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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)

21. Madison, WI
Pop: 208,054 Median home: $208,500 Overall score: 49

12
2,000-strong Madison Hoofers outdoors club offers youth program

30

Ranks second (behind Portland, OR) in percentage of bicycle commuters

7 

Blessed with paddling–locally and across the state–and hiking (the 1,000-mile Ice Age Trail passes nearby); 52-mile rail trail connects Madison and Waukesha and allows camping

22. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
Pop: 3,208,212 Median home: $174,100 Overall score: 48

11
St. Paul Hiking Club offers Sunday and Tuesday outings

25

Ranks second (behind Portland, OR) in percentage of bicycle commuters

12

Extensive local park system totals 770 sq. ft. of green space per resident; great paddling on St. Croix and Mississippi; half-day drive to Boundary Waters, Apostle Islands, NCT

23. Glens Falls, NY
Pop: 14,354 Median home: $156,600 Overall score: 47

12
One of highest ratios of Boy Scouts in the East, with 6 active troops

19

Near Catskills arts, music, and educational resources–but with lower home prices

16

Situated between Catskills' quieter northern peaks and Adirondacks' southern/western wilds and Great Range; 10 km of well-lit cross-country ski trails at Cole's Woods

24. Duluth, MN
Pop: 86,918 Median home: $119,000 Overall score: 41

11
U of Minnesota-Duluth outdoor ed dept. holds annual cooking contest

20 

Pursuing strategic plan to lure "Creative Class" demographic through job & arts growth

10

Modest drive to Apostle Islands, Isle Royale, and Boundary Waters; new 39-mile trail connects Duluth to 205-mile Superior Hiking Trail; Lester Park Trail runs through town

25. Wheeling, WV
Pop: 31,419 Median home: $85,000 Overall score: 41

10
Oglebay Institute runs 3-week Junior Nature Camp in mountains

19

Cost of living 20% below U.S. average; Rivers to Ridges club leads camping and rafting trips

12

World-class paddling on Little & Lower Youghiogheny Rivers; great hiking on nearby 70-mile Laurel Highlands Trail; Wayne & Monongahela NFs offer endless backpacking hours away



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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.

Star Star Star Star Star
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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Jan 10, 2014

Star Star 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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