Blake Snow

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After visiting 35 “United States,” these are the ones that stand out (so far)

Courtesy amCharts

I’m incredibly biased and totally indoctrinated, but I admire America. Objectively speaking, it truly is one of the world’s most diverse playgrounds. Granted, I cherish my adventures abroad and look forward to future ones. But I treasure my own backyard as much as I do exotic soil.

So far I’ve managed to spend meaningful amounts of time in 35 states (excluding states I’ve driven or flown through without doing more than filling gas or eating a roadside meal). As you can see from the accompanying map, I’ve traveled through all of the West, much of the South, and the better part of the Northeast.

Which states have left the biggest impression on me so far? To keep things fair, I’m excluding my home state of Utah, although many would argue it’s an impressionable one. Also, I tend to value “great outdoors” over cities. That said, these are my favorites until further notice:

Montana. This state changed my life—really. Eight years ago, I was a naive, work-a-holic, twenty something. In an effort to “get ahead,” I peddled fast on a disguised hamster wheel and kept my head down through much of it. Until I met Montana. After a weeklong trip here with friends, family, and zero connectivity, my eyes were opened to a new, tangible world that is much more interesting and socially rewarding than the virtual one we’re often ensnared by. I wrote a book about it, I liked it so much.

Oregon. Most of the Pacific Northwest is emerald awesomeness. But for my money, I give the slight edge to the entire state of Oregon, specifically the western half. The timeless coast alone is unlike any beach you’ll ever see. To top it off, there are the sand dunes, Columbia River, Smith Rock and the surreal Crater Lake—one of the world’s greatest. Having visited multiple times, I still yearn to return.

Massachusetts. Although I’ve only traveled to one third of New England’s six total states, the areas I visited could almost pass as a single state. There’s a unity and combination of funny but endearing accents here that no one can deny. And I think many would agree: Massachusetts is the soul of New England. Here there’s a plethora of things to do both inside and out—from hiking along seascapes, gawking at the turning of leaves, exploring some of the oldest cities in America, and sailing the Gulf of Maine.

California. From an outdoor-only perspective, you’d be hard pressed to find a more diverse state than California. It is the most varied of a very diverse country—a microcosm of the entire United States. Mountains, beaches, deserts, towering vegetation, ocean, lakes, National Parks aplenty. On top of that, the state also serves up America’s coolest culture—music, movies, and trending technology. Which is why we call it “The Golden State.”

Hawaii. “Exotic America.” That’s the best way to describe the state of Hawaii, which is actually an archipelago of several volcanic islands. “Paradise of the Pacific,” is another popular moniker used to describe it. But more than just stunning tropical beaches, big surfing, and epic hiking year-round, Hawaii is home to a people that are as cool as Californians and as hospitable as Southerners. They’re also a lot more easygoing than mainlanders, which makes them a pleasure to be around. Aloha!

In all fairness, there are a lot more that I’m deeply fond of. But if I had a gun to my head, I’d answer with the above.

HONORABLE MENTION: Alaska is outta this world, but sadly not as accessible.

The updated article first appeared in Paste Magazine