Urban Hiking: Adventure and Exercise Right On Your Doorstep

Parker CenterPhoto: David Lor

Hiking is one of the most popular, healthy and affordable outdoor activities in the world, and today many people are avoiding scenic parks or forests and opting instead for a hike in cities. For decades, young college student hiked across Europe on a shoestring budget. They often spent days in Europe’s cities, checking out the famous cathedrals, museums and castles. But here in America, hiking has often been confined to wilderness areas.

Paris Opera HousePhoto: Lisa Hossler

America has some great cities, so it’s hardly surprising that people are beginning to hike closer to home. It is also one of the best ways to exercise without having to pay a penny! After all, all you really need is a pair of comfortable shoes, an inquiring mind and a direction in which to go. Cities offer a whole host of interesting sites, so there’s a lot to discover, from metropolitan skylines, side streets and bridge passes, to old rail yards and abandoned tunnels. Many cities also have active urban trekking communities.

Abandoned buildingsPhoto: Lisa Hossler

There are many reasons to go on urban hikes. Many people cannot or do not want to travel to a nature area to hike. Cities are also far more accessible to wheelchair users and parents with strollers. Urban hikers can avoid hilly and rocky terrain that they may not be ready for, or may even be allergic to. Often there is no need to carry a backpack since urban hikes can incorporate convenience stores, restaurants and public facilities. One of the best parts about urban hikes is the option of ending it with a wide assortment of beverages!

Packo's at the parkPhoto: Lisa Hossler

Urban hiking tours are gaining in popularity. Since often we typically view cities from the windows of cars and buses, hiking acquaints us with a side of the city we may never otherwise see. Hikes take us beyond typical tourist spots. While cities may seem like everything that is wrong with the world today, these urban spaces are where some of the most interesting aspects of the green movement are taking place.

The GatesPhoto: Benjamin Mako Hill and Mika Matsuzaki

Cities are often overlooked as places of exploration, but they were created with people in mind. Urban hikes can take us to the forgotten areas of a city. Older buildings often feature distinct handiwork and craftsmanship that you won’t see in modern constructions. Many people can also find a type of beauty in decay, and a peace in abandoned areas and cities that mourn their golden age.

It is basic human nature to explore our surroundings. Today we can walk anywhere if we are willing to. We can meet the physical and psychological challenges, confront the ugliness and neglect, and spot the beauty in our lives. Walking strengthens our legs and our minds, increasing our resolve to reclaim the diversity of the city as our own.

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