. In Montana’s Yellowstone National Park, brown buffalo herd in yellow fields, natural volcanic hot springs roll from ‘neath the mountains, and Old Faithful continues its scheduled eruptions.
Montana has the highest number of fly fishing waters across the country. Furthermore, it is the tenth lowest in CO2 emissions across the states and offers the third highest number of REI stores per one million people.
The Least Outdoorsy States
America the beautiful is stunning: encapsulating countless mountains, flowing rivers, green fields, and hidden nooks and crannies that make each state incredibly special, in its own way. However, in ranking the outdoors, we had to find a bottom three—North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Delaware, where “enjoying” that great outdoors doesn’t always come so easily.
Instead people seem to rather enjoy doing leisure activities. Watching TV, playing games or simply relaxing with a book in front of the chimney can be as fullfilling for them. In fact, if we look at data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up to 10% of the people in the United States are doing leisure activities at the same time. Given the massive amount of video games you can find in the database of gaming portals like playsimilar, it’s safe to say that a major share of people is spending it in front of their Playstations, Xbox Consoles or PCs. Have a look at this infographic we did about how a typical american day looks like if you want to know more.
North Dakota has the fourth least amount of kayak and canoeing destinations and the twelfth least amount of national parks. It also comes very low on the rock climbing destinations ranking (which, for anyone who has ever driven through it, doesn’t come as a surprise). Rhode Island has the third least amount of recreational hiking trails and the fifth least number of national parks. We can assume they spend much of their time focusing on their incredible food offerings, given that they come in first on our national food-friendly list. Neighboring Delaware doesn’t have a single national park and has very few recreational hiking trails, as well, although their beach destinations are truly stunning.