Seven great U.S. hiking trails – in the middle of the city

7 Spectacular Places — By on June 11, 2010 at 6:03 pm
Central Park

Central Park, New York

There is no shortage of great hiking trails in North America, from day strolls along coastlines to extended treks through mountain paths. But what many people don’t consider are the equally remarkable walking trails that exist within cities. You may not be able to gaze upon a mountainous meadow of wildflowers during these city walks, but you can certainly get your exercise and enjoy some pretty amazing urban views at the same time. Here are seven urban hikes to get you started:

Central Park – New York

More than 25 million people a year visit Central Park, which covers more than 800 acres of Manhattan real estate. These visitors enjoy the park’s lake, zoo, theater, carousel, public art and sports fields. But there are also 58 miles of trails in Central Park, and it’s possible to complete a six-mile loop of the perimeter if you’re so inclined. You can enjoy some nature in the middle of New York City, and even stop off at the Metropolitan Museum of Art along the way.

National Mall – Washington, D.C.

It’s a straight and flat 1.9-mile walk down the National Mall from the U.S. Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial. Along the way, you’ll pass the Washington Monument and the Ellipse in front of the White House. You can also see the World War II, Vietnam and Korean War memorials and numerous museums, including the Air and Space Museum and the National Gallery of Art. At just under four miles round trip (a little more if you throw in a trip to the Jefferson and Roosevelt Memorials along the Tidal Basin), it’s one of the most historic and awe-inspiring urban hikes you can imagine.

Crissy Field waterfront walk, San Francisco

Crissy Field is a relatively new bayside park in San Francisco and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The walk between here and Fort Point, by the Golden Gate Bridge, is one of the loveliest urban walks in the country. Walk west and you maintain a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Walk east and the San Francisco skyline will be in front of you. Either way, you’ll stroll along the bay and enjoy the sight of windsurfers and sailboats.

Charles River Reservation – Boston

From the banks of the Charles River, there are wonderful views of the Boston skyline. Happily, there is an 18-mile loop walkway (with numerous bridge crossings) along the river that runs from downtown Boston to the suburbs of Watertown and Newton. This pathway is popular with walkers, runners and bikers, who enjoy not only the skyline views, but also the sight of sailboats and crew teams on the river, or the campuses of Harvard, MIT and Boston University along the way.

Lakefront Path – Chicago

Chicago also has an 18-mile waterfront pathway that gets frequent use from walkers, runners and bikers. Here, it’s a one-way trail along Lake Michigan. It provides stunning views of both the lake and the Chicago skyline, and passes by numerous beaches, parks and museums. In the middle of the city, the trail goes through Grant Park, where the famed Buckingham Fountain and the Art Institute of Chicago are located.

Riverwalk – San Antonio

One of the most successful such developments of its kind, the San Antonio Riverwalk is popular with tourists and locals alike. It’s a network of pedestrian paths along the San Antonio River and is lined with shops, restaurants and public art. The walkway itself runs one story beneath street level for several miles and it connects some of the city’s top tourist attractions, from the Alamo to the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Venice Beach boardwalk – Los Angeles

There are many nice seaside boardwalks in the country, but this one is not only located in the entertainment capital of Los Angeles, it’s also one of the most renowned people-watching sites anywhere. Officially known as the Ocean Front Walk, it parallels a three-mile long beach and is lined with musicians, mimes, jugglers, acrobats, bodybuilders and basketball players. Visitors, meanwhile, can walk, run, rollerblade, shop or eat. So you can take a three-mile walk along the Pacific coastline and simultaneously enjoy the colorful mix of humanity that makes up Venice Beach.

Photo credit: Urban via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. Ken says:

    Nice descriptions. I’ll keep this walks in mind when I travel to these cities.

  2. Jayne says:

    You are so right – I’ve done six of these seven urban hikes and they are each uniquely spectacular. Looks like I’m going to have to plan a trip out to S.F. to tackle Crissy Field’s waterfront walk! Thanks for this!

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