The 10 best US cities for hiking, according to a new study
Hiking is a great way to not only get out and explore, but also get some exercise. However, if you live in the city, you might think you can’t hike unless you travel way beyond the city limits. According to Lawnstarter’s 2022 Best Cities for Hiking study, that’s not always true.
The study examines 13 hiker-friendly factors, such as hiking access, trail difficulty, and safety, to determine which U.S. cities offer great hiking. Here’s a look at the cities that made the top 10. And then don’t miss The #1 Vacation You Should Book Now.
From the coast to the mountains, San Diego invites hikers of all skill levels to explore its many trails. In the 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, you’ll find plenty of hiking trails, but some of the best are those that showcase the park’s wildflowers. These include the Cactus Loop and the Hellhole Canyon Trail. In the mountains, consider the Lower Doane & French Valley Loop at Palomar Mountain State Park or hiking along the shoreline of Lake Cuyamaca. More experienced hikers will love the challenge of climbing Stonewall Peak at Paso Pichacho Campground.
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Surrounded by natural beauty, Las Vegas offers more than flashing lights, gambling, and top-notch shows and entertainment. In fact, just outside the twinkling neon lights are plenty of hiking trails to get around. And, according to the Lawnstarter study, Las Vegas sits in a five-way tie for second place as having the lowest risk of natural hazards while hiking. A good place to start is the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, which has several trails, including the Corn Creek trails that start just behind the visitor center. Another popular hiking spot, the Mount Charleston Wilderness Area features 40 miles of trails along the Spring Mountains.
Because it is in a high desert valley, Boise offers many hiking trails in the nearby foothills and mountains to challenge any hiker. One of the most popular trails in town, the Table Rock Trail includes an elevation gain of 994 feet as you hike the 3.4-mile trail. In the 734-acre Military Reserve Park, try the Cottonwood Creek Trail, a great hike for families and beginners. If you want to make hiking a day-long adventure, try the 12.6-mile Hulls Gulch Reserve Trail. The Upper Hulls Gulch contains an elevation gain of 2,246 feet, so be prepared to conquer the climb. Don’t forget to pack a picnic in your backpack with plenty of water.
You might think the City of Angels isn’t much of a hiking destination, but you better think again. Los Angeles actually offers a multitude of hiking trails, many of which are rated easy or moderate. For example, at Fryman Canyon Park, you can explore the Betty B. Dearing Mountain Trail, which offers views of the valley. A very popular hike, the Mount Hollywood hiking trail offers views of Griffith Park as well as the infamous Hollywood sign. In the Eaton Canyon Natural Area, you can even walk about a 2-mile trail that takes you to a 40-foot waterfall.
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Salt Lake City hikers can start their journey on one of the city’s many trails or head to the Wasatch Mountains just beyond town. For a quick hike that rewards you with sweeping city views as well as picturesque views of the Great Salt Lake, set out on the Ensign Peak Trail, accessible from downtown Salt Lake City. If you love waterfalls, hike the two mile Bell’s Canyon Trail to see the waterfall. If you wish, you can continue for three kilometers to the upper reservoir. Outside of town, you’ll find more trails, like the White Lake Hike which climbs up a side canyon that contains a lake.
Oakland welcomes hikers with over 100,000 acres of parks and trails, along the coast or in the hills of Oakland. A great starting point is the Tres Sendas Trail in Redwood Regional Park, where you can hike among majestic redwoods. Another good hiking destination is Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, which includes the 1.7-mile Huckleberry Trail loop that features some of the area’s plants. If you’re looking for a quick and easy hike, try the Dimond Canyon Bridgeview Trail, a 2 mile trail with a relatively low elevation gain of just 200 feet.
Ranked #1 US park on Tripadvisor, the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs offers plenty of hiking opportunities for everyone. The park contains 15 miles of trails, including a 1.5-mile paved trail that is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. Another great spot is the 585-acre Austin Bluffs Open Space, where hikers can experience unique rock formations. If you’re bringing your dog, head to Bear Creek Dog Park, a 25-acre off-leash park with plenty of hiking trails for man and beast. Experienced hikers will love the challenge of the 1-mile Manitou Incline which features a 2,000-foot vertical rise built on the track of a historic wagon line.
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Surrounded by parks and nature preserves, Phoenix easily takes the top spot for most hiking routes available. At South Mountain Park, you can try easy one-mile loop trails or try the 2.5-mile loop at the North Mountain Visitor Center. For a quick hike, try the Hieroglyphic Trail in the Superstition Mountains. For the best views in the area, head to the Summit Trail (#300) in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, where you can hike to Piestewa Peak. With an elevation gain of 1,200 feet, this hike is not for beginners, but the scenic scenes are worth it.
Surrounded by five mountain ranges, it’s no surprise that Tucson landed second in the study for most hiking routes. Hundreds of kilometers of trails are accessible to hikers of all levels. You can start with one of the city’s urban trails, like the 11-mile Rillito River Park Trail that winds along the north side of town. When you’re ready for more, you can hike to the Gould Mine Loop in Saguaro West National Park, which takes you past old mines and petroglyphs in the rock faces. Advanced hikers will love the Romero Pools Trail which begins in Catalina State Park before climbing a ridge to a pool where you can cool off.
Taking the top spot, Portland is brimming with hiking opportunities ranging from urban hikes to exploring the region’s forests. For example, the 30.2-mile Wildwood Trail weaves its way through Forest Park, while the 4.5-mile 4T Trail gives hikers a glimpse of the Portland Tramway, Portland Aerial Tramway, and more. along the loop, serving as a self-guided tour. of the city, if you will. For more adventure, head to Mount Tabor Park, which is built on top of a real volcano. Here you can hike one of three trails: the 1-mile red trail, the 1.7-mile green trail, and the 3-mile blue trail.
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