THE BEST STATES TO CONNECT WITH NATURE
Dive into nature by discovering the country’s most outdoorsy states.
The top 20 states for connecting with nature
GREEN SPACE IN NATIONAL & STATE PARKS
Enjoy the company of wildlife and lush landscapes by spending your time outdoors in some of the most beautiful parks in the US.
Whether you prefer the sound of a hike or a run, getting active in the great outdoors is a good way to discover and learn more about the history and native American heritage of these stunning and vast areas.
By looking at the number of parks per state, Washington (149) and California (121) are the top two states with the largest number of parks in America, followed by Pennsylvania, ranking in third place with 112 parks.
Alternatively, Rhode Island (9), South Dakota (11) and Nebraska (11), have the lowest number of parks.
However, when we look at the amount of green space in national and state parks per capita, based on square meters, Alaska, Mississippi, Wyoming, West Virginia and Utah rank in the top 5, all offering Americans plenty of green space where they can connect with nature.
When you compare population by land area, it’s no surprise that Alaska (319,058 sqm) made it into first place, as it is one of the largest states with one of the smallest populations.
The states with the smallest amount of green space per person are Iowa (62 sqm), Indiana (46 sqm), Illinois (41 sqm), Massachusetts (16 sqm) and Rhode Island (11 sqm).
SUNNY DAYS & UV LEVEL
Spending time in the sunshine can bring different benefits, such as getting your dose of Vitamin D and lifting your spirits. We looked at UV levels and the average number of sunny days per state to cover all bases and crown the sunshine state across the US.
With an average of 286 sunny days per year, Arizona is the sunniest state in the US. Coming in close second is New Mexico, with California following close behind in third. Residents in these states are the ultimate sun worshippers, soaking up 113-136% more sunny days, compared to their Alaskan friends who only have an average of 121 sunny days a year.
What Alaska lacks in sunny days, it makes up for with super low UV levels (1), having the lowest average annual UV level than any other state.
Don’t forget though, on cloudy days your skin is still exposed to up to 80% of solar UV rays 2, which increases if you’re surrounded by water and snow due the reflective surfaces. Crazy, right? So, always remember to protect your skin from the sun by wearing a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses for protection.
Hawaii offers some of the most stunning national parks, with volcanic landscapes and tropical forests. However, it has the highest level of UV rays (10) compared with New York (3), West Virginia (4) and South Carolina (5) which have moderate levels of UV rays.
So, if you are heading down to the beach for some waves, don’t forget to wear SPF and seek shade during midday hours!
Being outdoors in the fresh air can help you find clarity and focus. With that in mind, Virginia, South Carolina, Vermont, Nebraska and Kansas all sit at the top of the list for having the cleanest air with the highest percentage of ‘satisfactory’ air quality days.
We know that air pollution can have a negative effect on your overall health and make your skin look dull. So, to help combat all the effects of pollution on your skin, it’s important to have a good night-time cleansing routine.
Overall, most of the states have a high percentage of ‘satisfactory’ air quality days. However, Arizona (94.79%), California (90.25%) and Hawaii (88.12%) have the lowest percentage of good air quality days per year.
Some of these free radicals which we are exposed to when we are outdoors can make our skin dry and dehydrated, and even sensitive. So, keep your skin healthy and protected from pollution before you immerse yourself in the great outdoors.
Staying active is one of the best ways to keep your body and mind healthy, and it’s even better when you can work out outside and enjoy the natural environment - be that by running through the park or hiking up a local trail.
Having a break by getting outside and interacting with nature will leave you feeling refreshed and re-energized!
When it comes to being active outdoors, fishing, camping and hiking are the most popular outdoor activities across the country. However, Americans have a love for other fun outdoor activities too, such as cycling, sailing, kayaking… you name it!
We looked at the most active states with the highest percentage of residents that participate in an outdoor activity, and Alaska (81%), Montana (81%) and Idaho (79%) are top of the list. While Delaware (52%), Maryland (51%) and New Jersey (46%) have, on average, the lowest percentage of active residents.
So, shake the dust off your sneakers and help your state boost those numbers!
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance
Please enjoy public spaces, such as those listed, responsibly and in line with your local area rules and advice. Remember to wash your hands frequently with hand soap for at least 20 seconds, and wear face coverings over your mouth and nose in enclosed spaces.
Methodology and Sources
Our research looked at 7 data points:
- Number of national and states parks per state (March 2020): https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm
- Space in national & state parks per person (in sq. meters). Total number of park acres per state divided by the total population per state. Then, it was converted to square meters.
- Number of sunny days (2019 annual average): https://www.bestplaces.net
- UV level (2019 annual average). 1 low exposure – 10 extreme exposure: https://www.bestplaces.net
- % of satisfactory air Quality days (2018 annual average). Number of days in the year having an AQI value 0 through 100: https://www.epa.gov/outdoor-air-quality-data/about-air-data-reports
- % of active residents participating in outdoor activities & favorite outdoor activity per state (2017 annual): https://outdoorindustry.org/resource/outdoor-recreation-participation-report-2017/
- ‘Ecopsychology: How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health’: https://e360.yale.edu/features/ecopsychology-how-immersion-in-nature-benefits-your-health
- ‘Global Solar UV Index’: https://www.who.int/uv/publications/en/UVIGuide.pdf
We used min-max normalization to determine the overall ranking (0-10), with 10 being the best score. Percentages have been rounded to their nearest decimal place. Access the full data set here.