The Best Summer Getaways in America
Your perfect summer vacation may be just around the corner.
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
You know where you want to be this summer: running a river, sitting in a hammock, or lying in the sand. How to get there? These 19 easy, fresh escape routes, from Virginia to Wyoming.
New York, New York
The quickest way to exit New York City is via North Cove Marina, just a few blocks from the World Financial Center. Book a 40-foot sloop through Manhattan by Sail (from $1,140 with captain) and restaurant-hop up the Hudson River or explore the beaches of New Jersey's Sandy Hook. It's the easiest way to beat the heat—it's ten degrees cooler on the water—and the quiet is even better.
Just 30 miles from the airport at Burlington sits summer's best lodging: the two-story Moose Meadow Treehouse (from $400), set on 86 wooded acres in Duxbury, with access to two miles of trails and a pond stocked with rainbow trout (try a Royal Wulff). Pick up picnic supplies and local Ridge Runner beer at Village Market in nearby Waterbury, then tackle 4,083-foot Camel's Hump, a three-plus-mile hike up the Monroe Trail with unobstructed views over the Green Mountains.
There's a better way to get to Maine than sitting in your car on I-95. Amtrak's newly extended Downeaster line takes you from Boston to Brunswick in just over three hours ($24). From there, walk six minutes to the Brunswick Inn (from $139). The next day, choose from a long list of nearby adventures: bodysurf Popham Beach ($6), hike two miles up Morse Mountain for ocean views, or kayak the coves in search of seals (rentals from $20).
Two and a half hours west of Boston, Charlemont's 30-plus miles of singletrack in the Deerfield River Valley are new enough (they opened last summer) that few people know about them—yet. Bring your own bike, park at the Warfield House trailhead in Charlemont, and start with the 1.5-mile Lost and Get Smart loop. Even the intermediate singletrack is challenging, but the reward is views of the river, valley, and eastern slope of the Berkshires. Nearby, Hawk Mountain Lodge, a renovated farmhouse, has five simple, bright rooms (from $75).
Woodland Park, Colorado
Pike National Forest, just northwest of Colorado Springs, has Colorado's two best features: mountains and solitude. It's the ideal place to fly-fish alpine lakes, horseback-ride through wildflower meadows, and hike peaks like 9,063-foot Mount Herman. Pitch a tent at Painted Rocks Campground ($19), or—if you can swing it—wait until August, when the Ranch at Emerald Valley opens ten swanky log cabins complete with views of the Front Range, gourmet meals from an on-site chef, and plenty of Colorado wine (from $570).
Montana's Paradise Valley has soaring peaks, majestic valleys, and 100 miles of trout-filled rivers. Which is to say, the name is no exaggeration. The Yellowstone Valley Lodge and its three new riverside cabins (from $209)—40 minutes from Bozeman—are the perfect base camp for rafting trips down the river. Plus, you're just 38 miles from Yellowstone National Park and even closer to Absarokas hikes like the five-mile trek to Pine Creek Lake.
Park City, Utah
Park City, about 40 minutes from the Salt Lake City airport, is famous for its 9,300 acres of skiing. Less known are the 400 miles of singletrack and lift-accessed biking in summer. Check in at the 124-year-old Washington School House Hotel (from $295) and grab a a bike downtown (rentals from $20 for four hours). Ride the classic 26-mile Mid Mountain Trail through wildflower meadows and valley views, then splurge on the free-range fried chicken at the Farm at Canyons Resort ($29).
Pawleys Island, South Carolina
Thank God for Myrtle Beach. While the crowds pack its rowdy shoreline, the Hammock Coast—just 20 minutes south—remains pristine. Five rivers converge on eclectic villages, cypress swamps, and black-water rivers. Grab a kayak (rentals, $35) and paddle two and a half hours to the 9,200-acre Sandy Island nature preserve, an island that's home to maritime forests and black bears. Refuel with shrimp and grits at Quigley's Pint and Plate back on the mainland ($16.50) and set up your beachfront campsite at Huntington Beach State Park (from $17).
Highlands, North Carolina
The Nantahala National Forest and its lush, shady mountains, in North Carolina's western corner, are as rugged as the southeast gets. What's more, the average July high in Highlands is 79 degrees. Get a room at the historic Old Edwards Inn and Spa downtown (from $250), then hike to nearby Sunset Rock, fish for eager rainbow trout in the Cullasaja or Chattooga Rivers (both within five miles), or mountain-bike nearby Panthertown Valley, a depression surrounded by 200-foot granite cliffs (rentals from $36).
Hot Springs, Arkansas
In Arkansas, the only thing better than being close to water is being on the water. The state has 600,000 acres of lakes, and 44,000 of them are at Lake Ouachita State Park, a serpentine reservoir formed by the Blakely Mountain Dam. Grab a paddleboard in Hot Springs (rentals, $40), an hour west of Little Rock, then stake out a campsite ($12) or cabin (from $185) and explore the lake's 975 miles of undeveloped shoreline.
Beaver Island, Michigan
Just 60 miles north of Traverse City, this 58-square-mile island has old-growth forests, swamps, sand dunes, and beaches—yet only 40,000 people visit each summer. Take the two-hour car ferry from Charlevoix (from $180 round-trip), and set up your Lake Michigan-view camp at the Saint James Township Campground ($5). Then spend your days exploring the island's 100 miles of trails and seven undeveloped inland lakes, or kayak to one of five nearby uninhabited islands (rentals, $60).
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Ohio's northern reaches are flat and somewhat uninspiring. But southwestern Ohio is packed with unexpected hills and wildlife-rich rivers. Set up camp in Yellow Springs, an artist and hippie hangout an hour from Cincinnati, at the Glen House Inn, next to a thousand-acre nature preserve. The town is deservedly known for its local art shops and the 75-mile Little Miami bike trail, which stretches almost to Cincy. But its best features are the nearby limestone gorges in John Bryan and Caesar Creek State Parks, which offer some of Ohio's best hiking.
Chicago's suburbs seem to stretch forever. But just two hours north is one of the region's best adventure hubs. Surf, kayak, swim, or SUP on Lake Michigan (EOS Outdoor can help arrange rentals), or tackle inland hikes like the three-mile section of the Ice Age Trail near Elkhart Lake. The digs aren't bad either. The new Sandhill cabin, a two-bedroom timber-frame lodge, comes with a sauna, a poker shack, a wraparound porch, and bicycles to explore six miles of trails on the property's 350 acres (from $785 for six).
Just beyond Zion National Park are canyons that are as gorgeous and shady as those in the park but far less crowded. Our favorite: Kanarra Creek Canyon, a 4.4-mile hike between cool sandstone walls and up mellow cascades in Kanarraville (the trailhead is just east of town via 100 N Street). If you're ready for a more technical ride, join Zion Rock and Mountain Guides for a full-day descent of Water Canyon. They help guests squeeze through slots, swim through deep holes, and tackle ten rappels of up to 200 feet. Post-hike, kick back at the Driftwood Lodge (from $139) while enjoying the views of Zion's sandstone pinnacles.
Boulder City, Nevada
An hour from Las Vegas's boozy masses, Lake Mead National Recreation Area's 186,000 acres of water are a paddler's playground. Rent a kayak in Boulder City (from $35, shuttle included), and head up the Colorado River from the lake to check out its sinewy chasms, hot springs, and Emerald Cave, a glowing green grotto. Spend the night at Boulder Beach, then explore the nearby rocky islands by stand-up paddleboard (rentals from $60).
While the rest of Arizona sizzles, Flagstaff enjoys 7,000 feet of elevation and the nearby Coconino National Forest's cool ponderosa groves. Fly into Phoenix, and drive to the Flagstaff Nordic Center and its 30-plus-mile nest of trails (bike rentals from $35). Our favorite: the buffed, ten-mile Bear Jaw Loop, which climbs 950 feet through aspens and pines to a vista over the San Francisco Peaks. Bring steaks: the Nordic Center's yurts come equipped with a barbecue (from $25).
Santa Barbara, California
Elencanto (from $525), a 1918 hotel that once attracted Hollywood stars like Clark Gable, reopened in March with 92 palatial bungalows set on a hill outside the city. The property has a lot to offer—private patios, gardens, views of the coast, electric bikes for zipping to nearby trailheads—but the best part is the nearby Santa Barbara Sailing Center, which allows Encanto guests to sail for a half-day or a full day at special rates. Do yourself a favor and stay on the water for sunset, which lacquers the Santa Ynez Mountains in orange.
Mount Hood, Oregon
Forty miles east of Portland, locals have been quietly constructing some of the nation's most exciting mountain-bike trails. The Sandy Ridge Trail System has 12.5 miles of perfectly bermed rides through conifer forest (rentals, $32; mthoodadventure.com). The road biking isn't bad either: ride east of Government Camp on Highway 35 to Brooks Meadow Road and Dufur Mill Road, which stretches for over 20 miles. Crash at Timberline Lodge, a retro-style hotel on the south flank of the mountain (from $125).
California's northern coast is as vast and wild as the Pacific gets. Drive five hours from San Francisco and dive in with a surfboard (rentals, $15 for a half-day) at Moonstone, a shallow, sandy beach with a good beginner break. Bring your climbing shoes: the sandstone rocks that stud the beach make Moonstone one of the region's best bouldering areas. After that, kick back at the Trinidad Inn (from $75), a ten-room lodge with fire pits and groves of towering redwoods.