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Kyle Jenkins | 05.06.2019

If you love outdoor adventure as much as the hustle and bustle of the city, the chances are that you know the cities on this list—hell, you might even live in one. There is no shortage of places in the U.S. that are home to 100,000 people and still close enough to canyons, mountains, forests, and rivers to call them home for an afternoon. Take a look at our favorites, and read on for tips and adventures to help you plan your trip into the outdoors. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a reason to move there.


Paddling in the Puget Sound with a great view to the Seattle city skyline. Tyler Yates.

Seattle, Washington

When it comes to major cities that take their outdoor recreation seriously, the residents of Seattle have been setting the bar for decades. Straddling the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, Seattle’s unique location gives people a ton of options when it comes to boating, fishing, and paddling. This large metropolis also happens to be right between two major national parks, the mighty Mount Rainier National Park and the vast and wild Olympic National Park. Snoqualmie Pass and Crystal Mountain ski resorts in the winter make Seattle a great year-round conduit for adventure.

Find your adventure:


Bustling breweries are common in Bend, Oregon. Tyson Gillard.

Bend, Oregon

The rapidly growing city of Bend is no longer the secret it was a few decades ago. Located on the banks of the Deschutes River, Bend is beloved across the west for hosting the most breweries per capita in the U.S. and for being a great place to raft, stand-up paddleboard, and float before you head to the pub. Ski or mountain bike at nearby Mount Bachelor, hike to the hot springs around Paulina Lake in the Newberry Crater, or summit the South Sister. Bend is good fun all year long.

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Relaxing in the Wasatch Front is less than an hour from downtown Salt Lake City. Kyle Jenkins.

Salt Lake City, Utah

The capital city of Utah is positioned extremely well to give its tourists and residents incredibly close proximity to a wide variety of outdoor fun. Quality mountain biking, rock climbing, and skiing can all be found within 30 minutes of downtown, while countless hikes pepper the Wasatch Front and its large canyons. With five national parks and the second highest percentage of public land in the country, Salt Lake City anchors a state where you’ll always have a chance to find solitude.

Find your adventure:


Overlooking the Great Smoky Mountains from Leconte Lodge, not far from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Kristi Parsons.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

This southern town is smack-dab in the middle of the East Coast’s prettiest mountains and forests. The Great Smoky Mountains hold the greatest biological diversity in the United States. In the fall, this region sees one of nature’s great displays of color when the leaves turn, while the park’s many trails allow residents to get right into the thick of it. The Tennessee River runs right through town and gives the locals a great way to beat the heat of summer while floating on the river.

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A walkway over the marsh on Assateague Island, about 2 hours from Chesapeake. Chris Maust.

Chesapeake, Virginia

Don’t let a name like the Great Dismal Swamp turn you off, this national wildlife refuge is one of the best preserved natural areas on the East Coast and is just to the southwest of town. Hike and bike among 200 species of birds and dozens of mammals such as black bear, river otter, bobcat, and white-tailed deers. There is no shortage of water sports at nearby Virginia Beach, where you can have a great day enjoying a paddle or SUP on its calm waters.

Find your adventure:


Boats on the horizon at Rosy Mounds Natural Area near Grand Rapids, Michigan. Aaron Shady.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Grand River east flows out of Lake Michigan and cuts right through this Midwestern metropolis of 200,000 residents. Known in part for its many breweries, this city is growing in popularity for adventure seekers. Millennium Park is minutes from downtown, one of the largest urban parks in the nation with 18 miles of paved foot and bike paths. If you visit, you absolutely must do some fishing on the Grand. The widemouth bass, northern pike and steelhead fishing here is considered some of the best in the state.

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