9 Scenic City-Adjacent Nature Walks to Explore

Kevin Gray
by Kevin Gray
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9 Scenic City-Adjacent Nature Walks to Explore

It’s been on your calendar for months and, finally, the day is almost here. That’s right. We’re talking about National Trails Day, otherwise known as June 2.

OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but still … what a nice little holiday. It’s a perfect excuse to explore a scenic new locale while getting some exercise. And because some of America’s best nature trails are in or just outside of major cities, you don’t even have to go far to experience all nature has to offer.

So whether it’s a quick day-trip or a weekend excursion, here are nine walking trails, ranked shortest to longest, to explore this summer.

GRIFFITH PARK

0 miles from Los Angeles, California

Depending where you’re coming from, traffic could throw a 40-minute wrench in your plans. But the 4,200-acre Griffith Park is within city limits, offering a prime refuge from the busy streets below. Hike through rugged hills and spend a day exploring a portion of the 53-mile trail network. If it’s your first time in the park, hike up to the summit of Mount Hollywood — it’s the highest peak and provides spectacular views of the entire Los Angeles Basin.

CHESAPEAKE & OHIO CANAL

12 miles from Washington, DC

Once a shipping route for hauling coal from the Allegheny Mountains, the C&O Canal is now a national park and a popular destination for outdoor activity. Hikers and bikers are drawn to the “towpath,” which runs along the entire 184-mile canal. Start there and explore as much as you like or dart into the park and walk along one of the other trails. If you’re up for a challenge, the Billy Goat Trail is a fan favorite, offering 1.7 miles of technical and strenuous terrain.

RED ROCKS TRAIL

16 miles from Denver, Colorado

Iconic Red Rocks Park is more than just an amphitheater. This trail runs through the east side of the park, connecting multiple smaller trails to form a 6-mile loop. Stroll along the dirt trail through expansive meadows, and look upon the large rock formations the park is named for. Somewhere in there, stop for a picnic lunch. You’ll earn it.

CEDAR RIDGE PRESERVE

16 miles from Dallas, Texas

A short drive south of downtown Dallas, you’ll find the 600-acre Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve. Tucked inside said preserve, you’ll find nine miles of walking trails, ranging from flat and easy to less-flat and rocky. Choose your own adventure and enjoy some time outside.

MUIR WOODS

17 miles from San Francisco, California

Muir Woods offers six miles of trails, all among old-growth redwoods that can reach heights of 250 feet. The well-maintained loops range from 30–90 minutes, so take it easy, or combine them for a more vigorous walk through the lush landscape.

PALISADES INTERSTATE PARK

17 miles from New York City, New York

Hop on the NY-9A, cross over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, and keep going north. Just 30 minutes outside of Manhattan, you’ll find yourself at Palisades Interstate Park. Located along the bank of the Hudson River, this under-the-radar park sports an impressive 30 miles of trails ranging from easy to challenging. Walk along the elevated shoreline for views of Manhattan, Westchester and the river below.  

STONE MOUNTAIN PARK

21 miles from Atlanta, Georgia

The 3,200-acre Stone Mountain Park is one of Georgia’s most popular attractions, and it’s also a great place to go for a walk. The 15 miles of trails offer something for everyone, including easy 1-mile jaunts and more vigorous 5-mile hikes. Depending which you choose, you’ll wander upon different scenery, from views of downtown Atlanta to dense forests and a lake.

WATERFALL GLEN FOREST PRESERVE

25 miles from Chicago, Illinois

If you like waterfalls, rolling hills and walking amongst both, then Waterfall Glen is the place for you. The 2,500-acre park is filled with dense woodlands and grassy plains, plus 11 miles of mapped trails and plenty of unmarked footpaths. As you explore, keep an eye out for hundreds of native plant species.

MOUNT SI TRAIL

35 miles from Seattle, Washington

A short drive from bustling Seattle, you’ll find Mount Si, a gorgeous spot for day hikes. The 8-mile round trip trail gains a gradual 3,100 feet as you walk toward the summit. Along the way, you’ll pass tall trees, flat pitches with picturesque views of Mount Rainier, chipmunks and the occasional mountain goat. Pack some lunch, and enjoy a well-deserved break at the top before starting the descent.

About the Author

Kevin Gray
Kevin Gray

Kevin is a Dallas-based writer who spends the majority of his weekends on a bike. His less healthy pursuits can be found at Bevvy and Cocktail Enthusiast.

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