By Casea Peterson
If you're a nature lover, then you probably want to live somewhere where mother nature is knocking at your door. Of course, there is an allure to the high-rise skylines of big cities and all of the perks that come with them, but for some folks, it's not the bright lights that entice them but the endless opportunities that await them in the wild.
Many people have predetermined places where they've dreamed of living for their entire life, and then there are people who have absolutely no idea at all. If you find yourself in the latter of the two categories, then consider this list. Allow your imagination to run wild and really try to envision living in some of these spectacular outdoor-centric towns from all around the nation. These places are known to quench the insatiable thirst of all outdoorists who, above all else, crave proximity to mother nature, adventure and the peace that comes with living wild and free.
Move On Up in Billings, Mont.
Tell your kids to pick their new passion. It can be rock climbing, mountain biking or anything in between, because in Billings, Mont., you'll have access to all of it. If you love steep inclines and summit vistas that stretch for miles, then Billings is the place for you.
This town gives off a rather laid back vibe, but it won't take long to realize what a strong sense of community it offers as well. Many of the people who have lived in Billings their entire lives are ranchers and farmers — you know, the salt of the earth kind of folk — and they love their town and all it has to offer.
If you plan on visiting Billings before you buy, we suggest bringing along some climbing gear or renting while you're there, so you can get a little taste of adventure while you are getting a feel for the place.
Become One with the Last Frontier in Valdez, Alaska
Do you have a desire to spend your afternoons skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing, snowshoeing, hiking, mountaineering, fishing or even going on some extreme hunting trips? Enter Valdez.
This small town is home to 4,000 individuals and is one of the most important fishing and freight ports in the state, so you'll always have fresh seafood. The best thing about Valdez is the winter, that is to say if you like the winter. We're talking snow and lots of it. Valdez is rated the snowiest town in the U.S. even though their winters don't get quite as cold as other similar climates in Alaska.
Be careful visiting Alaska. Because there is a good chance you'll never want to hop on a plane back down to the lower 48. Yet, if you do visit before you buy, there is one thing you should absolutely bring, especially if you're visiting before the warmer weather rolls through—you're going to need to bring a down jacket. I mean real down and real heavy.
A parka is a must and, if you're a lady, we would actually suggest a down skirt. They are incredibly warm and an extremely popular fashion item up north.
Bend, Ore.: It's Kind of a Big Deal
If you've never been to Bend, Ore., you have no way of fully grasping just how awesome it is. Do you like to camp? If not, don't worry, that will change. Before you know it, you'll be addicted to camping and want to spend every day outside in the sun and every night under the stars.
You'll be pleasantly surprised when the winter months roll around. The weather cools off and snow falls, but that's about all that will change. You'll likely still want to spend every day outside snow camping, skiing, snowboarding, climbing, snowshoeing or just hiking through the enchanting wilderness.
If you plan to visit Bend, make sure you bring a camera. There is a reason Bend was rated one of the top ten places to live by Men's Journal. It's truly gorgeous and there are endless outdoor activities available to the people living here. For your visit, you might want to bring a detailed map so you can circle all the super cool places you visit, from the parts of town you might like living in to all the hip breweries and restaurants you don't want to forget about on your next visit.
Be a Beach Bum in Kauai, Hawaii
Somewhere along the line people forgot that lounging on the beach is actually an outdoorsy thing to do, even if you have a drink in your hand. On Kauai, you get all the delights of true island life without all the touristy backlash. You can really let your hair down and become one with this place. Learn to surf and we guarantee you'll never want to leave.
If you plan a trip to visit Kauai to see if it's the spot for you, then please heed this one bit of advice: bring practically nothing. Seriously, keep your carry on limited to the essentials. You're going to be in your swimsuit the majority of the time anyway. You'll get the true experience of this place if you visit with a minimalist perspective and a decent pair of flip flops.
Duluth, Minn.: Not Just a Trading Co.
This little town has witnessed a rise in popularity over the years simply because it offers up a little bit of everything: canoeing, kayaking, biking, hiking, sailing, fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and rock climbing, to name a few. The size of its community is small, but the sense of adventure looms large and you'll never run out of stuff to do. During the summer months, there isn't a single weekend where an event isn't being hosted in town, pulling in thousands of tourists from across the nation.
Duluth is a true gateway to exploration and outdoorsy fun, especially because it sits on the edge of Lake Superior; so there are plenty of water sports to take advantage of. If you want to visit and feel out this buzzing little port town, be sure to book a hotel room and plan to visit when you can catch a free concert, touring show or theater performance during your stay.
Wow Factor of Wausau, Wis.
This little Wisconsin town has a few secrets up its sleeve that make it quite the interesting place to live. First, because there is a ski hill in town, you can enjoy delightful alpine skiing during the winter months. Second, you can spend your summer going on whitewater rafting trips. And thirdly, because the roots of this town are very much steeped in German and European culture, you have lots of beer to pick from, and most Wausau bakeries have warm, gooey Nutella-drizzled breakfast croissants at the ready on a daily basis.
If you want to plan your trip to Wausau and you're a big fan of hunting, Wisconsin offers plenty of opportunities to hunt various types of game; if you plan your trip during the right time of year, you'll get to hear the gobblers going off during your visit. We advise bringing along a turkey call so you can get some practice in before next year's season!
It's a big step to move your family, but it's well worth it if you are surrounded by the scenery and activities you love. Sure, some of these towns are a little off the beaten path, but they serve as major gateways to vast outdoor opportunities. Plus, these tight-knit communities make for strong friendships, great schools, and happy dispositions, even if you have to start online shopping more. It's worth it.
Casea Peterson is a freelance copywriter and content marketing specialist for businesses in the outdoor industry. She has been writing personally and professionally since 2009, but when she doesn't have her pen in hand she can be found somewhere in the woods hiking, hunting, or exploring the Pacific Northwest.