By Graci Woodworth, Storage.com
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When it comes to the great outdoors, location is everything. If you consider yourself an outdoor enthusiast, then you’re probably mapping out your next excursion as we speak, and that’s where we come in. To itch the scratch of pursuing an adventure that’s off-the-beaten-path, take a look below at our list that details some of the best cities for outdoor recreation and where to go once you get there.
1. BOULDER, CO
Set at the foot of the Rockies, the active city of Boulder touts an extensive list of recreational activities that helps make Colorado so famously known for its refreshing mountain air. Just last year, Boulder was ranked the #2 spot for happiest and healthiest cities in the country, far from surprising news to its residents and veteran visitors.
What are Some of the Most Popular Outdoor Activities in Boulder?
- Rock Climbing
- Mountain Biking
- Water Skiing
Where are the Boulder Area Favorites?
Chautauqua Park: This wildflower ridden area holds lodging, picnicking areas, and hiking galore. The Chautauqua Trailhead leads to several options of day hikes for a range of skill levels, like Gregory Canyon and the Royal Arch Trail for the more experienced (with a dramatic rock arch and city view from the top).
Eldorado Canyon: Famous for its rock climbing routes, this state park is also a go-to for skiers and snowshoers during the winter months.
Boulder Reservoir: Are water sports more your thing? Head to the Boulder Reservoir for swimming, water skiing, boating, and fishing with great mountain scenery, too.
Eldora Mountain Resort: About a half hour from Boulder, skiiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers have plenty of terrain to cover at Eldora Mountain Resort. Up for a challenge? Try the double-black diamond Corona Bowl trail!
Boulder Falls: If you’re looking for a quick beginners level hike that ends with a stunning 70-foot waterfall, this is the destination for you. This short trail is located just about ten miles west of Boulder. However, the trail is temporarily closed for flood repair, so be sure to check for closure updates before heading out that way.
Rocky Mountain National Park: Well worth the hour drive from Boulder, the Rocky Mountain National Park is one of Colorado’s crown jewels for hiking, kayaking, camping, and everything in between. Try the popular Bear Lake Loop Trail for unforgettable scenery year-round.
2. PORTLAND, OR
The City of Roses (home to the International Rose Test Garden) presents the best of both worlds to outdoor enthusiasts, settled between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains. The Portland area has a unshakable passion for outdoor adventure that is contagious to anyone lucky enough to experience it firsthand, making it one of the best major cities for outdoor enthusiasts.
What are Some of the Most Popular Outdoor Activities in Portland?
Where are the Portland Area Favorites?
Forest Park: Portlandians have some bragging rights with this one, as Forest Park takes the cake for the largest urban forest in the country (with more than 80 miles of trails). Bike, hike, and horseback your way through winding trails of the Conservancy overlooking the Willamette River.
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area: Whether you’re up for a full day of hiking, or simply soaking up the panoramic views, the trails of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (located east of the city) never fall short of stunning. Finish off your trek with a dip in the natural pool at the base of Punchbowl Falls.
Willametter River: Hop in a kayak or dragon boat and catch a unique view of the skyline from the Willamette River—it runs right through Downtown Portland!
Mount Hood: About an hour and a half drive from the city, you can get your skiing and snowboarding fix year-round at Mount Hood Meadows, even at night! With runs for both beginners and adventure seekers, these slopes are among the best in the Pacific Northwest.
Oswald West State Park– The misty Oregon coastline sits a little under two hours from the city of Portland, with area gems like Oswald West State Park. The park houses Short Sand Beach, a stretch of coastline on the edge of the rain forest that is heavily visited by surfers.
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3. MINNEAPOLIS, MN
Minneapolis is continually considered one of America’s healthiest cities. Rated by Forbes as the most bike friendly city in the United States, it’s easy to see that no amount of cold weather or snow can slow down this city’s love for the great outdoors.
What are Some of the Most Popular Outdoor Activities in Minneapolis?
Where are the Minneapolis Area Favorites?
The Chain of Lakes: Minneapolis isn’t called the Land of 10,000 Lakes for nothing. Walk, bike, canoe, or kayak the Chain of Lakes’ connecting shoreline trails, part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway.
St. Croix River Valley: About a half hour drive from the metro, canoers, campers, and wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy the winding river and wooded banks of St. Croix.
Minnehaha Falls: In the Minnehaha Regional Park, walk along the Minnehaha Creek on its route to the Mississippi River, and marvel at the 53-foot Minnehaha Falls.
Afton Alps: You didn’t expect to visit Minne-snow-ta without your skis, did you? This resort is a little over a half hour drive from the Twin Cities, with almost 300 acres of terrain for skiers and snowboarders to do their thing.
4. ASHEVILLE, NC
A city located in North Carolina’s sweeping Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is one of the best kept secrets for outdoor recreation. With unspoiled forests and mountain terrain for miles around, there’s not many activities that can’t be found here.
What are Some of the Most Popular Outdoor Activities in Asheville?
- Mountain Biking
- Road Biking
Where are the Asheville Area Favorites?
Lover’s Leap Loop: Hike or backpack Lover’s Leap Loop, a difficult trail that temporarily follows a stretch of the historic Appalachian Trail. You’ll get a commanding view of distant mountains framing the French Broad River.
Pisgah National Forest: Escape to the mountains for some hiking, horseback riding, or back-country camping to the enchanted Pisgah National Forest, you’re almost guaranteed to spot a waterfall. For mountain biking, head to Bent Creek in the northern portion of the forest, with trials for both the leisure and advanced rides.
Blue Ridge Parkway: This parkway isn’t just for motorists— bicyclists admire the rugged mountainous landscape by bike, too! The elevation of the road can range anywhere from 600 to 6,000 feet, covering 469 miles within North Carolina and Virginia.
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What are your favorite spots for outdoor adventure? Let us know in the comments!
All images have either been provided by a listed organization or are licensed under the Creative Commons.