The South's Best Outdoor Adventures 2021

El Capitan Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Photo: Tim Fitzharris/Getty Images

Ready for an outdoor adventure? The South has plenty, and they're just waiting for you to dive in, suit up, climb aboard, and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the great outdoors. Our favorite open-air adventures will take you up the highest peaks in Texas, into bioluminescent lagoons off the coast of Florida, past wetlands wildlife in the Everglades, and through freshly fallen snow in North Carolina. How will you get there? On foot, airboat, kayak, snowshoe, and horseback, for starters. Did we mention scuba-diving among the shipwrecks off the Florida Panhandle? We're just getting started.

Read on and learn more about the South's greatest outdoor adventures, then grab your sunblock, book your glampsite, and start making your plans today. You're invited to make some new memories across the South's most thrilling landscapes.

(Some programs may be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Check with locations and tour companies for updated information and safety guidelines.)

01 of 11

Airboating in the Everglades

Airboat in the Florida Everglades
George Doyle / Getty Images


Take a chartered ride into the 1.5-million-acre wetlands preserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to spot wildlife like leatherback turtles, Florida panthers, American alligators, and manatees., 561-901-0661, 15490 Loxahatchee Road, Parkland, Florida 33076

02 of 11

Bioluminescent Kayaking on the Space Coast

Bioluminescent Kayaking on Florida’s Space Coast
BK Adventure


Board a clear kayak along Florida's Indian River Lagoon at dusk to see the waters sparkling with dinoflagellates on one of the BK Adventure Bioluminescence tours., 407-519-8711, 485 N. Washington Avenue, Titusville, Florida 32796

03 of 11

Camping on the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail North Carolina
Michael Shi / Getty Images

Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland

When camping near the Appalachian Trail, pitch a tent at a designated site or book a cabin rental so you can enjoy some of the comforts of home.

04 of 11

Hiking in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

El Capitan Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Tim Fitzharris/Getty Images


To marvel at the stars, visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which is the world's most extensive Permian fossil reef and home to the four tallest peaks in the state. You're just one challenging trek away from watching the sunrise from the highest point in Texas., 915-828-3251, 400 Pine Canyon,
Salt Flat, Texas 79847

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The South's Best Outdoor Adventures

06 of 11

Horseback Riding on the Beach in Tampa Bay

Trail Horseback Riding Group
Cypress Breeze Farm


Add an afternoon ride on the sand to your vacation. Cypress Breeze Farm offers horseback riding on the beach as well as guided trail excursions., 727-460-0891, North Skyway, I-275, St Petersburg, Florida 33715

07 of 11

Paddling the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blueways

Paddling the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blueways
Courtesy of the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area


Choose your own adventure on a paddling trip along the Mississippi Gulf Coast blueways, mapped water trails made up of miles of beaches, rivers, and bayous with paths for all experience levels., 228-523-4150, 1141 Bayview Avenue, Biloxi, Mississippi, 39530

08 of 11

Snowshoeing in Beech Mountain

Snowshoeing on Beech Mountain
Sam Dean

North Carolina

Snowshoes can be checked out free of charge for use on the 30 miles of trails in Beech Mountain, North Carolina. Parks and recreation department staff also offer guided excursions along the routes., 828-387-3003, 403-A Beech Mountain Parkway, Beech Mountain, North Carolina 28604

09 of 11

Swimming at Little River Canyon

Little River Canyon Nature Preserve Fall Color
John Dersham


Find waterfalls and overlooks as well as plenty of places to take a dip in North Alabama's Little River Canyon National Preserve. Be sure to follow all park rules, and check the weather and water-flow levels before swimming., 256-845-9605 x201, 4322 Little River Trail NE, Fort Payne, Alabama 35967

10 of 11

White Water Rafting on the Chattooga River

Whitewater Rafting on the Chattooga River
Nantahala Outdoor Center


Suit up in your helmet and personal flotation device for a rapids-rafting trip along the Chattooga River, which runs from North Carolina to Georgia., 828-785-4847

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Wreck Diving in Panama City Beach

Wreck Diving in Panama City Beach Structure
Walter Sweeney


Dive among the shipwrecks along the Panama City Beach coastline during these fun-filled inshore and offshore trips. They reveal what has been abandoned beneath the waves, including The Black Bart, Tarpon, Grey Ghost, and USS Strength., 850-588-8077, 106 Thomas Dr., Panama City Beach, Florida 32408

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