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Katherine Jondro | 12.07.2018

Nearly six years in the making, we are thrilled to announce that we officially have Outdoor Project adventure guides in every U.S. state! It's a big day for the whole OP community, and in celebration we've compiled a list of staff favorites in all 50 states for you to enjoy. On this list you'll find everything from coastal hikes and memorable camp spots to historical landmarks and waterfall adventures. The diversity of our country's natural land is truly remarkable, and if one thing is clear after reading through the below 50 adventures it's that there really are explorations awaiting in every single state. 

Without further ado, here's our Outdoor Project Staff Picks: Favorite Adventures in all 50 states. Enjoy!

Alabama: Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park

Less than 30 minutes from busy, downtown Birmingham, is a beautiful 1,500-acre park that delights outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Enjoy the on-site museum and historical buildings as well as hiking, fishing, birding, and more! Find more Alabama adventures here.

Photo by Karen Lee Ensley.

Alaska: Wonder Lake Campground

Open solely to tent campers, this 28-site campground offers awe-inspiring views of Denali for those lucky enough to catch a break in the clouds (a relatively rare occurrence). Wonder Lake Campground is deep within the park, and it provides a great wilderness alternative to those not ready to jump off a bus into the Alaskan backcountry with bears. Find more Alaska adventures here.

Photo by Bryce Jenks.

Arizona: Massacre Grounds Trail to Massacre Falls

Despite the name, the hike to Massacre Falls is actually quite pleasant. Massacre Grounds Trail is a moderate 5.5-mile out-and-back trail in the Superstition Mountains that leads to a seasonal waterfall, Massacre Falls. Find more Arizona adventures here.

Photo by Crystal Sibson.

Arkansas: Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs, Arkansas, is one of the hidden treasures in this southern state. From its history of the bathhouses to the national park, this place has so much to offer. This place is full of beauty and full of relaxation. Take time to literally soak it all up before you leave! Find more Arkansas adventure here.

Photo by Aaron Goodwin.

California: Estero Bluffs State Park

Estero Bluffs State Park is a minimally-developed area just a few miles north of Morro Bay on the California coast. The park is a wonderful place to stop and spend and hour or several enjoying the spectacular coastal scenery and the surprising solitude available just yards from the highway. Find more California adventures here.

Photo by Denis LeBlanc.

Colorado: Rattlesnake Canyon Arches

The Rattlesnake Canyon Arches area of the McInnis Canyon National Conservation Area is truly a hidden gem in the high desert country. It is a bit difficult to get to it; the roads require four-wheel drive, and they can be impassable when wet. The views of the several mesas and bench levels are fantastic, however. Find more Colorado adventures here.

Photo by Fernando Boza.

Connecticut: Talcott Mountain State Park

Located just northwest of the city of Hartford, this 6-mile, 557-acre park is part of the Talcott Mountain Range that extends from Simsbury to Avon. With summits rising higher 1,000 feet, you can see as far as the Long Island Sound to the south, the Berkshires to the northwest, and New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock 80 miles to the north. Find more Connecticut adventures here.

Photo by Nick Catania.

Delaware: Delaware Seashore State Park

The Delaware Seashore State Park is a barrier island featuring an expansive 6 miles of undeveloped beach along the Delaware coastline that is perfect for swimming, surfing, fishing, sunbathing, and more. The campground is also a popular choice for those staying overnight. Find more Delaware adventures here.

Photo by Chris Maust.

Florida: Wacissa River

The Wacissa River is located in Northern Florida, near Tallahassee. It is fed by 12 limestone springs just south of the town of Wacissa, and it cuts through Aucillia Wildlife Management Area. The river has been designated a State Paddling Trail, and it offers a great setting to canoe or kayak while observing abundant wildlife and going for a swim in the Big Blue Spring, a favorite swimming hole. Find more Florida adventures here.

Photo by Fernando Boza.

Georgia: Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge

The falls are the highlight of Amicalola Falls State Park, but there are lots of other recreation opportunities as well. As a resort park, it has a campground, cabins, a luxury lodge, and offers event hosting and adventure programming. Find more Georgia adventures here.

Photo by Jesse Weber.

Hawai'i: Kalauao Gulch and Falls

Kalauao Gulch is a lightly used trail off of the extremely popular 'Aiea Loop, with no real signage marking any of the junctions. Thus, most hikers walk right by without even knowing it. Kalauao is unique compared to its more popular counterpart in that it boasts a picturesque waterfall and swimming hole when visited under the right conditions. Find more Hawaii adventures here.

Photo by Patrick Nichols.

Idaho: City of Rocks National Reserve

South of the Idaho Snake River at the Utah border is a seemingly magical collection of granite spires known as the City of Rocks. Visitors to the park will certainly find themselves in awe of the spectacular scenery all around and the miles of trails that await exploration. Find more Idaho adventures here.

Photo by Kat Dierickx.

Illinois: Wildcat Canyon Trail

Adventurers can get to Wildcat Canyon using the easy trail from the lodge or a moderate trail starting from the visitor center. Varying from a forest floor path to stairs to a wooden plank path, the trail offers some scenic sights along the way to Wildcat Canyon. During snowmelt and after rain, a waterfall will delight adventurers. Find more Illinois adventures here.

Photo by Karen Lee Ensley.

Indiana: Griffy Lake Nature Preserve

Griffy Lake Recreation Area is a beautiful spot in Bloomington, Indiana. The lake is a very scenic location and offers a variety of activities. It is a great place to relax and have a family picnic, take the dog hiking and swimming, fish for some largemouth bass, redear sunfish, bluegill, and catfish, or explore the various hiking trails and trek around the lake. Find more Indiana adventures here.

Photo by Brandon Cook.

Iowa: Maquoketa Caves

Maquoketa Caves State Park provides a unique spelunking experience for the whole family. The park contains more cave systems than any other park in Iowa, and many caves are accessible via the well-maintained trail system that runs throughout the park. Find more Iowa adventures here.

Photo by Lea Kieffer.

Kansas: Monument Rocks National Natural Landmark

Being one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas, these unique white formations surrounded by prairie lands are fun for all ages to explore. A 6-mile well-maintained gravel road with green fields on both sides leads to these formations. Find more Kansas adventures here.

Photo by Praneeth Paruchuri.

Kentucky: Red River Gorge Geological Area 

With more than 100 arches, towering sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, and old-growth forests, it is easy to see why it has been designated a National Geological Area, National Natural Landmark, and National Archeological District. Red River Gorge is famous for its rock climbing, and there are well over 500 miles hiking trails. Find more Kentucky adventures here.

Photo by Aaron Shady.

Louisiana: Lake Bruin Water Trail

Lake Bruin State Park is home to the beautiful 3,000-acre Lake Bruin, which has some of the clearest water in Louisiana. This state park does an excellent job catering to visitors who have come to get on the water and explore the lake. Find more Louisiana adventures here.

Photo by J Smilanic.

Maine: Owls Head State Park and Lighthouse

Just south of Rockland, Maine, a rocky, wooded peninsula protrudes into the Penobscot Bay. The tip of this peninsula is home to the Owls Head State Park and Lighthouse. The biggest draw to this state park is the historic Owls Head Lighthouse, and visitors can enjoy the rocky beach, picnic tables and grills with the whole family in tow. Find more Maine adventures here.

Photo by Michael Sawiel.

Maryland: Assateague Island National Seashore

With over 35 miles of pristine barrier island beaches, marshes, and forest, the Assateague Island National Seashore is sure to have something for everyone. Besides its miles of coast, Assateague is most famous for its herd of wild ponies, which are often seen on the beach or in the marshes. Find more Maryland adventures here.

Photo by Chris Maust.

Massachusetts: Natural Bridge State Park

This park has geological and historical significance. Its chief feature (and namesake) is the only natural white marble arch in North America. Visitors can also view many of the remains of a marble quarry that was active on-site from 1810 until 1947. Find more Massachusetts adventures here.

Photo by Tara Schatz.

Michigan: Lakeshore - North Country Trail: Miners Beach to Beaver Creek

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located in Michigan's Northern Peninsula along the shores of Lake Superior outside the small town of Munising. While the park offers nearly 100 miles of trails, arguably the most scenic trails hug the towering limestone cliffs, where there are endless views on clear days - including this section from Miners Beach to Beaver Creek. Find more Michigan adventures here. 

Photo by Aaron Shady.

Minnesota: Minnehaha Falls

Located in Minnehaha Regional Park, Minnehaha Falls is a local gem for the city of Minneapolis and a great urban waterfall. This is a great adventure any time during the year, and weekdays and early weekend mornings are best to avoid the crowds. Find more Minnesota adventures here.

Photo by Blaine Hoppenrath.

Mississippi: Whitten Park

Whitten Park is one of the cleanest and well cared for parks in the state of Mississippi. It offers a wide variety of activities for all ages. If you are up for camping, this park is a great place to go and get away from everything. Find more Mississippi adventures here.

Photo by Aaron Goodwin.

Missouri: Elephant Rocks State Park

Elephant Rocks State Park is off the beaten path, but once you arrive you will be amazed at what you find. The park received its name from the giant boulders that stand end-to-end like a train of circus elephants. The largest rock in the park is named Dumbo, and it is 27 feet tall, 34 feet long, and 17 feet wide. Find more Missouri adventures here.

Photo by Michael Battey.

Montana: Going-to-the-Sun Road

When it comes to roads, Going-to-the-Sun Road to truly unique: It is the first road to ever be registered as a National Historic Place, National Historic Landmark and Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Without stopping, it takes around two hours to drive the full 50 miles of Going-to-the-Sun Road. Find more Montana adventures here.

Photo by Shane Kucera.

Nebraska: Scottsbluff National Monument

Scottsbluff National Monument was established in 1919 to protect the towering bluffs of western Nebraska. Standing watch over Native American tribes, serving as a guide along the Oregon Trail, and guarding the Pony Express, Scottsbluff has weathered the ages as an iconic landmark. Find more Nebraska adventures here.

Photo by Garric Baker.

Nevada: Gold Butte National Monument

Gold Butte National Monument encompasses geological features, Native American petroglyphs, mountain peaks, and mining history. One of the main attractions is Devil's Throat, a sinkhole measuring about 100 feet in diameter and 50 feet in depth formed from a collapsed underground cave. Find more Nevada adventures here. 

Photo by Shaun Hunter.

 

New Hampshire: Presidential Traverse 

The Presidential Traverse is one of the most classic treks on the East Coast, and it draws in a large crowd yearly. The traverse spans approximately 26 miles depending on which route and peaks you wish to tackle, and hikers should be prepared for snow, wind, and rain any time of the year. Find more New Hampshire adventures here.

Photo by Ben Dlin.

New Jersey: Van Campens Glen Hike

Van Campens Glen is a moderate hike along a creek that ends at a scenic waterfall. The hike has a total elevation gain of 195 feet, but it is mostly a flat hike. This hike is great for those looking for a short hike to a beautiful place. Pack a lunch and lounge at the foot of the waterfall, but no swimming is allowed here. Find more New Jersey adventures here.

Photo by Tony Curado.

New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns is part of the Lechuguilla Cave system, which one of the largest in the world. Carlsbad Caverns National Park consists of over 119 caves and a lower level that has been mapped to a depth of 1,600 feet. Find more New Mexico adventures here.

Photo by Yelena Sukhanov.

New York: Gorge Trail

The popular Gorge Trail of Watkins Glen State Park offers 19 waterfalls and numerous cascades and water sculptured potholes in a mere 2 miles as it drops through the deep, narrow gorge on its way to Seneca Lake. Though it is only about 2-miles each way, it has over 800 steps, so it may be hard for some people. Find more New York adventures here.

Photo by Dave Kiel.

North Carolina: Huckleberry Knob

Located in the Unicoi Mountain Range of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Huckleberry Knob is one of the most history-filled and tranquil spots in the Appalachian Mountains. Just down the Cherohala Skyway and near the Tennessee and North Carolina state line, this short but breathtaking hike is popular among the locals, but rarely busy. Find more North Carolina adventures here.

Photo by Kristi Parsons.

North Dakota: Petrified Forest Loop Trail

The Petrified Forest Loop Trail is a 10.4-mile hike through Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The loop trail uses the Maah Daah Hey Trail (MDHT) to connect the North and South Petrified Forest Trails, gives beautiful panoramic views of the badlands, and offers a variety of terrain. Find more North Dakota adventures here.

Photo by Esther Drebelbis.

Ohio: Hocking Hills State Park

Hocking Hills State Park is a wilderness area in the Allegheny Plateau region of Southeast Ohio, approximately one hour outside of Columbus. This area is absolutely stunning, and it is filled with waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, caves, gorges, rock shelters and rock tunnels. Find more Ohio adventures here.

Photo by Brandon Cook.

Oklahoma: Black Mesa Nature Preserve

The Black Mesa Nature Preserve lies quietly between the rugged terrain of the Rocky Mountains and the vast rolling plains of the short grass prairie, creating a hidden oasis in the very northwest corner of the Oklahoma panhandle. The trail is well marked and winds through the low landscape with periodic reveals of the plateau and surrounding spindle-top formations. Find more Oklahoma adventures here.

Photo by Garric Baker.

Oregon: Alvord Desert

Located in Harney County, Oregon, and tucked into the Steens Mountain rain shadow, the Alvord Desert is one of the most isolated and unique land formations in the state. With some areas only receiving 5 inches of annual precipitation, it is also one of the driest locations in Oregon. Find more Oregon adventures here.

Photo by Tyson Gillard.

Pennsylvania: Dingmans Falls

Dingmans Falls is the second tallest waterfall in Pennsylvania and is one of the most visited tourist attractions at the Delaware Water Gap. With a vertical drop of 130 feet, it's a beautiful scene nestled in the beautiful forests of the Delaware Water Gap.  Find more Pennsylvania adventures here.

Photo by Tony Curado.

Rhode Island: Burlingame State Park Campground

Burlingame State Park is, by Rhode Island Standards, a very large swath of land that connects a large campground to bike trails, a wildlife sanctuary, forested trails and a fair sized pond. The campground is perfect for families, as the property is loaded with amenities to keep the family entertained and comfortable. Find more Rhode Island adventures here.

Photo by Michael Battey.

South Carolina: Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

Visitors to the tourist hot spot of Hilton Head drive right over miles of intracoastal salt marsh and may not even notice the wildlife haven that surrounds. Pinckney Island is a national wildlife refuge located just a short drive away. The island is reminiscent of the Lowcountry before urban development, with many acres of maritime forest still intact. Find more South Carolina adventures here.

Photo by Jesse Weber.

South Dakota: Notch Trail 

The Notch Trail offers a unique hiking experience in the Badlands National Park. It is a short 1.5-mile hike, and you'll navigate ladders, riverbeds, canyons, and then follow a ledge that will bring you into a gulch area that feels like you are on another planet. Find more South Dakota adventures here.

Photo by Stephanie Windschill.

Tennessee: Narrows of the Harpeth

Narrows of the Harpeth offers a two-for-one deal: scenic views and a historical site. The park is located on the Harpeth River, right where it makes a loop around a tall limestone bluff before coming around and returning to within 200 feet of itself again. There are two short hiking trails and also put-in/take-out opportunities for kayakers. Find more Tennessee adventures here.

Photo by Mike Windsor.

Texas: Lighthouse Trail

One of the most photogenic features in the Palo Duro Canyon region is the Lighthouse, a stone tower jutting out from beneath the canyon rim. A moderate hike through beautiful desert terrain leads to views of the lighthouse, and a short but steep scramble earns access to a scenic stone platform at its base. Find more Texas adventures here.

Photo by Jesse Weber.

Utah: Road Canyon

Road Canyon has a few very beautiful and interesting sites that are relatively easy to locate and that do not require a difficult hike. The scenery in the canyon is quite nice and makes an interesting and pleasant hike in its own right. Find more Utah adventures here.

Photo by Denis LeBlanc.

Vermont: Elephants Head via Long Trail North

Perched high above Vermont State Route 108 in the rocky section of Smugglers Notch is a prominent rock formation known as Elephants Head. Atop this cliff is a small viewpoint that overlooks the highway and the Stowe Valley beyond - making for some spectacular views of the Green Mountains. Find more Vermont adventures here.

Photo by Michael Sawiel.

Virginia: Great Falls Park

Only 10 miles from Washington D.C., Great Falls Park is full of natural beauty and historical significance. The waterfalls at Great Falls park are some of the most impressive falls in the eastern United States. As the river approaches the falls, it narrows from 1,000 feet to just over 100 feet wide. The main section is comprised of over 20 falls and drops 76 feet in less than a mile. Find more Virginia adventures here.

Photo by Seth Rose.

Washington: Blanca Lake

Blanca Lake is one of the most vibrant lakes in the Cascades. The amazing blue-green colored water of the lake makes this steep hike well worth it. The minerals from Monte Cristo, Keyes, and Columbia Peak make Blanca take on its amazing colors, and backcountry campsites in the area make this a great option for a weekend in the mountains. Find more Washington adventures here.

Photo by Colin Bryant.

West Virginia: Bear Rocks Preserve

Perched on the precipice of the Eastern Continental Divide and high on the edge of the Allegheny Plateau sits the Bear Rocks Preserve. It is only 477 acres, but it is a place of such extraordinary beauty that many feel it represents the most iconic images of the Dolly Sods area and surrounding wildernesses. Find more West Virginia adventures here.

Photo by Dave Kiel.

Wisconsin: Apostle Islands Mainland Ice Caves

Snow and ice transform a popular summer kayaking destination to a stunning winterscape only accessible by hiking on the frozen lake. The Apostle Island National Lakeshore is a popular attraction, but when these mainland caves become filled with cascading icicles, it's really something to behold. Find more Wisconsin adventures here.

Photo by Kat Dierickx.

Wyoming: East Temple Peak

Large expanses of granite peaks make the Wind River Mountains unique, and East Temple Peak is one of the most stunning peaks in the western United States. Temple Peak, which can be seen during most of the hike, is absolutely massive, a looming presence over the beautiful Temple Lake. Find more Wyoming adventures here.

Photo by Calvin Perfall.

 

Note: It's hard to pick just one adventure in every state, and many incredible destinations, trails, and locations were left off. If you have a favorite adventure that you want to add to the list, let us know in the comment section below!

Comments

Thanks! I have already added several idea notes to trips I have planned for next year.
Good list! I'll certainly enjoy it as I travel.

In Tennessee, I'd suggest these additions:

Fall Creek Falls State Park - The beauty of the Cumberland Plateau is on full display here, featuring the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi in 256-foot Fall Creek Falls. While none of the trails here will disappoint, I highly recommend leaving the Nature Center via the suspension bridge over Cane Creek, then following the Gorge Trail along the rim of the gorge with numerous stunning views, descending along the Base of Falls Trail to (you guessed it...) the base of Fall Creek Falls, and completing the loop back to the Nature Center on the Woodland Trail (2.8 miles total). Another great trail is the Paw Paw Loop (2.6 miles); make sure you add the short-but-oh-so-fun Cable Trail to the base of Cane Creek Falls for an extra half-mile (and more physical exertion than the rest of the trail!). The Cable Trail uses a cable to assist on the ultra-steep ascent and descent. Bring work gloves to save your hands!

South Cumberland State Park - The Savage Gulf area is my favorite Middle Tennessee hiking and offers so much to love. For a short trip, try either the 2 mile round trip to and from the Stone Door, a natural cleft in the gorge (and pick up the short hike to Laurel Falls near the ranger station as well) or the Savage Day Loop (5 miles including a side trip to Savage Falls). For my favorite Middle Tennessee hike, descend through the Stone Door on the Big Creek Gulf Trail. At the Ranger Falls Trail, turn left for an extended rock-hop to Ranger Creek Falls, which plunges through its amphitheater and disappears underground. Return to Big Creek Gulf and keep heading west, taking a gradual climb back up to the rim. At Alum Gap, turn right on the Big Creek Rim Trail, tracing the edge of the Gulf past numerous viewpoints and back to the Stone Door (9 miles total). Other favorites are the Collins Gulf Loop (12 miles), a Greeter Falls loop (about 2.5 miles), and a great backpacking loop from Savage Gulf Ranger Station to Hobbs Cabin Campground on the North Rim Trail, the Connector Trail to Stagecoach Road, and the South Rim Trail back to Savage Falls and the ranger station (20 miles).

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area - The Honey Creek Loop is an absolute classic--a rugged 5.4 mile loop through some of the most beautiful terrain in the state. The rugged trail packs a lot of punch as it circles above and below rim, with an unrivaled view of the Big South Fork, plenty of rock scrambling, peaceful water features, and enough challenge to make you appreciate the journey. Twin Arches Trail (1 mile) makes a fun little trail to two beautiful sandstone arches, and can be extended anohter 4 miles via the Twin Arches Loop Trail that visits the historic Charit Creek Lodge.

Frozen Head State Park - This park features the highest point on the Cumberland Plateau, the 3,324' Frozen Head Mountain. An observation tower at its summit shows off Tennessee beauty at its finest; on a clear day you can spot the three distinctive points of Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains. You can get to the tower on a 9 mile loop by departing from the Old Mac Trailhead not far from the Visitor Center. Quickly turn left on the North Old Mac Trail, and climb a bit, then a bit more, then some more climbing, another stretch of climbing, keep ascending, then ascend a little more to ridge out at the Lookout Tower Trail. Turn right past Tub Spring Campsite (a gem of a site!) and follow the signs to climb again to the lookout tower. Enjoy the views and catch your breath before heading back to the campsite. Turn left on the South Old Mac Trail and follow it back down to the trailhead. If that loop isn't enough for you, the Chimney Top Trail packs even more punch, and the extensive trail system allows for much more exploration of one of Tennessee's prime backpacking destinations. As an added bonus, the park is home to the ultra-tough Barkley Marathons race of 100 miles in 60 hours that was inspired by the escape of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassin James Earl Ray from the nearby Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park - The most visited park in the National Parks system has 900 or so miles of trail to keep you occupied. Some favorites on the Tennessee side of the park include Grotto Falls (2.6 miles), Chimney Tops (4 miles), and Charlies Bunion (8.2 miles via the Appalachian Trail straddling the Tennessee/North Carolina border). My favorite Tennessee trail is the 8-mile, 2,000' foot ascent and descent to Ramsey Cascades. The trail follows a gradual climb on an old jeep road for the first 1.5 miles. The plant life is incredible as it follows a picture-perfect Smokies stream for the next two miles, with wildflowers, huge hardwoods, and plenty of mountain laurels. The last half mile to Ramsey Cascades gets steeper and more rugged, finally arriving at the striking Ramsey Cascades. Plenty of flat boulders offer great lunch spots before following the beautiful trail back to the start.

In Virginia, I'd also suggest the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, with gorgeous mountain views, wild ponies, and Virginia's high point. A stellar routing would be to start at Grayson Highlands State Park, take the AT Spur Trail to the AT, follow the AT to The Scales, take the Crest Trail to where it rejoins the AT at Wilburn Ridge, follow the AT southbound to summit Mount Rogers, then AT nobo back to Grayson Highlands.

Shenandoah National Park has incredible opportunities as well; Old Rag is a classic adventure hike and Stony Man provides expansive views of the Shenandoah Valley.

I'd also suggest that the Maryland side of Great Falls is better than the Virginia side because section A of the Billy Goat Trail is one of the most fun trails anywhere. Lots of rock scrambling, including an ascent of a rock face via a 45 degree angle crack and a trail that sometimes perches right above a straight drop into the Potomac.
Having just been to the Alvord Desert for the first time this June, I enthusiastically cosign on that as the choice for Oregon.
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