15 Most Underrated U.S. Travel Destinations for Active Seniors

From scenic hikes to historic towns, these underrated cities are perfect for active seniors.
Updated May 8, 2024
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Senior man admiring natural landscape

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There’s nothing wrong with a restful vacation spent lounging at the beach. But if you have a sense of adventure, there's only so much lazing around you can take before you’re itching to explore.

If you want to start traveling more to less crowded destinations, make the most of retirement by spending time in one of the adventure-ready towns and cities.

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Connellsville, Pennsylvania

Gary L Hider/Adobe connellsville pennsylvania on geography map

If you’re a cyclist looking to save money traveling by biking everywhere, Connellsville — a small city along the Great Allegheny Passage trail — is the ideal place to stay.

The Passage is a 150-mile-long stretch of walking, hiking, and biking trails, many flat and winding through gorgeous stretches of Pennsylvania forest.

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Sam Judy/Adobe beautiful homes on lake coeur d'alene

Coeur d’Alene is a gorgeous city in northern Idaho. If all you do on your trip is lounge around, gazing at the scenic lake or forested mountains, you’ll likely consider the time well-spent.

But Coeur d’Alene also is close to the 24-mile North Idaho Centennial Trail. If you like biking, you’ll enjoy this well-maintained rail trail, ideal for commuters traveling across town and active seniors alike.

Monticello, Utah

Brocreative/Adobe senior woman hiking with her dog

In terms of the great outdoors, Utah is perhaps best known for fancy ski resort towns like Park City and crowded tourist towns like Moab. 

But the tiny town of Monticello — with a population of a little more than 1,700 — is an overlooked gem with plenty of room for adventure.

The city is within an hour’s drive from Canyonlands National Park and Bear’s Ears National Monument. 

Closer to home, you’ll find Newspaper Rock — one of the most accessible petroglyph sites in the West — and plenty of hiking trails with gorgeous red-rock views.

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Bentonville, Arkansas

Sono Creative/Adobe modern houses in bentonville

Bentonville has billed itself as the mountain biking capital of the world. But if mountain biking isn’t quite your speed, you’ll find senior-friendly activities all over town.

Take a leisurely stroll through the Compton Gardens and Arboretum, play a game of pickleball at Osage Park, or pack a picnic to eat near the wild spring on the Parks Springs Park Trail.

Sedona, Arizona

JJAVA/Adobe scenic view of sedona arizona

Due to its desert temperatures, Arizona isn’t always the best place for outdoor adventure. But Sedona has a milder climate and typically experiences four seasons, making it a solid travel destination any time of the year.

Nearby Red Rock State Park has an accessible five-mile family-friendly hiking trail network that ensures adventurers of all activity levels can bask in the area’s unique scenery.

Bend, Oregon

Cascade Photo/Adobe old mill district on deschutes river

Bend is in central Oregon and is located along the sweeping Cascade Range. Snowbirds can hit the slopes during the winter at the nearby ski resort, Mt. Bachelor.

If you'd rather try an activity easier on the knees, you can always fish at Crane Prairie Reservoir, watch birds along the Deschutes River Trail, or bike for miles down the Three Sisters Scenic Bikeway.

Olympia, Washington

Claudia/Adobe couple at national wildlife refuge olympia

About two hours from Portland and an hour from Seattle, Olympia — Washington’s capital city — is a relatively small town nestled against the south end of the Puget Sound.

There are 45 parks within city boundaries, many with walking trails perfect for active seniors who want to enjoy nature.

Cody, Wyoming

Kyle Spradley/Adobe wyoming buffalo bill center at sunset

Cody is about 50 miles from Yellowstone, making it a great place to stay if you want to see the national park.

If you’d rather stay put, you won’t run out of outdoor activities. During the winter, ice fishing for Wyoming’s native trout is a popular activity. Campers will find plenty of good sites (including RV parking) at Buffalo Bill State Park.

Stowe, Vermont

Don Landwehrle/Adobe farm with mount mansfield stowe vermont

Stowe is a mountain town with an excellent ski resort but has much to offer to those who don’t ski.

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you and the grandkids can explore Vermont’s forests from above by taking a zip-line tour from ArborTrek Canopy Adventures.

Those who prefer a slower pace can wander the Stowe Recreation Path, which takes you over streams and rivers.

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Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

jonbilous/Adobe harpers ferry from maryland heights

The city of Harpers Ferry itself is home to a popular Appalachian Trail visitor center. It’s a great place to stop if you're a senior (or anyone else) hiking the trail.

Many visitors also love to walk the streets of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, which has been described as similar to stepping back in time.

Asheville, North Carolina

Kevin Ruck/Adobe asheville north carolina skyline

The Blue Ridge Mountains are studded with scenic drives, waterfalls, and hiking opportunities for all ages.

The Catawba Falls Trail showcases all three: It’s a 30-minute drive out of town, winds through several lovely falls, and includes accessible footbridges to guide travelers safely over the river and streams.

Cortez, Colorado

Danita Delimont/Adobe trail canyon on sunny day

Cortez is one of the closest cities to Mesa Verde National Park, which preserves the incredible cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Pueblo people in the area.

The park’s general accessibility makes it a great destination for outdoorsy grandparents to visit with younger grandkids.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

FotoRike/Adobe leuchtturm hilton head island with yachts

Hilton Head Island is home to gorgeous white-sand beaches that offer a blissful break from everyday life. 

But if you’re not feeling the quiet beach life, you can rent one of the 15,000 bicycles across the island and explore every aspect of this bike-friendly community.

You can also visit the Audubon-Newhall Preserve for a guided bird-watching tour or scout for alligators while you wander through the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Lake Placid, New York

alpegor/Adobe beautiful village from lake placid

Lake Placid is the perfect place to access the Adirondacks, a mountain range with thousands of miles of hiking trails. And when you want a break from hiking, Lake Placid showcases two gorgeous lakes.

Mirror Lake is a charming recreational space where motor-powered boats are banned. At Lake Placid, the marina is always bustling.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Christopher Boswell/Adobe sunrise at downtown chattanooga tennessee

Chattanooga is a destination for thrill-seekers who love high-adrenaline sports such as white-water rafting, rock climbing, and mountain biking.

If you’re not up for such physically challenging adventures, the Chattanooga Riverwalk along the Tennessee River is a serene and relaxing alternative. You can also try your hand at fishing or canoeing at Lookout Creek.

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Bottom line

simona/Adobe senior couple enjoying bicycle ride

If you’re an active individual planning for retirement, odds are you’ll find exciting outdoor opportunities no matter where you travel.

But if you spend some time in one of the 15 towns above, you’re guaranteed to find activities that will keep you moving.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.

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