We want it all—city people, outdoorsy people, and the rest. We want city culture, food, and energy sometimes, but sometimes we want tree scent, dirt underfoot, and nature sounds.
Some cities are heavily urban, while others bring nature downtown.
Want the best of both? These 5 US cities let you have your cake downtown and work it off on the trail, kayak, or mountain bike—action and adventure are nearby.
If your perception of Reno is still influenced by Las Vegas, an update is needed as things have changed. Near Nevada, tech companies are finding a home away from Silicon Valley’s high prices. Life quality is appealing. Lake Tahoe, a year-round outdoor activity destination, is less than an hour from Reno. Activities include paddling Emerald Bay and skiing at top resorts. Nearby Galena Creek Recreation Area offers high-desert hiking and winter snowshoeing. For fly-fishing enthusiasts, Pyramid Lake and the Truckee River are conveniently located just steps from downtown.
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Portland, the largest city in Maine, is surrounded by Casco Bay and several thousand lakes, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. An old rumor that Casco Bay has 365 islands led some to call them the Calendar Islands—one for each day. Though the number is lower, the islands offer nearly endless exploration opportunities.Larger islands are accessible by ferry, while the rest of the bay is accessible by sailboat, kayak, or SUP. Portland offers hiking and mountain biking trails, as well as fall foliage boat tours along the coast, for foliage enthusiasts.
Seattle experiences gray and drizzly weather. That won’t stop your exploration. Visitors can hike, bike, and beachcomb on Puget Sound islands like Bainbridge and Vashon via frequent ferries.Whale-watching tours depart from town. Mt Rainier National Park and the Olympic Peninsula offer tempting hiking and climbing opportunities. Seattle is more than a home base for out-of-town trips: bike infrastructure upgrades, including bike-share programs, have made it one of the nation’s best biking cities. Hilly Seattle is now more accessible thanks to e-bikes.
One of the most outdoorsy US state capitals is Juneau. Orcas visit how many American capitals with glaciers? Juneau is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with the Mendall Glacier located within the city limits. Experience guided tours on the ice, hike to Nugget Falls, or kayak around Mendall Lake at the glacier’s base. The Mt Roberts Tramway offers a quick access to high-country hiking, with the option to walk up and take the tram down for free. At Point Bridget State Park in Berner’s Bay, trails lead through the rainforest to salmon fishing and seal watching spots.
San Francisco truly is one of the nation’s most outdoorsy cities. Outdoor activities usually require leaving SF. Simply step out your front door to explore leafy, artsy Berkeley across the bay. Berkeley offers a 2000-acre Tilden Regional Park, 1250 miles of trails in East Bay Regional Parks, a world-class UC Botanical Garden, and a free Adventure Playground at the Berkeley Marina, where kids can build and decorate their own playground and zip down a zip line. The local favorite: watching San Francisco shiver in its famous fog from a sunny ridgeline overlooking the Bay.