19 Outdoor Places in the U.S. that You Should Visit at Least Once

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As you all know, we love the outdoors! We’re often searching for exciting outdoor places to add to our bucket list. We get excited about outdoorsy destinations, historic sites, and hidden gems.

We also love National Parks, mountains, and coastal towns. With so many places to see that have all of which we love, there is a lot of travel planning ahead.

And for those of you who also love the outdoors, this is for you!

Together, with some of our friends, we created a list of some of the best outdoorsy places to visit. Hang on tight, because you’re about to get all the wanderlust vibes!

Best Outdoor Places to Visit in East U.S.

1. Blowing Rocks Preserve, FL

Contributed by Alisha, from Adventure Seeking Mom

blowing rocks preserve best outdoor places to visit in the u.s.
Blowing Rocks Preserve, FL © Adventure Seeking Mom

With the largest Anastasia limestone shoreline on the Atlantic coast of the U.S., Florida’s Blowing Rocks Preserve will really blow you away with its breathtaking natural beauty.

This dramatic stretch of sand will remind you just how powerful the ocean is. Especially when you watch the waves crash forcefully against the rocks!

They’re known as Blowing Rocks because during high tide and when the sea is rough, the force of the waves hitting the rocks can “blow” ocean water up to 50 feet in the air. 

Located on the southern end of Jupiter Island, a barrier island on Florida’s east coast, Blowing Rocks Preserve is a serene 73-acre sanctuary protected by The Nature Conservancy.

It’s home to a vast number of endangered Florida native plants and animals. These include rare loggerheads, and green and leatherback sea turtles. 

Besides admiring and climbing on the Blowing Rocks, visitors to the preserve enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and hiking. Relaxing along this stunning south Florida shoreline is also a must.

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Contributed by Heather, from This Noshtalgic Life

mountains in stowe vermont
Stowe, VT © This Noshtalgic Life

Nestled in the green mountains of Vermont, Stowe is a picturesque town that is perfect for a getaway. It’s an amazing outdoor destination whether visiting in the fall, winter, or summer months.

Stowe is a world-class destination in the summer for outdoor enthusiasts. Mountain bikers can hit up the large network of trails that offer something for every ability level.

Specifically, The Trapp Family Lodge’s 2,600 acres feature an extensive mountain bike trail network with two skills parks.

In addition, the Stowe Recreation Path spans 5.3 miles on a greenway stretching from the Village of Stowe to the Top Notch Resort on the Mountain Road. It is a public use trail and is utilized by casual cyclists, walkers, and joggers.

Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in the state, can be seen from all over town. There is a seasonal toll road that takes you to the top of the mountain for stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

In the fall, the foliage is simply breathtaking! Many people come to Stowe specifically to see the leaves change color.

In the winter, skiers and snowboarders alike can enjoy top-notch skiing at Stowe Mountain Resort. Backcountry skiing abounds on Mt. Mansfield, with approximately 40 kilometers of trails.

Nordic skiers have endless opportunities in the Stowe area as well. Whether enjoying the trails at Trapp Family Lodge, which is home to the first cross-country ski center in the country, or at Stowe Mountain Resort Cross-Country Touring Center, skiers will have an unforgettable experience to write home about.

With so much to do, it’s no wonder that Stowe is one of Vermont’s favorite tourist destinations!

3. Sanibel Island, FL – Seashell Capital of the World

Contributed by Donna, from Explore the Road with Donnamarie

man kayaking in sanibel island florida
Sanibel Island, FL © Explore the Road with Donnamarie

What outdoor destination can be better than a beach? And what better way to visit a beach than by heading to Sanibel, Florida? You can stroll along miles of sandy beaches and collect shells.

After all, Sanibel is the seashell capital of the world. But that’s not all. The waters are fairly calm making this an excellent place to go paddle boarding and kayaking.

Almost all accommodations are beachfront, so it is easy to have equipment delivered to you for use during your stay.

If you are lucky, you may even spot some dolphins. However, if you want a sure way to see these amazing porpoises, you can book a dolphin tour.

Sanibel is located at the southwest tip of Florida, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Gulf of Mexico. The closest airport is Ft. Myers. Since Sanibel is in Florida, it does get hot in the summer.

Also, hurricane season peaks in late summer through mid-fall, so you can’t be sure of the weather. For the best time to visit, come from late November through June.

4. Rock City, GA

Contributed by Jillian, from Adventure Dragon

rock city georgia best outdoor places to visit in the u.s.
Rock City © Adventure Dragon

One of the top outdoor destinations in the U.S. is located just a few miles from Chattanooga in a tiny Georgia town named Lookout Mountain.

You’ll find Rock City perched atop the summit of a mountain bearing the same name, and this lesser-known place truly feels like a secret city hidden away from the rest of the world.

Natural passageways through moss-covered boulders eventually lead visitors over a 180-foot suspension bridge and to a breathtaking, 90-foot waterfall.

From the top of this waterfall, you can see seven US states on a sunny day. Visit in spring or fall for the best weather.

During March, the entire waterfall runs green for St Patrick’s Day, and throughout the entire month of October, Rock City celebrates its German heritage through a music and food festival called Rocktoberfest.

If you wish to stay overnight, the nearby historic Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel allows visitors to sleep in a real train car that operated almost a hundred years ago.

5. Helen, GA

Contributed by Yanitza & Carlos, from Next Stop Adventures

german town in helen georgia best outdoor places to visit in the u.s.
Helen, Georgia © Next Stop Adventures

North Georgia is without a doubt, one of the best outdoor destinations in the eastern part of the U.S., and it has all the reasons for it! Nestled on the northeastern side, you will find the outdoorsy town of Helen.

Known mostly for its picturesque Bavarian-inspired buildings, it’s also an outdoors lover paradise.

Helen is filled with beautiful waterfalls, like the popular Anna Ruby Falls, which is accessible through a 1/2-mile paved trail hike.

Gem mining and hiking at Unicoi State Park are also among the great things you can do in Helen, Georgia. During the summer months, you can enjoy river tubing on the Chattahoochee River.

This tubing experience takes you through the center of the Bavarian town and it’s an awesome outdoor activity for the whole family.

This outdoorsy area of Georgia is also known for its wineries. For a complete winery experience, you can enjoy wine flights and cave tours at Yonah Mountain Vineyards.

Chocolate factories, historic sites, and ziplining are also very popular among tourists who visit Helen.

More Beautiful Places to Visit in the U.S.

6. Seaside, OR

Contributed by Yesenia, from The Sisters Who Voyage

beach at seaside oregon
Seaside Oregon © The Sisters Who Voyage

Seaside is a beautiful and popular outdoor destination in the United States that is nestled on the Oregon coastline.

This famous Oregon beach is similar in many ways to the top Washington beaches.

Similarly, it has cold refreshing waters, typically windier days, and less litter across its sandy shores. It’s also not as congested with crowds.

This stunning beach offers various activities that can be enjoyed on its clean shores. Kite flying, sand castle building, kayaking, and wakeboarding are among the most popular.

Apart from beginning in the sea, you’ll also be able to take a hike through the seaside promenade that is roughly 1.5 miles one way.

If you’re still looking for adventure, then there are a few trails you’ll be able to hike through.

An easy trail is the Soapstone Lake trail which is roughly 2.7 miles round trip. This should take you no more than 1.5 hours to finish if done without breaks.

Next, you’ll want to head on to the Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail at Ecola State Park. This monster is 12.2 miles and will take over 7 hours to finish! This makes it a more significant challenge, even if you take a few small breaks.

7. Oahu, Hawaii

Contributed by Sydney, from A World in Reach

beach in oahu hawaii
Oahu, HI © A World in Reach

There’s no doubt about it, Oahu is one of the best outdoor destinations in the United States. From its stunning beaches to its incredible hiking trails, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Looking for a place to relax and soak up the sun, Oahu’s beaches are definitely worth a visit. Oahu is home to some of the best beaches in the world.

With over 100 to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect spot to suit your needs.

Whether you’re looking for a place to surf, swim, or just lounge around, you’ll find it on Oahu. Some of Oahu’s best beaches include Kailua Beach, Sunset Beach, and Lanikai Beach.

Tourist-centric Waikiki Beach is the most popular on the island. It’s home to many of Oahu’s best hotels, restaurants, and things to do.

If you’re looking to get your heart rate up, a few hiking trails are definitely worth adding to your Oahu bucket list.

From the popular Diamond Head State Monument to the breathtaking Manoa Falls, there’s plenty of hiking to be had on this island.

If you’re up for a challenge, you can even hike to the top of Mt. Ka’ala, the highest point on Oahu.

Oahu has great weather year-round, so you really can’t go wrong when deciding the best time to visit. However, if you want to do some whale watching, whale season runs between December and May.

8. Lake Powell, CO

Contributed by Marisa, from The Daydream Diaries

lake powell colorado
Lake Powell, CO © The Daydream Diaries

Lake Powell is a popular vacation spot in the United States with almost 2,000 miles of shoreline, endless sunshine, warm water, perfect weather, and some of the most jaw-dropping scenery around.

It is a huge man-made reservoir on the Colorado River. Picture turquoise waters, white rock canyons, and even little pockets of sandy beaches!

It’s so beautiful that it actually attracts around 2 million people every year to see the sprawling lake which sits on the border of Utah and Arizona.

On the grounds, you are able to camp, fish, boat, waterski, and hike! There is no shortage of activities! You can rent from many of the marinas and operators within the grounds or you can bring your own boats, water skis, etc.

Although there are a lot of activities to take part in and it is a popular place to visit, it still feels so serene, peaceful, and like you are truly on another planet when you visit!

9. Kanab, UT

Contributed by Catherine, from Nomadicated

kanab utah best outdoor places to visit in the u.s.
Kanab, UT © Nomadicated

Nestled on the Southern Utah and Northern Arizona border, Kanab is emerging as one of the top places to visit in the USA for lovers of the outdoors.

Often overshadowed in popularity by its neighbor Moab, the Kanab region spotlights similarly incredible southwest USA desert hikes and landscapes but with fewer crowds.

Centrally located to Zion, Grand Canyon, and the town of Page, Kanab makes the perfect home base to visit some of the most iconic American National Parks and famous landmarks like Antelope Canyon or The Wave. 

Kanab hosts many hikes within town boundaries already, but other fantastic slot canyons and Vermilion Cliff hikes are just beyond its backyard.

Seek out unique Utah hidden gems like Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Moqui Sand Caves, or Buckskin Gulch-the longest, and deepest slot canyon in the world.

The best time to visit this Utah desert town is in the shoulder seasons of Spring or Fall.

Summer brings brutal temperatures to the southwest and very little shade for the most adventurous outdoor activities.

Watch the forecast for incoming precipitation when hiking in slot canyons, as flash floods can occur rapidly.

More Places to Visit in West U.S.

10. Monument Valley, AZ

Contributed by Elen, from Elen Pradera

mounument valley in arizona best outdoor places to visit in the u.s.
Monument Valley, AZ © Elen Pradera

Of the many outdoor destinations in the U.S., Monument Valley is one of the most unique places to visit.

The iconic destination is located on the Navajo Nation Reservation, the largest Native American territory in the U.S.

The area where visitors are free to roam around and explore is the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, which borders the states of Utah and Arizona.

At Monument Valley, the majestic sandstone buttes and mesas create a stunning landscape. Because of this, the place has been featured in a variety of movies, like Mission Impossible 2 and Forrest Gump.

One of the best ways to explore Monument Valley is to take the scenic drive known as Tribal Park Loop – the only part accessible to visitors without a tour. The entry fee is $8 per person, per day.

To see other parts of the park, you’ll need to join a tour with one of the authorized companies.

Native American guides lead these tours and take you further, deep into the park, to areas only accessible by tourists with them.

And if you want to visit this incredible outdoor attraction in the U.S., the best time to visit Monument Valley is during spring and fall, when the temperatures are milder.

11. Moab, UT

Contributed by Daria, from The Discovery Nut

delicate arch in moab utah best outdoor places to visit in the u.s.
Moab, UT © The Discovery Nut

Moab is one of the top outdoor places in the United States. Located in the heart of Utah’s red rock country, this town is an adventurer’s paradise.

While many travelers know Moab as a gateway to Utah’s popular national parks, Canyonlands and Arches, this town offers so much more!

Here you can kayak or paddle board test your mountain biking skills on the slick rock, and try your hand at rock climbing.

Aside from the popular hiking trails in Moab, this area also offers many hidden gems where you can test your orientation skills and get away from the crowds.

But that’s not all.

Moab also boasts some of the best dark skies in the United States and the nearby Dead Horse Canyon State Park even received the status of the International Dark Sky Park which means it’s perfect for stargazing.

Many travelers spend days and even weeks exploring Moab, with summer being the busiest season.

For the best experience, visit Moab during shoulder season which is from late April through May, and from September through mid-October when crowds are smaller and temperatures are not as hot as in summer which is perfect for camping and spending time outside.

12. Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Contributed by Krisztina from She Wanders Abroad

joshua tree national park best outdoor places to visit in the u.s.
Joshua Tree NP, © She Wanders Abroad

Joshua Tree National Park, located in southeastern California, is one of the most popular outdoor places in the United States.

The park is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, as well as some of the most incredible rock formations in the world. Visitors can hike, camp, rock climb, stargaze, and much more.

Since it’s located inside the Mojave National Preserve, the park gets incredibly hot during the summer months, so it’s best to visit either in spring or fall.

One of the most unique places inside Joshua Tree is Cholla Cactus Garden. This area is filled with hundreds of cholla cacti, which are known for their sharp spines.

Another must-see spot is Skull Rock, a large formation that looks like, well, a skull. You also can’t miss Arch Rock, a natural archway formed by erosion.

In case you’re after a rewarding hike, you can head to the top of Ryan Mountain. The 3-mile round-trip hike isn’t too difficult, and the views from the summit are incredible.

Los Angeles is the closest major city to Joshua Tree, so many visitors fly into LAX and then drive two hours east to the park. Y

ou can easily plan a Joshua Tree day trip from LA but if you want to really experience all the park has to offer, it’s best to stay for a few days.

There are several different campgrounds located inside Joshua Tree, or you can stay in one of the many towns located nearby.

Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or just looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Joshua Tree is sure to please you.

More to Add to Your Bucket List

13. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Contributed by Brodi, from Our Offbeat Life

sunrise at grand canyon national park arizona best outdoor places to visit in the u.s.
Grand Canyon NP, AZ © Our Offbeat Life

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the best outdoor places in the US. It’s one of the top three visited US National Parks and receives over six million visitors annually.

When planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, the biggest challenge is deciding which part to visit.

Of the South Rim, North Rim, and West Rim the South Rim is the most popular. It also has the most amenities and things to do at the Grand Canyon.

However, the West Rim is closer to Las Vegas which makes for a better day trip from Sin City. Visitors can also plan to skip the rims in favor of going into the Canyon, on a river trip, or on a hike to Havasu Falls.

While the most popular time to visit is during the summer months, that isn’t actually the best time to visit. It’s better to visit the Grand Canyon during the spring or fall because there are smaller crowds. In addition, the weather is more temperate.

14. Park City, UT

Contributed by Jamie, from Photo Jeepers

salt lake city utah
Salt Lake City, UT © Photo Jeepers

Want to enjoy one of the best outdoor places in the USA? If so then book your next vacation to Park City, Utah!

After all, this tiny city of just 8,000+ residents sits a little east of Salt Lake City and is surrounded by the picturesque Wasatch Range.

In fact, the mountains here are so incredible that this city played host to the 2002 Winter Olympics.

So, be sure to enjoy a bit of world-class skiing at either the Deer Valley Resort or the Park City Mountain Resort before going on a leisurely stroll through town as you admire the wealth of charming 19th-century buildings here.

And if you’re a huge fan of skiing, stop by any time between mid-November and mid-April since this is the prime ski season for Park City.

Otherwise, if you’re not a fan of winter, you could always grab a bike from Cole Sport and mountain bike your way along the Rail Trail – a historic path that follows the former trail of the Union Pacific Rail Line.

Next, SUP your way through the many ponds of Deer Valley before going on a crazy awesome hot air balloon ride high above the area’s Uinta Mountains and Cottonwood Canyons.

And if you have time, be sure to include a trip to Capitol Reef National Park as part of your trip since this majestic place is just under four hours away from Park City.

Contributed by Debbie, from World Adventurists

hiking trails in sedona arizona best outdoor places to visit in the u.s.
Sedona, AZ © World Adventurists

Sedona is one of the top outdoor places in the USA, known for being incredibly beautiful with its red rocks and stunning scenery.

Hike through spectacular scenery, with a variety of trails for every fitness level. In addition, Sedona is a mecca for mountain biking, with some of the best trails in the country.

And finally, it is also a great place to simply relax and enjoy the outdoors, with plenty of opportunities for camping, fishing, and picnicking.

You’ll have a great time exploring the many thrilling adventure options available in Sedona, like an off-road jeep tour or hot air balloon flight. You won’t want to miss driving the beautiful Red Rock Scenic Byway either.

In addition, ten minutes from here is Slide Rock State Park where you can find what some say are “natural” waterslides and are a lot of fun for all ages.

Sedona is a great place for healing and rejuvenation. Not only do they have some of the best spas around, but it’s also well-known to be an energy vortex city with four different types of energies located at Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Boynton Canyon.

Whether you’re looking for beauty, adventure, or relaxation, Sedona has something to offer everyone.

A perfect time to visit Sedona is during the Spring. You’ll have a comfortable temperature and endless opportunities for outdoor fun in this beautiful, sunny destination!

16. Colorado Springs, CO

Contributed by Rachel, from Caribbean Uncovered

manitou incline in colorado springs best outdoor places to visit in the u.s.
Colorado Springs, CO © Caribbean Uncovered

Best Time to Visit: Spring to Fall
Located an hour outside of Denver, Colorado Springs offers experiences like no other, making it an easy choice for a top outdoor destination in the US!

Take a trip to the Manitou Incline to climb the famous 2800 steps with 2000 feet of elevation!

The trail can also take you to Pikes Peak summit, a popular 14-mile mountain. Reservations are required but free and you make them here.

The strenuous hike offers incredible views of Colorado Springs and views of mountain peaks at the top.

Because the sun can get so strong, I’d suggest doing this hike at sunrise or sunset. Bring plenty of water and snacks!

If you’re looking for something less intense, Garden of the Gods, Seven Falls, and Red Rock Canyon Open Space are all nearby.

Parking is free at Garden of the Gods and Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Seven Falls offers a free parking lot with shuttle service to the front gate and a $17 entrance fee.

Garden of the Gods is handicap accessible with well-kept trails around the park.

17. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Contributed by Meg, from Fox in the Forest

lake at rocky mountain national park best outdoor places to visit in the u.s.
Rocky Mountain NP, CO © Fox in the Forest

Looking for one of the best outdoor destinations in the U.S.? If so then be sure to visit Rocky Mountain National Park near the charming mountain town of Estes Park, Colorado.

After all, this stunning, 415 square-mile park is home to incredible alpine lakes, mesmerizing mountain scenery, and awesome forests.

With 4.4 million annual visitors, Rocky Mountain is the fourth most visited national park in the country.

And while the best time to visit is between June and September, it’s also when the park receives the bulk of its visitors.

Therefore, if you’re looking to do the best hikes in Rocky Mountain Park, arrive before sunrise.

This allows you to get a better chance at grabbing a spot in the lot. You’ll also experience a bit of relaxing solitude while hiking to Bear Lake, Chasm Lake, and Alberta Falls.

Next, hop on the immortal Trail Ridge Road and check out the highest visitor center in the country before stopping for a photo op of Longs Peak – the park’s tallest mountain – at Forest Canyon Overlook.

Just remember that before you visit you are required to reserve a permit for $25 per car and can obtain one that does or does not include access to the  Bear Lake Road corridor.

18. Mendocino, CA

Contributed by Denise, from Chef Denise

flowers and ocean in mendocino california
Mendocino, CA © Denise, Chef Denise

Mendocino, California is one of the top outdoor places in the U.S. for those who appreciate nature and scenic beauty. In fact, these are some of the prettiest coastlines you’ll ever see.

And for a bonus, come in the spring when the field of wildflowers is in bloom between the town of Mendocino and the dramatic cliffs.

The village is adjacent to Mendocino Headlands State Park. Miles of trails hug the coast providing stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and even downtown Mendocino. But there is much more to Mendocino than the town itself.

Mendocino has a hike for everyone. Bring binoculars, although many times you will not need them to see the wildlife.

Wild turkeys, quail, deer, herons, and seals, are all common sights. If you’re lucky you may also spot migrating whales off the gorgeous coast.

The best trails can be found at the state parks just outside of town. The Van Damme State Park boasts a beach and Pygmy Forest where the highest trees are 8 feet.

Hike to the Point Cabrillo Light Station at the State Historic Park, of the same name. MacKerricher State Park to the north is home to the famous Glass Beach.

And Russian Gulch State Park offers a picturesque bridge and a 36-foot waterfall.

When it’s time to relax, stroll through the charming downtown where you’ll find quaint shops, artisan galleries, and delicious eateries. As a coastal town, fresh seafood is plentiful in Mendocino restaurants—don’t miss the local rockfish!

Outdoor Places to Visit in the Caribbean

19. San Juan, PR

Contributed by Lisa, from Waves and Cobblestones

el morro in san juan puerto rico
San Juan, PR © Waves and Cobblestones

San Juan, Puerto Rico is a fantastic destination if you’re looking to spend some quality time outdoors.  This US territory is located in the Caribbean, so you’ll enjoy warm tropical temperatures year-round.
There are many great things to do in San Juan and throughout the islands of Puerto Rico.  

No visit to San Juan is complete without a walk along the beautiful El Paseo del Morro National Recreational Trail. 

This oceanfront path follows San Juan’s fortified city walls and leads you to El Morro, one of San Juan’s famous historic fortresses.

Those who enjoy spending time in nature will enjoy exploring El Yunque, Puerto Rico’s tropical rainforest. You can choose to hike to a waterfall, view ancient petroglyphs, or ride a zipline through the forest canopy.

Visit the Puerto Rican island of Vieques for a magical experience kayaking in Mosquito Bay, which has the brightest bioluminescence in the world. 

Snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters along Puerto Rico’s magnificent coastline is another favorite activity.

Plan to stay in the historic center of San Juan to immerse yourself in its unique vibe, a combination of its Spanish and Caribbean heritage. 

The best time to visit San Juan is in the spring – that way you’ll avoid both the winter crowds and the rainier summer season.

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Yanitza Ninett
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Yanitza is one 1/2 of the Next Stop Adventures dynamic duo with 15+ years of hiking experience and adventure travel. As a PADI-certified Scuba diver, she's also passionate about ocean conservation. When she's not exploring the great outdoors, Yanitza obsesses over The Vampire Diaries and dreams of traveling to Spain.

10 thoughts on “19 Outdoor Places in the U.S. that You Should Visit at Least Once”

  1. This is an AWESOME list! I loved visiting Lake Powell a few years back. The seashell beach definitely sounds like a must visit!

  2. What an excellent collab post! There’s so many incredible places to visit in the US, I need to get my brain in gear! My favourites from your list are Kanab and Rocky Mountain National Park!

  3. Love this list! And still too many places on here that I have never been to and some I have never heard of. But I can concur that any Oregon beach, Sedona, and Lake Powell are of course must sees. Let’s just hope we can get some more water in the Lake, because otherwise it’ll never be the same…


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