THE BEST STATES TO CONNECT WITH NATURE

Dive into nature by discovering the country’s most outdoorsy states.

woman smiling

We spend so much time glued to our screens that sometimes we forget what’s beyond the four walls of our home.

So rather than watching and seeing pictures of trees, stunning waterfalls and breath-taking mountains on your phone or TV, it’s time we get out and reconnect with nature.

To encourage you to get your daily dose of nature while boosting your well-being along the way 1., we’ve looked at National and State parks, the number of sunny days per year, UV exposure levels, air quality and the number of people participating in outdoor activities across all 50 US states, to reveal the top states to connect with Mother Nature.

So, grab your moisturizer with SPF and yours sneakers and dedicate 30 minutes (or more!) for self-love to immerse yourself in the great outdoors and discover new places on your doorstep to connect with your natural environment.

The top 20 states for connecting with nature

Top states for outdoor escapes

According to our index, Alaska is crowned as the best state for connecting with nature, having the most green space (national and state parks) per capita.

In second place, surrounded by trees, is Washington, with the highest number of national and state parks. This is followed by Oklahoma, ranking in third.

Montana comes in fourth due to its high percentage of active residents that participate in an outdoor activity.

Florida is eighth, offering plenty of sunny days (237) per year.

top states for outdoor escapes

Ranking in thirteenth place, Utah offers plenty of green space for those who are looking to escape into the wilderness, being the fifth in terms of states with the most green space p.p.

South Dakota ranks in seventeenth place, offering a high percentage (99.71%) of ‘satisfactory’ air quality days.

Colorado, ranks in nineteenth position and is in the top five cities when it comes to sunny days.

national parks

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

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!

air quality

AIR QUALITY

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.

outdoor activities

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

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!

woman with hair band

Being exposed to nature can increase your energy levels and help you to manage stress during a busy week. So if you are heading into the great outdoors to soak up Vitamin D, don’t forget to wear a moisturizer with SPF. Then, if you are feeling tired from all that exercise, take time to wind down with a self-massage, with the choice of a body butter to nourish your skin.

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:

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.

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