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Backpacker Magazine – August 2009

The Best Cities To Raise An Outdoor Kid

Which towns offer the ideal mix of accessible trails, inspiring teachers, and great recreational resources? We worked with The Outdoor Foundation to identify America's top 25 places to beat nature deficit disorder.

by: Jason Stevenson

Want More Options? Click on icons below to find out which cities are best for which sports.

Top Place to Raise A...

BACKPACKER and the Outdoor Foundation present six DIY modules for parents, mentors, and youth leaders looking for new ideas and techniques.

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Lucy Lynn
Dec 30, 2011

I didn't realize there were so many uptight, angry outdoor types on here, all up in arms because your cities were not selected for this ONE list.

To the person who attacked people from Boulder, you clearly have not met very many people from there. And much like my own family, you assume you KNOW exactly what a Boulderite is. However, not one individual in my family has spent more than a day in Boulder, but they think they know exactly who lives there.

Stop with the preconceived notions. Perhaps you are the one who is the snob, or maybe you aren't, but certainly something is making you hypersensitive. There are terrific people in absolutely every community, and awful people as well. Let's not judge an entire community on the 2-20 people you came in contact with or heard about.

Washington, D.C. resident who most assuredly lives in a more pretentious area than Boulder now.
(formerly lived in south Georgia, Nebraska, Colorado and Oregon)

Oct 31, 2011

fayetteville arkansas is not on here? HUH???

Jul 18, 2011

The fact is, any city that appears on a public ist would soon be overrun and therefore--->no longer the best place. Who loves crowded trails? Exactly, no one.

May 05, 2011

This list gets 2 thumbs down. Waaaay too many places to make an accurate list. Everyone will always think that THEIR city is the best. I say, as long as you've got your kids outside, away from TV and video games and big city bustle, you're doing a VERY good thing in making a difference in that child's life.

Pretentious Boulder?
May 04, 2011

For some reason, people in Boulder love to talk about how wonderful they think they are, physically and financially. Boring!
I will pass on Boulder, because of how stuck the Boulderites are on themselves. Never met such snooty people before them.

Oct 08, 2010

...what about chattanooga, tenn.

River Run Cabins at Grand Lake C
Sep 11, 2010

Hello, my name is Sunny and I'm the General Manager of River Run Cabins at Grand Lake. I am interested in advertising my cabins in your magizine. Could you give me more info on this?
Sunny M.

Sep 02, 2010

I grew up in Durango, had a great time as a kid and was always busy running round outside. However, even though it is still a great place, the cost of living is very high compared to other towns, even in Colorado. I have since lived in Oregon, Wyoming and northern Colorado. I would place Ft Collins, CO higher on the list, just due to cost of living, good schools, etc, but still great access to outdoor activities for kids.

David V
Sep 02, 2010

How could you fail to list even one town in Southern California? We have more trails, and more families out hiking, than anywhere else in the country. Within two miles of my house, there are a half-dozen world-class day hikes with incredibly spectacular views!

Jul 22, 2010

I LOVE MADISON, WI. It is fabulous!! Great choice!

Jun 30, 2010

How do you list four towns in Colorado and not a single one in Utah? Moab, SLC, Park City, Ogden--take your pick and get a little more well rounded.

Beaumont, TX
Jun 17, 2010

Austin & San Antonio

May 14, 2010

Have you ever been to the northern part of Michigan? It's not Detroit!!!! What a bunch of idiots that put this list together. What outdoor kid wouldn't love the big hills, forests, sand dunes, and oh...a whole lot of water!!!

Patti Hartley
Mar 13, 2010

Wyoming, Wyoming, Wyoming!!! Not just Jackson Hole but every where in Wyoming. We have tons of great camping, fishing, hunting, rodeo, ranching, you name it. Jackson Hole is expensive living. If your looking for an all around place to enjoy small towns, friendly people and outdoors all around you, Wyoming is a dream. Can you tell I lived here all my life?

Scott S.
Mar 10, 2010

I suppose you've never heard of Missoula, MT ?

Mar 06, 2010

i think anywhere in tennessee is great...lots of woods, trails, camping, fishing, are right in the smokies....just wish it was a little warmer year

Julie California
Mar 05, 2010

Raised three kids in Beautiful Lakeport, CA add this one to your list............

Julie California
Mar 05, 2010

Raised three kids in Beautiful Lakeport, CA add this one to your list............

Mar 05, 2010

how can you truly appreciate the outdoors if you live in a big city. all you weekend outdoors people are crying over nothing

Mar 05, 2010


Duluth is an armpit to live in. Yes, the north shore is great to explore for outdoors, but the town of Duluth is crap. Additionally, Minneapolis-St. Paul, if you spent any time exploring, is great for appreciating green spaces and the outdoors. You should look a little longer, a little harder.

kent grimes
Mar 05, 2010

Glad you DID NOT have Bend OR, Portland OR, Boise ID , Santa Cruz CA less people that way

Mar 05, 2010

Minneapolis ahead of Duluth. hmmm I've lived in both places and did'nt see much down in the twin cities. In fact duluth is the playground for twin cities residents!

Melly is an idiot
Mar 04, 2010

Hey Melly! Glens Falls is 3 hours (or more) south and west of Albany. You're the idiot!

Jeff Wohlt
Mar 04, 2010

I really think Missouri should have been in there as well. Good schools, low cost of living and excellent outdoor areas. Their State Park system has many educational venues for learning and is second to none.

Mar 04, 2010

#16 Um, there's three city's listed. Beautiful, Eureka. The arm pit of Northern Ca. Serious I was rasied outside of Yosemite. But, It wasn't good enough. Maybe, some day.

Jamie Or
Mar 04, 2010

In my opinion Hood River should be higher

Marti Norton
Mar 04, 2010

Texas has some awesome places to raise outdoor kids! I'm disappointed no Texas cities or towns were on the list :( Most Texans in rural areas spend about 90% of their time outside, no matter what the temperature or weather.

Mar 04, 2010

Really?! No Austin, Texas. Take a road trip.

Mar 04, 2010

Don't forget to include Bend Oregon. Sunny high desert climate - great mtn biking, the River, 18 miles to Mt. Bachelor and the High Lakes & Three Sisters Wilderness is just beyond!

Mar 04, 2010

As a Michigander, I think you missed our lovely lakes and woods!

Mar 04, 2010

You completely ignore Michigan! Idiots!

Mar 04, 2010

What about Coeur d' Alene, Idaho!!!!!

Mar 04, 2010

I'm VERY disappointed that there are not more Oregon, Washington and Idaho! Hasn't anyone heard of the Pacific NW? I was born and raised in the willamette valley in Oregon, lived in Central Oregon for a few years, then lived in Spokane, WA and Yakima, WA before moving back to Bend, Or.. GODS COUNTRY! Please reevalute your "BEST CITY TO RAISE YOUR KIDS" to include this beautiful country!!

Jan 26, 2010

I just ran across this article and was a surprised by the downtown note at the bottom and the inclusion of Chattanooga there. I moved from Chicago to Chattanooga three years ago and find the rivers, rocks and trails, not to mention the outdoor programs at local schools, to be fantastic! I live downtown where I have a view of Lookout Mountains and its many trails just three of four miles away. I can walk to the Tennessee River to slip in my canoe for a nice paddle. We have the top rated magnet school in the country. Raccoon Mountain has a huge mountain biking trail network... I could go on. Keep us off your top 25 list, but take us off the stay away list. Chattanooga rocks! Now I must stop writing so I can walk around the corner for a locally-brewed beer and some pizza on locally-made organic crust.

Mark S
Jan 18, 2010

Minneapolis listed but NOT Portland(or Bend), Oregon...NOTHING in Utah...only 1 area in CA...what a joke. I've lived in MN/OR/WA and by far OR/WA are much more conducive to raising an 'outdoor kid'. The outdoor culture in these states dwarfs what exists in the Minneapolis(where I'm from) and Duluth. There are few if no (good) backpacking options that I can think of within 6 hours of Minneapolis. Also, can someone speak to East vs West? When I had the choice to move wherever I could with access to deep wilderness being a priority, I moved to the Pacific NW twice and would do it again...

Sep 14, 2009

You need a geographer on the committee! Glens Falls, NY, is a couple of hours north of Albany, and Albany is well north of the Catskills. It is between the Catskills and the Adirondacks only in the way that, Los Angeles, say, is between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. And it is on the east, not west, side of the Adirondacks.

Hober Mallow
Aug 06, 2009

I'm glad you didn't put my city on your list !!! Let's keep MY home town a secret !!

But your top 25 list is like most other top 25 lists. I might quibble as to my personal #1, but it's pretty well up near the top of your list. I might drop off a couple of your lower-placed cities and add a few different cities you've overlooked.

All-in-all, it's not a bad list. Especially since my town isn't listed !!!

Aug 04, 2009

Just looked at Old fashioned ways to keep the kids outdoors but as they say ... the old ones are the best!

Jul 31, 2009

What area did you include to generate a $495,000 median home price in Jackson, WY? It is much, much higher than that (prior to fall 2008 it was over $1M and it's probably still close to that) and has been for at least 5 years. That being said, it is a great place to raise kids if you can figure out the housing thing.

Jul 19, 2009

I wouldn't want to raise kids in Boulder and definitely wouldn't let them go to the public schools here. This might be a good location for finding outdoor activities, but the culture and the way people treat each other is pretty bad.

Jul 14, 2009

For the question about young kids and altitude, check out Buck Tilton's (AKA BACKPACKER's Medicine Man) response to a similar question, here:

Jul 10, 2009

Talking about outdoors for kids. We live in Boulder and have a two year old. We go hiking all the time carrying him in the carrier. Is it safe as far as altitude to do an easy 14'er with him?

Jul 10, 2009

Loved the stats about Juneau and the Scouts. Scouts are probably some of the biggest fans of BP. A great poll might be to find out how many of BP's readers (and advertizers) either are now or were previously part of a Scouting program. By the way, after hearing about the Juneau stats, my son said, "Hello! Of course, it's Alaska, mountains, snow, rivers...and why don't we live there?!"

Kathleen Krevetski
Jul 10, 2009

Slow economy and high gas prices putting a strain on your summer vacation plans? Grab your backpacks and bring your family to the 3rd Annual Rutland Long Trail Festival! This is not a brew fest, but an all-day celebration of the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail, both of which pass close to our fair city. Come to the Rutland Fairgrounds on Saturday, August 8th, 2009 to enjoy exhibits, outdoor activities, family fun (including an on-site Children’s Camp) and the best of local Vermont music – all for FREE!

The festival’s educational and entertainment schedule is geared for hikers and non-hikers alike, encouraging people of all ages and abilities to come together and enjoy the outdoors. Local musician Phil Henry has brought together a fabulous lineup of home-grown Vermont music, including Jackson Gillman, James Mee, Avi and Celia, PossumHaw, Rebecca Padula, and others. Stories, exhibits and workshops by experienced outdoor adventurers are scheduled all day, to provide the inspiration for your next outdoor adventure.

Many Long- and Appalachian- Trail hikers arrive in Rutland this time of year, making it a strategic location for a “zero day”; a rest day to resupply and catch up with family and friends before tackling New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Backpacker Magazine recently cited Rutland as “the best place to raise children as thru-hikers” – those who travel the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, over two thousand miles that runs between Springer Mountain, Georgia and Mount Katahdin, Maine.

Environmental stewardship, good health, and community service are embedded in the festival’s music and activities, including “HardCore,” a volunteer trail-maintenance workdays Sunday 9th and Monday 10th, in cooperation with the Green Mountain Club and Appalachian Trail Conservancy with new volunteers always welcome.

The festival, and all its activities, are FREE. On-site camping is available Friday evening through Sunday at 6pm for $5 per adult, children under 16 free with their parents.

The Rutland Long Trail Festival is hosted by the Rutland City Parks and Recreation Department and an all-volunteer staff, and is sponsored by Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Rutland Regional Medical Center, the Vermont Country Store, OMYA, Seventh Generation and other local businesses. For information or to volunteer, contact Wayne Krevetski at 802-282-2237 or visit

Jul 09, 2009

Seattle Rules. It's the only big city on the list. You've got the best of both worlds. None of the top 25 offer much in the way of culture that Seattle can offer.

Hike Every Day
Jul 09, 2009

Every year people trot out the same old choices for best outdoor places to live. It gets boring.

Here's a place that no one ever looks at but rocks as far as outdoor sports. Palm Springs, CA

We have 1000 miles of hiking within an hour. 350 days of sunshine per year. Joshua Tree is less than one hour away. Bouldering and summer hiking at The Tram. Sure, there's no whitewater rafting here but the ocean is less than two hours away the Colorado River and hour and a half. For those so inclined we even have golf. Sure the summer's hot but there are ways to get away from it and I went hiking the other morning early and it was 70º (that day's high was 108º).

Next time you should try to find some new spots and quit putting out the same list that I've seen 1000 times from different sources.

Jul 09, 2009

Glad you found Bozeman! Lot's of Boulder, CO, transplants here who compare it to the way Boulder used to be before it "got discovered".

Jul 09, 2009

I'm not sure why we're all talking about Boy Scouts so much. It's a good program, from what I can tell. Anyways, I'd just like to comment on the "Top 25" list. Clearly, this list is not based on any "stats" - it's just made-up stuff. And it sucks. Four cities from Colorado, but not a single one from Utah? Huh?

Jul 09, 2009

As a Scoutmaster and Venture Crew advisor I would like to clear up a few things for linda. The 12th point of the Scout Law is to be Reverent. This means Reverent to a Supreme Being. The first Boy Scout troop my son was involved with was nearly 80% Muslim and were all vegetarians; made us leaders really scramble for food on campouts.
Currently the leadership in our Council in Iowa is at least 40% female.
Venture Scouts is a realatively new program under the umbrella of the Boy Scouts of America and is designed for boys and girls age 14-21. This program focuses on activities rather than the Scouting skills of the Boy Scout troops.
It is disappointing that you may have had a bad experience with Scouting. Unfortunately there are some adults in Scouting that have give us a bad name. The other 99.9% of us are working hard and volunteering our time and experiences to help boys and girls learn about and enjoy the outdoors. I would encourage you to get involved with a troop or Venture crew; the time spent is worth it!

Jul 09, 2009

The Boy Scouts was the main avenue that my son was able to experience the outdoors. He achieved Eagle Scout status at age 15 by rebuilding a deck and replanting a river bank at a public park and kayak put-in. I attribute much of his love of the outdoors with the many hours spent on camp outs and a challenging mountain trek on the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Props to Backpacker to sharing such great information on places that support inculcating a love of the great outdoors in our children!

Jul 09, 2009

To Linda, Trevor, and GoAway
I became a Life Scout back in the 1960s. Boy Scout discrimination depends entirely on the people running the program. I had a scoutmaster that had some odd ideas, but kept them to himself. We had at least one kid in the troop that grew up to be gay, and at least two who were non-religious. No discrimination happened in that troop, at least. Same with the Explorer Post in which I was an officer.

Linda--in the case of girls, Girl Scouts and Camp Fire have been around for a long time, and both programs connect with Boy Scouts/Explorer/Venture Scouts in their teens. I understand there are now some Scout programs that have both guy and girl members, but they didn't exist in the 1960s.

Jul 09, 2009

Leave your politics and foolish ideas for other sites...

Jul 09, 2009

You don't really know what you're talking about. The only valid point you make in your argument is the one about gays. Do some research before you open your mouth again and sound like an idiot!

Jul 09, 2009

I can not believe you would use the presence of Boy Scout troops -- which discriminate against gays, women, and anyone who doesn't believe in the Judeo-Christian version of God -- as any kind of indicator of anything other than bigotry. They certainly shouldn't have anything to do with raising your kids to enjoy outdoor activities.


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