United States is very diverse, more than 3.6 million square miles. For some that means scouting out gators in Florida's Everglades. For others it's paddling in Lake Superior, the world's largest freshwater lake. Or hiking through New Hampshire's White Mountains along a prime stretch of the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail. Or visiting the cliffside dwelings of an ancient tribe.
On the Left Coast the mountains meet the sea. Wide swaths of old-growth for hiking and camping, larger swaths of clear-cut forests, ocean beaches, and wild rivers for mountain biking, wildlife viewing, and whitewater running.
Outside of Alaska, American scenic grandeur doesn't get much grander than in the Rocky Mountain states. Here in the Sawtooths and the Wind Rivers, the San Juans and the Maroon Bells, adventure is all about high altitude and huge views.
If you're from somewhere else--somewhere green and lush and humid, perhaps--it's easy to malign the Southwest as nothing more than one endless desert. There are the alligator swamps of east Texas, the unexpectedly alpine heights of Nevada, Tahoe waters so turquoise you'd think you were in the Caribbean. A canyon so grand you'd need to spend three weeks floating its length to absorb its scale and beauty. A 900-year-old culture told through crumbling pot shards and pueblo ruins.
In the South is America's best-kept secret. From the semitropical latitudes of the Florida Keys to the highlands of the Virginias and Carolinas, diversity is the key. While a silent paddler wends her way through a swamp spotting egret, ibis, and manatees, an equally stealthy hiker sets out in Blue Ridge Mountains bear country.
In the Midwest you can hear a wolf howl in pine-studded northern Minnesota, or paddled into a harvest moon over Lake Michigan, or taken in the multiethic stew of Chicago's New Maxwell Street Market. Start with the Great Lakes' majestic shoreline, where 200-foot-high granite cliffs drop off into watery horizons. The region has five national parks--Theodore Roosevelt, Wind Cave, Badlands, Voyageurs and Isle Royal--as well as the million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The Northeast has forested peaks, ivory-tower institutions nestled in rolling fields, and covered bridges spanning burbling brooks. The Atlantic crashes along the coastline. All within commuting distance of the metropolis of your choice. From Acadia National Park in Maine to the Adirondacks in New York, and from Massachusetts's Cape Cod to Maryland's Chesapeake.
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