Did you know that many cities in America have some excellent, and quite large, natural wonders close by, or even within the city? That’s right. In some cities, a great hike in a beautiful natural setting may only be a short bus ride away. Join us as we experience some of the best urban hikes in the USA!
By Keith David Langston
CALABASAS PEAK TRAIL, LOS ANGELES
Despite being America’s second-largest city and the poster child for urban sprawl, Los Angeles is loaded with outdoor opportunities. What separates “the city” from “the valley” is the Santa Monica mountains. This range offers tons of hiking. Runyon Canyon, Temescal Canyon, Malibu Creek State Park, Topanga Canyon, the list goes on… But one of my favorites from when I used to live there was the Calabasas Peak Trail. Home to cougars and coyotes, this trail will make you completely forget you’re in the middle of a megalopolis of almost 25 million people.
CHICAGO’S LAKEFRONT TRAIL
Chicago’s Lakefront Trail is a stunning 18 miles-long! And even better, the trail sits right on the lakefront, giving you excellent views of the city skylines, nearby parks, and Lake Michigan. Need another reason to make the journey?… It’s paved. Mean Girls fans rejoice! When this trail ends in Chicago’s North Side, you’ll be close to Evanston, home to Northwestern University as well North Shore High School, the actual school where Mean Girls was filmed!
PINNACLE PEAK PARK, PHOENIX/SCOTTSDALE
Get some desert vibes without ever leaving Scottsdale! But remember…this is very much the real deal. Pinnacle Peak looks like a collection of mounted boulders and rise above the city almost like a ride at Disneyland. It’s a captivating sight. Besides hiking, the mountain also offers some great rock climbing. Gila monsters, desert tortoises, and diamondback rattlesnakes can all be found on the trail, along with other desert animals.
SWEETWATER CREEK, ATLANTA
Want to visit the site where The Walking Dead, and two Hunger Games movies were filmed? Sweetwater Creek is located right outside Atlanta, and has a beautiful river, rapids, nine miles of hiking trails, and an old abandoned factory. In 1846, a 5-story cotton mill was erected along the river using hydropower and it produced some 700 pounds of cotton a day. When the Civil War broke out, the North seized the mill and set it one fire. Now, nature has reclaimed what’s left, with ivy growing up the stone brinks, and trees growing through what was once the production floor. Nowadays, the park is home to foxes, horned owls, river otters, deer, and more.
MUIR WOODS, SAN FRANCISCO
Located just 16 miles from downtown San Francisco is the Muir Woods National Monument, named after famed naturalist, John Muir. Muir loved nature and avidly hiked the American West. He co-founded the Sierra Club and was a prominent figure in protecting Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Now, a forest has been preserved in his honor, so everyone living in the Bay Area can enjoy the beauty of the California wilderness. As Muir famously said, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
ROGER WILLIAMS PARK, PROVIDENCE, RI
Located right in the middle of Providence, RI, Roger Williams Park is a whopping 427 acres. The park holds a zoo (the 3rd oldest in America), a planetarium, natural history museum, and botanical garden, six miles of trails for hiking and biking, and a pond that’s a great place for renting a paddle boat or just watching the ducks. Residents love visiting the park in autumn to catch the gorgeous changing foliage that New England is so known for.