Urban hiking is a free, accessible and fun way to get to know your city and get fit while you’re at it. Explore natural spots in your area and soak in all the city has to offer.
Urban hiking is similar to regular hiking in most ways. It incorporates lots of walking and beautiful views. It’s also a great, enjoyable workout. The difference is that urban hiking is done in urban environments, whereas conventional hiking is done in rural areas through mountainous and forested areas. Whereas regular hiking involves climbing rocks and keeping your eyes open for rare birds and deer, urban hiking incorporates natural enclaves in your city as well as cultural or historical sites, and even cafes and restaurants. Many urban hikes include waterfronts, bridges, stairways, and lots more concrete than dirt trails.
There are many benefits to urban hiking. Firstly, it makes hiking accessible for people who live in cities. It also provides a way to explore and get to know your city better. Not to mention, urban hiking is generally safer than conventional hiking as there is less risk of getting lost, dehydrated or injured. You can stop for a coffee or a glass of water whenever you want, and you don’t have to stress about staying on the trail and being able to find your way back to the parking lot. If you’re just getting into working out, this is also a low stakes option in which you can always cut your hike short and take the bus home if you get tired.
5 Tips for Your Next Urban Hike
- Dress properly. Urban hiking covers a lot more pavement than trail hiking. This makes traditional hiking boots unsuitable for urban hiking. It’s best to go with athletic shoes with a thick cushion so as not to hurt your joints. We also recommend athletic socks to wick away moisture. For clothing, make sure to wear layers to keep yourself warm, especially when hiking in winter. Just because you are in the city doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dress appropriately for your hike. You will be outside for a long period, so it’s best to prepare for colder weather and possible rain. You can always put your jacket in your backpack if you get sweaty.
- Bring lots of refreshments, or money to buy some. It’s easy to have so much fun on your urban hike that you forget you are hiking! Just like trail hiking, you need to stay nourished and hydrated. We, therefore, recommend packing lots of water and healthy snacks like nuts or homemade banana chips. If you plan at stopping at cafes along your hike, don’t forget to pack cash and cards. You can also ask local shops to fill up your water bottle with tap water. That way you don’t need to carry around a gallon of water all day.
- Protect yourself from UV rays. Regardless of the weather, you need UV protection. So sunscreen up and wear your sunglasses to keep your skin and eyes safe.
- Avoid dangerous areas. Whether you are following a specific trail or making it up as you go, make sure to use your head. You probably already know where the bad parts of town are, so just keep that in mind when urban hiking. And of course, if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation or you feel you’re in an unsafe area, reroute immediately. It’s best to walk to a residential area or a grocery store or small shop to get to safety and get situated.
- Bring a friend! The most fun urban hiking is done with loved ones! Get your friends and family involved and explore your town altogether.
1. Art District Trail in Denver, CO
Santa Fe Drive in Denver is covered in beautiful murals, sculptures and street art. This 2.7-mile walk not only has great views. You can enjoy busy shops, art galleries, food and drinks. Sunken Gardens Park is a popular green space along the way as well. Start your urban hike outside Eggens Violin Shop on 5th Avenue, and use this walking route. For a guided tour, check out Art District on Santa Fe’s monthly Art Walk. Every first Friday of the month, the ADSF offers organized walks and dips into galleries from 5:30 to 9:30PM.
2. Chicago’s Lakefront Trail
Chicago’s Lakefront Trail is the epitome of urban hiking. In the middle of the city, this trail follows Lake Michigan for over 18 miles! This is a fully paved walk offering lake views, city landscapes, beaches, and many green parks and gardens along the way. Of course, you can shorten the trail by picking areas you are most interested in and spanning the distance over several trips.
3. New York City Skyline Hike
It’s no secret that NYC is a great walking city. Each neighborhood has something different to offer, including green spaces and breathtaking views. For a longer hike (6-8 miles), we recommend starting in Central Park and making your way down through Manhattan toward the Brooklyn Bridge. Central Park is massive in itself at 2.5 miles long, so you can lengthen your walk by starting at the northern end. For a shorter walk, feel free to start at the bridge itself. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge and head to Pebble Beach. From here, follow the 1.3 mile path along the river toward Brooklyn Heights. Enjoy the views of the skyline and the green spaces including Brooklyn Bridge Park and its various piers. Feel free to venture into the city and check out the cafes and shops before heading home. Make this hike your own!
4. San Francisco Urban Hiking
Famous for its hilly landscape, San Francisco is one of the best cities for urban hiking. The city is also packed with green parks, beaches and both cityscape and natural views. One of our favorite urban hiking trails spans from the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square Park all the way to Lands End. This 5.5 mile goes through Haight-Ashbury breweries and cafes and into Golden Gate Park for some green space in the heart of the city. Keep walking all the way up north to Lands End and finish with the Lands End trail. Here, you get some fresh salty air and views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
5. Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail in Austin, TX
In the heart of Austin along the Colorado River lies the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike trail. This ten-mile loop offers artwork, city views, green spaces, waterfront views and fresh air. Start at the Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake and follow the trail from there. For a shorter hike, you can of course stick with the boardwalk or simply walk a mile or two along the trail and complete different sections of it over time.
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