From paddling Georgia’s lakes and marshes to hiking Utah’s red-rock canyon country, there are so many ways to explore America’s great outdoors. Start your outdoor adventures with these ideas.
Want to hike majestic mountains? Explore urban trails? Fish in secluded lakes? You can do all that and more. This list will help get you started.
1. Georgia: Hop aboard a flat-bottomed boat and keep your eyes peeled for alligators, egrets, and hawks during a tour of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Folkston.
2. Tennessee: Take the incline railway up a 72.7-percent grade on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga. It’s like driving up an insanely pretty wall.
3. West Virginia: Experience miles of thrilling whitewater rafting in West Virginia on the free-flowing New River.
4. Utah: Lace up your boots and hit the 22.9-mile Under-the-Rim Trail in Bryce Canyon. Surrounded by red cliffs and pink plateaus at elevations up to 9,115 feet, this memorable trek connects Bryce Point to Rainbow Point.
5. Georgia: Rent a stand-up paddleboard on St. Simons Island for a sunset tour of the famous marshes of Glynn.
6. Rhode Island: See Gilded-Age splendor of Newport, a coastal town set upon cliffs dotted with some of the most spectacular mansions of the 19th century.
7. Georgia: Be a Carnegie for a day at Cumberland Island National Seashore. The picturesque island, which is only accessible by ferry, was the family’s winter home.
8. Illinois to California: Step back in time to explore one of the original highways in America. Established in 1926, Route 66 stretches southwestward from Chicago out to California’s coastal city of Santa Monica.
9. Colorado: Look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who Mesa Verde their home for over 700 years. These master builders constructed elaborate complexes tucked into sandstone cliffs.
10. New Mexico: Discover the mysteries surrounding the spiral staircase in Santa Fe’s Loretto Chapel. With two 360-degree turns, the staircase has no visible means of support.
11. Georgia: Take the shuttle or hike to the highest point in Georgia at Brasstown Bald, situated 4,784 feet above sea level, overlooking Young Harris.
12. South Dakota: Soar to new heights up the granite spires of Needles Highway. Cathedral Spires boasts some of the best rock climbing in the U.S. You can also hike the Cathedral Spires trail leading you to the base view of the piercing granite formations.
13. South Carolina: Let go of life’s little stresses on Edisto Island where the atmosphere is casual, relaxed, and low profile.
14. Utah and Arizona: Spend a week on Lake Powell boating through slot canyons, anchoring on deserted beaches, and camping under the stars.
15. Pennsylvania: Travel back in time as you learn about life and work at Hopewell Furnace, a bustling 19th century iron plantation.
16. New Mexico: Discover the richly diverse volcanic landscape, caving, and rugged backcountry at El Malpais National Monument.
17. Utah and Colorado: Explore a variety of prehistoric structures at Hovenweep including multistory towers perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders.
19. Texas: Stroll the beach, splash in the waves, fish, or look for coastal birds at Galveston Island State. You can swim, fish, picnic, bird watch, hike, mountain bike, paddle, camp, geocache, study nature or just relax.
20. Alabama: Fish for numerous species of fresh and salt-water fish at Meagher State Park. The park offers a boat ramp and 300-foot pier with 300-foot T for your fishing pleasure.
21. Pennsylvania: Boat, camp, fish, hike, mountain bike, and swim at Lackawanna State Park.
22. Arizona: See what’s in bloom at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park near Superior.
23. Louisiana: Spot great white egrets, green herons, roseate spoonbills, and alligators along the Creole Nature Trail near Lake Charles.
24. California: Bring your camera and capture the beauty of Joshua Tree National Park.
25. Utah: Discover more than 2,000 natural arches in Arches National Park including the well-known Delicate Arch
26. South Carolina: Climb to the top of Hunting Island lighthouse to survey the palm-studded coastline. Bike the park’s trails through maritime forest to the nature center, fish off the pier, and go birdwatching for herons, skimmers, oystercatchers, and wood storks.
27. New Mexico: View wildlife in natural surroundings while strolling one of the self-guided nature trails at Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park near Las Cruces.
28. Utah: Hike the canyon rim trails above the Colorado River or mountain bike over 16 miles of high desert terrain on the Intrepid Trail System at Dead Horse Point.
29. California: Discover one of the only places in the world where you can see all four types of volcanoes—cinder cone, composite, shield, and plug dome. Plenty of hydro- and geothermal activity is still found in Lassen Volcanic National Park today, along with abundant recreational activities.
30. Arizona: Ride a mule through the mile-deep Grand Canyon. Just be warned, reservations are available 15 months in advance—and they fill up fast.
Life is not a race. I will never see all I would love to see, but I will love all that I get to see.