The Best Outdoor States in America (Metrics-based Study and Ranking)

The Best State
vs.
The Worst State


Being outside means a lot for our happiness, so it’s important that we choose to live with easy access to the nature and surrounded by people who actually use the nature around us.

In this study, our analysts have looked into the most relevant metrics for determining how easy it is to access the nature around us and how much we use the nature.

We have looked into the best combination of these metrics, so we could calculate exactly which states are the best outdoor states in America.

Read on for our findings. There are a lot of difference between the best outdoor states in America and in the worst.

You are welcome to use the graphics and data as long as you refer to this original source. For comments and clarifications, please email mads@mightygoods.com


Main Findings


Top 5 Best Outdoor States

State Points
Wyoming 7972
Montana 7816
Idaho 7550
Alaska 7355
North Dakota 7342

Top 5 Worst Outdoor States

State Points
Illinois 5419
Texas 5484
New Jersey 5493
Ohio 5495
New York 5524

Map of the best outdoor states


Rankings of All 50 States


RankStateScore
1Wyoming7972
2Montana7816
3Idaho7550
4Alaska7355
5North Dakota7342
6Colorado7139
7South Dakota7115
8Vermont7066
9Oregon7062
10Utah7058
11New Hampshire6946
12New Mexico6906
13Iowa6687
14Washington6674
15Maine6615
16West Virginia6603
17Nebraska6547
18Arkansas6467
19Arizona6371
20Minnesota6360
21Nevada6313
22Hawaii6311
23Wisconsin6246
24Kansas6213
25California6194
26Oklahoma6131
27Michigan6098
28Kentucky6008
29Mississippi5975
30Tennessee5936
31Virginia5925
32Missouri5922
33North Carolina5866
34Alabama5866
35Delaware5793
36South Carolina5778
37Pennsylvania5756
38Massachusetts5734
39Georgia5714
40Connecticut5708
41Florida5678
42Indiana5656
43Louisiana5614
44Rhode Island5599
45Maryland5586
46New York5524
47Ohio5495
48New Jersey5493
49Texas5484
50Illinois5419

Indvidual Metrics


Land with protected area status

  • x128 difference from best to worst state
  • Alaska has 25.6% protected land (see calculations under metrics below)
  • Kansas has 0.2% protected land
Top 5 Best Top 5 Worst
Alaska Kansas
California Iowa
Nevada Nebraska
Utah Ohio
Arizona Alabama
Protected land graph


Campgrounds per 10,000 people

  • x158 difference from best to worst state
  • Montana has 4.3 campgrounds per 10,000 people
  • New Jersey has less than 0.1 campgrounds per 10,000 people
Top 5 Best Top 5 Worst
Montana New Jersey
Wyoming Connecticut
North Dakota Massachusetts
Idaho Delaware
South Dakota New York
Campgrounds graph


Consumer spending on outdoor recreation

  • x5 difference from best to worst state
  • Outdoor consumer spending in Alaska is $9,868 per person
  • Outdoor consumer spending in Texas is $1,858 per person
Top 5 Best Top 5 Worst
Alaska Texas
Wyoming Illinois
Vermont Ohio
Montana New Jersey
New Hampshire New York
Outdoor consumer spending graph


Number of outdoor jobs per 10,000 people

  • x28 difference from best to worst state
  • Alaska has 973.2 outdoor jobs per 10,000 people
  • Rhode Island has less than 34.9 outdoor jobs per 10,000 people
Top 5 Best Top 5 Worst
Alaska Rhode Island
Wyoming Texas
Vermont Illinois
Montana New York
New Hampshire New Jersey
Outdoor jobs graph


Number of trails per 10,000 people

  • x101 difference from best to worst state
  • Wyoming has 31.2 trails per 10,000 people (see calculations under metrics below)
  • Louisiana has 0.3 trails per 10,000 people
Top 5 Best Top 5 Worst
Wyoming Louisiana
Colorado Florida
Idaho Illinois
Montana Mississippi
New Hampshire Oklahoma
Trails graph


Air pollution

  • x2.5 difference from best to worst state
  • Wyoming averages 5.0 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter (PM2.5)
  • California averages 12.5 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter
Top 5 Best Top 5 Worst
Wyoming California
North Dakota Idaho
Montana Pennsylvania
Alaska Indiana
Vermont Illinois
Air pollution graph


Number of bike shops per 10,000 people

  • x15 difference from best to worst state
  • Vermont has 0.8 bike shops per 10,000 people
  • Oklahoma has less than 0.1 bike shops per 10,000 people
Top 5 Best Top 5 Worst
Vermont Oklahoma
Colorado Louisiana
Idaho Tennessee
Wyoming Texas
Utah Mississippi
Bike shops graph


Number of running clubs per 10,000 people

  • x6 difference from best to worst state
  • Alaska has 0.19 running clubs per 10,000 people
  • Louisiana has 0.03 running clubs per 10,000 people
Top 5 Best Top 5 Worst
Alaska Louisiana
New Hampshire Missouri
Vermont Mississippi
Rhode Island Oklahoma
Colorado Maryland
Running clubs graph


Outdoor participation rate

  • x1.8 difference from best to worst state
  • Alaska has 81% outdoor participation rate
  • New Jersey has 46% outdoor participation rate
Top 5 Best Top 5 Worst
Alaska New Jersey
Montana Maryland
Idaho New York
North Dakota Delaware
Wyoming Texas
Outdoor participation rate graph


Physical inactivity rate

  • x2.1 difference from best to worst state
  • Utah has 15.7% physical inactivity rate
  • Arkansas has 32.5% physical inactivity rate
Top 5 Best Top 5 Worst
Utah Arkansas
Colorado Mississippi
Oregon New Jersey
Washington Florida
Minnesota Kentucky
Physical inactivity graph


Methodology

In order to determine the best outdoor states in America, our analysts compared the 50 states across 14 relevant metrics.

The raw numbers for each metric were used, so nowhere did we evaluate things based on our subjective opinions.

We avoided evaluating things based on our subjective opinions, so the results didn’t get affected by our own adventures in America, our own opinions about the nature in each state, etc.

Most other rankings of the best outdoor areas in America are based on subjective opinions. This isn’t fair since a small group of analysts cannot possible have a correct impression of the outdoor possibilities in each and every part of the country.

To get the total score for each state, we calculated the weighted sum of the raw numbers for 12 of the metrics (the last 2 of the 14 metrics were used in the final multiplication below).

Finally, we multiplied the weighted sum with percentages from the last 2 metrics (outdoor participation rate and physical inactivity rate).


Metrics and Sources

The following metrics were used to calculated the weighted sums:

  • Percentage of land with protected area status (GAP status): Quadruple weight (~28.5%).

    Based on data from USGS. GAP status 1 counts 4 times as much as GAP status 3. GAP status 2 counts twice as much as GAP status 3.

  • Number of campgrounds per 10,000 people: Double weight (~14.3%).

    Based on data from US Campgrounds.

  • Consumer spending on outdoor recreation: Full weight (~7.1%).

    Based on data from the Outdoor Industry Association.

  • Number of outdoor jobs per 10,000 people: Double weight (~14.3%).

    Based on data from the Outdoor Industry Association.

  • Number of trails per 10,000 people: Double weight (~14.3%).

    Based on data from MTB Project, Hiking Project, Trail Run Project, Powder Project and Mountain Project. Mountainbike trails, trail running trails and powder trails count the same as hiking trails. 30 climbing routes count the same as a hiking trail.

  • Air pollution (micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter): Full weight (~7.1%).

    Based on data from America’s Health Rankings.

  • Number of bike shops per 10,000 people: Full weight (~7.1%).

    Based on data from Pink Bike.

  • Number of running clubs per 10,000 people: Full weight (~7.1%).

    Based on data from Running in the USA.

  • Outdoor participation rate. Final result is multiplied by this percentage.

    Based on data from the Outdoor Industry Association.

  • Physical inactivity rate. Final result is multiplied by this percentage.

    Based on data from State of Obesity.


Calculated data per state

The table below shows calculated data for each state.

The columns are:

  • Rank – the rank of the state based on the calculated number of points.
  • State – name of the state.
  • Campgrounds – number of campgrounds per 10,000 people.
  • Protected areas – weighted protected areas percentage.
  • Outdoor spending – spending on outdoor recreation per person.
  • Outdoor jobs – number of outdoor jobs per 10,000 people.
  • Trails – number of trails per 10,000 people.
  • Air pollution – average micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter (PM2.5).
  • Bike shops – number of bike shops per 10,000 people.
  • Running clubs – number of running clubs per 10,000 people.
  • Outdoor participation – percentage of the population participating in outdoor activities.
  • Physical inactivity – percentage of the population that is physically inactive.
RankStateCampgroundsProtected areasOutdoor spendingOutdoor jobsTrailsAir pollutionBike shopsRunning clubsOutdoor participationPhysical inactivityPoints
1Wyoming4.3311.0%9666.6863.131.25.0%0.400.1473%23.1%7972
2Montana4.586.9%6758.7675.914.35.7%0.380.1181%19.9%7816
3Idaho2.8911.1%4543.0454.314.711.7%0.420.1179%20.2%7550
4Alaska1.3525.6%9867.6973.27.96.0%0.240.1981%19.1%7355
5North Dakota3.302.3%4103.8397.13.75.2%0.080.0876%22.2%7342
6Colorado0.907.9%4993.6408.415.87.0%0.420.1471%15.8%7139
7South Dakota2.051.5%5404.4551.94.96.3%0.170.0969%18.9%7115
8Vermont0.693.4%8819.0817.88.06.2%0.750.1472%19.5%7066
9Oregon1.749.3%3958.7415.25.66.7%0.330.1069%17.2%7062
10Utah1.1611.8%3965.4354.610.78.9%0.380.0672%15.7%7058
11New Hampshire0.336.1%6479.0588.312.77.2%0.370.1569%19.3%6946
12New Mexico1.026.6%4741.2474.18.46.6%0.180.0865%20.3%6906
13Iowa1.580.3%2765.7263.91.49.3%0.100.0565%22.7%6687
14Washington0.788.0%3537.8271.45.48.0%0.220.0772%17.6%6674
15Maine0.243.1%6138.2568.95.57.4%0.360.1070%20.6%6615
16West Virginia0.502.4%4956.3501.15.89.4%0.130.0767%28.5%6603
17Nebraska1.370.5%2604.1255.20.97.8%0.070.0561%22.4%6547
18Arkansas0.802.7%3228.7319.52.99.7%0.130.0763%32.5%6467
19Arizona0.3711.8%3021.5286.54.19.7%0.180.0859%23.1%6371
20Minnesota0.705.0%2994.7251.01.48.0%0.140.0770%18.0%6360
21Nevada0.3314.5%4202.7290.23.110.0%0.090.0557%24.7%6313
22Hawaii0.257.7%5464.0476.31.67.6%0.220.0859%20.8%6311
23Wisconsin0.532.2%3088.6289.91.69.1%0.150.1066%20.0%6246
24Kansas0.730.2%2505.9243.71.18.6%0.070.0861%23.5%6213
25California0.3315.1%2327.0174.82.912.5%0.170.0656%20.5%6194
26Oklahoma0.640.8%2696.6246.80.89.5%0.050.0464%28.5%6131
27Michigan0.493.1%2670.1232.91.18.8%0.110.0763%23.9%6098
28Kentucky0.310.9%2873.7269.42.310.1%0.060.0661%29.8%6008
29Mississippi0.461.0%2680.9264.70.78.9%0.060.0458%30.3%5975
30Tennessee0.201.8%3216.2279.92.29.1%0.050.0559%28.4%5936
31Virginia0.122.8%2585.6232.63.08.3%0.150.0657%23.3%5925
32Missouri0.311.2%2437.2217.61.99.7%0.090.0361%24.9%5922
33Alabama0.240.6%2871.9276.91.59.5%0.080.0755%29.4%5866
34North Carolina0.102.2%2725.5253.12.68.7%0.120.0756%23.3%5866
35Delaware0.072.3%3222.7301.51.09.7%0.180.1452%26.6%5793
36South Carolina0.141.5%3244.2300.51.09.0%0.060.0558%26.9%5778
37Pennsylvania0.092.7%2272.5196.02.311.4%0.150.0856%22.9%5756
38Massachusetts0.054.1%2361.6174.91.67.2%0.160.1359%20.0%5734
39Georgia0.171.6%2617.6228.21.19.8%0.070.0658%29.4%5714
40Connecticut0.052.0%2508.2192.31.48.8%0.250.0958%21.3%5708
41Florida0.096.7%2792.6231.10.47.2%0.080.0655%29.8%5678
42Indiana0.170.7%2354.9214.51.111.3%0.080.0659%26.8%5656
43Louisiana0.191.9%2604.4219.90.38.6%0.050.0357%29.1%5614
44Rhode Island0.083.4%3774.934.91.07.8%0.200.1455%24.4%5599
45Maryland0.082.4%2313.2180.11.69.6%0.110.0451%23.1%5586
46New York0.084.5%2105.9157.71.08.0%0.100.0552%26.3%5524
47Ohio0.100.6%2084.3184.41.010.6%0.090.0558%25.9%5495
48New Jersey0.037.2%2098.7158.80.88.8%0.100.0946%29.8%5493
49Texas0.170.8%1858.4145.20.99.9%0.050.0555%25.2%5484
50Illinois0.131.2%2015.3156.20.511.1%0.060.0756%23.9%5419

All data accessed January 2018.

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