Illustration of Outdoor activities in every state

The Best Outdoor Activity in Every State

We’re dedicating our May features to the outdoors and adventure. In 2020, we saw more people get outside, eager for a breath of fresh air after challenging spring, taking up new activities and blazing new trails. Now, in 2021, read our features to learn more about 15 outdoor skills you should masterthe best state parks across the country, a new trend of hotels opening near formerly remote national parks, and one person’s quest to make outdoor experiences accessible for all.

For active travelers and outdoor enthusiasts, the U.S. is without a doubt one of the best destinations on the planet. Where else will you find snowcapped peaks, panoramic deserts, wide open plains, dense old growth forests, and tens of thousands of miles of coastline? The landscapes in America are so good in fact, that it is possible to find a grand adventure just about anywhere you go. Don't believe us? Just take a look at our list of the best outdoor activities in each of the 50 states to get a better sense of what awaits you in every corner of the country.

Alabama: Explore Cathedral Caverns State Park

While Alabama has plenty of unique and interesting state parks to explore, if you're looking for a big adventure it's tough to top Cathedral Caverns. This massive cave system features one of the largest entrances on the planet, stretching 25 feet in height and more than 126 feet wide. Once inside, you'll discover a subterranean wonderland filled with towering stone ceilings, twisting caverns, improbable rock formations, and a stalagmite named "Goliath." This one feature alone measures 45 feet in height and 243 feet around, putting it amongst the largest of its kind found anywhere in the world.

Alaska: Visit Gates of the Arctic National Park

If you're looking to truly get away from it all, add Alaska's Gates of the Arctic National Park to your places to visit. The park doesn't have a visitor center, roads of any kind, or even defined trails. It does feature 8.4 million acres of untouched wilderness, though, making it a grand destination for backpackers looking for solitude. Accessible only by float plane, chances are you won't see another soul during your time in the park. You may spot a herd of wandering caribou however, as the number in the thousands there, creating one of the largest annual migrations on the planet.

Arizona: Raft the Grand Canyon

Rafting the Grand Canyon has been a bucket list adventure for outdoor enthusiasts for decades and for good reason. There is no better way to explore the canyon than floating along the Colorado River with mile-high rock walls towering overhead. While it is possible to take a short day trip down the river, that will only give you an all-too brief taste of what the canyon has to offer. Instead, plan on making a three to 18 day journey with an accredited guide service. When you're finished, you'll know why this is the best outdoor activity that Arizona has to offer.

Arkansas: Go Mountain Biking in Bentonville

Bentonville may be best known as the place where Walmart was founded, but it also happens to be a world-class mountain biking destination. With 300 miles of single track in the area—on surprisingly diverse and challenging trails—the city has established itself as one of the premier mountain bike destinations in the entire U.S. Highlights include Slaughter Pen, a 40-plus-mile route that features trails for both beginners and veterans alike, with some unique and interesting art to be found along the way.

A Look Down onto Vernal Falls Along the John Muir Trail
Mark C Stevens / Getty Images

California: Backpack the John Muir Trail

California is another state that has a blessing of riches when it comes to outdoor activities. The options include surfing, skiing, mountain biking, hiking, trail running, and so much more. The state also happens to be home to one of the most epically beautiful hiking routes on the planet in the form of the John Muir Trail. Stretching for 211 miles in length, the JMT is one leg of the much-larger Pacific Crest Trail system. A paradise for hikers and backpackers, the route passes through the Sierra Nevada mountain range, offering and endless string of breathtaking vistas while en route. Walking the entire length of the trail requires roughly three weeks to complete, but it is such a classic route that when you're done, you'll probably immediately start planning a return visit.

Colorado: Climb a 14er

There are 58 individual mountains that rise more than 14,000 feet in height across the state of Colorado. Those peaks are affectionally referred to as "14ers" by the locals, many of whom have made it a goal to summit each and every one. Some of those mountains are relatively easy to hike up, others require a bit more technical skill. All of them make for a brag-worthy accomplishment on any outdoor adventurers resume. Beginners can test their legs and lungs on Grays Peak, Mount Democrat, or Mount Sherman. Fit and experienced climbers may want to give Capitol or Little Bear Peak a try.

Connecticut: Go Sailing on Long Island Sound

Whether you're an experienced sailor yourself or just looking for a day out on the water with someone else at the helm, Connecticut can accommodate. The state's coastline includes the Long Island Sound, a tidal estuary where the freshwaters of inland lakes and rivers meet the saltwater of the Atlantic Ocean. The region is home to more than 170 species of fish, making it an outstanding destination for anglers. Out on the water, you'll leisurely sail past historic lighthouses, quaint seaside villages, and an array of other boats making their way across this always-bustling waterway.

Delaware: Go Birdwatching in a Wildlife Refuge

Covering more than 15,000 acres, Delaware's Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is a top destination for birdwatchers. That's because the refuge is visited by more than 300 avian species, including bald eagles and large numbers of ducks and geese. Because the park is located along the coast of Delaware, much of it can be explored by kayak or canoe, allowing visitors to truly immerse themselves in the wild habitats that are found there. Keep your eyes peeled for deer, fox, rabbits, and squirrels, as there are plenty of those creatures to be found there, too.

Florida: Paddle the Everglades

To truly take in everything that Everglades National Park has to offer, visitors need to leave dry land behind and board a canoe or kayak instead. The park features countless miles of trail that have been specifically designated for paddlers, allowing them to glide passed swarms of mangrove trees, countless small islands, and along remote waterways. This subtropical habitat provides refuge for hundreds of unique species of birds, mammals, and amphibians. Beginning paddlers will enjoy the Nine Mile Pond Trail—which despite its name is only about 5 miles in length—while Hell's Bay Canoe Trail is better for the experienced kayaker and even provides access to floating campsites.

Georgia: Hike the Waterfall Trail in Cloudland Canyon

Cloudland Canyon State Park is one of Georgia's many outdoor gems. It offers excellent climbing walls, good fishing, 30 miles of bike trail, and more than 65 miles of hiking trail for visitors to explore. The best of those hiking routes is the Waterfalls Trail, which is just 2 miles in length, but offers a solid challenge nonetheless. The path wanders past both Cherokee and Hemlock Falls and includes a climb up 600 stairs to reach an overlook with impressive views. Take the during the fall when the changing color of the leaves make the already-dramatic landscape even better.

Sunrise and warm dreams
M Swiet Productions / Getty Images

Hawaii: Trek the Nāpali Coast Trail

The island of Kauai in Hawaii is home to not only one of the most beautiful coastlines in the entire world, but a truly epic hiking route as well. The Nāpali Coast is drop-dead gorgeous, and the only way to access it by land is along the Kalalau Trail (a.k.a. the Nāpali Coast Trail). This route has been in existence since 1800s and is 22 miles in length round trip. That means you'll need two days to complete the trek, with an overnight at one of the campsites—located just off the beach—providing an outstanding location for pitching your tent in paradise.

Idaho: Bike the Route of the Hiawatha

Cyclists of all skill levels will find a lot to love along the Route of the Hiawatha. The 15-mile trail was once an old railroad route, but it has since been converted into a fantastic bike trail that offers breathtaking scenery around nearly every bend. Highlights include passing through 10 different tunnels and riding over seven individual train trestles, one of which is more than 230 feet tall. Because the ride is downhill all the way, this isn't a strenuous journey and it gives riders the chance to soak up the scenery, making this a top outdoor activity for Idaho.

Illinois: Camp in the Garden of the Gods

Southern Illinois is home to one of the most unexpected and unusual landscapes found anywhere in the U.S. Located inside the Shawnee National Forest, the Garden of the Gods features a series of sandstone rock formations that tower above the surrounding landscape. Travelers can roam through those formations along an interconnected series of hiking trails totally about 5.5 miles in length. A remote and primitive campsite gives visitors the chance to spend the night in this spectacular setting that is unlike just about anything else you'll find in the Midwest.

Indiana: Run the Three Dune Challenge

Located along the shores of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes State Park is 3 miles of pristine beaches and coastline. Not to be confused with the national park of the same name, Indiana Dunes lives up to its name with some truly large sand dunes within its borders. Active outdoor enthusiasts looking for a challenge may want to pay the park a visit to partake in the "three dune challenge." Requiring speed, agility, and endurance, the challenge requires athletes to climb the three highest dunes in the park in rapid succession, covering 1.5 miles and climbing more than 550 vertical feet in the process. Even more difficult than it looks, the challenge will leave your legs and lungs aching, but can provide a nice sense of accomplishment, too.

Iowa: Take a Bike Ride Across the Entire State

In 1973, "The Des Moines Register" sponsored a noncompetitive bike ride that took cyclists from the western border of Iowa all the way across the state to the east. That event eventually grew into what is now known as RAGBRAI—the Registers Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa—drawing thousands of people on an annual basis. Each July, the peloton still wanders west to east, pedaling through cities and towns, past family farms, and around seemingly endless verdant cornfields. As much as a rolling party as it is a bike ride, RAGBRAI has grown into a tradition that is an experience unlike any other.

Kansas: Learn to Boulder in Rock City

Considering its location in the heart of the country—far from any mountains—you wouldn't think that Kansas would have much of a climbing scene. But pay a visit to Rock City Park in Minneapolis, Kansas, and you'll soon discover that isn't necessarily true. The park derives its name from the more than 200 boulders that are strewn about its landscape. Those large rocks have helped to create a bourgeoning bouldering scene, which is a form of rock climbing that takes place on smaller rock formations. There are a number of predefined routes with climbing grades applied to them at Rock City, but for the most part, the place is a blank slate for climbers looking to hone their skills and name a few new routes in the process.

Kentucky: Go Rock Climbing in Red River Gorge

For an entirely different style of rock climbing, head to Kentucky's Red River Gorge. One of the finest sport climbing destinations in the world, this picturesque landscape provides literally thousands of routes—on more than 100 cliff faces—to choose from. From short and easy to long, high, and demanding, Red River has something to offer climbers of every skill level. The outstanding climbing community that surrounds the gorge helps to make it an accommodating and fun place for first time visitors and veterans alike. And when you're done going vertical on a rock wall, there is plenty of great hiking and exceptional camping sites to be found as well.

Louisiana: Tell a Big Fish Story in Venice

There are dozens of great places to go fishing in Louisiana, especially in Venice. The small coastal town has become legendary for its outstanding fishing, allowing anglers to catch both fresh and saltwater game fish in one location. Situated close to where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico, you'll find yourself squaring off against redfish, speckled trout, tarpon, sailfish, and yellowfin tuna, all without ever having to change boats. And of course, at the end of a long day out on the water, you'll get to enjoy some of the finest fresh seafood in the country.

Maine: Witness the First Sunrise in North America

The summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park has the unique distinction of being the first place in North America to see the sunrise each morning. That makes it a unique vantage point to say the least, drawing early-morning hikers on a regular basis. The summit is accessible by car and many visitors will arrive by vehicle. For a more satisfying experience, hike either the Cadillac North or South Ride Trails, completing the full loop after catching the sunrise. Allow yourself two hours or so to reach the top and be sure to bring a headlamp to help light the way. After daybreak, the views of the eastern shortboard and Acadia itself are simply spectacular, making this a walk that you'll remember for a lifetime.

Assateague Island Wild Horses
Image by Michael Rickard / Getty Images

Maryland: Camp Near Wild Horses

Hikers and Campers looking for a unique experience should head to Assateague Island on Maryland's National Seashore. This barrier island sits between the Atlantic Ocean and the Delmarva Peninsula, and features sweeping sand dunes, miles of open coastline, and access to the sea. It also happens to be home to a herd of feral horses who have roamed the place since the 17th century. Grab your tent and head to one of the backcountry campsites to soak up everything that the island has to offer. There is a good chance you'll get to see these wild creatures as they wander their remote island home.

Massachusetts: Wander Through Cape Cod on Foot or Bike

Cape Cod is one of the most beautiful and enticing destinations on the east coast. Not only does it offer access to beautiful beaches, lovely resort towns, and historical lighthouses, it also has a surprising amount of outdoor activities to enjoy too. One of the best ways to experience the region is along the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which runs for 25 miles and passes through six towns along the way. The trail is open to hikers, runners, cyclists, and equestrian riders, as well as cross-country skiers in the winter, making it a year-round destination for outdoor adventure.

Michigan: Hike the Length of Isle Royale

Michigan's Upper Peninsula may be the top outdoor playground east of the Mississippi, but for the state's absolute best adventure you'll need to head to Isle Royale National Park. Located in the middle of Lake Superior, this isolated island offers a wilderness experience unlike any other. Backpackers, hikers, kayakers, scuba divers, and sailors will all find plenty to love on Isle Royale, which is home to wolves, moose, and a surprising array of other wildlife. Catch a designated ferry to reach the park and plan on spending at least three days hiking and camping across its length. This is place where time seems to stand still, and you'll find solitude and peace amongst the thick boreal forests.

Minnesota: Paddle the Boundary Waters

Minnesota is known as the "land of 10,000 lakes," so it should come as no surprise that its top outdoor adventure revolves around water. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is stunning in both its size and beauty. Stretching for more than 150 miles along the border of the U.S. and Canada, the BWCAW encompasses 1,100 lakes and 1,500 miles of canoe and kayak trails, making it one of the premier destinations for paddlers anywhere in the world. Visitors can camp on any of the countless islands found within the Boundary Waters and explore lush forests on foot or from the seat of their boat. With dozens of canoe trails to choose from, it is difficult to select just one. But for sheer beauty and tranquility, it is tough to top the Clearwater Route, which takes travelers into the heart of this amazing wilderness.

Mississippi: Explore Tishomingo State Park

Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Mississippi's Tishomingo State Park has plenty to offer outdoor enthusiasts. The rolling terrain is perfect for hikers and trail runners, while unique rock formations and boulders lure rock climbers. There are even rivers and streams that allow paddlers to drift past hardwood forests and lush meadows. Most intriguing of all, archeologists have determined that the park was once home to an indigenous population that lived in the area as far back as 7000 B.C. The natural environment has changed very little since then, allowing visitors to experience the place like it was when humans first called it home.

Missouri: Hike, Bike, or Ride the Katy Trail

Missouri's Katy Trail has the distinction of being the longest rail-trail in the entire country. The 238-mile route runs mostly along the the northern bank of the Missouri River and can be explored on foot, bike, or horseback. With 26 unique trailheads, the route is easy to access from a number of different locations, with the various sections of the trail clearly marked and easy to follow. Travel the length of the Katy, and you'll pass through 10 other state and national parks, with forests, wetlands, lakes, and other landscapes surrounding the trail. Travelers looking for a leisurely experience will also appreciate the more than 20 wineries that can be found along the route.

A athletic man fly fishing stands on the banks a river surrounded with the fall colors in Montana.
Patrick Orton / Getty Images

Montana: Learn to Fly Fish

Montana is home to some of the best fly fishing rivers and streams in the entire country, making it a great place for expert anglers and beginners. The Gallatin River just might be the best place to learn the craft, which is often simple to pick up but takes a lifetime to master. Running for 25 miles inside Yellowstone National Park, there is plenty of epic scenery to admire while reeling in rainbow and brown trout. Hop over to the Madison or Yellowstone Rivers to hone your skills further, and it won't take long before you too will feel the addiction of fly fishing in "big sky country."

Nebraska: Become a Paleontologist for a Day

Roughly 12 million years ago, an eruption of a Yellowstone hotspot created a unique "ecological snapshot" of the animal life that had gathered at a watering hole in what is now northeast Nebraska. This unusual event created the Ashfall Fossil Beds, which is a fascinating destination that gives visitors the opportunity to become paleontologists for the day. The 360-acre park has some of the most well preserved fossils in all of North America, including the remains of ancient horses, camels, and even a rhinoceros. A short nature trail, numerous exhibits, and a fossil sandbox round out the experience, which provides a glimpse at the ancient creatures that once roamed the open plains.

Nevada: Go Rock Climbing in Red Rock

Located just a short 20-minute drive from the Las Vegas strip, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is world-renowned for the sport of rock climbing. Each year, climbers from around the globe make the journey to this location to test their skills on its legendary sandstone rock faces. With thousands of graded routes to choose from, beginners and experts alike will find a lot to love here. The quality of climbing red rocks is enhanced further by the fantastic community of climbers who frequent the place, often offering up great advice, sharing their gear, and clearing off a route to make room for others. If there is a hierarchy of top climbing destinations in the world, Red Rock ranks very high on the list.

New Hampshire: Hike to the Windiest Place in the Country

New Hampshire seems like an unlikely place to hold the distinction of having the windiest location in all North America—if not the world. Standing 6,288 feet in height, Mount Washington is half the height of many of the peaks found in the western U.S. Despite that, the mountain is known for its notoriously bad weather with wind speeds once topping 231 mph. Due to an unusual combination of unique weather conditions, location, and terrain, a climb to the summit can be a challenge on any given day. This is especially true in winter, however, when only expert hikers should trek along the 8.2-mile round-trip Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Once at the top, hikers will find gusty breezes on the best of days, along with amazing views and a weather station that tracks Mount Washington's wild weather.

New Jersey: Climb the Giant Stairs

If you're looking to stretch your legs in New Jersey, the Giant Stairs Trail in Palisades Interstate Park can certainly help. The route is only 4.3 miles long, but it does feature a tough mile-long scramble over a large boulder field that can be both mentally and physically taxing. In addition to providing hikers with a challenging workout, the trail also offers impressive views of the nearby Hudson River. This is not an easy hike, to say the least, but it is a rewarding one.

New Mexico: Shred Fresh Powder in Taos Ski Valley

Averaging more than 300 inches of snow each year, the Taos Ski Valley is one of the most reliable destinations for fresh powder in the entire U.S. But it is the exceptional terrain and welcoming atmosphere that really sets this place apart. Taos has been a hot spot for extreme skiers for decades, but in recent years it has become more accommodating to beginners and intermediates as well. Be prepared to hike uphill in the snow to get to your starting point; the journey back down the slopes makes it all worth it, providing a backcountry experience that everyone can enjoy.

New York: Ride the Adirondacks in Wilmington

Upstate New York is an especially great location for hikers and backpackers, but it also happens to have some of the best mountain biking in the eastern United Stats. The town of Wilmington exemplifies this with exceptional trails that are accessible from the town itself, taking riders into the Adirondack Mountains from the seat of their bikes. The trails range from fun and flowy to demanding and technical. And for some fast downhill, be sure to drop by Whiteface Mountain Bike Park where you'll find a 2,426-foot run that is guaranteed to get your heart pumping.

North Carolina: Go Wreck Diving on the Outer Banks

North Carolina's Outer Banks are a chain of barrier islands that run along the coast line, separating the mainland from the Atlantic Ocean. This makes them a great destination for kayakers, anglers, sailors, and beach goers. The region also happens to be one of the best places in North America to go wreck diving, luring in adventure scuba divers with its array of sunken ships. Popular sites include submerged vessels like the Bedloe, the Jackson, and the Advance, each of which has its own unique appeal.

North Dakota: Bikepack the Maah Daah Hey Trail

Bikepacking continues to grow in popularity and North Dakota is home to an excellent trail to explore this mode of exploration. At 144 miles in length, the Math Daah Hey Trail is perfect for testing your bike and gear on a route that features rolling prairies and sprawling badlands. Ride all day, camp at night, and take in the splendor of this hidden gem, which is also open to hikers and horseback riders, too.

Ohio: Paddle the Mohican River

If you're looking for a fun outdoor adventure for the entire family, head to Loudonville, a.k.a. "the canoe capital of Ohio." There, you'l discover a number of outfitters who offer an array of paddling excursions on the nearby Mohican River, including short day trips, overnight camping trips, and even after dark cruises under the moonlight. You'll paddle past lush forests and towering rock formations, while completely immersing yourself in nature.

Oklahoma: Scuba Dive in a Freshwater Lake

Oklahoma seems like an unlikely place to go scuba diving, but Lake Tenkiller is a surprisingly great destination to do just that. The freshwater lake is fed by the Illinois River and plunges more than 165 feet in depth. Taking the plunge, divers soon discover that the water is extremely clear and holds all kinds of hidden treasures. In addition to sunken boats and even aircraft, you'll find the remains of old homesteader cabins and rocky cliffs that lurk beneath the surface.

Wizard Island
Ray Bouknight / Getty Images

Oregon: Backpack the Rim Trail at Crater Lake

Crater Lake National Park is a beautiful destination with several excellent hiking trails to explore. But for a truly epic adventure, pack your backpack, bring your tent, and head out to the Rim Trail. This route circumnavigates the entire crater, covering 33 miles along the way. Expect to spend three to five days en route, depending on how often you stop to take photos of the stunning views. For an even bigger adventure, the entire trail can be hiked on snowshoes in the winter, when you may not encounter another person during the entire journey.

Pennsylvania: Hike the Loyalsock Trail

Another long-distance hiking route, the Loyalsock Trail in Worlds End State Park takes backpackers into a remote, hidden wilderness that will surprise and delight. Stretching for nearly 60 miles in length, walking the entire trail can take some time. But those who do will find numerous waterfalls, enchanting forests, and breathtakingly beautiful vistas. The trail is especially great in the fall, when the changing colors of the leaves make the landscapes even more inviting.

Rhode Island: Learn to Sail in Newport

Newport, Rhode Island, is a city steeped in sailing tradition; it is often referred to as "the sailing capital of the world" and it is home to the National Sailing Hall of Fame. It also happens to be a great place to learn to sail or hone your existing skills. The waters off Newport are famously calm and well protected, yet also deep and provide great access to the Atlantic. It doesn't hurt that the coastline is scenic, and the sunrises and sunsets are amazing too.

South Carolina: Run the Rapids on the Chattooga River

Known for its fast flowing waters, turbulent rapids, and jaw-dropping scenery, the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River ranks amongst the best rafting destinations in the entire country. Year in and year out, the river provides some of the most consistent and fun rapids in the eastern U.S., with paddlers flocking to its waters to test their skills. Take a guiding river journey down his waterway, where you'll enjoy plenty of South Carolina scenery to go along with your jolt of adrenaline.

South Dakota: Reach the Summit of Black Elk Peak

At 7,242 feet in elevation, South Dakota's Black Eld Peak is the highest mountain east of the Rockies. It also happens to provide some of the most spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, with rolling hills and rocky cliffs stretching for miles in all directions. There are multiple paths to take on your way to the summit, with most visitors trekking Trail No. 9 through Custer State Park. But for a slightly longer and more challenging—albeit more beautiful—hike, try the Little Devils Tower route instead. Either way, you can't go wrong on this excellent outdoor adventure.

Tennessee: Hang Glide Off Lookout Mountain

For a change of pace from all of the earthbound adventures, pay a visit to Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee. One of the absolute best hang gliding destinations in the world, the site is perfect for veteran pilots and complete beginners alike. You'll find several companies there that can teach you the ins and outs of hang gliding before taking you on a tandem flight high above the Tennessee Valley, with views that will get your heart pumping.

Texas: Raft the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park

For a Texas-sized adventure, get off the beaten path in Big Bend National Park and take to the Rio Grande River instead. Whether you opt for a day trip or a multi-day outing, the towering canyons and gorges of Big Bend will leave you mesmerized. Following the remote river along the U.S.-Mexico border, you'll pass through places that few people ever see, passing by lonely mountains, windswept mesas, and colorful buttes along the way.

A man leads a woman on a cross-country mountain bike trail ride in Moab, Utah, USA.
GibsonPictures / Getty Images

Utah: Ride the Whole Enchilada in Moab

Picking just one outdoor adventure in Utah isn't easy considering all of the great hiking, skiing, fishing, and camping that can be found there. Thankfully, the mountain biking in Moab is so good that it is difficult argue with anyone recommending it as an adventure destination. There are literally hundreds of trails tho choose from, but The Whole Enchilada just might be the best. It is 30 miles of technical single track that takes you from the high alpine desert down to the banks of the Colorado River, with plenty to see in between. Expect plenty of lung-bursting climbs and heart-pounding descents on this famous trail.

Vermont: Go Ice Climbing

They take their winter sports seriously in Vermont, where skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing are popular ways to get outdoors during the colder months. You can add ice climbing to that list as well, as the state has several great destinations for outdoor enthusiasts to give the sport a try. Chief among them are Smuggler's Notch and the Bolton Quarry, both of which have routes designed for climbers of all skill levels.

Virginia: Kayak the James River

There are very few places in the world where you can run class III and IV whitewater rapids without ever leaving the city. That's exactly what you get in Richmond, Virginia, however, which sits on the banks of the James River. Not for the inexperienced or the faint of heart, the James will test a paddler's skills with the urban backdrop providing a surreal contrast to the amazing whitewater that is usually only found in remote locations. Best of all, when you're done, you're only moments away from enjoying a post-adventure meal or beverage.

Washington: Climb Mount Rainier

There are few bigger adventures to be found anywhere in the U.S. than climbing Washington's Mount Rainier. The peak has been a proving ground for mountaineers for decades, often propelling climbers on to even bigger objectives in Alaska and the Himalaya. A climb typically takes about three days to complete, often starting with an orientation session and skills training before proceeding up the mountain. This is a classic climb that provides a true mountaineering experience all the way to the 14,410-foot summit.

West Virginia: Whitewater Rafting on the Gauley River

Arguably the best whitewater rafting destination in the entire U.S., the Gauley River in West Virginia offers experienced paddlers a chance to ride rare class V rapids. Each fall, usually just after Labor Day, the dam at Summersville Lake releases an epic amount of water, creating a rafting experience unlike any other. When that happens, the Gauley features 25 rapids in just 9 miles, many of which are legendary for their size and ferocity. This is not a trip for the inexperienced, but those who do float this wild expanse of water will have tales to tell for years to come.

Icy Grotto
Matthew Crowley Photography / Getty Images

Wisconsin: Visit the Ice Caves of the Apostle Islands

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore winds its way down Lake Superior in Wisconsin, luring thousands of visitors during the warmer months of the year. Far fewer return in the winter, but those that do usually come to explore the ice caves. Located at the western end of the Mainland Unit, the caves require sustained periods of cold, winter weather to form. When they do, however, they are nothing short of spectacular. Dress warmly, walk carefully, and bring your camera. You'll definitely want to share this adventure with friends and family.

Wyoming: Ski Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is quite simply one of the best destinations for skiing and snowboarding in the world. The resort sees more than 400 inches of snowfall on an annual basis, but it is also known for its rugged and challenging terrain. To top things off, the mountain features 4,139 feet of vert, which is the biggest of any ski hill in North America. All of this adds up to an iconic ski destination that never fails to live up to its massive reputation.

Illustration: TripSavvy / Alison Czinkota