REI Co-op and The Trust for Public Land unveil new list of top 50 cities to #OptOutside

Analysis also found that 2 in 3 city-dwelling Americans do not have easy access to the outdoor

Nov 14, 2018

SEATTLE – As millions of Americans gear up to spend Black Friday outdoors with friends and family, REI Co-op and The Trust for Public Land have unveiled the Urban Outdoor Access Analysis: a list of the 50 top large cities to #OptOutside. The cities span the nation, from Glendale, Arizona to Newark, New Jersey, and are celebrated for the access to local parks and public lands available to their residents.

The #OptOutside movement is part of a broader effort to reverse the societal trend that humans are becoming an indoor species. For the fourth year running, REI will close all of its stores on Black Friday, pay all of its employees to spend the day outside, and invite the world to join. People interested in joining the movement can find local activities and other inspiration at The co-op has also announced a $1 million investment in a new center of academic excellence at the University of Washington that will further study the link between health and nature, including looking at how varying levels of access to outdoor places impacts community health.  

“Access to the outdoors should be a basic right in America. Time outside – anywhere from a local park to a bike path to a national forest – makes us happier and healthier,” says Jerry Stritzke, REI CEO. “Eighty percent of Americans live in our big urban centers. This analysis celebrates the cities that prioritize outdoor access, and starts to give us a road map for where to improve outdoor access across the country.”

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. REI Co-op is a 17-million-member community of people who love the outdoors. The organizations are united by their work to develop healthier cities.

“From our work over the past four decades, we know that access to public outdoor space is vital to building healthy communities,” says Diane Regas, president and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. “Everyone deserves great outdoor experiences, and there’s significant work to be done to ensure that our shared public lands are universally accessible.”

The Urban Outdoor Access Analysis was developed by data analysts at The Trust for Public Land and provides a new composite view of access to the outdoors. The analysis takes into account acres of public land per resident within a 60-minute drive, as well as how many residents have at least one park within a 10-minute walk from their homes. The analysis also found that access is not created equal in America’s largest cities. In America’s 3,000 largest cities, two in three people lack ready access to public lands.

“Last year, 150 million Americans didn’t do anything active outdoors. That’s a big problem. And when we look at why it’s happening, we know one contributing factor is that not everyone has access to wild places,” says Alex Thompson, REI vice president of brand stewardship and impact. “We’re working with more than 400 partners across the country to do what we can to reverse that trend, through philanthropic investment and advocacy. Data like this helps us figure out how and where to focus that investment to have the greatest impact.”

Top cities for urban outdoor access include places like Bellevue, Washington, which has been a focus of some of REI’s rewilding efforts with partners like Mountains to Sound Greenway – an organization working to preserve an iconic, 1.5 million-acre landscape between the Seattle-Bellevue metropolitan area and Ellensburg, Washington, east of the Cascade Mountains. Other top cities span the nation, from Newark, New Jersey to Minneapolis to Las Vegas and Glendale, Arizona.

Since 1976, REI and the REI Foundation have invested nearly $100 million in organizations across the country that share REI’s goal of creating access to outdoor places and enabling transformational experiences in the outdoors for all people. More recently, REI launched rewilding projects in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., and are intended to be a model that will reimagine what access to the outdoors looks like in cities across the country.

Learn more:

  • Urban Outdoor Access Analysis: View the full list of the top-scoring 50 large U.S. cities to #OptOutside, and download city-by-city scorecards
  • Co-op Journal: New analysis reveals top 50 cities for access to the outdoors
  • The Trust for Public Land ParkServe database: The first free, open access national data platform mapping park access in more than 14,000 cities and towns
  • Nature for Health at the University of Washington: This new initiative within the University of Washington’s EarthLab will study the link between human health and time spent outdoors
  • #OptOutside: In 2015, the co-op launched the #OptOutside movement by closing its doors on Black Friday, paying its employees to spend the day outside and inviting the world to join. Over the past three years, 15 million people and 700-organizations have joined #OptOutside and helped create a new holiday tradition.

Example cities:

  • Las Vegas, Nevada: 74 percent of people have access to a park within a 10-minute walk of home, and there are 21.9 acres of public land per person within a 60-minute drive.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota: 96 percent of people have access to a park within a 10-minute walk of home and there are 3.10 acres of public land per person within a 60-minute drive.
  • Newark, New Jersey: 93 percent of people have access to a great park within a 10-minute walk of home, and there are 2.09 acres of public land per person within a 60-minute drive.

About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit


About the REI Co-op

REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of more than 20 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 168 locations in 39 states and the District of Columbia. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at, REI Outlet or the REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. Adventurers can take the trip of a lifetime with REI’s active adventure travel company that runs more than 100 itineraries across the country. In many communities where REI has a presence, professionally trained instructors share their expertise by hosting beginner-to advanced-level classes and workshops about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.