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Backpacker Magazine – August 2009

The Best Cities to Raise an Outdoor Kid: The Winning 25

From Boulder to Juneau to Bozeman, see which cities made the cut for the best place to raise an outdoor kid, and why.

by: Jason Stevenson

(Photo by Justin Bailie)
(Photo by Justin Bailie)
(Photo by Kennan Harvey)
(Photo by Kennan Harvey)
(Photo by Kennan Harvey)
(Photo by Kennan Harvey)
(Photo by Jymn Meier)
(Photo by Jymn Meier)

Hometown Heroes
Three cities and two states with get-the-kids-out programs worth joining–or emulating

Albuquerque, NM
Program Each year, the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program enables 2,000-plus students to perform field research along the Rio Grande with University of New Mexico biologists.

Milwaukee, WI
Program The Urban Ecology Institute teaches 15,000 inner-city students about the environment and green jobs at riverfront parks.

Prior Lake, MN
Program Jeffers Pond Elementary wraps environmental topics into all core subject areas, thanks to an on-site naturalist and wetlands.

Minnesota and Wisconsin
Program Through the School Forests initiative, more than 450 student bodies manage outdoor "classrooms" in nearby woodlands and marshes, learning about sustainability and Leave No Trace.

Downtowns
The stats say "don't move here!"
Chattanooga 59% of residents exercise 30 minutes a week.
Corpus Christi Average heat index in July/August is 110°F.
Montgomery 61% of residents are obese, according to the CDC.
Oak Harbor, WA
Gets 1.5 hours of sunlight on average January day.
Pittsburgh
Great paddling, but #1 for soot and diesel exhaust.

Methodology
The stats and assumptions behind our rankings
To determine which U.S. cities offer the most fertile soil for raising outdoor kids, we crunched 38 different metrics, from the distance to the nearest national park to the density of Boy's Life subscribers. We looked at climate stats, outdoor education figures, and unemployment and obesity rates. We also polled BACKPACKER readers and editors–because you can't reduce everything to numbers. For a full list of metrics and sources, go to backpacker.com/outdoorkids.



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Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star Star

READERS COMMENTS

Star
Raven
Jan 17, 2014

Lots of great choices, but any such list that does not include Park City, Bend, Leavenworth or Truckee has no validity in my mind. AND to have Boulder (Organic People's Republic of Poserville) at the top?? Glad my town did not make the list!

Star Star Star
Jarad
Jan 16, 2014

Wheeling wv is a true outdoor city glad to see it made the list

Star Star
j.ellis
Jan 15, 2014

How is St George, UT not on this list, and well above any cities of .5million?
Sure, couple of months of the year are hot, but you have 300+ days of sunshine and 65-80 degrees, very low humidity, clean air, two state parks practically in town, more.immediateaccess to zion national park than it'll take you to get out of Seattle or other large cities, and within a two hour drive, two other national parks, practically unlimited BLM, forest service, and wilderness. And if it's too hot in the summer or you need to ski, you're an hourfrom 11000 feet and a nice ski resort. There are natural climbing walls inside city limits, miles and miles of walking/jogging/riding trails (city wide), two lakes to boat or kayak on within 15 minutes of downtown...
And for kids? It's a safe place to live. Say snd think what you will about mormons (and I'll probably agree-and will probably have said as much myself before) - but it's a very low-crime area.
How do you not even have this on the list, but list huge cities in shitty climates?

Star Star
spiderandivy
Jan 15, 2014

I live in the bozeman mt area. to get to the park that fast, you'd have to be a low-flying airplane. jobs are few and far between, unless you want to flip burgers or clean rooms. there is a bus system. there is a trail system. in the winter, there is a homeless shelter, because they don't want any more homeless people to freeze to death. you have to know where the stores are, because the signage has to be so discrete. low cost housing is virtually non-existent, especially to rent. it's a college town that attracts a lot of people who are heavy into outdoor recreation. when they finish, they don't want to go, so competition for jobs is fierce.

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lorendn
Jan 15, 2014

Boulder is great but you have got to believe that Jackson ins really #1. We have 10% of the population of Boulder, Grand Teton NP, is 10 minutes from town, and we have more wildlife within 30 minutes of here than any small city in North America. 97% of the land is federal and only 3% private - Gros Ventre wilderness is less than 30 minutes away...

Star Star
Mrsoul
Jan 14, 2014

As a boulder resident, I'm embarrassed at the rankings. Boulder might be #20-25, maybe. Maybe #1 in thinking we are outdoorsy, but surely nor actually being so

Star Star
Mrsoul
Jan 14, 2014

As a boulder resident, I'm embarrassed at the rankings. Boulder might be #20-25, maybe. Maybe #1 in thinking we are outdoorsy, but surely nor actually being so

Star Star Star
Chet
Jan 14, 2014

Boulder? Not so much. Most of these places are great. Some? Sevierville, TN, probably has the highest rate of obesity in the US. Is eating cotton candy at Dollywood an outdoor activity?

Star Star Star
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Star Star Star
Chris
Sep 08, 2013

A discussion I had about Boulder making the top of this in a past year when I used to live there:
"I wouldn't want to raise any kid in this town."
"I wouldn't want to raise a dog in this town."

Star Star Star
Chris
Sep 08, 2013

A discussion I had about Boulder making the top of this in a past year when I used to live there:
"I wouldn't want to raise any kid in this town."
"I wouldn't want to raise a dog in this town."

Star Star Star Star Star
Richard Smith
Sep 04, 2013

I'm glad my city was not listed. I love not having to get permits to hike and backpack just 30 minutes from my driveway. When the wilderness areas get too popular near your home town, the permits and quotas make it miserable to enjoy the area.

Star Star Star
NH Country Girl
Aug 31, 2013

Living in NH....I would NOT choose Manchester as a great outdoor city to raise a child these days!! I guess you have not been to other areas of NH to see the great outdoors ???

Star Star Star Star Star
At Texan
Aug 29, 2013

Interesting that you put down Corpus Christi for having a high summer heat index. It also has the most steady summer sea breeze and is a city know for having lots of hunters and fisherman, which happen to be outdoor types too. If you want to ding a Texas city, why not Houston, hot, steamy summers and fully of concrete. Don't worry about offending Houstonians and losing their subscriptions, they would agree with you.

Star
Ron
Aug 29, 2013

Agree worst list ever. How in the world do you compare a city of a population of 1+ million and a town of 20,000? Hood river Oregon 10,000 people and a 5 minute drive to get to the wilderness. Seattle Washington 90 minute drive to get to the wilderness.

Star
Ken
Aug 29, 2013

THINK

Star
Ken
Aug 29, 2013

And everything Todd and Matt said too!! Come to thing of it, changing my rating to 1 star!!

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