Offbeat Adventure

These 10 Urban Hikes Are Hiding in a Metropolis Near You

If you live in a big city, you're probably used to getting by with barely any exposure to nature. Sure, there are trees lining the sidewalk, the occasional raccoon, and copious numbers of squirrel transplants. But if you really wanted to experience the raw, untamed wild, you'd have to forge a path far from civilization. Right? Well, no. You don't have to be Lewis or Clark — there are scenic adventures to be had in U.S. cities coast to coast.

The Top 10 Urban Hikes, East Coast to West

High Line, New York City

30 feet (9.1 meters) above the streets, New York City's High Line trail is a repurposed train line that ran from 1934 to 1980. In 2014, it was transformed into a lush greenway, giving New Yorkers a place to commune with nature that isn't Central Park.

Schuylkill River Trail, Philadelphia

This trail is technically still under construction, but when it's finished, it will offer 131 miles (211 kilometers) of connected pathways. Already, urban explorers can navigate the 10-mile (16-kilometer) river path from the Philadelphia Zoo to the iconic art museum steps.

Mall and Monuments Route, Washington, D.C.

If a hike is an outdoor exercise enhanced by incredible views, then the Mall and Monuments Route is one of the best hikes in the East. Over the course of just three miles, you'll pass the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Smithsonian Castle.

South Shore Nature Sanctuary, Chicago

Even a lot of Chicagoans don't really know about this six-acre nature preserve on the South Side. It might not offer an especially strenuous hike, but it's a great place to go birdwatching and dine on a picnic lunch.

Chain of Lakes, Minneapolis

It takes almost 15 miles of pedestrian and bike trails to encircle the six lakes at the imaginatively named Chain of Lakes Park in downtown Minneapolis. You'll also find five beaches for good, summery vibes.

Butler Trail, Austin

While you navigate the Butler Trail that encircles Lady Bird Lake, you'll discover a modern steel boardwalk, a natural spring for swimming, and, oh yeah, the millions of bats that live underneath Congress Avenue bridge. It's an Austin staple that you really can't miss.

Red Rocks Park, Denver

Denver is obviously a great spot to launch a hike into the mountains, but Red Rocks Park is a little closer to the urban action. These paths are set 6,280 feet above sea level, so take that challenge into account before setting out.

Jordan River Parkway, Salt Lake City

This 40-mile (64-kilometer) path is a relatively easy journey that follows the lush Jordan River as it makes its way to the Great Salt Lake. The large main trail also features several offshoot branches.

Griffith Park, Los Angeles

Griffith Park is one of the better-known urban parks in the country — it's certainly one of the most frequently filmed, seeing as it's the land on which the Hollywood sign is located. It's high enough to escape the worst smog, and it's also home to a surprisingly large population of wildlife.

Diamond Head, Honolulu

Towering right above downtown Honolulu is Diamond Head, an extinct volcanic crater with a path leading right to the rim. The hike is only about a 1.5-hour round-trip, but it takes you back 300,000 years to the formation of one of Hawaii's most iconic features.

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There are thousands of hikes waiting for you and your family. In "Families on Foot," Jennifer Pharr Davis and Brew Davis explore the wilderness with families in mind. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Reuben Westmaas August 10, 2018

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