The 12 Most-Hyped Adventure Towns in the Known Universe!

The 12 Most-Hyped Adventure Towns in the Known Universe!

Far as we can tell, it all started in August 2004 when Outside published their “20 Dream Towns: The New

What’s the #1 Place to Live Now? Buy this magazine to find out.

Far as we can tell, it all started in August 2004 when Outside published their “20 Dream Towns: The New Best Places to Live & Play.” Every year since then, the magazine has done a story on “Where to Live Now,” including some of our favorite adventure towns. National Geographic Adventure followed with its own list of towns from 2006 to 2009 (“Where To Live & Play Now!”). Is there no shame in the media? Speaking for editors everywhere, no.

Anyway, we wondered: Which towns make the list most often?

To find out, we tallied the lists of nine years of Outside and four years of National Geographic Adventure’s “best towns” issues (including 2012, when Outside modified theirs to “Best River Towns”). Turns out Smyma, Delaware (NGA ’07); Yellow Springs, Ohio (Outside ’09) and Davenport, Iowa (Outside ’12) were just one-time deals. Here were the most hyped adventure towns in the U.S., 2004-2012…and feel free to insert “over” before “hyped”:

1. Charleston, South Carolina
Why: Paddling, surfing, kiteboarding, sailing
Outside 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2005
National Geographic Adventure 2008

2. Hood River, Oregon
Why: Kayaking, kiteboarding, mountain biking, mountaineering
Outside 2012, 2006, 2004
National Geographic Adventure 2008, 2007

3. Portland, Maine
Why: Paddling, hiking, skiing
Outside 2011, 2010, 2007, 2005
National Geographic Adventure 2006

4. Portland, Oregon
Why: Cycling, paddling, skiing, mountaineering
Outside 2011, 2009, 2007, 2005
National Geographic Adventure 2006

5. Tucson, Arizona
Why: Cycling, rock climbing, hiking, weather
Outside 2011, 2010, 2007, 2005
National Geographic Adventure 2008

6. Austin, Texas
Why: Cycling, year-round open water swimming and paddling, music
Outside 2009, 2006
National Geographic Adventure 2009, 2007

7. Bend, Oregon
Why: Mountain biking, climbing, skiing, great year-round weather
Outside 2010, 2007, 2006
National Geographic Adventure 2006

8. Burlington, Vermont
Why: Skiing, cycling, mountain biking, paddling, sailing
Outside 2011, 2007, 2006
National Geographic Adventure 2009

9. Chattanooga, Tennessee
Why: Climbing, paddling, caving, mountain biking, hang-gliding
Outside 2011, 2010, 2008
National Geographic Adventure 2008

10. Madison, Wisconsin
Why: Paddling, climbing, cycling, mountain biking
Outside 2011, 2007, 2006, 2005

11. Missoula, Montana
Why: Paddling, fly fishing, skiing, mountain biking, hiking
Outside 2012, 2011
National Geographic Adventure 2008, 2007

12. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Why: Hiking, climbing, skiing
Outside 2011, 2007, 2006, 2005

Runners-up (mentioned three times each, 2004-2012):
Asheville, North Carolina
Ashland, Oregon
Bishop, California
Boise, Idaho
Boston, Massachusetts
Boulder, Colorado
Brattleboro, Vermont
Charlottesville, Virginia
Durango, Colorado
Ely, Minnesota
Ithaca, New York
Jackson, Wyoming
Salida, Colorado
San Francisco, California
Washington, D.C.

Now, what are the Four Things We’ve Learned?

1. Lists sell.

2. The media recycles anything that works.

3. The media is shameless about copying other media.

4. See #1.



Photo by Shutterstock

Brendan Leonard is a contributing editor to Adventure Journal. Follow him at his blog, Semi-Rad.
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Showing 15 comments
  • Tim

    Rather stoked SLC didn’t make this list.

  • Blair

    Known Universe. All those towns are in the USA. You gotta broaden your horizons.

  • Joe Jacobs

    I hate those lists. Hot Springs, Arkansas made the list one year in the now defunct National Geographic Adventure Magazine. It was an embarrassing piece of non-substance. Here was our rebuttal.

  • Craig Rowe

    How many layers deep can the self-deprecating irony go? I love it.

  • Mike

    Canada, South America, Europe, OZ/NZ, Asia – clearly those places were too pedestrian to make the cut. “Known Universe” should be replaced with “United States”. These lists are dumb and incredibly subjective.

    • steve casimiro

      Um, I think you might be missing the point. See: satire.

  • Karin

    No Seattle? Please. And, honestly, we should all know by now that adventure is a state of mind, not a place, right?

  • Viv

    Bend, Oregon is a great place to live and visit. But… the “great year-round weather” is a myth! It’s not as dry and sunny as the brochures imply. Take it from those of us that actually live here 🙂

  • Mike

    Park City Utah! DOH!!! Some of the best skiing anywhere in the world and if you want summer activities, the trail systems there are the worlds best for Mt Biking and hiking. Park City was named the worlds ONLY Gold level city by IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association) because of Park City’s commitment to building and maintaining new trail.

  • Bill Becher

    Seems all magazines have given up on narrative stories and rely on lists “Top Ten Sewing Spots,” in Needle and Thread, “Best Eleventy Seven Gambling Towns,” in Losers Weekly…and gear porn charticles… about swag the editors collect…

  • Joe Jacobs

    Leaving aside Steve’s bit of “satire”, it does seem that best of lists and even product reviews have become the “reality television” of print and internet magazines.

  • simon

    typical head-in-ass yankee mentality…

  • J

    …and there’s NO FISH in Portland….or Bend either for that matter…or anywhere else in the NW

  • Craig Rowe

    Bill, if you look around, there are some gear review resources that don’t blow smoke up the rear entry ports of the manufacturers.

  • Michael

    Known Universe? Really?!!? I don’t see any towns outside the U.S.

    These lists are almost as lame as Americans thinking the universe doesn’t extend beyond their borders.

    Brendan Leonard can’t be this ignorant.

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