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Best U.S. Cities for Outdoor Recreation in 2024

Whether you’re interested in hiking, biking, skiing, rock climbing, fishing, or anything in between, there are plenty of U.S. cities where you can live, work, and get your outdoor fix. Where are the best places to live for outdoor recreation? Check out the list below!

Alexandria, VA

Someone riding their bike in the park with yellow trees in Alexandria, VA. Photo by Instagram user @visitalexva

Photo via @visitalexva

  • Population: 151,473
  • Home Price: $520,700 median purchase price; $1,611 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 54% of U.S. cities

Just south of the nation’s capital lies Alexandria, one of the top U.S. outdoors cities. Although the cost of living in Alexandria is 49% higher than the national average, it’s one of the most beautiful places to live on the East Coast—and you’ll get your money’s worth with this DC suburb! With outstanding schools, safe neighborhoods, plenty of employment opportunities, a trendy dining and nightlife scene, and tons of outdoor activities, Alexandria is as much a great spot for young professionals and families as it is for outdoor recreation!

Outdoor Things to Do in Alexandria

Go jogging or biking on Mount Vernon Trail, an 18-mile multi-use trail that connects to five other regional trails and offers an interrupted view of the Washington, DC skyline. Grab your backpack and explore the District of Columbia’s 25 state parks, including Chesapeake Bay, which is the largest estuary in North America. For some of the best hiking, try the Dora Kelley Nature Park, a 47-acre park loaded with trails to suit all different skill levels. Love being on the water? Head to the Potomac River, where you can learn how to sail, go fishing for catfish, or take a kayaking tour!

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Boston, MA

People kayaking in the Charles River in Boston. Photo by Instagram user @carmenoxide

Photo via @carmenoxide

  • Population: 658,279
  • Home Price: $423,200 median purchase price; $1,369 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 14% of U.S. cities

Want to live in a big city that still provides an easy escape to the great outdoors? Boston might be the city for you! With a whopping 41 state parks and 138 beaches, access to the Gulf of Maine and Cape Cod Bay, and skiing and snowboarding destinations just a short drive away, Beantown is a hot spot for outdoors enthusiasts. But that’s not the only reason why people want to live in Boston. It’s also one of the best places to live on the East Coast, as well as one of the best cities for jobs!

Outdoor Things to Do in Boston

Hop in a kayak and paddle down the Charles River or take a tour of the Boston Harbor with Paddle Boston. Take a walk around the famous Boston Common while also learning about key moments in American history. Try your hand at rock climbing, go horseback riding, or hit the trails at Blue Hills Reservation. Grab your binoculars and head out for some whale watching with Boston Harbor Cruises, where you’ll have the chance to see humpbacks, finbacks, and more. If winter sports are more your speed, visit skiing and snowboarding spots like McIntyre Ski Area and Pats Peak Ski Area, which are both located about an hour or so north across the New Hampshire border.

Denver, CO

A group of people cross country skiing through the Rock Mountains. Photo by Instagram user @aroundaround

Photo via @aroundaround

  • Population: 663,303
  • Home Price: $292,700 median purchase price; $1,035 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 6% of U.S. cities

Of course, Denver is one of the best outdoor cities! The Mile High City is nestled right along the Rocky Mountain range and offers everything from world-class skiing to some of the country’s best hiking and mountain biking trails. In addition, Denver’s cost of living is relatively affordable—only 16% higher than the national average—and it’s a top destination for those looking for job opportunities in the tech industry or who want to buy a home in a hot real estate market!

Outdoor Things to Do in Denver

Shred some fresh powder on your board at Keystone Ski Resort or tear up the slopes at Echo Mountain. Take a snowmobile tour in the Rockies that’ll allow you to see the winter scenery at your own pace. Venture to Butler Gulch, a moderately difficult hike that features a jaunt through the trees that puts you above the treeline for a spectacular view—it can even be done with snowshoes in the winter! Go fishing for Northern Pike and Rainbow Trout at Sloan’s Lake, which is located within the city. Or plan a weekend trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, where you’ll have your pick of outdoor activities like hiking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, and more.

Portland, OR

  • Population: 620,589
  • Home Price: $319,400 median purchase price; $1,025 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 9% of U.S. cities

Looking for one of the best places to live on the West Coast that’s also an outdoorsy city? Move to Portland! This mid-sized city is surrounded by four different national forests like Tillamook State Forest and has the beautiful Mt. Hood in its skyline. Of course, being close to the great outdoors isn’t the only thing that Portland offers its residents. This cutting-edge city also has trendy microbreweries, hip coffee shops, an amazing arts scene, and employment opportunities with tech startups and sporting goods companies.

Outdoor Things to Do in Portland

Explore 70 miles of trails and see more than 100 types of birds and mammals at Forest Park. Go hiking to Multnomah Falls or go water skiing along the Columbia River Gorge. Check out Broughton Bluff for excellent rock climbing spots near the city. Load up the car and take the family camping or fishing at Government Island, which is only accessible by boat. Ready to hit the slopes? Mt. Hood Meadows is one of the largest ski resorts near Portland and is perfect for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.

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Roseville, CA

  • Population: 128,276
  • Home Price: $355,900 median purchase price; $1,359 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 44% of U.S. cities

California has tons of cities where you can live close to great outdoor activities, but Roseville definitely takes the cake. While it doesn’t offer any coastal views or beach access due to its inland location, Roseville has several national parks and forests within a two-hour drive of its boundaries. This Sacramento suburb is also known for having spectacular weather all year. In the summer, temperatures hang around the 80s and 90s, while winter temperatures rarely drop below the mid-30s.

Outdoor Things to Do in Roseville

Spend the day swimming or boating at Folsom Lake State Recreation Park. Take your bike for a scenic ride through Miners Ravine Preserve. Visit OARS, a river rafting and camping outpost that’s ideal for beginning rafters and experts alike. Go on a day trip and soak up the sun on the beautiful beaches of nationally-renowned Lake Tahoe. Or hit the slopes of Tahoe in the winter at ski resorts like Heavenly Mountain Resort. Want to visit one of the best U.S. national parks? Head to Yosemite National Park, where you can camp in the backcountry, go horseback riding, get in some mountain biking, or try to climb the notorious El Capitan.

Salt Lake City, UT

  • Population: 191,446
  • Home Price: $248,700 median purchase price; $844 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 4% of U.S. cities

Where can you find the “Greatest Snow on Earth”? In Salt Lake City, of course! Not only was Utah’s capital city the home of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, but it has ten ski resorts all within an hour of the metro as well. While Silicon Slopes might be best known for its hiking, mountain biking, and winter sports, what you probably didn’t know is that it also makes the list for the best U.S. cities for jobs, so you’ll be able to live and work in an affordable outdoor city!

Outdoor Things to Do in Salt Lake City

Launch your boat at the marina and explore 1,700 square miles of calm water at the Great Salt Lake. Take a crack at traversing the Living Room Trail and snap some photos of Downtown SLC while you sit on rock arrangements that are set up like chairs and sofas. Head to Millcreek Canyon, where you can trek your way through steep hills and gorgeous forests. Visit Brighton, the highest-rated skiing and snowboarding resort in the region, which offers 66 trails for all skill levels. Or bike around the 40-mile Jordan River Parkway, which is paved from start to finish and excellent for the whole family.

Seattle, WA

Woman a rocking climbing Mount Washington in Seattle. Photo by Instagram user @scottrinck

Photo via @scottrinck

  • Population: 668,849
  • Home Price: $484,600 median purchase price; $1,266 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 9% of U.S. cities

Located on Puget Sound, Seattle is one of the best big cities to live in the U.S., and it offers tons of great outdoor activities! This Pacific Northwest gem does have a cost of living that’s 56% higher than the national average, but for the incredible views and pleasant year-round weather, it may just be worth it. It helps that Seattle’s job market is sturdy, too, thanks to major employers like Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the area.

Outdoor Things to Do in Seattle

Visit the Puget Sound Islands, where you can go camping, hiking, kayaking, and more. Venture down to Seattle All Star Fishing Charters, where you’ll get the chance to catch your dream trophy fish. Try out stand-up paddle boarding on Lake Union. Join Seattle Cycling Tours to explore the city in ways you haven’t experienced before. Climb your way through a number of novice and expert routes at Exit 38, one of the most popular rock climbing spots near Seattle. Or check off both Mount Rainier National Park and Olympia National Park from your national parks bucket list.


Moving to one of these incredible outdoor cities? Extra Space Storage has convenient storage facilities throughout the U.S., so we can help you get settled in your new home. Find self storage units near you!

City statistics from AreaVibes

Map of Best Cities for Outdoor Recreation in America: Extra Space Storage

About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.