Getting the Most out of Life

The 5 Best States for Outdoor Adventure, Adrenaline Junkies, and Casual Enthusiasts

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Looking for outdoor adventure? Regardless of whether you’re in search of serene strolls through scenic vistas or heart-pounding, adrenaline-fueled activity, look no further than the five states listed below.

1. Conquering the White Water Rapids of Alaska

Home of Denali (Mount McKinley), the highest peak in North America, Alaska is indisputably one of the nation’s leaders in outdoor adventure. Denali National Park’s six million acres of wild land offers ample opportunities for wildlife sightings, mountaineering, dog sledding, ice climbing, and other activities. Alaska’s Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers flow past spectacular glaciers and icebergs and churn up raging white water conditions. You’ll see wildlife on the riverbanks too, such as moose and grizzly bears. These rivers were ranked as one of the top 10 white water rafting spots in the world by National Geographic.

2. Rock Climbing the Canyons of Nevada

Many people think of the Las Vegas Strip when they imagine Nevada, but this state might surprise you: It encompasses an impressive and jaw-dropping array of desert, canyon, and lake settings that fuel an outdoor enthusiast’s dreams. From Red Rocks Canyon, a gorgeous hiking and rock-climbing spot located about 20 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, to Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S., city-dwellers will love the opportunity to become weekend warriors. Further away from city lights, the Valley of Fire State Park features sandstone formations from the prehistoric era, while Lake Tahoe offers great skiing and snowboarding.

3. Gliding Over the Mountains of Tennessee

Home to a portion of the Appalachian Trail, a section of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park (which runs along the North Carolina border), Tennessee draws outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy camping, hiking, cycling, fishing, and even such off-the-beaten-path activities as hang gliding over the mountains. The state’s Ocoee Whitewater Center, part of Cherokee National Forest, even hosted a 1996 Olympic white water rafting event.

4. Snorkeling for Sea Turtles and Shipwrecks in Florida

Interested in snorkeling, sailing, or spotting tropical wildlife? Look no further than Florida, the state with seemingly endless coastline. Slip away to a quiet island with a mellow vibe, such as Anna Maria Island or Siesta Key, or enjoy a more urban scene at Key West or Miami. Swimmers who are wildlife lovers will particularly be fond of the ideal scuba diving and snorkeling conditions of Dry Tortugas National Park, home to colorful coral reefs and their vibrant fish and sea turtles, as well 300 bird species. The area is also notorious for hundreds of shipwrecks, which you can see just a few feet below the water’s surface.

5. Kayaking During Your Lunch Break in Texas

The capital of the Lone Star State, Austin, is lauded by Outside magazine as one of America’s best cities, thanks to easily being able to kayak, bike, run, or swim during your lunch break. Barton Creek Greenbelt, featuring 800 acres of wilderness, lies at the heart of the city, as does the 351-acre Zilker Park, giving Austin plenty of open, public space for outdoor sports. And the Chihuahuan Desert in West Texas is more than just a great camping spot: Each spring, the Pecos River swells into a 60-mile stretch of Class III rapids through this desert, making it a great hidden white-water destination. The Rio Grande is another popular river for white water rafting, particularly the 120-mile section that flows through Big Bend National Park, where outdoor enthusiasts can see canyon walls, wildflowers, and other jaw-dropping scenery.

As an added bonus, all five of these states charge zero state income tax. If you’re a resident, that means keeping more of your hard-earned money for a mountaineering expedition, kayaking trip, snowboarding weekend, or any other outdoor adventure you desire.