Vermilion Cliffs National Monument on the Colorado Plateau
Sumiko Scott/Getty
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument on the Colorado Plateau
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument on the Colorado Plateau (Photo: Sumiko Scott/Getty)

The 36 Best Places to Visit in the U.S. for Adventure

We’re celebrating the grandeur of America, from beautiful rivers, beaches, and mountains to incredible glamping outposts and wild places. Our travel experts are constantly on the road finding new adventures, and their ideas will jump-start your next unforgettable journey.

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Creating our annual Travel Awards package takes months of work by a large team. This time out, our travel editors unanimously decided to celebrate trips in the United States, because the pandemic reinforced what we’ve long known: there is a bounty of spectacular American destinations to share.

Next we tapped our vast network of expert travel writers, many of whom have been working with Outside for 20-plus years. Our writers are constantly out there chasing adventure and collecting information on exciting lodging, trails, rivers, beaches, road trips, and other things to do. What they came back with was impressive—the research memo for this package was 117 pages long.

Then the really hard part began: whittling down an overwhelming number of choices into one winner and one runner-up in each category. This is when the heated debates arose, as we pored over research and advocated for favorites. The final decisions were based on many factors, including new travel options, improved-upon classics, accessibility, and sustainability, and we always strive to offer a variety of geographic locales, activities, and price points.

Our overriding goal? To inspire readers to get outside and explore the world, and provide them with great ideas for years to come. —Mary Turner, deputy editor and travel director

Loggerhead Key beach and lighthouse
Loggerhead Key beach and lighthouse (Andrés Duarte Photography)

Beach Winner: Loggerhead Key, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Dry Tortugas is one of the most remote parks in the national park system, located approximately 70 miles beyond Key West. It’s also one of the smallest. Depending on the tide, only 143 acres of sand, coral rubble, and rock make up the archipelago’s seven islands. But those islands are blessed with great beaches, including South Beach on Garden Key, home to the park’s main tourist facilities. The best, however, is on the northwest side of Loggerhead Key, accessible only via private boat or by undertaking a three-mile paddle from Garden Key. The islet is encircled by gorgeous white sand, and just offshore is a stunning coral formation called Little Africa, because it looks like a map of the continent from above. That’s one of the best places to snorkel. Paddling between the islands can be challenging, though shoals break up larger waves. For tourists coming from Key West, the Yankee Freedom catamaran offers day trips to Garden Key at 7:30 A.M. and returns at roughly 5:15 P.M. (Round-trip tickets start at $200 and include a snack, box lunch, and snorkeling equipment.) Plan to bring your own safety gear and kayak—and be sure to reserve a spot for it on the catamaran in advance—or rent what you require in Key West. You’ll also need to stop at the Garden Key dock house to pick up a free boating permit. There’s first-come, first-served camping on Garden Key ($15 per night). Come prepared to be entirely self-sufficient. —Ryan Krogh

Runner-Up: York Beach Surf Club, York, Maine

This historic cottage colony has been reimagined as a hip year-round hotel that pays homage to the 1960s surf club started by local legend L. F. “Sonny” Perkins. He and his son updated the oceanfront property starting in 2020 with Scandi-style bungalows, a restaurant serving lobster breakfast sammies, and a collection of vintage surf photos. Summer camps and lessons are held on the gentle waves and sandy shores of York Beach. Experienced surfers pack five-millimeter wetsuits and come for the area’s storied winter swell. From $350 —Jen Murphy

A dome at Oculis Lodge
A dome at Oculis Lodge (Courtesy Oculis Lodge)

Lodging Winner: Oculis Lodge, Glacier, Washington

Travelers will soon have a new way to admire the Cascade Range’s pines and peaks: the Oculis Lodge, 12 igloo-shaped domes tentatively scheduled to open before summer. The project set a record as Indiegogo’s most funded lodging campaign to date, with over $1.2 million raised. The domes, designed with a bedroom, kitchen, and sunken living room, are next-level glamping. Each sleeps up to six guests and features a private jacuzzi, sauna, and heated deck for yoga or other exercise. What’s more, all have a 15-foot-wide skylight and an en suite telescope, to give the glittery cosmos a starring role. Sustainability is a staple here; the domes consist of reclaimed and recycled materials, and they require up to 50 percent less energy to heat and cool than conventional cabin structures. With their minimal profile, the structures blend into the surrounding forest. The seven-acre property is located within 30 minutes of Mount Baker Ski Area and Mount Baker Scenic Byway, and two hours from North Cascades National Park—one of the lower 48’s least visited. But travelers staying at Oculis don’t have to go far for adventure; hiking, mountain biking, and paddling trails abound in the area. From $300 —Stephanie Vermillion

Surfing off Oahu; Sunset Bar at Turtle Bay Resort
Surfing off Oahu; Sunset Bar at Turtle Bay Resort (Photos: Courtesy Turtle Bay Resort)

Runner-Up: Turtle Bay Resort, Oahu

Few adventure resorts can compare to Turtle Bay, a 1,300-acre North Shore property set on land previously owned by the Hawaiian royal family. To celebrate its 50th anniversary last year, it underwent a $250 million renovation and now offers a paniolo luau dinner series, an on-site farm that supplies its restaurants and spa treatments, a surf school led by native Banzai Pipeline champ Jamie O’Brien, 12 miles of biking and hiking trails, five miles of beaches, four swimming pools, a free daily fitness class, cruiser bikes, and sunset horseback rides through the banyan trees. When you finally find yourself indoors, you’ll have a room with a view of the sea. From $680 —Tasha Zemke

Paddling Devils River
Paddling Devils River (Nick Simonite)

River Winner: Devils River, Texas

The rough-and-tumble landscape of southwest Texas doesn’t seem like the most fitting location for one of America’s best float trips. Yet here it is, the Devils’ pristine spring water flowing through a magical limestone canyon that’s home to black bears and mountain lions, cactus and yucca. Paddlers embarking on the 47-mile float from Baker’s Crossing to Amistad Reservoir are rewarded with the finest of the state’s overlooked outdoors: fly-fishing for native Guadalupe bass, swimming holes so clear they may as well be rock bathtubs, and nonstop Chihuahuan Desert scenery. The river alternates between long, deep pools; stretches of flat, braided water; and Class II–III rapids. Not long ago this trip, which takes most paddlers four days, was nearly unmanageable because of private land rights along the shore that made overnighting difficult. But the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which regulates access via a permitting system, opened a series of campsites to make the multiday adventure possible. A handful of outfitters offer shuttles, canoe rentals, and fully guided trips, including Amistad Expeditions, based in nearby Del Rio. In 2019, Devils River State Natural Area was designated the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary in Texas, and camping beneath oak and wild pecan trees with the Milky Way in view is transcendent. —R.K.

To learn more about the Devil’s River float, check out this map from Gaia GPS.

Runner-Up: Great Falls Whitewater Project, South Carolina

Vitality is rushing through Great Falls, and its source is the Catawba River, one of the nation’s newest whitewater escapes, located an hour from Charlotte, North Carolina. Duke Energy, which spearheaded the project, modified two century-old dams to restore natural river patterns, creating recreational opportunities and encouraging ecotourism. Rafters and paddlers can run Class II–III rapids in one section and Class IV in another. The restoration is expected to foster biodiversity and provide an economic boost to Great Falls, a town struggling from the loss of a once booming textile industry. —S.V

Camping with a view of the Sierra in Owens Valley
Camping with a view of the Sierra in Owens Valley (Thomas Winz/Getty)

Road Trip Winner: Highway 395, Eastern Sierra, California

While U.S. 395 goes through four states between the Mojave Desert and the Canadian border, it’s the roughly 200 miles that pass by the granite giants of California’s eastern Sierra that warrant top billing. Start in the town of Inyokern and point your wheels north toward Fossil Falls, where you can hike above a volcanic canyon carved by glacial melt. Forty-six miles away, in Lone Pine, the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center’s parking lot boasts epic views of 14,494-foot Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States. Get cultured at the nearby Museum of Western Film History, packed with memorabilia from some of the hundreds of movies shot in the area. Afterward, meander (or rack up to climb in) the arch-studded Alabama Hills, mesmerizing at sunset when alpenglow drapes the bulbous formations. Refuel in Bishop at Great Basin Bakery, then venture north to view the burbling wonders of Hot Creek Geologic Site, which should inspire a soak at nearby Hilltop or Wild Willy’s hot springs. Pull yourself away and head to Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve to admire the whimsical shoreline spires, then sit down to brews and bites at Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining, quite possibly the best restaurant located inside a gas station in North America. Lone Pine, Bishop, and the Oh Ridge Campground at June Lake are good places to overnight, making this a perfect two- or three-day trip. —Shawnté Salabert

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico (Photo: Mikolaj Niemczewski/Adobe Stock)

Runner-Up: Sunshine Route, Puerto Rico

A climatologist at the University of Puerto Rico calculated the average color of the sunbeams that shine across this popular Caribbean destination, and the result was a lovely red-orange hue, dubbed Puerto Rico Sunshine. This year that color inspired the creation of the new Puerto Rico Sunshine Route, which circumnavigates the island and links numerous sun-kissed spots. Start in San Juan, snorkel at places like La Parguera Natural Reserve, soak in Coamo Hot Springs, and surf in Rincón. —Tim Neville

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument on the Colorado Plateau
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument on the Colorado Plateau (Sumiko Scott/Getty)

Public Land Winner: The Colorado Plateau

Boasting 30 national parks, monuments, and recreation areas, the Colorado Plateau is arguably America’s greatest natural playground. Shaped by the Colorado River over millions of years, the landscape’s dramatic canyons, monoliths, and mesas form a 150,580-square-mile expanse of high desert straddling the region’s Four Corners and include the spectacular spires of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park. Now is the time to appreciate such magnificence: the river is one of the country’s most hotly contested water resources, and it’s threatened by drought. New weeklong, Navajo-led trips from the Grand Canyon Conservancy’s Field Institute provide the ultimate deep dive into the greater national-park area and its Indigenous connections (from $2,800). To explore on your own, base out of Grand Junction; this western Colorado adventure hub is a 30-minute drive from Colorado National Monument and surrounded by top-notch hiking and mountain-biking trails, campsites, and wineries. Riverfront accommodations ranging from RV sites and tiny homes to Airstreams can be found at Camp Eddy (from $50), just half a mile from Las Colonias Park, a 140-acre space along the river that’s popular with paddleboarders and kayakers. Stargazing nearly anywhere on the plateau is epic, but the Star Tower at Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch (from $475), scheduled to open this summer, is our choice for the annular eclipse, which this year falls on October 14. Located minutes from the namesake national monument in southwest Colorado—a designated International Dark Sky Park—the two-story building resembles Anasazi ruins, and its rock-exposed bedroom features a deck where you can watch the interstellar action. —J.M.

An airboat tour of Everglades National Park; an aerial view
An airboat tour of Everglades National Park; an aerial view (Photos: Jeffrey Greenberg/Getty; Juan Carlos Muñoz Robredo/Adobe Stock)

Runner-Up: Everglades National Park, Florida

This wild national treasure celebrated its 75th anniversary in December—all the more reason to plan a trip. Head down in the dry season, November through April, and book a room at the Ivey House Everglades Adventure Hotel in Everglades City (from $179). The hotel has kayaks for rent, and staff provide expert area intel. Or sign up for an airboat tour with the guides at Gator Park to see the array of grassland wildlife. If you’d rather pitch a tent, Flamingo Adventures’ Long Pine Key Campground (from $30) is a convenient option near the Homestead park entrance. —Mary Turner

For more ideas on beautiful public lands to visit, read our story on the 18 Best State Parks in the U.S.

An aerial walkway
An aerial walkway (Courtesy Castle Hot Springs)
Solo soak, Castle Hot Springs
Solo soak, Castle Hot Springs (Courtesy Castle Hot Springs)

Wellness Winner: Castle Hot Springs, Arizona

The world starts to fade away on the dirt road to this resort an hour north of Phoenix. As you make your way down it, you’ll pass wild burros and saguaros and catch views of the jagged Bradshaw Mountains. Once you arrive at the 1,100-acre property, you’ve headed back in time. Native tribes sought out these springs for centuries. Since Castle’s inception in 1896, notable guests have included Theodore Roosevelt and JFK, who convalesced here with other veterans after World War II. The draws? Warm weather, a remote retreat from daily life, and three natural hot-spring pools of varying temperatures, whose mineral contents—magnesium, lithium, and bicarbonate, among others—are still popular with those eager to soak up health benefits. Parts of the original resort burned down in 1976, but Cindy and Mike Watts bought it in 2014 and began the process of restoring it. Today the main lodge, housing the Harvest restaurant and a small bar, is reminiscent of the past, while 30 new stand-alone bungalows and cabins, all of them with mountain views, welcome the future. There are activities by the hour, such as guided canyon hikes, e-bike rides, a via ferrata, and yoga. Or do what most guests do: chill out. (The Wi-Fi password, fittingly, is RUsureUwant2?.) A perfect day looks like this: Wake up and soak in the springs. Head to breakfast, and follow that with a hike up Salvation Peak. Return in time for lunch on the restaurant’s patio, then retreat to your room to nap or read on the porch. Late afternoon, soak in the springs again before a massage treatment. Soon enough it’s time for dinner. The food is delicious and healthy—as many of the ingredients as possible are grown on-site—but you can also get a bison burger and fries. You will leave nourished and refreshed. Recent additions include Sleep Retreats, with an expert to coach you on getting better rest. Castle is a splurge, but the price includes meals, gratuities, and many activities. From $1,575 for two people —M.T.

Fly-fishing on the Deschutes River near the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort
Fly-fishing on the Deschutes River near the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort (Photo: Kate Ames/Stocksy)

Runner-Up: Kah-Nee-Ta Resort, Warm Springs Reservation, Oregon

After an unexpected shutdown in 2018, Kah-Nee-Ta—a wellness-centered resort and spa 60 miles south of Mount Hood—is planning to welcome travelers back into its calming mineral waters before the end of the year. For 10,000 years, Indigenous communities have relied on the springs for healing. Now the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs have partnered with Mount Hood Skibowl to open Kah-Nee-Ta’s doors to visitors who want to learn about Native traditions. —S.V.

Chatwal Lodge
Chatwal Lodge (Courtesy Chapin Estate)
Catskill Mountains view
Catskill Mountains view (Deirdre Malfatto/Stocksy)

Mountain Winner: Catskill Mountains, New York

The Catskills and their namesake park—comprising about 700,000 acres of forested peaks, narrow valleys, and countless streams just 100 miles from Manhattan—are steeped in history. They’re also undergoing a renaissance, thanks to a handful of new lodges, hotels, and restaurants. Those catching our eye include the 11-room Chatwal Lodge, a log-cabin-inspired chalet overlooking the 833-acre Toronto Reservoir, and the Eastwind Oliverea Valley, with 27 cabins and rooms, A-frame saunas that nail the Scandinavian hygge vibe, and a restaurant called Dandelion that uses seasonal vegetables in its cuisine. The DeBruce, a onetime hunting lodge that’s been transformed into a 12-room inn, has a dining room with tasting menus sourced from the 600-acre property; think venison in a wild-berry reduction. The husband-and-wife duo behind the inn were semifinalists this year for a James Beard Award. As for recreational opportunities in the Catskills, not much has changed since the Gilded Age, which is a good thing. There are thousands of miles of well-maintained hiking trails, excellent mountain-biking opportunities (check out 60 miles of lift-accessed tracks at Plattekill Mountain), and dozens of lakes and ponds to explore with a paddle in hand. The Catskills are also the birthplace of American dry-fly fishing. —R.K.

Frog Lake Backcountry Hut
Frog Lake Backcountry Hut (Photo: Courtesy Truckee Donner Land Trust)

Runner-Up: Frog Lake Backcountry Huts, Truckee, California

In 2020, the Truckee Donner Land Trust bought property on the back side of 9,103-foot Castle Peak as part of a conservation deal, and 3,000 acres became available for recreation. Four stunning huts overlooking their eponymous lake followed in December 2021, with bunk beds, gas stoves, morning coffee brewed by a hutmaster, and down slippers in a range of sizes. The huts are accessible to backcountry skiers from December through April, or can be reached via a five-mile hiking path—a spur off the Pacific Crest Trail—July through October. They are easily the nicest huts in the Lake Tahoe area, so when the semiannual booking windows open in fall and spring, hop on it. From $65 per person —Megan Michelson

For more information on trails near Frog Lake Huts, check out this map from Gaia GPS.

Riding in Hobbs State Park on Arkansas’s Monument Trails
Riding in Hobbs State Park on Arkansas’s Monument Trails (Courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism)

Biking Winner: Monument Trails, Arkansas

Arkansas has pumped a lot of energy and money into its mountain-biking trails. As a result, the state transformed into a world-class destination almost overnight. One of its most robust initiatives is a public-private partnership that created Monument Trails, an array of singletrack in Arkansas’s state parks. Many routes were designed and built by Rogue Trails, a firm based in the town of Rogers made up of former racers who take land management and sustainability seriously. The first were unveiled in 2019, another 17 were introduced in the past year and a half, and today some 75 miles span Hobbs, Mount Nebo, Pinnacle Mountain, and Devil’s Den State Parks. The shared-use trails traverse iconic landscapes, including the Ozark Mountains, pristine hardwood forests on rugged plateaus, and limestone domes, and you’ll find yourself wheeling across flowy cross-country terrain and bombing technical downhills. Bentonville, with its dynamic craft breweries, and Eureka Springs, boasting a vibrant art scene, are top choices for places to stay while you play. Funding for the expanding trail system is supported by the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to developing local outdoor offerings, with patronage from the Walton Family Foundation. This year marks the centennial for Arkansas State Parks, so go celebrate. —R.K.

To learn more about Arkansas’s bounty of rides, check out these Trailforks maps for Hobbs, Mount Nebo, Pinnacle Mountain, and Devil’s Den state parks.

Mulberry Gap meetup
Mulberry Gap meetup (Photo: Courtesy Adventurus Women/Mulberry Gap)

Runner-Up: Mulberry Gap, Ellijay, Georgia

Welcome to the mountain-biking capital of Georgia: a humble adventure base camp 90 miles north of Atlanta within Chattahoochee National Forest. This 15-acre property, formerly a private family retreat, was converted into a campground with cabins. Ride out the door to explore over 50 miles of the nearby Pinhoti Trail system. Breakfast and dinner are served family-style, and lunch is provided to stash in your daypack. On-site guides give clinics, host group rides, and organize shuttles, and a fleet of Specialized rigs are available to rent. Camping from $13; cabins from $55 —M.M.

Huttopia tent
Huttopia tent (Courtesy Huttopia White Mountains)

Glamping Winner: Huttopia, New Hampshire

At this outpost in the White Mountains, fully furnished canvas tents are scattered throughout a 50-acre forest, complete with its own 68-acre lake and heated saltwater pool. Huttopia also offers a gathering area with fire pits, tables, chairs, and flatbread pizza served from a retro Airstream. Each tent has its own kitchen, bathroom, deck, fire pit, and electricity, or you can upgrade to a tiny home or chalet. Either way you’ll be able to swim, paddle, or fish Huttopia’s Iona Lake during the day and enjoy live performances by magicians and acoustic artists at night. The resort goes out of its way to welcome kids, with organized activities like treasure hunts and craft time. Venture off-site to hike 6,288-foot Mount Washington, tube the lazy Saco River, or pedal the 35-mile Kancamagus Scenic Byway, which curves through the heart of White Mountain National Forest. And it’s all just two and a half hours from Boston. From $88 —Graham Averill

Ulum in Moab, Utah; gourmet eats at New Mexico’s Kitfox
Ulum in Moab, Utah; gourmet eats at New Mexico’s Kitfox (Photos: Courtesy Ulum; Courtesy Ian Beckley/Kitfox)

Runners-Up: Glamping News Is Ridiculously Good This Year. Here Are Six More Places on Our Radar.

*You’ll forget that you’re camping at Open Sky, just west of Zion National Park, Utah, where spacious safari-style tents are tucked into the rocky surroundings, offering primo stargazing and quick access to park trails. From $599

*Ulum, outside Moab, Utah, is the latest venture from Under Canvas. Each tent has its own private deck and a rain shower, and is steps from hot and cool dipping pools. From $549. Under Canvas Yellowstone, located in Paradise Valley, Montana, opened in December along the Yellowstone River. From $329

*At Summit Big Bend, placed on 1,000 picturesque acres outside Big Bend National Park in West Texas, you can bed down inside a renovated mining cave tucked into a cliff. Caves $549, glamping from $198

*Book a tent at Kitfox, on 160 acres of conservation land outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, for one of the resort’s Dine in the Wild weekends, when
a local chef prepares homegrown fare. Hiking and biking in Galisteo Basin Preserve are right outside your door. From $200

*Dunes Experiences’ Desert Camp is scheduled to launch in June next to Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, featuring safari-style tents and guided excursions in the surrounding San Luis Valley. $250 —G.A.

The clubhouse at AutoCamp in Joshua Tree
The clubhouse at AutoCamp in Joshua Tree (Courtesy Mariko Reed/Autocamp)

Desert Winner: Joshua Tree, California

This dramatic desert landscape is having a moment, with plenty of new projects. The recently opened nine-mile Long Canyon Trail, for example, links Desert Hot Springs with Joshua Tree National Park, and a new stewardship agreement between the Park Service and the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians will involve the tribe in park management, interpretive services, cultural and historical training, and rescue and wildfire operations. Meanwhile, lodging options keep getting better. AutoCamp opened a property with decked-out Airstream trailers surrounding a modern clubhouse and a heated pool. You’ll find The Bungalows—newly refurbished mid-century modern cottages—at the 152-acre, wellness-focused Joshua Tree Retreat Center. While you’re in the area, knock out a through-hike of the California Hiking and Riding Trail, a 37-mile point-to-point path that forms a U through the northern section of the park and heads deep into the backcountry, with views of the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the west and Lost Horse and Hidden Valley to the north. The terrain ranges from rolling scrubland and valley floors thick with iconic Joshua trees to Jumbo Rocks, a field of massive boulders. Hit this trail in the early spring, when the terrain bursts with wildflowers. Hungry? The new Spaghetti Western Saloon in Morongo Valley is the brainchild of two Italian-born musicians; it offers live performances, locally and organically sourced ingredients, and Wild West–inspired cocktails. —G.A.

Hiking the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes
Hiking the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes (Photo: Alaskaphotographics)

Runner-Up: Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, Alaska

Thirty-five miles north of the Arctic Circle in Kobuk Valley National Park, a curious sight rises 100 feet out of the forest—the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes. Spend two days hiking and camping in what seems like the Sahara, where summer temperatures can reach 100 degrees. The best way in and out is by bush plane via the town of Kotzebue or Bettles. The pilot will land right on the sand. —T.N.

Double arch bridge on Natchez Trace Parkway, Franklin, Tennessee surrounded by fall colors.
Double arch bridge on Natchez Trace Parkway (Perry Gerenday/Getty)

Electric Travel Winner: Natchez Trace Parkway, Tennessee and Mississippi

The West Coast doesn’t have a monopoly on EV-charger density. The Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile highway through rural Tennessee and Mississippi that’s managed by the National Park Service, has more than 300 charging stations in surrounding communities. Most are free, and more than half are level three—the fastest available. The road itself is packed with cultural touchstones, tracing a route once used by Native Americans, European settlers, and, lately, roadsters looking for a slice of Americana. With no stoplights, no billboards, and little development outside of the occasional restored barn or farmhouse, the Natchez Trace rolls through hills blanketed with hardwood and pine forests. Start in Nashville and end at the Mississippi River in the town of Natchez, checking out highlights as varied as Elvis’s birthplace in Tupelo (milepost 260) and the dome-shaped mounds built by Indigenous people 2,000 years ago (milepost 286.7). It’s a bike-friendly route, with campsites for bikepackers; form a rolling 22-mile loop by combining Highway 553 with the Trace between mileposts 10 and 20. If you’re driving, stop at the Chickasaw Village Site (milepost 261.8), a 90-acre prairie with the preserved homes of a Native village, and explore the Yockanookany section of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail (milepost 122) through the cypress swamp left behind when the Pearl River changed course thousands of years ago. —G.A.

Town and Harbor of Bar Harbor in Acadia National Park,maine,USA
Bar Harbor in Acadia National Park (Photo: Peter Unger/Getty)

Runner-Up: E-Biking in Maine

Cycling coastal Maine is beautiful, but add sailing, secluded beaches, and numerous chances to eat lobster, and you’ve got a winning combo. Ride with Summer Feet Cycling from Port Clyde to Acadia National Park—a six-day adventure—sleeping at inns along the way ($3,695). Your e-bike makes the climb up Cadillac Mountain all the more memorable. —T.N.

Arrigetch Peaks
Arrigetch Peaks (Seth Adams)

Hiking Winner: Arrigetch Peaks, Alaska

Think Mordor, but transported to Alaska. Set in the middle of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, an area that welcomed fewer than 9,500 visitors last year, these 7,000-foot granite peaks are so remote that most trekkers opt for a guided tour in July or August, when the weather is best and wildlife abounds. Between the peaks are six incredibly clear aquamarine lakes in the Aquarius Valley, and the journey to get there is just as stunning. Alaska Alpine Adventures, which has led group tours around the state for 25 years, offers a rigorous ten-day backpacking expedition starting and ending in Fairbanks that takes in the Alatna River, glacial valleys, and burbling waterfalls over the course of some 40 miles (from $6,000). For a less time-intensive way to check out the Arrigetch, Brooks Range Aviation and Coyote Air, based in Bettles and Coldfoot, respectively, offer flightseeing trips (from $785) that put the scope of the area into better perspective, plus glimpses of herds of roaming wildlife. While you’re in the Land of the Midnight Sun, take advantage of your proximity to the Alaska Railroad, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. From May through early September, the line’s scenic 12-day Centennial Special runs from Anchorage to Fairbanks via Seward—a 470-mile historic route that lets you gawk at Denali, the Kenai Fjords, and several glaciers through your panoramic window (from $5,155). —Emily Pennington

To plan your route in the Arrigetch Peaks, check out this map from Gaia GPS. For more hiking inspiration, read Outside’s trail expert’s guide to the 10 best hikes in the world.

Boston’s Back Bay
Boston’s Back Bay (Photo: Raymond Forbes Llc/Stocksy)

Runner-Up: Urban Hiking in Boston

The pandemic may have put city trails in the spotlight, but urban treks have long been a staple in Boston, one of the country’s most walkable burgs. There’s the lauded Freedom Trail, Boston’s signature colonial-history jaunt to churches, cemeteries, and other sites from the American Revolution. And last year, a Bostonian created the 27-mile Walking City Trail, linking green spaces in 17 neighborhoods. —S.V.

Rafting the New River in West Virginia
Rafting the New River in West Virginia (Courtesy Adventures on the Gorge)

Family Trip Winner: New River Gorge, West Virginia

West Virginia has been getting the word out about all its spectacular nature of late—notably the churning whitewater, forested trails, and sandstone cliffs of America’s 63rd national park, New River Gorge. With so many recreational opportunities for every age and expertise level, this is our pick for families. Base out of Adventures on the Gorge, a 350-acre resort in Lansing, for all things outdoorsy. There are hiking trails, a disc-golf course, a zip line, and a swimming pool, plus multi-bedroom home rentals. Staff organize half-, full-, or multiday outings for your river crew. (Children from 6 to 11 raft free with an accompanying adult Sundays through Thursdays.) Plan your trip to coincide with Gauley Season, a six-week whitewater extravaganza—beginning this year on September 8—that draws thousands of people to test their skills on the Class III–V rapids let loose by scheduled releases of the Summersville Dam. Plenty of dryland activities beckon, too, including treks to historic mining communities, rock climbing for all skill grades, and horseback riding to the rim of the gorge. It’s easy to see why West Virginia’s slogan is Wild and Wonderful. —E.P.

Flight of beer at Philipsburg Brewing Company
Flight of beer at Philipsburg Brewing Company (Photo: Courtesy Philipsburg Brewing Company)

Runner-Up: Philipsburg, Montana

In winter, families head to Philipsburg’s Discovery Ski Area—known as Disco to locals—for its easy frontside groomers. In town you’ll find a community ice rink, old-fashioned candy at the Sweet Palace, and cold craft beer at Philipsburg Brewing Company. Come summer, Philipsburg (population 847) is a quaint base camp for mellow hikes in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness, fishing for brook trout in Georgetown Lake, and downhill mountain biking at Discovery Bike Park. At nearby Gem Mountain, you can even pan for sapphires—the treasure that put this former mining town on the map. —Jacob Baynham

Getaway House cabin
Getaway House cabin (Courtesy Getaway House)

Cabins Winner: Getaway House

Jon Staff was a burned-out East Coaster when he and a partner at Harvard Business School came up with a plan that focused on doing what he needed most: getting into nature to reset his mood, with zero distractions. Getaway House was born from that impetus. What started as one small house in a New Hampshire forest has grown into more than 780 tiny homes, set in clusters called outposts, in at least 15 states, all of them within a couple of hours of a major city. The idea behind each stay is for guests to fully disconnect from day-to-day life so they can reconnect in a healthier way upon reentry. Each white pine home is no bigger than 200 square feet and designed with a small kitchen, a large window for taking in the trees, and a lockbox for your phone. TV? Wi-Fi? Don’t ask. Instead, you’ll find an outdoor fire pit, a mini library, and a landline for emergencies. More than two dozen popular outposts now dot the country. One of the newest, near Asheboro, North Carolina, has trails and fishing, and sits within day-tripping distance of Birkhead Mountain Wilderness; there’s also a 12-mile round-trip hike up 938-foot Coolers Knob Mountain in the Uwharries. From $109 —T.N.

Jet Hospitality interior
Jet Hospitality interior (Photo: Courtesy Jet Hospitality)

Runner-Up: Jet Hospitality

Looking to hook a gorgeous Montana rainbow trout, dig razor clams in Washington, or pick wild huckleberries on a stroll in Idaho? Jet Hospitality has you covered throughout the western U.S., with cabins, bungalows, and inns, along with glamping, tent, and RV sites, in Fort Smith, Montana; Pacific Dunes, Washington; and Teton Peaks Resort, Idaho, where you can hike or ride along the 30-mile Ashton-Tetonia Rail Trail or enjoy a wolf-watching adventure in Yellowstone National Park. —T.N.

The view from Burntside Lodge
The view from Burntside Lodge (Courtesy Burntside Lodge)

Lake Winner: Burntside Lodge, Minnesota

In January, the Department of the Interior announced withdrawal of more than 225,000 acres of public land from federal mine-leasing programs near Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The 20-year hiatus allows campers to finally relax and reserve one of the 248 coveted permits allowed per day to enjoy paddling season, which starts May 1 and ends September 30. Not everyone who wants to explore the pristine north woods must sleep in a tent. Burntside Lodge on Burntside Lake—one of dozens of Boundary Waters entry points—has been owned by the LaMontagne family for more than 80 years. Its third-generation head chef, Nicole LaMontagne, serves up walleye as fresh and flaky as you could catch and fry yourself. With kayaks, canoes, and SUPs for rent, guests can paddle across the water to the Crab Lake Portage, then hike a mile overland for a taste of the wilderness. But most are happy to stay put. Reserve cabin 26. This one-bedroom shorefront log structure was built in the 1920s by Finnish craftsmen. The floors slope a bit, but with a cozy bed, a hot shower, a fireplace, and sunset views, who cares? —Stephanie Pearson

Runner-Up: Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan

The Keweenaw Peninsula, off Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, juts into Lake Superior like a thumb ringed by thick forests, craggy shores, and a white-sand beach. You can see it all while paddling a sea kayak on the 100-mile-long Keweenaw Water Trail as it hops between wilderness campsites. If you’d prefer to be guided, go with the Keweenaw Adventure Company. —T.N.

St. Croix positioning system
St. Croix positioning system (Christian Wheatley/Getty)

Island Winner: St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

St. Croix is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, which offer five National Park Service sites and require no passport for American citizens. Sitting 40 miles south of the more popular Caribbean counterparts St. Thomas and St. John, St. Croix is often overlooked by island-hopping visitors. It’s newly in the spotlight, however, after Congress designated the entire island a national heritage area in December. This step helps protect its mix of history and culture. A stroll through the colonial structures of Christiansted National Historic Site transports you back to Alexander Hamilton’s day, when the downtown district was a Danish port. Wander the shores of Salt River Bay, a somber reminder of the centuries when migrants, colonizers, and enslaved people passed through the territory. The island is also covered with trails that deliver incredible sea views, and snorkelers of any skill level will relish a day trip to Buck Island to marvel at massive reef systems where elkhorn coral may reach 30 feet high. For accommodations, consider the recently renovated King Christian Hotel, right on the waterfront. From $229 —Theresa McKinney

Cottage charm on Dauphin Island
Cottage charm on Dauphin Island (Photo: Meinzahn/Getty)

Runner-Up: Dauphin Island, Alabama

Visiting Dauphin, a 35-mile drive from Mobile on the Gulf Coast, will be a revelation once you glimpse the six miles of sugar-soft white dunes at West End Beach. The island is also home to a 137-acre Audubon bird sanctuary, with a three-mile-long National Recreational Trail, as well as excellent kayaking and paddling. This sliver of land has just 1,800 residents, the restaurants tend toward the bar-and-grill variety, and most vacation rentals are on stilts to protect against hurricanes—all of which contributes to its relaxed charm. —R.K.

Taos Ski Valley
Taos Ski Valley (Michael Deyoung/Getty)

Ski Winner: Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

Operating a ski resort is an inherently resource-intensive business. Taos Ski Valley, however, has long taken a more conscientious approach, proving itself a maverick in the industry by committing to clean-energy initiatives. Taos was the first major ski resort to become a certified B Corp, which means that its operations meet the highest social and environmental standards. Late last year, it became carbon-neutral certified after reducing its footprint. It now uses renewable energy to power snowcats, snowmaking machines, and chairlifts; it has undergone green-building upgrades; and it invests in offset projects like reforestation and biofuels. Aside from its reputation for driving change, the main reason skiers flock to this resort in northern New Mexico is for the uncrowded, low-key vibe. That and the quick hike to steep chutes off the West Basin, bird’s-eye views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from atop 12,481-foot Kachina Peak, and the green-chile-stuffed breakfast burritos from Bumps Market in the village. Stay at the 80-room Blake Hotel (from $300) and you’re steps from Lift 1. (The historic Hotel St. Bernard, another favorite, is undergoing a renovation and is slated to reopen in 2025.) Start this off with Al’s Run for a leg-crushing warm-up, and at day’s end join those in the know for beer and soft pretzels on the deck of the Bavarian at the bottom of Lift 4. —M.M.

Bluebird Backcountry cabin
Bluebird Backcountry cabin (Photo: Courtesy Justin Wilhelm/Bluebird Backcountry)

Runner-Up: Bluebird Backcountry, Kremmling, Colorado

When Bluebird Backcountry opened three years ago, it offered a unique way to get into ski touring—with trail maps, guides, and gear rentals. You won’t find chairlifts at this 1,200-acre ski-patrolled area 45 minutes southeast of Steamboat Springs; it’s all human-powered. Over the winter, Bluebird added lodging options, including van-camping sites, a hostel, rustic cabins, and ski-to domes (from $25 for camping, $59 for hostel rooms, and $109 for cabins and domes). There’s no fancy slopeside hotel, but that’s partly why Bluebird’s so awesome: it’s an affordable escape from crowded resorts. —M.M.

Badlands, South Dakota
Badlands, South Dakota (Stevegeer/Getty)

The Wildest Place Winner: Black Hills and Badlands, South Dakota

The nation’s 17th largest state has a population of just under one million, about a fifth of whom live in Sioux Falls. The entire western third of the state is prairie grasslands, dense pine forests, geologically fascinating rock formations, and national parks filled with sacred caves and fossilized creatures from another era. See it all along the 111-mile Centennial Trail. Accessible to hikers, horseback riders, and, in some places, mountain bikers, the trail traverses state parks, federal wilderness, national forests, and a national park. It begins eight miles northeast of Sturgis in Bear Butte State Park, named for a plug of black igneous rock sacred to both the Lakota and Cheyenne. It then climbs into the wild geology of the Black Hills, home to pronghorn, bighorn sheep, elk, and turkey, winding around seven trout-filled lakes, crossing streams, and eventually topping out at 7,242-foot Black Elk Peak, before ending in Wind Cave National Park. Camping options vary from primitive tent sites to full campgrounds. Two-thirds in, the trail passes within a mile of Mount Rushmore, where hikers can peel off and sleep in a comfortable glamping tent at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore. To ensure no wrong turns, pick up the definitive guide, Hiking Centennial Trail, by Cheryl Whetham and Jukka Huhtiniemi. —S.P.

A petroglyph and wild terrain in Basin and Range National Monument
A petroglyph and wild terrain in Basin and Range National Monument (Photos: Dominic Gentilcore/Adobe Stock)

Runner-Up: Basin and Range National Monument, Nevada

Even in a state known for vast, empty landscapes, this 704,000-acre national monument two hours north of Las Vegas takes the prize. With no paved roads or designated hiking trails and unreliable cell service, you’re on your own to climb, roam, and suss out primitive camps in this desert terrain, where peaks rise to almost 9,000 feet. A lucky six people per day can visit City, a monumental sculpture of dirt, rock, and concrete mounds and depressions created over 50 years by artist Michael Heizer. Submissions to visit in 2023 are closed. Try again for 2024 at the Triple Aught Foundation’s website. —S.P.

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From May/June 2023 Lead Photo: Sumiko Scott/Getty

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