Photo: Charles Knowles/Shutterstock

These 7 Small Cities Are the Perfect Basecamp for Outdoor Adventures

Travel Outdoor
by Molly O'Brien May 4, 2022

SOME GETAWAYS are mainly focused on enjoying awesome outdoor adventures like hiking, kayaking, and mountaineering. Others are focused on enjoying the luxury of a soft and warm bed, sitting at a trendy cocktail bar, or diving into tasty food at a top-tier restaurant. Those who want the best of both worlds can check out these seven smaller cities to build an itinerary that features a balance of both outdoor experiences and ample urban metropolitan excitement.

We hope you love the outdoorsy small cities we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

Reno, Nevada

Reno Nevada skyline

Photo: Andrew Zarivny/Shutterstock

Reno, Nevada is a fantastic home base for embarking on daytime adventures in nearby destinations like North Tahoe and Incline Village. After a day of hiking or mountain biking, grab a bite at Liberty Food & Wine Exchange. This artisan eatery, market, and wine bar showcases hand-crafted and hearty shareable plates. Or, grab a brew at The Depot, which is a craft brewery and distillery located inside an old railroad station. And nearby, The Eddy is an outdoor container bar sitting along the Truckee River offering local brews, cocktails, and games, plus food trucks stocked with tasty bites. 

Where to stay

Spend the night at Whitney Peak Hotel which is located in the heart of downtown right by the Reno Arch. This hotel has stunning views of the city and the Sierra Nevada mountains and is also home to Basecamp Climbing Gym, which includes an indoor bouldering park and an outdoor climbing wall running up the side of the hotel and is open to guests. 

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Grand Junction, Colorado

Colorado National Monument

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Escape the crowds of Denver and Boulder and instead head to Grand Junction, Colorado, for the ultimate mountain outdoor adventure experience. It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, surrounded by more than one million acres of public lands with access to rivers, canyons, mesas, and mountains. Check out the Rattlesnake Canyon Arches or embark on a hiking or cycling tour of the Colorado National Monument. After a day of exploring, sample local wines at Carlson Vineyard’s new downtown Grand Junction tasting room, or stop by Highlands Distillery which produces great handcrafted spirits utilizing local ingredients to create regionally-inspired cocktails. And the new Foam & Folly Brewery & Taproom serves up great beer in a whimsical space with a great backyard beer garden. 

Where to stay

Spend the night at Hotel Maverick, which offers complimentary cruiser bikes for guests, a pump park, and disc golf, and boasts an enormous property for wandering. If wine touring is part of the plan, consider staying in nearby Palisade – home more than two dozen wineries – at the Wine Country Inn, which offers daily tastings and has an extensive wine list in its onsite restaurant, Caroline’s.

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Boise, Idaho

boise idaho skyline

Photo: Charles Knowles/Shutterstock

There are seemingly endless opportunities for outdoor exploration when using Boise as home base. Try sandboarding or climbing the sand dunes at Bruneau Dunes State Park, ziplining at Tamarack Resort, or go whitewater rafting on the Main Payette River in Banks. After working up an appetite, head back to the city for a bite and check out one of the three James Beard Award nominees: Sunshine Spice Café by Chef Khatera Shams, Ansots by Chef Dan Ansotegui, and KIN by Chef Kris Komori. Craft Cocktail lovers should stop into The Modern, Press & Pony, or The Mode Lounge. Beer lovers can enjoy a craft brew at local favorite, Barbarian Brewing

Where to stay

Those who seek to spend the night in a centrally located spot in downtown Boise should visit the luxurious Grove Hotel which offers breathtaking views of the Boise foothills in the distance. 

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Flagstaff, Arizona

flagstaff arizona skyline

Photo: Tim Roberts Photography/Shutterstock

Flagstaff, Arizona, is full of adventure. Fuel up at Macy’s European Coffee House and Bakery, one of the town’s few all-vegetarian restaurants. Nearby Diablo Burger serves bites that are made from 100 percent local, open range-raised, antibiotic-free, and growth-hormone-free beef. For drinks, Flagstaff’s Brewery Trail offers something for everyone’s craft beer palate. Look to the skies and ponder the cosmos at the Lowell Observatory, which features one of the finest collections of telescopes available for public observation by both night and day. And Snowbowl makes for great skiing in the winter ,and in the warmer months you can enjoy a scenic gondola ride up the mountain. 

Where to stay

Spend the night at Little America Flagstaff, which offers an outdoor pool and hot tub, restaurant and bar, a kids’ playground, and easy access to nature trails. Matador named Little America as the best roadside motel brand in the United States.

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Burlington, Vermont

burlington vermont skyline

Credit: @propDave

Start the day with a trip to the Outdoor Gear Exchange, a great spot to grab gear for any type of excursion, including biking, skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing, rock climbing, SUPping, kayaking, and more. Those who prefer to explore the town can walk down Church Street, which is a pedestrian-friendly area in the heart of the city featuring a string of locally-owned shops and restaurants just blocks from the waterfront. And be sure to walk along Pine Street, also known as “Brewery Boulevard,” which runs from Church Street down through the city’s South End. This street is home to classics like Zero Gravity, Burlington Beer Company, Switchback, Citizen Cider, Queen City Brewery, and many more. Pine Street has also become the heart of the city’s natural wine scene, with Dedalus Wine and Wilder Wines vending the best wines made from organically farmed grapes. 

Where to stay

Spend the night at Hotel Vermont in the heart of downtown which offers easy access to the Burlington Waterfront and the buzzy culinary hotspot Hen of the Wood, which provides a true Vermont dining experience of the region’s most vibrant foods.

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Santa Rosa, California

santa rosa california skyline

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Santa Rosa feels like the best of all worlds when it comes to its robust food, drink, and adventure scene. First, plan a tour with  Safari West, where herds of wildebeest, romping rhinos, and towering giraffes roam the lands on a 400-acre preserve and practically transport tour-goers into the Serengeti. Step back in time with a visit to Historic Railroad Square which offers a collection of trendy shops, coffee houses, and restaurants. Visit Trione-Annadel State Park which has miles upon miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and trail riding through the 5,500-plus acres of rolling hills, seasonal streams, meadows, and woodlands. Refuel at Perch + Plow which serves small plates and craft cocktails that taste as good as they look. 

Where to stay

After an eventful day, spend the night at Hotel E, a new, centrally located luxury boutique hotel perfectly perched in the iconic beaux-arts building in downtown Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square. 

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Albuquerque, New Mexico

albuquerque new mexico skyline

Photo: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the recent additions of Sawmill Market and 505 Central Food Hall make it an awesome place for fueling up before (or after) a day of awesome outdoor experiences. There are practically endless cycling trails to explore with Routes Bicycle Tours & Rentals, which just added the tasty new ABQ Bike & Taco Tour. Visit Plaza Don Luis in Old Town to enjoy two new wine-tasting rooms — Ruidoso-based Noisy Water Winery and Albuquerque-based Sheehan Winery — or the Outpost Brewery and Taproom. And what would a trip to Albuquerque be without an iconic hot air balloon ride? Rainbow Ryders hosts a diverse lineup of ride types from group to private excursions at sunrise and sunset, showcasing views of the city from an unparalleled bird’s eye view.

Where to stay

Settle down and spend a night at Hotel Chaco, which is practically an art gallery and museum in addition to a luxury boutique hotel.

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