California Trails

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.

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(Photo by Justin Bailie)


(Photo by Kennan Harvey)


(Photo by Kennan Harvey)


(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.


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.

Great paddling, but #1 for soot and diesel exhaust.


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