Whitewater paddling. 113 miles of mountain bike trail. more than 200 miles of hiking trail (including one trail 75 miles long). A nearly interconnected 280-mile greenway system that now acts as a secondary, non-motorized transportation network. State-of-the-art indoor climbing. hundreds of square miles of greenspace. 23 craft breweries, a cost of living just slightly above the national average, and cultural amenities on par with a major metropolitan area.
Sounds like a great place to live, right?
Well, if you live in the Triangle, you’re living there.

Not only do we have great recreational opportunities in our own backyard, but a little more than two hours to the east you’ll find stellar sea kayaking, standup paddleboarding, windsurfing, kiteboarding, scuba diving and more at the coast, while three hours to the west in more than a million acres of national forest there’s nationally recognized hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and whitewater kayaking in the Southern Appalachians. (And that doesn’t include the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or the Blue Ridge Parkway.)
Hard to imagine a better place to live, right? And that makes it hard not to vote for Raleigh-Durham as Outside Magazine’s Best Place to Live for 2015. Voting for the superlative, which was won last year by Duluth, Minn., begins today in bracketed pairings ala the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Why vote?
Be honest: Before you learned that Duluth was voted Best Town in 2014, did you have a burning desire to visit this city of 86,000? To explore its 6,834 acres of city parkland or it’s 178 miles of wooded trails, or fish its 16 designated trout streams? Or surf on Lake Superior (which shares a 26-mile border with Duluth). Or ride the Duluth Traverse, which when it’s completed will be one of the largest urban mountain-bike trail systems in the world (about 80 of its 100 miles will be finished by 2017). Or to jump on the 296-mile Superior Hiking Trail, which runs through town?
Suddenly, Duluth seems like a pretty happening place.
Just like Raleigh/Durham.
In case the Triangle needs to win your vote, consider its stats:

  • 210 miles of hiking trail. That includes a range of experiences, from short escapes in your neighborhood — at Durant Park in Raleigh, at West Point on the Eno in Durham, Hemlock Bluffs in Cary — to day-long treks at Umstead State Park, with 33 miles of trail, and Eno River State Park, with 28 miles of trail.
  • 281 miles of greenway. Not 20 years ago, the Triangle was dotted with mile-long stretches of random, paved, greenway, great for families who lived nearby, but that was about it. A building boom spearheaded by Raleigh (with help from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) and Cary has brought to near fruition the Circle the Triangle concept conceived in the 1990s. Today, with two short hiccups, it’s possible to take greenway from Clayton in Johnston County, through Raleigh, into Umstead State Park, across to Cary, through Chatham County and into downtown Durham. Within the last five years the Triangle’s greenway system has blossomed into a secondary transportation network for non-motorized vehicles.
  • 105 miles of mountain bike trail. In 1992, the first mountain bike trail opened in the region, at Lake Crabtree County Park. Today, thanks largely to the efforts of volunteers, there are 113 miles of singletrack trail at nine venues. And that’s just the legal trail!

Flat out numbers — impressive as they are — don’t tell the whole story.

  • Whitewater kayaking. After a good rain, local kayakers flock to the lower Haw River for Class III action on Gabriel’s Bend, Harold’s Tombstone, Moose Jaw Falls and more. Meanwhile, in Raleigh local paddlers have organized to turn the output from Falls Lake Dam into a whitewater park. The Falls Whitewater Park Committee already has $350,000 committed to the project.
  • Backpacking. Eno River State Park has three primitive campsites along its 28 miles of trail, while two new backcountry sites have been built along the 60-mile Falls Lake stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, bringing the FLMST’s primitive camping options to four. Jordan Lake and Falls Lake also have primitive camping sites.
  • Mountains-to-Sea Trail. So complacent about great local hiking options have we become that we nearly let mention of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail pass as an afterthought. What an omission that would have been: at present, 107 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail runs through the Triangle, making it possible to walk from Clayton in Johnston County to nearly Hillsborough in Orange County. (About 620 miles of the overall MST are complete; eventually, it will run about 1,000 miles, from Clingman’s Dome atop the Smoky Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge at the coast.)
  • Flatwater paddling. Great paddling options abound on the fingers of Jordan and Falls lakes, and at at least 14 municipal lakes, whose primary purpose is flood control but also rent canoes and kayaks — for as little as $5 an hour. Got a hankerin’ to watch the sun set over the water? It’s yours for a five spot. Dependable year-round paddling options as well on local rivers including the Neuse, Deep and Cape Fear, and on stretches of the Haw and Eno.
  • Climbing. The Triangle has two state-of-the-art climbing gyms in the Triangle Rock Club’s North Raleigh and Morrisville gyms, the latter with a 54-foot wall, the highest between Atlanta and the D.C. area.
  • Scuba diving. Yes, scuba diving. In Rolesville, at Fantasy Lake, an abandoned rock quarry turned underwater playground, where on summer weekends you’ll find hundreds of local divers negotiating an abandoned rock crusher, VW, CAT bus and assorted other challenges of the not-so-deep (40 to 60 feet, on average).

So many reasons to let Outside readers know that while there are a lot of great obvious outdoors towns in the country — Boulder, Portland, and yes, Duluth — the Triangle is the best.
As we mentioned, the voting is in brackets. Raleigh-Durham’s first-round opponent in the South regionals: Bentonville, Ark. To vote your support for Triangle, go to the outside.com voting site and cast your ballot for Raleigh-Durham. You can only vote once per round, but you can check back whenever to keep tabs on the voting. First-round voting goes through Friday. We’ll keep you updated on the vote on our Facebook page and report back with first-round results.

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And a reminder that you can sample the Triangle’s recreational attributes firsthand, starting with a visit to our online guide to hiking and camping, paddling, running and more.