The 5 Best U.S. States for Adventure Travelers

Beartooth Highway, Montana
The Beartooth Highway in Montana. Kraig Becker

There is no question that the U.S. is blessed with more than its fair share of great adventure travel destinations. Whether you enjoy hiking, camping, mountain biking, climbing, rafting, or some other outdoor sport, you'll find plenty of stunning places where you'll be able to pursue that activity to its fullest.

But not all of the states are equal in terms of what they can offer outdoor enthusiasts, with some having a distinct edge over the others. With that in mind, here are our picks for the 5 best U.S. states for adventure travel. 

Alaska

Dubbed "The Last Frontier," Alaska is easily the wildest and most remote state in the entire U.S. Epic in size and scale, it is home to 8 national parks – including Denali, Glacier Bay, and Katmai. It is also a great place to spot wildlife including moose, deer, elk, bear, and countless other species. The state is home to the highest mountain in North America – which is also named Denali and stands an impressive 20,308 ft. (6190 meters) in height, and is so vast that it is easier to travel by bush plane rather than driving.

And if you need further proof of Alaska's adventure credentials look no further than the Iditarod sled dog race, an annual event that covers 1000 miles (1600 km) of wilderness each winter and is widely considered to be one of the toughest endurance events in the entire world.

California

In terms of sheer variety of outdoor activities, it is tough to beat California. After all, where else can you go surfing, skiing, and mountain biking all in the same weekend? The California coast is great for sea kayaking, while the Sierra Mountains are a paradise for hikers and backpackers. The famous John Muir Trail is amongst the best hikes in the entire world, passing through the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Park in the process. The Redwoods of Northern California are fantastic places to go mountain biking and trail running as well, while the arid desert of Joshua Tree is the perfect place for travelers looking for some solitude.

 

Colorado

One of the top ski destinations on the entire planet, Colorado is well known for its fantastic powder. But even if you don't hit the slopes on a regular basis, there is still plenty of other outdoor adventures to be had. For instance, the state is home to 53 mountains with a height above 14,000 feet (4267 meters), which makes it a popular destination for climbers, mountaineers, and hikers. It also hosts some great athletic competitions including the Leadville 100 trail and mountain bike races, Ouray ice climbing festival, and the U.S.A. Pro Challenge cycling race.

And of course, visitors shouldn't forget to drop by Rocky Mountain National Park to take in some of the most beautiful views they'll ever see in their travels. 

Montana

With the lowest population density of any of the lower-48 states, Montana is another destination that is perfect for those seeking solitude. Not only is it home to the breathtakingly beautiful Glacier National Park, it also includes entrances to the incomparable Yellowstone as well. The state offers visitors fantastic fly fishing, impressive wildlife, excellent hiking and mountain biking in the summer, and great skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing in the winter. And when you're in need of an adrenaline boost, hit the Gallatin River for some kayaking or whitewater river rafting too.

 

Utah

Much like the other western U.S. states, Utah is a truly unbelievable skiing and snowboarding destination with some truly legendary resorts within an easy driving distance of Salt Lake City. The state also has its fair share of great national parks for hiking and camping, with Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands all standing out as amongst the very best in the entire country. But the crown jewel in Utah's crown is probably Moab, the small town that is the gateway to perhaps the greatest mountain biking found anywhere in the world.

With trails built for every experience and comfort level, chances are if you like to pedal a bike, you'll find a trail here for you. 

There are of course some other great outdoor destinations to visit in the U.S., each with their own hidden gems and unique opportunities. But for pure out adventure, it is almost impossible to top the states on this list.