New Study Reveals the 10 Most “Outdoorsy” States in the Country

A kayaker takes in the scenery near Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska. John Hyde / Getty Images

The outdoor industry is booming bigger than ever before. According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 National Recreation Economy Report, outdoor recreation in the United States generates $887 billion in spending each year and provides 7.6 million American jobs. Just the outdoor recreation taking place in federal Forest Service Lands contributes more than $13 billion dollars to the national economy and supports over 205,000 jobs annually.

To break it down, those numbers mean that the business of playing outside employs more folks than the food and beverage service, transportation, finance, construction, and computer technology industries. More Americans are directly employed by hunting and fishing than by oil and gas extraction (so why is our government increasing subsidies for coal mining on federal lands?) 

Comparatively, the $887 billion raked in from consumer spending on products and travel for outdoor recreation this year outdid spending in the education, fuel, utilities, motor vehicles, and pharmaceutical sectors. That massive cut of consumer dollars has directly generated $125 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue. That’s enough revenue to pay the annual wages of 1.2 million kindergarten teachers, 2.3 million firefighters and police officers, and 1.1 million registered nurses.

And just to assure you that the kids are indeed alright, the numbers from the new report found that Americans spend more money on trail sports gear ($20 billion) than on home entertainment ($18 billion) and more on cycles and skateboards ($97 billion) than video games ($61 billion).

In short, our national pocketbook relies on Mother Nature. But so does our health.

A growing body of research suggests that investments in outdoor recreation infrastructure significantly reduces crime, stress, and obesity rates while simultaneously strengthening individual well-being. The National Recreation Economy Report goes as far as to rank the “most outdoorsy” states, based on the percentage of the population of each state that participates in outdoor recreation activities, from camping and trail-related activities to off-roading and snowsports. All of the top ten “most outdoorsy” states also happened to rank in the top 20 of Gallup and Healthways state-by-state well-being report —released in February. The states that earned top marks in both outdoor recreation and general well-being are as follows:

Alaska: 81 percent of population involved in outdoor recreation, ranked second for general well-being.

Montana: 81 percent of population involved in outdoor recreation, ranked eighth for general well-being.

Idaho: 79 percent of population involved in outdoor recreation, ranked 18th for general well-being.

North Dakota: 76 percent of population involved in outdoor recreation, ranked 16th for general well-being.

Wyoming: 73 percent of population involved in outdoor recreation, ranked 12th for general well-being.

Utah: 72 percent of population involved in outdoor recreation, ranked 17th for general well-being.

Vermont: 72 percent of population involved in outdoor recreation, ranked sixth for general well-being.

Washington: 72 percent of population involved in outdoor recreation, ranked 23rd for general well-being.

Colorado: 71 percent of population involved in outdoor recreation, ranked fifth for general well-being.

Maine: 70 percent of population involved in outdoor recreation, ranked fourth for general well-being.

This shows the direct correlation between getting outside and keeping our health, wealth, and happiness going strong. So do yourself and America a favor by keeping your fishing poles in your hands, your harnesses around your waist, your skis and boards under your feet, your pack on your back, and get outside.