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Hiking From Home: Explore your City Surroundings

Posted by cwakenshaw at Feb 28, 2022 08:27 PM |

A hike doesn’t have to involve a long drive to a trailhead deep in the backcountry. You can get the same physical and mental health benefits by going for a walk right from your front door.

A hike doesn’t have to involve a long drive to a trailhead deep in the backcountry. You can get the same physical and mental health benefits by going for a walk right from your front door.

A tree-lined trail in Tacoma with Mount Rainier in the background.
Ruston Way in Tacoma. Photo by Robert Yarnall. 

Cities, towns or rural areas near home can be the perfect places to wander. Hiking near where you live can be a good way to squeeze in some training with a busy schedule, cut down on emissions from driving to a distant trailhead and a hassle-free way to experience the small wonders of a cityscape. 

If you live in an urban area, consider a few ways to spice up a neighborhood walk and gain a new perspective on the place you live. Explore a different side of hiking with these tips. With some intent and imagination, a hometown walk can become a memorable adventure. 

Pick a destination

A city adventure may seem less appealing than a backcountry trail because there is no mountaintop, waterfall or sweeping vista as your destination. But with a little imagination (and some Google map searching) you can set your sights on a worthy destination. Maybe it’s a hilltop park with a view of the city or a beloved bench in a park across town. It could even be a favorite coffee shop or bakery where you can stop for a treat. Having a goal adds meaning, and when you do arrive, you can feel proud that you made it there on foot. 

Sky bridge over the train tracks leading to the waterfront at sunset.
Chambers Bay Bridge. Matthew Ahola.

Make it a one-way

Not every hike has to be an out-and-back or a loop. In fact, one of the biggest advantages to hiking in an urban setting is public transit. You can map a long route from your front door to wherever you want, going farther than you might normally go on a loop, then end at a bus stop to be whisked back home. Another option is to start your route with the bus ride, then walk home from there. 

Connect the dots

If you’re looking to get some big miles in but don’t live right next door to a long trail, consider linking several smaller parks together to get your preferred mileage. This approach can lead to some of the most interesting hiking as you hop between parks and sidewalks, taking in the varied scenery that a city can offer. You may also find little pocket parks or greenspaces that you hadn’t noticed before. 

Experience the geography beneath the pavement

Most cities and towns are situated in geographically interesting areas. The natural features that provide shelter and resources — rivers, lakes, valleys — also make for interesting hiking terrain. This topography can get flattened while zooming around in a car, so it can be especially eye-opening to plan a walk to explore the natural foundation a city is built on. Maybe there are some prominent hills in or around town; walk to the top of them for a good workout and good views. Maybe a river runs through your city; follow its course to gain a new perspective. 

A paved path along a river near Yakima.
Walk along the Yakima Greenway trail to experience the confluence of the Yakima and Naches Rivers. Photo by Wishfulwanderer. 

Add weight to your pack along the way

Hiking near home can be a great way to build up strength and stamina for bigger backcountry trips or a way to keep in shape without driving out to a trail every weekend. You can build that strength and run errands all at the same time. Bring a big enough backpack for what you plan to get, then head out for a nice outing, planning a stop at the store right at your turnaround point. Now that you’re nice and warmed up, stock up on groceries and supplies to fill that pack and head home with added weight. Fresh out of cat litter or looking to buy a sack of potatoes? This strategy will work especially well! 

A paved trail around the lake covered in fallen leaves.
Green Lake. Photo by Shirin Fazel-Hashemi.

Visit friends and family

Of course, hiking is a great way to spend some quality time with friends and family. There are a couple different ways to work this into your urban hike. The first is to find whoever is hanging around home and see if they want to explore the neighborhood with you (have them lead the way to mix up your regular route). Or you could walk across town to a friend’s house for a visit. (You could even stay overnight for an urban backpacking experience). Another option is to walk to a local park to meet a friend, then explore the park before parting ways. 

Tell us about your trip

If you head out on a hike like this, let us know in a trip report! Your report can help inspire fellow hikers to explore their nearest greenspace.


wafflesnfalafel on Hiking From Home: Explore your City Surroundings

completely agree - "love the one you're with..."

Posted by:

wafflesnfalafel on Mar 08, 2022 06:48 PM