Best small town for adventure? Readers say Marquette, Michigan!

Florence, Oregon takes second place

These 10 towns might be small – each has a population of fewer than 25,000 people – but they're big on outdoor adventure, from hiking and mountain biking to kayaking and rock climbing. 

  • Marquette

    The largest town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, still small Marquette sits on the shores of Lake Superior, making it a hotspot for outdoor enthusiasts. Presque Isle Park serves as the launching point for kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding, while McCarty’s Cove offers a family friendly beach. Hikers and paddlers come from all over the world to explore the 150 miles of singletrack, 83 miles of Superior shoreline and 77 waterfalls in Marquette County.
    Photo courtesy of Travel Marquette

  • Florence

    Adrenaline junkies flock to Florence on the Oregon coast off Highway 101 for some of the nation's best sand dunes for buggy rides, sand boarding, hiking and fat-tire biking. Fishing, crabbing and clamming are also popular pastimes; the restaurants in the charming old town serve up the fruits of those labors.
    Photo courtesy of Travel Oregon

  • Watkins Glen
    New York

    Visitors to Watkins Glen have their choice of dozens of waterfalls, miles of hiking trails and one of the nation’s best state parks to explore. Within Watkins Glen State Park, hikers pass 19 waterfalls in less than 2 miles, while nearby Finger Lakes National Forest provides year round opportunity for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and cross country skiing. The Finger Lakes Trail is a popular footpath for hikers stretching for 560 miles.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / Ultima_Gaina

  • Sedona

    Sedona, situated in the heart of Arizona’s Red Rock Country, often finds itself listed as one of the country’s most beautiful places. All that natural beauty begs to be explored, whether by hiking or biking the 300 miles of local trails, fishing in Oak Creek Canyon, catching some rays in Slide Rock State Park or taking a day trip to the Grand Canyon.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Sedona

  • Jim Thorpe

    For three centuries, travelers have been enchanted by Jim Thorpe, nicknamed the Switzerland of America. Victorian architecture dominates the Old Mauch Historic District, brimming with restaurants, pubs, B&Bs and art galleries, while the surrounding rails, trails and waterways appeal to lovers of outdoor adventure.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / Andrew F Kazmierski

  • Everglades City

    Situated near the southern tip of Florida, Everglades City serves as the gateway to the Ten Thousand Islands, where outdoor enthusiasts come to canoe through mangrove tunnels, hike through Big Cypress National Preserve or look for gators on a tour of Everglades City swamp.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / Simon Dux

  • North Conway
    New Hampshire

    Set amid the sprawling White Mountain National Forest, North Conway offers visitors access to Mount Washington (the tallest peak in the northeast) and the accompanying four seasons recreation. During the snowy months, the area boasts some of the region’s best skiing and snowmobiling, while summer is excellent for hiking, golfing, fishing and camping. Fall leaf peeping is some of the best in the country.
    Photo courtesy of Dan Houde/Wiseguy Creative Photography

  • Blowing Rock
    North Carolina

    Those looking for a mountain escape have been coming to Blowing Rock since the 1880s. Today, this North Carolina village sits directly on the Blue Ridge Parkway and serves as a gateway to adjacent Pisgah National Forest.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / skiserge1

  • Bar Harbor

    Bar Harbor, as the gateway to Acadia National Park, offers abundant opportunity for outdoor adventure, from kayaking along the Maine coast to biking the car-free carriage roads. Whale-watching trips run from May to October, and come winter, outdoor enthusiasts can hit the trails for some snowmobiling or cross country skiing.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / ericcote

  • Jackson Hole

    It’s tough to find a city more beautiful than Jackson Hole, with mountains surrounding it on all sides; it’s enough to make anyone want to be outdoors all day. While the town's western heritage is still on display at places like the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and Mangy Moose, Jackson caters to luxury travelers as well with some of the country's swankiest ski accommodations. 
    Photo courtesy of Visit Jackson Hole

The top 10 winners in the category Best Small Town for Adventure are as follows:

  1. Marquette, Mich.
  2. Florence, Ore.
  3. Watkins Glen, N.Y.
  4. Sedona, Ariz.
  5. Jim Thorpe, Penn.
  6. Everglades City, Fla.
  7. North Conway, N.H.
  8. Blowing Rock, N.C.
  9. Bar Harbor, Maine
  10. Jackson Hole, Wyo.

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Marla Cimini (USA TODAY), Deborah Fallows (Our Towns: A 100,000 Journey into the Heart of America)Eric Grossman, Anna Hider (Roadtrippers), Gerrish Lopez and Chelle Koster Walton were chosen based on their knowledge and experience of travel in the United States.

Congratulations to these winning small towns!

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Marla Cimini

Marla Cimini

Deborah Fallows

Deborah Fallows

Eric Grossman

Eric Grossman

Anna Hider

Anna Hider

Gerrish Lopez

Gerrish Lopez

Chelle Koster Walton

Chelle Koster Walton